OTILLO Personalities | Through a Beginner’s Eyes

As a sponsor of what is known as the toughest yet most rewarding endurance race in the world, ÖtillÖ, we seek to drive the sport to new levels and bring you deeper insight. With this in mind, we teamed up pro Swimrun racer and trainer Nicolas Remires to bring you an 8-part series bringing you 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 it’s safe to say he is the best man for the job.

In our next 3 feature posts Nicolas sits down with 3 very different racers from ÖtillÖ, a novice, a casual participant and a former champion.   Through Nicolas’ expert eyes and ears we’ll delve deeper into what made them join the Swimrun revolution to what’s keeping them there. Read on to learn all about a beginner’s experience.


The Novice – Thierry Plesnar 

Thierry Plesnar is a French-Brazilian who lived in several countries, in tropical and freezing climates, before realising that he loved snowy winters and preferred being surrounded by Scandinavians.

During his younger years he tried every possible sport, from classical dancing to ultimate frisbee. His favourite was always running.

Q. What was your first experience with Swimrun?

Several times, while I was training in the Nacka Nature Reserve of Stockholm, I saw some weirdos running in wetsuits and diving in every pond they could find. I thought that I could be one of them and that the chances of me loving it would rank super high. Few months later, a popular French sports TV show made a reportage on ÖtillÖ and that finished convincing me. So I tried it a couple of times and promised myself to race in 2017.

Q. What do you like about swimrun?

First of all, there is this sensation of freedom. Being able to go wherever you want: you can swim, run and in a landscape like in Stockholm it can really make go faster to reach a point B from a point A, in a funnier fashion.

It is rough and refined. Jumping in cold water after running and being slightly out of breath is a great feeling, being dizzy when you exit the water and try to find your balance on wet rock is something that I would relate to the end of a rough round in boxing: you don’t really know where you are, but still know what to do and as dangerous as the situation is, you know that if you do the right thing and keep your mind focused, you’ll get through it.

You also have this advanced equipment, the dance that you need to do in single track to avoid all the pitfalls and being tied to a partner suffering with you. Running and swimming are supremely lonely sports, most of the toughest workouts need to be done alone, you suffer alone and often race only against your previous times. In swimrun, you’re tied to a person that might be a better swimmer than you and worse runner, he might face an injury and being able to express empathy during the course of a race when it gets tough for the other, or on the contrary doing the extra mile for the partner is something that excites me a lot.

Q. Are you planning to register for a competition in 2017? Which one? Why?

Stockholm swimrun, 10th June. I Googled a bit, the date was right: just between the running races I had in mind and the projected weather hot enough, but when I discussed the idea with my running coach he wasn’t thrilled, but why not.

I told my parents later the same day, on a joking tone, that I would do it (believing that I needed more time to really make up my mind) but 30 minutes later, my dad transferred me the plane tickets confirmation for Stockholm this very weekend… so I guess I need to do it now 🙂

Q. Do you have a partner? How did you decide to team up together?

Nope. And this is a hassle since I never did triathlons and that my practices barely started few weeks ago in Stockholm. It is very hard to assess one level when you’re also swimming in open water and see if the racing mindset fits. I have been scrapping the Facebook forums and groups for it, but with my short experience, the best is to show to the maximum number of practices, do them seriously and after to talk to the people you feel can fit. That lead me to have few qualified contacts, but nothing is set in stone. And being pushy with Swedes often backfires.

Q. I read a few swimrun forum and it is a lot of people looking for partner in France, Spain, England… You live in Sweden, is it easy to find a swimrun partner when you have no experience?

No, even though I assume makes the search easier. What I saw in the different groups is that the amount of friendliness and welcoming is a tad higher in France. I’m not saying that Stockholm training sessions are elitists, but random invitations happen more often in France.

Q. What are your goals in swimrun in general? Goals on the races you registered?

Push hard, make mistakes with my partner, learn from them and finish strong. And hopefully those mistakes will lead to good laughs and nice memories. On a personal side, do longer distances, faster and more gracefully. But most importantly, make friends and do it as long as it is fun.

Q. Do you have any swimrun dream race or swimrun course you would like to achieve one day with a partner?

ÖtillÖ of course! Last time, I have the live stream on my third screen all day at the office and couldn’t stop thinking how impressive the performance was. I’ve rarely seen competitors being so cold and pushing themselves to the limits as in this race, it was daunting to see those sharp bodies crouching because of the temperature and exhaustion.

Baikal Lake could also be a good swimrun course.  I always dreamt of swimming there and the trails in Siberia appear amazing.

Q. With your novice perspective of the activity, do you think there is anything missing or needed in swimrun not done yet?

Races should test level of participants better, moreover, for big races. It is as easy to register to them as for road races but the physical requirements and dangers are much higher. When you know how the sport was created (a drunken bet made in the Stockholm archipelago), I can only foresee people with a poor level of swimming trying to prove to themselves or friends something and having an incident. Which will make a lot of people really sad and divert attention on a marvelous physical activity.

I obviously hope that this sport remains accident free as long as possible (I actually never heard of some, but they maybe already happened) and this doesn’t lead to stupid regulations.

I feel that in few years people could hike in swimrun, hopping from island to island at a cooler pace. Something less focused on the race and training and just in the possible freedom allowed by the equipment.

Stay tuned for the next episode in the series coming tomorrow where Nicolas will interview someone who competes in ÖtillÖ just for fun.

Alan Lund

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