Trail run 2:02:55  29.6 km (4:09 / km) +358m 3:55 / km
This was my first bit of Swedish tourism. What better way to experience a culture than to join in on the largest XC race in the world. So at 9am, Sam and I got picked up by Kristina and her boyfriend Mats to get a ride down to Stockholm.
Lidingö is a large island near the center of Stockholm, and the Lidingöloppet is a large running race that has been run since 1965, when it was created to mirror the successful Vasaloppet ski race. (or so I learned from reading wikipedia).
Another clubmate, Micke, decided not to run the race and he offered his race number and position up for sale and I grabbed the opportunity ... and sadly left the race packet on the coffee table in the morning. Luckily it wasn't necessary to present the form, just to recall the # (352) and then we were shuttled directly from packet pickup into the sports shop and other vendor area. I really needed to pee, so getting caught in the molasses stream of traffic winding through the hall was a special kind of torture.
There was a 2k jog to the start line, and so once we got ready, Kristina and I followed the hordes and the green streamers up to the starting field. We both had numbers in the 1B start bloc, which means we were only one start line back from the elites. The weather was ideal, blue skies warm and not a cloud, which made the vista of hundreds of runners warming up in this bucolic pasture even more scenic.
The gun went off and I drove forward, wary of getting caught in the bottlenecks ahead in the midst of all the other runners. Right away I could tell that my calves and quads hadn't recovered from Thursday's intervals and there was going to be a dull ache for the next couple of hours :) Nothing too bad though, I was more conscious of trying to jockey for space... I had used the race time calculator that Dad made for me, and decided that the best case scenario would have me running 3:45/kilometer... I was stuck though and even though the start was downhill my garmin was reading a pace of 4:10. This was frustrating because my goal was 2 hrs so I needed to average 4:00, and this was the easy part.
The first few k were very busy, but things started to spread out soon and then I was only running three abreast on some really smooth and beautiful forest paths. Gently rolling terrain and lots of twists and turns in the trail made for very fun running. It was about here that I decided to pull over for a quick pee break, as I decided that the feeling wasn't going away and that I had a long time until the race ended, better to take care of it now and not have to worry about getting a stitch from it. So many people passed me in that 20 seconds!
I settled in and just concentrated on running and making sure that my splits were fast enough. I would pack up with other runners for little stretches of a time before they would pull ahead or drop behind, but I tried not to be too competitive with them because I was aware that the last half of the race was going to be super hard, no need to burn out early. I was going great on the ups and downs... taking quick small steps on all the little bumps and really striding it out on the downs. I was making up a tonne of places on those sections and getting passed on the flats again. Luckily there wasn't too much flat :)
Came through the section near the assembly area (~8k) and was really impressed by the human tunnel that formed from all the spectators cheering. Still on my pace for 2 hrs, but just barely, and starting to realize that I was going to be over. Tried not to let it affect my morale, and just repeated my two new Swedish phrases "rulle ut och rulle på" and "rulle hatt." The first is from a kid's book we borrowed from my co-worker meaning roll out and roll on. The second is an old fashioned idiom meaning let's party!
It was about 20k when the race turned into a test of survival, and I just was working hard to not hemorrhage time. I had a little group of people just ahead and I told myself to not let them go because they were my group.
There is a famous hill on the course, akin to heartbreak hill for the boston marathon, called Abborrbacken (Abborre is the Swedish word for the fish Perch) and even though it was only 40 meters of climb, at 25k into the race it seemed daunting. I was waiting for it though, and I think I attacked it really well. It helped that there was a band playing music at the top ( actually there was a lot of music on the course, from gospel singers, to drum groups, and cover bands playing Bon Jovi, along with some seriously pumped up speakers in the backyard of one Swedish family).
Now, with only a couple of k to go to the finish line I was starting to get passed by all those people that are good at "pacing" and it's so hard to see that happen. I was losing my ability to keep up, and also other aspects of my physical coordination, as at the very next water stop I managed to knock aside/drop two cups of poweraid before successfully grabbing a cup of water and accidentally dashing about half of it in my face (and not the mouthpart of my face).
With just over 2 k to go, I came across Kristina's boyfriend Mats cheering loudly, and that gave me a little surge of energy and a sense that maybe I could speed it up a little. This new energy did nothing to stop the people streaming past me, but I was also overtaking a few unlucky souls that had paced even worse than me. With about 1 k left a speedy woman came past like I was tied to a post, and brought a posse of hangers-on with her. I watched her disappear ahead but the knowledge that the running would stop at the finish line motivated me to drop the proverbial hammer and finish as strong as I could. As I came out of the woods I realized that I was in the finish chute, I also spied the woman up ahead and thought that perhaps I had enough time left to outsprint her across the line.
I dug deep and had a fantastic sprint in, but it would not have been enough... except that she was apparently the first woman finisher and she was hindered by having to get a wreath placed over her as she crossed the line. I'm not so chivalrous as to let this lady go first, so I snuck in just ahead of her, and just under 2:03.
Kristina was just behind me (5th woman, ~2:07). Other notable results from the club were Josef ~1:54, and Ulf ~1:55.
Such a cool race, and I certainly need to come back and try for 2 hours some other year when my legs aren't so dead going into it. Sam was jealous that she didn't get to run ( but she was a fantastic cheering section).
After the racing adrenaline left, I felt pretty tired and nauseous, but now several hours later, after eating Mari's leftover curry and about 45 minutes of salad, I feel like a real boy again.