Catalina Race Directors Report 2020
Dreams do come true.
A little over two years ago we decided to go for the the mammoth challenge of setting up an ÖTILLÖ race weekend in the United States of America.
We knew that it was one of those challenges that could either make you or break you.
Fortunately Catalina Island came up as an option early on presented by Andy Hewitt and Sean Durkin. We liked the idea; it was near the throbbing metropolis of Los Angeles. It was in Southern Catalina with a major endurance sports tradition and it was a place that many might have heard of but few had actually visited. It was a unique place to set up a unique race, something we pride ourselves in doing.
After internal discussions we chose to try it and see how far we could go. We teamed up with Andy and Sean who found the key to the door, Natalie Foote. The local who had grown up on the island, who was a major endurance affecionado and who had her fingers and toes in the dirt. She knew everyone.
The framework was right to try to set plans in motion.
We saw the beauty of the island and we saw the remoteness but we did not see the logistical challenges. Which was probably good as it might have made us question it more.
Our first course idea turned out to be absurdly hard compared to the final World Series version.
A year ago we locked everything in place. We were committed. Now it was time to deliver.
530 races registered. Wow.
The Friday before the race weekend was special. It was really a do or die weekend ahead of us. You only get one chance and we knew that it would be a severe blow to everything we stand for if we did not deliver. It was great to see how many positive people we met while doing the Social Swimrun in Avalon followed by more than 100 persons attending the Social gathering provided for by ARK and Vivobarefoot. That was a great start to a new concept!
Saturday – Sprint and Experience day.
A beautiful day, perfect for setting things off. After a mid-week revelation we had managed to get everyone who needed a seat on a ferry to get to Two Harbors on time.
It was the first time in a while that I was quite nervous before the Race Briefing. How would we be received? Mats and I were on point. Everyone was very positive and the energy was good. On time start!
Then after an hour the first Experience racers crossed the line before the first Sprint racers. Everyone with big smiles, hugs and laughter. It was so good to see – we had managed to transfer the same feeling from Europe to America. The swimrun community is unique in its way to make everyone feel welcome!
After the prize giving some of us went to Avalon for the registration and race briefing at the very special Avalon Casino Theatre. A magnificent building with great Art Deco and an auditorium that is unique. The race briefing was great. We managed to get our message across with the helping hand of the Conservancy, the Island Company, the Chamber of Commerce and of Natalie.
Dinner after was a relief and tasted great before the big drive across the island in the dark. Two hours later bed felt great.
The big question was now – would we have a regular World Series day with stormy weather and rain or would our energy manage to fend it off for the day?
Sunday – World Series day. A massive race course lay waiting for the teams that arrived with the chartered ferry right on time. Some teams would be broken by the end of the day but the sure had a massive ride ahead of them. The sun was out. So was a bit of wind and waves on the west end, but no rain. It looked promising.
The time before start was relaxed. Perfectly prepared by Johanna, Håkan and Emma together with our awesome volunteers.
On time start and all 108 starting teams took off for the first hill loop that would separate the herd. How fast were they going? Team Envol – Nicolas and Francesc – one of the two favorite teams blasted that first hill loop almost five minutes ahead of our calculated fastest time. Wow? Would they hold or were they just trying to break the other favorite team – ARK swimrun with Fredrik and Oscar?
In the women’s category Team Wild Envol with the current World Champions – Fanny and Desiree- showed clearly why they are top ranked. Flying.
In the mixed it was a dog fight between at least 6 teams within a minute.
After the front returned from the first loop over at USC the time difference between ARK and Envol was next to nothing. The battle was on. A beautiful side note: one of the top four racers missed the trash when tossing some garbage. He stopped, returned, picked it up and continued. True ÖTILLÖ swimrun spirit.
The rest of the race was brutal. With a massive run over the top of Catalina to the west end. From there several hard swims coming back with little running in between. This is where even 16 C degree / 62 F gets cold if you have not managed your energy properly.
The front looked the same ARK and Envol neck to neck. With Oscar in team ARK looking cold. At the swim exit at Lions Head Nicolas and Francesc saw that Oscar was shaking as they got out of the water together. They put the hammer down and pushed as hard as they could for that short run and the following 800 meter swim. That was a big attempt at braking the ARK spirit.
In the women’s category the current World Champions Fanny and Desiree put in a huge performance battling for 6th place overall and were just 15 minutes behind the overall leaders.
In mixed last years up and coming team the young Team Envol – Sabina and Alexis – showed that they will be a team to reckon with this year staying ahead of chasing Swedes and top ranked Americans.
In the end, Team Envol – Nicolas Remires and Francesc de Lanuza – took a well deserved win! Just minutes ahead of Team ARK where Oscar Olsson probably put in the toughest performance of all being severely hypothermic. He must have gone through the mental and physical version of endurance hell for the last third of the race. Pushed and cajoled by the ever present Fredrik Axegård. The first American team The temple of Mount Diablo – Gregory and Prashanth – crossed the line as overall third.
In the Women’s category Fanny Kuhn and Desiree Andersson – Team Wild Envol – showed yet again why they are the best in the world. Winning almost 30 minutes ahead of the second team, ARK SOULS
Who won the second place just seconds ahead of the young American team Lyle Fitness Ladies – Caroline and Kelsey. Fanny and Desiree finished 7th overall and just 15 minutes from the overall podium! Time will come.
In Mixed Team Envol – Sabina Rapelli and Alexis Charrier – took it home! In 9th place overall. Before the Swedish team of ARK Swimrun who placed ahead of the first American team Boston Wet Sox.
All in all 97 teams finished this brutal but beautiful course. Team Envol took all first places. Team Ark took all seconds and the first American teams all placed third. How long will it take until the order is reversed?
Everyone who took the start this weekend is a winner in our eyes as they extended their trust to us!
It was a make it or break it weekend. Thanks to everyone involved; racers, sponsors, destination partners, volunteers, staff and safety crews it was a huge success!
We did it! ÖTILLÖ finally has a home in America and we are so ready to build from this base and create an even better weekend next year!
Make a mark in your calendar. 6 & 7 of March, 2021 is the weekend to be on Catalina! Registration will open within 6 weeks.
Thank you all for your trust and for being part of the ÖTILLÖ swimrun spirit.
Spread the word.
The ÖTILLÖ team through the voice of Michael Lemmel.