The biggest unknown besides archipelago weather might be me home brewing energy gel four days before the race. :) Hope that maltodextrin, fructose, acacia honey, fruit, electrolytes and caffeine mix won’t have me puking.
Good luck, brave fellow racers.
PS. If you’re racing, read my recent revision of the race execution guide from last year here.
The Ötillö World Series race at Utö yesterday wasn’t easy. Tomas Granberg and I managed to take a 10:th mens and 14:th place overall at probably the most competitive race of the circuit. But a satisfying finish wasn’t a given as problems started already at the first plunge when my goggles filled with water. A string of mishaps and bad swims on my part followed, all as a consequences of the cold water that I honestly couldn’t handle on the day.
My teammate Tomas acted just as a solid partner does, quickly figuring out what actions were the best for the team as a whole and how to resolve the struggles I had. He ended up in front of the tow rope as I polo swimmed out of T5 Båtshaket. Swimrun is a three-component sport comprised of swimming, running and the trust you put in you partner.
I’ve heard 7 to 12 celsius and the temperature will always vary in different waters. All I know for certain is that during my four years at this event it has never been close to as cold as yesterday. But it all turned for the better half way into the 42 kms. As we touched the south end of the course my struggles in the cold water somehow vanished and cold swims were not a problem from there on.
Moments of dissatisfaction, but also great moments of forest beauty as we swooshed the trails where we could excel and get our hopes back. Back with a vengeance we managed to pull out the fourth fastest run split of the day between T9 Gruvbyn and T10 Rävstavik. With some backs to hunt we kept the pace up and finished in a satisfying manner after all.
Next stop is Borås Swimrun in two weeks. Thanks to our sponsors Extfin, providing a way to compare loans for businesses and TG Swimrun Coach for those wanting to improve their swim, run and swimrun.
Om vi bara tittar på volym så kan vi dra slutsatsen att volymen var något för liten 2018. Jag har inte riktigt nått volymmålen jag satte inför hösten. Jag hade inte märkt det om jag inte loggat träningen och skapat diagram, så det är tydligen en nyttig syssla.
Men det är inte panikläge, iaf. I fjärde kvartalet har jag simmat helt utan gear vilket för mig nog innebär mer träningsvärde per meter. Angående löpning hade jag över årsskiftet förra året ett 100 km/v-projekt som räckte nästan ett halvår. I år har jag samma projekt och december blev det över 100 km/v i genomsnitt, så jag är igång. Löpningen innehåller mer kvalité än året innan vilket också gör mig hoppfull.
2019 kan jag bli starkare än 2018, men det förutsätter mycket simning och löpning under våren. Istället för bara långsiktiga mål som ÖTILLÖ i september så kan vi separera perioden fram till påsk. Förmodligen bouldrar jag i Frankrike i påsk och ÖTILLÖ Utö 19 maj ger också ett naturligt delmål. Fram till dess hög volym.
Jag avslutar med något helt annat. Under hösten har jag påbörjat tre sportrelaterade hobbyprojekt. Det är tre webappar som alla har något med idrottsstatistik att göra:
Photo: The author giving his teammate Tomas Granberg a well deserved hug at the 2018 World Champs finish line. In front: women’s 1st place Kristin Larsson. Photo by Jakob Edholm / ÖTILLÖ.
If you’ve watched the World Championship live or recap on YouTube that probably got you fired up to sign up for a local swimrun race, an ÖTILLÖ World Series race or even the World Champs. Of all these the only one that is really hard to get entry into is the World Champs, which is quite natural. World Champs are open to non-elite, for sure, just like the Ironman World Championship or the Berlin Marathon is. However, there are only a total of 160 teams allowed.
If you are an elite or sub-elite athlete in something like triathlon, swimming, running, OCR or multisport and you are confident that your ability would place you in the top five or so of an ÖTILLÖ World Series event, your quickest option would be to enter one of those and go for direct qualification. To give you an idea that requires about a 2:50–2:55 marathon (and often good trail-running ability). You should also be able to keep about 1:20–1:25/100 m full equipment through the whole race. This year, each World Series race qualified 3 male teams, 2 female teams and 3 mixed teams. But spots roll down if one of the team members is already qualified. Some races have more competition, some less.
