Saturday, October 27, 2012

80km du Mont Blanc 2013

Teaser 80km du Mont-Blanc from MOUSS PRODUCTION on Vimeo.

Hi there all you crazy trailheads, just a short note to infom you that I just registered for a new exciting race in Chamonix: 80km du Mont Blanc on Friday 28 June 2013 (start 4am).

It's a 50-mile loop course Chamonix-Chamonix, with 6,000 meters (19,685ft) cumulative vertical up, and naturally the same down. It looks like a tough but scenic course to me. Definitely doable within the allowed 24 hours though. The weather will be a mystery as always, but it could possibly be warmer and sunnier than UTMB 2012 :)

Highest points along the route are:

  • Bel Lachat (2,276m)
  • Brevent  (2,525m)
  • Col du Corbeau (2,602m)
  • Col de la Terrasse (2,643m)
  • Signal (2,200m)
  • Aiguille du Plan (2,200m).

It's organized by the same people who have put on Mont Blanc Marathon for years, so they should know what they are doing.

Trail Valley is a beautiful place, as you can see from the video. Hope to see you there!

The 80K loop route goes clockwise from Chamonix to Chamonix. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nutrition check

It's a good idea to analyze your daily diet once in a while, even if you are like me:
  • you think you are eating healthy
  • you have been healthy and fit for a long time
  • you are not on a diet to lose/gain weight
  • your training has been going according your plan
  • your race results have been satisfactory.
There are many ways to do this, but I prefer to use the free online service at You simply select a normal day and enter all the food you eat in the system. These are the ingredients of my day.

For this test to be reliable you need a kitchen scale to weigh every food item. At the end of the day you will get an analysis like this.

First I check total calories. I generally aim for 3500-4500 kcal ballpark per day. My total intake was 4397 kcal, which it what it takes to maintain weight when you are exercising regularly. I did some swimming, cycling and running during that day. I have no detailed nutrition plan, I simply eat what I like when I feel like it, and stop when my hunger is satisfied. I try to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegs, but what I select depends largely on what's in season.

Next I check the ratio of macronutrients. Here in my example it was
  • 82.6% carbs
  • 7.4% protein
  • 10.0% fat.  
This result is within 80/10/10 diet, where at least 80% of calories should come from carbohydrates and not more than 10% from protein and fat each.

It is also a raw vegan diet, and although all my foods were definitely vegan, 20% of them were not raw: cooked quinoa, ready-made chili-bean sauce, lightly steamed broccoli and a spoonful of cacao powder. Although there are endurance athletes like Michael Arnstein, who has followed 100% low fat raw vegan diet successfully for years, during winter in an extremely cold climate (Helsinki is the same latitude as Anchorage) 80% raw seems to work pretty well.

The details show that I got 94g (169%) protein and 2.8g (176%) Omega-3 lipids. No need for supplements here!

When we look at vitamins and minerals, we see that I got plenty of everything except vitamins B12 and D. Normally people get vitamin D from sun exposure, but in the winter that's not always possible. That's why I'm often taking a supplement. I also take a B12 supplement occasionally just in case. I have taken some magnesium in the past, but according to this analysis there is no need for that.

I might do another nutrition check next spring. Until then, I plan to keep calm and carry on.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The dirty dozen

This great video is from Courmayeur (Italy) - Champex (Switzerland) - Chamonix (France) trail run, one of my favorite races of 2012. CCC involved slightly more rain, sleet and mud than I had imagined. However if you can finish a hard challenge like this, all that is forgiven and its value is only increased.

Now check out my 'dirty dozen', the list of all 12 race reports in 2012!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Amazing 5K trail run PR!

My son ran an amazing 5K trail run PR today: 29min38s!

The hilly course in the central park was pretty tough - for me as a GPS-guy/pacer, not for him.

The weather was overcast +6C (43F) with 99% humidity. Almost like swimming!

The km-splits were: 5:37, 5:53, 6:09, 6:04 and 5:54.

Top job Jon!

5K PR from J8N Productions on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sunrise superpower smoothie

I like to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegs, but keep the recipes raw and simple. For example, Sunrise Smoothie is one of my favorite natural superpower boosts. Blend (I don't juice - juicers are not as good as blenders because they waste the fiber):

  • plain water, 
  • pineapple and 
  • pomegranate. 

Natural ingredients like these contain zillions of healthy compounds, some of them not even known by man yet. Fruits and vegs are always the smartest move. You will feel the effect immediately, and it will last all day. Just try it!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

16 quotes from The Secret Race

The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle is the hottest cycling book right now. It fills in all the shocking details how professional elite athletes cheat.

