Monday, December 14, 2009

Fat in diet won't affect weight gain over time

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BA3C920091211

Monday, November 30, 2009

Rich Roll interview

PETA features an interesting Rich Roll interview (you can watch the video below, but the PETA site is worth checking out for RR eating tips alone).


Ultraman Athlete Rich Roll: Vegan Endurance Athlete

Rich Roll just finished Hawaii Ultraman World Championships, an invitation-only ultra triathlon race consisting of a 6.2 mile swim, 261.3 mile bike and 52.4 mile double marathon.

A quote from the Ultraman race report:
"Richard Roll, the 43-year-old entertainment attorney from Malibu, California who led Day 1 with a race-best 2:21:56 swim and 3rd-best 5:35:22 bike, overcame injuries from a painful Day 2 bike crash to finish 7th in 24:30:31 after a gutsy 7:51:40 run."


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Feet in the Clouds



Oops, sorry! This is about the book FEET IN THE CLOUDS, not that old tired Macca song. But actually the book is even older (my paperback is dated 2005), I just got around reading it only recently.

And a good read it was - especially if you can enjoy someone with a dry sense of humour running long distances in the middle of nowhere, usually in awfully wet weather.



The bad news is, to be a good fellrunner, you absolutely need the following four things:
  1. Good heart and lungs.
  2. A light frame.
  3. Surefootedness.
  4. Disregard for pain & danger.
Having made this clear, the author Richard Askwith freely admits he is a heavy-built southerner who has spent most of his life smoking, has weak ankles, and is terrified with heights.

The book covers mainly Askwith's obsession with fellrunning during the year 2003. It's a nice collection of race reports from various events in UK, but that's not all. There's a lot to be learned from the history and the greats of the sport of fellrunning.

"This is what I do for fun", Askwith explains to those poor souls who will probably never understand any of this. Luckily there is a fair warning in the beginning of the book: Don't try this at home. Lie on the couch and watch TV instead.

That's a good piece of advice. So don't read this book. Keep your eyes peeled on your trusty old telly. Because you could soon get obsessed with these crazy running stories. You might even go out for a crazy little run, heaven forbid!


Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Meb Keflezighi wins NYC Marathon 2009 in 2:09

2004 Olympic Silver Medalist Meb Keflezighi had the great honor of winning the 40th running of NYC Marathon today in 2:09:15.

He is the first American man to win this race since Alberto Salazar won back in 1982. Meb was born in Eritrea in 1975 and became a US citizen in 1998.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ecco Biom Natural Motion running shoe concept reviews


http://www.thebiomproject.com/













PR's PNQ review

Positive:
  • durable materials (injected PU, yak or textile upper)
  • A, B and C (next year) models for fast, normal and slow runners
  • the new concept is based on real biomechanics research and developed with University of Cologne
  • a wide enough toebox to allow natural spreading of toes
Negative:
  • one of the most expensive running shoes
  • not the most eco-friendly or lightweight materials
  • could prove to be a touch too stiff, hard or noisy
  • heart issues forced 'Thunderbear' Sindballe to quit before winning Ironman in Bioms
Questions:
  • has anyone actually completed a fast marathon successfully with these yet?
  • will the prices come down by half so that ordinary runners could afford them?
  • do they naturally strengthen your feet and help reduce injuries like running barefoot does?
  • will the next Biom generation feature a lighter (Nike Lunar type) design?
More reviews:

http://www.id-mag.com/article/LessCushionforthePushin/

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Just a Little Run Around The World

After losing her husband to cancer, Rosie Swale Pope set off from Wales in October 2003 and ran solo across Europe, Siberia, Alaska, Canada, USA, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroes, Scotland and England. After five long years, she finally returned back home in Wales in August 2008.

Just a Little Run Around the World tells chronologically what happened during her epic journey. Amazingly she was able to live self-supported in a tiny tent most of the time while on the road. She also managed to run a couple of marathon races (Omsk and Chicago).

It's an interesting adventure/travel/survival book, and possibly inspiring for ultrarunners as well. Having published books before, Rosie knows how to write. There are a few typos but it was still easy and fun to read.