Non-elites with a sub 3:20 marathon, a decently swim and who are ready to travel have a good chance at a “ranking” spot. Your six best recent World Series or merit races (that’s ÖTILLÖ’s partner races) give you a ranking score which is added to your partner’s score to give a team score for the application. Also, there is the “7/24 Concept” which are spots for people finishing a whole lot of races, regardless of how they perform at the races.
If you are a famous athlete (or just famous), you could apply for a director’s choice spot. Previously these have been offered to ex-olympians, national elite runners, elite triathletes, music artists, early contributers to the sport, among others.
“Team Selection Ticket” is an option where you rely on sheer luck in a lottery. I personally hope they’ll remove this way of gaining entry in the future to instead favour athletes suitable to finish and do well in this very demanding race. After all, it is the World Championship.
Updated 2019-08-25 in time for the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship 2019. The original article was posted 2018-09-04 right after Worlds 2018.
Yes, together with my teammate Tomas Granberg we finished in under 9 hours in the 2018 perfect conditions. Men’s category 20th place and 27th overall with a time of 8:57.49. But a lengthy post bragging about that wouldn’t be of much use to the world, so let’s leave us aside and instead talk about the strategy that goes into executing at your best potential at ÖTILLÖ Worlds for anyone attempting, be that sub 8, 9 or 10 or whatever.
Obviously the most important thing is training, training and some more training, but today I’ll leave that whole thing out and focus on race execution, which is particularly important at ÖTILLÖ Worlds.
Knowing the course
If you are not a repeat participant, recon every section with Google Maps or equivalent. The ÖTILLÖ website has an official Google Maps route with stations.
Some people write a table of distances of all the legs on their paddles. We don’t. Instead we focus on the key takeaways such as those following below, which are not too hard to remember.
On which island is there no energy station for a long time but still enough time to eat a bar? (Answer: Vånsholmen)
Where do I need to pick up water or sports drink in a soft flask that I’ve carried with me? (Answer: Ornö church, and more places if very hot conditions)
Where do I keep my swim cap on and goggles readily on forehead at water exit, because the next swim is just around the corner? (Answer: after the pig swim, after the 1 km swim, on Mellankobbarna but not Järnholmen if hot weather, etc)
If the weather is warm, where do you peel your wetsuit down? (Answer: probably only at Ornö)
How long does it take for both teammates to peel the wetsuit down and up again? If it takes a long time, would it be better to accept a little heat and drink a bit more?
If your team is strong in the off-trail, where do you want to avoid being stuck behind a pack where there is little room for overtaking? You need to know such things.
You might think that nine or so hours give plenty of time to think but that isn’t really the case with ÖTILLÖ. There are so many micro decisions and focus needs to be on point almost all the time. To me ÖTILLÖ has more intensity and adrenaline than a 10 km race on the road.
I consumed about 400 ml of standard gel. You might need to put additional caffeine (400 mg is good for me) and electrolytes (sodium being most important) in there. Carbohydrate supply from stations just won’t be enough. ÖTILLÖ Worlds is similar to an Ironman effort but with a little more heart rate fluctuation.
I put my gel in a 500 ml soft flask with no risk of littering and no messing around with packaging. Many people find it hard to take solids at the latter part of a race. You probably want to save some gel for the final two hours when even banana feels as too much. Take a sip of gel every 20 min or so when on land. Time just before swim entry to distribute over time. Also, you might want to put the caffeine in the bottom half of your container, to give you that boost at the back half of the race.
In addition to gel I pack one bar for Vånsholmen and eat banana or equivalent from aid stations as they appear. Adapt to your preference.
Drink plenty of at the stations. It is difficult to sense dehydration at an early stage. Especially when you are in the cold water. As with gels, keeping count on ingestion is more reliable than “feeling”.
Provided your stomach allows, drink from the ocean while swimming. You might want to try that during exercise to see what amount your stomach can handle.
I bring two soft flasks. One, as said, containing my gel mix and one initially empty for liquid picked up at aid stations. Stations do not provide cups as an environmental consideration.
In case of stomach pain, I choose to back down but it is very important to continue taking gel as soon as the pain subsides.
