Week 20 - The one with the marathon story

Posted on: 11 Jul 2018

A bit late, but not quite as late as last year! Here is my race report from the scorcher that was Stockholm marathon 2018. 

I traveled to Stockholm on Friday lunch, and made it there after some disturbances and messages about canceled trains and things. Railways don't do well in heatwaves so for a while it looked like I didn't have a train home on Sunday. Things solved themselves so I could just keep focusing on the pre-marathon eating and drinking haha. When I came to Stockholm I met up with my mum and went to the hotel to leave the bags before going to the, slightly disappointing, expo to collect our numbers. We bought us some shirts at the Asics shop and I got a new Flipbelt since mine broke, and that was pretty much it. 

Walked by the olympic stadium on our way to dinner, just a quick look at it from the outside, saving it for Saturday. We had tapas which was perfect pre-marathon, didn't go for the sangria though, not sure if it was comparable to wine in the Marc plan, haha. Then back to hotel to get all the gear sorted and kit bags packed and all the things you want to do the day before a marathon. 

I had a pretty good nights sleep, and woke up around 8 I think. The start was noon, so lots of time to have breakfast and get ready. The weather forecasts turned out to be spot on, unfortunately, sun shining and already hot when we got up. It seemed to do things to my brain though, since I knew I would not go for a PB all my stress and nerves went away. First sign of that was that I actually had breakfast. And not just forcing something down, I had sandwiches, yoghurt, scrambled eggs with bacon and some pancakes, and was eating with a good appetite. Never had that experience on marathon morning before! But a good start of the day for sure. 

Around 10 we left the hotel to go to the start, met up with one part of our Coach team, Malin who some of you met in London, the other half had to take care of parkrun before joining us (I might have influenced them to be involved in parkrun haha). Lots of runners on their way to the stadium, we couldn't get on the first tube train but after a little pushing we made it on the second one. Glad I'm a bit experienced now, things like this don't stress me anymore. 

At the start we went to the loo and then found us some shade. The pre-race area is a football field, so had a bit of a search to find a spot under a few trees. Every time we felt a cooling wind coming we cheered, every degree down would help us. Had some bananas, drank sportsdrink, prepared what to carry and what to leave to our coaches. At 11:45 we decided it was time to go to the start pens. Both me and mum was in the second wave starting at 12:10 so no rush. Even managed another visit to the loo! As I'm sitting there I heard the national anthem start to play at the start, not proud but this time I didn't stand up haha. A nice addition with the anthem though, and a cool fly over from some planes also made it a nice atmosphere! After that mum and I had to part ways to our differens pens, promising each other to be careful and be smart. 

To manage the heat I did as advised from the Buzzers and had a white buff soaked around my neck. I was afraid it would add to the heat but kept it soaked while in my start pen and decided to try it out for the first bit at least. When you, like me, start at the back of the pack, you have quite a bit of a walk until you reach the start line and I didn't cross it until 12:19. 

A lot of precautions had been taken by the organizers because of the heat. They had added drinking stations, a lot of showers, and my favourite, they extended the maximum time with half an hour. Turned out to be crucial for me. 

It was a slow start, started jogging but it was a bit crowded the first 4-500 m even at the back. It was a new course this year so I hope they will change some smaller things to make it better to next year. For example, at the first part only one side of the road was open to runners, other years it have been both which makes it less crowded. Road works was probably the cause this year, but with about 5000 more runners than last year it was a problem. Mostly for faster runners but I also felt it. The heat also made it chaotic around drinking stations since everyone wanted a drink at every station. It was crowded and the marshalls couldn't keep up with the cups. Because some stations were extra they were shorter which added to it of course. Showers was of course nice, but people actually stopped in them and stood there for a while. How stupid!?! Had to jump around a few. 

So many runners! 

That was that about that. It might sound really bad, but I had a really nice time anyway. Running without pressure was nice, the new course was really nice in the earlier parts, and just like that I stepped on the first timing mat at 5 k, sending a loving thought to everyone tracking me. 

Stockholm is built on lots of smaller islands, so you are always fairly close to water here. This day that was really good since it also meant cooling winds in lots of places. I actually didn't feel too affected by the heat until around 8 km. It was a long stretch on a road with no wind, and blazing sun in my back. Not nice! Kept drinking at the stations, on cup sportsdrink, one cup water, and one cup water over my head and buff. 

