Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Trail Verbier St-Bernard course preview

This is a preview of the 110.5 km (68.7 miles) loop (La Boucle) course of 2010 Trail Verbier St-Bernard, which I'll be running on Saturday - and probably a good part of Sunday too. TVSB will be the longest race I've ever done, road or trail.

Trail Verbier - St. Bernard

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The start will be 5 AM in Verbier, and you'll have to back there by 1 PM on Sunday. 32 hours may seem like plenty of time for this, but the course is designed to be extremely tough.

First, there's 6,904 meters (22,651 ft) of cumulative ascent and descent. Second, there will be snow. And third, there's not too much oxygen as the highest peak is 2,714 meters (8,904 ft) above sea level and the four other mountains along the route are not much lower than that.

There are four cutoff stations along the route, which you will have to leave before the following times:
  • Sembrancher (26.7 km), 11:30 AM (Saturday)
  • La Fouly (48.5 km), 5:00 PM (Saturday)
  • Bourg St. Pierre (76.4 km), 2:00 AM (Sunday)
  • Lourtier (98.9 km), 9:00 AM (Sunday). 
Most of the course is in Switzerland, except a 3K section that allows us to briefly visit Italy. The 15K trail between Champex and La Fouly is the same as in Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in August, only the direction is opposite.

There are 1,050 entrants, but most of them (693) will run La Traversée, ie. the last 61 km of the course. 357 runners have chosen the whole La Boucle (loop). Most of them (134) are in my VH1 category (men 40-49). Last year, when TVSB was organised for the first time on a slightly shorter 105K course, there were 500 runners altogether.

The obligatory gear which each competitor must carry all the way includes the following:
  • a backpack
  • 1 liter water reserve
  • a food reserve (not specified in more detail)
  • 2 lights with spare batteries
  • a rescue blanket
  • a whistle
  • elastic adhesive tape
  • a water- and weatherproof jacket
  • a long-sleeve sweater
  • long pants or tights
  • a pair of gloves
  • your bib and chip
  • poles (not obligatory, but if you plan to use any sort of sticks at any point, then you are required to carry them all the way with you - they will be marked before the start).
There will be ten refreshment stations with drinks and food along the way. At 48 km in La Fouly you can also get access to whatever stuff you have left in your personal bag before the start.

Why do I want to finish TVSB? I simply need it to qualify for UTMB 2011 lottery. That's the No. 1 ultra trail race in Europe, and there are always way too many applicants. So even with this it won't be by no means certain. If I don't get selected, I'll have a better chance to try again for 2012, as the points acquired will be valid for two years and those who have lost in a previous lottery will have some sort of priority the next year I think.

The weather is reported to be sunny or partially cloudy with surprises like thunderstorms. Looks like a fun weekend to me!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fruitarian's Western States 100 race report

Michael 'The Fruitarian' Arnstein eventually dropped out because of hamstring issues, but his WS100 race report is an interesting read anyway. We learn most from our mistakes and failures, right?

In the video interview below The Fruitarian denies taking any supplements whatsoever (at the end, go to 9 mins). However in the race report, he talks about salt supplements all the time, and mentions taking them on a regular basis when training. Something here does not add up. It's none of my business, but this is probably something he could improve.

A couple of Fruitarian's running buddies did better: Oz Pearlman finished in 19:53 (27th/Men) and Jamil Coury finished also earned his silver buckle with 21:41 (47th/Men).

Check out this video of their 1000lbs fruit and veg stash in Squaw Valley.

There also was an article about Mike in NaturalNews recently: 'Run Faster without Fast Food as Fuel'.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Geoff Roes smashes Western States 100 course record

2010 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run winner Geoff Roes (34) showed Anton Krupicka (26) and Kilian Jornet (22) that you can't beat experience. The trio ran together most of the way, although the two youngsters managed to escape with a little gap around halfway. Roes patiently waited in third position until their wheels came off, and took the lead towards the end.

Roes went on to finish strong with a new course record 15:05:04, smashing Scott Jurek's 15:36:37 set in 2004. Also the second-place finisher Krupicka beat the old course record with 15:13:53.

Best European Jornet came in third with 16:04:49, beating Nick Clark by a minute and change. Second European Ian Sharman came in 8th with 17:26:19.

First woman to arrive at Auburn finish line was Tracey Garneau with 19:01:55.

Roes has never lost a 100-miler since his his ultrarunning career began in 2006 and is known for setting a new course record in almost every race he enters.

Some experts estimated that a course record would not be possible this year due to excessive snow. However in his last blog posting before the race Roes wrote: "the more snow the better". The posting was titled "Liking the way things are going".