The author was born in Davos, Switzerland. She ran London Marathon in her late forties, and then participated in Swiss Alpine Marathon in Davos. Rosie was able to locate and meet her 98-year-old Swiss foster mother there, who had taken care of her as a baby. Rosie also mentions having completed Marathon des Sables, the famous six day event in Sahara, before her Run Around the World.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fruit and vegs healthier with dairy fat than without

Food Choices and Coronary Heart Disease: A Population Based Cohort Study of Rural Swedish Men with 12 Years of Follow-up found that daily intake of fruit and vegetables was associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease when combined with a high dairy fat consumption, but not when combined with a low dairy fat consumption.

Choosing wholemeal bread or eating fish at least twice a week showed no association with the outcome.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Trail magazine 9 is now online!

Trail magazine number 9/2009 (Oct/Nov) is now available online. It's free, it's in German, and it's full of great photos!

Monday, October 12, 2009

VO2 Vantaa Marathon


The Sunday weather was perfect for VO2 Vantaa Marathon. It was very chilly and frosty in the morning. Once the sun got up it was wonderful - although still chilly and frosty. We are definitely heading towards winter here.

Vantaa is the northern suburb of Helsinki, which has been an independent town since 1974. Anyway it's easily accessible by train and the race is one of the fastest and best organized in Finland. There are usually less than 500 marathon runners so it's possible to show up 30 minutes before the start, buy a race number, change clothes and go for it.

VO2 is a Finnish sports TV program. They filmed the race for their next show.

Unfortunately I felt less than perfect when the race started at 11 AM. After the first of the four 10.5K loops I gradually gave up. I didn't make any mistakes. However there was nothing I could do about it. Just one of those days when the legs are not there when you need them.



My finish time 3:25:20 is way slower than what I hoped for, but nevertheless my fastest marathon result this year.



My lap times were as follows:
  1. 0:44:52 (10.5 km), placing 8. in M45 age group
  2. 0:49:45 (21.1 km), total 1:34:37, 12./M45
  3. 0:53:41 (31.6 km), total 2:28:18, 16./M45
  4. 0:57:02 (42.2 km), 3:25:20, 18./M45.
Special thanks for musician Lenni-Kalle Taipale and his family/neighbours for the loud percussion-based cheer station along the way. That provided a nice contrast to the otherwise quiet and somewhat dull course.

RD Harri Mannermaa is a super-fast marathoner himself, and it shows in every detail of the efficient race organisation. This time the all the work he has put up for the race took up its toll as he DNF'd after 35K and took a taxi to to the finish line - where he continued working of course.

The overall winner was Harri Nissinen with 2:28:26.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Crowie and Chrissie win Ironman Kona again

2009 Ironman Hawaii results are in: no big surprises on Big Island.

Craig Alexander (AUS), second consecutive win in Kona, 8:20:21.



Chrissie Wellington (GB), third consecutive win in Kona, 8:54:02 (new course record).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pääkaupunkijuoksu half-marathon

Today I participated in the biggest local fall half-marathon (21.1 km) called Pääkaupunkijuoksu. The weather was fine, around 15 C (58 F). It felt warmer than that, especially when the sun was shining. Too hot for me, as usual.

The slightly hilly course along narrow dirt roads in the park is enjoyable, but not particularly fast. Between 8-11 km there were lots of new soft sand, which literally sucked.


My time 1:28:55 (4:12/km pace) was quite acceptable, although I was aiming for a sub 1:25 (4:00/km pace). Still, this is my best half-marathon result in the past 17 years and my fifth best time ever.

This was my first attempt at this 36-year-old event as a half-marathon. It used to be a shorter 20K race when I ran my PR 1:18:40 back in 1988 - 21.1 year ago.

I might try again next year.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

No marathon weather in Berlin

As the weather forecast predicted, it turned out to be way too warm for record performances in Berlin Marathon 2009 for most of the 40,923 runners from 122 countries.


Three hours before start Haile Gebrselassie was still optimistic, as always. He ate a breakfast consisting of white bread with jam, butter, tea and juice.


Haile clocked probably the fastest ever 30K with his spectacular 1:27:44 split (unofficial). After losing his last pacemaker (of seven) soon after this Geb slowed down for a 2:06:08 finish.


That's still fast, but nowhere near 2:02 that some folks were dreaming of.

Despite failing to break the WR, this was the fourth consecutive victory in Berlin for Haile. Not bad for a 36-year-old.

