Dreams of SWIMRUN

New record for me over 5km, begging the question: am I doing too many record attempts and not enough actual training? Rhetorical question much?! We spent the weekend with Greta’s family down there in Skåne. Greta’s brother, Aron, had offered to be my bunny-rabbit! He’s a fast runner and thanks to him I got as close to the 20-minute barrier as I could on that day. We ran on a straight and flat dirt road for just over 2500m and then back. It all added up to a new PB of 20:05. I’ve come a long way in just 2-3 months and should probably focus on doing some longer and slower sessions with the occasional interval session (not something I’ve done until now).

Downing my PB by that much also meant that I got to take back the lead in Ryan’s Aquathlon challenge on Funbeat :D

21:03 for a 1500m swim
20:05 for a 5000m run
= 41:08

I’m hoping I’ll get under 40 minutes soon, and yes I’ll try to increase the training-to-time-trials ratio.

Getting to the title of the article: I’m starting to consider the idea of one day competing in some of the swim-run events in Sweden. These are team events where two participants swim and run (duh) between and over islands, preferably in a scenic archipelago (Stockholm, Göteborg …). The water is advertised as being freezing and the running part isn’t your regular road race. Distance-wise, the sport’s marquee event, Ö-till-Ö in Stockholm has you swim 11km and run 65km. The Gothenburg version will see the competitors swim 2km and run 19km, which is a more reasonable distance for me, running-wise but a less-favorable swim-to-run ratio.

I will not compete in any of these in 2015, not a chance! There are a couple things to get my head around:

- Wetsuits are mandatory and many competitors use paddles, pull-buoys, fins, etc. And I’m neither used to nor keen on using wetsuits right now. But of course, if that’s part of the rules, I’ll have to comply. My dream would be to get an exemption …

- I would need to find a teammate !

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sylle Runs dot com

Not much swimming happening these days. It’s status quo regarding my elbow. I can warmup and begin a set, but if I try to push a bit towards a 1:20/100m tempo I feel that slight pinch on the outside part of the elbow. I’ve been trying to modify my technique a bit and use my back muscles more by focusing on my body rotation instead of applying more pressure on my arms, it seems to help, but I’m not confident enough to increase the swimming load. I’m doing one or two sessions a week right now.

As indicated by the title of this article, I’m actually doing more running than swimming! Last week I took part in my first track event, it was the Triathlon Väst club championships over 5000m. The race was held in the Ullevi stadium in Gothenburg, an arena of 45.000 seats and many athletic ghosts. It also occasionally hosts some big-time concerts (Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Robbie Williams, Madonna, U2, Håkan Hellström) that we can usually hear clearly enough all the way from our apartment two kilometers away. But I digress.

About 30 of us showed up, we got split into two groups, those would had already sprung 5000m in less than 19 minutes and the others. The speedy ones got to run first and the members of the second group were acting as timekeepers. I got assigned a certain Lars G. who ended up being in second place for about 10 laps before overtaking his bunny-rabbit and taking the win in 16:30, wouah! It was then the second group’s turn. I started cautiously at the back of the group and got to overtake a couple of runners during the first half of the race. With a bit over 1km to go I got a side stitch, as often, and had to focus on my breathing and slow down slightly. I finished the 12 and ½ laps just under 21 minutes: 20:58, a PB by more than one minute. Not necessarily surprising since it was my first time on such a track. Greta was my timekeeper and informed me that I kept my lap times nicely consistent at 1:40. Very satisfied I was!

Just over a week later, time for my second 10-kilometer race ever, Finalloppet in the Skatås park. I had high hopes of a PB, having managed to get two months of “training” (going from run-walking for 15 minutes to running 5km three times a week) for the first time. A couple of days before Finalloppet, it dawned on me that this was actually a “terränglopp” i.e. a hilly, muddy race in the woods! Oh well.

11am on the 1st of November, a short warmup close to the starting line. I tried to stretch my diaphragm by successively breathing in and pulling my belly in and then breathing out and taking my belly out. This was supposed to prevent the dreaded side stitch. 11:20am, start of the race, I’m roughly in the middle of the pack and just go with the flow. After a couple of kilometers, of course, I start to feel a hint of stabbing feeling on my left side … faaan … just like during Blodomloppet in June, I end up being on the verge of having the stitch for almost the entire race. “Oh well” again.

