OtillO: Race and transition strategy

As OtillO arrives, Roland prepares for the sheer challenge of 38 transitions in one race


The final weeks of preparation for the OtillO have focused on trialling kit and practicing transitions – a mixture of swimming with shoes, pulling different drybags and working out a transition sequence that isn’t confusing and complicated. Having worked out what seemed to be a good sequence we often messed it up in practice!


Training sessions have all been at Vobster Quay and involved swimming, behind Jackie, a mix of 750m and 250m circuits followed by short runs. The longest session was a 12km trail run with rucksack containing wetsuit & race kit and a 1.5km swimming session testing speed with various combinations of kit and practicing transitions. The session finished with a 12km trail run back home with wet swimming kit.

I’ve also spent considerable time studying the route, terrain, swim and run distances to become familiar with the course and work out a strategy and probable race time. I find the non-physical ‘training‘ helps produce a kit list that’ll get me through most conditions, reduce stress, unwanted surprises and clears the mind of distracting doubt – all helpful after 10+hrs of racing.

Avoiding the wrong islands

It’s certain we’ll get disorientated, not know where we are and what we’re supposed to be doing next so I’ve prepared a set of laminated race notes cut into six small sheets showing stages, distances, predicted times and a very simple kit-transition plan.

Also, having read that some teams have swum to the wrong islands, followed the wrong trails and generally got lost I’m taking my Garmin 800 with the route and an OpenStreets Sweden base map to keep us on track. As a backup I’m taking my iPhone with the route traced onto the Outdoors GPS app. I hope we don’t need to use any of this.

Our aim is to finish the race and the strategy we’re relying on to get us to the five key checkpoints ahead of the cut-off times is slightly different than most teams. It incorporates swimming without shoes for sections over 500m, pulling a waterproof rucksack and running sections over 5km without a wetsuit.

Two bits of kit I’ve discovered over the last two weeks and decided to take include:

Aqua Sphere Alpha Fins. Paul Ryman (Director of Paul Ryman Fitness and top triathlete – 3rd 2012 lTU World Sprint Distance Age Group Championships) told me about these, so I got a pair from The Triathlon Shop in Bristol. On a 750m lap of Vobster Quay ?they helped cut my time from 13 min to 11 min and being so light they’re easy to carry.

Fraser Thomson, who’s a member of Jenson Button’s Team Ichiban, has lent us his Huub ‘protoype’ waterproof daysack, which has made a massive impact on our transition strategy. It removes the need to unpack and pack the drysack-rucksack combination. It also floats and glides through the water with little resistance – now thinking about a ?podium position!


Lastly I must thank my wife Donna who over the last two months has put up with me dressing up in strange looking outfits and running around east Somerset in a wetsuit! She’s coming to Stockholm with us and following our progress on board one of the support vessels.