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).

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 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.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Iron Maiden live @ Marquee 1980

This video is dedicated to all Badwater competitors starting their 135-mile race soon.

Why? Because there's nothing hotter on earth than Death Valley in July, except fully packed Marquee Club in July, with Iron Maiden performing there. I attended one of the shows, and it was so hot I had to pour a pint of ice-cold lager on my head!

My Iron Maiden song list suggestion:
  • Running Free
  • Run To The Hills
  • Flight of Icarus
  • Die With Your Boots On
  • The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner
  • Can I Play with Madness
  • Be Quick Or Be Dead
  • Man On The Edge
  • Different World
  • These Colours Don't Run
  • Brighter Than A Thousand Suns
  • The Longest Day

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chrissie Wellington sets Ironman world record 8:31:59

Chrissie Wellington smashed women's Ironman triathlon world record in Challenge Roth today with 8:31:59. British 'iron maiden' swam 3.8K in 50:28, ran through T1 in 2:10, biked 180K in 4:40:28, went through T2 in 1:23, and finished with a 2:57:32 marathon.

Ironman women's world record has improved considerably in a year or so. During the past 15 years, it remained unbroken until last summer:
  • Paula Newby-Fraser, 8:50:24, Ironman Europe (Roth), 1994
  • Sandra Wallenhorst, 8:47:26, Ironman Austria, 2008
  • Yvonne Van Vlerken, 8:45:48, Challenge Roth, 2008
  • Chrissie Wellington, 8:31:59, Challenge Roth, 2009.

Without a doubt Roth provides one of the fastest Ironman courses, with the swim in a pool-like canal, the bike through nice country roads and the run on excellent dirt paths. Also the enthusiastic audience and professional race organization play a big part in the success of the event. I've done it three times, and really enjoyed myself. Now that the main sponsor Quelle is in trouble, let's hope the event will be able to continue in the future.

Congrats Chrissie!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lance: world's greatest book?

John Wilcockson knows the sport of cycling, for example he has reported the Tour 40 times. You can read his stories from the ongoing Tour at

Quite conveniently John's new book is out too - modestly named Lance - The Making of The World's Greatest Champion (US) or Lance Armstrong - The World's Greatest Champion (UK).

Like Lance, the book rarely disappoints. On almost every one of the 370 pages I discovered some interesting things I've never heard before. The book also comes with 16 additional pages of rare photos.

Lance has recently regretted that in this book he states last year's Tour was a joke. That's understandable now, when he is on the road riding with those guys. However I think he had a point, as I didn't follow Tours without Lance at all. Not because all the other cyclists are a joke, but because they are nowhere near as inspiring or interesting as Lance.

Highly recommended for all endurance athletes. A must read for Lance fans. In fact, almost anyone should be able to enjoy and possibly benefit from reading this. Go get it!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Astana rules the Tour but no yellow

After Stage 4 TTT Astana has 5 guys in top seven, all within 51 seconds from the leader Fabian Cancellara. Lance Armstrong missed the yellow jersey only by 0.2 seconds.

[Edit: the reason that caused Lance to fail grabbing the lead position has ben identified. They were afraid it might be a virus, but it turned out to be something way more serious than that:

Ben on Lance's TT Bike Before Stage 4 -- powered by

Ben Stiller.]

They still have a long way to ride. This is going to get interesting.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Finland's IronMinister in Frankfurt

Finland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb is now an IronMinister. He finished Ironman Frankfurt with the very respectable time of 10:35:45 on Sunday. Especially considering that he blogged about injuring his back a week before the race, when moving a heavy box. Fortunately a fysiotherapist was able to fix it. Congratulations!

Tiina Boman was the best Finn on Sunday, finishing 5th in pro women with 9:34:23. That's not bad, but not quite fast enough to reach her goal of placing in top 3.

Timo Bracht of Germany was the overall winner with a new amazing course record 7:59:16.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Jono smashes Zermatt Marathon course record

Architect, 5-time world mountain running champion and 7-time winner of the world mountain running grand prix series Jonathan "Jono" Wyatt of New Zealand won the 8th Zermatt Marathon in Switzerland on Saturday with a new course record 2:57:47. He was the first to break 3 hours in Zermatt.

As usual, Jono has been in excellent form this year, for example winning the LGT Alpin and Graubünden marathons in June.

Although known as a mountain race specialist, the Kiwi has never been slow on flat land either: he boasts a 2:13:00 PR for a road marathon, 1:02:37 for a half marathon, 27:56 for 10,000 and 13:27 for 5,000 meters.

The second place finisher, Anssi Raittila of Finland, lost 18 minutes. The full results are here.

My photos are from last year's race. It took me 6:01 then - my slowest marathon ever. The course is steep - and then even steeper near finish - uphill, and the weather is always sunny and hot. The famous mountain peak shown is Matterhorn, but the race doesn't climb anywhere near there - and I'm cool with that decision.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Preparing for Swiss Alpine K78 à la Dave Scott

Swiss Alpine K78 is only three weeks away. This is about my preparation for the race, including training, tapering, and tactics. (The photos are from last year's race.)

I've once again re-read my worn out copy of Dave Scott's Triathlon Training (1986), especially Chapter 8 about his Racing Secrets. Dave suggests you ask yourself two questions:
  • What do you hope to accomplish?
  • How do you plan to do it?
My PR is 9:43. My goal is to finish under nine hours. How will I accomplish this?

