Once again nature reminded us of who is in charge
It was so good to finally put on a swimrun race weekend in Sweden this year.
After a frustrating season with postponed and cancelled events it was fantastic to put on yet another version of how to race under Covid-19 circumstances. ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Engadin in the end of July gave us the energy and the determination to do something unique for the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Sprint 15K.
A new version and a new format
In Switzerland we followed the local regulations and created a race based on those. In Sweden we did the same. This time the regulation was no more than 50 persons on the course at the same time.
We decided to make a weekend out of this Sprint race with three starts both days (08:30, 12:00 & 15:30), making a total of six starts. We made some starts team only, some starts solo only and one start, the last one into both teams and solo. The consequence of that was that the final results of the race could not be decided before the last heat on Sunday was done. Sort of like a time trial.
At the same time we took the opportunity to re-think the course design where we needed to simplify the logistics by having the start and finish close to each other. It also gave us the possibility to include a part of Utö that we have wanted to include in a race course previously but not managed to do it in a good way.
The course that we created in the end is probably one of the best courses we have done. Thirteen runs of which not one is easy, some parts are almost like scrambling and so technical. The twelve swims are all safe but at the same time very exposed so you really feel the power of the ocean. There is no advantage to the strong pool swimmer here.
As one of our racers put it: That was probably one of the most challenging and tactically interesting race courses I have ever done. – Shane Chaplin
There is always some discussion about the weather and I personally could not have wished for better weather. On Saturday we had gale-force winds, rain squalls, strong currents and some big waves. As the starting fields were so small (50 persons) they all very quickly became fully immersed in the elements where they at times felt as if they were all alone. At some point on Saturday afternoon the current pushing between the islands North of Utö, before the racers looped back, was stronger than 4 knots. That is hard to negotiate if you do not know how to swim in flowing water, sort of like rafting. The rocks were of course wet and where there was moss it was quite slippery. I think the memory of racing in such conditions stick for a long time, many do not even think it is possible until it has been done.
For us this was also a great test, proving that we can manage this race course in quite harsh conditions.
On Sunday Utö showed its soft side. Warm weather, sun, very little wind, no waves, some left over current between the islands and dry rocks. One of those late summer days that we all love. It was a perfect opposite to Saturday, sort of like the World Championship conditions in 2017 and 2018. It would be a day when most course records would be broken.
The Sprint distance is such a great concept. It brings racers from all ends of the spectrum to the start line. We had first-timers and old-timers. We had young and old. We had former World Champions and we had those enjoying the scenery.
The youngest was eleven, the oldest was older. The important was the love of the sport, to share the passion of pushing the body and to expand the horizons. We all shared that.
The first heat on Saturday was one of the fastest, with leaders of the total field until the last heat on Sunday, when several of the overall winners were decided.
We also saw the beginning of something new. Two young women, 15 years old, racing together in their first Swimrun race and winning their heat in the women’s category, finishing 5th overall in the women’s overall results. I am sure we will see more of them in the future.
See all the results here.
See images here.
What does the future hold?
We will for sure keep this race course. It is too good to not do again.
In the end of September we will host ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Utö weekend on September 26 & 27. This will most likely be held in yet another format, making our fourth race weekend of the year different again. Most importantly we are all learning that we can race and put on races responsibly. We for sure have learnt lots of new things this year. So, if you are still aching for more – join us in the end of September on the Island of Love.
Thank you for the trust!
See you there,
ÖTILLÖ through Michael Lemmel