The Finalloppet track is quite fun, up and down on various types of terrain. On occasions we need to jump from stones to roots over the mud, great fun! I cover the distance between most of the kilometer markers in about 4:40, good good. With two kilometers to go I become a bit braver and dare overtaking a few runners, including one of the men that I had used as a rabbit for a little while. Fun fact, he was actually dressed as a rabbit, a middle-aged rainbow-coloured fluffy rabbit with huge calves! The final 500 meters are on grass, time to give it all, I take the last right turn, look at my watch and smile all the way to the finish line. My time? 45 minutes and 40 seconds! Three and a half minutes better than in the heatwave of June!

What’s next then? Not sure yet.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We swam for 24 hours!

That was a tough one. On the 27-28th of September, 33 of us were on the starting line to swim a bunch of miles on the hour. I have a few friends who have done pretty much the exact same thing in the past few years (some of them did a slight variation … in an outdoor pool, in a 16-degree water) and described it as “not as easy as it sounds”. Not that I would think that it was easy, of course, I’m never awake for more than 24 hours … but the fact that the plan was to swim “only” 1600m every hour, when my PB is about 4200m, gave me the wrong impression that I could just somehow cruise through it …

Here are my thoughts one day after the challenge:

Oh la la la la … feels like I dreamed it! We successfully completed the “Swim 24 hours” challenge, and a piece of cake it was not. My experience: I started like a french fast-train (probably the same one that drove over me by the end of the 24 hours), averaging <1:30/100 for the first three miles before dropping pace continuously for the next five hours. Spirits low at that stage. I don't react well to slowing down and was tempted to give up at the half-way point if nothing happened. Something happened and we settled (with Jarek) into a nice rhythm for the next 10 hours. Happy times. The final 6 hours (less than 10km!) were tough and for the final 4 hours I was basically only swimming with one arm, reminiscing about the final 5km of Lake Zurich 2009 and about Lisa Cummins and Jackie Cobell's Channel swims. Thoughts of Doctors Without Borders also kept passing through my head, "surely swimming 24 hours in a heated pool and being well fed is a bloomin' luxury". Thanks to Anders Blomgren for arranging it all, the buns, drinks & peanuts were very welcome! Well done to all the 3-, 6-, 12- and 24-hour swimmers, regardless of if they finished it or not. It was brutal!
(And sorry Lennart Larsson for waking you up every hour!)

My splits:
Mile #1: 23:40 (Nice and easy)
Mile #2: 23:45 (Drafting)
Mile #3: 23:39 (PB)
Mile #4: 24:19 (no big deal)
Mile #5: 25:41 (slightly bigger deal)
Mile #6: 25:55 (Cruise pace?)
Mile #7: 27:01 (No. Ouch.)
Mile #8: 27:06 (Found my rhythm?)
Mile #9: 26:31 (Yoohooo!)
Mile #10: 26:19 (HAPPY)
Mile #11: 26:21 (We’ll manage, no worries)
Mile #12: 27:10 (A bit tougher, but we’ll get stronger again)
Mile #13: 26:37 (Yoohoo!)
Mile #14: 26:51 (Stable)
Mile #15: 26:33 (Really?)
Mile #16: 26:15 (Say what?! Back to the tempo from 10 hours ago!)
Mile #17: 26:37 (In the zone)
Mile #18: 26:55 (Stepping out of the zone, swimming to Vangelis’s Conquest of Paradise!)
Mile #19: 27:30 (Ouch)
Mile #20: 28:22 (Beginning of synchronized swimming with Jarek)
Mile #21: 29:35 (Started using some one-arm fly drill)
Mile #22: 30:49 (Thank you Jarek for sticking with me!)
Mile #23: 31:47 (Slowing down some more, throwing my right arm over my head with no conviction)
Mile #24: 30-ish (Mix of one-arm stroke and fake freestyle for the cameras and the audience & Greta!)

All photos below courtesy of Géza Pályi

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

One week until “Simma 24″!

