Petter Alexis Askergren is a Swedish rap performer who is very passionate about SwimRun events including the tough Ö till Ö. We talked to the man known by most as Petter.
Slowtwitch: Well thank you for your time Petter.
Petter: Thank you for talking to me.
ST: I think you had a slightly different training run this past weekend than you had planned. What happened?
Petter: ah I was supposed to run 10 km but got lost in the deep forest and ended up running 18 km. I’m just starting up after the winter and an injury I got from falling when I was skiing in Chamonix in February so this was a bit of a shock for my legs. But the terrain was great and also very much like the one you get exposed to on Utö SwimRun and Ö till Ö.
ST: Word has it that you are preparing for 2 different swim-run events this summer - Ö till Ö, and then the new Koster event. With your busy schedule, how to you do it?
Petter: My schedule has always been a bit crazy and I would like more hours every day but my planning is good. My thing is that during weekdays training can’t interfere with my work, so I train very early in the mornings. Running or swimming. And this summer I will do Utö SwimRun, Borås SwimRun, Wet Rock Race, Ångaloppet and the grand finale is Ö till Ö. Koster SwimRun is my own race, which I organize together with my wife Michaela Fröstad Askergren, and Ö till Ö bosses Michael Lemmel and Mats Skott.
After the Utö SwimRun last year I step up to Michael and Mats and told them that I knew a certain very special place on the West Coast of Sweden where they should do a race. Michael was open to do it together. So in October Michael and I went down to try to swim and run between the small islands of the Koster Archipelago. Michael was stoked and said it was one of his best swims and runs. It’s a bunch of small islands out in the sea, very exposed and also very dramatic. I think its totally unique and that’s why I want people to get a chance to swim there because I want to give back to swim-run by showing this wonderful place to them.
ST: How many days of the year are you actually on tour?
Petter: It depends if I have music out but I would say between 70-100 days. And lecture at least 100 to 150 times a year. I talk about the importance of reading and writing for young people and marketing and social media for business. How to survive as an artist and so on.
ST: When did you start the lecturing, and what was the inspiration for that?
Petter: I wanted to meet people on stage without the help of music since music is my safety zone. I needed a challenge and that was to talk in front of a bunch of people and have them there sitting for at least 60 minutes without falling asleep. When you talk in front of big companies, or in jail, or in a school where there are 1500 kids with iPhones, and you get those crowds to sit still and listen - you have done something good I think. I really love this part of the job, it brings me the same feeling as standing on a big stage in front of 15000 people and have them sing a long.
ST: 1998 is when you got serious with rapping, but when did you decide that exercising and a bit of time outdoors would be a nice balance?
Petter: I was touring a lot and got tired, drank and ate wrong and gained weight. I was feeling bad around 2002 so I started go to a gym and lifting weights. My goal was to get myself to be really hooked on exercise. Around 2008-09 I started running a little bit. Then Bicycle magazine wanted me to go to New York to do the Gran Fondo so I did but the thing is that I heard that also the Brooklyn Half marathon went the day before on a Saturday and the Gran Fondo on a Sunday. So my wife and I did both. And we managed. After that Jojje Borssén asked us to run the New York Marathon 2013. We did and in the December same year he called me and asked me if I wanted to do Ö till Ö. When we announced that I was going to do Ö till Ö I got a little bit scared and also I head voices in the swim-run community that where a bit negative since people thought that I would not manage. In music I have this underdog Rocky Balboa Mentality so I decided to do them all or at least all I could with my schedule. So last year I think I did 6-7 races, I had to cancel one small race because of a inflamed knee, which I needed to be ok for Ö till Ö.
ST: I guess those folks who thought you might not manage have gotten silent.
Petter: I don’t know, there will always be someone who thinks something, but that is also something good that I learned from the music business. After 17 years in music I know better than listening to people who only want to bring me down. I compete with myself. Not you or her. My goal is to do me better than last time, faster, longer and harder. That is my focus. All that other stuff is pure bad energy. But I admit, on a bad day some stuff can get to me, but I really don’t care anymore.
ST: Was there anyone who guided you in terms of training?
Petter: I have always trained with different people but I think my own will and head are my best friends and strongest allies because I will never back down. Backing down is not an option for me, that is why a race like Ö till Ö fits me very good. But a big thanks goes to Mikael Rosen, Mårten Nylen, Marcus Hultgren, Jojje Borssen and also Jonas Colting.
ST: Talk about your 2014 Ö till Ö experience.
