To prepare for ÖTILLÖ 2014, we got in touch with athletes who raced ÖTILLÖ in previous years and bombarded them with questions on training, race gear, nutrition strategy and much more. Their advice has been extremely helpful in making us feel mentally prepared and making us even more excited than we already were.

After receiving advice and reading every single blog post out there on the race, it became clear that the main challenge would be to conquer the cold, rough, 10km of exposed sea swims.

In order to start our training we got in contact with two men who swim in the North Sea all year round.  The North Sea is not only known for its strong currents and rough waves but also for its cold temperatures, in other words, training mecca.

Who better to learn from than two experts? We got in touch with these men to find out that they were very excited for two strangers to join them on their training swims – almost surprised to hear that there were more people like them who just simply love swimming in nature, exposed to everything that comes with it. They advised us to bring thermal caps, gloves and booties.

We thought we were well prepared until we met these men and got presented with new questions and advice just before jumping in. “You do know your limits right” was one of the first questions we got after meeting. Advice which was a little disconcerting included “if your feet and hands start to tingle, you should get out of the water immediately as things can go downhill quickly and making it back to shore is not easy when hypothermic” and “I usually shiver for about an hour after getting out of the water.” In addition to frightening us a little, we went through the route, reading the currents, the waves and spoke about techniques for staying warm – all highly appreciated. We were now ready to swim!

The first swim was a wild experience as the waves were sky-high and our swimming technique that worked so well in the pool, no longer applied – it just became survival! After drinking more than a little sea water and starting to lose feeling in our feet, we decided to get out of the water after 45 minutes.

We approached the second swim with an extra layer of gloves and booties which turned out to be very successful as it now took 75 minutes to get tingling sensations in our feet! This second swim was as exhilarating as the first, this time we faced fewer waves but instead had currents to deal with.

We love that the sea is ever changing and always presenting new challenges.  Swimming in the North Sea turned out to be great fun and fantastic training – thank you Jac for teaching us all about “playing” in the North Sea! We will be back!