When ÖTILLÖ World Champions Kristin Larsson and Annika Ericsson showed up in France to race SwimRunMan Gorges du Verdon, a hotel receptionist unfamiliar with the two was stunned about the female duo and said "But you are women! This race is not for women. It's for the macho men with big muscles." Undeterred by the slightly confused French male hotel employee the fast Swedes went on with their business to check in and get ready for the race. On race day they then put on an impressive show and after a tough battle and with bloody knees they beat all mixed and male teams and grabbed the overall tile of SwimRunMan Gorges du Verdon.
Below is the report of Kristin Larsson, who in 2016 among many other big wins also captured the overall title at ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Engadin with her male partner Daniel Hansson in course record time.
But you are women! by Kristin Larsson
It’s Saturday afternoon and we had just checked in at our hotel in the little village Les Salles-sur Verdon. The receptionist was curious about what we were planning to do in the area. We told him that were going to do the race tomorrow, the SwimrunMan. He stopped his work and looked at us slightly confused as if he was not able to translate what he just heard.
"The Swimrun race!?!" he said. “But you are women!!”
Now it was our turn to be confused and he continued. “This race is not for women. It’s for the macho men with big muscles”, he explained and gestures.
I’m sure his intention wasn’t as arrogant as it sounds. The receptionist is genuinely surprised but at that moment we find no need to explain to him that we are well aware of what we are doing. We are eager to get in to our rooms, change clothes and get out to check the race course.
The race, “SwimrunMan”, is located in and around the beautiful lake of Sainte-Croix, two hours drive from Nice. Here we will swim 4500 meters and run 30000 meter gaining an elevation of 1500 meters.
That afternoon, the day before the race, we ran a short section of the race just to get familiar with the markings. We had time to check one water exit point before we had to rush to the race meeting. The organization gave a professional impression and the meeting is short and informative.
Sunday, race day and it is pretty cold and windy but we are excited to start the race. On our way to the breakfast we meet the receptionist again.
“Are you really sure you will do the race? It’s very cold today”.
We focus on getting our breakfast and then got ready for the race.
At the start the atmosphere was warm and friendly and it felt like everyone was excited about what is about to come. At 10.30 we started with a short sprint down to the beach.
The first swim is 1,700 meters, crossing the lake from one side to the other. There are two male teams who took off at high speed. Annika is doing a great job in front of me, leading a bunch of three to four teams across the lake.
During the second half of the swim the wind picked up and it got pretty cold. Luckily we climbed 400 altitude meters straight up from the beach and we quickly got warm again. After five minutes we saw the two teams in front of us and we pushed a bit harder just to get contact. After the uphill we were three teams running together at the plateau and it felt like we had a good start in this race.
The next two hours we were two teams battling at the front, changing positions and chasing each other. Halfway out on the course we felt that we might have gotten a gap on the run as we can’t see anyone behind us.
At the start of an 800 meter swimming section there was no marshal and we had to stop and tried to locate the direction of the swim. When we get into the water we were not 100% sure, but Annika did a great job locating the exit point while swimming. We then we got another surprise, there was a team coming up beside us!
Apparently we hadn’t gained as much time on the guys as we thought and the race is still on. Annika managed to get on the feet of the other team for the remaining part of the swim and we exited together.
Getting out on the longest run section of the race we were told that the first two kilometers was a bit dangerous. It’s technical climbing on slippery rocks and with the temps being freezing cold it made it even tougher. The guys were faster than us and we lost them out of sight.
We arrived to the last energy station and we could not see the other team. We did not know how far behind we were but we stayed focused on our race and refueled quickly.
We had now passed the most technical part of the trail and started to run along a nice but stony section. The speed was high and suddenly Annika fell. It was a bad fall on sharp stones but she got straight up on her feet running again. There was no impact on our speed after the fall, even though her knee was smashed pretty bad.
We kept on pushing and suddenly we saw the guys in front of us. Before the last swim section we manage to overtake them and we did a great swim keeping the guys behind us.
During the last run to the finish line I tried to run hard, but also prepared mentally to sprint, if the guys would show up again.
But we didn’t have to sprint and could enjoy the feeling of finishing as the first team. It was just amazing to cross the finish line after a tight race.
It was the first time ever I took an overall win with another woman!
On the way back to the airport we stopped by the doctor as the deep wound in Annika's knee needed to be fixed with some stitches. The day after the race we sent an email to the receptionist telling him that women can.. and this time we did it better than the men.
His reply: "… you didn’t tell me you were World Champions!"
Kristin Larsson can be followed on Instagram via @kristinl.se