Let's have a look at some numbers:
People in Sweden that have completed all 8 intervals: 38 (and another 7 in the open class)
People from the Skatås Seven that completed all 8: 5. The winner of the intervals was one of us.
Injuries: none (just some scares)
Calories burned: 5084
Calories consumed: A gazillion. In chocolate, peanuts, pasta, cola, raisins etc.
Weight lost: 1 kg.
Hours of sleep from 4.30 Friday morning to midnight Saturday night: 1
8 of 8 ultra intervals. 80 kilometres. 22 hours.
80 kilometres. It's a number that's hard to wrap your head around. You might think that dividing it in 8 intervals would make it easier, but no. Now, I haven't done a 50-miles ultra so that I can compare it to this, but I can compare how I felt after just 4 of the intervals to a marathon. Marathon is much easier. What is supposed to be time to rest between intervals is just an opportunity for your legs to lock up and for your mood to drop.
I would never have managed to do all 8 if I hadn't shared a cabin in Skatås with my running buddies. Without the cheerful banter and the laughs in between intervals. Without the whole adventure of renting a cosy cabin and embarking on something crazy together. There is no chance the 3 o'clock interval would be reason enough for me to leave my bed. Luckily, even though I'm sure none of us really wanted to leave their warm sleeping bags and head out in the darkness and freezing cold (despite D's absurdly enthusiastic claims that "this is fun!"), together we somehow managed to scrape together the courage and head out to what was, for me, the most difficult interval of all. The second one. The one that really made me question my sanity.
|Dark, dark, dark. And cold.|
But then the sun was up for the fourth one, and the fifth one, and the sixth one. And each one of them felt just like any training session, like I hadn't already collected tens of kilometres in my legs. Especially the fifth one – I was flying. Or at least trying to, zigzagging among the pensioners, joggers, prams that were outside on this beautiful, sunny yet crispy late autumn day.
|Sun. A mood enhancer.|
The sixth interval was run in moderate pace. We were all getting tired, knees and feet and hips were aching. And then it was time for 2 team mates to throw in the towel. One of them had made other plans for the evening, and one was experiencing some knee trouble. Both of them had crushed their previous distance records, running 60 km. Amazing.
But it felt a bit empty in the cabin afterwards. Knowing that the intervals were over for some made it less motivating to continue. Maybe they were the smart ones? It was dark outside again, and all the sunshine revellers had gone home. The only people around in the forest was us. No one was talking. Everyone was concentrating on their private struggle. I played some music, but I was too tired to even listen to it.
|I was more horizontally inclined between intervals.|
Resting between intervals 7 and 8 was easy. I slept for maybe 40 minutes, the most sleep I had gotten since Friday morning. Before I knew it, it was time to go again. I ran alone, wanting to choose my own route, tired of running the exact same path in the exact same order, mentally exhausted of seeing the same rock, the same tree, the same parking lot. Not a very good strategy in the end. Trying to find enough kilometres to run on at 9 o'clock in the evening, while having run 70 already on a brain full of mush was taxing enough. I could have skipped that challenge.
Throughout the last interval, there was never a doubt that I would manage it, despite the psychological and physical strain. I was running on determination. And then it was over. 80 kilometres. Too tired to celebrate. Too tired to manage anything but a smile. Too late in the night to care.
But today, having achieved something so marvellous, there will be time for reflection. And to make a solemn promise to myself to never, NEVER do anything like this again.