Sep 18

Racereport ÖtillÖ World Championship 2018

In english since there were than 25 nationalities represented at the race.

This is the first version – I will probably update it since there is so much more to tell and to remember. And add more images. This is only my version and my memories, others have other things to tell

The background
I know the drawing for the lottery entrance was taking place that day in July (the 23:rd) and that there was a livestream online, but I was out in a forest in Skåne in the south of Seden with a lousy mobile connection. But when I looked at the phone later that day it had a Facebook notification with a comment where Martin Belak said “grattis Per Åström”. I almost couldn’t believe it and had to ask: “Really?”. Finally, unbelievable and YES!

About as long as I have known about ÖtillÖ to participate has been on my wishlist. Not because it is considered to be the World Championship but because it runs 75 km between Sandhamn and Utö through the archipelago of Stockholm. The archipelago I got to know as a kid when our family was out sailing. My backyard, so to speak. And it is something extremely fascinating about the course when you look at it on a map. Plus the adventure! It sparked something in me.

So, finally Team Lemonheads – Jonas and I – had a spot. Not completely perfect situation though: in end of June a month earlier I went out on a trail run and hurt my foot. Up until the foot injury my training this year had worked out fine and I was in good shape, but its always surprisingly scary to see how fast a good condition can deteriorate. I ran about 3-4 times during July and about 4-6 km every time. That is not a very good training regime for something like ÖtillÖ. But it helped that I had swam a lot during the summer when running was out of the question.

Jonas had some issues as well – mainly that he had lots of trips planned (musicfestivals!) and was about to start a new job. During our discussions about how to proceed he was quite frank about that I better find a new team mate for the race. My thought was that I’ll do whatever it takes to do the race – I had been dreaming about this opportunity so long.

Finding a new partner
I have been on the very outskirts in the swimrun community. It is a team sport but I had only had experience from two teams. On Instagram and social media I had gotten to known many athletes but they didn’t know me. I started sending out requests to the people I knew to see if they could recommend anyone or if they were interested. First question was always: “What are you aiming for?” and that was a very hard question to answer. First: I didn’t know what to aim for or what my ambitions could be. I wanted to race but didn’t know how I would perform. Second: I had been injured a month (and it wasn’t completely over yet). Third: even if I had a wish to go for (lets say) 10 hours – what would I base that on? So my reply was that “I run 10K sub 40 on asphalt and swim 100m on 1.40-1.45 for 1km or longer”. Not much reference but at least it said something about what I could do.

I got in contact with several people and met some that I trained with. So much fun but also created some stress.

I had been following Fredrik Nilzén on Instagram and he was one of the people I reached out to. He had high ambitions and big capacity from what I had seen. After some messages back and forth we had a phonecall and during our talk we realised we had the same employeer and worked in the same building. Small world……but it made it easy for us to set up a lunch running session a few days later. And later on another swimrun-session, and although I got the feeling that he would outperform me he happily accepted and said yes when I asked if he would do the race with me.

Before the race we had a third session where we spent time testing gear and doing transitions and everything worked very well. Our optimal towline length was 251 cm and we went with belts attached with velcro.

Our joint preparations and a strategy for the race
But we needed a goal and strategy for the race as well. We had some more emotional goals like “Lets make it one of our top three races ever”, “When we cross the finish line we should be happy that we have made it and that we gave it everything we had” and “Lets have fun all the way!”. I could live with that.. But setting a time goal was somewhat harder. Fredrik – who had done the race once – wanted to be much faster this time. I wanted to race too, not just take part and finish it. So – maybe ten hours? Ten hours definitely sounded like a good goal and I believe many team have it as a goal within reach. But then again, maybe aim a bit higher?

Fredrik said “Nine hours! I think we can do it in nine hours!”.

I tried to not look too surprised or chocked but I got the feeling that “hmm….. somebody might get disappointed”, thinking about my summer and last month of lousy training. After discussions and talks we settled for a true dream goal: “If we make it its gonna be fireworks, champagne and hallelujah but lets aim for nine hours! And its gonna be sooo hard so if we don’t make it lets aim for 9.30. And if we finish the race in 9.30 it is gonna be amazing cause it is a really good time an performance!!”.

I wasn’t 100% comfortable with setting such a hard goal for such a hard race: so many things that needs to work out and so much that can go wrong along the way. My biggest fear was to be out of energy after a few hours and having to walk through the running sections and float pulled in the towrope between the islands. We were two in the team, Fredrik had trained with me and seen what level I was on, he had done the race and he seemed to be experienced and smart in swimrun overall so I trusted him.

We estimated three different split times along the course that would help us pace: Runmarö Styrvik 1.55, before the Pigswim 4.30 and end of Ornö 7.50.

Our concept was that Fredrik would lead all the runs and I would led the swims. We were prepared for that and had trained the transitions. I felt comfortable running behind him since I could focus on running and he with his extra capacity could spend his extra energy on finding the path and keep the speed up. I was a faster swimmer and I was very comfortable with navigating and that would make Fredriks swims a bit more relaxing: he could just follow the towline and maybe get some extra pull and save energy.

So it begins…
Last week before was quite good with lots of extra sleep and extra food. I felt rather paranoid regarding catching a cold and every morning when I woke up my first though was to try to find something sore in my throat. I did feel something, it wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t hurt.

