Meet a World Champion: Eva Nystrom
By Josefine Ås
Josefine Ås: Eva, you are a renowned athlete in Sweden. You came 2nd in the Winter Triathlon World Cup, won the long-distance duathlon World Cup twice and competed as a pro at Ironman in Kona, Hawaii. So we were kind of expecting something big from you at ÖTILLÖ. Was it your first swimrun and how did it feel for you?
EN: No, actually ÖTILLÖ wasn’t my first swimrun. I started swimrunning a couple of years ago, mostly because it’s a good training for triathlon and duathlon competitions. I decided to try swimrun last year when I became a mother in May, as I found training two disciplines instead of three like for a triathlon appealing. But I wasn’t sure how my body would respond after childbirth and pregnancy, or how my baby would act, but everything went well so that I could begin training.
I think I ran 6 or 7 swimrun competitions last year before ÖTILLÖ. I tried to race into post-baby shape and wanted to give ÖTILLÖ and Adriel my best shot.
JA: You and Adriel won with a time of 8:49:58, nearly 20 minutes ahead of the second Mixed Team. Did you imagine such an amazing result?
EN: Absolutely not, this was far beyond what we had hoped for – the top five, or maybe, top three on a good day. We both had a really good day.
Honestly, a month before the race I checked to see if it was possible to defer our entry until the following year. But that was a no go, so I just tried to make the most out of the shape I was in. I didn’t mention this to Adriel before starting.
JA: How did you feel about racing with a teammate?
EN: Really fun. Have previously run both multisport and adventure racing in teams of two to four people, I’m used to teamwork. It’s also a challenge to pull together to move as quickly as possible, both on land and in the water.
JA: Had you and Adriel known each other well before the race?
EN: Not really. We knew each other a little and raced 4 or 5 swimruns together before ÖTILLÖ. Adriel had asked my partner Martin Flinta if he wanted to race together but Martin was going to China to compete, so he suggested Adriel ask me. Then I was pregnant. But Adriel thought it would all work out so we raced to earn a spot at ÖTILLÖ. But we are quite similar so our teamwork worked well.
JA: How did your relationship change after 75km in the archipelago together?
EN: We didn’t talk much during the race. We trusted each other. And raced as per our plan. Nothing complicated really. But, of course, it was a lovely feeling to cross the finish line victorious together.
JA: You are a mother of two, and Julia was only four months old, at the time of ÖTILLÖ. Pretty impressive! Did the pregnancy affect you in any way?
EN: I definitely had not lost the baby weight or had time to get into top shape but apparently I could hold out for the endurance element. I guess that I have been training and competing so much and for so many years so that my body responded well during the race. We used a tow rope from start to finish and without Adriel it would never have happened.
After the finish, I cried for a good 10 minutes. Even now, I still get tears when I think about it. So definitely this win was my most emotional – and unexpected – ever.
JA: You were still breastfeeding … how did you manage?
EN: I was full-time breastfeeding at the time of ÖTILLÖ. My biggest problem was that Julia refused to take the bottle before the start. I tried to train her for several weeks before but she never caught on.
I had my friend Tina as a babysitter during the race. I trusted Tina 100% and knew it would be fine. I decided not to think about it but just race. And for all three of us, it all went well. I think it was because I was making such an effort that my body was in competition mode and put the milk production part aside.
I’ve never had engorgement problems so I wasn’t worried about it. But this is very individual.
JA: What is about swimrun that has captured your spirit?
EN: I love the challenge and to try new things. Learn a new sport and see the improvements. To me, technical running is my biggest challenge.
JA: How would you describe racing ÖTILLÖ?
EN: A fun race. Martin Flinta has competed in several ÖTILLÖ races, and from the very beginning. I was asked several times to do it, but it seemed too crazy. Plus, the date clashed with the duathlon World Cup every year. But as the competition time has become faster, I gave it a rethink, especially since I became pregnant and wasn’t able to compete in the duathlon World Cup, I wanted to give it a go.
JA: You have raced in both the Mixed and Women’s Team categories. Is there any difference in your opinion?
EN: For me there’s a big difference in the towing. When I’m racing as a Mixed Team, I am sometimes towed in the run or swim segments but with the Women’s Team, I have both pulled and been pulled on the course.
JA: You raced the Sprint in Hvar with Kristin Larsson. How would you compare an ÖTILLÖ sprint from the full distance course?
EN: There’s a really big difference. The course may be a quarter of the length but it’s still not short. I think more people should run sprint. It is long enough but not as wearing as when a race starts to go into the four- or five-hour mark.
JA: How do you feel about racing ÖTILLÖ this year again with Adriel?
EN: Last year we said never again but as the race gets closer we are both getting pumped to try and defend our title. We’re both in better shape this year, so we are going for a win.
Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue # 3 (July 2017)