Author: Dennis Sundman and Frederic Gabry
Background (by Dennis)
During Fred’s graduation party last year we got to know he was moving back to France. In combination with some (++) wine, and being concerned he would not come back to visit Sweden, I decided to sign us both up for Stockholm ultramarathon. The original plan was for both of us to run the 100 km distance. While I slowly included longer and slower runs after Stockholm marathon, Fred decided to focus more on shorter and faster distances. Some weeks before the ultramarathon, we therefore decided to split; he would run the 50 km and I would stay with the 100 km. This is a good thing because now we can cover two races in one blog post.
Prelude to an unexpected gold (by Dennis)
Some weeks before the race, I decided that I should go for a 60 km run. Despite not having a particularly good day (I had to stop twice for shelter from the heavy rain), it became evident that I could, without too much effort, go down to 4:30 pace at any point. Elaborating with the thought that 4:30 felt convenient in a 60 km run, maybe I could keep this pace during 100 km in the competition? The likely slow down towards the end, and taking into consideration that I am inherently optimistic, aiming for a sub 8 hour time seemed like a realistic goal. This year Stockholm ultramarathon was the Swedish championship (SM) for ultramarathon. Checking the results from previous year’s SM, I noticed that a sub 8 hour time could, with some luck, lend me a top three place. I figured the chances of actually achieving this as small, but knowing Murphy, if I would not participate in SM, I would for sure perform well.
In order to participate in SM you have to represent a club connected to SFIF. So with three weeks remaining until the race, I contacted some local running clubs. Because of the short notice, I wasn’t able to get anything arranged. However, a few years ago I participated in Vasaloppet together with a friend from Umeå. Vasaloppet is a cross-country skiing competition and in order to enter it you also need to represent a club. My friend was skiing for a club called Team Esplanad, so at that time I decided to join them too. Since I was still registered there, I called them and got a shirt with the club emblem sent by mail. I was ready to represent Team Esplanad in SM.
Friday before the race (by Dennis)
Since the plan was to leave to France for some days of vacation on Sunday evening, coming back on Friday, and taking into consideration that I will be toastmaster at a wedding on the coming Saturday, I decided to take vacation on Friday before the race. The day was spent on picking up the bib, having lunch with newly arrived Fred, fetching the suit from dry cleaner, doing laundry, and finally some dinner with pre-race talk, and chess playing. We decided that I should stick with whatever group doing slower than 4:15 pace and stay there for as long as possible trying to go for an SM medal if opportunity arose. Since Fred is preparing for a marathon later during spring, the plan for him was more focused on time; we concluded that he would go for 4:00 pace and get a good long run as preparation.
Race day (by Frederic)
After a relatively short sleep of 4-ish hours, it was finally time to start the long and hopefully successful day. Dennis starting at 7am, I had to leave the place I was staying in Gärdet around 6:30am to be able to catch Dennis’ start and for some motivational chat. For my pre-race preparation, I did not deviate from my marathon routine (since my plan was to consider the 50km as a marathon race and “see what happens after 42km”). I ate some candies and honey, and ran to the start with a Powerade in my hand. Dennis, fully covered in sun cream, seemed ready and focused for his challenge, as you can see in the pre-race video below. I was able to follow Dennis’ race closely the first 3 laps before my start – which was quickly starting to become an afterthought as the 100km race was quite exciting. Dennis was totally in control of his pace and was looking (in my opinion) like a very strong contender for the SM bronze medal behind A. Rangenlind and H. Stridh who had a considerable margin over the rest of the field. But it was time for me to drop my GoPro and go to the start.
Race report 50 km (by Frederic)
As the race started, I realized that I had no real plan or objective for the next 3-4 hours to come. Indeed, I am planning to run a marathon in Germany 4 weeks, with the goal to beat my PB and hence had no intention to go full out around Djurgården. A situation somehow comparable to L. Holmsäter, the huge favorite of the 50km race, who was not running the 100km in view of his preparation to the World championship of 100km as a member of the Swedish team. Nonetheless, Linus immediately took the lead, turned around in the small climb of the first lap to take a last look at the field, and was never to be seen again, winning the race in 3h16. After a slow kilometer to see if I could find a fellow runner at around 4:00 pace, I decided to continue alone at around 3:55 pace which felt comfortable early on. The race was quite uneventful from my point of view. I had a quick talk with Dennis after 10 km where he had solidly taken the 3rd position and still looked fresh as we exchanged some jokes. Except the 5th lap, between 34 and 42km, when I felt I was slowing down and started having bad thoughts, I kept a quite even pace throughout the race. I managed to finish second in 3h22, at an average 4:03 pace which was pretty much what I had hoped for before the race. More importantly, I did not exhaust myself too much in preparation for the marathon to come, and also, for the next 2 hours of cheering for Dennis, which as I finished, now was 2nd in the SM race!