Geb said he had felt very tired in the end and conformed that the weather had been too hot, "No marathon weather".

Francis Kiprop of Kenya came second in 2:07:03 and Negari Terfa of Ethiopia was third in 2:07:41.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Anti-Estrogenic Diet

Having enjoyed the original out-of-the-box ideas in Ori Hofmekler's The Warrior Diet, I got interested when I read the first three sentences from his latest book The Anti-Estrogenic Diet:
  • There is too much estrogen in the world today.
  • Never before has the human body been exposed to such an overwhelming amount of estrogenic substances.
  • Most of our conventional food is estrogenic.
The rest of the book deals with how we can prevent estrogen making us fat and sick.



For example, the following are recommended for anti-estrogenic effects:
  • cruciferous vegetables,
  • green leafy vegetables,
  • other vegatables (onions, garlic, celery, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, beets, etc)
  • nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc),
  • seeds (pumpkin, flax, hemp, sesame, etc),
  • avocados,
  • olives and olive oil,
  • berries,
  • citrus fruits,
  • beans (string beans, hummus etc, except soy products)
  • red apples,
  • red grapes,
  • omega-3 oils (from wild-catch fatty fish or flax/hemp seeds),
  • organic dairy (whole milk products from grass-fed cows),
  • whole oats/barley, or quinoa
  • wheat/rice germ oils,
  • raw honey (and other bee products),
  • spices (turmeric/curcumin/curry, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, etc),
  • herbs (green tea, milk thistle, dandelion root, ginger etc),
  • eggs,
  • and last but not least, exercise.



Stuff to avoid include:
  • estrogenic chemicals in various lotions, plasticizers, preservatives, pesticides, weed killers, paints, dyes, lubricants, adhesives etc,
  • grains,
  • sugar,
  • meat from farm animals,
  • refined/processed food,
  • synthetic vitamins,
  • soy,
  • excessive alcohol (beer is the worst, due to hops)
  • estrogenic herbs (licorice etc).
If you are interested, there is more information in the book. Not that much more though, as the main part of the book contains only 114 pages, followed by nice but not so essential chapters (Recipes, Q&A, Appendix, Glossary, References, Index etc).

This book should be especially useful for obese individuals who are disappointed with other diets. But even healthy and skinny runners would probably benefit from learning a bit more about how to protect themselves against our increasingly estrogenic environment.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Climbing skyscrapers with iPod nano 5G

While putting one foot in front of the other as usual, I've been able to climb skyscrapers at Nike+ Active website.

Virtual challenges like that are fairly easy to set up with the pedometer (and possibly other additional Nike+ fitness features) in the new iPod nano.


So I replaced my 21-month-old 3G iPod nano with 5G. The old one is still working perfectly well, so why would anyone want to spend their hard-earned cash on this kind of knick-knackery?

Actually it's a pretty good deal if you consider what you get with the upgrade:
  • videocam (with 15 silly effects like the Kaleido in my test video below - cool!)
  • pedometer (and other features with Nike+ Active if you like)
  • stopwatch (I often find this one convenient to use for sprints etc)
  • FM radio (with Tagged Songs, Live Pause, etc)
  • 16 Gb flash drive (my 3G iPod has 8 Gb only)
  • improved interface (with Genius, VoiceOver, etc)
  • much lighter weight (36.4 g)
  • slightly larger 2.2-inch display
  • recyclable with greener materials (PVC/BFR/Mercury free with arsenic-free glass).


Some people may wonder why not get a iPhone instead, which has all of this and more? For one thing, iPhone is much larger and 3.7 times heavier (135 grams). iPod's battery also tends to last much longer than iPhone's.

Then there are costs to consider. iPhones are very expensive. However, iPod prices are really competitive. For example, I paid 179 euros for this 16Gb model (8 Gb model is 149 only), with free shipping, engraving and support for (PRODUCT) RED (only available from Apple Store).



While waiting for the Nike heart rate monitor for nano, I'd rate the new iPod 5G 9/10. The only thing I miss is a still camera, but you can't have everything in a supercompact size.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Spectacular evening sky


Just a quick handheld HDR (auto bracket set to -1, 0, +1) with my trusty LX3 during a recent evening run. Always a sucker for orange clouds on blue sky. Certainly worth stopping for a minute.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Adidas Adizero Adios is back in black


I've got a brand new pair of Adidas Adizero Adios running shoes. I call them the Geb shoes, because Haile Gebrselassie can run very fast with them. For example, he set the marathon World Record 2:03:59 last year in Berlin.

