The agony of leaving a friend in the lurch
The last few days I’ve experienced a new kind of challenge linked to training and racing. About a year ago Antti Antonov and I started talking about racing ÖtillÖ, the swimrun world championship, as a team. Antti is a ÖtillÖ veteran with several podium finishes including a win with Björn Englund some years ago. I had the opportunity to race ÖtillÖ last year on a short notice with David Svensson when his team mate got injured a few weeks before the race, so I knew what a huge and awesome challenge it is.
The fact that Antti and I would ad up to 99 years of age lead to that I started to talk of us as “oldies but goldies”, since we are a bit older than most of the guys heading for the podium, and the podium was our goal.
So, during winter I added a lot more trail running to the schedule than previous years, I used paddles more in swim sessions and I frequently visualised us racing through the beautiful archipelago of Stockholm. In May we raced Utö Swimrun together to get to know each other during racing conditions (i.e. under physical and mental stress) and in July we trained together on the ÖtillÖ racecourse for three days. We practised swimming together, we adjusted equipment, scouted the trails and calculated nutrition plans. We discussed were and how to make the transitions in and out of the water as smooth and fast as possible and the race strategy was set.
Simply put – we were serious about our podium ambition, and thus we put serious effort behind this ambition.
We even tried out the menu at the aidstation at Nämndö Solvik. They actually served hamburgers and beer, even though we didn’t expect this to be the case on race day
One of the best parts of racing swimrun is the teamwork. Usually I race alone as a triathlete, but in SR we’re a team. My first swimrun was the inaugural Rockman Swim Run 2014, a race I did with my brother Jacob. It was extremely beautiful, hard as hell
and awesome. The opportunity to share the joy and the pain with a friend and team partner adds a very valuable dimension to the race experience.
As long as your teammate shows up on race day…
And I won’t be in Sandhamn Monday morning feeling the nerve just before the gun goes of at 6 am. The decision is right for sure, since the virus that found its way to my throat is of an endurance kind… Most athletes who race for a couple of years will sooner or later experience a DNS due to health issues. It’s always a pity not to be able to race as planned, and if it’s an important race (such as a world championship) it’s even worse of course. When it happens I use different mental tools and techniques to gain perspective to the fact that I can’t race as planned, and usually it works. Handling my own disappointments is at least partly a skill you can practice.
But leaving a healthy, fit and super motivated team partner on the shore without the chance to race is a totally different story. Especially if you know that this race his the last long distance race he has the intention to do. His Grand Final.
Now, just to make it clear; Antti never expressed any anger or disappointment. Of course he wanted to race, but he never put any blame on me. I guess that’s how most people would act, and I think it’s harder to forgive your self than someone else in this situation. I can understand that intellectually. But the challenge is to emotionally handle the feeling of letting someone down. To tell a friend that you won’t show up, and as a consequence he or she wont be able to fulfil his/her dream.
Today I got a sense of that experience, and I’m happy enough to be saved by the bell, or rather Henrik.
With less than 40 hours left before race start, Antti finds a new team mate. The relief I feel in that moment is immense. Suddenly it’s only my loss, and that is something I can handle. I’m truly grateful to Henrik Jaensson who on extremely short notice changes his schedule and agrees to race, and race hard, with Antti.
Obviously – the upside of racing with a team partner comes with some down sides. I’d say the one I faced today is one of the harder to handle.
I wish you all healthy happy racing!
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