So, after being advised by three different swimmers to go and try acupuncture to fix my elbow (still not hugely painful, just a niggle) I went for my first session on Thursday. If anything, my elbow was more sore afterwards than before but by sticking a couple needles in my legs and pressing on some points in my ear it felt like my right shoulder became less stiff. I’m going back on Tuesday and I’ll keep on resting my arms all week. Hopefully that’ll do before Saturday’s 24-hour swim. If my elbow is too sore, my plan B is … to swim butterfly, it puts less pressure on both my shoulders and elbows, so maybe that’s actually the best option. But if it stills hurts too much, I promise I’ll be good and stop …

Not acupuncture !

By the way, you can still donate to Doctors Without Borders by using the button in the panel on the right side of this page :)

With not much swimming on the menu in the past month, I have to somehow get rid of the restlessness, so I’ve started running again. My right hamstring was a little tender last time I tried to get into running, but I’ll say it once again, I’m being a good boy, not playing with guns, stretching properly and doing some combination of walking and running at the moment. Two to five minutes of running for one minute of walking. It feels good right now and I’m about to sign up for my second 10km running race of 2014 … and my life! Finalloppet on the 1st of November in Göteborg. The target? Getting under 49:17 of course!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A bit of a setback

It’s September now, the best time of the year for new resolutions. Mine was to get healthier, fitter and faster (and better-looking and better at banjo and better at baking bread and better at Swedish and better at replying to emails …). The plan was to progressively start doing some strengthening exercises, work on my technique (head down, better breathing, find my best stroke rate, work on stroke symmetry, etc.) and most importantly, not getting injured.

Well, it’s not a big one, but frustrating nonetheless. About three weeks ago I took out my weights from under the sofa and did about 10 minutes of biceps/triceps exercises, making sure to not use the heavy ones straight away. A couple of days later I head to the pool to do a test session, the Red Mist session (once again inspired by Swim Smooth). It consists in 10x400m starting on different intervals. I wanted to do 4×400 @ (1:29/100) + 3×400 @ (1:28/100) + 2×400 @ (1:27/100) + 1×400 @ (1:26/100).

I’ve done this set on a couple of occasions before, going down to 1:24/100m for the last 400m. But this was like six months ago … long story slightly shorter, this was maybe too much speed for me at that stage, and by the end of the set I started feeling a pinch around my right elbow. I’ve had elbow pain last year during my Channel training and it disappeared after a week or so without having to do much about it, so the situation wasn’t of much concern.

Except that since last year I’ve become a believer in more stretching. I figured I would try to be a good boy and stretch the pain away. I stretched my forearm two-three times a day, applied some Voltaren cream on my elbow twice a day and every now and then put some ice on it. A week later I got back into the water for the Triathlon Väst Club Championships (in Delsjön, with a wetsuit, I finished second, behind Ted Molin, next time I’ll try with TWO wetsuits!). It was 1500m all-out (-ish). My elbow seemed to do okay, a little pinching feeling persisting through the 20 minutes of the swim, not better, not worse.

It’s been nearly two weeks since then and it still feels the same, the pinching feeling comes and goes. I swim once or twice a week without pushing it. I keep stretching, using Voltaren (albeit less often now) and checking how it feels by rotating my arms and mimicking a freestyle-catch whilst sitting in front of my computer at work. I now read a bit online and found out that an explanation might be stiffness in my back. I looked for trigger points between the latissimus dorsi and the shoulder blade (supposed to be quite deep) and sure enough it was really sensitive on one side but not the other. I tried applying pressure on this point, massaging it slightly, trying to not overdo it …. and it seemed to do the trick for a few hours … but the pinching feeling still comes back every now and then … and I’m afraid to go swimming and make it worse …

Has someone read through all this?!?

“Mimicking a freestyle-catch while definitely NOT in water”

To summarize, I’m trying all the following:

- Stretching my forearm
- Stretching the lattissimus dorsi
- Applying pressure between the lattissimus dorsi and the should blade
- Voltaren cream on the elbow
- Occasional icing

The symptoms are:

- Pinching feeling on the outside of the elbow (tennis elbow?)
- The pinching feeling kind of comes and goes, after resting, massaging, stretching …
- Clicking when my arm is extended and I rotate my forearm around its axis (forgot to mention this point before)

The possible causes:

- That one weight session?
- Pushing too hard too soon in the pool?
- Biceps/triceps imbalance?