In the video below Geb runs four minute miles on a treadmill. That's much faster than his marathon (or half-marathon) race pace. His running style seems very smooth, there's no sound from the shoes. AAA is an excellent racing flat in every way.



Except the distracting yellow/black/silver/white color scheme, of course. Luckily these new models are black/yellow/silver/white, which makes all the difference to me. They look pretty cool IMHO, considering I've already trained a fortnight without cleaning them.


As far as I know they are pretty much the same in every other aspect. I upgraded sizes from US 10.5 to US 11.0, but they are still ultralight: 219 grams per shoe.


Due to my personal preference and also the location of my home I run mostly on dirt roads. I don't want my shoes to collect too much dirt. Therefore outsole design is a matter of the utmost importance.


These shoes are one of the best I've seen regarding the outsole design. Well done Adidas!


I plan to run a half marathon on dirt in September and a full marathon on asphalt in October with Adidas Adizero Adios. I'll put these shoes - as well myself - to a tough test on both occasions.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Jornet runs fastest around Mont Blanc again


American Kristin Moehl (11th overall in 24:56) beat British Lizzy Hawker in womens race category.

The most famous participant Scott Jurek was finally able to finish this gruelling course in 26:07 (19th place overall).

The 165.8 km (102.5 miles) trail goes around Mont Blanc visiting France, Italy and Switzerland with 9,404 meters (30,853 ft) of climbing/descending. The start/finish is in Chamonix.

There are videos of the race at www.chamonix-meteo.com










Friday, August 28, 2009

Refine your running with Snow Leopard


Now that we Mac addicts have Snow Leopard, a leaner and faster version of the OS X, it could be used as an excuse to refine our running as well.



To achieve a new PR it may not be necessary to reinvent anything, if we make a few key refinements:
  • get a bit leaner by losing fat - aim for a BMI around 21 (done!)
  • get a bit faster by improving leg turnover - aim for about 95 steps/min/leg (almost there, but it's not yet happening when I'm tired...)
  • get a bit stronger by using your core muscles more efficiently - aim for daily strength workouts (no time to visit a gym every day, but situps/pushups etc at home will do)
  • make it a bit easier by getting racing flats (just got the new black Adidas Adizero Adios, they are light and make me run faster)
  • improve parallel processing - for example think about your running technique and leg turnover while doing track or hill repeats, and so on to get more results in less time
  • streamline your training efforts - focus on results and stop wasting your time.
Restarting in 10 seconds!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lance wins Leadville 100

Lance Armstrong crushed Leadville 100 mile mountain bike race course record. The record was 6:45:45. The new record stands at 6:28:50.





http://www.leadvilletrail100.com/

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Helsinki City Marathon

Today I had scheduled my 10th Helsinki City Marathon. I thought it would be fantastic if I could improve my course record here.



I've run this race more often than any other, because it
  • is my home town marathon,
  • is the second largest marathon (6 thousand runners) in Scandinavia after Stockholm (18 thousand runners),
  • has enough aid stations with water and Gatorade every 2-3 km
  • great audience support most of the way (considering we are in Finland)


Still, it isn't my favourite marathon (I'm not sure what is, but it ain't this one) for the following reasons:
  • late (3PM) start time - I'd rather run in the morning than wait all day just to run in the afternoon,
  • part of the course runs beside traffic and crosse - this is not called a city marathon for nothing,
  • cobblestone streets around 25K,
  • lots of little hills.
The weather forecast for the afternoon looked pretty good. I welcomed the chance of rain showers, as those would serve to cool me down. The august heat and humidity has almost always been a problem for me.



It never rained, although we saw big clouds. Mostly it was sunny and warm though.

The out and back seaside course with many nice park-like views is not particularly fast. It's a combination of many little things that tend to slow the runners down. Like sea breeze and twists and turns that break the rhythm. It's easy to find yourself slowing down in Helsinki.

