42+km swimming, yes swimming

Last year in October I was one of 14 swimmers with the honor to be able to sign up for 42+km swim. The race was called The Viking, and was a two way swim of Vidösternsimmet (21+km). The 14 of us would start at night Friday the 7th of August, calculating average swim speed in order to get to the start of the return no later than 07:00 the 8th. I went all in for this race. I had one of the strongest swimmers I know (Hampus Carlsson) as my partner for the first half night swim, and I started pushing myself on our Wednesday distance workouts like never before with our super distance coach Nedal. In January I took on the 1,00,000m challenge to help motivate me to get the distance training I would need for this years goal.



But just like so many races this year, the Viking was postponed to 2021. That was a huge blow to me. I tried to look at the bright side. I was healthy, I was almost back to my swimming level of 2013, and I was given another 12 months to prepare and I still had my 1,000,000m goal for 2020. On August 2nd, a few of us swam a 21km swim locally, just to get a long swim done. It was the fastest 21km I have ever done (5:42), but the last 3 km were tough. It was then that I decided that I had nothing to lose if I attempted to swim a full marathon, 42+km. I had no idea when I would have the time to attempt it, I was not suse if I should swim 6x 7km, or 14x 3 km. In the end I decided to make my attempt into a “backyard” style swim challenge. I would attempt to swim 3km an hour for 14 hours, starting at 05:00. Note, sunrise was around 05:30, sunset just after 20:30 so that was plenty of time for me to get in 14 hours of swimming.

I let people know what I am planning in case anyone wanted to join me through out the day. I get my supplies ready on Saturday. I make ice coffee, release the CO2 from a coke so it is more like sugar water than soda the next day. On top of what you see here I had a bag of cinnamon buns, a Red Bull and two protein drinks.

Before I go to bed I make sure everything I need is ready and by the door. It was easier to go do sleep than I thought it would be. I usually get a thought or scenario stuck in my head that keeps me from being able to sleep. I wake up at 04:20 feeling relaxed. I make my breakfast, pack the car, then wake up Jeanette to take me to the lake around 4:40. I wake her by asking if she wants to put on a robe, she’s like no. Ok, so I ask are you going to drive me to the lake naked? She’s like now, its pitch black outside. I know, but the sun will be coming up soon, so let’s go. We get to the lake just about 5am. I put all my stuff into one of the sheds by the lake. I put the key in my safe swimmer and make my way to the lake. I kiss Jeanette good-bye and thank her for waking up so early. By 05:11 I am in the water starting my journey to 42km.

I tried to not let the fact that I was late on my first start to get to me. I tried to swim as relaxed as I could. My first 3km of the day took 43:03. I was expecting to take closer to 45 minutes. But I was happy with the way it felt. Since I am alone I take the chance to make up for lost time and start my second swim at 5:56 instead of waiting until 06:00 since I had no plans on eating or drinking anything until after 6km. As I start to reach the end of 6km, I see Yang on the beach. He was going to swim 2km during my 3km swims from 0700-12:00. By now the sun is just starting to come over the trees lighting up the lake. My second swim takes 43:34 and I figure this will be the pace I swim for as long as I can.

06:40

Going into the 3rd hour I am thinking, what am I going to think about all day. Luckily I had Yang to talk to for 10-15 minutes every hour he was there. I think I might have stress Yang a little when I started my third swim (his first) at 6:56, but I told him I couldn’t wait any longer with out running the risk of getting cold. My third swim takes 43:26. I have a feeling that having Yang swim his 2km at the same pace as my 3km pushed me more than I would have liked. But we talk about our pace and that we both have a long day ahead of us. He was happy with his first swim and I now have my new concern. The sun is out, it is going to start to get warmer and I am not sure how long I will be able to continue to swim with a wetsuit. But I decided to take off my swim cap. I have the yellow safe swimmer, so people can see me.

My fourth swim starts at 08:01. It is really and uneventful thing to swim the same 1500m course over and over again. I see Yang as we both pass the starting point (halfway) at the same time, and I know I have a good pace, or we both slowed down. and it turns out, we did both slow down. This 3km took 44:28 and now Hampus has shown up to support me for 3 hours before he heads off to watch Formula 1 race with his family. As I am refueling, Hampus is talking about swimming his first swim as 4000m so he can get a good time for our 3860m race. Jeanette shows up with some of the snacks I had left at home and double checks what I want on my pizza for when she comes back around 12:45.