It's easier to plan if we divide the course into three parts (a bit like a triathlon):
  1. Davos (1,538 meters) - Filisur (1,032 m), 30.6 km. Mostly easy roads, some small uphills with lots of downhills and some single trails. You need to start strong and relatively fast when the gun goes off 8AM. Unfortunately the K31 and C42 runners start at the same time, so there are too many runners. You don't want to get left behind the masses when the trail narrows and the long line of runners slows down. How fast you dare to run depends on your fitness and your goal for the race. Even if you just want to finish the race within cutoff times, you should take the first part seriously.
  2. Filisur - Kesch (2,632 m), 22.3 km. This is the monster uphill that requires climbing strength. You will begin to feel the effects of high altitude, but don't give up. Keep going as fast as you can and remember to hydrate and fuel properly. The aid stations should provide everything you need, unless you arrive too late, in which case they might have run out of some items. Remember the cutoff points: Filisur 11:50 AM, Bergün 1:00 PM, Chants 2:15 PM, Kesch 3:40 PM.
  3. Kesch - Davos, 25.6 km. After Kesch the Panorama trail followed by Scaletta pass can be a bit tricky, so you better watch your every step. Thunderstorms often occur in the afternoon. Don't stop or you might get cold. The stones and gravel might be surprisingly slippery, as I found in 2007, landing my head inches from big rocks. Be extra careful until you reach Dürrboden aid station (64.4 km). Then the rest is relatively easy downhill cruise to the finish in Davos Sports Centre, the same place where you started in the morning.

My training specifically aims to prepare me for each of these three sections:
  1. The first section requires speed and good downhill running ability. This can be accomplished with simple track workouts, for example 10 x 400 meters. I've also practiced downhill runs (30-90 sec) with a fast leg turnover, trying to stay focused and relaxed.
  2. Living at sea level, there's nothing much I can do to prepare for the high altitude, but it definitely helps running up all sorts of hills you can find in your neighborhood. Even the biggest hill near my home takes me only about 2-3 minutes when running very slowly, but if I repeat it say ten times, it's a pretty good workout. I also often sprint smaller "10-second-hills" as fast as I can. Also climbing stairs helps.
  3. The third part of the race requires endurance. I ran a distance beyond a marathon once every week last year. This spring I did a challenging self-supported (meaning dehydrated and hungry most of the time) 99 km trail training run. In May I ran a half-marathon and a marathon race. I often do tempo runs and fartleks of various length.
When it comes to tapering, I'll follow the advice from my old Dave Scott book. Dave says: "I certainly do not recommend the TV Taper. You can train as you normally would up to about four days before the race."

Three weeks prior to race:
  • Do not increase your high-intensity training, speed work, or overdistance training.
  • Maintain or slightly decrease the actual time you spend training.
  • Maintain the intensity.
Five days prior to race (the race is on Saturday):
  • Your last hard workout should be on Monday
  • Tuesday: very easy day, to recover from Monday's workout.
  • Wednesday: same as Tuesday, but add some easy work to slightly elevate your heart rate.
  • Thursday: rest day, perhaps some easy walking to relax.
  • Friday: easy loosen-up, 15 to 20 minutes, at a very low intensity (around 50 per cent of your maximal effort).

Get organized:
  • Plan out your meals.
  • List what you need to have with you at the start and during the race.
  • List what you need to take care of on race morning.
Race morning:
  • Wake up early, allow yourself at least two hours to wake up and warm up before the race.
  • Wake up slowly, don't bolt out of bed after your alarm goes off and start doing jumping jacks.
  • Take a hot shower to get your blood circulation going, warm up your skin, and accelerate your metabolism.
Pre-race diet:
  • Do not overeat on race morning.
  • Eat food that is easily digested.
  • Do not eat sugar or drink a lot of fruit juice.
  • Don't eat anything within an hour of race start.

Pre-race warm-up:
  • Try to warm up 20-30 minutes before the race, at a very low intensity.
  • Never do any sprints, save all of your energy for the race.
  • Do some easy stretches.
  • Stay warm after your warm-up, it's better to overdress than to get a chill.
  • At the starting line: control your breathing, relax.

Finally, what pace should you run to achieve your goal time? Simply divide it into three.

For example, I aim for under nine hours, so I will try to run each of the three course segments in under three hours.

Let's take Jonas Buud of Sweden. Last year he won with 6:00:26. His splits for the three parts were 2:01:59, 2:03:56 and 1:54:32.

Or Ernesto Sicurelli, who lives in Davos and certainly knows the course well. He won M60 age group with 8:08:44. His splits were 2:37:34, 2:49:58 and 2:41:13.

So a pattern emerges, where you can see that the successful competitors run the shorter middle leg a bit slower than the longer first and last legs.

This is just one possible approach. There are certainly more than one way to do it. Whatever you choose to do, good luck!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Marco Olmo movie trailer

Who would think this 60-year-old Olmosaur has won UTMB several times in recent years? He DNF'd WSER this year after 100K though, so maybe he is getting old - or maybe that was only a training run for him.

Check out Olmo's heavy old road shoes with special inserts made by himself - these monsters weigh half a kilo each! Incredible.

I'd like to see this movie.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Swiss Wyss RAAM 2009 solo champion

Swiss rider Dani Wyss has won RAAM 2009 with the second quickest time ever: 8 days, 5 hours, 45 mins.

Close to the end of the epic 3000-mile battle across USA, the four-time RAAM champion Jure Robic of Slovenia withdrew from the race, after leading all the way but then losing it at the end of their journey.

Robic had accrued one hour's worth of controversial time penalties, which according to his website made him feel the race officials mistreated him. He received the first time penalty of 15 minutes before the race started because he "had to pee near the starting line". No wonder he was pissed off!

Daniela Genovesi of Brazil won the womens solo race.

There's also a movie about RAAM, Bicycle Dreams, out now.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Free European trail running magazine online

Good news: Free online downloadable PDF European trail running magazine with lots of photos.

Bad news: Only in German, sorry. But don't worry, it's an easy language to learn if you already know English. Just speak like Yoda, and the verb in every sentence last leave.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009