First sight of the coach team was at 11,5 km and I had alerted them a few mins before that I needed sunscreen. My arms already hurt, even though I had put some on before. But after this it felt much better. Also got some cold drinks, and of course lots of encouragements. Now the course started to go back to the stadium, they call it a one-lap-course but I disagree, it's still 2 laps, just 2 different ones. I knew I could be lapped by the male winners here, I had calculated in my head that we might be there at the same time, but I missed them. And I'm a bit glad for that since the courses cross each other and the slower runners had to stop and let the elite pass. So stupid, and after organizing 39 marathons they should know better.

Any way, today it didn't affect me, so I carried on towards the more green parts of Stockholm. The marathon course have been going over the green island called Djurgården for many years, some runners love it because it's nice and quiet, and some hate it for the same reason. With the new course the part out there is shorter and comes a bit earlier in the run. I like this part, but beacuse I was comparing a bit with last year I felt a bit low here, where we had 25 km last year we had only done 20 this year. I felt just as tired though, mainly because of the heat. Here I also saw the first ambulance coming past and saw the first collapsed runner. Glad to hear later that no runner got seriously hurt, and while on course you realize how thin the line between managing and collapsing actually is. I took an extra cup of water at the next station and carried on back in to the city. 

The course goes on the left<--- =) 

It was a funny sight here. The roads were closed to traffic, yet there where no runners on them, they were all in the shade under the trees. =D I had my next meeting with the coach team coming up now, at 24,5 km I strongly felt a need for some vaseline. It's not every day you are smearing your thighs with vaseline in the middle of Stockholm. Life as a marathon runner! I still felt ok, despite the dip out on Djurgården, passing half way is always encouraging, but I also felt the energy leaving me. And I knew tougher parts of the course were coming up. So far it had been pretty flat, but the hills of Söder was waiting for me. 

The course passed the Royal castle and soon after that the climbing began. There were an energy station somewhere here where Ice Power sprayed your legs with cooling gel. Seemed like a good idea! It was NOT! Spraying things on your legs when you have chaffing is a bad idea! The only good thing was that it took my mind of running a bit haha. I walked the first hill and looked jealously on the runners on the other side of the road who was 6 km ahead of me and had shade on their side. Later I heard some people making a big mistake here, they went over the road to the shade and therefor missed a turn making the course too short. Some runners didn't realize until much later that they were wrong, and had to decide to either run too short or go back and run too far. For me it was clear that the road was separated and I also had a good knowledge of the course, but I still feel for them. 

Turning away from the faster runners and down on quiet streets. Started to feel very tired here, and my run/walk of 6/1 mins didn't work too well anymore. But talked to some ladies at the next drinking station and we calculated that even if we walked from here (28 km) we would make it to the finish in time! Good news and a bit of preassure taking of. Still I dug deep. It was tough. We ran by one of those big thermometers on a building, and it showed 31 degrees. Brutal! Passing the large cruising ships I had longer walk and decided to switch to 5/1 run/walk, and also asked for support from the buzzers.I had felt my phone buzzing on the way and now it went a bit maniac! So much love flowing towards me. 

Very heat affected now, tried to keep the 5/1 going and it worked on the flat parts but walked all the hills and they were many now! We also went through a tunnel, it was not as cool as I had hoped and very noisy with traffic going by so put my headphones in here. Out of the tunnel and in to the sun again to the part where the courses doubled. No longer shade here, and still uphill so I powerwalked for a bit, ignoring my garmin beeping. Now we were on familiar territory again, this part was on the old course as well so I knew it was not too far to go. (well, still 10k but you know...) I had needed the loo for about 20k by now, but I didn't want to stand in a queue so had ran past a lot of them. Finally felt that I really ahd to go and then 10 portaloos without queues turned up. It was like an illusion but luckily they were real and I could carry on running a bit more comfortable again. 