You are aiming for beach flags mainly. At the first swim and a latter 1 km swim there is usually a solid strobe light to guide you. Sometimes there are intermediate guidance pyramid buoys. You don’t need to pass them on a specific side.
Draft whenever the opportunity arises, or even strategically stalk a team at suitable speed from land. You’ll always have your partner draft on you or the other way around, in any case. Side-by-side is wasting your team’s energy total to no use. The men’s front of ÖTILLÖ will usually be a group for a very long time, until a team breaks away on a run. You might realize why.
Swimming about 10 km in a day with long runs in between means energy efficiency is key. You don’t venture into higher heart rates if there is not a very good reason to do so. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time at the end for redlining anyway.
If you realize you gap your partner swimming and you don’t have a tow line, slow your stroke down as to help your partner to get back into draft. When approaching shore, on the other hand, you could swim a few meters ahead allowing for some exit scouting.
Sighting is very important. Even if you are a good swimmer you don’t want to be swimming 740 m when everyone else is swimming 700. Personally I prioritize sighting and swimming straight over pushing it very hard since my ability to swim straight deteriorates at very high effort. Especially so in choppy water.
Most teams use fairly big hand paddles but don’t bring paddles so big that you are no longer able to pull through the whole stroke at the back half of the race.
ÖTILLÖ WC is in the Baltic Ocean, which has brackish water. Some people will go without goggles and that works. If you use stronger contact lenses, you might want to bring a spare contact if swimming without goggles. This also being a thing to definitely practice before adopting.
You may swim through currents, especially on the swims between Ornö and Utö. Those are the last swim sections of the course when you are the most fatigued. If the water is moving rapidly, counter already before hitting the current to get some slack. Currents may switch directions from one year to the next.
The course has everything from tarmac to scrambling. “65 km of running” is more like 35 km of runnable, 25 km of technical trail and 5 km of complete wilderness expedition. ;)
First-timers will likely be surprised by the amount of off-trail and slippery rock. You need good grip. Especially in a wet year when rain is falling on race day or the days before. Non-spike orienteering shoes are popular with ÖTILLÖ Worlds athletes.
If one of you is a considerably stronger runner, that person might be pulling with a tow line at the runnable sections. You might prefer pulling a little throughout the whole race instead of one of you bonking two thirds into and the other then trying to pull very hard. Watch out since pulling hard might trigger cramps in the calves.
What pace would you be able to maintain throughout the whole race? Now take that pace and go just a little faster. You don’t want to underachieve. That should still end up being a bit slower than how most teams pace themselves. This applies in general but not always at the men’s front as there are not many teams to draft on the swims so you might factor that in too. There are a lot of micro decisions like that to be taken during the race.
When I say pacing I mean effort-based and not actual speed since the course is so varied. We just avoid going “red” or even “orange” early on. This has the drawback that you might get stuck behind a crowd since a lot of teams can’t seem to pace themselves so think of strategies to mitigate that.
Again, remember to pace yourself. As they say at WS100, if you’re in the lead after the first climb, you are probably not going to win the race. :)
Leave all pride aside. If the pace is too high for you, let it be known. The other way around, ask your partner if they’ve remembered to take a gel lately. His/her success is your success.
Equal swimmers will let the more tired runner draft swims to regain some energy for the next run.
Even if you’ve got equal capacity in all respects, maybe bring a line under the wetsuit in case either of you ends up having a bad day.
If you are competitive both number one and two are done in-flight. Preferably during a swim or just before, to avoid developing rashes. With a short-legged wetsuit number two can be done quickly. I don’t know why I put this under teamwork.
Is your partner struggling? Figure out if it may be the heat, nutrition, foggy goggles or whatever — and help fix the problem. ÖTILLÖ is not typically an event that attracts lazy people, so nagging or blaming your partner would likely be misguided.
The level of competition at Worlds is increasing with every year, but camaraderie between teams is still respectful. Teams overtaking will often give you encouraging words. I think that is a natural when everyone is in a team and a part of this special event.
Although this and that is allowed, at the sharp end gear has basically consolidated into:
Pullbuoy with a lot of lift (compared to what pool swimmers are used to). The most popular are probably Ark Keel and Swimrunners Piraya. I use a DIY epoxied double Huub Big Bouy also favoured by some other athletes. Some have seen the guru to get a Rövraket (if you know, you know).
