Race Report ÖtillÖ Final 15 by Maria

I had a long and fantastic summer however not a “Swimrun summer” which I had hoped for. After the ÖTILLÖ World Series race at Utö in May I had strained my knee (can’t really recommend to double a distance overnight, it’s not so smart) and wasn’t able to train the way I had anticipated. When I realised I wouldn’t be able to stand on the starting line of the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship I decided to sign up to volunteer during the race instead. That meant I could at least be part of it in one way. 

Over the summer I managed to get going with the running and slowly slowly increased the distance and effort. Mid August I did 9 km and felt ok. I decided to have a go at the ÖTILLÖ Final15k race which is held the Saturday before the World Championship. I knew it would be a gamble for my knee but I was ready to take the chance. Also, I hadn’t been swimming as much as I had hoped for but I was in an ok “swimshape”. I felt that I would be ok to start over with rehab if I just had some fun beforehand. The real problem was to find a partner for the race. I told my little Swimrun network and a new acquaintance Diane Sadic connected me with Lina Byman who was supposed to race the WC as well but also had been fighting with a sore knee. She said yes and we met up a couple of days before race day to say hi and try the rope out. Lina is another amazing person and Swimrunner which I now had the privilege to spend a whole race with. She is a former swimmer and great runner and came third in the World Championship 2017. We talked about our expectations and what we wanted out of the race. I told her about my knee and that there would be a little risk that I would have to pull out and it would be a DNF for us and that I only wanted to start if she knew that and was ok with it, which she was. I have learned during the five previous races I had done with five different partners that it is a lot better to be straight and talk things through beforehand.

Lina, Diane and myself

THE DAY BEFORE

The day before the race Josefine Jangvert and Lisa Roman came up from south of Sweden to stay with me. They had both attended one of the WILD Camps in Costa Brava in March and also competed in the Sprint at Utö in May. This time we got to spend more time together and the evening flew by talking about the race course and preparing our gear. So much fun to share the experience and it makes it so much more than “just a race”.

Myself, Lisa, Josefine

ON D DAY

We got in the car, Josefine was responsible for the playlist to get the mood right. We picked up Sarah Hansson, another super Swimrunner and coach living in Spain and then of course Lina as well. I’m not sure what she thought of it all…we were all just a bit too over excited I think!!

It’s about a 45 min long car ride (or it should be…it took a little less for us) from central Stockholm to where the boat leaves for Utö. When we got there we waited a bit for the ferry but that is always fun since you meet people you know.

Looking at this picture I realise that I’m actually quite short, I usually don’t think about it haha).

At Utö we got changed and ready (meaning eating at least more than one cinnamon bun) and headed over to the ferry that would take us to Ornö where the start of the race is.

The Final15k race is along the last 15 km on the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship course. The first run and swim is not but shortly into the second run it connects with it. The start went and we set off in a steady pace down to the first and longest 1200m swim. Lina as the swim-champ she is steadily towed us through the mayhem of paddles, shoes, arms, legs and frantic Swimrunners. I tried to stay focused on my swim to not disturb Lina and not to make her actually have to pull me. Eventually we got out of the water and set off for the longest run on a gravel road. I felt amazing and set off in a 4.30 pace but Lina soon wisely told us to take it a bit easy. Even if the race is called a sprint it is still about 2 hours (for us) out there. We had no idea what position we had and even if we hadn’t said so both were aiming for the first position. We knew we had it in us, we just didn’t know if our bodies would agree and hold up just this day.

The Final15k is really a fun race, it’s alot of little islands and short swims and you really have to focus on your transitions. This I really love. The trails…or half of the time there aren’t really any trails, make the running awesome. At least for me. I somehow don’t have to really think it just seems quite natural. This really became very obvious about halfway into the race. On the second run on that long gravel road I started to feel a little pain in my right knee. I knew it would come, I just hadn’t expected it that early. I informed Lina about it. About half way into the race I told her that the pain had spread and I could feel it all the way up to my bum basically. But I also said, let’s go. Then suddenly in the middle of the forest my whole leg went numb. I could see it when I looked down but I couldn’t feel it. The cold swims made it worse as well. I decided to just trust my body and run as I usually do, or kind of do at least. I was pretty amazed at how it actually worked in the tricky terrain. This I will take with me for the future, to just trust the feet, they know what to do.

Then suddenly we saw two orange bibs in front of us. We, or I had thought we were the first team! The chase started without a word between us. Coming out of the water on Utö they were just ahead of us. I slipped and couldn’t really get out of the water and got really frustrated and made a burst and basically FLEW out of the water and up the rocks. This turned out to become a very valuable lesson for me. I’m still a novice when it comes to sports and here I learned that that little extra burst of energy really took its toll a few hundred meters later. So, that I will never do again if not absolutely necessary. Anyway, we saw the other team about to start the run on the 3 km gravel road and we just steadily passed them trying to look relaxed and confident and just kept going. We both felt that this is our chance and it turned out it was. I struggled with my leg and just wanted to finish, I wanted it over and done with and pushed on a bit. My solution to my problem was to get to the finish line as quick as possible. Not sure Lina agreend entirely but she was such a champ and just kept going. It’s always tougher for the one leading on the swims so something for the other partner to always remember during a race. Her knee had  also started to give her some discomfort as well.
It was quite a relief to sprint up that hill to Utö Värdshus and to get to cross the finish line as the number one women’s team. I have crossed the line first on two Swimrun races before (both in Spain) and both times the organisers kind of “missed” it. That is something I have had to learn….as a women’s team, abroad, they either don’t think women winners matter so much or they kind of miss that we also can be fast. This time they actually just missed it, and don’t worry, I still tease them about it when I get the chance! 😉

Shortly after us, as the fourth team Team Ex Athlets with Josefine and Lisa came after a super performance! There were also two other women from the WILD Camps, Mia Lekberg who raced with her sister and Anna Möller who raced in mixed. 

Anna, Mia, her sister, Josefine, Lisa

We ate, socialised and drove home happy and tired. The Champagne was waiting in the fridge. Not due to the medals we brought home but due to another fantastic Swimrun adventure with friends. Or, I actually had to hide the medal for Josefine….she’s on a quest now ;-).

/Maria

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