Only three weeks after the Swiss Alpine K78, my goal today was simply to break my HCM PR time of 3 hours and 17 minutes. My nine previous Helsinki City Marathon finishes sorted by finish time are as follows:
  • 3:17:06 (1994)
  • 3:19:58 (2006)
  • 3:23:11 (2001)
  • 3:23:24 (2002)
  • 3:24:01 (1985 - my first marathon)
  • 3:26:58 (2000)
  • 3:28:48 (2003)
  • 3:47:31 (2007 - failed to fully recover from Swiss Alpine K78)
  • 3:52:56 (2005 - running with Nike Free shoes)
I started a bit fast to make sure I'd make it. My 10K split was 43:21, which erred a bit on the slow side.

The half marathon split was 1:33:35 - not great, but still on schedule and feeling ok.



A buddy who was aiming for a similar finish time as me catched me right after 25K. We talked for a while and I tried my best to stay with him but he dropped me (see photo below). Then I knew I was in big trouble. Apparently my legs had not recovered well enough from the Alps, and I hit the infamous wall.


My 30K time sucked big time already, 2:17:14, and I knew a new personal course record was not on the cards today. My pace felt ridiculously slow, but there was nothing I could do except keep shuffling forward. My legs were dead.



The last 12K was tough and painful. It always is of course, but not like this. I have never been so tired and felt so bad during any normal marathon. 5K before the finish someone shouted that I'm about 300th runner at that point, but I just didn't care anymore because there was no chance to reach my goal anymore. Runners were passing me left and right all the time.

I even failed to sprint at the very end - something that I've always been able to perform, every time. My final time was 3:26:11. I lost over 10 minutes to my buddy, who ran his marathon PR 3:15:17. With only a ten minutes faster time I would have reached my goal and probably been very happy too.



To end on a positive note, this was my sixth fastest time in Helsinki out of ten finishes. So it could have been worse, I guess. I placed 41st in M45 (446 finishers), and 360. overall (over 6,000 starters).



Friday, August 14, 2009

Lifesaver ultra filtration water bottle

An interesting idea, although the 635-gram 750 ml bottle might be a bit too heavy and big for runners. Perhaps the innovative technology could be applied to lighter and smaller versions in the future.

http://www.lifesaversystems.com/

Thursday, August 13, 2009

City2Surf - world's biggest running event

This year a record 76,254 runners entered City2Surf, a 14 km race from Sydney city to Bondi beach.

Michael Shelley crossed the finish line first in 41:02, followed by 62,643 competitors with an average time of 2:19:15.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Boost your aerobic fitness with vegetarian nitrate

Everyone knows vegetables are good for us in many ways: health, looks, weight-control, even strength. But wait, there's more: latest scientific studies show vegetarian nitrate can boost our aerobic fitness too.


According to a new study, dietary nitrate reduces oxygen cost of sub-maximal exercise and enhances the tolerance for high-intensity exercise. In this case, half a liter of beetroot juice was taken daily.

There is another study published in 2007 that concludes: "Dietary nitrate supplementation, in an amount achievable through a diet rich in vegetables, results in a lower oxygen demand during submaximal work. This highly surprising effect occurred without an accompanying increase in lactate concentration, indicating that the energy production had become more efficient."

Previously nitrate was usually regarded as an inevitable price for all the good stuff. This new surprising information certainly encourages fitness enthusiasts to eat their vegetables - and nitrates too!

Finally, I'd like to add a few points:
  • Best natural nitrate sources include lettuce, celery, fennel, spinach, radish, chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, pumpkin, rucola, basil, parsley and beetroot.
  • Also courgette, celeriac, carrot, leek, broccoli and other cabbages may contain a high amount of nitrate.
  • Cooking vegetables will reduce their nitrate levels, so it would be more effective to eat them raw.
  • The toxicity of nitrate is low. Nitrites are much more toxic and may cause various adverse effects. Some of the dietary nitrate will be reduced to nitrite. However normal intake of nitrate from vegetables is unlikely to cause health problems (except for infants possibly).
  • Meat products account for most of the nitrite consumed.
  • Fruit, grains and dairy products don't contribute to dietary nitrate (or nitrite).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Clas Björling wins Kalmar Triathlon 2009

Great to see Clas Björling win Kalmar Triathlon 2009. Now he is running strong again - a 2:47:40 marathon (his PR is 2:42 within ironman, and 2:29 without) after swimming 4K in 1:01:13 and biking 180 km 4:34:02. The total result is a new Kalmar course record 8:26:24.


