The inaugural Swedeman Xtreme Triathlon took place in 2018 and is part of the AllXtri series of races.

Featuring a 3.8km swim that finishes under Sweden’s largest waterfall, a 205km bike ride through stunning rolling countryside, and a technical 42km run with over 2,000m of climbing, finishing at the cable car station close to the summit of Areskutan, it was a challenging course, but one I was keen to tackle.

Having previously completed the Swissman and Celtman Xtreme Triathlons, both part of the AllXtri series, I knew roughly what to expect, but each race has its own unique elements – such as a bike leg that would be the longest bike ride I would have ever done.

Training Approach

The first part of my year contained 3 ultra marathons ranging in distance from 85km up to 120km, so a large portion of my time was spent run training for these. However, I made sure to include plenty of long bike rides as part of my cross training. This included a weekend with back to back 100km cycles in February – which was a good training weekend and test of fitness.
After the last ultramarathon in June I spent a lot of time initially swimming and then cycling to allow my legs to recover from the 120km run. This included taking a couple of half days as holiday from work on a Wednesday morning and doing a 100-mile cycle before working that afternoon. I realised that with the weekends I had left there wasn’t enough time to do enough long bike rides, so by taking 2 half days on a Wednesday I doubled up the long bike rides in a week on two occasions.

Once my legs were recovered from the ultramarathon my weekly structure was similar to my Celtman Training, with 3 swim sessions, including open water once a week, some bike intervals during the week and a weekend long ride. The run training involved a weekly speed work session and long run. I also did a couple of transition runs, after the bike interval session and long ride.

The swim involved a beach start, so I did a few sessions at the open water venue where I practiced running into the water and then swimming, just to get the feeling of running in the wetsuit, and practice at a running start.

The Race

Like all of these triathlons it was an early alarm and a bleary-eyed start to the day. Similar to Celtman, competitors are bussed to the swim start and I boarded the coach, shivering in the cold night air. Luckily the heating was on and I soon warmed up.

We arrived at the swim start location, on the other side of the lake from the exit and Transition area. The wind was strong and there was rain in the air. I queued for the portaloo and it was clear there were not enough to accommodate the competitors. Race officials were telling people to go to the beach, but there were still many people queueing. I decided it would be more beneficial for me to wait, and start the swim late if it came to it.

Luckily I was able to make it down to the beach with time to spare.

Prior to the race start there was a song sung by a lady in full traditional dress, a really unique experience standing on a beach in the Swedish wilderness in a wetsuit at dawn listening to a live singer!

We were soon off, and were swimming straight into the wind. The waves were the largest I had ever swum in. I was swallowing a lot of water on some strokes, whilst at the top of the waves my hands were catching clean air. I saw many people breast stroking and I also adopted this a few times to help with sighting and breathing.

After 1km – 1.5km the waves died down and I was able to find my rhythm, and made decent progress through the water. Swimming is traditionally my worst discipline of the three, but I found myself further up the field than normal. I put this down to swimmers with better techniques not being able to take full advantage of their better strokes due to the waves.

It was a long uphill run to transition, and I met my support crew at the water’s edge and they ran up with me, explaining the transition area (as they had set it up that morning without me seeing it).

We reached T1 and my supporter and I went through our well rehearsed routine. One slight issue was when my supporter was bending down to dry my feet the athlete next to me decided to reveal their Swedish sausage at my supporter’s head height!

I was quickly on the bike and feeling good. The swim had been warmer than predicted as it was one of the hottest summers they had experienced in the area. However, the rain had started and there was a strong wind, so there was nothing for it but to flag my support crew and stop to put on a jacket in the first 5km. Not an ideal start, and I knew the jacket would also contribute to aerodynamic drag.

As I progressed on the bike course, however, there was a strong tailwind and I was up on my planned schedule and happy with my effort levels. I was also conscious that we would have the final 80km back in to the wind, so wanted to save my legs for that.

Unlike other races where I often find after 20km or so there is limited overtaking, I was being constantly passed by other competitors. The course was rolling, and no steep hills, unlike Celtman for example, so I was not able to take advantage of my lighter weight as even the larger more powerful athletes were able to get over the hills without any difficulty.

