On Saturday I raced in my first ÖTILLÖ World Series race. I have been slowly building up to this with the SwimRunMan races in France last year (Verdon, Vassiviere, Laffrey) and ExSwimRun in Sweden in May. I was really excited about the Engadin race because the percentage of running was slightly higher than usual, the race is at altitude, and there are some tough climbs on the trails. I thought all of those factors would suit me and give me a chance to compete with the other more experienced swimrun athletes.
It was a perfect day for racing with a calm morning, still lakes, and some sun for a warm, but not too hot day. I had a race plan of pacing myself through the first three runs and swims, then making sure I ate enough and drank enough (nutrition and hydration are a challenge in swimrun races) in the middle part of the race, and finally pushing on the more technical trails towards the end. As expected, the race started with a chaotic and fast first run. I settled into position behind the first few teams and a few solo athletes and let them set the pace and do the work sighting and finding the route.
At the first aid station I was the only person who stopped and a couple of racers passed me. I wasn't worried and knew that being smart and keeping my energy levels up would help later in the race. The fourth run was the longest of the day at just under 10km and with 300m of climbing. As the trail went up I could see the athletes ahead of me and I passed by quite a few as I ran up the steepest parts of the trail. By the next swim I was just behind the leading team and in second place in the solo category. I held this position through swim 4, run 5, and swim 5.
During the next run up a steep climb to an alpage with a view down to the lakes, I overtook the leading team and caught the leader in the solo division (Alexis Charrier). Alexis and I ran the long descent together and just before the next swim I stopped at an aid station that he ran through. This pause opened a small gap and also three teams came up close behind me. In the first 200m of the next swim the three teams came up to me at a strong pace and I joined this paceline to give myself an easier swim and make the most of the drafting benefit. The three teams, Alexis and I all exited the swim together in Maloja.
On this climb out of the Maloja camping and during the technical descent back to Isola, Matthieu and Thomas (Team ARK) made a push to take the lead. This spread out all the teams and solo athletes. I realized that this would be a good chance to make a move on Alexis if I could catch Matthieu and Thomas by the next swim and then swim with them from Isola to Chaste. I caught them with a few hundred meters to go before the swim and in the swim followed their feet which opened a small gap on Alexis and gave me an easier swim.
With two more swims and three more runs I knew I had to do the best effort I could to hold on to my position. I knew the course from some reconnaissance earlier in the week and paced myself to achieve the best that I could over those final sections. Matthieu and Thomas were running faster than me so I was on my own all the way to the finish. On the last swim the World Series route joined the Sprint route and there were a lot of athletes in the lake and on the trails around me. It felt good to move past them (even though they were in a different race) and I pushed all the way to the finish.
At the finish V was waiting and cheering for me and it was a perfect end to the race! I was very happy with how I raced, the consistent effort I made, and how I managed my tactics and position to do the best race I could. The route was beautiful and challenging and everything I love about swimrun. I think we'll be back next year!
|Exiting the water after the first swim of the day.
|Run 4 was the longest of the day with a climb up to a cable car station and a long descent back to the lake.
|Finished after just under 5 hours on the trails and in the lakes.
|On the podium.
While I was racing in the World Series, Vanessa did the Experience event in the solo category. This was her second swimrun race after we did the Experience race in Cannes as a team together last year. She finished in 1:18 which was ahead of her goal time and resulted in a 7th place finish. It was a big step up for V to race alone and she did great!
|V completed her first solo race in the Experience distance (5.7km running, 1.4km swimming).
Race result8 July 2023
43.4km (37.5km run, 5.9km swim)