Vidöstern Open Water 21+km

After 2014’s race I didn’t think I would be back in Värnamo to race again. But early this year in June I was offered to buy a starting spot from a friend who no longer felt he was prepared for a long race. At that time I was training well. But since then, a long family vacation, work trips to Brazil & northern Sweden as well as camping trips put a stop to that. With only 13 km swimming during the month of July I head over to Värnamo for my fourth start of the 21+km race. To make it a real challenge I chose to participate in the non-wetsuit class.

I get a ride with Hampus who will be doing his first start here. We stop for dinner at an Asian buffet before checking out the starting area of tomorrow’s race. We then head to the finish line to get him orientated to the layout before going to the pre-race meeting at 19:00. The meeting room is filled with swimmers. Nothing new is presented during the meeting. But we get to meet some old and new swimmers, enjoy a snack and coffee.

After the meeting Hampus and I pick up some snacks before he goes to set up his camper and I check into my room. Since I will be racing with out a wetsuit I have very little to organize before I lay down in bed to watch TV. Decided to take the opportunity to watch Rampage since it’s not a movie high on my wife’s to watch list.  I manage to go to sleep around 23:45.

Alarm goes off at 05:05. I get dresses, pack my bag, and head to breakfast. I eat a cooked egg, a ham sandwich with some coffee and OJ. Not as much as I usually eat on days like today. But I was glad the hotel offered something that early.  By 05:40 I make my way to the bus. Around 06:00 everyone is there and we drive to the start.

In the starting area I meet up with Hampus, it’s cold in the air, and people are already talking about how the weather will be through out the day. I am not at all nervous, the water looks ok to me, the sun is out and I have nothing to prove to anyone else, but myself, that I can swim a half marathon with out the help of a wetsuit. I won my first race at Vidöstern, took second in my second race and was top 10 in my third. I start the day hoping to swim under 7 hours.

I put on my USA jammers stuff in two gels and out on my safe swimmer. 10 minutes before the start everyone enters the starting area to get checked off. Lots of smiles and nervous looks on faces, but overall a very positive feeling.

07:00 the canon shoots and we start. It’s a long shallow beach, so it’s about 80-100m walk before it’s possible to swim. As I lay down to swim it takes about 2km until I feel comfortable with my swimming. I get to the first depot 3.7km about 1:06 and I still think that 7 hrs might be possible. I notice here that there is another non-wetsuit swimmer and quickly leave the depot. The following 3.8km takes 1:21, but I think it was the weather that slowed me down. For some reason I had to pee a lot during the swim. Thinking back I was cold. But being cocky as I arrive to the second depot I take a gel out of my suit and I eat eat it as I walk up to check in.  The speaker announces that I was currently in third place.  I see the same swimmer from the first depot managed to get to this depot before so I just take a coke from the depot and then continue my swim. Quickly I realize I should have eaten something and know now that this was not going to be a seven hour day.  I get a huge energy dip. The third stage, 5.5 km, takes 2:06. I was so drained that I stay in the third depot for nearly four and a half minutes eating cinnamon buns, Twix and drinking coke. I no longer cared about the people in front of me, I just wanted to keep everyone that was behind me there. I take another gel and put it in my suit as I head out for the fourth leg. This one was only 3.4km but it takes 1:14. I was no longer able to swim free all the time and switch to breaststroke to help stretch my shoulders. My beard has caused abrasion sores on my neck and right shoulder.

As I go out for the final leg I hear that Lily took 3rd in her race, and I know I’m 3rd in my class.  Again as I am in the depot I can see that I am still in third, but still have some contact with the second place swimmer, but I need a break. No stress. I’m there for 12 minutes. (As a reference in 2013 I had a total of 4 minutes in the depots.) As the second place swimmer gets about 200-250 meters out I start my last leg. Again I have a gel in my suit for emergency.  Halfway through the final 5km I take my last gel. I notice how I seem to manage to swim straighter than those ahead of me and I’m slowly catching up. About 500m later the four swimmers in front of me all stop for a drink at the last depot. I pass by the depot and take over second place. I am able to maintain 2nd place until about the 20km boj. My shoulders can’t handle the stroke rate and I’m forced to again rotate free/breast. It hurts to see him slowly pulling away, but I was not in any condition to push myself any farther or hurt myself by not listening to my body. That too was a struggle. Part of me said give 110% now, catch him and pass him for the second place and try to break his confidence.  if I just get a big enough lead he would have to give up, but deep inside I knew if I did that my season would be over. In 2010 I ruined my shoulder at Vansbro and had no desire to do that again. The final 5km takes 1:29 significantly faster than I thought, but 57s behind number two and I took 3rd in the non-wetsuit class.

I’m sore, cold and tired. My wife and oldest daugher Lily meet with me after the race and help me to settle down. After I manage to ge dressed they hold the medal ceremony.

Lily waited to eat with me so we have our lasagne together. I gave my waffle to Jeanette. Lily told me how she was upset they gave her 3rd in a tie. She felt she was first between the two of them.

With four starts I now have a first, second and now third place finish in the 21+. I even have a second in the 5.5km race from 2013.

With one week to nationals today was a recovery day, but I’ll need to get back in the water tomorrow and hopefully get lily to train a little more OW this week since she’ll be racing the youth nationals.

I just hope Lily doesn’t swim faster than me.

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