The Swimrun Chameleon
Annika Ericsson with Kristin Larsson. Photo: Jakob Edholm
Annika Ericsson, 44, is a five-time ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Champion, winning the title more than any other racer in any other category. Since her first swimrun race in 2012, the mother of two also has a slew of first place wins in both the Women’s and Mixed categories, proving she is not just adaptable but one of the greatest athletes in the sport worldwide.
SLM: What was the first swimrun you ever did?
AE: It was Ångaloppet in 2012 followed by ÖTILLÖ that same year. Not many people were running around in wetsuits at that time and I felt a bit odd, but it was very adventurous and fun being part of a new sport.
SLM: What would you say is the best new swimrun equipment that has hit the market since you started?
AE: The swimrun wetsuit. It’s much more convenient to run with a zipper in front and in a suit adapted to running. For beginners, I would recommend trying a few different suits in the real environment before buying one.
SLM: What do you think is the biggest mistake new swimrunners make?
AE: Putting on too much gear. Just get out there and try swimrun with only a wetsuit and running shoes. Make it simple. If you are not used to paddles and floating gear then forget about them.
SLM: You always make swimrun look easy. Do you ever feel out of your comfort zone during a swimrun?
AE: Well thanks! Instead of a watch, I always try to listen to my body and follow my gut feeling and pulse. During ÖTILLÖ it’s very important to not let the pulse race. It’s a long course and to be strong all the way you must keep a steady pace without ups and downs in your pulse rate.
I don’t like when I can’t find the way in a race and in Öloppet last year we almost missed out on a victory after making a wrong turn. It was easy to see where to go but we were just too tired in the end and we missed it.
SLM: You seem to easily adjust to switching partners. What makes a successful team?
AE: Yes, it seems to work out fine with different partners. Last year I raced with 10 different teammates. It’s important that you trust each other and have agreed on why you are doing the race and also to share the same goal. It’s good to train together if possible and get to know each other.
Annika Ericsson with Stefano Prestinoni. Photo: Facebook Swimrun Costa Brava
SLM: Tell us about the 5-day Bali Swimrun last December, and raising awareness about ocean pollution?
AE: This was a unique experience and I’m very happy to have been a part of it. It wasn’t just a race, it was also for a good cause to raise money to fight plastic pollution in the ocean. We arranged fundraising events during the fall called “Torsdagsreflex” where people were invited to come and run with us for free but were encouraged to donate money to the Bali Children Foundation. It was fun to see the engagement of all runners and we managed to donate over 19,000 SEK (€1,750).
The Bali Swimrun race itself was tough and my partner Peter Aronsson and I had good competition with two Australian Men’s teams where we were the strongest in the end. The sad part was to see how bad the actual plastic pollution was on land and in the ocean. We must stop using so much plastic and care more for the environment.
SLM: Have your two girls, nearly 11 and 13, been motivated to try swimrun?
AE: Yes, they swimrun and we have competed together. Last year I did Långholmen sprint with my oldest and Ångaloppet (the family race) with my youngest.
SLM: You have your PhD in Medical Biochemistry and work as Senior Project Manager at CombiGene. How do you to manage train?
AE: It’s hard but I try to focus on what is important in life. I do swimrun for fun and if I train too hard and have no energy left, I need to take a step back and listen to the body. I do most of my workouts in the morning before work and I use the transportation to and from work for training. My training weeks varies depending on workload and the kid’s activities so it could be anything between 10-15 hours.
SLM: Do you train all year round and what’s your secret to staying injury free?
AE: Yes, I do. I enjoy training so it’s nothing I pressure myself to do. I listen to my body and I try not to push too hard if I am tired.
SLM: What role does nutrition play for you and do you ever indulge?
AE: Nutrition is something I could improve on. Time is a limiting factor for always eating good food. I love wheat beer and liquorice so yes, I indulge.
SLM: Favourite swimrun memory?
AE: ÖTILLÖ 2018 when Kristin Larsson and I managed to break the 9-hour mark. We said before that it could be possible if we had a good day. And what a day we had! We were both mentally and physically strong and had the weather conditions on our side.
SLM: What keeps you coming back for more?
AE: Exploring nature and the teamwork which are both rewarding.
SLM: Any plans for Utö this weekend?
AE: Utö is one of the original races and I’ve been part of it since the beginning. The first year in 2013 we were 30 teams and I think it was one of the coldest years so far. This year I am doing the Sprint race and it will be fun to try something new.
ÖTILLÖ Worlds Series 2019 continues in Utö May 18 and 19. Sign up for the Experience (7.1k), Sprint (13.4k) and World Series (40.3k) races here.
Article first published for Swimrun Life May 2019.