Monday, 15 August 2016

Racereport 2016-08: Rockman SwimRun

„Man, I was so tired all week. Today was probably the first day I felt almost recovered.” I’m on the phone to my Rockman co-player Alan. A week after the 2016 version of the fjord-based SwimRun competition in around the Lysefjorden, a stunning creek situated in the Ryfylke region in south-western Norway, the 14 swims and 14 runs produced some tired bodies and minds.

More or less I’m pleased to hear that I’m not the only one that suffers with post-race lethargy. The same day I was chatting to Alan, my girlfriend woke me up after 16 (!) hours of delightful snooze business. Although such a sleeping-routine was no problem back in my teenager days it is something I never ever believed I’m still capable off these days - Rockman left quite an impression.

Photo: Matti Rapila Andersson Photography
With the iconic Norseman Triathlon as well as the prominent Tromso Skyrace on the race-schedule, Norway was busy hosting three very characteristic and appreciated Extreme endurance competitions on one weekend. On the ship to the 2014 ÖtillÖ race we met the Clapham Bruderwunderz, Alan and Hamish from London. Lastly it was time to assemble a Brotherly SwimRun bound as we formed the Clapham Sparkle Party. 35 kilometres of running and 6 kilometres of swimming seemed to be a good outing.

It was still dark when we left our hotel on race morning. Tired faces all around as two ferryboats left the peaceful Stavanger harbour towards Fantahålå in the middle of the Lysefjorden. Unlike last year, the start procedure got altered. No water start this year. Straight in from the back of the vessels. We lined up and after a short and distinctive horn beep it was on. The crystal clear fjord waters were icy but not unpleasant. Swiftly the race got stretched out. It was interesting to see how a SwimRun competition reveals when the first discipline is a lengthier swim. We whirled into a little bay, around a buoy and trailed the imposing rock faces.

Alan and myself after the 1600 meter swim. (Photo: Jonas Demnert)
950 meters later 3-4 teams were already a couple of meters ahead. Alan and myself swam in the big chasing pack. We left the fjord with a bunch of crews and climbing commenced straight away. Proper scrambling. No running. The course contour was sharp for a reason. 2800 meters of elevation have to be gained somewhere. Throughout the first portion of the race there was no real flat part. Deep and technical mud trails were winding through stunning thick woodland. Norway’s magnificence became imminent.

On a course that was well marked at all times and “…totally logical” as Jan Kriska fittingly stated afterwards, we had trouble finding the next swim section. In the end we just scrambled down the woods in the direction of the pond as we spotted other contenders in the lake. A mere of 600 meters later we came closer and closer to the first climax of the course – the Preikestolen. The nearly flat 25 by 25 metre plateau sits on the north side of the fjord and is a tourist magnet. On the way up we encountered numerous hikers and the 604 meter elevation left its mark. I hurt. It was rigid and technical running/hiking up the unreasonable stony paths. Still the impressive scenery took the eyes off.

Photo: Matti Rapila Andersson Photography
Checkpoint number 2 was located on top of the Preikestolen. We took the time to take a holidaymaker portrait with Slovakian Team Kriska. Got some food in and went straight back down the peak. Whereas the running down the rocky trails was technical and challenging, the subsequent part through the forest was nothing less of impressive. Looking back it was exciting to run in such a landscape. By now tired, the main focus was the path and all the natural obstacles. It was pretty hard to get bored. A longish scramble along the trails was just broken up by a little swim across a very icy lake. We ran on. Had another great view across the Lysefjorden. We met the Rockman himself, who frightened the sxxx out of me when he suddenly stood beside the trail screaming. That  downhill was fun. But the tired legs did not like it. Eventually we arrived back at the shoreline. Brattli checkpoint offered much needed food and drinks. A 1600 meter swim along the coastline was next.

We jumped in from the little pier and found our rhythm fast. Alan was the pacemaker and I struggled in the back. During this section we reeled in more and more teams. We arrived a couple of minutes later at Bakken Kai to a partying spectator boat. With the infamous “Seaside Sprint” approaching we knew we had to focus on the trail. While creating the course, the organisers titled the 2 kilometre run section “Sprint”. They thought it was just a little transition run to the next swim. Little did they know. We climbed and jumped across rock blocks to reach another checkpoint and the only tarmac section of the course.

Photo: Matti Rapila Andersson Photography
Running on a tarmac road felt fine. We plugged away nicely but my energy level went lower and lower. The backroads were curving and mostly uphill. I had a hard time. Occasional views around the area gave us the first glimpse of the infamous 4444 Flørli Stairs. A set of steep steps going straight up the mountain on the other side of the fjord. We joked about it. Another steep downhill. I was happy to see the water again at the Kasaklubben Checkpoint. We reached the swim entry with Simon Björnholm and Pontus Flingdal. We went back and forth with this guys for big parts of the race. After the usual banter we swam on. 1700 meters across the fjord. A very choppy section. 

It was long. But eventually we arrived. Flørli harbour was rocking. The incredible friendly and unique Rockman staff as well as the spectators made noise. We needed this encouraging dynamism. 4444 wooden steps were next. “500!” Alan shouted with a huge smile. I just shook my head. The way up the wodden steps was a long one. Counting was to demoralising so I tried to switch of. I put the head down and tried to move. Just move. Move with an empty tank. “Now, let’s fake a smile!” Alan again. There was a photographer waiting at the top. I grinned as I recognised the end was close.

Photo: Matti Rapila Andersson Photography
I did not really recognise the next swim section. I was cold. No surprise. When we exited on the other side of the lake there was a guy waiting with hot coffee. What a legend. But the scrambled continued with some coffin in the veins. We met the “Rockman Angels” on top and cruised on back to Flørli. I was not angry that we could not run across the Dragons Neck trail. The bad weather made it impossible to run this section of the course.

Despite the fact that I still suffered a good bit on the plateau I gained back some momentum on the technical downhill back to the finish line. We passed some teams and also our Swedish/Norwegian friends Simon and Pontus. These guys showed a lot of character and sportsmanship as they stepped aside and made way for us as we passed them. SwimRun spirit at its best. Alan and I had so much fun running down this part of the course. Everything was aching and sore. But we loved every step. It was all smiles as we arrived in Flørli as the ninth team.

Photo: Rockman Crew
Rockman is a character. The course is wild. Really wild. On the finish line I shook my head in disbelief. Now I look back with only positive memories. The Rockman crew shaped a unique and exclusive happening. Together with their crew of helpers it is a race to remember. So many positive vibes. Keep it just that way. Takk Norge. Takk Rockman.

Tune of the day: Kno – Bones

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