What is better than running some hard laps with the gang around the venue of the 1912 Olympic Games?
Yes, homie Dennis Wernersson capturing it!
Tune of the day: Haze x Falco – No Time For Revolution
Once digging around some thrift store in Dublin I picked up an enthralling book with the title “Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer” by Lynne Cox. Reading this book, was essentially the very first time I found out about this 195 km2 atoll 47 kilometer south-southwest of Long Beach, California – Catalina Island. Since then the isle only came across my courtesy segments when somebody swam a new record time for the well-known channel crossing from Los Angeles to Santa Catalina Island. Correspondingly the odd shark encounter along the Catalina shorelines was something that now and then flashed up to me while reading the news.
Once my befriended Ötillö organization publicized that they are heading Stateside and to Santa Catalina Island for their very first contest in America, I was captivated. But to be frank, although I was charmed and struck by the location, I seemed to have forgotten about the competition. I can’t really recall who made me aware of it but it hit me by surprise that I had to find out that I was in California on holiday anyhow when the race was meant to take place.
After some family internal debates and preparations I contacted my dear friend and fellow SwimRun aficionado Herbert in the quest for a probable companion. It did not take long to get in contact with Robin Pomeroy. Robin and her friend had an brilliant day during Herbert’s SwimRun contest throughout Hanging rock state park (check their website and sign up for next year’s race). It appeared to click immediately between Robin and myself. She was eager to race and we both had a similar “it is early in the season and I’m not a 100% fit” pretext on hand. Paired with the appreciative support by the wonderful dudes of ARK SwimRun, this turned out to be a great little adventure in the making.
My family and I coasted into LA airport, stayed a night in Long Beach and then found us on a ship to Catalina Island the next morning. And what a two hour journey that was. We could not believe our eyes when we saw a troop of 20-30 dolphins playing beside the ferryboat about 20 minutes before we arrived at Avalon ferry port – A fantastic experience.
Avalon is a small distinct community island town. Pretty rare for American standards no fast-food chains or comparable shops are permitted on the island. This in itself creates a great touch and the little town was an remarkable host for this race even though the start was in another town called Two Harbours further down the coast. We spend the days prior to the race relaxing and hiking. For a good reason Catalina Island is labeled “California’s Galapagos Island”. I have visited both places and there are certain parallels for sure. Unhurt landscape harmonizing with wonderful wildlife and incredibly clear waters does not feel like a place that is less than two hours away from a demanding 4 million people metropolitan that goes by the name of Los Angeles.
Sunday morning came fast and we found us on a cruise ship to the start area. Aboard the ship we found a lot of familiar faces and friends (thank you swimrunshop.com for the rope!) and it was entertaining to catch up with everybody prior to the competition. When we landed at Two Harbors Robin and I organized our equipment and relaxed as good as we could. I was more than fascinated by Robins proficient tactic. Never before have I seen someone write down the distances and specialties of each swim and run leg so carefully. Instantaneously I knew that not much could go wrong on this beautiful and sunlit day. After dull month after dull month of Vitamin D withdrawal in Sweden, it was untainted frenzy to sense all these sun rays on my pastel coating.
Some high-fives and sociable hugs later, the race was on. After about 1 kilometer of flat running, the first real test came up on us. A pretty steep climb that immediately stretched the field. We were fortunate enough to arrive at this ascent with the first group and started this battle with a suitable power stroll after roughly 5 minutes of “real” running. As Alan Parsons once sang: “What goes up, must come down.” And how it came down. Fundamentally the very first downhill set the tone of the course character. And that should effect my body for some weeks – a proper aching in portions of my legs that I never knew exist.
Trails in the US are different to the trails at home. Although it seems that some trails line bend after bend after bend, these Jeep trails basically went straight down. And we weren’t used to that at all. The price that we paid was sore legs and a slow performance when it came to jog down the mounts.
So after this first shock for the legs I pretty much looked forward to calm the system down in the pacific with a 1.500 meter swim. Albeit we took it easy, we passed the premier checkpoint in first place in the Mixed category. We did not hold this place for long. The first swim was quite choppy and Robin and I had to find our rhythm as we had never relay trained together before. We managed very well but I was pretty astonished by the swim abilities of the field. Some other mixed teams passed us with pretty imposing speeds.
We went on and looped back to the area where the competition started. The running was fantastic. The grimy jeep thoroughfares were fun and easy to run on. After the 2nd swim section, the first long run to Parsons Landing Bay came up. It started with a long and very steep uphill. We cooped very well and, again, found an effective power hike rhythm that we kept to the top. The ridgeline was something else and it was more less impossible to not soak in the pure attractiveness and solitude of Catalina Island.