Let's keep in mind that Clas set 8:15:59 as the Swedish record for ironman-distance in Roth in 2006.



Sunday, August 9, 2009

X-Alps

If running 818 km across the Alps from Salzburg to Monaco seems impossible, you can always take the easy way out and paraglide: Red Bull X-Alps.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lance the sprint triathlete 1989

20 years ago, before Lance Armstrong decided to become the next Greg LeMond of cycling, he was a serious short-distance triathlete, winning the Family Fitness Weekend sprint triathlon in 1989.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Deek

During the second week of August 26 years ago I happened to see a dude coming out from a hotel in Helsinki, crossing the busy main road with a few kangaroo-like leaps and vanishing into the park by the sea.

I remember clearly how relaxed he was, but strangely his pace seemed extremely fast compared to joggers like me. I didn't know who he was, but I knew he had to be a top athlete.

Then on next Sunday I saw this guy winning the marathon of the World Championships on TV. They called him Deek. I said hey I've seen this champ on a recent training run.

The following video compilation of great marathon finishes by Robert de Castella includes Helsinki World Championships 1983 marathon (1:12-1:52).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jenson's wishes come true in London Triathlon

F1 driver Jenson Button set his PR 2:07:02 in the London Triathlon 2009, the biggest triathlon in the world. "It's been my best ever Sunday morning", he commented.

Jenson's splits were:
  • swim 1.5 km - 24:01
  • T1 - 2:49
  • bike 40 km - 1:02:55
  • T2 - 1:37
  • run 10 km - 35:42
"F1 drivers are pretty fit anyway but triathlon requires a lot of specialist training. I pushed myself to the limit and it's so different to driving a car because my heart beat is a lot higher."

The current Formula One Championship leader competed during his summer break to raise money for Make-A-Wish Foundation. "Raising so much money for the charity which I am a Patron of, makes me incredibly proud and I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who sponsored me. Your money really will make a difference to so many children."

Well done Jenson! You can still sponsor him at www.justgiving.com/jensonbutton/

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Swiss Alpine K78 video awards 2009

Reiner has produced the winner here while finishing the race succesfully. A high quality video from the heights of Swiss Alpine K78 in Davos 2009.

By the way, check out the dude with big cow bell in Spina (1:49) - he's there every year, and cracks me up every time!



The following video by Artur has captured my wunderschön climbing speed (6:51). It's real TV - no slow motion effects used while filming.

What I don't get is how he managed to shoot all this, running up and down the Alps while laughing like it's no big deal, and still beat me to the finish line by over four minutes.

Technical quality sucks a bit, but thanks for an interesting 2nd best video.


Our third place video lacks visual for the first 90 seconds, but the constant German narration is there.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Swissalpine slideshow

74 great photos from SwissAlpine 2009. By the way, that's your's truly in the 13th photo (second runner from left, white cap, sunglasses, yellow shirt with red stripes).

http://www.swiss-image.ch/slideshow/?event=swissalpine2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Veikka G summits G1 - 14th 8000er w/o O2


Standing on top of Gasherbrum 1 aka Hidden Peak (8080 meters) on Sunday, Veikka told tammisuo.fi that the weather was perfect and with sisu one can accomplish set objectives.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Swiss Alpine K78: mission accomplished

I woke up 4:00 AM - half an hour before my alarm clock was set. My goal today was to finish Swiss Alpine mountain ultramarathon in under nine hours.

The 78.5 km K78 course is the longest one available in this megaevent with altogether about 5,000 competitors. The K31 and C42 runners start at the same time, 8:00 AM local time in Davos.

By the way, it would suit me personally very well if we K78ers were allowed to start separately, perhaps 30 minutes earlier than the rest. It would be light enough to start at 7:30, or even 7:00 AM. That would reduce traffic jams and give slower runners more time to finish.

The race day was a bit cloudy and thus somewhat cooler than usual. This was a good thing for me, as I had always thought it was too hot, especially in the valleys, where there is not so much wind.

It had rained all night, and the roads and trails were quite wet. However there wasn't too much rain during the race, and even when it rained the sun kept on shining most of the time.



