Running longer and faster… a few thoughts…

Race Report – Öloppet Sprint – 2015/08/01

Or… Tale of a “swimclimbwherethef***istherunpart” race…
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Planned: Get around in a good time, test this swinrun thing, have fun

Actual: Experience is what makes us grow, right? Yaaaa…sure! Some experiences ain’t really necessary maybe. But done is done!

Let’s start with numbers:

03:06:35 – time it took for getting us round the route

9 – place mixed team

35 – place total

22425 – length in meters for the whole race

2610 – total distance for the swim

19815 – total distance for the “run”

200 – total of teams registered to the Öloppet Sprint

374 – number of times I said “Sorry” to Johan when not keeping up the pace

218 – number of times I asked Johan to slow down or wait

0 – number of time I thought about dropping of the race

57 – number of times I swore in French during the race (among which 4 were done out loud. Rest was in my head…)

5 – number of times I swore in Swedish during the race (3 out loud, rest in my head)

1 – number of times I fell on the face during the race

54 – weight Johan was pulling throughout the race (mostly during the climbwherethef***istherun parts)

48 – number of small cuts detected and undetected on the hands, fingers, thighs and other parts of the body (more to be discovered I assume – always noticed when in the water)

4:13 – pace of the last 1,6km of the race to the finish line

7*3cm – surface for the bruises on the left knee

6 – number of mixed teams we passed during the final 2,5km

3 – number of sea swimming training done prior to the race…all in July

OK, probably plenty of other fancy numbers can be found. Let’s start with the beginning of this tale… 2012 (?) got suggested by Anton S. about participating to Öloppet. Sounded like an idea but all places were already sold. More talk during 2013, but unsure would suit with the marathon and other races plans. Quiet then until hearing more with Eva F winning 2013 edition and Johan P reaching 3rd place of the shorter Öloppet edition 2014. OK, just a little push and November 1, 2014 registration was done with Johan P as partner in crime. Eight months later, standing on the start line with wonderful green swimming cap and yellow singlets. 12:00 – start is given. A bit back though.

06:30am – up and breakfast @7:00am with chia+banana porridge and green mix. Water drinking. Never done this race so did not really know how to load energy for it.

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Outfit ready for the race

07:30am – bag checked for the 5th time and ready to bike to the ferry.

07:59am – OK, took way shorter time than expected to get to the ferry and lay down on a bench enjoying the morning sun while waiting for Johan. Nice run snack when he arrived and finally on-board the ferry (and more run-talk).Felt very relaxed and all looked actually bright for the day even the weather! Arriving on Styrsö-island and there were the brave preparing for Öloppet (the long one). We get ourselves registered, got our start-kit and spend the rest of the wait taking our breakfast. Decided to eat a bit as my breakfast was a while ago: bread with omelette and 3 slices of ham + orange juice and tea. Johan got a good breakfast and 3 (or 4?) coffee mugs. Hoping that my stomach will keep the food as it is less than 2hours before start.

11:00am – heading to the changing area (walking up up up and finally getting there). Queue to the loo so decided to skip it and get myself ready, which means: warmup cream with chili on the thighs and calves, vaseline all over the body where there can be friction during the race, suncream which is supposed to be repulsive to jelly fish on all body parts not covered by the wetsuit, wetsuit on, repack the clothes, queue to the loo, more Vaseline, cream on the face (which I wondered for a while whether it was Vaseline or suncream and hope for the latter one), drop the bag, find Johan and head to the start.

11:42am – getting close to the first line. Decided that the first run of 400m+ was probably very fast so as good to be first there. Meeting with people Johan knows. Listening to the final instructions.

11:59:50am – final countdown out loud…

****

Öloppet Sprint at start - still smiling!

12:00pm – start is given and the race is on. As expected it goes like crazy fast directly left and shortly after right. Johan is passing in front of me and I follow gladly (hoping that the pace would be sliiiiightly slower afterwards!). Reaching the water I get the rope from Johan and attach it to my home-made rope-belt. Swimgoogles on and off in the water. I think we were quite early in the water. And it did not even feel cold. Johan had shown me the flag to follow on the other side which is the first island t reach. Crazy many people swimming and the rope between us is a very good idea. I got to pull for the first part and then Johan changed as I headed a bit wrong. It feels long but ok. Don’t like having people swimming on each other at the pool and here it is exactly what is happening. But ok.