Wet suit specifically made for swimrun. I use Ark Korp but there are several good options. A pocket is handy to store gel and mandatories. In most weathers short sleeves are enough. Front-end athletes typically prioritize run performance. The bib will mess up your drag anyway and lift you get from the pullbuoy. The wetsuit is basically there to not be in the way and to provide warmth in cold water. I found that in protecting against cold water, it is more important that the wetsuit does not let in too much water than that the neoprene is thick.
Hand paddles equivalent to Strokemakers. Lighter is better, size according to strength.
Goggles: light is fast. Slim or even Swedish Goggles.
Shoes: for this race, think orienteering. VJ Sport’s butyl rubber mix and rock plate shoes are currently in fashion.
Tow line: roughly half of the front-end use it at Worlds. Some bring just in case.
In case of extreme cold: neoprene bandana, long sleeves and perhaps even a neoprene vest. Unusual, though.
Where do you store gel flasks and mandatory first aid? In a sports top or bra, your lower underwear or a pocket if your suit has one. Make sure they don’t bounce around too much or fall out while running.
This covers perhaps 20 % of the things that are handy to know. Dissecting this race you will find it is potentially so complex that you can’t expect to perform at your full physical potential the first time entering. Still worth it!
I don’t want to scare anyone from entering and it is not only for the very competitive. ÖTILLÖ World Champs is magical. Rich Roll even went as far as to call it life-defining. The scenery, the spirit among the racers and the staff. All magical, regardless of how serious you are about competing.
The interest in the sport of swimrun nowadays is clearly not limited to Swedes so I thought it’d be considerate and write this in English. Anyway, last weekend me and Tomas Granberg raced ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Utö as the team TG Swimrun. It’s the second World Series event of the year after Hvar in Croatia and I’d say it is the second most competitive swimrun race on the planet (don’t know about Mars or Jupiter) after the World Champs.
This year, the competition at Utö really took a huge step up. Take our team as an example: 11 min faster this year but finished 17 total compared to 9 total last year. This year, Utö became a confluence of fast teams. There where no new teams in the top 10, but most of the top athletes of the sport had decided to participate, although still missing names such as Hanson, Moberg, Krochak and Olsson.
I decided to take a closer look at the performances of the top 50 teams at Utö this year. 16 of the teams raced the same event in 2017, when conditions were very similar to this year’s conditions. Comparing the times I noticed that almost all of the 16 teams were faster this year yet very few managed to defend their positions, just like us. Deeper front and a step up in performance all across the field.
I think you get the idea. Competition is getting tougher mainly because the existing athletes are becoming faster as they devote more effort to swimrun. The World Series race at Utö is mainly a Swedish concern, although 20 some teams where from outside of Sweden. Regardless, the sharp end is predominantly Swedish. Probably we’ll see national and regional competition sharpening at races in other places around the world the next few years.
There has been some talk in Sweden about athletes transitioning from related sports to swimrun, raising the standard at the front end. I think that already happend and there is not much more to expect from that in Sweden. We already have Swedish top end triathletes in swimrun: Pontus Lindberg (8:11 Ironman), George Bjälkemo (several national medals in mid distance), Eva Nyström (four national gold medals), Jesper Svensson, Oscar Olsson etc. From adventure racing/multiport we have top international level athletes such as Daniel Hansson, Kristin Larsson and Martin Flinta.
I think that at this point the talent pool of endurance athletics in Sweden is pretty much exhausted. There are some obvious world-class athletes fans of the swimrun would like to one day see at ÖTILLÖ, like Åsa Lundström and Patrik Nilsson (eighth in Kona 2017). However, I don’t think the time is ripe just yet for these people as they need to focus 100 % on triathlon. It would be unexpected of a young triathlete to venture off while still in the top international game of a much bigger sport, like Patrik Nilsson is. However maybe some more cases of guest appearances as by active pro triathlete Jesper Svensson while still maintaining their careers in triathlon?
