Saturday, 15 August 2015

Race report: Stockholm Ultra

Beautiful Stockholm Royal Park
Best ultra finisher t-shirt *EVER* (fitted, ladies size)
Stockholm Ultra is a really great race; well-organised, fabulous support, great food & drinks and really really lovely volunteers.  I am extremely glad I accidentally ended up doing it - I was in Stockholm for work and the only reasonable flight home was on a Sunday, so I'd miss my usual Saturday parkrun as there aren't any in Sweden (yet).  So I went looking to see if there were any racesin the city that I could get to on the Saturday instead.  Just my luck, there was only one race that weekend; the Stockholm Ultra.  So I entered.  Why not?  It's a lapped course and I'd like to see whether that is as horrible as I think it might be (it's not).

A direct copy & paste of the email I sent to my coach afterwards (with added photos):

First up, yes I am happy with how Stockholm went, especially the recovery.  I'm not worried about the fact that my pacing was terrible (for me) as it's been a while since I've run so far in one go, and I was really out to just enjoy myself and come out the other side uninjured.  Initially I'd thought I'd aim for 6.5 hours and averaging 12 min/mile plus a few minutes to allow for stops for water etc. and with a 10:1 run:walk tactic after 20 mins of warm up jogging.  But the race didn't quite unfold that way.

Pretty humid
It was hotter than I'd anticipated and quite humid (nothing like New York, but quite sticky in places).  I set off towards the back at what was a little bit of an ambitious pace compared with the original thinking, but it felt nice at the time. I then realised after just over half a mile that my heart rate wasn't being picked up by my Garmin so stopped for a fiddle with the technology and then got a bit silly about trying to get back to the place I was in the pack again.  It all felt really nice and easy and I decided not to run/walk (a lovely conversation with myself in my head about being a wuss for walking in something practically flat and only a tiny bit longer than a marathon) and then things got tricky at about the end of the 3rd lap (11 miles or so in, having averaged 10.5mins/mile for the first 11 miles or so).  

Feeding alley & start/finish area.
At that point, I got "bored of breathing" (weird and hard to explain, but I had it at Rotherham a long time ago; the thing that took the most energy and willpower was breathing and the insides of my chest ached).  I got the darker thoughts of wanting to stop and the odd cramp in my left glute.  My pace dropped off by about 45s-1min/mile to almost down to 12 min miling at that point and I started to take the walk breaks as the alerts came up on my watch.  My legs were OK, it was breathing and unpicking the mental stuff that started to be difficult.
Useful(sorta) lap board that tells you how many laps left and predicted finish time at your average pace to that point.  I'd've bitten your arm off for a 05:27 finish (this was 4 laps to go).
The end of lap 3, I quite wanted to stop but didn't. The end of lap 4 I really wanted to stop but didn't.  The end of lap 5, having had the pace drop a bit more down to 12.5mins/mile on average, I convinced myself that it'd be dim to stop with only 5 miles to go, I upped the pace again from 4.5 miles to go, back up to 11.75mins/mile on average for the last push and even a "sprint" finish for the last 500m uphill (OK, 29 feet in 1/2 a mile).  My last lap (6th) was almost 7 minutes quicker than the penultimate (5th) lap and 3 minutes quicker than the lap before that (4th)!  So there was plenty left in the tank both physically and mentally.

First mini-lap - 11:30 (including faffing & stopping) (1.25miles)
Lap 1 - 51:42 (5 miles)
Lap 2 - 53:14 (5 miles)
Lap 3 - 55:31 (5 miles)
Lap 4 - 1:01:24 (5 miles)
Lap 5 - 1:04:59 (5 miles)
Lap 6 - 58:12 (5 miles)
(Marathon split - 5:01:08 (26.2 miles))

Interestingly, it's about 21 miles in where my ability to push effort seemed to properly drop off - HR dropped from averaging around 165-170, to where I didn't feel able to push higher than 155.  A chunk of that will be related to walking breaks which started off at 10:1 then 9:2 and for the last 5 miles I took as few walking breaks as I felt I could manage with - the end was in sight and I was feeling able to push on a bit better. Also interestingly I was in 44th place from the 11 mile point to the end (of 82 women doing the 50km route).

It was definitely worth a punt and I hit some of the goals, the ones that mattered anyway - get around without hurting myself, have fun.  And it's a nice positive boost on the recovery side; not sure I'd nip out for a quite marathon right now, but normal training runs seem quite possible after a few days of recovery.