A Stockholm (Sweden) Runaround

I’ve been in Stockholm for work meetings since very late Sunday night (actually, technically, Monday morning).  My schedule had a 2hr 20min run on the docket, with the flexibility to place that either on Monday or Tuesday, depending on what else might be going on.

Given I was up rather late Sunday night getting the Stages Power review out the door, I elected to operate on slightly more sleep (though only slightly) and go with a Tuesday run instead.

Thankfully, our meetings ended a bit early on Tuesday, and I was able to start running before dark.  I had expected that I’d have to run fully in the dark, which meant that my routes I was looking at were mostly focused on being ones I figured were well lit.  Though, in general, I had no idea where exactly I’d go.  I just hoped to stay away on plowed paths as much as possible.

My run would start from the Stockholm Hilton, which overlooks a body of water and the city center beyond it.

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You can see the water below, along with an interesting approach to locking ones bike up.  It looks like the individual used the elevated approach as their lock was too big to fit through the chain-link fence.

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It didn’t take long for a reminder of how cold it could get here.  Below you see some of the ice that filled up the area in front of the hotel.  Luckily for me, the weather actually wasn’t that cold – right at about the freezing temperature (32*F/0*C), so it was more than fine for a long run.

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Here’s more ice.  Somehow, photos of ice doesn’t get old for me.

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Once down along the city center island, I found myself a bike path.  Alongside most of it was a walkway.  Though sometimes the walkway wasn’t terribly well paved, usually the bike lane was, despite having just snowed on my arrival Sunday night.  Luckily, the Swedes are really efficient at cleaning bike lanes of snow.  In fact, even by Monday morning they were largely cleared.  I was fairly impressed.

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Just to put in perspective where I went, below is a little map (and Garmin Connect activity page).  I started in the lower right at the big red blob, and then I continued along the southern side of the city center, eventually crossing a bridge and heading out on that long out and back section.  I then came back into the city on the northern side, before burning a few more miles coming back along the south and into the middle and returning back to the hotel.  But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

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Stockholm is interesting in that it’s sorta like Venice – water everywhere.  You’re seemingly constantly crossing canals or bridges to get around.  In this photo, I was crossing one bridge (over water), while taking picture of another bridge.

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It was also interesting to see the differing sizes and types of ice.  For example, down near the ferry boats the ice chunks were as big in length/width as small cars, but more glass-pane like – flat.  Rather than chunky and smaller I saw in other places.

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Around the entire city center area was a bike and running path that I alluded to.  In a few places, the running path meandered off on its own and I’d follow it for a bit.  Usually until I hit a dead end.

As you see below, there’s a sign for parents/children.  This is notable because of how many parents I actually saw out there with children in tow.  Really astounding.  I often saw 3-4 moms pushing strollers at a time – in some cases in the middle of nowhere (relatively).  I think I probably saw more strollers and moms and cyclists…which is saying something since I saw a lot of cyclists.

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That trail above eventually dropped me down on this snow covered trail below.  It was pretty, but a bit tricky to run on.  I didn’t have Yaktrax with me, so this half of a mile or so section was a slick and unstable, especially when it climbed back up a rather steep switchback section that had mostly iced over.  Not my finest pacing (or running) moment.

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At that top of that switchback section though was a prize: A hot dog stand.  Seriously.  Just sorta hanging out in nowhere.  Pure awesomeness.

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Now that I was up above the water a fair height, I continued along the sidewalk.  You can see it’s getting a bit darker out, so my pictures get a bit fuzzier being hand-held and running.

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About 5-6 miles in, I crossed over a rather high bridge over the water below.  I had come from the left side of this picture, working my way along the waters edge where the path would allow.  I thought the ice flows were pretty cool.  What wasn’t as cool however was how brutal the wind was up here.  I was literally running faster than most cyclists crossing the bridge due to the heavy winds.

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On the other side of the bridge and a mile later, a cow awaited.  My cow! (See here mid-way through post for backstory on ‘My Cow’).

