Wednesday, March 31, 2010

EPIC5 - A quest for growth

EPIC5 is certainly not an ordinary event. Check out Rich Roll's excellent blog to learn more what it is all about. Rich's latest posting EPIC5 - A Quest For Growth (published on March 30) is a great piece of writing, but some stupid technical issue seems to prevent linking to it directly. I'm sure you can find it EASILY and COMFORTABLY by clicking the general blog link above.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The King of Pain

Ultrarunner Scott Jurek's story at Runner's World magazine April 2010 issue.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Talks @Google: Barefoot (and blackeyed) Ted

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Raw conifer evergreen elixir

I suddenly got some mild flu symptoms last week. I kept on training of course, and then I got some severe flu symptoms. I was heading towards trouble.

While running around I stumbled upon a huge spruce. We have lots of evergreen conifers everywhere but I've always ignored them. I decided to collect some tiny branches and take them home.

Actually after taking the photo below I saw a nice pine nearby and chose pine needles because they are longer.

I cut the needles from the branches with scissors and threw a handful of them in my blender with a cup of water. In no time I had this awesome looking and smelling evergreen elixir. But how would it taste like?

I filtered out the fiber and poured the juice in a glass. The taste was excellent. After adding a spoonful of agave nectar and a pinch of salt it got even better. I drank it all and felt better right away.

Warning: try this at your own risk. I know nothing, except that my flu symptoms disappeared instantly.

There's no way this could be recommended as an everyday sports drink for any key workout or race. Chances are you might find yourself running for a toilet sooner or later. This stuff seems to provide serious detox power and you will see what that means exactly if you give it a try.

Since making this remarkable discovery I've had a glass or two of evergreen elixir daily. Could be I'm getting addicted to it. This blog about benefits of pine needles might explain why.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

La Sportiva Crosslite trail running shoes

I became interested in La Sportiva Crosslite over a year ago, when I read Jared Campbell's Blog about running UTMB 2008 wearing these trail shoes.

Crosslite has now finally replaced TNF Rucky Chucky as my favorite trail running shoe. Honestly Crosslites are so much better than any TNF (or Salomon) trail shoes I've tried in the past that I feel like an idiot not to have done this a lot sooner. I simply had no idea that trail shoes could feel so fast and comfortable.

Anyway I felt the difference right away in the shop, and grabbed them for 99€ - not the cheapest shoe out there, but not too expensive either when you consider what you get for the money:
  • low profile and neutral shoe
  • relatively light weight, my Crosslite (size EU44, US10.5) weighs about 340 g (TNF Rucky Chucky was about 425 g)
  • snug fit with a unique scree guard design that protects the upper (above laces)
  • good traction with its well-spaced rubber lugs that simultaneously provide nice cushioning upon impact.
One thing these shoes are not so great is running on ice. That's normally not an issue, but this winter it seems to be that way. You can get Hobnails for ice running, but I haven't tried them yet. The Norwegian dude in the video below seems to be doing well with them.

Summary: these shoes are awesome, I wear them all the time now, not only for trail running. Don't make the same mistake as I did and wait until it's too late - go get your Crosslites now for your next trail races!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Snow trail running late March 2010

Felt like checking out some familiar running trails, but couldn't really find them under the snow.

This is has been a challenging winter to say the least - and it may not be over yet.

It was just possible to run on a narrow track with about ankle-deep snow. However one step in the wrong direction meant you were suddenly struggling in knee-high snow.

I even took a little video showing how my running trails looked this spring.

Judging from other videos, it's pretty much the same situation everywhere.

Here's another view from Mt. Ventoux.

And Grand Canyon.

Snowy trails can be fun and often beautiful, yes, but this winter wore out it's welcome a long time ago. Let's hope April will be warm and sunny and the summer will arrive early.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Don't get fooled again by perception

In Perception Is Everything Matt Fitzgerald interviews exercise physiologist Samuele Marcora whose revolutionary studies seem to prove that fatigue in endurance is largely caused by perception.

What Dr. Marcora proposes is that when you feel exhausted, your neuromuscular system is actually still able to continue. Although you may experience uncomfortable negative sensations like pain, it's all basically just a safety mechanism operating in your brain, specifically designed to make you give up before the real danger begins.