The day before the first Monday in September it was time to leave Stockholm for Djurönäset. All racers met att Cityterminalen for busses taking us there. You could spot them from long distance: very fit and sporty looking men and women, walking towards the bus stop with big bags and occassionaly a visible buoy or shoes tied to the bag.

The ride took about an hour and then we arrived to the hotel. Lots of new and familiar faces to say hi and talk to. We got in lines to show our racing kit (wetsuit, compass, first aid bandage, whistle and ID) and then pickup race bibs and caps, socks and room key. Everything went by very fast and it was very well organised. We got a nice room and left our stuff and went out to meet more people and do some more prep talk.

It was really a perfect way of doing a race: to get a way early on and have some time to go through everything and prepare. It was also very comforting to be at the same place as everyone else and knowing that from now on we only had to be at the right time at the right place and that would take us to the starting line.

We sat in the sun about an hour, talked about the race, life and families and had some nuts and avocados as extra energy. Then we spent another hour talking to other racers who where spread out all over the hotel and restaurant.

At 17.00 it was race briefing in the big conference hall. A big room with chairs, a big stage and 300+ athletes and probably 100+ from the organisation, safety and media production.

Racedirectors Mats and Michael

It was very easy to spot that these racers were well prepared. Holy smoke, it was plenty of training hours invested in getting to this race! Everybody looked fast, strong and fit. I felt underprepared and not sure I belonged in the company of these people. After all – to win a lottery instead of qualifying?! But it was a very nice atmosphere with lots of smiles and a very relaxed setting. The race brief took about an hour and included video, sponsor talk, pep talk, rules, acknowledgement of some of the well known athletes and artists that participated, an extra applaud for the volunteers and so on.

The amount of hours spent on training here…

And then – dinner! Had fish with rice and lots of salad.

After dinner it was more smalltalk. I met Fredrik and Peter, both old friends from my time as an active swimmer 25-30 years ago, who had done the race before. We talked to lots of Fredriks friends from the swimrun community. Mostly about older experiences from the race and ambitions and goals for tomorrows race. Many had done the race several times and there were lots of referrals from previous years or different sections of the course. I was more like an unknown outsider… a dark horse..

We met Lotta and Tony (I had raced Långholmen Runt with Lotta in May (we won)) and they asked us what our goal was. A while we kind of said that “hm.. nine hours would be great” although I found that extremely hard to say without hesitation. Later I got the comment “You look kinda scared.” and well, yes, I was kinda scared. At least full of respect for the race and the other races and some doubts over my own capacity.

Time to go to bed. It was about 21.00 when we went to bed after checking all the gear once more and we set the alarms on 3.30.

Gear check

Raceday morning
Breakfast opened at 3.45 and from all the different buildings athletes with bedheads walked into the restaurang. 300+ people having breakfast together can be a nightmare but this morning was well prepared: everybody go a paper bag at first and could immediately sit down somewhere. The bag had two eggs, three breads, spread, yoghurt, juice, apple and more. We found a table and grabbed coffee. I was very happy that there was breakfast with eggs, it wouldn’t had worked out otherwise. I also had bread, yoghurt and coffe. Only thing that created a bit friction was that coffee ran out and it took a while to get more. But half an hour later we were back in our room and put on the race gear.

Ready for a day in the archipelago

Let’s go!
We were supposed to walk to the harbour where two boats should pick us up. The small road down was lit up by candles (“marshaller” in swedish) which created a very nice atmosphere in the dark. And there were swimrunners in wetsuits with big bags everywhere.

Morning ferry to Sandhamn

It was obvious – even now at 4.30 in the morning – that it was gonna be good weather that day. There was no wind and no clouds. Perfect! But just about how amazing weather it would be became obvious a bit later when the boat was on its way to Sandhamn and the night started to turn into day.

Beautiful day coming up

I said “hi from my mum” to Emma Igelström on the ferry since I knew they know each other. I watched Petter prepare together with Therese Alshammar and also lots of other faces I knew from following previous editions of ÖtillÖ. And the almost legendary Jonas Colting who had done all races and won three. Well, here they are and here am I….

Fredrik relaxed as ever

We came to Sandhamn about 30 minutes before start (which should take place at 06.00) and we got off and started walking around in the harbour. There were some people there you could call “audience” but most people were probably part of the organisation or volunteers. We walked and ran a bit to warm up and checked out all the gear again. 5.45 we were told to go into the start area and we managed to get quite far to the front. Right beside us was Daniel Adams-Ray and Thomas Rössel who I knew from Instagram. And in the front I could see all the top performing swimrunners such as Team Garmin, Swedish Armed Forces, Bröderna Bäver and so on.

The first 1200 m are paced by a small car and that keeps the startfield together all the way to the first swim. Our plan was to be in the front – top 30 or something – from the start to the first swim not to end up way back before the first runs. The first runs are considered to be quite tough and technial and we were confident that that kind of running suited us well.

To stand on the starting line and wait for the gun to go off was such a nice feeling of relief. Finally, finally I was here. I had hoped to get an opportunity to do this for several years and now it was my turn. Game on, lets do this.

Race is on!
BAAM! Gun shot! Start, lets go! Nice pace but quite crowded. No towlines allowed until the first swim and there where runners with bibs everywhere. Red for men, green for mix and orange for women. Most were red. Fredrik and I just followed the crowd and shouted to each other to keep track of where we were not to loose each other. After a few minutes it opened up and we could see the sky and the ocean. Time to start swimming!

The sea was almost flat and somewhere very far away the stroboscope was visible on an island. It was a tiny light very distant but from all I remembered from studying the map I could see where we were from an aerial position so I knew where we were going. Lets swim towards the light!

We attached the towline while running, put on the goggles and the swim buoy and shouted “Ready – lets go” to each other and got in the water and started swimming. This was another situation I had longed for: to be on the first swim, about 74 km to go with a long day ahead but to finally be on our way. The cold water in the face and the water leaking into the wetsuit just helped to really let go of the last tiny bit of sleep still left in the body. Now we are going!

It was plenty of space around us. I saw some shoes ahead of me and every now and then a swimmer next to us but we never collided. I had som issues with leakage in the goggles that disturbed me but it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t navigate. Many swimmers were faster than us but we had a long day in front of us and we competed for our selves and our time mainly so that didn’t stress me.

The first swim was 1.900 m so it probably took us about 30-40 minutes and it felt really good. We got up on the rocks and did exactly what we had trained: Fredrik ran up to the left of me and I got up behind him. And we started running.

The first island has a beautiful but quite technical path where you run on the rocks beside the water. So much fun and at this early stage everything felt easy. We passed many teams and I could get a sense of what it would be like to run behind Fredrik the whole day: he has very quick feets and it is like they never actually touch the ground. As soon as his feet touches the ground his body is already in front of the foot and his other foot is on its way forward. I felt rather slow and clumsy in comparison and knew that it would take a lot of energy to keep up with this during the day.

Getting energy
Speaking about energy.. I am not into much of the energy preparations that many athletes do. I don’t use anything special when I train and when I compete I have whatever is served. When I ran Kullamannen (65km) I brought two Snickers and salt from McDonalds. When we spoke about energy Fredrik had the same experience: “Lets only have what they serve. I don’t think we should bring anything, we won’t need it.”. I felt the same way but almost everyone I talked to about this brought extra energy with them for this long race. Since one of my biggest fears was to run low on energy and not be able to finish I was somewhat skeptical about not bringing anything. However – after looking through the energy stations and where they were I got comfortable with the though of only having what was served. Only exception was that I brough salt tablets from Precision Hydration. They would help me from cramping which was something I had issues with previously. The tablets where packed in waterproof blister packs and I brought one row with five capsules which (hopefully) would be enough. One very two hours.

So we didn’t carry anything with us. At every station we got what was served and I had at least two cups of energy drink and a few energy bars (bite size pieces). I usually carried one or two pieces with me and ate the following section. And lo and behold: it worked. It was a very nice feeling of not carrying anything along the way and also not to drop trash along the way. Although it is prohibited and you get disqualified by purposely dropping trash such as empty gel packets they do get lost once in a while and it really looks bad on a race course in the forest. By not carrying anything we also knew that we should leave trash after us by mistake. A good feeling. All we takie is memories, all we leave is footprints!

The energy drink tasted good and I had no issues with the stomach in any way.

On it goes
You quickly get into the pace of racing. I had all the distances written down on my left paddle which gave a very good overview of where we were and what was up next. Swim some, run some. Our transitions worked well and we had really good teamwork.

Early on it got obvious that we were better at running than swimming: we passed the same teams over and over again. It was a friendly cheering atmosphere between the teams.

The water was warm: I had no arms on the wetsuit and it got a bit cold sometimes but not freezingly cold. The water temperature varied along the way and sometimes even between the in- and out section of the swims.

Leaving Munkö and arriving to Nämdö was emotional since that is a part I am very familiar with. I have passed there many times with a boat but never by swimming across the islands. Even though the swims where quite long sometimes and typically lots of traffic there was no boat traffic to worry about. First Monday of September when the race takes place many of the summer people have left and the ÖtillÖ volunteers help protect the teams and warning the boats about what is going on. Also it was such a calm day: no wind, no waves.

Running on one of the islands

Earlier this summer we went in a motorboat to Guns Livs on Nämdö to get some ice cream so at the race it was a very good feeling to run past it. I knew the place. However – when we had the ice cream there we decided no to walk to the church since it was so far away (a few hundred meters) – so running now the distance between the two places was really short…

At this station is also the only section on the race where you run in both directions since the trail that connects Guns Livs with the road on Nämdö is used both for getting there and getting back. Running towards Guns Livs we met Daniel Adams-Ray and Rössel again: they had already passed Guns Livs and where running towards us with a tifo from their YO Running Club running in front of them with fireworks in the hand. Spectacular and not something that you’d expect here.

I don’t enjoy sausage – but the sausage at Nämdö tasted ok. Even at this part of the race it was just about to store and eat as much energy as possible whenever you had the possibility.

Everything still felt ok even though we had been on our way for more than three hours.

To know how we were positioned against the goal of our dreams – nine hours – we had three times written down on the paddle: 1.55 at Runmarö Styrsvik, 4.30 before the Pigswim and 7.50 at the energy station halfway on Ornö. We were at Styrsvik at 1.47, well ahead of schedule. Maybe too fast even..

This helped a lot. Next time I’ll add something about the half swimming and running distance.

The temperature
There are three long island along the course: Runmarö, Nämdö and Ornö. We said early on that we should try to not cab down if it wasn’t necessary: it takes some time and we tried to prefer keep moving allt he time. We left the wetsuits on but open at Nämdö.

Towards the south part from Styrsvik when we prepared for the swim to Mörtö (210 m) I noticed that I had lost my swimcap. I stored it while running inside the wetsuit on the left side but it must have slipped out. I even got Fredrik to put his hand inside my wetsuit towards my back to see if it was stuck where I couldn’t reach it but it was gone. “Oh shit, were gonna be disqualified” was my first thought while we ran into the water to start swimming. On Mörtö there was another energy station (where everyone had funny hats if I remember correctly) and I told them I had lost my swimcap and needed a new one. I kid you not – five seconds later I had a new one in my hand! Perfect! Geared up again and full of energy! Lets do the Pigswim!

But first this: later on I talked to other racers: they had seen my swimcap. It was laying on the road on Nämdö where it fell out of my wetsuit. It probably got picked up by the sweepers. Also: about energy and the joy of being there: we both really enjoyed being there and reminded each other constantly to smile and soak in the surroundings. Fredrik had a good saying as well going: “Remember when you are running that we are humans and we are made for running, we are made for this!” – and those small mind tricks really helped out. Instead of focusing on the things like hurting legs, sore elbows or lack of energy it felt much better to look to the sides and the beauty of nature, trying to enjoy the running and that we still could keep up the pace. Well, somehow keep up the pace atleast.

We had another time on the paddle that said to make the whole course in nine hours we had to reach the Pigswim after 4.30. Looking at the watch while standing on Mörtö-Klobb and looking over the Pigswim it read: 4.30..! We had reached our second time milestone with no margin whatsoever. But we lost pace and I could feel that this was a pace that I wouldn’t be able to keep up all the way, we are not even close to the finish line yet and we are only halfway on the course. Or are we? I mean how long have we been going? Those thoughts at this time confused me because I know we were about half way through the course if you look at time but in distance I am not sure how far we had gone. There are more swims in the beginning and more running towards the end. Next time I will look up where half of the running is made and half the swimming is made to have a better understanding of what we have done and what is left but I leave that as a NOTE TO SELF to follow up. At this time it was just about getting into the water and start doing the infamous Pigswim.

The Pigswim is called the Pigswim because it typically is “grisjobbigt” in swedish. “Gris” = “pig”. But there wasn’t much pig in the Pigswim today: as we ran down towards the rocks by the water the whole ocean was calm. This was gonna be a long but nice swim. And it was – although it was rather cold. It is 1.400 meter and it took a while but there wasn’t any currents that drifted us sideways and navigation was also quite easy.

Getting out of the water.

Cold and finally on land again we started running on Mörtö-Bunsö. At this stage it feels that you are getting ready for the big long Ornö run that is coming up, but you are not quite there yet. There are still four swims left: one 970 m and three about 200-300 m each.

Even now – a week after the race – I find it hard to remember what kind of running the different islands offered. I know the big islands mainly had gravel roads and trails but there was also long sections of narrow trails going back and forth where you had to climb under or jump over fallen trees or jump over rocks or skip sideways because you need to pass things. But ran we did, on all kinds of surfaces. I fell to the ground four times: three times on wet rocks and once (and worst) on a narrow trail. Nothing bad but small cuts and bruises. Considering how technical large parts of running sections are and how close to my maximum performance we keept moving that is somewhat of a miracle.

When we arrived on Ornö I see Daniel Adams-Ray and Thomas Rössel next to where we exit water cabbing down their wetsuits preparing the 20 km run. We say hi and pass them and leave our wetsuits on, but it doesn’t take many hundred metres of running until I feel that this will get extremely hot. I shout to Fredrik that I need to cab down the wetsuit and I hand him my paddles, goggles and swimcap and while running I pull off the bib and hand it to him and then start to try pull of the sleeves of the wetsuit. Doing that while running trail is somewhat risky but at this time we are so into racing. We are racing our selves and trying to do what we can and that means no unnecessary stops. It works and I get the top of the wetsuit off and pull the bib back on. That was more tricky since it got rolled up on itself and I ran a few hundred metres with the bib as a bra that I try to pull down, sticky of water and sweat as it is. But it works and Fredrik gives me back my gear and then I take all his gear while he does the same manoeuvre. While he does that I hear someone catching up on us from behind. It is Daniel and Thomas again, running faster than us since they took down their wetsuits already. After them pacing behind us a while we hear someone crash and something breaks. We turn around to see if everything is ok and luckily (hopefully) it was just the sound of paddles crashing together but one of them fell to the ground. We ask if they are ok and they shout “We’re OK keep running” and we leave them and continue our way on Ornö.

Mentally this is some sort of tipping point. We have been running and swimming about 50 km in more than six hours. Thats almost a full workday in constant movement. And now its time for a 20 km run – almost a half marathon – with one energy station after 12 km. Much comes down to your mental preparation here and to be in a team helps a lot. After some trail there are long sections of roads with gravel or asphalt and Fredrik cheers me up more than the other way around and it helps a lot. This is where “its time to start digging deep” to keep going, at least for me.

I look at the watch with time and distance every now and then but try not to do it too often. And at the same time I try to actually enjoy the race. It is hard, but the surrounding is nice, to be in the race I have dreamt about is fantastic and it hurts a bit and energy is running out but “HEY – WE ARE STILL MOVING!”.

I believe we pass a team or two but suddenly Lotta and Tony passes us. Their pace isn’t much faster than ours but it is impossible for me too keep up. We talk for a minute until they leave us behind.

Here somewhere we started talking about our dream goal again: “We won’t make nine hours but if we can keep the pace and maybe even go a bit faster we might do 9.30”. That talk was hard to turn into action: with so much still left to go it was hard to increase the speed, knowing that it might use too much energy and might lead to energy drain and need to walk instead of running. Up until know we ran almost all the time except when swimming and in very steep hills. Now I needed to walk uphill: not all but many as everything seemed so steep and that walking saved so much energy compared to trying to walk. Also Fredrik had some issues (minor it seemed though) with the back of his leg and I hoped that he shouldn’t cramp. Unfortunately I did’t have any salt tablets left. I had one on Runmarö and a second on Nämdö but unfortunately I hade broken the package so all the content had been washed away in the water. So the second tablet on Nämdö was also the last one.

…..more Ornö
After a while we get to the energy station. Finally – thats more than half of Ornö. By not looking at the watch to often you notice that we after all are laying down kilometers behind us, one after one. It feels good to get energized again and I even have a zip of Red bull. Here they also serve the home made energy cakes from Utö Värdshus and they tast soooo good and I grab a few. We stay for a short while and talk to the people as well and it gives me energy – both physically and mentally.

I am not sure about the timing here but somewhere along the way there is also someone outside the organisation – actually there is two places – has set up their own stations. One with water, a water hose and kexchoklad and one with water and chips.

The hose with cold water is wonderful. I try to get as much as possible over the head, on the bib and into the wetsuit. Very refreshing. And a while later its the other station with some salty chips and more water. We ask if its ok to take water just to throw over the head and “yes, all the others have done it” so so do we. Behind us there are about ten cows probably wondering wtf is going on today, but they are just chilling and chewing, looking at us.

After Ornö is also the last cutoff. It means: if you reach Ornö before 18.00 you know you will make it. You can walk and crawl to the goal if you like, but you will make the race. That was another good feeling to know that when we reached the end of Ornö we knew that if we didn’t break or injured ourselves we should make it all the way.

After the long Ornö run – which took us about 1h44min – it is a short swim. You can probably imagine how nice it was to get soaked in the sea again. Being so hot and suddenly be able to cool down felt great.

It was this swim or the next that Fredrik pulled for the first time. It was the first time I swam behind him and during the swim – which was really relaxing and comfortable as you can use the drag without even stretching the tow rope – I noticed that he had his toes pointing down. Down! Its as if he was standing tall in the water with his feed pointing out of the otherwised streamlined position. I mentioned it during our next swim that probably improved his swimming with 5sec/100m :). I was happy to give some knowledge back to him after learning so much about running by just following him.

Final 15
The last islands to Utö are said to be beautiful and the sections are short so you go in an out of the water a lot. I wasn’t really in a state where I could appreciate the looks of it but I counted the sections and every transition was one step closer to Utö and the finish line.

On one of the last islands we passed a womens team who I believe came in forth position but otherwise we were alone. Before the last swim we shouted to their team: “Is this the last swim?” and they happily shouted back “Yes – this is the last swim!!” and that was such an energy boost to actually be able to more or less see the goal in front of us. The “last” swim meant the “last” run was coming up.

Looking at the watch it was obvious that we would make 9.30 if nothing happend which was amazing.

Last swim, last run
According to the time and distance chart the race is 75 km in total and my watch already showed 75 km. The last run is 3.6 km and we reached Utö and after a few hundred meters of trail (as I remember it) reached the gravel road that would take us all the way. Here I could actually dare to start something of a sprint that didn’t add much extra speed but the towrope to Fredrik slacked a bit at least. I was a bit confused to how long the last section was since we had already passed the whole distance. The road signs on Utö stated the distance to “Utö gruvby” but they didn’t say anything about the distance to Utö harbour or Utö Värdshus. Later on I learned that the village where both the harbour and Utö Värdshus are located are called “Utö Gruvby” so by looking at the signs I could have seen how long we had left.

After a while I recognised the surrounding: we passed a road I had ran on at Utö Swimrun, and a bit further away we could see some buildings and flag poles I recognised. Hey, we are almost there?! It is something of excitement, surprise and happiness once I realised that we were so close to the goal. Then we passed the big field where the tent of Utö Swimrun was located and now I knew it was only a few hundred metres left.

Finishing the race
There was a steep turn left and then you can see Utö Värdshus. I ran up next to Fredrik and adjusted my wetsuit to look a bit more organised that I was. I think we did some kind of sprint uphills the last hundred metres but I was so filled with emotions with seeing the finish line and getting closer to it. And yet, there it was and we passed it. Running over it. I couldn’t help but smile ALOT! Probably screamed too.

Press play to watch us crossing the finish line.

It was a very nice moment and I was so impressed of ourselves and what we had done. That we had done the whole race. In 9h18min something (9.18.26 actually)! I was so grateful to Fredrik who had kept the pace up all the time on the runs. There was really no time wasted on going slow or relaxing: he constantly pushed forward and I just tried to tag along as best as I could. We hugged and cheered. First each others, then the Race Director Michael Lemmel and then each others again. To stand in the finisher area behind the finish line, getting the medal around the neck, realising that we had done it was such a strong feeling.


After someone removed the race chip we slowly walked into the area behind the finish line with the bar, a small buffet, chairs and so on in a big tent. I was high on the race! I had the best tasting beer ever – the ÖtillÖ-beer chilled on ice. I had seen a photo of it served last year and that was a memory I thought of the last part of the race: imagine drinking that beer – how good it will taste!! Yes, that good!

Best beer in the world

Debriefing and enjoying the race
We talked to other racers, received and gave congratulations and small reports to each other. It was obvious that it was an exceptionally fast year. No wonder: the Östersjö was like a big outdoor pool and no wind or currents to drag the teams backwards or sideways.

After some talk I got a key to a room, changed, took a shower and went over my body. The most painful part was my neck that was worn down from the wetsuit. The supposedly nice warm water in the shower felt more like a bucket of burning oil running down my neck. Damn – that hurts! But otherwise everything felt quite ok. Drained of energy and quite worn out but ok. In the shower my watch (Garmin Fenix) started behaving strange: the buttons stopped working and nothing happened. After a restart it only showed the startup screen with the Garmin logo. Even now, a week later, all I get is the startscreen. I have contacted the support to find out whats wrong. Luckily it worked the whole race.

We went to the buffet, drank, ate and watched the prize ceremony and talked to lots of people. I kept the medal on, proud of it as I was. Utö Värdshus really delivered a good experience to us racers: good food, great service, nice rooms. I stayed up after ten but then I was really tired and wanted to think through the day.

Back to the world
The day after breakfast was served from 6.30 and such a nice breakfast: everything and more. Felt really good to be amongst racers again with more talk and experiences to share.

Then we packed, walked to the harbour and got on the boat back to Stockholm. We came back about 48 hours after we left but SUCH AMAZING 48 HOURS!

We finished as 27:th mens team out of 80 on 9.18.26. In the timing stations along the way we were in 28, 46, 40, 36,29, 31, 36, 32, 31, 33, 31, 31, 32, 29, 27, 27, 27, 27, 27. To take part in the World Championship and finish as 27:th team is something I am very proud of. Here is our race on Strava.

The whole live video feed from the race here.
Beautiful photos from the day here and finish line here.

This is more than a race. It is like an adventure, a race and an experience all in one. I am very happy that I could be a part of it. I am very thankful to the people, organisation and volunteers that makes it possible. We had a goal that it should be one of our top three races and now, almost a week after – I’s say its the my number one race. If you get the opportunity to do it – do it, take the opportunity!

Thanks for all who have been cheering along the way and followed the race online and commented. It means a lot!

The team mate
Fredrik: such a partner I found! Your strong performance and always cheering and good mood got us all the way on raceday! I have learned a lot about racing, running and keeping the spirit up during this race. Even though it is scary how many similarities we have: about same size, about same age (well, your still young), both lives in houses, both married, both have three kids, both work at the same bank, both drive the same grey car, both drink red wine, both have a laid back but serious approach to this train and compete thing, both commute by bike all year around, both can’t make it a whole day without a serious egg breakfast…. I can go on an on. I miss the towline… Thanks for the race! Lets do it again!

The team name
Plus… We got support from Vivobarefoot. I started using shoes from Vivobarefoot more than seven years ago. My first pair was black and white Neos and since then I have used about 15 different pairs. I use them at work, at home, for running and for swimrunning. I am proud to have been a part of the shoebrands team and with or without support they are my go-to-shoes for all situations.

It was also a funny moment when Fredrik and I met in the locker room for our first running session. I looked at his shoes and saw he had the very same shoes (Vivobarefoot Porto) that I was wearing as well. I mean, thats more than a coincidence…

The organisers and ÖtillÖ
Also I must give it to the organisation behind ÖtillÖ. Such a well executed event. As a participant it was all about performing as good as possible. Food, energy, logistics, information, people… Everything just seemed to work. Thats no coincidence, thats hard work. Much appreciated hard work.

And the media production. Last year two days before ÖtillÖ I got a kidney stone. I went to the hospital and got home a few hours later but was totally wasted for three days. That raceday I spent the entire day in the sofa watching the whole live broadcast of the event. That was a stormy year and the difference between my suffering at home and the athletes performing on the course was huge. But the possibility to take part of the race and be so close to the action along the 75 km wherever you are is amazing. It makes it so easy to follow and friends and family can share the experience from the event. My phone was full of comments and reactions from the day.

And now – to go back and watch the video and the beautiful photos from the event both bring backs memories and gives an extra dimension to them. It is so inspiring… Actually, it is so inspiring that I want to do it all again…………. Lets do it again!!

Mar 10

Jag sprang NYC Marathon 2009

Nu har det gått några månader sedan jag sprang New York City Marathon och det är på tiden jag berättar vilken underbar upplevelse det var. Mitt tredje marathon, sämst tid men största minnet.

NYC Marathon har ungefär 42-44.000 deltagare och det fylls på fort. Om du bor utomlands finns det några olika sätt att komma med.
1. Kvala in (snabbare än 2.55 om du är man 18-39 och 3.10 om du är kvinna.).
2. Anmäl dig som “välgörenhetslöpare”. Förutsätter att du donerar pengar till välgörande ändamål och ordnar sponsorer.
3. Köper resa via ackrediterad resebyrå, till exempel Springtime. Uppstyrd resa, ganska dyrt men praktiskt.
4. Lotteri. Anmäl dig i lotteriet. Fjärde året på raken du är med är du garanterad plats. Kostar $11 att vara med och ytterligare $265 om du vinner och får en plats. Men gör inte som jag: glömde anmäla mig tredje året och fick börja om (sen vann jag året därpå). Anmälan i drygt en vecka till – skynda skynda!

Från Stockholm Marathon i slutet på maj sprang jag totalt 20 pass. Största delen av träningen blev cykelpendling (14 km enkel resa) till och från jobbet tre-fem dagar i veckan fram till början av oktober. Oerhört effektivt och tidseffektivt också.

Vi hyrde en lägenhet på 32:a gatan via Homeaway.com. Känns riskablare än att boka hotell eftersom sajten bara förmedlar kontakten – det ekonomiska och själva bokningen görs med privatpersonen bakom. Andras bedömning och känslan av mailkonversationen under bokningen fick avgöra. En annan bokning gav tydliga “ugglor-i-mossen-vibbar”.

NY-marathonhelgen är speciell för ett event med över 40.000 löpare märks även i en stor stad (alltså inte bara själva loppet utan att det är något på gång i stan). 2009 sammanföll det samtidigt med Halloween vilket i sig är en stor grej.

Eftersom starten är på Staten Island söder om Manhattan är det tidig uppstigning som gäller. Jag tog tunnelbanan från Grand Central Station vid femtiden på morgonen och redan på gatan mötte jag hemvändare som gick runt efter hårt halloween-festande med smink, hår och utklädningskläder på sniskan. Att tränga sig fram mellan 3-400 utklädda människor som väntar på första morgontågen bort från New York uppblandat med enstaka löpare är också en syn som jag aldrig kommer glömma (tyvärr blev det inga bilder).

Alla löpare seedas till rätt startplats. Tyvärr hade min anmälningstid för marathon registrerats som en tid för halvmarathon vilket placerade mig i sista startfältet (av tre + elit) i sista startgrupp. Alltså med ungefär 42.000 löpare framför mig och några hundra bakom. Bredvid mig stor folk med gåstavar och magväskor, inte riktigt vad jag kunde identifiera mig med.

Vanligaste frågan: Är det på Manhattan då eller? Ja, målet är på Manhattan men 42 km är långt, till och med för en stor stad som New York. Starten är nere på Staten Island och sen springer man genom Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx och sen är målgången i Central Park på Manhattan. Det är en ganska flack bana jämfört med Stockholm men några långa höga broar och en lång avslutning när man springer söderut på Manhattan som stiger i 4-5 km.

Här är hela banan filmad:

Breda gator, många filer första milen. Mycket folk överallt. Poliser, barn, vuxna, funktionärer – alla glada, vinkar, hejar och hi-fivar. De olika stadsdelarna har väldigt olika invånare och det märks tydligt när man passerar. Inte riktigt samma drag i Williamsburg som i Bronx eller Manhattan.

Att komma i nedförsbacken nedför en bro (Willis Avenue Bridge) och springa in i Bronx till ljudet av Empire State of Mind på ashög volym, se en gospelkör till höger och Manhattan till vänster efter att i sju spikraka km sprungit uppför First Avenue på Manhattan och känna att man fortfarande håller ihop var en underbar känsla, oförglömlig.

Väldigt många löpare springer för något ändamål. Till exempel “for the memory of my father Joe”, “for the fight against cancer”, “for my siblings leukemia” osv. Det gör på något sätt loppet till en viktig symbol. Personer anstränger sig, pressar sig och kämpar men gör det för att uppmärksamma, stödja eller med någon i åtanke.

Utsikten! Du ser mer av omgivningen när du är mitt i gatan än på en trottoar. Byggnader, människor, skyltar och människor. Det är en otroligt intensiv omgivning att smälta. Även om tunnelseendet blir tydligare och tydligare utmed loppet så är det väldigt mycket att ta in så en stor del av utmattningen efteråt kommer från det huvudet matats med.

Det är en lång uppförsbacke med ganska svag lutning utmed Central Park när man kommer norrifrån men det är rejält mycket folk och lite upploppskänsla eftersom man vet att man är nära målet. Men det är en stoooor park! När man väl svänger in i parken är det fortfarande några km kvar och skogen är så tät att man emellanåt inte ser en skymt av höghusen runt omkring. Orkar man så är det en underbar sträcka. Fortfarande mycket publik som hejar och har man mer kraft kvar än sin omgivning kan man kapa många sköna placeringar, det är många som är trötta.

Dagen före loppet gick vi igenom målområdet så jag visste hur det såg ut och kände igen mig när vi kom närmre. Och det var en otroligt skön känsla att känna igen sig och veta att nu är det nära. Stegen blir lätta, krafter finns det gott om och det går att njuta. Nästan euforiska känslor när man kommer ur sista rakan och ser målet framför sig. Det är uppförsbacke sista hundra metrarna också men med en läktare på varje sida, musik och speaker så är det bara damma på så mycket man orkar och det som snurrade i huvudet var “jag klarade det!”.

Gick i mål på 3.40 på plats 7837 (av alla löpare), 6618 (av män) och 1277 (i åldersklassen). 43.660 gick i mål av 44.177 startande. Enligt New York Times hamnade jag på plats 7779.

Resultatlista i NYTimes

Vill du göra som jag så anmäl dig till lotteriet. För årets lopp är sista anmälan 15 mars. Lycka till!

Mar 09

Välj rätt verktyg ur verktygslådan

Jag har en avancerad löparklocka med GPS. Efter en runda kan ladda upp all information på nätet och läsa av sträcka, fart, tid, höjd, hjärtfrekvens, mellantider, väder (via väder-API), få rutten inritad på karta och ännu mer. Dessutom lagrar klockan alla pass så man kan “springa mot sig själv” genom att klockan håller reda på hur man förhåller sig till en tidigare runda.


Avancerat och användbart i rätt situation, men just nu är det alldeles för komplicerat. Mitt mål är Stockholm Marathon som går av stapeln 31 maj. Tills dess siktar jag på att genomföra 25 pass.


Jag behöver ett enkelt verktyg som hjälper mig med det: jag skapade en panelDaytum där jag räknar mina pass. Förhoppningsvis passerar den 25 någon gång mot slutet av maj.

Dec 08

Anmäld till Stockholm Marathon 2009

Om sex månader är det dags igen. Den här gången var det Ola som gav mig den sista knuffen som behövdes för att skicka in anmälan. Så nu är jag 725 kronor fattigare och har en anledning att ta mig i kragen och börja springa ordentligt. 2006 sprang jag, men 2007 och 2008 ställde jag in på grund av sjukdom. Tredje gången gillt nu.

Eftersom jag inte är 20 år längre och tenderar att gå sönder och få ont (benhinnor, knä, fötter, rygg med mer..) så ska jag försöka vara klok och dra igång försiktigt. 15 minuter uppvärming, 25 minuter träning, 10 minuter långsamt/promenad och sen vila 3-4 dagar, så kommer det se ut första månaden. Hur upplägget ser ut sen återkommer jag till, men max tre pass i veckan och minst en vilodag emellan.

Här är lite inlägg jag skrev inför 2008-loppet:
Tävlingskalendern 2008
50 dagar och många mil kvar (Stockholm Marathon)
Toppa formen, hur man inte gör

Snart är loppet fullt så skynda anmäl dig du också. Det är gott om tid kvar att förbereda sig och en spännande upplevelse.

Sep 08

Frivilliga får tävlingar att gå runt

6.936 löpare startade i dagens Stockholm Halvmarathon som ägde rum i spöregn. Men de verkliga hjältarna är funktionärerna som (oftast) utan ersättning står och slabbar med vatten och sportdryck utmed banan. Och banvakter, förare, sjukvårdare, städare, väskvaktare med flera. Jag var inte med idag, men varje gång jag tävlar så är jag tacksam för dessa frivilliga hjältar och deras insatser!

Testar Galleryfunktionen i WordPress.

May 08


“Did not start.”

Det blir inget marathon idag för mig. Feber igår, halsont idag. Tråkigt. Ska försöka gå ut och kolla på hjältarna istället.

Tack för stödet!

May 08

Toppa formen, hur man inte gör

Jag är ganska nöjd med förberedelserna inför marathon som går i morgon, bortsett från senaste veckorna. Precis som förra året så blir jag sjuk vilket innebär att jag inte sprungit på två veckor.

Träningspass inför marathon

Seg och inte riktigt taggad så kommer jag troligtvis till start men alla tids-ambitioner jag haft under våren släpper jag. Istället blir det klassiska “ta sig runt” som gäller.

Vinka om ni ser mig (startnummer 16104). Skicka “SM 16104” till 72700 om du vill få SMS med mina tider vid 10 km, 21.1, 30 och målgång (kostar 35 spänn). Här trillar tiderna in på marathon.se.

Som sagt, det gäller att ta sig runt……

PS. Anmälan till 2009 ligger redan uppe…..

May 08

ING New York City Marathon 2008

I inboxen:

Dear Per Astrom:

Entry number: 216400

Thank you for applying for the ING New York City Marathon 2008.

Unfortunately, you were not selected in the random international lottery drawing.

Please understand that we have to limit the size of the field to ensure a top-quality experience, and I hope you get to experience it yourself one day!


Apr 08

50 dagar och många mil kvar (Stockholm Marathon)

50 dagar kvar till Stockholm Marathon 31 maj. Själva loppet är inte så farligt, det är vägen dit som är jobbig. Det krävs mycket prioriterande, kompromissande, uppoffringar, planering, tränande etc. Livspusslet är ganska komplicerat redan utan förberedelser som kräver flera timmars insats i veckan.

För mig är det sena kvällar och luncher som gäller. Alltså prioriteras sånt bort som oftast sker vi de tiderna, till exempel umgås/TV/läsa/surfa/jobba och lunch med arbetskompisar. Vissa dagar, inte alla.

Så här ser resultatet ut hittills (Y-axeln = km/vecka). Observera sjukperioderna…


Varje dag tillkommer c:a 2×10 minuters cykeltransport och ibland pass i andra former. Jag ligger otroligt långt efter Anders Szalkais 3.30-pass men målet på ligger kvar..

Feb 08

New York City Marathon – lotterianmälan öppnar idag

Från idag till 1 maj kan man anmäla sig till lotteriet för att delta i New York City Marathon 2 november. Nu är jag anmäld.

New York City Marathon

Och man måste acceptera disclaimern som börjar såhär:

I know that participation in the ING New York City Marathon and its related events, including the Continental International Friendship Run, are potentially hazardous activities.

Är man med i lotteriet tre år i rad är man garanterad startplats det fjärde året (ifall man inte vunnit tidigare). Jag anmälde mig 2006, glömde bort anmälan 2007 och börjar om nu 2008. Garanterad plats senast 2011 alltså.

Annars kan man a) springa grymt fort (under 2.55) eller b) köpa startplats och resa via auktoriserade resebyråer.

Anmälan senast 1 maj. Resultatet presenteras mitten av maj.