English: Skövde Ultra Festival 24 h 239,417 km

Skövde Ultra Festival, organized by Finnish-born Reima Hartikainen, has established itself as one the most remarkable ultra-running events in Nordic countries. The title "Festival" is not exaggeration as there are 48 h, 24 h, 12 h, 6 h and 100 km races on 400 m track during the weekend. Besides that there is also a one hour "miniultra". 24 hour race was this year an official Swedish championships -race. On 48 h one of the runners was World record -holder Sumie Inagaki from Japan. Also many runners from Swedish national team were either running or cheering for the runners. For example Maria Jansson and Anna Grundahl, among many others, were cheering for us almost all weekend. On track Torill Fonn, who ran Nordic 48 hour record just five weeks earlier was again running 48 hour. And not only participating, she did excellent result again. And still she had energy to cheer for all the runners on the track all the time. Among runners were also Swedish ultrarunning legends K-G Nyström and Bertil Palmqvist running 48 hours.

Skövde 24 h was the first 24 hour track running race of my career. My preparations for this race was far from optimal: my main target for this year was to make a good result in 24 h World championships -race in Steenbergen at May. It ended as a catastrophic failure due to health problems. Recovery from that race took about two months, so I had only couple of decent training weeks between Steenbergen and Skövde. And only one real long training run. Well, I guess somebody must have run 24 hours even with worse preparation, so no worries.

Before the race I was surprisingly calmful and I felt like I had found my long lost self-confidence. I set my minimum target for breaking Finnish 24 hour track running national record 234,231 km, held by Seppo Leinonen since year 1989. My primary target was to run over 240 km. I knew very well that considering my summer training that might require more than perfect race. My earlier ultra races on extremely flat surfaces had all failed in one way or another, so no worries. It has to succeed some day. It might as well be this weekend.

Just a moment before the start, little bit nervous...

First quarter, 66,0 km

At start time temperature was little over 20 degrees and somewhat windy. The conditions were fairly good and made the selection of equipment quite easy. I had no need to change any equipment during the race, except that for night hours I added sleeves and long tights.

Starting pace was little bit faster than I planned, but not too fast. During first hour I ran 11,3 km. On second hour I had little digestion problem: maltodextrin-based sports drink started to roll around in my stomach. With extra salt pill and sip of blueberry soup I normalized my stomach. After that we changed the sports drink. Besides that first six hours was mostly waiting and easy cruising. The flat tartan track started to cause pains in my thighs already after four hours of running, but the pain stayed on tolerable level.

Couple of laps done, Anders Tysk leading

Second quarter, 61,4 km (66,0 - 127,4 km):

At six hours when the running direction was switched first time, I had run 66,0 km. I was about 10 km behind Swedish Anders Tysk, who was running his first ultra. Since first laps I waited him to slow down, but he just kept running sub 5 min/km pace an hour after hour. On 100 km his time was 8.18.15, I was about an hour behind. I tried to concentrate just my own running. After the race I heard about Tysk's multisport-background and that Rune Larsson is some sort of mentor for him. I guess that explains lot and I'll wait eagerly Anders's next ultrarunning race and what kind of results he will do.

At midnight I had about 127 km. Decent pace thinking for 240+ km result. Although the most difficult moments of 24 hour running were ahead for me.

After 13 hours I had first symptoms of nausea, but it was just a warning. About an hour later it was a real thing and I had to vomit. That continued couple of hours. Despite of those problems I was able to run, although pace slowed remarkably and I had to take more walking breaks than I had planned.

Third quarter, 55,0 km (127,4 - 182,4 km):

Yudith Hernandez on her way to Nordic record
After midnight I noticed Anders Tysk was switched to walking. His walking pace was astonishing so it took hours before I was even on same lap. And at that moment my stomach turned upside down and when I was back on track again I was about two laps behind. That continued for hours, until finally at the dawn of a new day I was able to pass him and took lead. Now it is just cruising to an easy victory.

Yeah, sure. Just when I thought so my support informed me that "Young Swedish girl is running like hell and she is about to pass you unless you start running like you are supposed to do". Yudith Hernandez, 23 years, was running the race of her young life and was only about two kilometers behind me. I was so exhausted and tired that I could barely understand what I heard. Let alone to increase my pace, I just kept pushing and distance between me and Yudith stayed at about same for hours. On last moment of the race I was little bit less slow than Yudith, who ran a new fantastic Swedish and Nordic record 234,146 km. Absolutely awesome!

Last quarter, 57,0 km (182,4 - 239,417 km):

When running direction was switched last time I had gathered 182,4 km. I was still on my pace, even though third quarter was slow. Usually the daybreak makes me feel better, but not this time. I could barely run, my thighs hurt and I had to force myself running after walking breaks. Besides that I had problems with eating and drinking enough, even though Jaana made her best in order to keep me hydrated well enough. After 19 hours I visited a toilet and noticed that my urine was red. I knew that it was not a good sign, but I just tried to convince myself that it is only because of blueberry soup. Well, maby it was. Anyway, I felt dizziness and other symptoms I knew might be caused by dehydration, but I decided to continue the race. I trusted that my support, as a health care professional, drags me away from the track if she believes I might be in a situation that compromises my health.

Despite my problems, I was still on my target pace. I just wasn't interested that anymore at that time. All I could think was Finnish track running record and I made a decision that I'll stop when I pass 235 km. Luckily Jaana and Jyrki who was about to run 100 km race starting at 6 hours after 24 hour race finished disagreed with me. They made their best in order to keep me on track and tried really hard to push me over 240 km. Unfortunately it didn't work this time. Usually I have no problems running over 10 km on last hour of 24 hour race, but this time it just was too much. On last moments I even started to walk, but Sumie Inagaki, running on 48 hours, passed me and reminded that I have only ten minutes left. Reluctantly I forced myself to jog, even though I knew at that time that there were no chances to run over 240 km anymore. When the finishing signal was shot I fell on the lawn. 239,417 km, my second best 24 hour result, new Finnish national record on 24 h track running, Finnish and Nordic season best (so far), On this year's World ranking my results is 8th on the results done "outside of World championships -race". So, I guess it could've been worse, especially considering my preparation for the race. On the other hand, couple of more good training weeks and maby I've lasted 24 hours instead of 22 hours running and 2 hours of struggling. We'll never know.

This is the end...

After the race

After couple of minutes nice resting on the lawn I was able to walk on my own to shower. Well, almost on my own, Jyrki just gently showed me where to walk. Or maby it was more like wobbling, almost walking anyway. It took me quite a long to get washed up as I enjoyed rather nice time in toilet puking quite thoroughly. And same routine continued when we waited prize giving ceremony to start.

When we were in our hotel room, Jaana made it clear that I have to drink. A lot. No, that's not enough, you have to drink more. It took me hours to get few liters poured in my mouth and I couldn't even think about eating anything before next morning. Usually I have no problem eating a good beef or pizza after 24 h race, so my body was really screwed up this time.

Running 24 hours on track was a nightmare both as a physical activity and especially as a mental challenge. Will I ever even consider running 48 hours on track. Well, I don't know...

Some numbers:

6 h: 66, 0 km
12 h: 127,4 km / 61,4 km
18 h: 182,4 km / 55,0 km
24 h: 239,417 km / 57,0 km

Halfs: 127,4 km + 112,0 km / 53,2% + 46,8%

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