It’s really hard to just let a swimmer go, so naturally as we start my fifth swim I am keeping pace with Hampus for about 450m when I remember he was going to push this swim. I slow down slightly and finished this round in 43:11. As we are resting between swims Markus stops by on his way to the pool.

Yang, myself and Hampus

At 10:01 I start my 6th swim. The sun and warm water is really starting to get to me. But I try to find a relaxing stroke and keep my head down, only looking up when I have too. This swim took 44:28 and now I have something new to think about. My first Vansbrosimningen back in 2007 took me 45:15. I was so disappointed that I didn’t swim under 45, and now here I am 13 years later and I just managed six in a row under 45 minutes.

Before the start of my 7th swim all I can think about besides the pizza, was how long could I managed to swim under 45 minutes, and when I would need to take off my wetsuit. During the first 450m of this swim I stop and open my wetsuit about 4-5cm to allow for some water to flow into my back. By the time I finish these 3km I had opened my suit to about 15-20cm. All the stopping to play with my suit and the extra drag it created caused this swim to take over 45 minutes for the first time. 45:39 to be exact. Yang finished his 2km strong and decided that since he had already broken his previous distance record of 7.5km with his current 10km, that he would try for another 2km, and Hampus would swim his final hour.

So we both go out for what was my 8th swim and Yangs 6th swim. I was able to maintain my previous pace with the zipper on my back open with 45:34.

My wife shows up with our kids and my pizza. They were going to stay and play in the water for as long as they were all happy. I have a slice of my pizza, I thank Yang for his company the previous six hours and then I head out for my 9th swim of the day. Energized by the pizza or the presence of my family, I am not sure which, but I swim this one in 44:50, but I am definitely starting to feel some discomfort in my left shoulder. It was during this swim that I started to doubt if I could finish all 14 swims, or if my shoulder would force me to stop. But the sun is rising, the water and air is getting warm with every passing hour, and energy is my biggest concern.

The 10th swim of the day was by far the hardest. I could feel my left thumb touching my belly every now and then, so I knew that my stroke was starting to fall apart. I have to open my wetsuit 100% on the back and dive under the surface a few times to cool off. That was it, I was going to have to take off my wetsuit soon, but wasn’t really ready to give up yet. My 10th swim took a whopping 46:23, but considering all the stopping I did, I was still feeling ok.

Now I am starting to think of the English Channel (EC) swim. It’s roughly 33km and I was about to start my 11th swim, which would be the equivalent of swimming the EC. This 11th swim was probably where I decided mentally that there was only two things that would prevent me from finishing this 42km attempt. Lightning or another stroke. Lightening seemed far fetched considering the weather, but the idea of having another stroke started to get real. I started to notice everything in my body. The goose bumps on my arms, the lite dizzy feeling I had gotten as I climbed out after the 10th swim. I knew then that is was time to finish today’s swim the old fashion way, with no help from a wetsuit or run the risk of getting a heat stroke. 11 of 14 swims completed. This one would be my slowest of the wetsuit swims, 46:47.

With the equivalent of an EC swim and only having three laps to go. I make my way into the water in my swimsuit just after 16:00. It took nearly the first 1500 meters to get accustomed to the feeling of swimming in just a swimsuit. My swim time clearly shows that swimming in a wetsuit is an 8-10% advantage when it comes to speed and energy consumption. The 12th swim takes 53:36. As I come up I see Hampus standing on the deck. He asks if there is anything he can do to help, so I jokingly say, you can jump in and let me draft behind you. He was quick to say, OK. But I said I was just kidding, it wasn’t needed. During my feeding break, I ask him if he had time and energy he was more than welcome to stay and keep an eye on me from the beach or swim with me. He decided to swim with me, so as I go out for my 13th swim of the day, he bikes away to pick up his suit and manages to jump in right behind me after my first 1500m. He catches up around 2000m and asks me where I want him to swim. I say just off to the side so that you can see me.