The problem today is that our perceptions are often faulty, and we're clueless about it. It's easy to get fooled by an erraneous perception because it feels so real to us. For example, I participated once upon a time in Ironman-distance triathlon European Championships, where I quit running only 5K before finish due to 'feverish' feelings.

The perception in my brain told me that I must stop or risk dying. Afterwards I remembered that competitors had been instructed to stop racing if sick with fever etc, because there is a danger of a heart failure, and that piece of information must have somehow affected my wild imagination on race day.

Actually it was only a mild case dehydration easily fixed by a couple of cool drinks, proved by the fact that by the time a race official finally had driven me to the finish area I felt already fine. Simply walking to the finish line would have actually taken less time, earned me a medal and T-shirt (and a better result than hundreds who didn't quit), and been probably much better for my recovery as well. Despite my persistent stories about this scary fever everyone laughed at me, and rightfully so.

Why do we keep on making this kind of stupid mistakes? Are we wimps or idiots? It almost seems like whenever the loser in us is ready, all sorts of problems will magically appear. Luckily it seems to be equally true that when the student is ready, a teacher appears.

We have totally neglected perception according to Edward de Bono, whose latest book Think! Before It's Too Late I recently read. "We need to realise that logic can never be better than the perceptions on which it is based", Dr. de Bono states.

The most important chapter in the book explains what can improve our perceptual thinking: attitude and attention.
  • Attitude means that you seek to be creative about anything (not limited to problems), use 'movement' rather than 'judgement', and look for alternatives and possibilities.
  • Attention refers to specific perceptual tools for directing attention (like PMI: Plus-Minus-Interesting) as well as perceptual maps (flowscapes).
Although the book is about thinking, the emphasis is on action not just on contemplation.

Learn to look at situations from various angles and never get fooled again by perception!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chris Lieto interview in April Triathlete

Chris Lieto, who came second in Kona last October - by the way he was told 12 years ago by a doctor he would never run again - is on the cover of April 2010 Triathlete magazine.

What's more important though is what he says in the interview.

For instance, he says 99% of age-groupers train too much. He is referring to triathletes of course, not us (ultra)marathon runners.

And to put that 'too much' in perspective, the 37-year-old spent himself six weeks in 2009 running at altitude with guys like Ryan Hall, Josh Cox and Meb Keflezighi - and he'll be going back for more punishment this year!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sun & moon: my nice pair of running headlamps

Running headlamps are not an absolutely essential element of Scandinavian running, because in winter we have snow and in summer we have sunlight.

However I have acquired a nice pair of them. I'm only interested in lightweight lamps, and the lighter the better. My lights have to be compact.

My first choice is Retki Super Led, which is advertised as "world's smallest superled-headlight." I'm not sure what they exactly mean by that, but when a cheap (typically 20 euros or less) waterproof lamp weighs only about 38 grams (1.3 oz) with batteries, it's a no-brainer really to use it as an everyday backup light.

Special features include a red transparent slide-on light cover and a narrow elastic strap. The clip-on right behind the lamp is great when you want to wear it for example on your belt, as I often do. There is one button that sets spotlight/blinking/off modes. Two lithium CR2032 batteries provide over 60 hours burning time.

In the photo below you see the little cool blue-ish round 3.5 lumens spot it provides. It reminds me of full moon, so I call it my 'moonlight lamp'.

My second choice is heavier but much brighter Petzl Tikka XP2. It's a new updated model of the famous Tikka headlight. It costs around 45 euros and weighs about 85 grams (3.0 oz) with three alkaline AAA batteries. The good news is that now also lithium or rechargeable batteries can be used if you like.

XP2 has a pretty strong 60 lumens wide spot (and even wider with the transparent slide-on diffuser), which should be enough for trail running races at night I believe, but so far I have only tested it on snowy trails.

Special features include a separate red led, that can be set to flash or continuous. The white main light has three modes: maximum, economic and flashing. The overall design is pleasing and comfortable. Batteries should last about 60 hours, and in any case it's possible to change them quickly with a well designed battery compartment. There's only one large button that can be operated with cold numb hands or with warm gloves on - your call :-)

The bright warm yellow-ish beam made me name this one my 'sunlight lamp'.

Together this dynamic duo of headlamps complement each other efficiently and effectively. With XP2 on my head and Retki on my belt I can run safely anywhere. Sun and moon in your pocket or backpack, ready to be used during those ultra long night runs!