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Once I got past the cow, things got quiet and tranquil fairly quick.  It was almost like being transported a hundred miles away.  Just cute colorful houses, a snowy path, and nice streetlights (and ladies with strollers).

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Then things got really quiet.  I wasn’t really sure where I was going exactly, but I just kept on going for a bit longer hoping to add some more miles before turning around.  Ultimately though, not much further down this road to the left it came to a dead end at a park parking lot.  It was nice and quiet though in the trees with the snow everywhere.

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So I turned around and worked my way back across the big bridge.  This time, quickly sticking the camera on the railing to get a stable photo in the dark.  With practice, I can do this and stop less than 2-3 seconds.

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Once back in the city for a bit, I was nearing the 1hr 30m minute marker of my run.  This is when I would switch from being a heart rate driven run to a paced run.  For the first portion of the run I was holding a Z2 heart rate (roughly between 146 and 157BPM).  This had been in the range of 7:30/mile on flat ground.  But as I passed 1:30, I’d then go another 50 minutes at a 7:10/mile pace – ignoring heart rate.

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It worked out pretty well that as I hit the 1:30 marker I largely broke free of snow and ice on the road/trail and ended up on a nice flat paved section that you see below.  Perfect for cruising around.  And surprisingly, a fair number of runners out as well in this section (and strollers).

There was no more picture taking in the 50m section, because it was both dark (pictures become fuzzy), and because I was pretty focused on just getting the run done at the correct pace.

It’s interesting to see the bump in heart rate and how it impacts things as I go from 7:30 to 7:10.  You’d think it’d be minimal, but at that stage in a run, your body has pretty much stabilized heart-rate wise, so it ends up being a fair jump.

Note in particular, the NGP.  NGP is the Normalized Graded Pace – which helps account (equalize) for hills and the like in your pace.  This is probably one of the most useful metrics on TrainingPeaks for me, as I can then better understand the impact of things like going over the top of that huge bridge.

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So you see above, even though my average pace for the first section was 7:40/mile, my NGP was 7:26/mile.  In a relatively flat course like the Paris Marathon I can better understand what my reaction to a given pacing strategy might look like.  As you can see above, in that first section there was some 625 feet of climbing.

Speaking of climbing, at the end of 18.64 miles, the little bump from down near the water there up to where I took this picture upon finishing was surprisingly painful.  It didn’t help I was slipping and sliding around on ice.  I think old ladies in walkers (and young ladies with strollers) were walking up faster than I.

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With that, another long run in the books.  Just over a month until the Paris half-marathon (called here the ‘semi-marathon’), and then another month later the Paris Marathon (full thing, no semi).

Btw, almost every time I post a runaround, folks ask what camera I take on my run.  Below is my camera.  It’s the Panasonic Lumix TS-3.  The TS-4 is the current version.  I use it because it’s waterproof to a few meters deep (plenty for swimming), mostly drop-proof and I can take it with me from swim to bike to run.  It also has GPS in it and geotags the pictures, but I find that in general it takes a really long time for it to find satellite, so most time my pictures show me on whatever continent I was on last.  As you can see below, it’s taken a few spills – but it still keeps on ticking.

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And finally, below, some Swedish food.  Lunch actually, before my run.  Probably the best meal I had there (even if it doesn’t look terribly pretty).  That’s an egg on the left side, mashed potatoes on the bottom, and what could only be considered a gigantic meatball up top.  Covered in a sauce with sautéed onions.  The smaller Swedish meatballs have to wait until next trip.  As does Ikea.

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As always, thanks for reading!

32 Comments

  1. It seems you caught the 'best' weather we've had here for a while - last couple of weeks it's been -15 to -20 so it's basically 20 degrees warmer now.

    As I live in Stockholm, it's great to see the familiar surroundings and read about your experience on your blog ;-)

    Next time you're here, make sure to run to the right instead of the left once leaving Hilton Slussen, and head for Djurgården.

