Penny Comins September 30, 2013 TWEET COMMENTS 4

Trail Running in a Wetsuit - Page 2

Last year’s winning women’s team had advised us to get our “ins and out” practiced. Five minutes for every entry and exit over 26 islands equates to roughly four hours of dead time. We knew we’d never make the cut-offs if we mucked around. Verbalizing the process as we did it helped: “Pull buoy, goggles, paddles, push off.”

In a race that crosses 26 islands, mastering the transition between land and water was essential. Photo © Jakob Edholm / ÖTILLÖ2013

Once in the water, it felt nice to cool our legs. Each island had a yellow flag or strobe light on the shore that we had to sight towards. Without buoys marking the course, we could take any line we liked, as long as we stayed within 10 meters of each other. This added to the adventure, especially when the current ripped between the islands and pushed us out to sea.

Having grown up near the beach in New Zealand, I didn’t find this too stressful, and just swam in a vector to the current. For my Irish teammate, though, it was a new sensation. She nearly missed the exit points several times, showing how nature often has the final say.

We made it through the next cut-off with 25 minutes to spare. The course headed west for four islands before a crossing of 500 meters to veer south. The weather forecast had given us favorable winds, pushing us to the final island Utö. Several storms rolled through during the day, bringing thunder and hail, but these were brief and almost a relief when running in our wetsuits.

Swimming in running shoes? Only at ÖTILLÖ. Photo © Jakob Edholm / ÖTILLÖ2013

Of the 114 teams on the start line, 99 made it to the finish—the highest completion rate in the eight-year history of the race. Last year, only two women’s teams finished. This year, nine of 13 reached the finish line, pointing to the high caliber of athletes that come to race ÖTILLÖ. There had been over 300 applicants, with 120 teams given slots.

Making the final push up “Devil’s Hill” to the finish line at Utö Värdshus, the team of Björn Englund and Paul Korchak took the win in 8 hours 35 minutes. Their time broke the previous course record (2010) of nine hours and seven minutes. They were one of four teams who finished under nine hours this year.

On the women’s side, mother-daughter team of Bibben Nordblom and Lotta Nilsson led the whole way and set a new women’s course record of 10 hours 55 minutes. Meanwhile, the Irish and Kiwi girls of Team PenRen were ticking off the islands one by one.


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