So he of course starts to swim back stroke and for the rest of that swim all I can think about is the movie Top Gun when Kelly McGillis is talking to Tom Cruise about the limitations of a MiG:
Charlie : Excuse me, Lieutenant. Is there something wrong?
Maverick : Yes ma’am, the data on the MiG is inaccurate.
Charlie : How’s that, Lieutenant?
Maverick : Well, I just happened to see a MiG 28 do a…
Goose : We!
Maverick : Uh, sorry, Goose. *We* happened to see a MiG 28 do a 4g negative dive.
Charlie : Where did you see this?
Maverick : Uh, that’s classified.
Charlie : It’s what?
Maverick : It’s classified. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.
Charlie : So, lieutenant, where exactly were you?
Maverick : Well, we…
Goose : Thank you.
Maverick : Started up on a 6, when he pulled from the clouds, and then I moved in above him.
Charlie : Well, if you were directly above him, how could you see him?Maverick : Because I was inverted.
Iceman : [coughs whilst saying]  Bullshit.
Goose : No, he was man. It was a really great move. He was inverted.
Charlie : You were in a 4g inverted dive with a MiG28?
Maverick : Yes, ma’am.
Charlie : At what range?
Maverick : Um, about two meters.
Goose : It was actually about one and a half I think. It was one and a half. I’ve got a great Polaroid of it, and he’s right there, must be one and a half.
Maverick : Was a nice picture.
Goose : Thanks.
Charlie : Eh, lieutenant, what were you doing there?Goose : Communicating.
Maverick : Communicating. Keeping up foreign relations. You know, giving him the bird!
Goose : [Charlie looks puzzled, so Goose clarifies]  You know, the finger
Charlie : Yes, I know the finger, Goose.
Goose : I-I’m sorry, I hate it when it does that, I’m sorry. Excuse me.”

And I started to think about what Hampus would say after my swim.
Hampus: Yes I was there when Ryan swam his 13th lap. I was right in front of him.
Doubter: Well if you were right in front of him then how do you know he actually swam.
Hampus: Because I was swimming backstroke 🙂

It was probably the funniest between swims break, talking about that and other Top Gun stories. My watch locked up during the saving of the 13th swim, but luckily Jeanette was around so I could use her watch for my 14th and final swim of the day.

Both the start of my 12th and 13th swims were slightly late, so it is now 18:11 as I start my final 3km of the day. I had a goal to finish under 14 hours and now I was going to be cutting it close. I asked Jeanette to stay by the deck, or to at least come back out in 25 minutes with a water bottle that had Red Bull so I could take a mid swim pause. I even had a gel in my safe swimmer, just in case. As I started debating in my head what would be worse; to swim slow, having my shoulder hurt for 55 minutes and miss my 14 hour goal, or to push it, have my shoulder hurt for less time now, but maybe longer after and make the 14 hours.

I didn’t know the answer, but my body reacted to the thoughts and as I get to about the 1200m point I stop and take a gel. As I am swimming the 300m back to the deck I see Jeanette standing there with my bottle. I drink, we joke then I take off for the final 1500m of the day. It had taken a few hours, but I was finally comfortable with my stroke even though I was compensating some what with my left arm. When I get to the 2700m mark I ask Hampus if he had the energy to swim ahead and ask Jeanette to record my finished. Said and done.

As I get to the deck I see several people on the deck, it even looked like they were clapping. I then notice that even the kids playing in the water are clapping. Alexander had asked those there having fun to applaud for my finish. I get to where I can stand, I hit stop on Jeanette’s watch, it says 49:55.

After I stop for a finish line picture, all the excitement of the day, all the swimming I had done sets in. I am so tired. I am so sore. But I am so happy to have finished under 14 hours. I was so happy to have all the support I had all day. In person at the lake, on Facebook through Jeanette’s and others post about my swimming, on Strava since I was logging each swim as a 3km since I had to charge my watch to be certain it lasted the 14 hours.

I later hear from Jeanette that there was two guys swimming around the beach area saw when we were heading to the finish. One of them says, look how fast they are swimming and the other guys was like, yeah, but they didn’t swim that far. He had only seen when we started the final 1500m, so Alex corrected him and informed him that I started swimming around 5am and was about to finished 42km. As I was changing, they walked by and congratulated me on my big swim.

I did it. I said I would swim 42km in 2020, and on August 16th I did just that. In 117 km I will have even reached my other goal of 2020 which is 1,000km swimming in 2020. I am hoping now that I can stay healthy and continue to swim well for the next 12 months and do even better in my next 42km swim.

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