ÖTILLÖ Legend #2: Navy Seal Joe
Michael recalls, ”I went to pick up Tom and Joe* [*not their real names] at the airport, as they had just come off a long flight from a mission in an undisclosed location. Straight away Joe said that the flight had been good but he’d been throwing up the entire time.”
The trio travelled to Årsta Brygga and took the ferry to Utö. “Joe slept the whole way,” Michael describes, “and looked like he was having a rough time, but there was not one word of complaint. Once we arrived at Utö, they both ate and then went to bed. I’m pretty sure it was a very difficult night for Joe. The next morning, the team got up, came to the start and went for it, without a second thought.
“At Ornö Church – we were going north – our medical team took Joe off the course. He was causing himself severe damage, vomiting while running all the way. Some of the most humble and poised guys we’ve had on the course. We hope they come back one day.”
Swimrun Life Magazine’s revisits ÖTILLÖ 2007 with Joe, our Legend this issue.
I immediately said I was interested, asked my close friend and teammate Tom to be my partner, and sought approval from my command leadership, which wasn’t granted until about a week before the race. At the time, Tom and I were just excited to be going to Sweden and weren’t too concerned about the race distances, even though we had not been swimming or running very much over the previous year due to deployment and training. Also, our free-time activities that summer included weightlifting, surfing, and some hiking. We realised it was too late to get any swim or run training in; however, we were in our mid-twenties, had strong swimming backgrounds, and looked forward to the challenge.
The next morning Michael expressed some concern about my condition; however, I was determined to start the race no matter what since we’d travelled all the way from the States. There were about 13 teams on the starting line with various fins, shoes, wetsuits, and packs. Back then there wasn’t a consensus as to the best strategy. The only rule was no large floats due to the previous year’s winners using air pads to float on.
Once the race started, I was taken by the natural beauty of the region and how challenging the course was. I was also struggling to muster up any energy to keep up with Tom. I felt bad because I knew he wanted to race and have a good showing as the only Americans in the field, but there was nothing I could do. Only a few hours into the race it was suggested I stop and take a support boat back to Sandham to rest. Tom was paired up with another racer whose partner had to pull out as well, and they ended up finishing the remainder of the course.
Immediately following the race Tom and I began talking about coming back the following year, what kind of gear we would use, etc. We had caught the ÖTILLÖ fever, which I still have to this day. Since then I’ve raced triathlons from Sprint to Iron distances, various obstacle course races, and other events. But nothing compares to the ÖTILLÖ. It’s a unique and special race due to the geography, course design with respect to the local environment, and people. Everyone we met that weekend was really friendly and accommodating. I can’t wait to get back and have another shot at the ÖTILLÖ.
Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue # 2 (Apr/May 2017)