What a race, and a fantastic course, but on July 16th my body wasn’t 100% and I fell to the ground with less than 500 m left to the finish line…. But let’s start from the beginning.
Friday afternoon, Fredrik and I leave Växjö and head to Kalmar for our toughest Swimrun race ever. This would be my third race in 21 days. But we had a race plan to keep us on track and across the finish line before the time cut. We go straight to Prestationskläder to pick up our swim caps and racing bibs, then check in to our room, and head out for burgers at O’learys. During dinner we talk about the coming race, our plan and various goal times. The race is roughly 33 km running combined with 6800 m swimming with around 33 transitions from running to swimming. There is a 7.2 km run that we would pass twice, and that we knew would be the make or break for us. But luckily for us, there was also a 1 km swim, that would allow us to rest, while hopefully make up some ground on those that can run. The max time for the race was 7 hours and 15 minutes felt easy, so we had 6:30 as a realistic goal, but our secret goal was under 6 hours. To go under 6 hours would require swimming 15min/km, with less than 15 minutes of transitions from swimming to running, and running around 7:15/km, not likely to happen, but something to have to help push us as we start to get tired.
After dinner, we move the car, and get Ben & Jerry’s before going back to our rooms to repack and rest before the big day. Jimmy contacts me during the evening and ask if we would like help with water, sport drink or gels during the day. I wasn’t sure we would need it, but I say yes to the help, and that would turn out to be one of the best decisions I have made in a long time.
In the morning we are both up just before 7:00, and around 7:40 head down to breakfast. About 08:15 we check out of the hotel, dump our bags in the car and then head over to the start of the race. Swimrun is a relatively new sport, and those that participate are usually runners that learned to swim, or swimmers that bought running shoes. So every team has is strengths and weaknesses. For Fredrik and I, it’s obvious to others that we are swimmers.
Around 0905 they hold the pre-race meeting, and then we have until 0950 to get ready and head into the starting area. Everything feels good as it gets closer to 0950 we head into the starting area with the others, my wetsuit rips open between the legs. Crap, it was only the neoprene, so I don’t panic, just laugh it off.
10:00 that start of the race. Fredrik and I keep to our race plan as the start of the first 4.2km run, we find ourselves in a familiar position, last. But we don’t panic and joke about there is roughly one third of the swimming before we get the to the longer runs so we know we won’t be last long. Even those in the crowd that know me, laugh and yell out, that’s ok, you’ll swim passed them soon. As we approach the first swim, we are last, but we pass 3-4 teams, in the last 10 m, that needed time to pull up their wetsuits and prepare for the swim. After a 200 m swim, we have 6-8 teams behind us. During the next 1 km run very few teams pass us. Fredrik comments that we don’t need to swim as hard as we did on the first swim, just take long and hard strokes and ride the waves in the next swim. During the second swim, we pass a lot of teams. It’s hard to say, but I would guess there are more than 20 teams behind us now. There is a very short run around the back of the castle and then back into the water where we continue to make up ground on all of the runners. We come up from the third swim, head up a steep hill, before one of the shortest runs back into the channel for the longest swim.
During the roughly 1 km swim, Fredrik and I are passing teams every 20-30 meters or so. It seems like we need roughly 400 m of swimming for every 2 km of running to get even with most teams. After the first long swim, we have run roughly 5.9 km and swam roughly 1350 m so we have a slight advantage at this point in the race compared to our non-swimming competition.
Then a 1.8 km run to the next swim, and we think there were less than 15 teams that managed to run passed us. Quickly back in the water and we again catch up and pass those teams than managed to run passed us. And then it was time for the first of the two long 7.2 km run sections of the race. At this point the teams passing us, have passed us once or twice before and they start to comment on how fast we swim. Too bad for us we are like turtles on land. At one point on the 7.2 km run we meet the leaders, and we even see Christer and Carl-Emil, they are only 2 km ahead of us, wow I think as we maintain our pace and have teams one by one run passed us. But we managed to run the entire time so far, only stopping for food and drink. But during this long run the hole in my suit was now causing rub rash on my inner thigh, and it started to bleed. I ask Jimmy if he has Vaseline, but he didn’t, as we start the next swim I ask the volunteers to call in that I need medical help, as we come up from the swim, they are looking for us, but no one there had any Vaseline either. But then Jimmy comes up with a tin of Vaseline. WOW, my savior. He bikes to town and bought a tin!! On our way back to town, and the end of the first lap, we notice that fewer and fewer teams are passing us on land. As we pass the finish line for the shorter race I see the time is 3:08. The second lap has nearly 4 km less running, so I am feeling really good about our chances to go under 6:30, but since we need to stop after every swim so I can apply more Vaseline, our chances at finishing under 6:00 was very very small.