Petter: Ö till Ö is the race of all swim-run races. The mother, the big boss and the best. It will break you down totally and spit on you, and finally hug you in the end with lots of love. And that’s when you meet Michael Lemmel at the finish and get that famous hug from him. The race is long. I ran for 11:45 hours when I did it. You need to race smart. Take it slow and I think the trick is just to keep going and eat a lot of sugar during the race and at the same time don’t rush because your out there such a long time so you need to save energy and strength. Also you need to be strong mentally. 75 km and out of that is 10 km swimming in cold exposed waters. This is the best race I have done and I will do it again and again because I fell in love with it. The environment is unique and beautiful.
ST: How had you picked your race partner Jojje Borssén? Or did he pick you?
Petter: Jojjé picked me and I was very happy to race with him. We got our spot through Addnature who sponsored us during my whole SwimRun summer 2014.
Jojjé has done Ö till Ö before and several Ironman and is a pro. For me he was perfect to race with. He is a much better runner than me but we swim well together and at about the same pace. I have been surfing before in my life and I was terrible at it so I am used to paddle. Also I have been lifting weights so my upper body is strong, so in the water I was good I think. My running skills need to improve.
ST: Will he be your partner again this year?
Petter: No, my plan is to run with my wife, since I love the fact about SwimRun that women and men can race together. Also women’s teams and men’s team always start at the same time. The mix category is great. My wife is a strong runner and she will drag me around Ö till Ö while I drag her in the water.
ST: Which of the events are you more excited about and why?
Petter: I take every event as it comes. First its Ö till Ö and after that Koster SwimRun but at Koster I can’t race since I’m organizing it with my wife, Michael and Mats. I will be on a boat to make sure all the SwimRunners are safe. So to answer your question I think Ö till Ö is the big thing and always will be for me. I’m training hard now. My big problem is that the whole summer in Sweden I will do at least 25-30 live-shows. Some of them the night before a race like Utö SwimRun and Borås but I think I manage. Last year when I did Ö till Ö I only slept around 3 hours since I was so nervous. It is ok though. I will make it.
ST: When fellow artists find out about this SwimRun passion of yours, what is their reaction?
Petter: Hahaha, I think most of them just think I’m crazy, but now one guy called Daniel Adams Ray [artist] will do Ö till Ö. We are close friends and he got inspired I think. I also try to get a lot of people from other sports to try Koster SwimRun because we want to make the sport of SwimRun bigger and get more people to find out about it. So we have Thai boxers, professional free skiers like Sverre Liljequist and Henrik Winstedt to race.
ST: What is next for you?
Petter: A lot, including a new album in August, a new tour this summer and taking care of my family. Train, race hard, drink good wine since last year I got my certificate as a sommelier so that’s one of my biggest things right now. I try to do everything I love in life and have fun at the same time. I don’t want to polarize my life. I can do everything I want. Like I used to say “Too much of anything can make you an addict.”
ST: In the USA we say too much of a good thing is still too much. Are there things in your life that you do tend to do too much of?
Petter: I am very hard on myself and when I decide to do something I don’t back down. It is like a mental thing. If I have stuff to do on my list I really need to get it done no matter if its cleaning the house or race for 12 hours. I have ADHD and much of the stuff I do comes from that. My focus and energy and at the same time it also needs everything to be in place or else everything falls apart. I need that discipline to get by in life and when I was a young kid they didn’t know much about it. Today I can use much of that energy to positive things and that is why I only compete with me. I set up goals and try to achieve them and I can push myself far.
ST: On a final note, as a sommelier, what kind of wine will you drink the night before the race?
Petter: I had 3 glasses of Valpolicella at Sandhamn on Ö till Ö but I would prefer a nice Barolo like Monprivato or Barabaresco from the nice sister of the Cigluti family.
Michael Lemmel knows my great interest for wine so halfway through Ö till Ö [around 6 hours into the race] he had put out a bottle of Bourgogne Pinot Noir at the aid station. I was so happy that I had a glass. Well, it made my happy for about 20 minutes, after that it was a little bit harder. [laughs] But I am probably the only competitor who had a glass of red wine during the race and I don’t know if I should be proud or feel ashamed. [laughs]
You can follow Petter on Instagram via @PetterAlexis and that is also his Twitter handle and the same is true for Facebook.
His website is petter.nu and the site for the Koster SwimRun is kosterswimrun.se
Run photo from Ö till Ö is courtesy Jakob Edholm, swim image courtesy Jeff Flindt.