First island is reached, tricky to get up on the feet as it is pretty muddy (and me who does not like the mud or anything close to it…). Johan is heading directly to the little cliff to climb. Yapp…starting with some climbing, but I follow where Johan’s feet are landing. Feeling fine. I am expecting a good run when reaching the top of the cliff…and meet…more climbing, sliding down the hill, Johan having a good rhythm but the rope between us means I have to follow a similar rhythm. And playing the mountain goat ain’t my cup of tea (and will never be). There starts the first “please slow down”, mixed with a couple of “sorry”. Try to follow Johan’s instructions of NOT slowing down when going down the cliff and just follow (otherwise it takes forever AND I probably slide and fall). Little swim to the next Island Köpstadsö and there…Nope…still no running and more climbing. When we finally get some running, we miss the left turn. I shortly stop for tying my stupid shoelaces (and yes, I did a double knot before start) and we run incorrectly at a really decent pace to find ourselves with 3 other teams in a stop area. Turn back and find the correct path. Loosing quite a lot of places there. More climbing and walking and finally some walkswimwhateveryoumaycallit to the next island. Long swim there (cannot remember much of it apart from that I pulled and then Johan pulled and then I pulled and finally arrived on the next island Asperö. Johan takes the lead and it ain’t easy to get out of the water. Nothing enjoyable that I recall there. Climbing, run on stones (wet ones), happy to get in the parts with real roads to run on…but it is already time to jump into the bloody water again (cannot understand we do that when there IS actually a ferry doing this route 😛 ).

OK, here is a part that I have NO idea where it is during the race, but I think it is before Brännö or before Asperö. There is water ahead so we plan to swim. On with the swim glasses and in the water. Walking a bit, it is muddy. Very muddy. Trying to swim but my hands are touching the bottom and cannot see anything in the water (which is so mud-filled). Decided to skip the swim and do some walking instead, which makes my legs going deep into the mud (up to the knee-like?) which does not make the walking very practical. So question: there is water. You cannot swim and cannot walk. How do you get to the other side? 😦 Not liking it.at.all.

Have to recognize that after the first swim I said “one done, eight to go”, I knew that after passing Galterö we would have gone half the full distance and there was only two long swim left and running. BUT this was when I had checked and studied the route map. Well on place and running, the only thing I focused on was not to fall. Looking at Johan’s footsteps and setting my shoes where he had set his. During a slippery-stone passage (which was called “run”…), Johan advised wisely to run with light steps, spend the shortest time on each stone and go fast. For a while my mind only thought about “light feet, fast feet, light feet, fast feet…”. Worked well! Tips which I followed for the rest of the race. And THEN when we had reached quite a good rhythm on those stupid #%&!!?& stones or whatever, happened what I did not want to happen. I fell. Unsure exactly where we were (no comment on my orientation abilities here: I AM good at orientating myself, but here, no clue where we were and seriously, I was not really enjoying the landscape and only looked at…yes, Johan’s footsteps and calve. He made it looking so easy and light. “Mountaingoat” ability: ON). Arriving at a progressive downhill, almost dried stones, focusing as usual on light steps, quick steps and there comes this guys from the left and “take.my.stone”… Meaning this was the stone Johan had his foot on and just left and that my foot was to use. Now I just got without stone and my left foot just met nothing but the emptiness. Fell fast and quick reflex got my hands first. Right hand got a bad smash on the palm, cannot recall what happened with the left hand but only that it got on a stone as well. The face fell right on a stone as well. Left side. And the left knee hit a stone as well (but mostly because this particular stone was a bit big, otherwise the knee would have been kind-of fine). Remained this way, face on the stones for what seemed forever. Noticed the shadows around of the guys stopping to check on what happened. Johan coming back and asking how it is. Felt terrified that my face was all bloody and with a bone broken. Really did not want to turn on my back then. Which I eventually did. Heard voices, comforting ones. But honestly the only thing I recall was the sun in my eyes, shadows all around, Johan checking up on me and asking kindly how it was. Suggesting to stop for a while. Felt tears in my eyes and hearing myself that we were just to continue. That the knee was fine but the face must be checked. Johan telling the face was not showing anything wrong and no bleeding, that we could rest a while. Seriously, cannot remember how long time took this whole happening, everything went so extremely fast and I just did not want to see my face completely broken. Don’t know how I got on sitting position and then standing. The left knee was clearly hurting a bit after the fall, but the worse was to feel the pain on the left side of my face. Looked at my hand palms. They had been covered with blood since the first going out on the first island and now they had blood and dirt. Which I really did not want on my chick. Which felt really crazily swollen. Johan wisely took a slower pace and was carefully asking how it was. I kept looking around for some water, any water to get on my face for cooling down the pain. But nope. There.was.no.water.anywhere.to.be.found. We did eventually reach the end of Känsö to get into the sea. Must be there we had to jump (and yes, this is on the list of the things I put my full trust in Johan. Just jumped).