The start of the second lap included a short run, swim, run then we are at the start of the race. During the first swim of the second lap we see leaders, and about 3-4 other teams. As we run to the next swim I tell Fredrik that I need to slow down on the runs and really take it easy on the swims. It was better to move slowly than to have to stop. Jimmy continues to meet up with us after nearly every swim for drinks, gels, banana and Vaseline, we stop at every aid station as well. But our stops are short and effective.
During the third swim of the second lap we again find ourselves catching teams we hadn’t seen in a while. During the second 1 km swim we made up even more ground. As we come up from the long swim I am starting to feel really tired. But we have just over 10 km left to go, so I eat a gel, drink some water and we move forward. But now I am not only fighting the rub rash between my legs, but the small cramps in my arms and chest area. I tell Fredrik that I have to walk. I do my best to walk fast, and as soon as the cramp is gone we start jogging again. As we arrive to the next swim Viktoria and her partner Martin are heading to the finish line. They are 7km running and 900m swimming ahead of us. As we swim over we meet the second and third place teams, and as we come up out of the water meet another 2-3 teams. I start to wonder how many are out on the 7.2 km run, and how many are behind us. We stop so Fredrik can pee, and I welcome the rest. I do my best to keep jogging around this last long run, but I am so tired that we have to walk several times during this run, but never longer than 30-45s. As we get back into the water, I stop to cool off in the water before starting the swim. At this point in the race, swimming is on autopilot. I couldn’t swim any faster if I had too, and I am pretty sure I was not swimming straight, but with Fredrik guiding the way, we caught up and passed a few teams, that also seem to be struggling with the runs. We now only have three sections to go, we are home free I think to myself. And it looks like 6:30 is still realistic. But the 1.9km run really takes a toll on me. It’s a flat walkway running, but I can feel my shoes scrapping the ground, we wind up walking about a third of that stretch. As we approach the last ~200m swim we decide to not stop at the aid station and run to the finish to try to save on place in the results, but the closet team to us, team 20, I believe are faster on land than us. So we go quickly through the beach, up the stairs and start running to the finish. 800m left to go, we are actually running faster now than we started off the day, 600m left to go, then boom. I stop, I tell Fredrik, I am sorry, but I need to rest. And as I bend over to support myself on my knees I get a very strong seasick feeling. A volunteer is quick to come over and offer water, I drink a little, but they pour the rest over my head and neck. The longer I sit there the more tired I get. I remember Fredrik telling the volunteer that we would take it easy and walk to the finish, but as I try to stand up, I need to sit back down. They had called an ambulance over, and then I don’t remember so much. But apparently my blood suger level was 1.1, so there would be no walking to the finish, but an ambulance ride to the emergency room. At this point I am so tired. I remember lots of questions being ask, then the nurses complaining how wet I am, so they cut off my wetsuit and bib. Agh, I wanted to save my bid, the suit was ok, they can be replace, but there are only two bibs for each race. But the main focus of the medical team now was my low blood sugar and the fact that I had feeling in my left arm, but could not control it. I get an IV drop with sugar water and they poke and pull on me, but nothing in my left arm, scary and funny (to me), but I can tell they are really nervous. Since I can not move my left arm, I can not get close enough to my watch to stop the recording, but decided not to ask the nurses to stop it, and waited until later that evening when I could start to move my arm to stop it myself.
I have never been so tired in my life. Even after my first Ironman, I was up 4-5 hours after enjoying the finish line area, but all I wanted to do was sleep. But that was not going to happen. I have an IV on my right arm, the nurses put a EKG like machine on my chest, and they keep testing my blood. At some point I get a half sandwich, and a drink, then fall asleep. Because of the IV bag I have to pee every hour. Just before midnight, they come to take off the bag, yeah, but that was a short lived yea, because they put a second bag on.
Sunday was lots of testing, and talking, but no real information. But I was being put through all stroke tests they had. By the morning my left arm is back to normal, and they want to send me to the hospital in my town, but there is no medical transport on Sundays, so Jeanette drives over to get me, and drop me off at the local hospital, where the test continue. I don’t get to go home Sunday night, but sleep over. I get an ultrasound on my heart and veins in my neck, I get an MRI on my brain, and more blood test.
Finally Tuesday afternoon after three days of sleeping and testing, they let me go. I have a few follow ups in the coming 4-6 weeks, but I was only told not to drive for 4 weeks, but I think that was just the doctors way to get me to start biking again 😉
I just want to thank everyone for the well wishes, Fredrik for being there with me, Jimmy for all the support on the course and for getting in contact with my wife and Fredrik. To all the volunteers at the race, and of course the staff at both Kalmar and Växjö Hospital.