After plenty of pondering, head-scratching and thoughts back and forth, we’ve finally decided what races we’ll run this summer. The reasons why the decisions took some time for us to get to are: 1. Peak racing season in Sweden is very concentrated, with many of our bucket list ones happening around the same time. Luxury problem: you can’t do them all but have to pick and choose. 2. We put our names into the OCC draw back in December, which would – if we got in – dictate a good part of the season. Hence, we had to wait until mid-January to find out if we did. Luxury problem: there is none, because we didn’t get in. Not to worry though, because fortunately there are many more years to come! 3. The distance dilemma – right after Ultravasan 90 last August, we were like “let’s never in a million years do this again!”, but an hour later it sounded more like this: “This was the best day of our lives!”. Luxury problem: you need to choose the distance you want to go yourself.
Following Ultravasan, we did a 25k, a 7k, a 24k and a 50k before calling it for the season, and we were debating if we wanted to continue working towards longer distances or focus on slightly shorter, faster endeavors. If you’re interested in reading more about our 2018 running year, you can do so here: 2018 Training Recap. Now, I (Sophia) am a chugger. I can chug and chug and chug, and I’m pretty pain tolerant too (how I wish I won’t have to regret saying that). I’m naturally drawn towards ultras, where you can find your rhythm, tap into autopilot, ignore the pain cave that will eventually settle in and just go. Just go. And keep going. Running with a heart pounding so fast it feels like it’s going to pop out through the ears is not my cup of tea, to put it simply (although I’ll still attempt it!). Mike, on the other hand, is a former soccer player. He’s got a good dose of sprinting qualities, a high top speed and can tolerate sudden lactic acid surges pretty well. However, he can feel intimidated by the ultra distances, and allow for the sheer extent of the race to get to his head. So. We weren’t sure what we wanted 2019 to hold, and decided to not force anything. And then, amidst deep snow and cold temperatures a few weeks ago, it all sort of just fell into place. We’ll do Jättelångt, Fjällmaraton and Ultravasan 90. YAY!
I’m naturally drawn towards ultras, where you can find your rhythm, tap into autopilot, ignore the pain cave that will eventually settle in and just go.
We had had our eyes set on Jättelångt 70k (Very Far 70k) for a while, especially since it ends in our “home town” Norrtälje (not where we live, but where we go food shopping and to run errands). The only reason we hesitated to sign up was the timing – Jättelångt happens to take place the same day as EcoTrail Stockholm 45k, which we ran last year and really wanted to do again (for those who read the race report, it started out great but ended with intense stomach cramping and a pretty sad finish). But, you can’t have it all – and Jättelångt felt right. So, on June 15th, we’re lacing up our shoes to run from Grisslehamn to Norrtälje, and we couldn’t be more excited about this A-to-B adventure. We’re going to test run sections of the course to see what terrain we’re looking at, but it seems it won’t be too technical (nor does it seem to pack in that many vertical meters, but that’s left for us to confirm).
Another race we’ve been throwing glances at for a few years now is Fjällmaraton (The original mountain marathon). That one certainly doesn’t need an introduction, and it almost feels like a must to do at least once in your life. The price tag is a bit hefty though, and the trip up to Åre quite far, but after realizing you can sign up as a mix duo team, it was a done deal. As most of you probably know by now, we run races together – and competing in the mix duo category instead of male/female separately just sounded like so much fun. We’ll take the train return trip Stockholm-Åre, stay in an Airbnb in town and spend a total of 3 nights up there (any longer and our vegetable garden would go bananas). We’ll have to figure out transportation to and from the race, but other than that, it’s all set. Well, besides the training for those 2 000 vertical meters, I guess.
And last but not least, Ultravasan 90. Again. We can’t quite pinpoint what it is about this race, but it grabbed hold of our hearts like nothing else last year, and we can’t help but to go back. Maybe because it was our first ultra (we had only done 45k prior). Maybe because of the atmosphere, the crowds, the Vasaloppet tradition. Maybe because it feels so quintessentially Swedish. Most likely, a combination of them all. We just know that leaving Berga By in the dark with the music fading in the background as you go up that first hill and towards the woods is pure magic. Setting out to reach a finish line so far in the distance is a self-fulfilling thing in itself. So, we’re going back. Last year we finished in 9 h 14 min, after going strong for 60k and then hobbling in from there. Goal for this year is to go strong all the way. Period. The only nagging worry we have about UV90 this year is that Fjällmaraton is only 2 weeks prior. Will we be recovered enough to feel our best when running from Sälen to Mora? Only time will tell, but we’d like to believe that recovery goes smoother and smoother for every race you do, so the trend should be in our favor.
