By Magnus Ormestad
ÖÖ: Tell us about yourself and what do you do when you are not running around with hand paddles and wearing neoprene?
DS: I am 29 and Swiss, and I recently graduated with a PhD in Electrical Power Engineering at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.
Besides work and swimrun training, I really like to spend time with my friends around fika, dinner or in nature – even better when combined. As a teenager, my big passion was snowboarding and I spent most of my time up in a mountain resort at home.
ÖÖ: How would you sum up your 2017 season?
DS: 2017 was a pretty tough year for me. I was sick for most of February and March, when I finally decided to go to see a doctor who discovered I was iron deficient. Work-wise I was in the last stretch of writing my PhD, which I actually presented two days before the race in Isles of Scilly. The ÖTILLÖ Series has really been a way to escape from work and have a good weekend racing, enjoying a new place with friends and having fun.
I am pretty lucky to have been able to race with friends last year and all of them are really strong swimrunners, with a swimming background, which, in my opinion, is an advantage for me. But one thing with swimrun that you don’t find in triathlon is that you need to adapt. Adapt to the environment, the weather, the teammate … and the other teams sometimes.
One key point is to know your partner fairly well so that you can tackle the other issues together, if anything comes up. So racing with a good friend always ends up pretty well.
I am happy with my season even though I had a minor issue when I injured my foot a couple of days before the Isles of Scilly race in June, which kept me from running – I still raced though! – until early August.
ÖÖ: Your background differs from other top swimrun athletes as you are a mountains person more than a sea person. How do you compensate?
DS: This is partly true. I grew up in Lausanne, Switzerland, and we spent every single weekend in the nearby mountains. I also did Scouts for quite a while and that included a lot of multiple-day hikes in the Alps with overnights staying in bivouacs.
During winter, I mostly snowboarded and did various other sports (as many as my Mom would allow) from ice-skating to tennis. But I also swam which pretty much lead into me starting triathlons for fun.
Running, on the other hand, was not my cup of tea and the thought of hill running – why would you do that? – was totally out of the question.
The mountains for me were about ski-mountaineering or walking, followed by, when ever possible, a cheese fondue.
After my Masters in 2012, I went on a 3-month cycling journey in New Zealand and started climbing in 2013. Following that I continued with mountaineering with ropes and more challenging ski-mountaineering tours, since I had both the skills and physical condition to do so.
ÖÖ: What’s the thing with the mountains?
DS: It’s hard to explain since I have pretty much all I’ve known. It’s this feeling of being free, without the city noise, cars and buildings. Living in a place where you don’t have a horizon defined by buildings but a horizon defined by the amazing and beautiful mountains surrounding you. I miss it a lot now in Sweden. Maybe that’s why I enjoy the archipelago so much. Even if there are no mountains, there’s a feeling of being close to nature, adventure, freedom and also greatness. You can be the only person around for many kilometres at a time.
Also, up in the mountains, the days are dictated by the weather. Will it be warm, cold, how is the snow, how is the visibility, will it rain, what about storms? … and so forth. It’s also much less stressful than in cities. I think swimrun to a certain degree has that kind of dimension as well.
ÖÖ: Any mental aspects from climbing and alpinism that you can apply to swimrun?
DS: Of course – quite a bit in fact. First, you have to know the limits of your team. In climbing, you’d consider a route that is the right level for both team members to handle. In swimrun that would translate into knowing what pace to adapt to during different sections of the swimrun course. You have to be able to stay safe while moving forward as smoothly as possible and, as swimrun is often across rough terrain, you have to maintain focus throughout the entire race to avoid getting injured, for example, by tripping on a root, slipping on a wet rock or on algie. In climbing you also stayed focused for long hours in order to avoid wrong movements.
Another aspect is that sometimes you focus so much that you forget to refuel and drink. That happened to me quite a few times in mountaineering. Often the partner sees it before you do. In swimrun it is not easy to think about eating while you are running on single tracks or in the water. However, I think it’s nice to have a partner that can remind us to eat every now and then or when we look tired.
Last but not least, since I mainly do multi-pitch routes in outdoor climbing sometimes it is impossible to go down rappelling and you have to top-out the route. Applied to swimrun: you don’t give up until the Finish Line.
ÖÖ: Would you say that you are attracted to adventures?
DS: Yes, probably a big driving factor in a lot of things I do.
ÖÖ: How did you discover swimrun?
DS: I wanted to find a race that I could do with a Swiss friend that did not involve bringing a bike over to Sweden. And it felt perfect to race together. She never ended up coming over for some reason but in the end I raced with my really good friend, Lina, and we had an awesome time.
ÖÖ: What attracted you to swimrun and why have you stuck with it?
DS: I like the combination of trails with open water. I think it makes you forget you are “racing” and pushing to have so much nature around. You have to be able to adapt. Its varied and finally the possibility to discover new places especially on courses where there are remote islands … its amazing. I particularly like the races that are point to point where you really link two places swimrunning.
ÖÖ: How have you been adapting your training to the Swedish winter?
DS: I swim indoors, run outdoors as much as possible although I do track intervals inside or on the treadmill. As long as it includes fika, training outdoors is not a problem! I climb a lot as well, mostly because its fun and social but I believe it helps to keep in shape as well.
ÖÖ: Do you have a favourite race?
DS: I’d say ÖTILLÖ Isles of Scilly and Koster were the most beautiful ones I did.
Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue #6 (March 2018)