In my plan I had divided the course into three sections, each of which I aimed to complete under three hours.



The first 30.6 km part, starting at Davos Sports Centre (1540 meters) to Filisur (1032 m).

I didn't have any injuries or other issues, so I thought why not take advantage of the nice cool morning weather and start fast.

My 5K split was about 20:20, which was quite fast considering we were running a mile high. I decided to slow down a bit.

If I remember correctly, my 10K split was about 47 minutes. I deliberately took the uphills easy. I ran the downhills fast though, but tried my best to stay relaxed.

I was way ahead of my preplanned schedule at every point until Filisur, as it was mostly downhill and on fast roads too.



Also the narrow single trail sections that caused bad traffic jams had been widened or rerouted to wider paths. The organizers had done a good job there. I didn't have to stop for any reason. Everything worked perfectly.

The first part of the race took me only 2:29:04. I say 'only' because it was over 64 minutes faster than in 2008 - but let's keep in mind that then I was DQ'd later on for being too slow.

In 2007 I had reached Filisur in 2:52:22 - that's not bad at all, but over 23 minutes slower than today.



I felt much better than in previous years at this point. I also wore Brooks ST racing flats instead of clunky trail shoes, which probably allowed me to run faster, at least in the early stages of the race.


Then came the middle part, which is the big 22.3 km long uphill to Kesch hut, the highest point of the race at 2632 meters, about two thirds (52.9 km) from the start.

Most of it is not too steep, but the only way is up and it gets steeper towards the top.



I arrived in Bergün town 39.2K checkpoint at 11:25:39 AM (3 hours 25 min after start).

They were announcing that the K42 runners would start in a few minutes, at 11:30 AM. So not surprisingly, when I had covered about 42K, the first 'ordinary' marathon runners started passing me left and right. There were about a thousand of them, so K42-competitors kept on passing me all the way to the top.

This has always been the most challenging part of the course for me. When running at high altitudes, the lack of oxygen inevitably makes my lungs hurt a bit, and unfortunately today was no exception.

The weather felt warmer and I started to feel dehydrated, so I took isotonic tea and sports drinks in addition to water.



I was also a bit hungry, but couldn't eat much really. There were sports gels freely available, but I couldn't take even one. In fact I took one, but gave it away at the next stop unopened.

The altitude combined with steep climbing made me feel a bit uneasy. The climbing power just wasn't there when I needed it.

My home town is at sea level in a relatively flat country, so maybe I should consider training a few weeks before Swiss Alpine in the Alps - like I did in 1995. I finished in 7:29 then, but the 72K course was quite different as it took a shortcut straight back to Davos via Sertig pass instead of Kesch hut, Panorama trail and Scaletta pass.

All I managed to eat was two little pieces of a musli bar and the local mountain bread with hot bouillon. I think it would have helped if I could have eaten more, but it just didn't seem like an attractive option at the moment.



I had to walk the steepest uphill from Valzana (48.7 km, 1952 meters) to the top, ie. Kesch hut (52.9 km, 2632 meters). It was only 4.2K in length, but the elevation gain of 680 meters made it a challenging 16+ per cent climb.

Most of the runners around me were walking, and those who did try to run didn't go very fast either. A lot of walkers passed me, so I must have been close to crawling speed.

Finally I arrived at Kesch hut, 5:49:59 from the start. My time for this second stage of the race was 3:20:56. In 2007 it had been 3:40:07, so despite all that walking business I was almost 20 minutes faster than two years ago.

Although I missed my goal of completing each stage in under three hours by over 20 minutes, I still strongly believed in breaking nine hours, as the first part had been so much faster.



The last part was 25.6 km from Kesch back to Davos.

I knew I had a little over three hours to make it, and paced myself accordingly.

This year there were more snow left on the mountains than usually at this time. When the snow melted into countless streams during the afternoon, it made Panorama trail quite muddy and slippery.

I took it easy and didn't take any chances. I tried to stay relatively comfortable.

I managed to hit the toes of my left foot pretty hard on some rock though. Surprisingly it didn't hurt - or probably my whole body hurt so bad already that I couldn't notice every little thing.

As the cold winds picked up towards Scaletta pass (60.1 km, 2606 meters) I tried to go over it as quickly as possible to avoid freezing myself.

