Excerpt from my interview in Swimrun Life Magazine with Nancy Heslin regarding ÖTILLÖ:
SLM: You and team Rich Roll – aka Team Finding Ultra – finished the 2017 ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship with a time of 10:44:46. The day after, you and Rich recorded a podcast, a candid summary of a monumental event that had just happened. Now, six months later, can you share your introspection of the race?
CH: It was truly a special day because it opened my eyes and perspective to this beautiful sport that was created in a beautiful location. To this day I know that the raw beauty of those islands and the conditions we had that day will most likely never be matched in future events I do.
I was not looking to do a swimrun again – I could tell I was getting competitive with it, starting to think about how to race faster, stronger, more aggressively … and now I understand better that this is not what ÖTILLÖ is about: it’s about teamwork, camaraderie, sharing nature with a friend, with someone willing to suffer through a long day with you.
SLM: Listening to the Rich Roll podcast (No 313/ ÖTILLÖ! Meeting Nature Writ Large), I had the impression that you had “been there, done that” in respect to ÖTILLÖ. What prompted you to come back for the 2018 edition?
CH: When my long-time friend, Frank, asked if he could sign us up, initially I was hesitant, plus I knew the chance of getting in again was limited. Once we got a spot, I thought more about it: this is about sharing lifelong memories with someone – in this case one of my best friends.
This is what swimrun is to me: taking on an adventure – truly an incredibly immersive one – and sharing it with someone. Overcoming adversity, supporting each other, and experiencing such a day in that raw, exposed environment is memorable with anyone: to have the privilege, the opportunity to do it with a close friend – that has the ability and fitness. That is something many can only wish for. In the true spirit of what ÖTILLÖ co-founder Michael Lemmel taught me on the islands those days last September, I return – to share camaraderie, nature, adventure and endurance with another friend.
Rich and I walked into it blind – not knowing how powerful the experience is. Now, I feel even more excited and privileged to return with a friend and share more of Michael’s vision.
Of course we want to be competitive – represent ourselves well. I believe in progression, moving forward – so we will focus intensely on the training and our preparation. I feel even more responsible now that I know the course, to train accordingly. But as I learned last year – this is about fully experiencing that day – however it goes. I don’t doubt we’ll be fit and ready, but I will also be certain to emphasise the spirit of swimrun: taking care of each other.
SLM: You were happy with the training you did for the ÖTILLÖ 2017. How will your approach differ for this year?
CH: I felt like my years of training on trails and a variety of terrain had me ready. I will add some footwork drills this year and also some specific stability and strength work in the gym for that day in September.
I also believe there is a way to train specifically for the 20km run in the latter half of the race, to be more powerful, and have better leg turnover and speed. I will surely keep that in mind as well. My partner is a solid swimmer and solid runner. It will be important to keep him healthy – Like Rich last year, most people don’t have 25 years of endurance and ultra-endurance events in their system like I do.
Swimming remains the “easier” piece. I was prepared for that swim, even the pig swim, from open water swimming in the San Francisco Bay. We have that at our doorstep here – water temperatures around 11°C-13°C all summer with currents and choppy waves.
What works really well for me and also my training partner – are long simulation days. From nutrition to hydration, mindset to physical limits – it all gets tested. I feel as though swimrun can be simulated quite well up to about 10km of swimming and 45-50km of running.
SLM: What equipment did you guys use, and will you use the same gear again?
CH: Yes, and I won’t change that a bit. My sponsor, ROKA, is very happy that I’ll be doing the event again. I will also continue to reach out to the experts in the field: Jonas Colting gave me great feedback last year and I will use some of his products as well.
Even in last year’s conditions, I never felt like our gear was limiting. So, that will be a big relief in our training, planning and logistics this year – knowing that our gear works.