Roes will get another chance to race with Jornet in August, when they both will participate in Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. Jornet wasn't able to win his first race in America. It will be interesting to see how Roes will do in his first race in Europe.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Kilian Jornet is ready for WS 100

Many believe that Kilian Jornet has a great chance of winning Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run tomorrow.

Who is this modest 22-year-old guy? Well, he has won Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in two previous years, he is a ski mountaineer most of the year, and he runs for happiness. Find out more in the video bio below.

Kilian got interviewed in Squaw Valley yesterday, before his first race in America.

Kilian loves mountains; check out this training video shot in Pyrenees a fortnight ago. Kilian ran coast to coast from Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean in eight days - just for fun, but it's a new record for sure.

There will be a live webcast during the race. Kilian's bib is 35.

Other interesting runners to follow include twice-in-a-row winner Hal Koerner (M1); Geoff Roes who has never lost a 100-miler (11); Miwok 100K 2010 winner Anton Krupicka (18); Michael 'Fruitarian' Arnstein who attempts to complete his first 100-miler with nothing but fruits and vegs (79); a fellow blogger Will Cooper (140); and another young European Ian Sharman (407).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Scott Jurek in the Kathleen Show

Scott Jurek is featured in the Kathleen Show this week. You can download the podcast from the iTunes Store, or check it out here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bart vs Comrades

A video about how Bart Yasso (54), the vegetarian Chief Running Officer of Runner's World battling Lyme's disease, finally achieved his goal of running Comrades ultramarathon in South Africa, the last race on his life list.

Bart's finish time was 11:33 (the current cutoff is 12 hours). By the way his wife Laura (sitting by him at the end of the video) ran well ahead of Bart and finished in 10:25.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer aka durian season

Summer aka durian season, originally uploaded by Jakuko.

Summer aka durian season is here. Or actually not here, but in South-East Asia. It's often called the king of fruits there.

Only about a third of the big fruit is edible. About 30% of the calories come from fats. The seeds inside are toxic (unless cooked). It emits an overpowering aroma and odor, which most people would not describe as pleasant. It's armed with sharp thorns all over ('duri' means thorn). However many animals (including tigers) seem to love it.

Anyway, here are some great quotes about durian:

"Completely rotten, mushy onions".
- Chef Andrew Zimmern

"It smelled like you'd buried somebody holding a big wheel of Stilton in his arms, then dug him up a few weeks later... It's taste can only be described as… indescribable, something you will either love or despise. Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother."
- Ex-cook-who-tells-stories Anthony Bourdain

"Like eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory".
- British novelist Anthony Burgess

"…it's odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock."
-Travel and food writer Richard Sterling

"A rich custard highly flavored with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavor that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine… It's neither acid nor sweet nor juicy; yet it wants neither of these qualities, for it is in itself perfect. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you will feel inclined to stop… as producing a food of the most exquisite flavor it is unsurpassed."
- British naturalist Alfred Wallace in 1856

On first tasting it, I thought it like the flesh of some animal in a state of putrefaction".
- French naturalist Henri Mouhot

"The most accurate description by far is that of a sewer full of rotting pineapples."

"The durian's smell is its outstanding feature - it is pungent, a bit like a clogged drain or rotten eggs."
-  Financial Express

Be as it may, durians from different species can have significantly different aromas. The degree of ripeness has an effect on the flavor as well.

If you are not familiar with durian, try eating a piece when you can. It will be an unforgettable experience for sure. And you'll feel so grateful that there are ordinary fruits like bananas.

My favorite way to enjoy durian is to blend it in a smoothie. The following recipe has worked well for me:
  • about 150 g durian (seeded)
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • 1 red or pink grapefruit
  • a few bananas (as many as you like and your blender fits).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How to watch World Cup 2010 while training

How to watch 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa without wasting valuable training time?

The first option is to find a way to train while you watch TV. You don't necessarily need any special training equipment to do so - just do pushups, situps and that sort of thing. If you are a cyclist, bike trainers are the pretty good and affordable these days. Indoor running machines are a bit more expensive, but maybe you could visit a gym to check out what they have available.

The second option is to cheat and train as usual, then watch only the best bits afterwards. By the way, many matches can often be found in fun LEGO animations as well. 

The third option is to travel to South Africa, get tickets to a match, and then jump vigorously up and down while blowing a vuvuzela (African stadium horn) real hard all the time! 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Aalto leads after 1st day of 3100 Mile Race

The first day of this summer's The Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race was done by midnight on Sunday in Queens, New York.

Results show that six-time winner Asprihanal Aalto (39) of Finland took the lead position with 83.97 miles (133.58 km). He was the only one running over 80 miles.

