Upplandsleden – Sigtuna to Barkarby
All races get canceled one by one and all that is left is training, not that ”just” training is a bad thing. Rather the opposite, it can be really fun to only have training to focus on and let go of all the pressure and run free. But I still want to challenge myself more than in just training and set high goals that I can go after. That´s why I started to look at the concept of Fastest known time (FKT). That is when you take a predetermined route and try to run faster than anyone else have done before. Or if you know a route that is ”notable and distinct enough so that others will be interested in repeating it”. Then you can add it yourself to the website before you attempt it.
My favourite route in Stockholm is Upplandsleden, the part that goes from Sigtuna to Barkarby, which is a trail that is separate from the rest of Upplandsleden (that actually goes in Uppland county). I have been running on parts of the route numerous times but never from start to finish. Therefore it was a natural selection for my first FKT attempt.
You can accomplish an FKT with three different kinds of support along the way. Supported, self-supported and unsupported. I wanted to do the unsupported version which means you have no external support of any kind. Not even get water from a store, even if its free. That means that I have to find water sources along the way. Luckily I found one water source within a field that was used to give water to the cows and another about two thirds into the route with a similar purpose. I decided a date (30th of may 2020), created the GPX file and registered to route to the FKT website and it was approved almost instantly.
As usual before a race or big event I didn’t sleep much the night before and woke well before the alarm. Packed my things, mostly energy, my GoPro and an extra GPS watch just in case something happened to my first one. My wife drove me out to the start and off I went.
The first 4 – 5 kilometers is quite gnarly, not much of a trail, a few flooded sections and really technical. My plan was to take it easy in the beginning and make up the time later on the easier sections. The whole course consists of really nice but short (2 – 5 km) trail sections which is separated with short transport sections of gravel road or asphalt.
It was a beautiful day, warm in the beginning but not too warm and a slight tailwind. The kilometres went by quite quick in the beginning and all of a sudden I had already got to kilometre 22 where I had to take a short out and back from the trail, jump over the fence into the field with cows to fill my water bottles.
My strategi seemed to work so far, I had regained the time I had lost in the beginning by running a bit faster during the transport sections and by the time I had reach 30 km I even had a few seconds per km to spare. My legs were still feeling fresh and it felt like I could go on forever. By now the sun had come up a bit higher on the sky and had started to bother me a bit. As we hadn’t had any warmth to talk about since the winter until just a few days ago, I hadn’t had the time to adapt. My mouth started to feel dry no mater how much I drank.
Kilometre 50 passed and I started to struggle a bit to keep the pace up but it was still right on time. That´s were I filled one more water bottle, the last one for the whole course (maybe a little on the low side with a total of about 2 litres?). I was really surprised when I heard someone calling my name and cheering, it was my family that had traveled out to the trail for me. While I had a hard time keeping my smile up because of my low point I really got some extra energy that was well needed in that moment.
I got into a section with rolling hills that culminated with a long technical walking hill and I think I pushed a little bit too hard on that one. Once I was on the top the nausea started and just after that I got a stitch on my right side that started growing. In the beginning I just walked the uphills and tried to run everything else but later I was even walking the downhills with a run/walk schedule to try to get rid of it but nothing helped.
From here on it was a real pain game, I thought a few times of quitting but that seamed ridiculous as it was just over 10 km to go. The stitch was growing every time I started to run again after my walk break. With just 4 km to go I saw my family one more time. With 2 km to go I thought to myself ”I can run 2 km no mater how bad my stitch is”. Wrong, 200 meters later I was forced to a walk, tried it again with just 1 km to go but with the same outcome.
Finally I saw the train station that marks the finish of the course and what a delightful felling it is to be able to stop moving forward when you have a stitch that is forcing you to move like a folded hinge in your hip.
This was my first FKT attempt and now I just hope it will be approved. The best thing with running a slower than expected FKT is that it is easier to beat next time.