This long swim was tricky. Boats on each side, but it was very broad between them. And it felt we took the outside part. Was pulling for a while and then Johan corrected the direction and took the lead. All the bruises, cuts, pain on the face were just not feeling at all in the cool water of the sea. Nice. Skipped thinking about the darkness of the sea under us and focused on following Johan. Changed from crawling to breaststroke as it made my left knee moving and felt actually better. Was able to keep up the pace from Johan, so that was ok. But man…this was a long swim! When reaching the stones, Johan got slightly on the right and off the water. Unfortunately I could not get out.at.all. He pulled but it was too slippery. A guy behind me took my hand and tried to help, but still slippery. He then kindly told me that we did not know each other but would be friend now and nicely push my bum up J Nice and happily on the first stone, I thanked him and noticed we still had a bit of climbing to do. But it felt fine (well, it was climbing on the whole four, so not enjoyable, but we made it worked). We were way off timewise. Checked my watch indicating 2hrs 30 and we were still NOT on the last island. Got to the final swim, which I think went well (and yes, I did not listen to Johan and left myself be pulled. Swam on the side of him, unsure it was good or bad, but at least we reached the final ladder at the same time).

FINALLY, last island. Styrsö. 6km plain run. Starting with a bit of stone climbing, Johan being very good at orientating where to go. Reaching the little harbour, swearing for getting my pullbuyo in place, hearing a friend cheering (always nice to hear my name in a race) and it was on! The feeling on the asphalt under the feet…hmmmmm…so crazy nice! Passing a mixed team and asking whether this had been the last swim and they confirmed it. Johan was strong and running well. Pulling definitely but I felt that I was able to run and keeping up the pace. Not in those stupid uphill that the route had, but for the rest. “2 mixed ahead, we take them” – said Johan. And indeed we passed them with not much effort. Just continuing. Was a bit (read: completely…) disoriented and was not sure how long was left. Turning left and passing one more mixed team. Always this done. And then seeing the arrival…but we had to turn left and up the little hill, very stiff and Johan that still makes the whole thing looking like “piece of cake-running”. Passing two giants walking and I do my best to run up on light feet and mostly front feet. But there is more uphill. WHY? This is an island and not a high one! Getting into the forest or whatever it is. Been there last year, so I recognize a bit. “Keep right” I hear Johan saying and the people we pass are kindly doing it and cheering bit. Passing 2 mixed teams in the woods and more running and finally on the asphalt again and turning left. This is the final km a gal is yelling to us. Yaaaa….sure… have heard that before. We are meeting teams with white singlets, those on the final line from Öloppet. Johan has increased slightly the pace and it feels good to run, passing people and getting some cheerings. Looking in front of us and there is one mixed team – “we get them as well” said Johan quietly and I just agree. Aaaaand done. Last little bump to run and there is this nice light downhill and straight.to.the.finish.line…Nooooooo! there is a mixed team still in front of us. Yes we take them as well. Johan had this extraordinary strength since we reach the last asphalt and he still finds extra strength for running and pulling me. My feet are no longer touching the ground. The mixed team must hear us coming and they turn to look and accelerated, the gal getting closer to her partner, but Johan is just wow-running fast. I hear myself telling him it is too fast but the finish line is just there. My feet get on the grass and then it is only short to the finish. Passing the line. Hearing our names and team name from the speaker. Stupidly short area for the arrival makes me bump into a guy in front of me and falling nicely on the back on the grass. We done it. We arrived. We are finished. Johan smiles and look far from tired.

The adrenaline of the final run made me forgetting about my knee and my face and it all comes back now. Up on my feet. Getting water and a Redbull. Salted pickles. More water. Getting our finisher bag and meeting Johan in the crowd. Hug and smile. Checked at the medic tent. She does not think anything is broken on the face nor on the knee. Nothing can be done. Just wait and see how it will look like later. Got all the cuts on the fingers cleaned up and that is all.

AFTER THE RACE:

Walking back to the change area (i.e more climbing), and yes Johan is correct saying that I am far from being trained for running on terrain, but that the route this year was far from fun as last year. Climbing was just NOT part of the deal. Quick shower, not feeling any burn mark on the body – which is good, meeting Johan outside. Chat and then heading back to the tent for eating. Johan takes an early ferry and I remain on the island for a bit longer. Bike home in the evening then, feeling that my right wrist is not too kind with me when changing the gear of the bike.

SUMMARY: Been there, done that, got the tshirt and won’t do it again. Seriously, some parts felt pretty dangerous and not just because I am not an elite runner on terrain. Saw a few falling and many must have ended with bruises and bloody bodyparts. The challenge of running terrain and swimming in the sea was definitely on and it is done. The second part for the swimming in the sea went strangely better than expected (apart from the disgusting swim-walk parts in muddy water). But the run was far from fun or entertaining. Way more climbing compared to last year apparently and this made the whole experience far from fun. Thanks for Johan it went fine from start to end. Without this incredible pulling force ahead of me, it would have taken way longer time to complete the whole route. The evening was spent with massaging the knee with anti-inflammatory cream and arnica cream for the bruises on the face. Surprisingly the right hand and fingers stopped functioning in the evening, impossible to move them at all. Which felt a bit scary. In the morning they were “fine”. The whole body felt a bit tired and sore. Nothing that could stop from going out on Sunday morning for a long run (heat workout…) however. 🙂

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