I’m afraid of doing more harm than good by combining all the aforementioned solutions and/or unintentionally overdoing it … does anyone have good advice on this? There’s two weeks left until the 24-hour swim which I really don’t want to miss. I might just keep stretching, not swim until then and go running instead to keep myself from making it worse … what do you think?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Swimming 24 hours for Doctors Without Borders

What?! Another blog post?! I just as shocked as you are!! I’m not even swimming that much these days, so there shouldn’t be too much to write about … and yet.

Let me take a minute of your time to tell you about the next challenge on my swim-agenda. After a conversation with Mr Anders Blomgren right after Göteborgsimmet, we agreed that the prospect of taking on a 24-hour swim was tickling our interest and that we should try it sooner rather than later. I was expecting us to talk about it some more over the next few months and try to do something about it at some stage next year. But then, during a Facebook conversation between the two of us and Lennart Larsson, somehow Petra Marklund “September” was mentioned. And September it will be!

The concept:

Based on “2 Swim 4 Life”. We will try to swim 24 English Miles in 24 hours. That is 24 x 1609 meters. We will start swimming every hour, complete thirty-two (and a fraction of a) length of the pool and get the remainder of the hour in order to rest/eat/sleep/play games. That’s quite a lot of rest, but from what I’ve heard, even for strong and fast swimmers, it gets tough during the night, about two-thirds of the way through the event.

Where and When?

We will start on the 27th of September at 07:00 and hopefully finish at the same time the next day. We will be hosted by Valhallabadet in central Göteborg. The first eight hours (aka the warmup) will be during opening times, but we will get the pool to ourselves! Fun!


It takes time to cure an addiction … we haven’t managed it yet.

Ohh, and we will be raising money for Doctors Without Borders.You may already make a donation via the following page: Click here for the donation page! It’s a bit in swedish, but you’ll manage, I promise …


All sorts of swimmers. Some have swum similar distances before, some haven’t. Some are fast, some like to take their time. Some will take on the full 24-hour challenge, some will tag along for three, six or twelve hours. About 24 swimmers are expected for the “Main Event”.

You will of course hear more about this in the next few weeks !

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

First Tempo Trainer session

I’ve had a little bit of elbow pain recently. As a result I haven’t been able to go to the pool and test my newly-arrived Finis Tempo Trainer … until today. I jumped in the pool in the afternoon, did a little warm-up and set out to do a Ramp Test, as inspired by Swim Smooth. This test is meant to give an indication of one’s current most efficient/natural stroke rate. One swims a bunch of 50s with a bit of rest in between, synchronizing oneself with the TT’s BIP-BIP-BIP (the hand should be in front at each BIP). I would do two laps with each different Stroke Rate and then increase it by 3 spm. I recorded the number of strokes, the time per 50m and the perceived effort (all averaged over the two attempts). I had a bit of trouble estimating the Perceived Effort thingy … I might record my heart rate next time instead, looking back at the numbers I’m not too convinced by what I wrote in that column.

Here are the numbers:

Stroke Rate (spm) Stroke Count per 50m Time per 50m (s) Perceived Effort (out of 10)
50 35,5 47 3
53 37 47 3
56 39 45,5 4
59 39,5 44,5 5
62 40 42,5 6
65 41 41,5 6
68 41,5 40,5 7
71 43 40,5 8
74 43 39 8
77 44 38 9
80 47 38,5 9,5
83 47 38 10
86 48,5 38 10,5

What do I get out of thus table? There seems to be two “sweet” spots where I get some free speed without much added effort by just increasing the tempo a bit: somewhere between 62-65 spm and then around 71-74 spm. I think. I’ll do the test once more in a few weeks and try to estimate that Perceived Effort thing more accurately. But anyway, I’ll try to fine-tune this and try and determine which stroke rate(s) suit me best for an efficient watery-promenade or to put myself in optimal record-breaking mode (my records, I’m not touching yours, I promise!).

