Peter Oom is a Swedish athlete who recently partnered up with Faris Al-Sultan at the 2016 ÖtillÖ SwimRun World Championships, but there is much more to know about him. Peter is not just a one trick pony.
Slowtwitch: Thank you very much for your time Peter.
Peter Oom: Anytime – a pleasure!
ST: Are you still feeling the ÖtillÖ effort?
Peter: Not really, I had 3-4 days after the race when I was first a bit ill, and when I started training again it felt like the brake was on. But I am fine now and I have even had a few good tempo runs.
ST: What is your day job and what have you been doing since the race?
Peter: I am the CEO of a company developing, producing and marketing a fire fighting products sold around the world. So getting the training in can be a bit of challenge sometimes, especially when trying to combine it all with the family life as a father of 3 kids. Right now, we are also doing some refurbishing at home, so taking on the temporary role as handyman has substituted my training for a while!
ST: Talk about your athletic background and what or who got you started?
Peter: I really started very late. I don’t really have a background in any sport, except from being extremely active in general as a kid. It wasn’t until in my 20s that I started to get interested in training in general, and endurance in particular. I actually did my first Ironman distance competition already in 2001 together with 130 or so guys and girls who were considered nuts at that time. That race evolved into Kalmar Ironman with thousands of participants. But a then I got married, got three kids, got a proper job, bought a house to refurbish and took an MBA during some years. There was certainly no time for training or racing during that time! Now I can certainly regret that I didn’t do any sports as a teenager.
ST: I think your fastest Ironman was a sub-9 time in 2012. What do you remember about that day?
Peter: For me, finishing an Ironman, or any events that I have been planning for and training for some time is really emotional at the finish line. This was no different, and certainly as my whole family was there to support me. I easily come to tears at the finish line – it is a very special feeling. But this race also had two additional things that were special – one was securing the slot to Kona, the other one was the 8 acute visits to the loo during the run.
ST: You should try that loo trick more often if that gets you going faster.
Peter: Ha ha – maybe. The not-so-known part of that story is that I had tested some laxative the night before the race – you know “light is fast”. I guess I certainly learned the hard way that day about the golden rule “never try anything new on race day”.
ST: You also have done Celtman, Swissman and Norseman. Of these 3 events which one did you enjoy the most?
Peter: Correct – and this year I also did the inaugural Stoneman in Italy. All these “extreme triathlons” are different, but great in their own way – Celtman is the rugged, Norseman the original, but Stoneman and Swissman are so incredibly beautiful. I probably enjoyed Swissman the best as I had even worse pains in Stoneman. I didn’t perform great at Norseman (10th) and I had to run half down the mountain with a broken foot on Celtman. These races are always an adventure!
ST: You also were fourth overall at Swissman, is that correct?
Peter: Yes. There seem to be some kind of magic with me and fourth place – I’ve taken that position overall in Celtman, Swissman, Stoneman and ÖtillÖ Mixed 2015.
ST: When did you do your first SwimRun race?
Peter: It was already in 2012 when I got the opportunity to join a friend at ÖtillÖ, but I really didn’t do any other SwimRuns until 2015, when I and a girl became a bit of a team for some races in Mixed.
ST: Did she talk you into it or was it the other way around?
Peter: I think it started with Rockman in Norway, a really scenic SwimRun, I cant remember who’s idea it was, but we got the opportunity to race for one of the sponsors of Rockman, Icebug, a Swedish trail shoe brand. That race went really good, first mixed and actually second of all teams, so we continued racing together at ÖtillÖ and Koster SwimRun.
ST: What do you like about the sport of SwimRun?
Peter: It’s the combination of adventure and team effort. The adventure and endurance part is probably still a stronger drive for me personally, coming from an individual sports background, and as I have been racing with several teammates, we haven’t really created the strong team feeling.
ST: When folks ask you about your athletic interests, do you still say swim, bike run or triathlete?
Peter: I guess labels are difficult. Formerly I would probably have said triathlon, but now it is more the endurance and adventure thing combined. Time is limited, so I prefer to pick special races that are hard and long, but from which I can bring back some great memories and experiences. Since Kona 2012 I have had the opportunity to do so many great races, including the extreme triathlons, but also X-terra Maui, some Ultra marathons, Rockman SwimRun and of course ÖtillÖ.
ST: This year for ÖtillÖ you ended up being the partner of Faris Al-Sultan. He was initially scheduled to race with a different partner, but that fell apart. So how did you get that spot?
Peter: Well there were a series of coincidences. I was actually going to race together with a Swedish ex-pro swimmer, who even had a bunch of world records at her best. We were racing as Team Garmin, the European sponsor of ÖtillÖ series, but she, like Faris’ partner, had to cancel on short notice. I didn’t know Faris at that time, but we were connected by Oscar and Paul, the  runner-up team. Oscar is a great friend of mine and Paul knew Faris a bit. Faris wanted to race and so did I, so we decided to go for it!
