Utö Swimrun 2017 Race Report “Strength, Energy and Harmony”
The last time we raced in Utö we missed a right turn marker and ended up running around the island like two headless chickens. Oops!..it was a small mistake but one with big consequences! So this year we decided to do things differently, we studied the course. It paid off because it taught us a whole lot more then just knowing when to turn left or right….in fact we concluded that Utö was going to be an extreme case of “judging effort against output”.
In other words we were mentally and physically getting ready for an insane 4 ½ hour interval session….fast and intense running followed by a quick “dip” in the water. This mad idea turned out to be pretty close to the truth when we saw Pontus and George blasting up the hill after the gun went off. Sickness and injury free we managed to keep them in eye sight so after running 2.6km at a blistering pace we entered the water for the first swim of the day. We were not allowed to use a pulling cord so in order to avoid a mid swim argument with Jasmina I behaved like a “true gentlemen” and swam side by side for most of the time. After being hooked up we started the second swim and it felt like we were swimming “as one”. I must admit that after Hvar I had some doubts about our combined open water swimming skills and equipment set-up but thankfully it turned out to be unfounded because all the swims felt fast and smooth. The shin floatation stuffed in our compression socks worked out really well and I even managed to swim in a straight line on most occasions, Jasmina told me afterwards. Now that’s what I call a complement! After this little confidence boost we saw Mats waving at us in the distance or should I say “blocking the road in front of us” he said: “TURN RIGHT here!” we replied: “Oh yes we almost forgot...” Thanks Mats you made our day by popping up left right and center…!
On the gravel roads that continued we kept the pace high in anticipation of the next 350m swim section (at Mynäsudd). Talking about gravel roads… we train interval sessions on exactly the same surface at home....so all we did was think about our last uphill / downhill interval session behind our house and “voila” all of a sudden it did not feel so tough anymore. The mind is a powerful thing if you engage it.
Following on from the swim a difficult 2km trail section made my legs feel pretty heavy so we followed our instincts and slowed down to save energy for the gravel roads that followed soon after. Consequently we could hear the “Bad Boys” from Italy catching up on us. Even though we are not great trail runners we still try our best to improve it. So this spring we have been practising a 9km trail loop in Meiko national park which is very similar to the coastal terrain you find in Sweden. Reason? After Jasmina broke her foot we had to find a way to restore her confidence in mostly technical trails. So we came up with a fun way to do this, it’s called “speed trailing”. It basically means that you select a specific (known) trail section and you run it repeatedly at a speed that feels like “your rushing through the crowds at the airport to catch a plane”….. It forces you to focus intensely on footing, balance, coordination and breathing at a rather uncomfortable level (hence the fact that you should only do it for a few kilometres). You will find that when you slow down to your normal trail running speed everything feels so much
more easy and fluent and therefore more energy efficient. The aim is to turn the “uncomfortable” into something your brain and body is comfortable with.
After three short but cold swims we reached time 5 Energy station. I was expecting some other men’s teams to join us soon but nobody came. We were in “no-man’s-land” continuing doing our own thing. These short (cold) swims tend to mess up my breathing a bit when I get to shore so I always need one or two minutes to catch my breath before picking it up again. Since I am the lead swimmer and lead runner Jasmina has a chance to recover the legs in the water but out of the water she basically adapts to whatever running pace I set. I find it very impressive how she intuitively follows and responds to the way I run the trails and gravel roads as it’s far from being a constant effort.
Energy and Intuition…it reminds me of two famous quotes Albert Einstein once said: “Energy cannot be created or destroyed it can only be transformed from one form to another” and: “The only real valuable thing is INTUITION”….(and it has never let me down).
Translating the first quote to swimrunning: Jasmina sacrifices energy to me on the runs and I do the same for her on the swims. It’s brilliant in the sense that I am able to run and swim my natural pace for over 90% of the total race. Sometimes it feels like we are “two minds in one body” because I don’t see, hear or feel her for long periods of time. For me that’s how a race should feel like and a clear sign that our team dynamics work well on race day.
As far as the second quote is concerned….we both trust our intuition. Perhaps a very simplistic example but when you make coffee do you measure the water and count the number of coffee scoops or do you judge the volumes yourself? What about driving in a town you vaguely remember, do you trust your own visual memories or do you look constantly at your phone GPS? Look at newborn babies…100% intuition and pureness. Jasmina does not own a watch and I just keep a written log of my daily training sessions. That’s it, we keep it simple and close to basics so the brain can focus on the things that matter such as looking out for each other and enjoying the surrounding nature.
Anyway, I am digressing….back to the race…we literally flew in and out of each energy station and transition spending just enough time to drink the required liquids. Every second adds up if you have to go through 7 aid stations and 19 transitions so it’s worth to practise it once and a while which we did.
Moving “fast forward”…….Yes! we passed the halfway (time) point with a beautiful beach swim and cheering00
crowds. Then followed a tricky rock section where the eccentric movements of hopping from rock to rock tend to kill my quads so we took it easy once again. Some parts we even walked knowing that we would compensate the slow speed with a high pace on the 6.7km gravel road which was still ahead of us.
On the gravel roads we really dug deep….everything started to hurt but we managed to stay away from the “Man with the Hammer” nor did we suffer any serious muscle or stomach cramps. Finally, after running between 4:00 and 4:30 pace for most of the time we reached the Redbull energy station for the second time……pretty drained and overheated I must say. Then out of nowhere a mobile camera crew appeared. I remember saying to Jasmina: “Shit….I was just about to take it easy to the next swim”…so when we reached the water for the longest (600m) swim of the day it almost felt like I was thrown into a bottle of icecold ÖtillÖ beer….
After this refreshing (alcohol free!) swim I got my focus back and we were on our way for the last part of the race. At some point I got so stiff that I literally had to crawl up a small hill using both hands and feet and doing so it reminded me of Andre Hook. His kids once told him after a race: “Daddy why do you walk like a penguin?”… say no more, that’s what I felt like. The cold water at Fårskär was a warm welcome for my tired muscles and the seemingly never ending 2.6km’s to get there.
During the last few kilometres of the race the tank level indicator was blinking bright orange so with only three short swims to go we did not want to risk any serious muscle cramps. We kept moving at a controlled slow pace before jumping in the water for the last swim of the day. Overall I think that we managed our energy levels well throughout the race. We made sure we left with a full tank and I am convinced it has something to do with the fact that we hardly trained the week before race day.
Finally the last few hundred meters to the finish line felt really special. We had fun and as always we do our own thing. For us it was the perfect mix of what a race should feel like: (inner) Strength, Energy and Harmony it was all there on race day. It also happened to be enough to earn a spot on the podium.
Thank everybody for organising another great event on “the island of Love”…..we could feel it all around!
Team Say No! to Doping
Partner: Jasmina Glad-Schreven
Me: Thomas Schreven
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