Is there doping abuse in swimrun? Yes? No? Not sure? then keep reading…
I never imagined writing a blog about rehabilitation, but I guess there is a first time for everything. So for those who don’t know what happened, on October 5th I fell with my knee on a sharp rock during the epic Ötillö swimrun worldchampionships in Sweden. In a split second my right quadriceps tendon was cut right above the knee cap. After two surgeries and liters of different antibiotics I was finally released from hospital albeit in a full leg cast running from hip to toe. Hopping around like an “outcast penguin” futile things like: sitting on a toilet seat, driving a car or a spontaneous wrestling game with my son became a major hurdle. So hereby, respect to all those people out there who have a mobility issue because no matter how you look at it everything just takes more time and more effort.
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.
You all know that moment, that split of a second, when you realize that something happened. Something that will change your day and maybe even your life. It´s that moment when your, usually very slow brain, fast forwards your life and as a flash in front of your eyes you see what is going to happen and you scream. You scream out of pain. You scream out of physical pain. You scream out of emotional pain. You know it´s finished. You see it in front of your eyes. You feel it in your body. Your brain registers the fact that ÖtillÖ is over for you before it even really got going. Once again.
“Merde, we’re late again”….I said in my best French before closing the door of our summer hut. The night before race day a thunderstorm raged over the Finnish archipelago so it took us some time before we got to Luukki outdoor recreation area. “Luukki who…?” that’s a funny name, so it turns out that “Luukki” comes from Luukas Sigfridson who owned the majority of the land in the 16th century. Today his yellow house is a cafeteria where they serve excellent post race broth, as I found out later.
While slaloming around fallen trees and broken power lines we went through the course details. “only13 kilometres…yeah right…I remember from last year that Krisse (Race Director) managed to squeeze in 11 swim sections ranging from 58m to 540m”. So let’s do the math: 22 transitions in less than 1 ½ hours of racing…so that means getting into / out of the water every 4 minutes…holy smoke! I guess this is where the race will be won or lost.
Upon arrival I noticed a full car park…a lot more people compared to last year I said to Jasmina. I spoke to some participants from Italy, Hungary, Russia and France until I was gently reminded by my partner to start warming up…”there is only 40 minutes left!”. Oh yes, I forgot we are here to race and not just socialise...oops!
After a quality safety briefing from Krisse it was time to get ready. One energy gel, a quick nervous pee and “BANG” off we went to the first swim section together with 12 men’s teams, 12 woman’s teams and 19 mixed teams. Not surprisingly, Jaakko and Ville (Team MBros and winners of this years Porkala swimrun) took off at a pace that would kill me within seconds so we let them go allowing for my ageing body to warm-up a bit slower.
By the time we reached the first swim we jumped into the water lagging some 25 meters behind. Luckily we were able to catch them in the next 100 meters, but I drifted off too far to the right almost colliding with Jaakko (or maybe it was Ville). Anyway, “sorry guys swimming straight is clearly an area where I need to improve!” After the first swim, which is also the longest (540m), we stumbled up a small hill and while jumping over fallen trees from the night before I started wondering if we ended up in some sort of obstacle run. Within minutes we ended up at the next lake for another swim. Thankfully our transitions tend to work well so it was nice to get into the water and cool down a bit. In fact it reminded me off our Finnish sauna session a few days earlier when I put my (overheated) head in a big barrel filled with cold rain water. There is something in the water of the Luukki lakes that makes it almost like a luxury SPA treatment….it feels super soft and smooth to swim in. “Shit, I forgot to close my front zipper (again)”…..never mind we are almost on the other side. In the meantime we were moving forward trying to increase our lead but we both struggled a bit with the up & down run sections. “I can’t breathe” Jassu said a few times “I think it’s the antibiotics from last week”.
In the meantime I noticed that I had to work really hard to keep a good pace trying to stay clear of the “two brothers”. While running and swimming from one transition it was great to hear and see the great number of people cheering everybody on. We even flew passed a few local fishermen yelling: “watch out…two penguins with a pink swimcap!”…I replied: “there are another 150 more coming soon!..” The course was marked to precision and we were frequently told how far we were in the lead to the point that I could see Team MBro’s just a mere 75m’s behind us getting into the water before we hit the last 2.5km (gravel) run stretch. Thank goodness I don’t wear a HR belt, because I don’t want to know what my heart rate was during that last run stretch. With lactic acid coming out of my ears we managed to get into the water for the last 300m swim close to the finish line. I could barely make it up the last hill section and even had to ask Jassu to slow down a bit. When we crossed the finish line I fell to the floor like a bag of (mashed) potatoes: “Yes, we did it”. “Time for champagne” Krisse said. Less than a minute later Jaakko and Ville crossed the finish line to share some “tasty bubbly wine”: “Great racing with you guys!”
Järvestä Järveen is a swimrun event for those who want to try it for the first time and those who want to push them selves. The venue is very accessible, set in beautiful nature and last but not least organised “Finnish” style meaning: Everything simply works - smooth and efficient.
Thanks Krisse & volunteers who helped to get this event organised a day before in thunderstorm conditions!
Team: Say No! to Doping
Me: Thomas Schreven
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