Blog of the Month: ÖTILLÖ Hvar
Partner: Jasmina Glad-Schreven
Sometimes I wonder, what drives Jasmina and me to sign up for these ÖTILLÖ swimrun races? I think the answer lies in the fact that it gives us a break from our daily routines where everything is pretty much planned and controlled most of the time. In order to reach the finish line in events you have to be able to “let go and adapt”.
On race day all the teams face the same conditions and are at the mercy of Mother Nature. She commands current, heat, waves, wind, terrain and pretty much everything else around you. She and her loyal assistant “Miss Jugo” will put you to the test and see how you respond to changing conditions. The moment you try to fight it she will physically chew you up and mentally break you into pieces. Knowing this, it takes a special kind of person to participate and finish ÖTILLÖ swimrun races where nothing is constant or predictable. It’s not necessarily the strongest runner or swimmer who make it to the finish line but those who manage to adapt to change most effectively. In a way it’s “swimrun evolution” and to use a famous quote from Charles Darwin:
“It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”
Having participated in swimrun races for the last 4 years, I still consider my self a rookie when it comes down to understanding the impact of Mother Nature and using it to our advantage on race day. I think this is exactly what makes Daniel and Lelle (of Team Swedish Armed Forces) so exceptionally good. I can only guess but this must be something they learn in the Swedish army. In order to survive in extreme conditions you need to adapt and preserve energy at every opportunity only to strike when you’re are in full control of the situation. I already mentioned “Miss Jugo” so by now you’re probably wondering what the hell is he talking about… Well, let me tell you “Miss Jugo” (pronounce you-go) is a strong wind that blows from the Sahara, usually fueled by a low pressure system in the Northern Mediterranean. At sea level big waves build up by the wind and smash into southern facing shore lines. Miss Jugo hit her peak force on race day so we knew we were going to have a rock & roll day out on the big 3km swim crossing.
So, how did it go for us? Well, the first loop on the main island of Hvar went fine because there was not too much swimming involved. I already felt on the first 1.7km swim section that I had to work way too hard for the speed I was doing. My dream of trying to keep up with Stefano and Annika….was quickly thrown out of the window when I saw them take off like a bunch of torpedo’s at the start of the 3km swim. It was actually quite funny to see them disappear out of sight within less than a minute…. I thought:……mmmmh it is going to be a looooong day for us… Half way through the swim we started to drift with the current to the wrong side so we had to dig really deep into our (non-existing) reserves to make it to the exit point. Completely drained we ran to the next swim section where we stood at the shore line shivering from the cold with waves slamming onto the spiky rocks shore line wondering if we should continue. Yes! there was a moment of hesitation from both sides until we came to the conclusion that it would take even longer to get to shore if we would step out of the race so we then jumped into the water started swimming and never looked back. I checked my watch at home and I noticed that we lost 5 minutes during this awkward moment of doubt…On the last swim section back to the island of Hvar the waves were so big that I started to get seasick. Being lifted up and down and thrown from left to right we tried to navigate to the beach. I was shouted at several times that I was going off course but all I could focus on was not to throw up. Anyway, as soon as we reached the beach I fell down on my knees and all the gels of the last hour came flying out…. I did feel a lot better afterwards but I am not sure if the locals fully understood what was going on….never mind and sorry for the mess.
Soon after we reached the main square of Hvar and we were on our way for loop No 2. We welcomed the fact that two swim sections were taken out for safety reasons which suited us well because my arms felt like two fried sausages… Stefano and Annika by now were way ahead of us so we decided to keep a steady pace but not go crazy and break something on the technical trails. We really enjoyed the climb and views up to the castle before running over the top towards the last swim section. In Brusje we caught up with two mens teams and I noticed that some of these guys must have been somewhere in their mid fifties. For me, it just shows that it’s the passion and emotion that matters independent of age, gender, shape or size. You can be a super star in triathlon or road running when it comes down to understanding HR, pace and distance. In swimrunning it’s merely a by-product of what Mother Nature decides to throw at you…. This is what makes every single race a truly unique experience.
Finally after 6 hours and 50 minutes of running and swimming we make it to the finish line in one piece! We did our best and managed to get second place in mixed class and 10th overall. What a day!
Huge congratulations to Stefano and Annika from team Swimrunshop.se (winners in mixed) who were a different level compared to us and all those teams who took part in this amazing race! Whatever happened, learn from it and turn the page. It’s time to start the journey for the next swimrun which for us is Utö!
Mats and Micke (and everybody else from the ÖTILLÖ team) thanks again for putting together such an amazing event. We learned a lot, we laughed a lot, we swam a lot…you guys simply don’t stop to impress! See you in Utö.
Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue # 2 (Apr/May 2017)