Race report 100 km (by Dennis)
I got up at 4:00 am and dragged myself to the start. It was a beautiful morning that promised a sunny day, so I applied lots of sun cream. I also managed some pre-race chatting with Fred, when all of a sudden the race was on. In such moments, when the sun is just rising above the horizon, the air is fresh and the body is alert, it is easy to become emotional. However I had committed myself to a challenge, to fight for a medal in SM. I moved my focus from the beautiful morning to the runners around me. Three runners pulled away independently at paces way below 3:45. Since I was quite aware of my own capacity, which limited itself to a long-time average at around 4:15, and for some kilometers maybe 4:00 pace, I had nothing better to do than letting them go. Instead I started evaluating a group of three runners just in front of me. They were still at about 4:05 pace chatting with each other, so I placed myself some 20-50 meters behind them, hoping for the pace to subside. After about 8 km, another runner passed me and joined the group, which now consisted of four people. Their pace had dropped significantly and we were now clocking the kilometers at 4:30. This was perfect for me, and I got updates from Fred that among the three runners who had pulled away early, there were one non-SM participant (S. Moujed) and two SM participants (A. Rangelind and H. Stridh). So, an early indication would be that either someone from the group of four, or myself, would be competing for a bronze in SM. At this point (around km 20-25), the fourth member in the group slowly started to pick up speed. For once, I didn’t come to the race to produce a certain time or just to have fun, I came to challenge for a medal. Therefore, I decided it was time to first join the group and then pass it. This was swiftly done and I joined the lone runner currently placed 3rd in SM (and 4th overall). During approximately 5 km we were running side-by-side, but I was not particularly impressed at our pace, which was about 4:35, so I slowly increased it to 4:15. Quite soon I was running alone, listening to the footsteps of my challenger grow more silent. From this point on not much drama happened. I was steady at 4:20 pace which, including stops to eat and drink at every energy station, resulted in 4:25-4:30 pace. Once the 50 km race had started, I was overtaken by L. Holmsäter and soon after that by Fred when he passed me in his race and we had some conversation. He told me there was one runner trailing me a couple of minutes, and that I was most likely still in third place in SM. I was eating dextrose and drinking water with resorb (salt suppliment). As the laps passed, keeping up pace became increasingly difficult. The day had promised 25 degrees and the humidity was high, so I was concerned about getting all the salt and water I needed. Around km 60, I was lapped by A. Rangelind, and he was pushing on furiously in the heat. I got reports from friends around the track that I was now 2nd in SM, and since I could not really recall passing anyone, I figured that H. Stridh had resigned. I also got reports that A. Rangelind looked tired. Now, having one full lap of lead should be sufficient for anyone to sustain the win at this point, so although I got encouraged by this information it did not really make a difference.
Then, at a small downhill in the forest A. Rangelind was lying in recovery position, surrounded with a team of functionaries. All of a sudden, I was the leader of SM, with the one non-SM runner in front. However, his lead was more than 20 minutes at this point, so instead I focused backwards. With three laps to go I got the report that the closest runner behind was eight minutes after. Eight minutes should be enough if I could keep a decent pace, but my kilometers were down to 4:50-5:00 min/km (including stops), and feeling completely sure there would be someone behind that could run 4:10-4:20 pace, I was getting increasingly stressed. With two laps to go I had still about eight minutes lead and I thought this should work out. But half a lap later, I got the report that my lead was only three minutes, and I immediately tried to pick up pace. Starting the finishing lap I was told my lead in SM was 6 minutes and I thought this should be fine if I could keep on my feet. As a side note here, I heard from the speaker that I was now only ten minutes behind S. Moujed, and that I had gained five minutes on him over the last lap. Ten minutes in eight kilometers is too much to be realistic. In the end I finished only one minute behind him but claiming the gold medal in SM.
During the race I had numerous supporters cheering for me. I knew roughly when they were coming and since they were not coming at the same time, I got new encouragement by seeing new faces for each lap. The support I got was overwhelming; they even cheered across Djurgårdsbrunnsviken. Thank you supporter dream-team!
Post race and recovery (by Dennis)
Since we were going to France the following day, Fred stayed at my place. Therefore, we decided to invite the supporters, and some other friends, for pizza, beer, sparkling wine, and snacks at my apartment. Fred seemed totally unaffected from his 50 km run, which I take as a good sign for his shape. Except for the weariness in my legs, also I felt quite good.
On Sunday we went to the french riviera to recover; at least this was what I thought. It started well with some beach and sand-castle construction as you can see below. But already on Monday Fred brought me to run some hills in Hyeres…