Anyway, back to the World Series race at Utö. I’ve done the race four times now, 2015 onwards. I’d recommend bringing a neoprene bandana as normal condition at Utö mean some swims will be a bit cold. However, I’m not a fan of long sleeve or leg wetsuits. That’s not where I get cold anyway, and they’d be a huge disadvantage on the runs. Sleeves and legs as short as possible since the cold really just gets to my face and forehead anyway. We actually rolled down the top of our wetsuits during the 7 km long run this year. I’m not fully sure that was the best choice as it takes some time and fiddling, but it sure was comfortable. Wetsuit designers have the last few years designed shorter front zippers which I think is a bad idea. Sure, very marginal gains on drag, but the running is much more uncomfortable when you can’t zip down properly.
More about the characteristics of this race, it is a race of short but many swims. Transition efficiency is key. Also, runs are a mix of heavy terrain and flat runnable. To do well at this race you have to be able to run the 7 km flat gravel in the middle of the race at a high pace. If you are a fast off-trail runner, make sure to exit the swims leading into the wilder land sections ahead of any possible packs because at narrow paths overtaking may prove difficult.
All in all, Utö is a compressed version of the World Championship race with the WC being more of everything: longer runnable section on Ornö, even tougher terrain at large sections, longer and more exposed swims. However, the terrain is is very beautiful, but maybe not at unbelievable as at the WC. I leave you with scenery from the World Champs of last year. Can’t wait until the first Monday of September!
Träningen inför ÖTILLÖ World Championship 2018 började för mig direkt efter 4 september 2017, dvs dagen för ÖTILLÖ. Sedan 1 juli hade jag förvisso ökat löpmängden, men efter att ha sett hela ÖTILLÖ-banan bestämde jag mig för att en större andel av löpträningen ska vara i krävande terräng.
Jag tyckte också att min sammansatta simning blivit så pass okej att jag inte behöver träna lika mycket neutralt under hösten detta år. Hösten 2016 simmade jag nästan uteslutande utan hjälpmedel och sedan nästan bara med paddlar och dolme under våren för att bygga de muskler som krävs för att orka dra stora paddlar.
Grundstruktur för min träning inför 2018:
Resten av 2017:
Löpning: 100 km/v, mestadels teknisk stig i naturreservat så länge vädret tillåter.
Simning: 6 000 m/v, där 30–40 % är sammansatt och resten paddlar och dolme.
2018 fram till ÖTILLÖ:
Löpning: förmodligen densamma, men med mer fartelement för att höja tröskeln inför korta swimrun och löptävlingar. På en del av dessa kommer jag att behöva springa lite under 4-tempo utan att det ska behöva kosta för mycket.
Simning: mer mängd, ännu oklart hur stor. Större andel simning med hjälpmedel för swimrunspets.
Utöver detta klättrar jag ungefär tre gånger i veckan. Det gör jag mest för att det är roligt men det fungerar också som landträning och löpstyrka med axlar, core och annat. Det bidrar också till den muskulära uthålligheten i rygg och axlar. Klättring är inget jag höjer till skyarna som swimrunträning utan jag är väl mest tacksam för att det kompletterar lite och inte stör swimrun.
Ett hot som hänger över min löpning är vinterns snö och kyla och jag kommer att behöva springa på band en hel del, men ska försöka komma ut i terrängen så mycket jag orkar. För att inte förlora för mycket styrka under vinterns bandlöpning behöver jag springa med lutning. Under sommaren kommer jag att kunna träna swimrun som swimrun är tänkt, dvs i naturreservat med löpning, simning och växlingar.
Dessa Stravasegment ingår i min träning inför ÖTILLÖ:
Det ingår i min filosofi att inte bara jämföra mig med andra swimrunutövare. Det räcker inte med att vara bra jämfört med dem i terränglöpning utan där vill jag hellre upp till de bästa på Sörmland Ultra Marathon och liknande tävlingar. I simning ska jag inte titta på swimrunsimmare utan lära av såna som mina vänner Micke och Henrik som är f.d. elitsimmare.
Taktiskt jagar jag förvisso mängd per glidande 7-dagarsperiod men det viktiga är den årsgenomsnittliga mängden. Jag känner efter vad jag orkar för dagen och vad som är planerat efter och väljer passen utifrån det. Jag försöker lägga passen i en sådan ordning att jag hinner återhämta mig per disciplin. Det är ofta kort framförhållning men med strategiska grundtankar och mål. Det passar antagligen inte alla men passar mig.