NB. This is a blog, not an ad. I've nothing to do with any companies and I've bought every product with my own hard-earned cash. All opinions are based on my limited personal experiences. As always, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Runner - Marco Olmo documentary DVD

This is such a great ultra trail running documentary about Marco Olmo, two-time UTMB champion.

The film delivers exactly what they write on the cover: "Love, pain, revenge. The true story of a worker who became the ultra trail world champion at 60 years old." It's in Italian with English/French/Spanish subtitles.

Paolo Casalis and Stefano Scarafia have documented how this self-described "loser" lives and rus. There's a lot of honest mountain racing and training coverage. We get to see Marco's wife Renata a lot. Also his former co-workers are interviewed. Luckily they manage to avoid most Hollywood type story telling cliches. The 80-minute movie is both interesting and inspiring.

Recommended for all ultra running enthusiasts. After seeing this you'll get out thinking: 'if he can achieve those kind of amazing results at 60, maybe I can do something similar too!'

If you watch the movie looking for answers to the mystery of how a senior citizen can be so fit, prepare for a disappointment. No earth-shattering secrets are revealed. Marco's lifestyle may seem like deceptively simple. Then you realize that simplicity itself is probably the ultimate answer. Grande!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A couple of fresh Anton Krupicka interviews, anyone?

Anton Krupicka is a great runner who doesn't need an introduction. Not that anyone knows him, but he doesn't need it.

He's won a few big trail ultras, but doesn't brag about it. He is infamous for his injury record, for which he doesn't feel too proud either.

Anton was recently featured in an Endurance Planet audio podcast.

He was also interviewed by Good4sports blog. Actually the first part of it may seem pretty lame, but like ultraruns it gets better if you can finish it.

As a bonus, here's a 2009 video interview in case you haven't seen it yet.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Copper Canyon ultramarathon

This great video is mainly about Will Harlan at Copper Canyon ultramarathon in 2009.

The next Copper Canyon 75K will be raced on Sunday, March 7, 2010.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Comparison of Swiss Alpine trail run events

MountainMan is a new addition to all those Alpine trail running challenges in 2010. The race will be on August 21st for the first time. It is already marketed as "The largest Alpine trail running event of Switzerland".

Interestingly SwissAlpine on July 31st labels itself "the biggest mountain ultramarathon in the world"! Wow, compared to that MountainMan seems reasonably modest after all :-)

Talk is cheap, so let's take a quick look at some basic facts.

MountainMan says it "is the longest Trail Running route of Switzerland: 81 km!"

Well that's not exactly true, as Trail Verbier St-Bernard's La Boucle (The Loop) on July 3-4 is 110 km with +/- 6904 m. It's highest peak is 2714 m and lowest point 720 m. Only 93 runners finished the loop the first time in 2009, but this event seems to have some growing potential. And they never claimed to be the biggest or largest anyway.

MountainMan's point-to-point course has 4925 m of ascent and 4545 m of descent. The highest point reaches 2242 m while the lowest point is 968 m.

SwissAlpine's main event K78 provides a fairly easy 78.5 km loop course with only 2260 m ascent/descent. The highest point is 2632 m and the lowest 1019 m.

882 runners finished SwissAlpine K78 in 2009, but a lot more is expected this year because it's their 25th anniversary. I doubt MountainMan's ability to attract that kind of numbers, mainly because Davos is so much easier location to reach, especially when they give all visitors free public transportation from/to any Swiss airport.

To put things in perspective, UTMB, which is partially run in Switzerland (in the same area as Trail Verbier St-Bernard) on August 27-29, is a 166 km tour around Mont Blanc with +/- 9400 m. The highest/lowest points are 2537/807 m. There were 1383 finishers in 2009 - plus about a thousand more who started but failed to finish. Certainly many more would like to give it a try, if they only could get in!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Trail Verbier St-Bernard

Trail Verbier St-Bernard, 110/61 km, July 3-4, 2010. Seems like a great race! The videos below are from the first race in July 2009.

Trail Verbier Saint Bernard
Uploaded by freepresse. - Check out more sports and extreme sports videos.

The longer 110 km (6900 m) loop 'La Boucle' will be worth 4 points when applying for UTMB 2011 - you'll need 5 points from 2 races finished in 2009-10.