We ran on and mainly I had to suffer pretty badly on the downhill slope. What a beast of a steep ramp that lead us all the way down to next swim share of the race. We found out the hard way that the downhill presentation was dreadful. While entering the aid station before the swim another mixed team passed us. We checked sometimes while running on the ridge if somebody was chasing us. We never saw anyone. So they obviously knew how to move their bodies downhill. We clearly didn’t…
But we had no time to think about that. The imminent swim looked like a rollercoaster. We opted to swim without a rope as the hostile surf was rolling to the beach. A good choice but a bumpy swim nevertheless. I was happy to enter solid grounds after what felt like ages in the sea for a 700 meter swim.
A attired set of pleasant single trails was the course makers “thank you” after this wash machine and after a short run we had a 1300 meter swim on tab. This time the water was qualm and left a little bit of time to enjoy the views. Crystal clear waters permitted the observation of the homegrown fish culture and led to another 3 kilometer run on the dirt roads. We used the clean running to gain valuabe grounds and I was particular happy to constantly sync super well with Robin.
Next up was the lengthiest swim of the competition – 1600 meters. The waves and the light current was a test. But the major challenge we had to face was the cold water. We never really warmed up during the preceding runs and hurt a lot when we stepped back on land. The gales hit us hard and the bodies never really had a chance to warm up. It took us quite a while to get some heat back in the bodies but faster running on the next 4 kilometers certainly helped a bit.
We went on and never really had more teams in sight which made it tough sometimes to go that extra bit out of the comfort zone. But we kept the positive vibe and spirit. When we started the last 1400 meter swim the wind never allowed the bodies to fully recover. We had to take the very last energy reserves to make it through a swim portion that appeared to never really end.
Later than sooner it did and we arrived at the beach and were content about the simple fact that we survived this last stretch of unfriendly water and ran to the finish line. After 5:54:21 we finished as the fifth mixed team. Though the last swim took ages, it all went fast once we crossed the line. Robin was taken care of by Micke Lemmel as she had proper hypothermia. I was also in bad shape and was stuck in the shower without coins for the warm water. What a fight and massive thanks to Johan Carlsson for organizing all these coins to get me back on track. That was a very long time without clothes in that shower…
Once everyone was back to normal we could enjoy a very relaxed and sociable after race hang-out by the beach and drank too much beer and ate too much delicious burgers. When we heard our names at the price giving we weren’t too sure why but it turned out that our performance was good enough to qualify for the Ötillö world champs. That was a positive surprise and we celebrated it on the ferry journey back to Avalon with everybody and a ARK sponsored free bar. That was some way to kick off Ötillö SwimRun in the US.
Tune of the day: Inwards – Bright Serpent
Plenty of prototype-stalking Insta accounts were intensively hyping Skechers up-to-the-minute response to Nikes newest carbon trampoline technique. Skechers sponsored Elites were seen using a architype model with an interesting previously unseen sole making. This plain fact is enough to commonly cause proper uproar amongst social media. Every product that attempts to test Nikes radical newfangled carbon technique and high-stacked Zoom X foam is hailed. I was lucky to get my hand on the long anticipated GOrun Razor 3 by US-Giant Skeckers to see what the hassle is all about.
The time of all these yearly reviews is over. Well, you haven’t really made it. Yet.
Judging my personal inter web statistics more then several people like to read my race reports. I have a hard time writing them as the races happen. Thus i need to hit you once.
This is it. This is my year in review – The Runssel 2019 chronicles.
01 – 28.04.2019 Hamburg Marathon
To keep winter training genuine i decided that it would be a bang-up thought to give the marathon in Hamburg a decent shot. Having lived there years ago, i still have various friends there and the city itself is always worth a stay plus the course is known for blistering times. We organized a good gang of people to tag along for this travel and hopped over to northern Germany.
As life happens, the build up to this competition was far from ideal. Different sick periods broke my training. During the last 4 weeks i started to feel fitter and the workouts went well. I tried to change my entry to the half marathon distance but that did not work out as the race was sold out already. I decided to give the race a go and see how it goes. Just jogging to the finish line wasn’t an alternative for me so i decided to go out in a 3.50ish/k marathon exertion and see how far it would get me.
Weather conditions were great. Light rain and no wind matched with cool but pleasant temperatures were perfect for fast times. Not so for me that day. I had to put too much effort in to stay on Marathon stride. It was simply too much so i decided to drop out after 15k. I jogged back to the finish line and felt O.K. with the decision. Dragging a a-dynamic dead body through the full 42 kilometres did not feel appropriate. I knew there was more to come.
02- 01.06.2019 Stockholm Marathon
My friend Jorge came over from Uruguay to pursuit the Uruguayan national record in the 60 to 65 category. I was on pacing duties and helped him to break the actual record by a good bit. It was extraordinary to run my town with him and finish up with the Uruguay flag after 3.06 in the iconic Stockholm Stadion.
03 – 11.06.2019 Blodomloppet 10k
My company offered free spots to this large fundraiser 10k around Djurgarden in Stockholm. How can one say no to a decent after-work leg shaker. I do run a lot around Djurgarden so i thought that the course does not hold too many surprises for me. Well, little did i know. Stockholm seems to be a plane metropolis but this course wasn’t. A good mixture of gravel roads and off-road sections took out a fair bit of the system. I still favour racing to training so this one asked for a seemly Midweek effort. Worth it.
04 – 15.06.2019 Langholmen Swimrun
If you ask me, there is only one genuine Swimrun race in Stockholm, the race that starts on the island of Langholmen. Langholmen is placed in the very center of the city. An island that is well known to me from swimming around it in the mornings. The 4K cringle is my favored open water venue and the race that starts there has also one of the best Swimrun courses i know. While most competitions follow trails, the Langholmen competition allows for decent road running with several floaty sets of trails and a fair portion of gravel roads. It takes racers crossways town and also shows the interesting non-touristical surroundings this beauteous spot has to offer.
Knut and i haven’t raced much in collaboration in the last couple of months so i was really looking forward to give this one a decent go aboard the omnipotent Knutterbutters. If you read this blog on a regular basis you’ll know that we had our fair percentage of outings in the past. With the experience we gained in the last few years we were able to just jump in this race and give it a correct smack. And hell did we. It was just one of these days that make all the training worthwhile. We had no low and pushed hard from the start to the finish.
We won and took down the existent course record by a fair margin. Pretty happy with this one as i respect this race a lot.
05 – 03.08.2019 Hasselö Challenge
That was a fun weekend camping and racing around the Loftahammar archipelago. On a short notice we decided to move down to race this one. My training brother Micke and I have never been in that region so we were quite astounded when we got a proper peek at this portion of Sweden. On an awe-inspiring day we stampedthe victory in a bonded mode with a good exertion in this technical and swim heavy race.
06.08.2019 KK Joggen, Katrineholm
Some other midweek contest over a pretty unaccustomed length of just about 11 kilometres. Sanna convinced me to come to Katrineholm with her to race the local road race. Evidently it is a big one in the Swedish Racing listings and subsequently a cracking and fast bunch showed up. The race is integrated in the city’s yearly jubilation and that resulted into some proper crowds along the hilly course. Once again, a good effort and a solid finish for me.
07 – 10.08.2019 Ångaloppet
Unluckily Micke injured himself prior to this one. I was happy that Seb Olsson was fit to link up on little notice for this iconic Swimrun race. Our skillset was quite contrary as Seb was afraid by my stride on the road and i had a very hard time tailing him on the trails. Yet we synced very well and had an outstanding time on this astonishing course. Seb kept amazing me with his casual off-road running skills. I had to work hard to keep his feet on the ground and we were super solid in the water. At the end we jagged 10th spot and agreed that this was a first-rate blind date!
08 – 31.08.2019 ÖTILLÖ Final 15K
At one time a year it is time to compete with buddy Henrik Kindgren. I know him for a good while. We met back at the 1st Engadin Swimrun and since then bumped into each other regularly. When i moved to Sweden he helped me a lot to get settled and we made it our very own tradition to race together once a year to celebrate our friendship. For a long time it seemed that this tradition would come to an end in 2019. But fortuitously we both were free to race the last 15 Kilometre of the iconic Otillo course. After my 5 year succession it was also a way for me to actively get caught up in this race that i cherish so much.
On a glorious day we had a fun race and grinded it out properly. It was so nice to, for once, have the energy and the full consciousness while running and swimming along the last portion of the world championship course.
09 – 07.09.2019 Stockholm Half Marathon
A few drudging weeks of racing came to an end with a start at the local half through the city. When racing Otillo this one was never really on the cards but this year i had the chance to jump into the Stockholm half.
I came of a soggy period of training and craved to trial what i was capable to get out of these weary legs. The course is no unknown to me and i knew that a few crisp hills where waiting for me. Particularly the last portion when you have to climb up to Södermalm was something that i was well aware of. I set out pretty aspiring and was able to hold it together. In the back of my head i would have liked to dip under the 1.20 but I’ll take the 27 extra seconds and blame my diminutive low-level at around 17k. Outstanding fun to run hard across Stockholm with so many people cheering on along the way. This was a exceptional one for sure. Nothing beats racing at home.
10 – 13.10.2019 Hässelbyloppet
The end to a long run was a hard-bitten one. I craved to top-up straight after a mellow 20 Kilometre long run with the 10k classic in Hässelby. And it did turn out to be a unsmooth one that i could not execute the way i wanted. After 4K i already felt the effort and did not had the zip to fight it home. As training went A-one and i had no issues i anticipated to get more out of this one. Clearly i was mistaken. I think i just dipped under the 40 minutes barrier. A execution that kept me argus-eyed for the final period of time of NYC preparation and, looking back, created a great part of surplus motivation for hard pre-NYC training.
11 – 03.11.2019 NYC Marathon
If you made it this far it is highly likely that you consume this blog regularly. That means that you have witnessed THIS BLOG POST about my NYC race. If not. Don’t read it… LOL
According to my Spotify, this is my tune of the year: Ward 21 – Groundz
On November the 3rd I ran the 49th edition of the New York City Marathon. In the past few weeks I deleted quite a few race report attempts about my recent endeavor. As this late update pretty much gives away, it took me some time and some frustrating attempts to come straight with my performance. Reflection is an important part of life. During the years this chunk of inter-web space has given me plenty of room for exactly this. This is going to be my last try to sum up my experience in the five boroughs and it will hopefully cut this experience straight for me. Finally. I might delete it later…
Looking back throughout my training back-catalog (My Strava Profile), I dedicated plenty of quality hours into my 2nd race throughout the five boroughs. Once I was officially signed up (read previous Post), I felt the urgent need to get some outside assistance. A fixed multi week training plan turned always out to be a way to big burden on me and resulted into a lack of motivation or (worst case) overtraining. The pressure of fulfilling a certain laid out regime took away the beauty and freedom of training for me. But I also do realize the benefits of structured and scheduled training. A training plans and professional guidance does undoubtedly help.
I was craving for something more loose yet honest and challenging. Albeit being pretty unsuccessful training my very self, I always enjoyed training others or discussing training. When I thought about a good and valuable solution my friend and training partner Sanna was the first person I thought off. Her positive answer to my question did not take long and I was pretty happy when she decided to help me with my training leading up to the race. The partnership turned out to be a lot of fun. Well, the weekly subscriptions weren’t that easy but all the tasks I had to fulfill helped me to gain new fitness heights and, more importantly, a lot of confidence towards my ability. I owe her a lot and she proofed that she knows what she is doing and how to adjust a schedule towards my circumstances. THANKS!
Looking back through the last months of training, Im pretty proud of all the hard and steady work that I was able to produce. Juggling family life and a busy work period was not easy but it seemed that the daily training stimulus helped me with whatever life threw at me and created a lot of positive overall energy. As said, with the steady gain of fitness, I also gained a lot of confidence towards a successful outcome.
Reaching goals is an important task in training and running in general. 2:48 was the goal Sanna and I agreed on. Judging by the workouts, this was realistic.
With a three year old son in kindergarten and public transport as a major form of commute, not getting sick seemed to have been the major focus from October onwards. I even organized myself a Japanese style mouth protection for the plane journey to NYC. All the bonus attention paid off and the brotherly GSP reunion with Fabian at JFK turned out to be a healthy one. It was 9 years ago that I was in New York (check) and the excitement of being in the big apple couldn’t have been higher. It is no secret that this place has a very special magic. This magic undoubtedly multiplies once marathon week comes around. Not only the New Yorkers would agree that this weeks brings out the very best of this splendid city. Late in the YMCA, we didn’t even bother unpacking and went straight for a shake out jog around a dark but hot and humid Central Park. Fabian immediately catched the vibe and it was so nice to witness his joy and appreciation.
Leading towards race day we juggled relaxation and sightseeing quite successfully. The city is best explored by foot. But we both knew this and kept the walking to a minimum. We made sure to drink loads, enjoy good coffee and the vast variety of foods around the place. I did maybe a bit too much. But more on that later on.
Once the alarm clock rang on race day morning, we had no problem getting out of bed. Pre-race nerves combined with the jet lag-supported early wake up did not cause trouble. Once we arrived at the bus departure in midtown it was smooth sailing. The race logistics are extremely smooth for an operation of this size (think about 50.000 people traveling…) and the journey out of town towards Staten Island was smooth. We arrived at the massive athlete area on the western end of Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Staten Island. Weather was crispy cold but sunny and relaxed in our sleeping bags and enjoyed this very special atmosphere.
Making a start-line fit and healthy is the most important thing. Rightly the announcer reminded everyone about this fact and Fabian and myself couldn’t agree more.
“Bang!” – the race was on…
Surely everyone has seen the pictures of the spectacular start that leads runners across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from staten island into Brooklyn. We set off on a slight uphill, glimpsed to the left where Manhattans sky scrapers were clearly visible, wondered about the police helicopters that flew crazy close to the bridge and looked right as the elites flew by just about 500 meters into the race. This is it, the world biggest and certainly most spectacular road marathon out there.
I quickly found my rhythm and was able to enjoy a nice steady traveling bunch of runners. We sailed through a pretty crowded and loud Brooklyn. The hardest part of this race is holding back. Not only because the first part is “easier” than the second, also because of the crowds. I do not really remember all the details about my last run in 2009 but the crowds this year were fantastic and plenty.
Knowing my big problem of over-pacing I checked my times methodically. Looking at my splits early on in the race, this was quite successful and, still is, a pretty confidence booster, to see me running that even and well paced. Something I did struggle with in the past.
Also something I struggled with in the past was race nutrition. I training for this early on in the training circle to get my stomach used to gels at race pace. It did work fine. But then kilometer 21 came and I took my first gel. Shortly after I chucked it, my stomach started to cramp up. I quickly stopped and tried to relax but shortly after I did so, It cramped up again. It got worse and worse. I was forced to start jogging and then I had to switch to running. The first aid station offered me salt water but that did not help. Disappointment set in but I was determine to finish this race.
While jog-walking on First Avenue the temptation to step off the course and walk one of the cross streets towards central park was high. I don’t know exactly why, but I resisted. During this long walk I could not appreciate all the positivity, love and support that gets thrown at all the runners. There is a lot of prejudice on America, especially nowadays. But what the people of New York City bring out on race day is special and cannot be reproduces.
In 2009 I barely remember anything after the Bronx. This time my memories are more font. Remincensing on all the positivity that this city and its people throw at you easily makes a grown up man emotional. Maybe this was the urge that was in myself. To experience exactly this.
I struggled from aid station to aid station. My pain got worse and worse but the cheers seemed to be louder and louder. When I stopped at the mile 24 aid station in Central Park I was (finally) able to puke. I puked a lot and must have been passed for a little bit. Sheltered in a blanket I found myself sitting on a chair in the arms of a medical. After a while I decided to continue my hike to the finish line. Crossing the line was some sort of relief – An emotional one.
The disappointment and frustration that this race brought for me was quite big. I have to be honest. As stated earlier on, it took me several attempts to write a report and to get motivated to go back out training again. Should something like this disappoint you that much? It’s just a race? These were questions I asked myself.
After investing all these hours and making all this sacrifices I felt that I deserve better.
Looking back I think it is OK to be frustrated and disappointed, otherwise serious training and racing doesn’t make sense. Yes, this sport is still a hobby. But everyone that does or has done endurance sports know that the activity gives one self more freedom and self satisfaction than frustrating.
While it is a thin line that needs to be balanced and also a selfish activity that takes it toll, the thrown in miles and the hard training doesn’t guarantee for anything. UA once said: „What you do in the dark puts you in the light.“ True words, but there is plenty of light out there. Writing a report like this also makes me come into terms with what had happened and makes me realize my mistakes.
As written earlier on, the nutrition was a big one. Jet-leg tricked me into plenty of food and most likely the wrong one. While my incredible wife takes care of our food at home, the hunger and carelessness about my nutrition over in New York could have caused for this. I ate way too much and I ate the wrong stuff that I was not used to. I rarely appreciate the thought out diet we have at home as I never really have energy or stomach issues. I damaged my very personal Eco system with a good bit of carelessness. Lesson learned.
Nothing is easy in endurance sports – particular in the marathon. Nothing is guaranteed and this is pretty much the beauty of it all. While I love this sport and the lifestyle that comes with it, the hard and raw sites are the ones that need to be dealt with.
In the days after the race I was eager to find another marathon to show my fitness. I had to be honest to myself and stopped searching for an outlet. The stomach is not back to 100% and more time away from my family seem to be wrong. I close this chapter for the moment knowing that time will heal this wound…
Tune of the day: Gang Starr – Mass Appeal
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