It’s been a wondrous year, 2018. Looking back at our training and racing efforts these past 12 months, we can’t be anything but pleased (even though it’s easy to focus on what didn’t go as planned). This year was really the first year we started taking things seriously, and while we’re still lightyears behind many people out there, it’s very satisfying to see that things have moved in the right direction. That, among other things, will propel us into the next year full of motivation and belief in further improvement. The purpose of this post is really just that of sharing details, insights, highs and lows regarding our 2018 training year, so – here we go. Let’s start from the beginning:
Due to some minor injuries in the fall of 2017, we went into the new year with well-rested legs (the one good thing with injuries!) and A LOT of motivation. Because we hadn’t run all that much in the past few months, we made sure to roll back into it mindfully – no crazy mileage weeks there in the beginning, plenty of yoga/core work/stretching, and we also broke it up by throwing in a good amount of cross country skiing January-March. Come mid-February though, we started logging a few more kilometers a week – and from then on, we hovered around 80-100k on average per week, unless we skied a lot instead, were sick, tapered or recovered from a race. We had signed up for two races – Stockholm EcoTrail 45k in June and Ultravasan 90k in August – even before the new year started, so those were the two obvious goals ahead, with nothing planned for the fall. Before 2018, we hadn’t run farther than 35k in one go – needless to say, UV90 felt a daunting (but oh so fun of a) task.
Weekly kilometers run in 2018
Typical training outline
One could summarize a typical training week for us in the following way: we have an approximate number of either hours or kilometers (depending on where you run, one will sometimes make more sense than the other) that we want to achieve, and then we more or less always include one (1) long run (that’s 25+k for us), one (1) tempo session (besides warm up and cool down, the whole run is done at a faster speed) and one (1) designated speed work session (these are done in a bunch of different ways, see next section for details). The remaining runs are more based on feeling – if we aim for more volume, we’ll throw in another long, slower type of run. If we’re looking to work on speed and maybe spend a little less time on our feet, we’ll do more speed work. But with these three sort of “pillars” for each week, we feel as if we’ve created a good platform for both our planning and actual running. When we do what can change as often as every week, though – we have the freedom to let the weather decide when to go for our long run, for example, which is something we appreciate a lot (of course). The training block leading up to UV90 also saw a lot of back-to-back long runs, and long runs followed by speed work the next morning, all in an attempt to train the body to run (and run fast) on already tired legs.
Needless to say, training volume and regular long sessions are the name the game for a race such as UV90, so those two components were high up on the priority list the first half or so of the year. We had never run more than, let’s say, 80-90k in a week prior to this year, and got as high as 123k in July – and this felt so big for us! What was also awesome was how good we felt. Besides some minor aches and pains every now and then, we managed to go – knock on wood – more or less injury-free throughout the whole season. Considering how much we upped our load, we’re nothing short of super happy. We tried to stick to a pretty rigid self-care routine all of the summer, including self-massage using Arnica oil (we used Weleda’s oil, and swear by it), foot rollers, daily stretching and A LOT of sleep and food. Maybe this is a good time to mention we don’t have children (yet)? 🙂
We figured it could be fun to just list our favorite tempo/speed work sessions – just take note that we only run on gravel roads or trails (both technical and not-so-technical), all fairly hilly, so a 5 min pace, for example, can be pretty tough to maintain, as opposed to if it had been done on track or flat pavement. We do the intervals (#1-3) in a non-technical, more or less flat area, though.