ST: You did not know him personally, or did not know him at all?
Peter: Faris is of course a legend, so I certainly knew about him. Everybody knows the beard and the speedos. But I had never met or talked with him.
ST: Prior to the race had you done any workouts together?
Peter: Yes – we did some solid sessions. All in all 5 minutes jogging and 200 meters of swimming!
ST: Ha Ha. What kind of expectations did you have going in?
Peter: I am really not the nervous type, but I did feel that I had a lot to live up to. I did have some experience from SwimRun that Faris didn’t have, but he is certainly on another level. My expectations was to perform as good as possible. I knew that if I had a great day, I would be able to perform quite well. On the other hand, my training hadn’t been super solid the last few weeks. I had however been quite consistent over the summer with some mountain marathons etc. I had also surprised myself in some races such as the London Marathon during the year, giving me some confidence.
ST: Did you two use a tether?
Peter: Yes certainly – Faris swimming is by far better than I am. It worked really well despite minimal training. We also used it on Ornö (20km long run during ÖtillÖ) later on. Unfortunately, it was Faris pulling me again.
ST: How would you describe his personality during the race?
Peter: Faris is great. Despite the really hard work I think we had a good time. During the first third or half, we were really racing, and stayed first with the top five teams. Then we did some mistakes and lost some positions. When we were in the “peleton”, it was obvious what a competitive guy Faris is. I see myself quite competitive, but Faris was all the time analyzing the other teams, their swimming and running capability vis-à-vis ours, should we speed up and stay within top five, or save energy and go at our pace etc. Later, when we had lost several positions, I guess Faris’ more and more switched to finishing rather than racing.
Sometimes during such a long and hard day you can experience more than a bit of tension and irritation with your teammate, no matter how great mates you are. I think it would be difficult to be angry with Faris!
ST: How about you, how did you feel?
Peter: Physically I was ok during the first half. We were probably going just a bit too hard for me, but it was really ok. We got our energy in and no real issues with that. My spirits were high as well, knowing that we were solid runners and there were more and more runs during the latter part of the race. But at some point I started experiencing some issues with my respiration and rapidly developed some kind of cough. I had had a bit of cold a week before but I thought that was completely over. It was like a brake in the system, I really couldn’t go fast (or rather I couldn’t go faster than really slow) without starting to get some attacks. I really didn’t feel good, but it was still controllable, so after struggling over Ornö I knew we would be able to finish at least. If the physical part was bad, the mental part was worse. I really would have wanted to have a great day, and to give Faris an opportunity to race and use his full capacity, but instead I had a lousy day. For me, this is one of the tough things with team competitions – you feel guilt when not being able to perform to your own or your partner’s standards!
ST: Did he appear disappointed?
Peter: I don’t think so. If we hadn’t finished I am sure he would have been quite disappointed. But I think he came with a very open mind and no expectations other participating, but racing as strongly as possible of course.
ST: So what is next?
Peter: Really not so much – there is a season’s finale in SwimRun on the West Coast of Sweden, the Koster Invitational. It is actually in October, so the weather can be really bad by that time of the year. Last year it was cold in the water, but great weather. It’ll be “interesting” to see which weather we will have this year! I might run a marathon during the autumn and maybe the Vasaloppet ski endurance race just for fun. Also, I guess I’ll have to start thinking of the next year! I really like the combination of travelling and racing, but I’m not sure my wife Charlotta would want to combine yet another one! Last time in Italy was probably a bigger challenge for her than me!
ST: Do you have any North pole skydiving adventures on schedule?
Peter: Not really! That thing was really a once in a lifetimes experience a couple of years back! I got the opportunity via some Russian business contacts to fly from Murmansk with a Russian legendary military jet to the north pole, dropped in a free fall parachute together with 40 tons of supplies - including 2 tractors - in order to establish the floating Barneo ice camp. There were about 15 Russians setting up the basic camp, clearing a landing strip with the tractor (one broke on the landing!) and just a few of us “passengers”. Once the landing strip was established several days later, a smaller jet could come in from Svalbard and evacuate us, and later bring in “tourists” from mainly Japan and US paying some substantial amounts to get there. Before the landing strip was established, there was no way of getting out….
ST: How cold was it?
Peter: That was really cold, about -40 Celsius, but it was calm when we were there so the chill effect wasn’t that bad. Temperatures could actually drop much more at that time of the year. I had great gear but you could feel the cold through your boots, even though they were made for the arctic. The temperature was ok when you were totally geared up, but once you took your outer glove of to take a couple of photos it took several minutes to get warm again!
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Peter: I think you’ve covered a lot! I guess I have to save something for the next interview! Anyway, I could be easily found on Facebook or Instagram @tri_peter, or my blog of course (http://tridurance.wordpress.com)