I found this slightly demoralising, not realising that I had been higher up the field after the swim than expected, so wasn’t as far down the field as I thought.

I kept my aero position and eyes on my average speed and distance travelled, and was still up on my schedule, so happy I would make the cut-offs later in to the race, but knew there was the long headwind section to come. At 125km I turned a sharp right and was in to the wind. 80km to go and the average pace began to drop. My legs were feeling good, but it was tough going, especially as I was still losing places.

At 155km the route began to climb and I caught and overtook someone, and then another and another. I was in the aero bars, and others were sitting up and stretching their backs. I kept on, every so often seeing someone in the distance and slowly reeling them in. On the final climb up to transition I gained two more places. It is the only time I wished the ride was longer! I had nailed my fuelling and hydration strategy – my support crew had known where to stop and with what drink and food.
I came into transition after 7hrs and 15 minutes on the bike – I had been aiming for between 7hrs and 7hrs 30 minutes!

I had a Mountain Fuel Morning Fuel in T2 – to get in carbs and also ensure I was hydrated – as I got changed into my running gear. Luckily for my support crew there were no Swedish sausage incidents in this transition!

On to the run, my favourite of the three disciplines, and it was technical single track straight away. I was loving it, and overtaking athletes on a regular basis with no one passing me. There was a large climb and I power hiked my way up it, before a technical slippery descent. I was glad I had worn my shoes with larger lugs for grip as I was able to catch a group of five runners and pass them with ease as they made their way tentatively down the track.

I was soon in the aid station after 18km and briefly stopped to refill my bottle. I later found out when I synced with Strava that I had the course record for this section!

My support crew hadn’t been at the aid station as we had agreed, so I wrestled my phone out of my bag to call them. A misunderstanding had meant they had gone further on. This distraction had caused me to have missed a turn on the trail when talking to them, and had to retrace my steps!

The next part of the run to T2A was much flatter and involved less technical trails. My legs were feeling good and I was still gaining the odd position despite the field being well spread out this late in the day. Plus no one had passed me on the entire run, so morale was good.

I arrived in T2A where I met my support crew, one of whom had to run with me to the top of the mountain. We started hiking up, following the ski slope and the red markers. Disaster, it turned out that the markers were not for the run route! We later found out the marking for the race had blown over and several runners had gone wrong until they had corrected it.

Realising our mistake we cut through some dense forest and scrambled over fallen trees to rejoin the track. This cost maybe 30 minutes of delay and so we decided to just enjoy the stunning scenery and hike rather than push on. I was very conscious that I had another running race, Trofeo Kima, in two weeks’ time and wanted to save my legs for that.

The final climb involved strong winds and some scrambling sections, before a short descent to the cable car station and the finish line, where a few spectators were waiting outside to cheer on the athletes, including my second support crew. Once finished I made my way inside to the café and some food where I chatted with the other competitors, reminiscing about the day, before getting the cable car back down to the town.

My aim had been to make the cut-off and I achieved that, finishing 44th out of around 250 starters, and having a fantastic day.

Training Points and Lessons Learned

If you are doing the race here are my 5 key points to build into your training plan:

  • Swim training should involve cold water practice where possible. I heard all sorts of stories afterwards from competitors who had really struggled in the cold water. I had only a wetsuit and some swim booties. Others had vests under their wetsuits and neoprene swim caps, but still struggled.
  • Practice deep water starts and treading water. It isn’t a huge amount of time waiting, but will make you feel more comfortable ahead of the swim.
  • The bike is a long day out, so make sure you do more than a typical Ironman training plan, including big gear work to build up leg strength for the steep climbs.
  • Practice in your aero bars to get used to the position. I regularly pass competitors in the second half of races sitting up and stretching as they could not maintain an aero position. Core work will help with this as well.
  • Practice running on technical rocky trails with plenty of elevation, especially your long runs, and if possible, your Transition Runs. Although the course has changed slightly from when I did it, you still start off running uphill, so make sure you are happy getting off the bike and climbing straight away.

The video I made is available here:

If you would like more advice or training plans on the race please get in touch.

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