Lycka till med din swimrunträning!
Avslutar med dekorativa bilder från Solvalla Swimrun 2017, där jag och Tomas Granberg kammade hem andraplatsen. Läs mer om den tävlingen här. Alla foton tagna av Solvalla Swimrun.
As you can tell, winning times in all categories of the swimrun world championship are trending faster. The race is getting more competitive every year, but times are also subject to the weather conditions of each particular race day. In 2017 running on slippery rock slowed teams down. Although waves were big this year, they where rolling in the right direction with the wind for the most part in the back.
Weather permitting, I think we are likely to see new course records in 2018.
Jesper Svensson (SWE) & Daniel Hansson (SWE) in 2017
Kristin Larsson (SWE) & Annika Ericsson (SWE) in 2016
Adriel Young (AUS) & Eva Nyström (SWE) in 2016
Ötillö Swimrun Ranking is the main ranker used for World Championship merit applications and the World Series. The “Swimrun ranking” lists the teams according to performance in both Ötillö World Series races and merit (partner) races. This ranking counts races during the last two years but fades older scores a bit. The sprint ranking is calculated from Ötillö’s own sprint races. World Series ranking is needless to say calculated from team performance in the WS races. At the end of the season teams on top in each category of the WS rankings win the World Series and the prize money that comes with that.
The “individual indicator” is shown when you log in to the system and go to your profile. There is no ranking list based on this indicator but it is still important because it is the score used in merit applications for the Ötillö World Championship — one of the possible ways to get into the WC race in Sweden in September each year. Your score and the score of your proposed partner is added together to compare you to other teams wanting to get in this way.
The Salamander Ranking is a separate system not associated with the Ötillö organization. It is interesting in the aspect that it includes a whole lot of races from many countries and not only those of Ötillö and their partners. It also has a public ranking of individuals, something which Ötillö has decided not to feature.
Our standing I’ll have to squeeze in here. I’m competing with Tomas Granberg in the team Cartel AB. The 2017 Ötillö swimrun ranking is now final as all official and partner races are done. The Salamander Ranking still has a handful of races but I don’t except those to move the top of the ranking too much.
We only participated in one World Series competition and hence our World Series ranking is not worth a screen shot.
Not surprisingly there are a lot of Swedish names in the upper trenches. The sport originated in the Stockholm archipelago and many of the bigger races are hosted in Sweden. During the years to come, however, the top of the sport will probably become more diversified. Also, the World Series and rankings will probably become more competitive.
Today many of the elite athletes of the sport don’t care much about the World Series charts and tend to focus only on the World Championship, perhaps the WS race at Utö and some other major races. I think this to a large extent has to do with the fact that these people have conflicting interests of triathlon and multi sport events to tend to which still attract more spectators, sponsoring and prize money. After all, the Swedish scene of top endurance athletes is quite limited. Also, some of the top athletes keep changing teams throughout the season and thus do not score high on the team charts despite repeat podium finishes.
Det är som att kliva in i en saga. Solen har ännu inte gått upp när vi springer ner mot första stranden. Ögat söker sig långt över vattnet, genom blåsten och mot stroboskopet. Himlen är grå och havet är grått. Tillsammans kastar vi oss mot de vitkantade vågorna, ledda av det blinkande ljuset i horisonten.
Det finns en del mystik kring det ursprungliga Ötillö mellan Sandhamn och Utö. Hur hårt, långt eller kallt är det? Hur kommer man in? De har sett de stilfullt producerade filmerna och ställer frågorna. En del saker måste upplevas för att förstås. Jag kan bara säga att allt förmodligen är sant. Ötillö lever upp till mytbilden.
Ötillö är inte en tävling för alla och Ötillö är inte garanterat säkert. Det kräver fysisk kapacitet, specifika kunskaper och mentala egenskaper. De som presterar riktigt bra har tränat specialiserat för den första måndagen i september i flera år.
Nu har jag genomfört Ötillösagan för första gången och förstår den lite bättre. Tack Ola, för att jag fick uppleva det här. Nästa år kommer jag tillbaka för att ge allt.