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.

Image by Debbie Miracolo

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 🙂

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  1. Great to read about your endeavours! ”Jättelångt” is supposed to be beautiful, but in the early days the route was not that clearly marked out so some runners ran some extra miles 🙂 Hopefully they have improved there by now!

    My main goal this year is to have a ”normal” running season again since the way-to-early death of my best friend and training companion since more than ten years back left me completely drained on all energy last year. I am still recovering from that but slowly returning to a normal state of mind again. I have no ambition of increasing my mileage, if I can runt 50 km/week as a full year average I would be more than happy, this mileage is about what I can manage (If I can squeeze in a weekend long run I sometimes can manage 70-80 km/w but not every week), with kids and work and it doesn’t make me focus too much on my running.
    I will however, increase the intensity in my training runs once spring is here, I am actually longing for those hard, long tempo runs, long intervals, long runs with the last 10 k’s at marathon pace etc and I know that running 50km/week and have a quite high intensity in at least two of the workouts can keep me at a really good level where I can compete at my age group level.

    I will likely run Stockholm Marathon again for the eight time, not as a ”A-race”, more because I really like it, its a great experience and I would like to run a decent time meaning in the 2:55-range for me.

    Perhaps I’ll run the half marathon Kungsholmen Runt in Stockholm as a tune-up race before the marathon, a few local, shorter (mainly 10k’s) together with folks from my running club, and I will likely also run the Stockholm half marathon in september.

    I am aiming for about 5-8 races in total this year, I have not defined any A-races. My PR’s are mostly from 2014 and are a bit too far away at the moment, but I would like to run close to 2:55 at the marathon, a 37 minute 10k and the half marathon in at least 1:21-1:22 range or at least being able to run faster than 4 min/km for the full distance but the time goals are not the most important.

    1. I loved reading this, Staffan – despite the fact that it breaks my heart how you’ve lost your training companion, of course. I really can’t express enough how sorry I am. Ever since my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 1.5 years ago, I’ve definitely changed my outlook on life. What’s important, what really matters in the end, what should be prioritized. Thankfully, my mom made it through the treatments and is stronger than ever now, but the worries and burdens along the way took their toll on me. I’m actually struggling with a touch of hypochondria now – I’ve been the exact opposite of a hypochondriac my whole life, but these days I diagnose myself with new diseases on a daily basis. Reading about how you’re finding your way back to running and feeling good about it again makes me so happy – and both Mike and I are keeping our fingers crossed you’ll be able to stay in this positive mindset and have a great season!

      We’re both equally impressed by your PB:s and achievements over the years – you’re so fast! Question: for how long have you been pursuing running at a competitive/professional/semi-professional level? An all-my-life kind of thing or less than that?

      And speaking of impressed – how you manage to juggle full-time work, four (!!) kids, family life AND running as much as you do is nothing short of incredible. I mean, I’ve always regarded myself a very disciplined, time-efficient character who gets her stuff done – but I think you might outdo me! Is your family into sports/outdoors as well?

      It’s very likely we’ll pop into the city to spectate the Stockholm marathon, so let’s stay in touch – we’d be happy to hand you any refreshments along the way as well, if we’ll be around! Until then – good luck with all the training (we hear you on longing for spring conditions now) and we’ll be cheering you on from over here, as far as reaching those insane time goals of yours. You’re an inspiration. Thank you for stopping by!

      Kram Sophia

      PS. Saw the quick 30k run you did a week or so ago – do you feel fine afterwards, or a little worn? While we could pull it off, we’d need some recovery time after (we’d feel more like post-race), and I’m just curious how you feel. Obviously I know you can go even faster, but still!

