Oscar Olsson finished second at the 2016 ÖTILLÖ World Championships with Paul Krochak, and wants to be on the very top this year with new partner Martin Flinta. The well liked and entertaining Swede is competing often in triathlon but at this time of the year it is all about Swimrun.
Slowtwitch: How are you Oscar?
Oscar Olsson: I am just fine! I had some good racing lately with a good feeling despite the heavy training load leading up to ÖTILLÖ.
ST: The big race is now just about a week away. What are you doing between now and then?
Oscar: I am still doing some tougher sessions, both in the water and on the track but I make sure to give the body some more recovery between the sessions compared to tougher weeks. My friend, Paul [Krochak] who is a phenomenal runner is supporting me towards this year’s race by giving me some really tough key sessions for the run. That really has given me some more toughness the last weeks. I have also done some shorter Swimrun races to bring up the speed and "hunger" and get the right feel for the specific skills of Swimrun racing. The last race I will be doing will be this Saturday, 9 days out from ÖTILLÖ, I did the same event last year and that worked perfect to get the last tune before the big one!
ST: You have been racing a bunch and won a fairly unique solo race last weekend. Do you feel ready?
Oscar: I feel ready! More ready than last year! This year I have known I will do the race for at least 2 month compared to last year when I got the invite from Paul just 3 weeks out.
ST: What about Martin? How is he doing?
Oscar: Since we decided to race ÖTILLÖ, after we did Engadin as a test, we have done some good training and Martin is doing just fine, he is well prepared and as motivated as I am to make a fast race at our best!
ST: What strength do you bring to the team and what strength does Martin bring?
Oscar: I think I will do a lot of the navigating on the course, and hopefully contribute during the swims. Martin is great in the terrain and has a great experience in adventure racing, and thus his tactical and strategic skills will be very valuable!
ST: In early July you and Martin raced ÖTILLÖ Engadin where you finished second overall. But I think you decided pretty late to race there. Is that correct and if so why did you go there?
Oscar: When Paul told me at end of July that I really needed to rethink if I wanted to race and with whom, I thought of Martin and he was interested. So just 10 days out from Engadin I enrolled us because I wanted us to race a bigger event in order to see if we as a team could work together towards ÖTILLÖ. The race test worked fine, and I think we did ok. Even though I think we both had trouble with the altitude, arriving just hours before the start in Engadin at 1900 meters above sea level. The most important thing I took from the race was the great teamwork we had and I also got to know Martin better!
ST: In Sweden there are so many SwimRun events that you could race every weekend all season, and I think more events are coming all the time. How do you decide where to race?
Oscar: Yes! You are right! And we are so happy seeing the sport growing so fast, and not only in Sweden. When I choose race I first look at two things. I want the race to have some history and offer good competition on the start line, plus I want a course that suits my strength - trails and tough terrain. I also look how it fits in my all year racing season obviously and then it needs to work with family and work too.
ST: At last weekend’s 10 Island race I think you had to overcome a 13-meter drop into the ocean to start the next swim. Were you aware of that drop or was that a surprise?
Oscar: I did the race in 2014 so I had some idea. But I still was not sure where or how high. When I came to the swim, the volunteer said jump or go all the way down. I never hesitated since I like that part of the sport - making it a real adventure!
ST: Who all jumped then?
Oscar: I am not sure how many jumped but there where not many who did. The majority of all 400 racers went down to enter the water and I know the guy who was in second just behind me did [climb down].
ST: Going back to the upcoming ÖTILLÖ World Championships on September 4th. Who do you think will be your toughest competition?
Oscar: Oh, that is a good question. There are definitely 5-6 teams that I think are strong enough to win. Team Beaver Brothers, Team Garmin, HEAD Swimming and Team Sport Office (3rd last year) are all good Swedish teams to watch out for. Then we have a new recently added wild card - a French team with David Hauss who finished 4th in ITU Olympics 2012 in London. They obviously have the speed and skills when it comes to running and swimming but probably lack some of the specific Swimrun skills. But it will be a great honor racing such great athletes! Happy they are choosing to come to Sweden and take part of this great and spectacular race! As a triathlete I will probably be star struck when I bump in to them on the boat on our way to Sandhamn.