So what will training look like for us, with these three races as our big goals? Well, obviously a lot of volume, to begin with. 100-150k will be the weekly goal, with a few lighter weeks interspersed to give the body time to recover and heal up – and grow stronger, most importantly. The weekly 30k or above long run is nonnegotiable – something that has become a habit the past year and almost happens without thinking too much about it (except when there’s snow slush halfway up the leg, windy and cold. Then way too much thinking goes into it). We’ll crank it up, going forward, by throwing in another one of those long runs back-to-back, getting in some valuable hours running on tired legs. Not every week, but about every other. Besides that, we’ve gotten a lot more diligent about speed work. That’s something we’re quite proud of, if I may say so, because we’ve both been sort of… afraid of it. Lactic acid, legs going numb, inability to keep up with the other person – those are all silly things to fear, but as the mind is far from logical, those are still feelings we battle. However, not so much anymore. I think we’ve gotten over the hump, mentally, and as we’ve incorporated more and more of this type of training – well, the better both bodies and minds have become at dealing with everything that comes with it. Thus, less emotional discomfort and less of a struggle getting it done time upon time. Here though, it’s easy to get comfortable – obviously, as you grow stronger and faster, less effort is needed to, let’s say, run a certain distance in a certain time. Remembering to keep pushing the boundaries can be hard, so that will be a key factor for us this year.
Over the past few months, our running has started to see a lot more variation than before, which is great. Now, we have a whole repertoire of different types of sessions, which is something we’ve seen others have (primarily through social media) and been slightly jealous of. Last week (Feb 4-10), for example, we did a total of 100k over 5 sessions. Because of deep snow, all sessions took place on either road or gravel road (where it was plowed). The first one was roughly 15k, and we did the first 5k at 5:30 min/k pace, the next 5k at 5:00 min/k pace, and the last 5k at 4:30 min/k. With a few hills (200-250 m vertical gain) and slippery ice underneath our feet, it was a sweaty one for us. Next day, we did 23k and tried to get some more elevation in there (that Fjällmaraton, you know) without allowing the pace to drop. Basically, every big hill we went up or down, we did twice. We got to 450 m, which is by no means a lot but… it’s something! The third run measured 18k, and we just chugged along at a pretty comfortable pace, feeling a little tired from the previous day and a night of poor sleep. Next up, 15k of “every other kilometer”, as we call it. We pick two paces – one faster and one slower – and alternate between the two, always making sure to start and finish with the slower (warm up/cool down). We set the paces for this particular run to 4:30 and 5:30, but felt good and ended up doing 5:00 and 4:15 instead (or was it the freezing rain and strong winds that had us long for the shower a little extra?). The last one for the week was the long run. This time, we tried something new – we did 19k at roughly 5:30 min/k, just enjoying ourselves and some welcome sunshine, and then turned it up and did 10k at 4:50 min/k. One more kilometer at a slower pace, and we could close out the week by checking off 30k, eating a record-big bowl of oatmeal, placing feet high and watching the Alpine World Championships on TV. This previous week differs from our “normal” running in a few ways – first of all, we usually run mostly on trails and tend to stay away from pavement as much as we can (personal preference). Second of all, we always do one shorter interval session (for example 5×8 min, 10x1k or something of the like), but it was too icy for something like that this past week (and not safe to do on the winding, super narrow country road out there, where cars can surprise you around the corner). But besides that, pretty similar. This week (Feb 11-17), we did back-to-back long runs (30k Friday + 30k Saturday) and upped the overall quantity a bit, to 120k total. These were spread out over 6 sessions.
And then, you know – it’s all the other stuff that matters too. The food you eat. The sleep you get. The stress you try to avoid.
In addition to the running, we’ll try to stick to our daily yoga session going forward (another good habit), and be more diligent about strength training. We usually accumulate 45 min-1 hr over the course of a week, so there’s room for improvement. What we do now usually consists of a mix of bodyweight exercises (planks of different kinds, lunges etc.) and some using a band. A favorite is the side-shuffle with a mini band – you definitely feel that one afterwards. What else is there to mention? Well, we work a lot on our house and property outside, which we jokingly call our “cross-training”. But in all honesty, we both feel like chopping and schlepping fire wood, hauling dirt around the garden, snow shoveling, weeding etc. work if not as well as going to a legit gym, at least close enough 🙂 And then, you know – it’s all the other stuff that matters too. The food you eat. The sleep you get. The stress you try to avoid. We eat mostly plant-based, and never say no to dessert. Or bread. We try to go to bed early, and in the absence of kids (so far), we get a good night’s sleep most of the time. And we live a quiet life, nowadays, quite far away from stress and packed agendas. That helps, too, in giving yourself the best possible platform to grow strong from.
Now, though, it’s over to you: what races are you running? Will we bump into you at any of the ones we’re going to? What are your thoughts as far as your own training is concerned? We’d LOVE to hear about anything and everything you’d be up for sharing, so please tell us and other readers in the comment section below!
Wishing everyone a positive, strong and healthy spring full of movement, in whatever way you choose 🙂