Actually Migros, the new main sponsor, thoughtfully provided runners with transparent orange plastic jackets, but I didn't take any this time. I didn't feel too cold at any time because I kept on running. I didn't stop at aid stations, I just quickly took whatever I could get and continued immediately.



Then came the huge steep downhill which I normally would have cruised at full speed, but this time I decided not to risk anything because I fell down here in 2007.

In Durrboden (64.4 km, 2007 meters) I had about 74 minutes left and 14.1 km to go. So I figured that if I keep going at 5 min/km pace, I'll have a 3 or 4 minute safety margin to reach my goal.

Drinking a couple of cups of Coke seemed to give me just enough speed and endurance.

Everything went smoothly until the last aid station in Duchlisage (75.1 km, 1565 meters).

Right after grabbing a quick cup of water there was this 400-meter long uphill climbing up 35 meters. Compared to all those previous monsters this wasn't scary, but it nevertheless almost killed me.

I tried to follow number 1187, Tomomi Okajima from Tokyo, but he took off like a rocket.

Then a little kid run with me for a while, and he outsprinted me easily several times although I was going all out.



Digging deep I found secret reserves to keep going until the trail came down to Davos to the road that I knew was the final kilometer.

I kept checking my watch like I couldn't believe that I had so much time left.

Only now was I certain that I could make it under nine hours. The crowd support was great during the whole race, but especially in the last few kilometers near Davos.

The crowds at the sports centre made a huge noise, kids were high-fiving the stream of arriving runners and I heard my name and nationality announced.

My official finish time was 8:56:56, placing me 315th overall out of 1,022 finishers (including both men and women).



Mission accomplished!

I finished under nine hours as planned, and set a new PR of course. My previous PR got improved by over 46 minutes.

Amazingly I was able to run through all that rock, grass, mud, snow and water without falling down, not even once!

A couple of dudes who finished the race right behind me came over separately to congratulate me for pushing hard at the end. That seemed a bit odd as I didn't think my pace was that fast really, but I'm happy if it helped them. Exhausted runners often try to draw strength from each other. We shaked hands and agreed it was a great day.

Finishers received a high-quality UV-protected finisher T-shirt and a red/black/silver medal with a custom printed neck ribbon. The medal has the same basic mountain goat design as in two previous years, but with a new special icon each year. 2009 medal's icon features Kesch hut.

While rewarding myself with an ice-cold alcohol-free beer provided by one of the race sponsors at the finish area, I heard Sweden had a field day in Davos as Jonas Buud won his third consecutive K78 with a superb time 5:48:43, and Lena Gavelin (a 2:30 marathoner) won the women's race with equally stunning performance 6:41:30.

Both Swedes beat their competition by a wide margin, so what can we say, except Heja Sverige!

The local hero was Mr Ernesto Sicurelli from Davos Platz, winning the M60 age category (again) in 7:54:40. Wish I was that fit when I'm 60 - or even next year would be fine!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Meripäiväjuoksu 15K

Event: 7th (my 1st) Meripäiväjuoksu 15K, one of the annual Sea Festival events in Kotka.


Number of runners: 310.


Course: beautiful course by the sea, around the Keisarinlahti (Czar's Bay), 90% asphalt, a few small hills, start/finish at the Katariina sports field in the center of the town.


Weather: sunny and warm.


My goal: to finish under one hour, no matter what it takes.


My result: 1.00.46 - everything went fine, except those damn 46 seconds!

Anyway, an excellent race, and a cool post-race recovery swim at the nearby Strawberry Beach.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Swissalpine champ Jonas Buud

This is how 2-time (2007, 2008) Swissalpine K78 champion and 100 km European Champion 2009 (in Belgium in June, time 6:41:49, only 66 seconds behind World Cup winner Miyazato) Jonas Buud (35) trains in Sweden.

His last really long training run was 47 km on July 4th, three weeks before K78 in Davos. After that he runs shorter distances, intervals and hill repeats.


Jonas finished Stockholm Marathon 2009 in 2:24:37, 4th place. Check out his relaxed running style in the video below (starts at 1:28). Like many great runners, he makes it look easy. You might think he is not running fast, but that is not the case at all. If I went all out I could perhaps do 1K at his marathon pace!

Good luck in Davos Jonas.