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September 7, 2011

The O till O Affair

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Just on a year ago, I came across an amazing race called O till O. The race consists of crossing 19 islands in the Archipelago around Stockholm in Sweden. I read about the race and was immediately attracted to the adventure, the unspoiled race route and the challenge that was presented by swimming and running continuously across a 10 hour day.

At the time, I was still knee-deep in preparation for the 2010 Double in Hawaii, so all thoughts about the race were put on the back burner until I could speak to sponsors about the race on return from Kona and Maui.

On return i discovered that there was a Swedish guy at BoE Private Clients who grew up in the area and was not going to accept no for an answer that involved him not doing tha race. So it was that Pete the Swede came into my life and now I am here, sitting on a boat with him sitting across me, a mere 14 hours till we set off to race together.

We trained together for the first time a week ago, but we have both geared our winters to being as fit as possible for this race. Pete is a stud, 45 years young, a national representative in Waterpolo, Swimming and being Swedish. He has turned his training inside out to get as fit as possible for me and tomorrow, I will push him to limits he didn’t know he had, if all goes to plan. While it will be no doodle for me (no 10 hour day is), my job is support, maintenance and making sure he has to carry and do as little as possible on the day.

Reverse a few days and you’ll find us on the island of Orro, where Pete’s family have an incredible cottage. We ventured out there (car, ferry, boat ride and short walk) to get used to training in full gear, trim wetsuits, make some important choices regarding pace and equipment and bond over a few beers.

To answer a few questions…

1. We swim in our shoes, run in our wetsuits.
2. You carry all your food with you for the whole race.
3. There is no outside assistance.
4. The field is limited to 100 pairs (for safety).
5. Yes, I am of sound mind.

The 19 islands total 10km of swimming and 54km of running, in one continuous fashion. You simply exit the water and make your way across the island to the next water entry, etc. The selection of which islands to run on without the wetsuit top on is vital, as heat management is a high priority. We toyed with paces, gear and have some idea (you are never 100% sure, are you?) of distances which require us to remove gear and when we’ll just run in full gear. We have to finish with all the gear we start in, so essential to success is that you love your gear for 10 hours.

The few days here were amazing. its raw, untouched and made me realize that as south africans, we have to become more aware of the effect litter, erosion and races are having on the environment. Pure Planet Racing was started to raise awareness to these problems, specifically focused on the aspect of litter and focusing on getting athletes to carpool to races. A place like the Archipelago has risen our awareness again to the size of the problem we face locally when you see the focused efforts of the Swedes to preserve their natural environment.

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That was the intro to the race we completed on Monday. Digesting the parts of the race into one post is going to be tough but I should be done by tomorrow – a lot happened out there. For now, this is your entry point to where we came from for this race.

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