It was now time for the famous Western Bridge, this year we only had to tackle it once, before it's been twice. It was nice and windy here, and I ran one lamp post and walked one, to the top of the bridge. It's not very steep but long! Ran what felt like a good pace down the bridge, and then we were back to the same place as by 8 km. Now the sun had moved so it was a bit shadier here. It was also sadly a bit more crowded in the emergency tents. I knew by now that I would finish and felt pretty confident. The 5/1 run/walk worked again, I had happy music in my ears and just plodded on. Ran around City Hall and expected a cup of Pepsi around the corner, but no, they where out. On earlier energy stations they were out of bananas, apples, and even sports drink. It's not good to be slow, and somehow I suspect that it's us who run for 5-6 hours that need that energy boost the most. Thankfully my coach team stood 500 m away and they had chilled coke and salty crisps! 

I thought that would keep me going to the finish, I even thought I could touch last years finishing time 5:48. But instead my body said stop, I'm not doing this anymore. After passing the 38 km sign I started to struggle with my breathing, I could no longer take deep breaths because they made me feel sick. Not a good sign! Running with shallow breathing is not easy so I switched of the run/walk alerts and decided to walk for a longer stretch, to let the body recover a little. I saw one of the emergency care tents but I knew that if I went in there and told them I had trouble breathing, they would take me of the course immediately. So I carried on instead, after nearly 40 km done in that heat I was not stopping, no way! So I walked, my watch was way off by now, almost 1 km wrong, so it felt a bit like I never got there.

At the 41 km sign I decided to try running the rest of it, it was mostly flat from here so after one last cup of drinks and one last soaking of the cap and buff, off I went. It wasn't fast and it wasn't pretty, but I moved forward. My garmin tells me the last km went in 7:36 pace. I don't believe that but hey, who cares! Had to walk that last small incline towards the stadium but since I now saw it with my own eyes it was ok! I was really nearly there now!

Lots of runners cheering us on with their medals around their necks, and I turned that last corner to get around to the entrance of the Olympic Stadium. It was the same magical feeling as last year, emotional but happy emotions! When I see the pictures I'm actually smiling! 

I saw the coach team in the grand stand, cheering like maniacs! But I didn't see mum there so got a bit worried, you know she's so much faster than me, had something happened to her? My sister wasn't there either so I expected the worst. You can think a lot in just a few seconds, but I didn't have to worry for long, because guess who was standing just behind the finish line waiting for me? Of course. =) It turned out she had had to walk the last 10 km because of pain in her legs, so she finished in 5:28, and thought I wouldn't be far behind, so she could wait there instead of rushing down the finishers corral and then back to the stadium to meet me. So we hugged it out and then went to get our finisher things. 

The finisher shirt was not a disappointment this year, I love it! And the medal is brilliant! I felt so happy to have finished! 
Went down to get our kit bags again, they had been in the sun all day so everything was liquid in there now. Chocolate, soap, everything! In the shower I got some less nice surprices, the chaffing I had was really bad. I had felt it on the way, since my top was soaked pretty much the whole way it chaffed. Some lovely scars to show on the beach now! But no blistering, at least that's something. =) 

We nearly missed dinner because of the restaurant messing up with our booking, but they magically fixed us a table after some wait. Which didn't matter since me and mum was late anyway haha, I had underestimated the time it would take us to walk there. A nice pasta for dinner, I still had very good appetite, so different from last year when I couldn't eat breakfast and only ate half my dinner. A good day! 

We took the tube back to the hotel, I felt pretty ok but mum had bad blisters. I only got a blister from my slippers when we walked to the restaurant. 26 miles in running shoes, no problem, half a mile in slippers, instant blistering. =D
A bit sore in legs I went to bed, happy with the day. I had done it, I beat the heat! 

On Sunday we only had breakfast and then packed up our things and went to the trains. Journey home went well, despite the heat and all the trouble that had been. A tiny niggle had appeared in my mind though, I was happy that I finished the race, but the feeling that I didn't really got a chance to do it my way started to come. My plan was as you know to do my best race ever, to get that 5:30 I have worked for since 2015. But things I couldn't do anything about came in my way. I know it's part of marathon running, there are things you can't control, but still. I want it so bad! 

So come monday I was already googling other marathons. Unfortunately Sweden don't do lots of them, at least not flat road ones, so next option would be in September. Still haven't decided about that, but I have other things coming up and I will tell you about them in my next post. It's closer than you think! =D 

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