Suddenly it was that time of year again: a long and cold spring had given way to a surprising explosion of early summer and the town was once again being flooded by runners. The week of Göteborgsvarvet was upon us, and since last year was all good I found myself on two starting lines again.
Trailvarvet turned three years old, and once again the organizers had made it more of a trail. The race took place on a hot summer evening, but my main worry - well above exhaustion or heat stroke - was falling and hurting myself. I rarely run on trails these days, and when I do I tend to stumble once or twice at some moment where I am getting tired and imagine that I have things under control. Thus, my mantra during the whole race was "Do not relax! Do not relax!" I still fell once, but it was pretty gentle for a fall and left no marks.
The organizers had indeed managed to make the trail tougher. Despite looking about the same on the map and being the same distance they had managed to sneak in a surprising amount of additional hills. They had also marked the trail even better and clearer than the last time, I never had to wonder where I was going (something which happened a few times last year), and when I got to answer a few quick questions right after finishing I had not even realized that there was a point where I could have gone the wrong way.
So the trail was tougher, but it was still fun. I did waste some energy running up hills where I should probably have walked, but otherwise I am completely happy with how and what I did. Especially for a one-off trail which I made no effort to prepare specifically for. I imagine just a little bit of preparations could make a big difference, just doing some trail running every now and then and seeking out the odd hill to run up and down would make all the rocks and roots feel a lot more familiar.
Trailvarvet has always been just for fun. With Göteborgsvarvet I ended up competing with myself a bit too much and lost the enjoyment for a couple of years. But the fun came back the last few years, and the sunny Saturday found me standing in the shadow as much as possible, determined to have fun and to make as enjoyable a run as possible. And I did. I think my ultra running experience came out in that I concentrated on feeling good and balancing my energy. As the day was so sunny and decently hot, this came out as a focus on managing heat and getting enough to drink. It was a great success in that I never felt seriously close to overheating. If anything, I could perhaps have stopped a little bit less and ran a little bit faster. But then, I would certainly not have felt as good afterward. As it was, I think I got something to drink and - just as important - pour over myself on all but the very last few stations. The water was wonderfully cool, and it probably was my wettest run so far. Another great sign of things going well was that - possibly for the first time ever - some of the kilometers felt very short. There usually is a point around 16 kilometers at the very latest where someone starts to sneak in extra kilometers between the signs. This year, it seems like they managed to lock that person up. The kilometer signs kept flowing by at a steady pace all the way to the end, and I finished feeling tired but not exhausted.
One clear difference to most other years was that I got passed a lot. Starting in group three was perhaps a bit too early for my level, people kept flowing past me throughout the whole race. I am used to being in a group where I keep to the left and keep passing people most of the time, so being passed takes some adjustment and makes me wonder if I am going super-slow or something. Having a watch measuring speed and other factors is a great help combating this. It also felt good that I had energy left toward the end and got to catch up with a few more people - a nice bit of validation of my focus on staying cool and feeling as good as possible.
I think I have run fewer long distances preparing for this year's Göteborgsvarvet than previously, but I guess I got enough in because writing this on the day after the race I feel nicely worn, free of blisters and generally quite in balance. With some more long runs, and perhaps a few more intervals, I might have been able to finish even faster, but I think I nailed the wellbeing-to-result-ratio for my amount of exercise.
Best Göteborgsvarvet ever in that way?
(Yes, thoughts of working harder to be even faster next year are circling around. I will do my best to fight them down and have a good time next year too. (Not running next year? Strange concept …))