ÖTILLÖ 2016 | Q&A With Henrik Wahlberg
In advance of the toughest race in the world, ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championships. We caught up with a number of competing athletes to see what ÖTILLÖ means to them and how they train for this grueling challenge.
Sitting in third in this series is Swedish National Swimming champion and Top 10 Finisher from 2015: Henrik Wahlberg. Henrik believes that the best is yet to come from him and his team mate, as they haven’t been able to give their full potential until now. Check out how Henrik manages stress in the run up to race day here:
Q.) Tell me a bit about your career as an athlete, how did you begin and what drives you to get out and train every day?
A.) My background is competitive swimming at a fairly high level with several medals at Swedish National Championships as well as 4 years of college NCAA division 1 swimming in the US.
The drive to train comes both from the workout endorphin high/feeling strong physically as well as the camaraderie with work out friends.
Q.) Tell me about your past experiences with ÖTILLÖ?
A.) The best is yet to come I believe! In 2013 I raced in a bit of an uneven partnership, but as our goal was just to finish it was still a great experience. In 2014 I felt super strong but my partner got injured and we had to pull out of the race at Kymmendö Bunsö. In 2015, we cut it a bit too close with a long Swimrun race in Oslo prior to ÖTILLÖ and ran out of gas before we even reached Ornö.
Q.) What emotions do you feel when you cross the line after competing in ÖTILLÖ?
A.) As I haven’t really performed to my potential yet, the emotions have been pretty plain. No super joy but I also swallowed the disappointments fairly quickly.
Q.) How do you prepare to be psychologically ready for race day? How do you handle the stress?
A.) I think it is an advantage to have been competitive in sports before even if it was a slightly different discipline. I know my body very well and can tell whether I am too stressed or too calm. For ÖTILLÖ, the stress level tends to be a bit higher and therefore it helps to calm down a bit.
My best advice is to prepare all equipment very carefully the night before, in order to avoid surprises in the morning and just get yourself to the starting line in autopilot mode. Besides that I personally need a caffeine fix and a few belated bathroom stops to get the system up and running. Even if I am still feeling too stressed after that, I know for a fact that a 1750 mtr 6:00 AM ocean swim in September has a pretty stress damping effect on most people including myself…
Q.) What do you struggle most with while racing? Is it mainly a battle with your mind or your body?
A.) Calf cramps after the longer/colder swims. But it is just a matter of starting to move right away and they will fade.
Q.) How do you break your training schedule out? Do you focus on certain disciplines each day?
A.) I am a bit old-school and like to do most of my swimming in the pool as I believe I develop bad stroke habits if I swim too much in open water. I swim once per week in fall, twice in early Spring and then pick it up to 3 or sometimes 4 swim or swim-run sessions per week from April onwards.
Running is pretty constant with 3-6 sessions per week depending on how hard the particular week is.
Q.) How important is a stretching routine in your schedule? Do you integrate any soft tissue massage?
A.) I have a prehab routine with dynamic stretching that I try to get in a couple of times per week. During heavy training periods I try to schedule a massage about once per month. During race season I schedule massages immediately after each longer race to speed up the recovery and return to training.
Q.) How did you pick your race partner?
A.) I have been rather monogamous compared to many other Swimrunners. I got hooked up with my partner Klas Wiréhn via a friend as the first two partners I tried to race my first Swimrun race with got injured and both stood me up for the race.
I met Klas for the first time the day before Amfibiemannen in 2013. I had been training all year for the race and Klas was fresh off a boys´week in Tylösand. The partnership’s first race was more or less an utter failure given the different prep regimens, but there was chemistry and we decided to give it another shot the following year. In 2014, we got 2nd at Utö Swimrun and have raced heavily together ever since.
Q.) Do you have any advice for aspiring racers?
A.) Pick a partner that you will enjoy racing with through thin and thick. If you have fun and are honest with each other, the rest will work itself out.
Next up is ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championships in UTÖ, Sweden on September 5th. Tune in LIVE here to see the action unfold.
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