By Nancy Heslin
Annika Astrom joined a swimming club when she was 8 and competed throughout her school years. The 53-year-old qualified three times for the Kona Ironman World Championship, and has completed 8 Ironman and 9 ÖTILLÖ World Championships.
She also did seven years of Svensk Klassiker (the Swedish Classic). To give you an idea, one Klassiker is when you do the Vasaloppet 90 km cross-country skiing, Vansbrosimningen 3 km swim, Lidingöloppet 30 km run and Vätternrundan 300 km biking within a 12-month period.
“My brother first mentioned ÖTILLÖ in 2009,” the SAS air hostess told SLM, “so I looked at the website and thought it looked crazy – and with only pictures of men. So I thought why not?”
Annika loves water and the ÖTILLÖ experience of going from island-to-island continuously without stopping. “It’s a great challenge in different surroundings and environments.”
The ÖTILLÖ World Champion has evolved over the nine years. “I will never forget the bikes on Ornö,” Annika shares. “We had bicycle baskets with Mariekex biscuits to eat. The bike gears were so bad we had to walk up the hills. It was crazy!”
The first year I think we were only 10 women all together but soon we will be the majority.
She added, “We also had camelbacks and so much more to carry which made us slower. The first few years it was freezing cold in the water and I told myself, I’ll never to do this again. But here I am after 9 consecutive starts. It’s a love-hate relationship!”
The 2017 WC saw some of the toughest conditions yet Annika said. “The rain made the trail and rocks slippery and the wind made you cold on land. The water and strong current of course made it rough and took a lot of energy but I love the water and the challenge.”
Annika loves racing in the Women’s Team category, and this year she teamed up with ÖTILLÖ WC first-timer Lovisa Jönsson (Team Spocks Family) to finish tenth with a time of 11:52:30. Annika’s delighted to see more women at the start line. “The first year I think we were only 10 women all together but soon we will be the majority.”
The former triathlete trains with as little as possible: wetsuit, googles and swim cap, paddles, compression socks and trail-running shoes. Sometimes she uses a pullbuoy.
“I mostly swim in a pool year round,” Annika explained about her training. “I run everywhere but it’s a good idea to train in the forest and do some cross-training because it’s usually very tough running on rocks along the ÖTILLÖ race course.”
Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue #4 (October 2017)