Any comments on the results or my interpretation? Any advice on how to use my TT the best way?!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Göteborgsimmet – The Butterfly has become Free

We’ve been living close to Göteborg for almost three years now and have had countless encounters with Lake Delsjön since then. My first dip there actually dates from Göteborgsimmet 2012. I had completed the 5000m in just under 1 hour and 40 minutes in butterfly and ended up 7th out of 7, which I was actually quite happy about (happier about the time than the placing, obviously!). I had not taken part in the race last year due to a bout of back pain (and massive freakout just a month before my Channel swim) and as a result I was really looking forward to competing this year. This was my chance to actually race, Vidösternsimmet was a great test of endurance and I forced myself to not push too hard for most of the swim in order to give myself a chance to finish it, Göteborgsimmet was going to be very different!

This year again I signed up for the 5000m race, due to start at 10:00. The swimmers in the 2500m race would start at the same time, which resulted in a field of over 100 swimmers, almost evenly split between both distances. I got to say “Hej” to a few friends (among them was Anders Blomgren, who’s cooking up something fun for september/october, more about it soon) right before the start and before I knew it, it was already time to line up right by the edge of the water (“Get your toes out of the water!!!”). I was standing in the first row on the left side of the pack, feeling like I would be fast but certainly no competition to the guys and girls standing on the right end of the beach.

The first hundred meters were chaos, as expected. I tried to hold a straight line toward the first buoy while swimming some variation of water-polo-front-crawl and trying to avoid any collision with any of the surrounding swimmers. My strategy was to try and start fast and accelerate during the second lap. In my pre-race dreams I was able to hold on to the fast guys for at least a little while and go into survival mode to finish the swim in under 70 minutes. Dream scenario. My actual target was to get under 1 hour and 15 minutes, which would be a 4km/h average, a speed that I’ve been able to hold for about 4000m earlier in the summer, before I dialed down training some more.

Photo by Jarek Figas !

Anyhow, after 100 meters with my head out of the water, I was very aware that the fast ones were indeed very fast and sadly much too far away already for me to even dream to see them again before the finish line. And so did the navigating begin. I’m somewhat more familiar with Delsjön than Vidöstern, having swum probably close to 1000 kilometers there in the past couple of years. I usually swim around the two islands, each lap being 2000m. For Göteborgsimmet the buoys are layed out to mark a slightly wider lap. I had to resist the urge of taking a shortcut or two, swimming closer to the islands, camouflaging under some branches. Having in the end decided against using such manoeuvres, I’m pretty sure my local knowledge didn’t help me all that much during this race.

About half-way through the first lap, came a sharp 90° turn to the left. A couple of minutes before reaching that buoy, I could see the group of furious tortoises already well past this marker. But I could also see a couple of green hats (male 5000m competitors, aka “targets” !) not that far ahead of me. I’d have to work hard to catch them, but that I knew from the start. I wasn’t planning on saving anything for after the race. This was after all my second and last race of the summer!

I reached the finish line for the first time after a bit more than 35 minutes! Wow, didn’t see that one coming. My arms were very heavy but I could see that I was closing in some more on one of the green hats. I focused on gliding efficiently, on rotating my body just the right amount and complemented it all with some extra kicking (I like kicking !). Soon I was only a few meters behind the fellow in green. I considered drafting off him for a while but eventually decided against it as I felt that this would have been too sneaky. I passed him just before reaching the sharp-turn buoy for the second time and was now very close to reaching a lady-swimmer. There was now just one kilometer left and most of it was one long straight line with the final 500m marked by a few wooden platforms attached together using pool lane-lines. I managed to pass her before the first platform and in the process went from her right-hand side to her left-hand side i.e. close to the lane-lines. I could see that she had been breathing to the right as I was passing her and switched to left-side breathing as I was only slightly ahead of her and to her left. This switch meant that she was not going to let me cross the finish line before her without a fight!

Game on!