- 1k fast + 1k a little slower x5, + 2k warm up and 2k cool down (we usually aim for a 4-4:15 pace for the fast, and 4:30-4:45 for the slower)
- 8 min at a 4-4:15 min pace + 2 min jogg in between x5, + 2k warm up and 2k cool down
- 1k at a 4 min pace + 200 m jogg in between x10, + 2k warm up and 2k cool down
- 3k warm up, 5k at 4:30-5 min pace, 2k cool down
- 2k warm up, 10k at 5 min pace, 3k cool down
- 1k at 4:30-5 min pace, 1k at 5:30-6 min pace for however long we want (usually 15-20k)
Some nitty-gritty business
So, we’re clocking out this year at roughly 3500k run and 350k skied, which approximately equals 400 hrs of training. Not included is strength training (only done at home though, no gym), core work, yoga, stretching and all of that, and definitely not included (but still sweaty) is all the farm work we do, which we like to call our own form of cross-training 🙂 We did 38 long runs, which is more or less one per week if you subtract the weeks of sickness, skiing, tapering and race recovery (it’s always nice to see the numbers actually adding up to what we were blabbing about in the section above). Out of those, 20 were 30+k and 6 were 40+k. Throughout the season, we managed to break some new PR’s (in both training and racing), which is always fun, and we felt (for the first time) that being diligent with speed session actually does something (or, a lot). And if you study our log even more closely, you’ll see that one rest day a week is holy and non-negotiable for us – not that we’re not tempted to squeeze one more run in (because we often are), but it’s there because we’re really trying to make this whole thing as sustainable as possible. Having a designated rest day for the body to recover on seems key, so we’re sticking to that (and in all honesty, when in the midst of a lot of training, coming home from a run and knowing tomorrow is off can feel remarkably sweet). And you know what? Sometimes we take two days off running too – this came especially in handy during spring and summer, when we also pulled a pretty heavy farm work load, had endless to do’s and felt as if we could fall asleep standing upright from time to time. (Nah, it’s not a farm-farm – but we grow our own vegetables around here, and it turns out that’s quite the project) What else? That seems it, as far as the numbers. Oh, one more thing – for those interested in UV90 – really make sure you do back-to-back long runs. We did 6 sets of 50k or more over 2 days from April to August, and can really recommend trying to get some of that into your preparations.
Below, you’ll see the five races/race weekends we ended up participating in. Some were pretty pricey, others not so much, so it turned out fairly affordable in the end. If you’ve followed us for a while, you’ll know we’re on a strict budget – not much spending around here – but racing is definitely one of the splurges. The UV90 price tag might seem hefty – but trust us when we say it was worth every penny. The whole spectacle is an enormous undertaking, so it’s understandable they need to charge you a bit for it. If you’re interested in one race in particular, or want to read a more detailed description of our experience, just click the race name and you’ll be brought to the race report we put together for each race. Ok, so here we go:
Ecotrail Stockholm 45 km
We went into this race feeling quite confident (in retrospect, maybe too confident) – training had been going well and according to plan all of spring, and we felt good about our taper period too. Unfortunately, as soon as we took off, I (Sophia) got a terrible stomach cramp that never quite let go. We could keep a fast pace until halfway through, but after that… let’s just say it went downhill. In a way, it was a very discouraging experience – you’ve trained hard and prepared yourself to the best of your ability, and then something you can’t control sweeps in and ‘destroys’ it for you – but we never really felt all that down, to be honest. Surprisingly quickly, we started viewing the whole thing as a really, really good experience to have under our belt(s), after all. We’re certain we would deal with something similar in a much more calm, less panicky kind of manner in the future (during EcoTrail, the idea of slowing down and seeing podium dreams disappear was just too hard in the moment – but lesson learned), and, well, it sort of feels as if this was needed. We’ve now had a day that didn’t go our way at all, yet, you know, we’re still here. The world didn’t end. We didn’t die. We’re still happy.
Ultravasan 90 km
Calling this our biggest athletic undertaking so far is, well, a description as spot on as any! It felt almost surreal, when the day finally arrived. All summer, race day had seemed so distant, so far away – and then all of a sudden, we were standing there, ready to get going. Our day out there was nothing short of amazing. It’ll forever be one of our dearest memories, I think. It hurt, in the end. More than I think we were prepared for, but somehow that was all forgotten about the moment we hopped in the car in Mora and all we kept saying was that we would do it again tomorrow (now, this was before our legs gave in – trust us when we say that we couldn’t have run the whole thing the next day no matter how much our minds would have wanted it). Looking back, we could have gone a little faster with the training background we had – but our minds were a little overwhelmed by the discomfort of it all that we just couldn’t push ourselves more. With a finishing time of 9 hrs 14 min and a 20th place (female) and 137th (male), we’re super happy. The goal beforehand was to make the men’s medal time of 9 hrs 30 min, and, well, we did. We are, however, hungry for more. Whether it’ll be already this year or sometime in the future, we’re going back – and we want to shave a good chunk off that time. The recovery after the race took about 2 weeks total – that’s the time it took before nothing was nagging us anymore and we felt a good pep in our step again. We gave us a whole week off afterwards, where we just went for long walks and bike rides, and then we filled up the second week with short runs more or less every day, to get going again.
