“You never know what the ocean will give you.”
Fanny Kuhn, age 31, grew up in a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden and currently lives in Miami, USA
One Swedish woman shares her story of how she fell into -- and fell in love with -- the sport of swimrun
I’ve always been a swimmer. I’ve been swimming in pools my whole life, from when I was very little girl, through college, and now because of swimrun.
In college, at the University of Louisville, I had a swimming scholarship. I was on the varsity swim team. After college, though, I stopped swimming to focus on my career. I had been swimming 20 or 25 hours a week, and I didn’t know what to do with my sports anymore.
I tried to workout just to workout. I looked for another sport to try. I joined a triathlon team in Stockholm and started to understand there were different long-distance events for biking and swimming.
Some of the people on the triathlon team also did swimrun. I heard people talking about it. I thought it was just a triathlon without the bikes. It didn't sound interesting to me then because I was just getting into bikes.
Then a friend of mine, Pär, asked me just two weeks before a swimrun race if I wanted to compete with him for the Ötillö race in May 2015. It was 40 km — 5 km swimming and 35 km running. I had never run that far at all. But I couldn't say no to the challenge.
Before the race, I was scared I wouldn't make it, that I would be too tired to keep up with my partner. Pär said he would hold a pace I felt was impossible, so I told him, "I will do it, but be aware that I am not that fast at running."
On race day, everyone passed us while running. I was not surprised about that. Then we passed them on the swimming, which I was not expecting because open water swimming was still pretty new for me back then.
I was accustomed to pools, where you can always see the tiles and the lines along the bottom. In open Swedish waters, the water is as dark as ink, and it’s hard to see anything at all. You can never tell how deep the water is.
It was cold in the water. Only 10 degrees Celsius. Although the water was freezing cold, I longed for the swimming to rest my legs a bit after running.
And, to my amazement, we won the race! I felt afterward that maybe swimrun was something I could get better at doing, both the running and swimming in open waters.
Part of what helped me improve was getting a new wetsuit. Normally, in swimrun, you wear a short wetsuit so that the legs are not covering your knees. In this first race with Pär, I had a long one that restricted my movement at my knee caps. Switching my swimrun gear made running a lot easier.
And now I know the advantages of open water swimming. Unlike in pools, when you’re in the sea, there really are no limits. You can swim as far, or as long as you want.
It’s adventurous, too. Sometimes, there are waves, and I almost like the waves the most now. You never know what the ocean will give you.
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