Aalto's PR set in 2007 is 43 days 4 hours, which averages 71.78 miles (114.26 km) per day.

This special ultramarathon is actually the longest certified footrace in the world. The 883-meter lap circles Thomas Edison school on concrete sidewalks.

To complete the required 5649 laps within 52 days, the competitors are allowed to run 18 hours per day. Each running day starts at 6AM, and is followed by a mandatory six-hour rest each night.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Stockholm Marathon 2010 race report

"The race was good but had a lot of hills", commented Joseph Lagat of kenya, the winner of 2010 Stockholm Marathon. Having finished second in his first marathon in Valencia with a 2:10, Lagat expected to do better in Stockholm. He did win this time, but the steep Västerbro bridge slowed him down a bit. Lagat missed the 27 year old course record by only half a minute with 2:12:48.

I agree Stockholm is not the fastest marathon around, but it's a scenic two loops course and the race is well organized.

No wonder this is the largest marathon in Scandinavia with over 20 thousand entries. About 15 thousand of them actually showed up on Saturday, and about 14 thousand were able to finish. These are all record numbers.

Also the spectator support was huge. Maybe it's due to the Royal Wedding or something else, but the crowds seemed even more cheerful than usual. There was never a dull moment.

Throughout 2010 Stockholm will be celebrated as Europe's first Green Capital. For example, all the cups used during the race were compostable and were collected to be composted.

This year's race had the additional benefit of a brilliant weather. It was sunny, +19 degrees C, with a few clouds here and there and a weak wind. It was absolutely ideal for running.

Sweden's Isabellah Anderson 3-peated her two previous victories with a third straight one in 2:31.35.

My somewhat ambitious personal goal was to finish in under three hours. Long story short, everything went well, except I just wasn't quite quick enough. I ended up finishing in 3:06:26. I'm happy for my course PR though, which improved considerably from 3:14.

Here are my official chip splits. My overall place improved continuously from start to finish. My start group was C, which meant there were many slower runners in front of me. I wasn't able to run my own pace during the first few K's. I kept on passing lots of runners throughout the race.

Here is the data from my Garmin Forerunner 110. It says the distance I ran was 42.98 km, although the course is reliably measured to be 42.195 km. The tunnels along the course seem to have confused the GPS. Also other GPS users have reported unexpectedly long course measurements.

Brooks Green Silence racing flats performed more to my liking after I had changed the laces into shorter, thicker ones. There were no blisters or any other issues. These funny looking shoes are fast and furious.

I carried a quarter kilo plastic squeeze bottle of honey in my hand all the way. I ate nothing else during the race, although there were various snacks available. I tried tasting a salty gherkin handed out by a volunteer around 17K though, but it tasted much too salty so I threw it away. I drank plain water only, except a little sip of diluted coke at 36K. No sports drinks or gels. I felt fine energy wise, but somehow my pace gradually dropped.

My second half (1:35:01) was over 3 minutes slower than the first (1:31:25). With a better start group (ie. B) I probably would have run the first half in slightly under 90 minutes. Next year I need to do that and then run the second half in 90 minutes as well.

Crossing (twice) Västerbron, Sweden's largest arched bridge, didn't feel as challenging as I remembered it from my three previous Stockholm Marathons. Actually it was easy for me.

What truly scared/amused me, and probably most other runners too, was the little flat bridge before Västerbron. No one wouldn't have even noticed it - if it didn't start moving under our feet. The bridge resonated with our weight in the weirdest manner. For a moment, the strange feedback movements of the bridge made us doubt the health of our feet or minds - or both.  

I think it was a good idea to travel by cruise ship directly from Helsinki to Stockholm's Värta harbour, which is conveniently located a mile from the start/finish area. You can relax and eat well on the ship before and after the marathon. You can also leave all your luggage in your cabin and simply walk to the start with your race gear on about an hour before. They will even collect your race number, chip and package for you, so they are ready waiting for you aboard the ship. They also featured a marathon expo on the ship, as well as entertainment, massage service, sauna, jacuzzi and so on.

All in all, I'd say it was a solid performance. The result was over 19 minutes better than my best marathon last year. So I'm making progress. If I can keep it up, PRs will break.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

UN urges global vegan diet

Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, says the report, which has been launched to coincide with UN World Environment day on Saturday.

A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Marathon master Ed Whitlock

Running Times features an article about an extraordinary 78-year-old marathon runner: Ed Whitlock and the Age of Simplicity.

Ed's crowning achievement is a 2:54 marathon at age 73.

He ran his marathon PR 2:31:23 in his "youth" at age 48.

The best performances of this marathon master in 75-79 age group include a 3:04:54 marathon and a 39:25 10K.