Ängsö Trail Race 25 km
A month after UV, we returned to racing. This was a really fun and special day – because for the first time, team Miracolo claimed a podium spot! I (Sophia) won the women’s race, and Mike landed himself a fine 10th place among the men. This was really our first race pushing hard the whole time – UV was more like one long, long, long session – and it was quite brutal at times, but very rewarding in the end. Mike definitely likes the shorter races more than I do, though – I get a little overwhelmed by the intensity of it all and prefer longer, slower endeavors – but getting out of your comfort zone is always good, so we’ll continue to do a mix of everything.
Åre Trail Tour (3 races)
Racing back to back – another new concept! This weekend included a Friday 7k night run, a Saturday 24k mountain run and a Sunday sprint (think same concept as the cross country skiers do, with qualification round followed by quarter, semi and finals). We were both unfortunately a little under the weather as we headed up north, but we’re still very happy with the weekend as a whole. Not that many women completed the whole tour, but I ended up in 2nd place and Mike in 10th. Just doing something different – racing at night, getting ready for a new one already the next morning etc. – was a really good experience. Plus, we met a lot of very nice and like-minded people!
Sörmland Ultra 50 km
Last race of the season! A fun day out there for sure – because of races every other week the past month or so, we hadn’t really gotten in all that much training since UV. We felt as if we were sort of ‘surfing’ on a wave of races – either we were in tapering or recovery mode, with the races being these interspersed ‘all out-sessions’. Our goal for this last race was to stay under a 5 min average pace, but the technicality of some sections + feeling pretty gassed at the end resulted in a 5:20 instead. Still happy with that – and a some fine placements (3rd female and 20th male) – we felt like we clocked out on a very good note. We weren’t sure if we were going to feel up for some more racing before the winter, but we didn’t. It was as if we were just done – with racing. Instead, we packed in a bigger training block and felt great about that. A few weeks after the race, we went to visit Mike’s family in New York, and put in a good amount of hours there too – but the best takeaway was that the hills we thought of as long and hard last time we visited now seemed fairly easy on our legs (and minds). Just listening to feeling and observing perceived effort can be very useful tools to gauge improvement – not just times, times, times all the time.
We have a few different goals for next year – for example, we want to increase some numbers (testing out how 100mi/160k in a week feels is one thing, and upping the totals for the year is another), and also get used to double sessions as standard practice at least a few times a week. More diligence in the area of running specific strength training is on the list too, and so is adding more variation to tempo and speed work sessions. Its easy to get ‘comfortable’ there, and just stick to what we’ve done before. We haven’t finalized our race schedule yet, but we’re leaning towards treating Jättelångt in mid-June as the first bigger undertaking. And yesterday, we just signed up for OCC – we’ll know if we get in in a few weeks (there’s a draw, for those of you who wonder), so we’ll see if that becomes the season’s highlight (or if we’ll go back to UV – they take place the same weekend). This week has been a little slower training wise, due to a cold (Sophia) and some quad issues (Mike), but we’re planning a bigger block over the next two weeks, before going up north to do cross country skiing for a week. Giving your body that break – but still staying active – is something we like a lot. And passionate skiers as we are, we’ll make sure to do that quite a few times this winter, before spring arrives. That’s it, it seems like. It would be so much fun to hear what you guys do/train for/dream about in the world of running and racing, so please share if you’d feel up for it! If not – take care, and have an awesome year moving your body in 2019.