    Reply
  2. Always fun with an outside perspective. We live about a km from the Hilton and my wife follows your initial route on her way to work in the mornings. Good run, and a late welcome to our home town from us.

    Reply
  3. Jeff T

    Yo dawg, you should use Strava on your iphone during your runs and take pictures with it as well. They just updated their app and it will push it to your account and tie them to the run.

    Reply
  4. Roamingseaside

    Apologize if you have hit on this subject before, but I have had trouble located older blog post with the new site. Great insight, but how do you typically find routes in towns you travel to for work. I am starting to pick up travel schedules more frequently and am training for IMWI and IMCA 70.3 and hate the thought of 90 treadmill sessions. Any tips?

    Reply
    • Dirk replied

      Ray uses Garmin Connect to find routes in foreign areas.

      Reply
  5. Iain Sainsbury

    How do you carry your camera when you are running? (And swimming -nowhere to put it in a wetsuit) - great run though - I love running in Stockholm in the morning - a beautiful city!

    Reply
  6. Thats cool! We have been in the Hilton Hotel too, when we travelled to Stockholm in September 2011 when the Stockholm Halfmarathon was held.

    Gamla Stan is so beautiful and indeed the area when you head right to Djurgården is amazing.

    Cheers,

    Daniel

    Reply
  7. Henrik

    Excellent post! Really entertaining to read about your home town. I agree with the others about taking to the right next time and run through Djurgården and Gärdet, if possible do it during springtime! :-)
    And because you did the run around Kungsholmen I am not surprised that you met a fair number of runners since that is supposed to be the number one running route in the center of town.

    Reply
  8. Nice read! That windy bridge (Västerbron) is passed twice in the Stockholm Marathon. I work at Slussen but live outside the city, so I rarely go run in those areas. Only at race day :)

    Reply
  9. Except that the windy bridge was Tranebergsbron. ;)

    Reply
  10. Did you go for a dip? I'd like to see just how the Garmin 910 xt works in there. In you go DC.

    Reply
  11. Peter

    I'm interested in hearing more about your use of NGP. I do a lot of my training in hilly areas but generally when I select races that have a flat course. How close (or equivalent) do you think the NGP is to running at that pace on a flat course?

    Reply
  12. Tim Kalafut

    Hey Ray,

    You know that view in Sport Tracks where you can have a world map with a little square in all the places you've done a run/ride? I wonder what yours looks like. I think mine is kind of cool - I've pretty much 4 cornered the US plus some spots scattered in between, and tacked on Hawaii, New Zealand, and Germany, but yours is probably pretty impressive.

    Reply
  13. Josh

    I could be mistaken, but I think that's the hot dog stand that was featured in the Stockholm episode of No Reservations (the Anthony Bourdain show on the Travel Channel).

    Reply
  14. Dude, impressive run. 7:30 min avg over 18 miles w/ ice that slowed you down, your real avg would have been closer to 7 min/mile

    Reply
  15. Stockholm is such a beautiful city. Thanks for sharing this post.

    Noting it once again here, the average pace was quite impressive. Chapeau!

    Reply
  16. Another nice post,thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  17. Iain

    Thanks as always for taking the time for these travel posts

    Reply
  18. Ha! Nice to see once again some of my own paths taken in Stockholm in August.
    Lovely capital. Probably the most beautiful Europe has!

    Reply
  19. Pablo

    Would love to know your warm up routine. Do you warm up at all before heading out? 70 bpm min HR seems low. Also, perhaps related, would love to know your typical strength training routine, if you wouldn't mind sharing. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No warm-up. In general, most coaches and others agree that stretching before running tends to lead to more injuries than less. Instead, just a gradual build is recommended. You can see that in my run file.

      I don't see any 70BPM in my file, except the first few seconds as I go from stopped to starting running. Of course, that marks the 'minimum' HR value that you see at the start.

      Reply
  20. Hi rainmaker!

    When are you coming to Finland! Would love to show you around and pick your brain for a day!

