My recent knee injury (and Jassu’s broken foot from two years before) made me realise just how vulnerable we are. One minute I am happily running a split second later I am on the floor with an open knee cap and a ruptured quadriceps tendon. At least for me these injuries forced me to rethink my approach towards personal safety in swimrunning. “Think First, then Act!” immediately springs to mind. The question I struggle with…was it pure misfortune or actually lack of focus? I guess the answer lays somewhere in the middle. In my case I have been accident and injury free for many years simply because I thought I knew what I was doing. However, this self knowledge is by no means a guarantee that nothing will ever happen, as I found out. Only now, after 4 years of practising the sport of swimrun, I really start to understand and appreciate the real risks involved and also what we (as a team!) can actively do to lower or even mitigate certain risks. Below I have summarised three scenarios where I believe we made mistakes and what we could possibly do to prevent it from happening again. This is by no means a conclusive “idiot proof guide” but merely a personal write up of specific situations. Of course by sharing this information I hope that people will also rethink their own approach and attitude towards personal and team safety.
Anxiety!...for me it is THE biggest contributing factor for causing injury related accidents. In hindsight a raised level of anxiety is often the root cause of irrational or impulsive decision making leading to injury. So the question is: what raises an increased level of anxiety in my case?
1. Too many people syndrome…
The biggest difference between training and racing is that all of a sudden I find myself surrounded by many other swimrun athletes doing the same thing. Especially in the first hour of a race the swimming is often interrupted and the trails are congested. I know it’s part of the game but mentally I really struggle with it. When we train, we always run and swim at our own pace so having to follow other people on a single trail is stressful for me. In a way I feel “trapped” while “fighting” over space. At home we rarely see other people training in the forest or lakes so we are spoiled for space. It’s a blessing on training days but a curse on race day. Lesson learned: The next time I find myself in a situation where I am forced to share an ideal swimline or a single trail I need to stay calm and only act when there is a clear and safe way out. Another way of learning how to deal with this feeling of anxiety is to train together with other people and participate more frequently in races with a mass start.
2. Loosing sight of each other…
There is a common swimrun rule which says that two team members can never be more than 10 meters apart during the race. There are many valid safety reasons for this but for me the most important one is that it generates a feeling of care and trust from the other person. I say this simply because I know the immediate (vocal) response from Jasmina (or me) when we drift apart or loose sight of each other: #”¤”!!.....WAIT FOR ME!... As a result the immediate (natural) reaction is to put in 110% effort to get back together again. It’s in these brief moments where I sacrifice too much energy, take too much risk and loose focus. Two good examples where this happens: 1) water entry & exits and 2) highly technical trail sections. Why? When I get out of the water as the lead swimmer I am pretty tired whereas Jasmina is pretty
cold. Her first reaction is obviously to start running straight away to get warm again whereas my first reaction is to catch a breath and try to tuck the pulling cord away. This is the time where I literally have to run after her and ask her kindly: “Slow down Bobbi!” It also happens the other way around…where I am so focussed on the mantra “be one with the trail” only to find out that Jasmina is nowhere to be seen anymore….until I hear a screaming voice: “friggin slow down Bobbi”….in which case I reply “oh yes sorry I forgot Bobbi”. Who the hell is Bobbi?....Anyway I digress.
3) Getting comfortable with the unfamiliar or uncontrollable…
Not knowing the course, extreme cold water, big waves and strong currents if you’re not used to it than your brain will spend an awful lot of energy trying to tell you something you don’t want to hear. It can range from a soft voice saying: “Damn this is tough am I supposed to feel like this already?.....” to a more louder voice saying: “Shit!!!..this is insane…get me out of here, I can’t do this anymore…!” Whatever the case may be….exposure to different conditions is key and will ultimately train your brain and the rest of your body to respond in a controlled manner without panicking or being stressed. Adapt positively to your immediate surroundings and the net effect is that you will save a lot of precious energy. This year we put an extra effort in to improve our openwater skills, technical trail running technique and simply getting more familiar with the ÖtillÖ race courses. It has paid off on several occasions. Funny enough the only run stretch that we had not practised for the worldchamps was the one from Sandhamn to Runmärö where I hit my knee on a rock…was it a coincidence? Faith? badluck?...only time will tell.
So finally: is swimrun a dangerous sport? The answer for me is: “No, it’s not until you know what you’re getting yourself into…”
Play true and keep it real…it’s just for fun!
Team: Say No! to Doping
Me: Thomas Schreven
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