I turned my kicking a couple of notches up, started breathing every other stroke and focused on keeping my head down whilst sighting off the lane-lines and platform. I sensed that I was getting close to the end so I chanced a glance on the right … and there she was, kicking and windmilling and getting right past me! I did my best to still keep my head down and swim as efficiently as possible but couldn’t help but notice that she was now a couple of meters ahead of me. There were only fifty meters to go. I felt like this was it but then thought back about what another swimmer once told me: if you’re struggling at threshold pace, try and start sprinting for a while, you’ll use different types of muscles and it will feel easier for a little while. I thought that I was already in sprinting mode, but somehow managed to increase my stroke rate, straighten my arms and give absolutely all I had … for a mere 20 meters … and ended up 5 seconds behind my competitor. I wanted to shake hands with her but she was just as fast out of the water and disappeared in the crowd.

I got a time of 1:11:02 which left me in 13th place out of 44 overall and 9th out of 30 males. The winner on the mens side clocked in at 0:56:05 (5.3 km/h!!!!) and the winner on the womens side completed the 5000m in 0:59:42 ( > 5km/h!!!). I was extremely happy with my time which gave me an average speed of 4.2km/h.


Jarek, Anna & jag :)

Two hours later, time for the 1000-meter race. The course consisted in one 500-meter-long straight line following the lane-lines until the final platform and back. This was actually the main race of the day. It is one of three races that are part of the “Göteborg Classic”, along with a cycling and a running race. As a result, over 1000 persons took part in this event. Most participants covered the distance using breaststroke. There had been a few waves starting every 10th minute after the end of the morning’s long races, followed by a 30-minute break meant to clear the lake before the “Competitive Heat” (Ooooooh!). There were a few other swimmers who had entered two races like I did. However the very best speedsters seemed to have called it a day.

I put back on my super-FINA-approved AQUADEUS jammer, waited on the beach for the start signal and started rotating my arms frantically. I could see a lot of splashing all around me and some more splashing a bit further in the distance. Damn it, some people can move fast through water! I was staying really close to the lane-lines in order to not have to swim more than 1000m, passed one young fella at the turn, put my head down once more and headed towards the finish banner. Once again I tried to fight off some late charges (one swimmer actually swam over my legs, bringing me to a halt) and touched the time-pad after a lady-swimmer and before a group of I-don’t-know-how-many others. I got out of the water, received another finisher medal and got congratulated by Greta:

- Well done! You came second!
- What? No, I didn’t.
- Yes you did.
- I don’t think so. How many finished ahead of me?
- Just one.
- That doesn’t make sense.

Stealing the silver medal from a little boy … sorry !

Turned out I finished second male (a long way) after Johan Ekstedt (who had already managed a 6th place in the 5k) and that only the swimmers from the competitive heat were eligible for prizes. That meant a silver medal for me! Even if I later found out that I had come 3rd male when combining all the heats. Third out of 390 males and fourth out of 1022 isn’t too bad a result, but as mentioned, this last race was less about speed than about popularizing open-water swimming in Göteborg.

A successful day! Even for Greta, who did manage to not get wet despite a weather forecast (and a wake-up call in the form of heavy rain pounding against our windows) that did not look too promising.

Greta = not wet.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Vidösternsimmet 2014 – (Un)finished business

We had left Värnamo defeated two years prior. This had been my longest swim to date in my new stroke, but 6h30 and 13km only took me to Vidösternsimmet’s third checkpoint, 3500m short of the fourth and about 8km away from the finish line. I had been cold, tired, but happy nonetheless.

Summer of 2014, the situation was slightly different. I was still on a high from completing the Channel in September 2013, but my training had been slowing down considerably since then. I had transitioned from almost-daily sessions to barely-weekly visits to either the pool or the lake. As a result I could not tell if I still had enough endurance and/or cold tolerance. Did I mention that I lost about two stones since September, falling from the mid-80s (kilograms) to the low-70s? Let’s consider it mentioned! In brief(s), the challenge was going to be to try to just complete the 21500 meters.

We drove to Värnamo on the Friday afternoon along with Nicolas Bathfield, another froggie-swimmer living in Gbg. Oh, he also won the race last year … but for him too, training had been, hmm, erratic. He seemed however determined to make the challenge ahead even more challenging by swimming the 2 kilometers from the campsite to the starting line (didn’t happen) and by deciding to drop the wetsuit and make this swim his longest in togs (did happen).

