Tuesday, 5 December 2017

racereport 2017-11: Hellas Frostbite

I get a message on my phone: “What is the last chance to race a SwimRun this year?” It is my pal Basti texting from Germany. He is keen for some exercise and a leisure stopover in Stockholm. However it is already late September there is still one competition left in the calendar.

The first Saturday in December is the traditional day for a classic in the SwimRun diary. I had seen the photographs and I had heard the anecdotes. What sounded like a entirely absurd idea caught my attention and those of several of my group of friends. SwimRun itself is pretty distinct as you possibly face all kinds of weather conditions, but a SwimRun in Swedish wintertime sounded like the satirical icing (!) on the multisport cake. The decision was made quick and a group of friends was organized to come over to Sweden. The apparent choice of activity: Hellas Frostbite SwimRun - conceivably the frostiest Run-Swim-Run competition on the calendar.

As soon as you face extreme circumstances, the equipment talk goes into an extreme as well. With an outside temperature of about +/-0 degrees combined with a water temperature of just about +1 degrees we had some extended debates on what to wear. From experienced Frostbite competitors I heard that it was pretty common in the last few years that people did overheat. The running chunk of the race around Hellasgården is significantly longer then the swimming fragment. Dependent on the water temperature the distance of the swim will be altered by the race-directors. Albeit there was no snow this year, layers of ice on the shorelines of Källtorpssjön combined with frost in the forest and on the footpaths was clearly visible.
I picked some finger paddles, neoprene swim gloves, a neoprene thermal skullcap and the mandatory swim cap. All of this matching an ARK SwimRun suit with long sleeves and short legs. Under the suit I was wearing a sleeveless compression shirt and an old prototype SwimRun suit with no sleeves. Looking back this was way too much. After about 2 kilometers I could feel my body boiling but the thought about the forthcoming swim part was way to imminent to get rid of some shelter against the frosty waters. At the end of the first out of three loops I was actually looking forward to enter Källtorpssjön.


The crowds were already lined up to observe the main spectacle of this race. This left not much time to think and rest. Straight in and high turnover crawling towards a jetty that was approximately 40 meters away from the swim entrance. It was nice to get some agreeable body temperature back and the cold water was not too crazy on the skin. I climbed out of the lake and opened up both of my wetsuits to allow the body to keep the good temperature.

Just a couple of weeks after my end-of-season break the running form was not really on top and I lost some places in the last rounds. Overall it was so much fun to be out there, experience such a unique event and see how much fun everyone had. Wrapping up such a race with good friends in the neighboring sauna and cooling off stark-naked with a jump into the Källtorpssjön makes it even more special. The Hellas Frostbite delivered and can straightforwardly be called “The mother of Winter SwimRun”.

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