ST: The race also requires a lot of endurance. That may be another problem for Hauss.
Oscar: Yes. I don’t know anything about David’s current fitness status, but I would think he has done some endurance training since he enrolled. Race day will tell.
ST: Last year’s record breaking winning team is apparently not racing together. Is Lelle Moberg out?
Oscar: Lelle is sadly out of the race due to an injury. I m really sorry for Lelle, he is such a great athlete and honest competitor! We had such a great battle all day last year and I would have loved to repeat that! I really hope he recovers well and comes back to racing soon! He, and Björn Englund has played a big role in Swimrun and its growth, especially ÖTILLÖ.
ST: So with whom is Daniel Hansson racing with then?
Oscar: Daniel is racing with Jesper Svensson I think. He is one of Sweden’s best long distance triathlete at the time... He also done ÖTILLÖ at some point I think... but I don’t know about his Swim-run status know... beeing in the middle of a Triathlon season. Even though Jesper is a great swimmer and endurance athlete and with Daniels experience they could well be there in the mix. For sure in the early stage of the race …
ST: What is your strategy independent of who is there?
Oscar: Our strength is the endurance, so the longer the race gets the stronger Martin and I get. So we will try to stay at the front as comfortable as possible and make our move later in the race. It’s a long day, so it is difficult to race hard. I think the key is to know your body, strength and weakness, and pace your self after your team’s best capacity! In order to finish strong and as fast as possible due to that days form and condition.
ST: Does Martin complain as much about the course as Paul did, or is Martin more mellow?
Oscar: Ha Ha Ha! Great question! Martin is the opposite of Paul and will love the course rather than hate it! This course is really Martin’s environment, coming from adventure racing and all. And let us not forget, he has won the race twice, back in the early days.
ST: Describe all your SwimRun gear. Brand and model? Including watch.
Oscar: I will probably race in a Swimrun suit from Sailfish, that is special designed for Swimrun. The shoes are from a Finish brand called Sarva and I will most likely race in their I-Roc model. When it comes to paddles I m using a new awesome brand, called RACE PADDLES that are carbon fiber and super light. They are also the strongest paddles I ever used. When doing a lot of exits in tough terrain you want gear that does not break. Pull-boy is a big model from Head, plus goggles from Orca that has a sun film for sun protection. The watch I am using is a Polar V800 that has a great multisport mode that helps me keep track on all the different swims and runs.
ST: Have you ever raced with fins?
Oscar: No! I would never try it either. I think it makes you too slow in transition, and is too much to carry with you. Maybe it could benefit a great swimmer, but I really don’t know. And please try your gear carefully before your race! Adjusted so that it suits the particular race you are preparing for, and don’t be afraid of switching gear for different race types, in Swimrun we have all kinds of races that requires different setups. The gear should also fit your strengths and weaknesses, in order to make you as fast as possible, and not make you look like all others.
ST: What is your athletic background and how did you get started in the Swimrun sport?
Oscar: Started with soccer at young age, around 5 years old. Got in to Triathlon when I lived in Santa Monica 2006-2007 and trained with LA Tri Club. Did my first IRONMAN in 2007 and I m still into triathlon racing. Tried Swimrun for the first time in 2010 I think, but really started to train for it in 2012, 2013. But all the time on the side of triathlon which has my main focus.
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Oscar: I am honored and happy to have the opportunity to be interviewed by you guys, who I follow and highly respect and like! It is also great to be able to speak and tell others more about Swimrun and hopefully create more interest in the sport, so that we can continue to grow! It is such a great sport, where all kinds of endurance athletes come together and share the challenge in the nature!
You can follow Oscar on Instagram via @o2trigoteborg and the big race is on Monday September 4th and will be covered live.