    Let me know and we'll set it up!

    Reply
  21. I've also got the Lumix camera! It's adorably sturdy! I've taken it out on a few runs with me, but I don't tend to get shots that are as clean as yours, even in broad daylight. What settings do you usually have the camera on while you use it? Just the default auto or do you adjust it for the light?

    Reply
  22. Snowman

    "Luckily, the Swedes are really efficient at cleaning bike lanes of snow. In fact, even by Monday morning they were largely cleared. I was fairly impressed."

    Well, that's because it had not been snowing for a couple of days and it was above zero degrees, The Swedes are terrible at cleaning bike lanes. Cars and buses are priority one. And two. And three.

    Hopefully the snow will melt away before the next snow fall and bikers and pedestrians will be happy for a few hours at least.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It snowed Sunday evening and into at least 3-4AM Monday morning (I know, as I was watching it snow out my window until then).

      It was actually snowing hard enough that in between each arriving flight they plowed the runway with more than 10 plows (it was pretty cool to watch). We had to have an escort from the runway to the gate because the snow was hard enough that it covered up the taxiway lights. Never taxi'd so slow in my life (despite probably a thousand flights).

      Reply
  23. Matt

    i love these kinds of posts, also i learned about NGP, which is very cool to know. Questions: according to garmin connect's "Training Effort" you are "overreaching". Any thoughts? I assume it's a HR related metric, but your HR wasn't too crazy, i don't understand why you would be rated a 5.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      The Training Effort is always an area I've been meaning to poke into. Looking at my HR zones defined in GC, it looks 'normal'. I'd need to check what zones were downloaded to the FR610. Whether it's a default HR zone set, my GC set, or perhaps even my New Leaf set. Gotta see.

      Either way, definitely not an overreaching effort. Not compared to some of my other weekly runs...

      Reply
  24. Ann

    I am not sure there is a better way to see a city than running through it. Thanks so much for sharing your run with us.

    Reply
  25. Larry

    Was in wintertime Stockholm briefly years ago, and it's on my list of places I'd like to visit again. Arrived without a hotel reservation, and found there was some convention in town which swept up all available rooms. Contacted a service which places travelers in private homes and had a great overnight with a Swedish family. Arranged to visit the STF mountain station at Storulvån in the Jämtland mountains and had one of the best times of my life back-country skiing with the Swedes (after going through the required survival training mini-course). The Swedes were surprised I could traverse the mountains easily. From Storulvån you can easily ski into Norway on a day trip. Very cool.

    Reply
  26. Eli

    For those interested in the camera the Lumix DMC-TS5 was announced the beginning of this year so should start shipping soon. (just in case someone wants to pull the trigger on the TS4, might be good to either wait for the price to drop on the old or the new one to come out)

    Reply
  27. Matt

    I love living vicariously through the travels of others. What's even better is the physical fitness side of things. As Ann said, driving through a city just isn't the same as getting to see it on foot. My travels aren't very extensive, and as a mid-westerner, our cities are fairly boring, but seeing them on foot is a whole new experience. That said, as said in your recent survey, keep the pictures and adventures coming!

    Reply
  28. David

    Didn't know Rainman was staying in STHLM for so long, otherwise I/we would have given you some advise on great tracks close to Slussen (where you stayed)...

    Hopefully they will sent you back when the snow and the thaw has cleared and all the frowned faces has turned into smiles... and bring your bike then too, for a great ride from Slussen out to Värmdö/Ingarö (the archipelago) via 'Gamla Värmdövägen'... Also you'll be able to fully enjoy the tranquility of running around the tracks and walkways in the forests around Djurgården and Gärdet.

    By the way... I'm fairly sure that dish is 'Oxjärpar' (a dish that can actually be traced back to the Middle Ages , not meatballs (taste different due to the seasoning, condiments and also have more of an oval shape). Also, another valid reason for that is also; that large meatballs are non-existent here :-)

    Reply

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