      1. Hej Sophia (and Michael, if you’re reading as well 🙂 I’ll do this in english since you already have a challenge in the comment below from David 🙂

        My friend, who I knew was in deep pain and depression unfortunately committed suicide and although I knew him very well, this came as a complete shock to me as well as his family (wife and two kids so yes, it hurts and it’s been a struggle I am still fightning on an every-day basis. Running has been more important to me than ever ever since but not from a competetitive point of view, I hardly raced at all last year, but from a healing piont of view, taking care of myself, meeting my emotions, letting go of stuff… etc

        You’re very kind, I have been running for years but more regularly since 2006, before that I just ran periodically. There were no special reason why I started, after the birth of our third child I just felt I needed to exercise a bit more and have an activity that was just mine, if you see what I mean, I think you will later on, when or if you have kids 🙂

        My kids are not that young anymore, 20, 18, 13 and 9 and the oldest even moved away from home to study in august and the others don’t require us to be there for ”nursning” purposes, they are quite independant by now, byt at the same time, with teenagers, parents being present is very important. My wife likes to train as well, although she’s not that much into running so we try to priorize time for that because we know how good it is for us. Mykids are into sports and there are plenty of opportunities to find time for training, e. g. while they train etc. It just takes a bit of planning and often, a bit of extra will power (read: those early winter morning whey you instead would like to stay in bed…).

        It would be so great to cheer on you while running the streets of Stockholm if not before, If you ever plan to go just south of Stockholm, for example to explore Sörmlandsleden for trail running, please let me know!

        Speaking of that long run, it was surprisingly fast, I normally don’t go that far that fast unless its a tune-up race before a marathon, but if felt quite easy, for some reason. It left me a bit sore in my quadriceps the day after. I ran 12km easy pace the day after and had a rest day completely off running the next day and I have been all fine since then. Ran LT intervals both tuesday and wednesday actually and it worked just fine.

        Kram Staffan

        1. Oh dear. What an awful, awful experience, losing your friend in such a traumatic kind of way. All losses are of course devastating, but I can only imagine the pain you, your friend’s family and all the other close ones must have gone through following. I wish you all the best in moving forward and letting go of grief. Running can certainly work as the best kind of therapy – I’m glad you’ve found it useful this past year.

          Haha, one of the things we ”fear” about having kids one of these days is the lack of time to pursue our dreams and goals – it feels inspiring to hear how you’ve managed to combine it all so far. And it warmed my heart, reading your words about the importance of being a present parent. Your tribe is lucky to have such a father!

          We’ll definitely let you know of any endeavors south of the city! The same goes for you, if ever heading north-east.

          And well done recovering after that run. Again, so inspiring!

          Hope you all are having a great weekend so far 🙂

  2. Låter som ett riktigt löparår för er, det blir säkert tufft med UV90 två veckor efter bergsbestigningen i Åre men det är ju utmaningar man vill ha. Har anmält mig till tre lopp så här långt, Sweden Irontrail maraton i maj, Silverleden 64k i juni, Ängsö trailrun 50k i september. Försöker att få till mellan 50-70k träning i veckan med något kvalitetspass och ett långpass. Mina mål är att kunna genomföra loppen på ett (njutningsfullt sätt), då jag inte är någon raket men tjurig och envis. Tack för all inspiration och alla bra recept.

    (Ledsen att det blir på svenska men Michael måste ju också få en utmaning )

    1. Hej! Det är Michael här. Jag pluggar svenska nu så jag ska försöker skriver en lite svar. Tack för dina fina ord. Det blir tufft att springa UV90 två veckor efter fjällmaraton, eller ett annat perspektiv är att fjällmaraton blir en riktigt effektiv träningspass för UV90. Åtminstone hoppas jag så. Vi får se 🙂 Vi har inte hört av Silverleden 64k, men det ser rolig ut. Du måsta berätta oss efter hur det var. Hoppas din träning går bra.


      1. Det där med svenskan klarar du ju galant! Mycket bättre än vad jag skulle klara av att stava på engelska (läsa är inga problem). Ditt synsätt på att det är ett bra träningspass är ju helt rätt. Vad skönt nu behöver man inte ha dåligt samvete när man skriver på svenska. Have a great weekend.
        Best regards David

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