So it’s 6am the morning after the race and due to large amount of discomfort in my legs I can’t actually sleep so I thought I’d start my race blog…..
We only arrived in Stockholm at around 9pm Saturday night and so I hadn’t been able to pick up my number from the “Loplabbet” shop in the city centre which closed at 7pm. Fortunately our apartment was just a 1km walk from the start line so the plan for race day morning was to have breakfast at 5am (Large bowl of Dorset Cereals Proper Raspberry porridge) and then walk over to the info desk to stretch my legs and pick up number. Thankfully this all went to plan and I started to relax a little once I was all sorted with my number.
Sarah and I then went back over to the start line at around 8am and she set up her “crew” station while I walked around not really knowing what a good warm up should be for a 100km….. I decided that 62.1 miles was plenty for the day and so my warm-up consisted of walking to the port-a-loo and back!
The start of a 100km race is a bit odd when it’s your first one, you have been training for 3 months for your “A” race….. the gun goes bang……. and you kick off with what feels like a light jog!!
After around 50m of running I suddenly realised that I was already 10m up on my competitors – I turned round and joked to John Henry Strupstad (who I knew from last year’s World 50km) saying “You can tell this is my first one!”.
The first lap was a shorter cut down version of the full loop (just under 5km) but it already started to give me a feel for the course. A bit “lumpier” than I was expecting but the good news was there was quite a lot of shaded areas which would be useful later on in the day as the temperature rose. For the first lap I also had 3 lead cyclists who amusingingly kept looking back as if to say “Who’s this clown going off at an unrealistic pace, he’s not one of the favourites!”
When I came round to the end of the first lap it was time for me to put into action the hand-signals that Sarah and I had practised 3 weeks ago around the Littledown field. 2 arms went up which meant a bottle of water (with Elete add-in) and a Clif Bar – the trouble was I had mucked up my pre-race debrief with Sarah and had told her I wouldn’t be picking up anything on the first lap. She obviously wasn’t expecting a request from me and quickly scrambled to get something together. I ended up with a bottle of water and some Clif Shot Bloks which was close enough! The other 12 hand overs went without any dramas at all
The first lap went through in just under 19min which was bang on target and then on to the first of the 12 large loops (just under 8km). At this point I assumed I wouldn’t be getting the lead cyclists service any more as it was a multi lap race and the course was quite narrow in places so I thought I would maybe be left to my own devices. It turned out that although the 3 cyclists would drop down to just one, that one would play a major part in getting me a good time.
Marten (pictured below after the race) would end up being the perfect companion for the next 6hrs and 40min. He ensured I always had a clear path through the back markers and spectators, he announced my presence to anyone who would listen – “Here comes Steve from England – leading the race – cheer him on” was the constant shout, he told me off when I wasn’t taking the shortest route and told me I still looked good at 90km when I obviously didn’t!
You’ll be glad to hear that I’m not going to go through a detailed commentary of every lap, to be honest the first 40 miles should be pretty uneventful if everything is going to plan and for the most part it was. It was a good feeling going through the marathon in 2:46 although I found it best not to dwell on the fact that I had to do another one followed by a 10 miler! 50km was 3:17:10 which was a little faster than I’d planned but only by a couple of minutes and it felt “right”.
My nutrition up until half way had gone very well and I had managed to take on 1 Clif Bar and 6.5 packets of Clif Shot Bloks by around 60km. However, as the weather started to get warmer and my effort levels started to increase I was finding it harder and harder to take anything on. At this point I requested to Sarah (with a hand signal of a pat to the heart 😉 ) for my Beet-It shot in my nutrition bag, seemed like a good idea as I was struggling to take on solids and thought a few extra “nitrates” running through my body might help out – seemed like a good plan until I took the top off the shot bottle and chucked bright red beetroot juice all over me – Brilliant!! I did manage to get some of it in me so not a complete waste of time.
It was around 70km when I first started to realise that the legs were going to start making it very hard to keep up the pace. Up until then all my laps had been in 31min – 31min 30s range (averaging just under 4min/k pace) and this was the first one that wasn’t with a 31:48. By no means the end of the world but it did start to put doubts in my mind….. what if everything was about to go pear shaped! I was entering uncharted territory as I hit 80km and I had no idea if my slow down would be gradually or dramatic.
With 10 miles and 2 laps to go the fatigue levels in my legs were becoming really painful, fortunately at this stage my left little toe exploded in a toenail/blister incident which took my mind off the leg pain 😉 This only lasted a couple of minutes though before the legs took first place in the pain management stakes again.
This penultimate lap was probably the hardest mentally. Although the leg fatigue hit new levels in the last lap the fact I still had one more to go at this point meant it was very daunting. A few doubts crept in that I would be able to maintain any sort of pace but at this point the crowd at certain points of the course were getting quite big and I was getting some fantastic support, not least from Swedish Ultra legend Jonas Buud (2nd at Comrades this year and sub 6:30 100km PB) which gave me a much needed lift.
The penultimate lap came in at 33:02, that will do I thought – haven’t fallen to pieces just yet.
I spent most of the last lap trying to visualise how I was going to feel at the end which helped to take my mind off the pain. Thinking about crossing the line, the relief and elation I would feel, hugging my wife and celebrating the win with her, enjoying all the attention I would get for the win and then finally that beer and cigar I’ve been looking forward to for the last 10 weeks
……… and then it all happened just how I’d pictured it
6:40:14 puts me 5th on the British all time list. More than I could ever have hoped for for my debut 100km. At the beginning of my training when I was explaining why I thought I could be quite good at the 100km one the main reasons was because as far as I could see, Ultra racing will repay you well for a bit of hard work and commitment to your training……. turned out I was right – “Smug mode engaged”
“Team Way’ will now be enjoying a couple of days R&R in Stockholm…. may not be much walking going on though!
Full Race results and Splits here
Full Garmin Stats Below