The idea came up as the water in Brunnsviken lake were still ice-covered. The two of us met some years ago and did what we always do – running, chatting and laughing. A few years ago Dan and I bumped into each other at a cosy hostel outside of El Bolson in the middle of Patagonia. Instantly we got on great and since that time our paths seem to cross regularly. He moved to Stockholm a some years ago and eventually I ended up there as well. One icy winter morning we were out on a loop around Haga Parken and chatted about SwimRun. At that time Dan and his friends were in the preparation phase for their first race in Western Australia – Rottnest SwimRun. Having caught the SwimRun bug some years ago while competing durng the Utö SwimRun, he and his friends were keen to bring the sport to Australia. What they created with there is not far from being stunning. The first edition was a success and I’m sure the one next year will top everything again. As well organising a race Dan was keen to have another go himself. So we agreed to sign up for a classic in the Swedish SwimRun diary – Ångaloppet.
Several preparation gatherings later it was “Go-Time” this past Sunday. Ångaloppet is down to 22 kilometres of jagged and technical trail running split up by a total of 2k of swimming through Nyköping’s archipelago which contains the Ången Lake and the Baltic Sea. The swimming portion is broken down to 24 pieces which makes this competition pretty unique. Changeovers must be fast and are often tricky as the swim entrance and exits contain slippery or steep rocks. A varied course that takes its tool and displays why team tactics and swift changes are so important.
Furthermore the organisers laid out humble equipment rules to keep everything simple and straight forward. It is forbidden to use fins, hand-paddles and teams are not allowed to be connected with a rope. Most of the line-ups choose to wear normal swim trunks or neoprene shorts. This year the rulebook got amended so at least one part of the equipment must contain neoprene or another floating material. Dan and I opted for trail shoes, neoprene shorts, big pullbouys and calf guards with floating material. With the race-experience still in mind and stroke by all the changeovers, I would leave the swim googles and the pullbuoy at home next time I do this race. I totally value this modest concept and I can see this layout of SwimRun racing to have success abroad as the sport gets bigger and bigger. In warmer climate and in areas where a course with lots of short swims is possible this is unquestionably a format that will attract people. Competitors do not need much gear to compete and the short run and swim slices are doable for all fitness levels.
After the usual start hassle that contained some fiddly trails early on, Dan and I ran along with a pleasant pace. The first run piece is the longest and line-ups spread out fast. Out of all SwimRun competitions I did so far the Ångaloppet must have been by far the best marked course. The route was fundamentally a hand-rail along off-trail through thick forest, rocks, mud ponds, techy trails and smooth gravel roads. Signs a couple of 100 meters before every swim section made sure the equipment is in place as you approach the waters. On top of that signs at the swim entry displayed the imminent distance and made sure that you know which of the 24 swim sections you are about to tackle.
Looking back it feels like the race just flew by. With the relentless challenges the course offered, especially the tricky running sectors, the mind got taken off so easily. Paired with faultless weather this was a great day out with a good friend. It is so cool to struggle and enjoy an experience like this with a good friend! See you next year Ånga Gard!