Thursday, 19 October 2017

racereport 2017-10: Ötillö

The succeeding transcription is about my DNF at the 2017 Ötillö competition. It was nodding on my desktop way too long. I started it a couple of days after the race. Until today I never managed to complete it. It still hurts to think or talk about this DNF. As I decided to write about my sporting undertakings there are also shortcomings that need to be protocolled. But read yourself…

The only person I really wanted to speak to was my wife. Once Anders Malm collected us at the Mörtö Bunsö checkpoint I did not want to interact with anybody. Raceday Monday means that a lot of folks pretend to work. Instead of being “productive” they are truly following what is going on between Sandhamn and Utö. In the last three years we were able to entertain and it was nice to get so much attention and read all the nice texts once the race was over. Not so this year. A quick search in the Ötillö 2017 results will deliver you three letters behind team number 12 – DNF.
Did Not Finish
In racing, Did Not Finish (DNF) denotes a participant who does not finish a given race, either because of a mechanical failure, injury, or involvement in an accident. The term is used in all forms of racing, including automotive racing, horse racing, cycling, track and distance running, and skiing, among other types of racing. Athletes try very hard to avoid receiving a DNF, and many associate it with a negative stigma.
Mechanical failure seems to hit the note pretty perfect. My body failed on me in a way I have never experienced it before. Conditions on this first September Monday were nothing short of epic. Hail, gales and surf made an exciting course even rougher. Fabian and I were looking forward to the elements and all the specialties that got added to the course.

Picture: Henrik Kindgren
At the first water entrance on Sandhamn we chose to enter the seawater on the far right. We wanted to escape the big bunch of scorching testosterone AKA the main field of competitors. From the time when we raced Ötillö for the first time in 2013 the standard transformed fairly significantly. There is no easy sailing on the opening long swim to Vindalsö as people occasionally disremember that the competition is lengthy and that it does not make sense to swim across other teams tow-lines and hit fellow racers with hand-paddles.

Hardened GSP-skipper Fabian steered us around all kinds of trouble as we efficiently voyaged on the right side of the searing horde. The first swim went without any difficulties and we were confronted with the slippery rocks on Vindalsö. We took it very easy. After some changeovers we saw that Thomas Schreven crashed pretty seriously. Shortly after his wife Jasmina ran towards us we witnessed him lying lifeless on his back. Later on we learned that he was OK but at that time it was an eye opener and a very distressing sign. Notwithstanding our cautious tactic on the technical stone parts we found our rhythm fast.

Picture: Henrik Kindgren
I was happy as soon as we arrived on Runmarö and subsequently hit the first longer stretch of “clean” running. My body was already cold. Frostier then I wanted him to be and chillier than usual. It was good to warm up with some decent and fast-ish running. My hands and feet heated up and the cheers of all our friends at the aid station at Styrsvik assisted to get the body back to normal. We gained some placed and trailed each other nicely. The legs felt good despite frosty feet.

A long story is told pretty fast. Despite our good performance I never warmed up. We tried to speed up to get some heat back into my body. I tried to eat more. I tried to swim with a higher frequency. Nothing seemed to work. I started to feel sick and after one of the most stunning yet daunting and rough experiences I ever witnessed my body and effectually my mind gave up. After a mythical “pig swim” that was a pure roller coaster and an experience of a lifetime my body shut down. I could not see properly and my body lacked any sense of balance. A feeling I have never witnessed before and that started to scare me. When we reached Mörtö Bunsö Energy station I was afraid of the subsequent 240 meter swim segment.

Picture: Henrik Kindgren
Fabian asked me if we should drop out. After hesitating I replied with a hushed “yes”.

Looking back it still was the right choice and I do not know what would have happened during the next long swim that was ahead of us. I was properly the fittest I have ever been for this race. Both of us were keen and both of us were looking forward to the competition we love so much. To drop out still feels strange and wrong but was the right decision. Vast respect to Fabian who dealt with this like the true friend he is. We were speaking about such bumpy circumstances for a while. Now that we got them we could not enjoy them to the full extend we would have liked to.

This year’s Ötillö left us with an even stronger bond and the keenness to come back and finish this competition properly.

Picture: Henrik Kindgren

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