At the Friday evening briefing we also caught up with the third frog, Jacques Tuset, who’s in the middle of his latest challenges, the Seven Prison Islands challenge, where he is attempting to escape from, you guessed it, seven prison islands all around the world. Lake Vidöstern didn’t feature any prison, so maybe we should have offered to chain him up before the start?

Other familiar faces, usually on top of pairs of wide shoulders, were present at the briefing. The organiser, Adam Svensson, whose goal is to develop the swim into an even more popular event (almost 90 participants this year after 20 and 35 in 2012-13). The winner from two years ago, Ryan Provencher, always up for a challenge, would take part in both the 21km AND the 5km races …. if he managed to finish the first one in time to drive back to the start of the second race (he did it). Speedster Ted Molin, third the year before and showing great speed in the past few months in my favorite training pond of Lake Delsjön.

Fast forward to the next morning. We arrive just before 6:30 at the starting line. It becomes immediately clear that there are WAY more swimmers (and crew) than in 2012. We say Hi to a few friends, get the latest news on who is going to swim without a wetsuit (7 out of about 80) and go and collect the Safeswimmer buoy that was assigned to me. Apart from myself, the swimmers competing in only togs are the following: Jacques (of course), Nicolas (who had brought his wetsuit in his bag, “just in case”), Pawel Dudek (a Polish swimmer who has completed Vidöstersimmet twice already), Sale Savuel and Manfred Spitzwieser (two swimmers from Austria) and Anders Blomgren (one of my training partners, whose wetsuit broke the week before but who decided this would not stand in the way of his completing his second Vidösternsimmet!).

We all gather by the starting line, a drone is in stationary flight 20 meters above our heads, presumably filming us’all (I hope we’ll get to see some footage), countdown to the start … and … BOOOOM! They fire an actual cannon. Everybody is stunned for about a second or two but all end up taking their first steps into the lake. That part of the lake is very shallow, it takes perhaps 100m, maybe more for it to be more than knee-deep.

There starts the navigation. The concept of the swim is that one shall take oneself to four checkpoints, three of which are on land, and the navigation is up to the swimmers. The organisation has posted 20+ large yellow buoys over the 21.000m of the course, some of them indicating the best line, some of them indicating some shallower areas and some others having been accidentally displaced!

I have a tendency of starting races/crossing rather aggressively, but due to the lack of training I decide to take it relatively easy, focusing on my technique, counting my strokes. After about one hour I reach the first stop, a pair of large rafts featuring loads of food. I take in a sort of gel (more liquid than an actual gel) and most of a Snickers plus a couple of cups of water. Pawel and Nicolas are on my heels coming at this stop and leave before me.

The second stage was swam partly in fog, which I really enjoy. There was just enough to make you feel like you were flying in the middle of a cloud but at the same time it was still possible to see (just barely) the next buoy in the distance. Sighting, adjusting the direction, taking twenty strokes and repeat. During this second stretch I was taking quite an outside lane, not ideal for racing I guess, but I was not too far away from a couple of other swimmers (not completely off course then) and at least it didn’t get too crowded around me, plenty of space to swim freely and most importantly ENJOY the experience. I was still taking it relatively easy, not being too worried about things and my body seemed happy with everything. The excitement came from a viking ship (I ship you not) passing the lot of us on its way to the second stop.

The second stop got reached by myself and a few other swimmers. I grabbed a liquid-gel-thingy, held it up and proposed a toast to the amount of fun we were having, only to press it a bit too much and end up with half of it – sticky yellow substance – on my chest. Fabienne, Jacques’s wife suggested that we get back in the water quickly. It turned out that Jacques had been staying no more than one minute at each stop when I, for instance, was spending a good 4-5 minutes chatting happily with Greta, other swimmers and swimmers’ partners.

The third stage of the swim was a 5500m. I don’t remember too much apart from swimming alongside reeds for seemingly forever. I had counted my strokes up to about 5000, thinking that this would bring me to a point where I could see the next checkpoint. Not quite. I had yet to reach a yellow buoy marking a sharp-ish turn to the left and leading to the last (long) stretch. When reaching the checkpoint I was significantly more tired than at the previous one but still turning my arms happily enough. Another 4-5 minutes to feed, talk, stretch a bit, catch up with Nicolas and Pawel and off we went for another 3400m.

