I started writing this 6 weeks ago, but for some reason I never found the time to site down and finish it. Better late than never.
Vansbro 2017 is probably the least planned race of my life, if you don’t count all the times Viola counts down from three to race to the car when I pick her up from daycare.
As I wrote before, June 21 my swimming friends asked if I wanted to follow with them up to Vansbro for a quick visit and swim. That night I registered and a few days later got accepted to the “elite 2” starting group. Which basically means I can swim 3 km and not have to fight all the breaststroke swimmers.
Friday morning I have breakfast and drop the little ones off at summer daycare, and then just after 09:00 the guys picked me up and we were off for a 540 km car ride up to Fredrik’s summer cabin in Svärdsjö. With stops for lunch and ice cream as well as to pick up some food for dinner and breakfast we arrived to the cabin nearly 8 hours later.
Fredrik’s father offers us some whiskey, and we spend the next 4 hours just relaxing lake side. Around 22:00 we all decide to go to bed, it would be an early start the next day. Even though I am tired, I cannot sleep. So I watch a few episodes of Zoo season 2 and finally go to sleep just after 23:30.
My alarm goes off at 05:45 and after a scrambled egg breakfast we take off to Vansbro. Vansbro is a little run down town in the middle of the woods. I guess that during the two weeks of competitions more people visit Vansbro, than during the other 50 weeks of the year. During the course of 8 days there is a 70.3 triathlon, 130km bike race, a swimrun, 10km, 3km (two days), 1500m and 1000m OW race. there was even a off road marathon race a few years.
We arrive in town just after 08:00, find a good place to park the car that gives us a quick getaway when we are ready to go. Considering there will be over 7000 swimmers with their family and friends and all the volunteers, it was important not to get blocked in town.
We make our way to the registration tent and pick up our swim caps and timing chips. After we have them, we look around the sports tent and I pick up a new pair of TYR goggles and we run into a few other swimmers that we know. By 08:45 we start to walk to the starting area, roughly 2 km away.
The starting area is like on big class reunion. You get a chance to meet other swimmers from around Sweden that you only really meet 2-3 times a year. When there is about 30 minutes to the start, people slowly start to get ready to race. At 10:00 the fastest 70-100 guys start. Five minutes later the fastest ladies take off and my group makes our way down to the water. Once in the the water I make my way over to the left side of the river to avoid being trampled on at the 200-250 turn to the right.
Vansbro has since my last swim in 2013 changed the course, and my strategy to stay to the left at the start and then swim in the middle of the lake was not possible. As we start to swim I feel great. I am taking long strokes, I can see 98% of the other swimmers to my right, but as we get to the point where we are suppose to turn right, swimmers are continuing straight. People have decided to swim on the left side of the river. around 250-300m I am surrounded by swimmers, I get overwhelmed, my heart rate jumps, I have a hard time breathing. I completely panic. I stop! I take off my goggles, I adjust my wetsuit and then count to ten. I look up and see that there is no real pattern to how people are swimming, but that my best bet was to swim in the middle since there was a line of buoys and it did not seem that crowded. Around 500m I am back with the pack. around 1000m I start to notice that there are large holes between swimmers and I start to pass swimmers one at a time. I continue to swim my own pace, my heart rate is stable, and my swimming feels good. As we approach 2000m and the next right turn, I notice how all the swimmers on the left start to move over. I do what I can to avoid contact, and as we turn up the for the last 1000m, I hug the right side. if anyone is going to pass me they are going to have to go to my left. As I get to 450m those passing me on the left are doing their best to push me up against the side, so I move all the way over to the open area and decide to swim alone along the left side of the course. At this point no one was able to pass me, but I was able to get in front of at least two swimmers.
From the time I registered I had a hard time setting a goal, but I was definitely not going to swim slower than 45 minutes which is my time from 2007. I also knew I had not chance of going under 35 minutes, my time from 2013. But 40 minutes seemed like a realistic goal time.
As I climb out of the water I see all of my teammates. My time 40:56 gave me 116th place out of nearly 6500 swimmers, but last in my team. I was three minutes after my teams fastest swimmer. I was happy with my time and total placement, but the panic attack I got at the start stuck in my mind. It stuck in my mind for more than a week. Maybe that is why I was not able to find time to write this.
The only reason I can think of for the panic, was that it had been nearly 12 months since I last raced, and I had not pushed myself the way I did at the start of this race. Either way, since this race I have managed to swim over 100 km in the lakes around Växjö and I am slowly getting back to the swimmer I once was…