Karl-Oskarsimmet 2020

Saturday the 13th of June was the first time in the history of our local OW race that I actually was able to participate. In 2016, it was a very very small race with two distances; 925m and 1850m. I spent all morning helping to get the race area set-up, then all afternoon on a boat keeping an eye on the swimmers. The distance 1850 came from the year that Karl-Oskar and Kristina left Sweden on their way to the US. A masters swimmer and local artist helped up create our logo from a photo of the two. I really like the way it turned out.

Logo made by Mona B Klöfver

In order to attract swimmers from farther away than our local pool of swimmers in 2017 we added the 5000m. 2017-2018 again I was all over the place before during and after the race. In 2019, we made the course more permanent by placing the buoys out in the lake during the winter, through the ice using GPS and concrete plinths. This allows us to have course records that actually mean something, and it also allows swimmers to compare their results year after your. And I was out of town so I missed the race.

Because of the Covid-19 restrictions in place we had to limit the number of starts to 50 swimmers per race. Originally we limited it to 40, but after talking with the authorities, we learned that the volunteers were not considered a part of the max 50 people. We even spread out the starting times of the three races to ensure that we only had swimmers from the actual race inside the race area.

Despite having to limit the number of swimmers, we managed to have a record year when it came to the number of participants in two of the three races. This year the 5000m race was the most popular race with 50 registered swimmers and 46 coming to the start and 45 finishing.

My day started at the lake at 06:45. I was first on location and started moving the barriers to close off our race center. By 07:15 there were enough volunteers present I could move on to fixing the swim course. Two of the helping buoys vanished and needed to be replaced. Luckily for me Hampus was willing to help. We quickly got them in place and by 08:45-09:00 we were race ready. I felt bad asking people to come at 07:00 if we could not open the gates until 10:30, but in a normal year we would have had other things like the grill and food stand to set up.

Several racers started showing up early, but we were good at keeping them out until 10:30. Considering the age and how few participants the 925m race had, we allowed one parent per swimmer into the race center. First pre-race meeting at 10:40. The kids seem nervous and excited at the same time. What a great race for all the kids. My daughter Lily won the race and set a new course record. So excited for her since she has had shoulder problems this spring.

The second race was at 12:20 and we let the next group of swimmers in around 11:50. Luckily for me Lily had time to pick up a lunch for me after her 925m race. The second race goes smoothly with a hiccup during the awards ceremony. The race was a mixture of competition and open class swimmers and because one of the top 3 men was out of the competition class we managed to give the 5th place overall swimmer third place, but it should have gone to the 4th overall. Lessoned learned make sure to print out the results and not just look at the screen on your mobile!!! Even here we got a new course record on the mens side.

Quite a few of the 5000m swimmers were around watching the 1850m race, but we had told them we’d open for them at 13:30 so we had to keep them out. Good thing too. It took until about 13:25 to get all the 1850m swimmers out. Very positive atmosphere in and around the race center. At the same time we let the swimmers in I go through the race for the volunteers on the canoes and boat and notice that the larger buoy farthest from the start has moved about 25-30m and ask the team on a boat to go move it. Around 13:40 I see they are not having any luck because of the wind. In only my swimsuit and t-shirt I run 500m to jump into the lake and move it myself. Visually it’s right where is should be. I then run back to the start, put on my wetsuit and manage to get into the lake at 13:50, just enough time to say hi to the other swimmers, swim around and adjust my wetsuit.

My goal before the race was to swim under 1:15. I have been feeling really good at practice this spring and have been outside in the lake a lot more than most people and feel really comfortable in the water. The horn blows and I start swimming. It feels really good. I don’t have any idea where I am in the field but for the entire first lap, 1250m, I only see a few people in front of me and feel someone behind me. The entire first lap I am looking to see how many yellow and blue caps are in front of me. Around the start of the second lap I learn that it is Pär that is swimming behind me. I manage to keep him behind me for another lap. But with about 75m before the halfway point I have stop to fix my goggles because the seaweed knocked one of the bands off. Rather I knocked it off trying to remove the seaweed while swimming. Get back into swimming with Pär and what I think is three-four other swimmers. I can clearly see that two are women and one is a man in the open class. As we go out on the third lap my left calf cramps up. Really hard and really fast. I am doing everything I can to keep my arms moving while flexing my foot down to stretch out my calf. I am so glad that our coach Nedal started having us swim with a rubber band around our feet during some sets, because this is exactly how it felt. My legs were stiff and of now real help for balance or forward thrust. For pretty much the entire third lap I am fighting off this cramp and can see Pär and the others pull away from me.

Finally as I am about to head out on the fourth lap, the cramp goes away. I feel really good and start to push forward. But as I round the fountain at the start of the fourth, my right calf cramps up! Seriously?!?! I know now I can not catch those in front of me, too nervous to look behind me so I do my best to keep my pace for the lap. I hated not knowing if I was on pace for 1:15 or if that goal was out of reach.

With about 400m left to go in the race, both cramps are gone, and I can swim across the finish line in 1:13:44. Since the buoy moved, the total distance was closer to 5200m, but it was as they say the same for everyone. No new course records this year in the 5000m, but the current course records will be hard to beat by your average swimmers. Maybe next summer we will see the Swedish elite return.

The only thing I can think about as I finish is how am I going to get out of the lake with these two calves. I manage to get my self out of the lake, and then spend the next 30-40 minutes talking to the other swimmers before I went back to work, and taking down the race area.

Some of the Växjö SS 5km swimmers who happen to also be apart of the Vidösternsimmet crew

Turns out I was 6th overall man and Lily was the 6th over women to finish the 5000m. Lily was only 12 minutes behind me. Its a real shame we have to wait another year to swim the 21km in Värnamo. She will definitely have a real shot at beating me in 15 months.

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