This was for me the hardest bit. For about 30 minutes I felt completely drained, I tried to slow down my stroke some more and focus on pulling efficiently but it didn’t feel like I was going anywhere. That’s the mental part of marathon swimming. Just keep on going, you’re actually still moving forward despite how it feels, so just keep at it. And then all of a sudden I was on the other side of it, I was once again able to increase my stroke rate and my pull wasn’t feeling too weak anymore, yay!

I didn’t quite manage to catch my two non-wetsuit colleagues before the final “depå”. Pawel left not long after I arrived and Nicolas was there pondering if he should call it a day as he was starting to get cold. We talked a bit, decided to get back in (“It’s warmer in the water”), start swimming strongly (“Turn your arms like a windmill”) and use other warming-up strategies (“Did you pee recently?).

There were only five kilometers to the finish line. After a little while focusing on passing the buoys from the right side to avoid the very shallow and rocky bits I took a quick look at my watch and, assuming that I had covered about half of the 5000 meters, calculated that I had a chance to break 7 hours. Unfortunately I was off by a consequent amount and surely wasn’t close to the half-way point when I did the math. I could still see Nicolas in the distance, my advice of turning one’s arms quickly had backfired on me and he was now a couple of minutes ahead of me!

I was sighting on a large house close to the bridge we were due to pass under right before reaching the end of the swim. As always it took much longer than I thought to actually reach it. But at that stage I didn’t care anymore. I was so relieved to know that I was going to finish the swim and didn’t have the pressure of pushing harder to either catch up with someone, not letting someone pass me, or break the seven-hour barrier, as none of these scenarii were now likely. I reached the finish line at 14:17, climbed onto the wooden pontoon leading to the “Interview zone” and more importantly, the jacuzzi!

Final impressions, in no particular order:

- I managed to swim from A to B to C to D to E to F without complaining once!!

- Got really surprised at how my body reacted. I thought I had lost most of my endurance since last September, turned out I had a bit left.

- Greta wants to travel to Värnamo again next year. She got a lot of fika from the organizers!

- Seven non-wetsuiters at the start, seven at the finish. Well done to Anders and Nicolas who managed their longest bioprene swim!

- Finished 33rd out of 66 (overall) and 4th out of 7 (speedos). Right in the middle. “Lagom” like they say in Sweden. I’m a real Swede, liksom.

- There was a very friendly/family atmosphere throughout the day, in spite of the massive increase in the number of competitors.

- The winner, Ted Molin, broke the course record by over 30 minutes and got it down to 5 hours and 19 minutes, impressive!

- A great number of swimmers increased their PB dramatically this year even if the conditions weren’t much better than last year. Among others, Maggie Timossi and Jarek Figas!

Here’s the link to Vidösternsimmet’s website. They intend to increase the number of competitors even further next year. See you there?!?

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Goals for 2014

In an attempt to bring back this blog to life, here’s a short list with goals for this year. They might evolve in the next few months, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

Goal One: Break the minute barrier for 100m in SCM (haven’t timed myself in a 25-meter pool in a long time, so I’m not quite sure where I’m at …)

Goal Two: Finish Vidösternsimmet! (after giving up after 13km in 2012)

Goal Three: Finish Vidösternsimmet … in style, i.e. fight for the win among the non-wetsuiters (very dependent on who actually shows up)

Goal Four: Do a “Not-quite-a-Sub-32-Marathon-thingy”.

The original concept is to manage a swimming marathon (10 km) under 3 hours as well as a running marathon (42.195 km) in under 3 hours. I’ve never been a runner, so I can forget about running a marathon that fast, especially since I’m not willing to train as much as last year. I’m not going to go for a marathon at all, actually. I will try to give it all on a 10k though. My ultimate goal could be to do the swim-thing in under 3 hours in the Delsjön lake and then (the same day or the day after) run one lap around the lake at the pace of a 3:00-marathon. Which would mean …. 10 kilometers in 42:40!!!!!! Very ambitious, and I probably won’t get close to it, but I’ll have fun trying.

Goal Five: Swim-a-sketch … more about it soon.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments