UTO Swimrun Championships – Sweden 2014

It’s been a while since I posted and this is a must write post. The UTO swim-run race in the Swedish Archipelago is one of my top 3 favourite races.  Tim Whishaw was my partner for the event and we went with Travis Weston and team captain – Daniel Bell.

Uto Swimrun is a 35km run and 4km swim race that is run as a combined event. You start on an island and run across the island. You then dive into the water and swim to the next island and repeat the process. In all, there were 9 water crossings that totalled up to the 4km swim. Oh – the water temperature was 8 degrees too! This meant you had to swim and run in a wetsuit and the same for shoes. There are no transitions. Let’s just say you get a new appreciation for ice-cream headaches and you were EXTREMELY careful about your chafe management with up to 10km being run in a single section all in a wet – wetsuit!

The swim-run format is not largely replicated around the world but the Scando’s sure do love it. We spent weekends training in and around the Serpentine in London looking very strange as we ran in our wetsuits and swam in our shoes so, we were pleased to be finally on our way to Sweden where we would fit in.

So the tour started when we landed in Stockholm and headed to our race base which is one of the coolest places I have stayed. The Langholmen hotel in Stockholm is an old jail they have converted into a very comfortable hotel. The cold concrete and steel construction makes for an ominous welcome however, you soon get used to the surroundings and count yourself lucky that you don’t have to spend years in the small cells with no soul.

Our Homely race Accommodation!

Our Homely race Accommodation!

Team Room - Bunkbeds

 

On race morning the 4 of us caught the ferry with the 130 teams of 2 over to Uto island which was the starting point for the race. We pulled on our gear, checked out the very fit looking competition and waited eagerly for the start.

The start entailed all competitors following a local (and his dog) on a farm bike along a gravel road. The pack started to stretch out and the legs started to warm up. We were all nervous about the cold, first swim. Diving head first was the only way to do it.

 

 

Utö Swimrun 2014, The Start

 

 

Uto Swimrun.

The race continued over remarkable, uninhabited, wild islands. There were no trails or paths, just simple flags hung from trees guiding us through the bushes and tough terrain. Tim and I stretched ahead of “The Westo” and Danny and we started to get into a solid groove. Slowly but surely we climbed the ranks and gained confidence with every water crossing. We battled with Scandos through the forestry and found a rhythm which allowed us to chase down our competitors.

All the while you are racing you keep one eye on the path and one eye on the rest of the scenery. It truly was a spectacular place to race. There are approximately 30,000 islands in the Swedish archipelago and I could see why this race format was one of the fastest growing endurance sports in the area.

Running the Cliffs

 

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Water Crossing - UTo

Tim and I pushed through the cold and completed long run stretches in wet, wetsuits and sodden shoes. We held pace and eventually made it to the last swim leg. We powered through knowing the finish was a 3km sprint across the final island. As soon as we landed on the island, the plan changed! CRAMP! Not just a little cramp you get in your leg and it goes after 10 seconds. This was complete leg lock up. The running combined with the cold water temperatures played havoc on my body and this last leg was my body’s way of telling my mind  “You’re an idiot! Why do you think this is fun? Why do you put me through this. I’m done and this cramp is here to stay”. Fortunately my mind is pretty absolute and fairly obnoxious. The battle between the body and mind regularly happens and the mind usually wins! I do pay for it for days afterwards though. On this occasion I willed my way to move. It was a straight leg hobble like a scarecrow running down a gravel road. Other competitors were following us and we were desperate to hold our pace. I hobbled up the last hill encouraged by Timmy all the way. We finally crossed with big grins on our faces and battered bodies. Nothing the local beer wouldn’t fix!

Richard Bray and Tim Whishaw Finish

 

Tim and I finished 9th Overall. Not bad for a couple of hacks in their first Swimrun event. Our tour buddies, Danny and Westo finished 35th overall and again, they finished with big grins and battered legs.

We headed back to Stockholm for the debrief and beers. Well deserved and a great fun night.

Something tells me this is not the last SwimRun we will do. Danny and Westo have signed up for the Engadin SwimRun in Switzerland. One race I would love to get to but not this time around.

Beers in Stockholm. Richard Bray, Tim Whishaw, Daniel Bell, Travis Weston

 

CHEERS!!

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