As a sponsor of what is known as the toughest and most rewarding race in the world, ÖtillÖ. We’re aim to drive the sport to new levels and bring you closer to the magic. With this in mind, we teamed up pro Swimrun racer and trainer Nicolas Remires to bring you an 8-part series bringing you through everything you’ll need to know before you run your first ÖtillÖ race. Nicolas has over 10 years experience as a Swimrun racer and hosts the official training camps for ÖtillÖ, so you could say he is the best man for the job.
In this week’s features, Nicolas sits down with 3 very different racers from OTILLO; a novice, a casual participant and a veteran former champion. He delves deeper into what made them join the Swimrun revolution and what’s keeping them there. Read on to learn what drives World Champion Annika Aricsson to continually beat the competition, be it male or female.
THE CHAMPION – ANNIKA ERICSSON
Annika Ericsson, 42 years old, PhD in medical biochemistry and working full-time as a Senior Scientist. She has competed a lot in swimming and water polo at a young age. She is the mother of two girls, started with Swimrun in 2012 and has taken part in many races since then, both in Sweden and abroad. Her main results are the three victories at ÖtillÖ and recently this year, overall victory in the Swimrun event in France together with Kristin Larsson.
Q. YOU HAVE WON MANY SWIMRUN EVENTS, ESPECIALLY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ÖTILLÖ AND A FEW ÖTILLÖ QUALIFIERS, WITH DIFFERENT PARTNERS. YOU ALWAYS PERFORM. HOW CAN YOU EXPLAIN THAT?
My goal with all races is to have fun and push myself to the furthest extent I can. I want to find a good harmony with my teammate and it is important that we can rely on each other and use each other’s strengths to perform well. This is my hobby and I don’t take it too seriously.
Q. YOU ARE A FANTASTIC SWIMMER, BUT THIS IS NOT ENOUGH TO WIN LIKE YOU DO. WHAT ARE YOUR OTHER STRENGTHS AND SECRETS?
I am not really fast in either running or swimming but my strength is that I can keep a good pace for a very long time. I think the secret is, again, to enjoy! If I am having fun I am relaxed and then I can perform in the best way I can.
Q. BEING A SWIMMER, YOU STILL USE A PULLBUOY AND SOME HAND PADDLES. CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE GEAR YOU ARE USING AND WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO A BEGINNER SWIMRUNNER WHO IS A POOR OR AVERAGE SWIMMER?
Yes, I am using a pullbuoy and small hand paddles. The pullbuoy should be anchored both around your thigh and to a rope in your waist so that you don’t have to squeeze your legs to hold it in place. I use the pullbuoy to remove the “dragging effect” of the shoes. I could remove the paddles but to keep up with the competitors I am using small ones. For new swimrunners I would recommend to go as easy as possible and not add on too many tools. The pullbuoy is helping you to float better but the paddles are not needed. They could be added on a later stage once the swimming has been improved.
Q. HOW DO YOU TRAIN IN RUNNING? DO YOU HAVE A WEEKLY PLAN? SOME SPECIFIC SESSIONS YOU REPEAT EVERY WEEK?
My schedule every week is very tight with work and activities for the kids so I try to use much of the transportation to and from work for running or biking. I am also part of a running team that is having different interval sessions each week that I try to attend. I try to make one longer run in the weekend as well, preferably in the forest.
Q. DID YOU HAVE ANY BAD MOMENTS IN YOUR SWIMRUN RACES? HOW COULD YOU HAVE AVOID THAT?
Yes, I have had to pull out from a few races and that is very disappointing. The first was tough in 2014 ÖtillÖ. My partner had been sick prior to the race and wasn’t sure about her status. At that time, we should have changed our race plan and communicated better especially since she had never done the race before. We should have just focused on finishing the race. Instead we went hard from the beginning as we had done in all races before and eventually we had to pull out, both disappointed and sad.
Another bad moment was last year race at the 1000 Lakes in Germany. I was still mentally tired from the ÖtillÖ race in September and had been very occupied with my work and not at all focused on the race. It turned out to be a tough and very cold race that I wasn’t at all prepared for and did not enjoy it at all so we pulled out quite early. It is important to be prepared for all races you are facing because most of them are very tough!
Q. SWIMRUN IS A SPORT LIVING A HUGE EXPANSION. MORE COMPETITIONS, MORE SWIMRUNNERS, MORE ENTHUSIASM AROUND SWIMRUN, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO CHANGE OR IMPROVE IN THIS SPORT TO MAKE IT EVEN BETTER?
I would like the Swimrun races to be more equal in swimming and running (with regards to time). Like ÖtillÖ for instance I see is more of a running competition since the percentage of swimming is much less in comparison to running. However, ÖtillÖ is impossible to change but the new races could have that focus so that you must be good at both disciplines to be a winner.
Q. YOU HAVE WON SO MUCH IN THE WOMEN’S CATEGORY AND DID SOME EXCELLENT RESULTS IN MIXED CATEGORY. LATELY YOU WON THE OVERALL RANKING AT THE SWIMRUNMAN IN FRANCE WITH KRISTIN LARSSON. SWIMRUN FANS IN FRANCE WERE SURPRISED AND IMPRESSED BY THIS PERFORMANCE.
I am not focusing on the gender. I am focusing on performing as well as I can, but of course it is more fun to beat a team with two men than two women.
Q. HOW DO YOU GET A STRONG MINDSET LIKE YOURS?
I learned at an early age to be focused, never give up and keep on striving when I was active as an elite swimmer.
Q. CAN YOU HOPE DOING AN OVERALL VICTORY IN AN ÖTILLÖ QUALIFIER OR ÖTILLÖ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN SEPTEMBER?
I think that is quite hard for two women to achieve it, even though me and Kristin managed to take the overall win in the SwimrunMan competition in France. At the ÖtillÖ qualifiers and WC the competition is much harder and I think if it is possible, the paddles should be removed. The men have bigger muscle and gain advantage with the paddles.
Q. HOW DO YOU GET THE MOTIVATION TO KEEP GOING?
My motivation is the joy! I love this and I am having fun! I enjoy training both with friends and on my own! Also, the new exciting competitions all around the world are intriguing and give me motivation to train.
Q. THE 2017 SWIMRUN SEASON JUST STARTED AND YOU WON IN MIXED CATEGORY IN ÖTILLÖ HVAR WITH STEFANO PRESTINONI. WHAT WILL BE YOUR NEXT CHALLENGE AND WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?
My plan was to do Utö SR but since I injured my knee at the SwimrunMan competition in France, I had to cancel Utö. My goal now is to enjoy and perform well at the Scilly SR and then Rockman SR in Norway for the fun adventure. Then I´d like to see if I can find some new races, both in Swimrun and in open water, and in the end there is the world championship ÖtillÖ.