Here are my selection of the best quotes, one each from the 16 chapters of the book:

  1. Here's the secret: You can't block out the pain. You have to embrace it.
  2. Amphetamines and anabolics are nothing compared to EPO. All of a sudden whole teams were ragingly fast; all of a sudden I was struggling to make time limits.
  3. "This is not doping," he said. "This is for your health. To help you recover." I nodded.
  4. "Dad if I ever have to take that stuff to compete, I'll retire." I'd thought it would be hard to lie to my dad;  it turned out it was easy.
  5. Ferrari was unlike any other doctor I'd ever met, before or since.
  6. Lance's face was beet red; he was in a full rage, really letting the guy have it.
  7. Whenever I watch the likable gangsters on The Sopranos, I think of Johan.
  8. It took the drug-testing authorities several years and millions of dollars to develop a test to detect EPO in urine and blood. It took Ferrari about five minutes to figure out how to evade it.
  9. I did a lot of what he called 40-20s, which meant 40 seconds full gas, followed by 20 seconds of rest repeated over and over. These may have been the toughest and most productive workouts I've ever done.
  10. One of the things I learned in 2002 was that living in the same building as Lance had its complications.
  11. We'd made it to the top of the bike-racing world, and when we got there we found mostly desolation and emptiness.
  12. "You need to know something." I pulled in closer. Floyd's Mennonite conscience was bothering him. "Lance called the UCI on you," he said.
  13. Lance worked the system - hell, Lance was the system.
  14. You spend your life working to get to the brink of success, and then you are given a choice: either join in or quit and go home. What would you do?
  15. I didn't say anything. Lance was on a roll now. "I'm going to make your life a living ... fucking ... hell."
  16. The truth really will set you free.

The Secret Race reads like an exciting thriller, you cannot put it down. I just finished it and do recommend it.

One more thing: My Life with Lance Armstrong by Mike Anderson is also an interesting story worth checking out.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Challenge Barcelona triathlon race report

"Original is that which returns to the simplicity of the first solutions." 
-Antoni Gaudi

Celebrating my 50th birthday in 2012, I wanted the last race of the year to be something special. As this year happens to be also my 25th anniversary of triathlon racing, I wanted it to be a triathlon. And not just any old triathlon, but a full distance race with a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and 42.2 km run. And as my first full distance race back in 1987 was an extremely cold one, I wanted this one to be somewhere tropical.

The lobby of Hotel Neptuno, Calella.
Soon I found Challenge Barcelona on September 30th. The reviews have been mostly very favorable. It has been voted the best triathlon in Spain. The weather has been sunny and almost 30C degrees in two previous years. The swim in the Mediterranean is not too cold, but not too warm either so wetsuits have always been allowed. The bike and run courses are fast, smooth and flat. All that I read about the race sounded perfect to me. I had also never been to Catalonia before, so Challenge Barcelona was a no-brainer.

Calella beach on a sunny calm day.
The race HQ is in a little sleepy town called Calella along the Maresme Coast, 70 km North from BCN Airport. Fortunately Hotel Neptuno provided me with a free private airport transfer. My driver was waiting for me at the arrival hall, and an hour later I was in my hotel room. It was Tuesday, five days before the race on Sunday.

The new Apple Store in Barcelona drew herds of nerds.
The weather was sunny but quite windy. I went for an ocean swim anyway. The yellow flags meaning 'extra caution' were flapping in the wind. There were no other swimmers as far as I could see. I bravely jumped into the sea, the waves rolled me around for awhile, and then spat me back on the beach. Then I discovered my shorts were full of sand.

Casa Battló is one of Gaudi's best works.
On Wednesday I bought a return train ticket to Barcelona to explore the city which Anthony Bourdain considers his favorite hub for food in Europe. I thought it might be the most exciting city to walk around. I was particularly interested in the works of Antoni Gaudi, who created a totally original biomorphic style.

The biomorphic balconies of La Pedrera are geniusly mad.
The scenic train ride between Calella and Barcelona's Placa de Catalunya took over an hour each way, but it offered good views to the beaches and the bike course. I walked a 25 km loop around Barcelona in 8 hours. I managed to see all the Gaudi architecture I wanted to see: Casa Battló, Casa Mila (La Pedrera), Sagrada Familia, Park Güell and Palau Güell.

The most popular unfinished building in the world, Sagrada Familia.
I also visited many other sights: the new Apple Store (at Passeig de Gracia 1), Columbus Monument, Casa Amatller, Casa Lleó Morera, Casa Comalat, El Corte Inglés department store and Fundació Joan Miro. I got lost a couple times, but always found something interesting to see. I think Barcelona beats other European cities hands down. I will probably get back there sometime.

Staircase to Park Güell, where Gaudi lived himself. World's longest bench on top. 86 hollow columns gather rainwater for the fountains. 
On Thursday the race registration went smoothly without queueing, although there were 1400 participants. I had some questions so I went back to the Expo on Friday. The organizers didn't speak much English, so I was directed to their info booth. Both persons there spoke English fluently, but knew nothing about the race details and suggested I talk to the organizers! Eventually everything was sorted out and the organizers did a good job in every other area except communications/marketing/PR in English.

Water flowing from the mosaic snake head fountain in Park Güell.
The weather turned more and more unstable as the week progressed. I went for a sea swim on Friday afternoon to test my wetsuit. The waves were smaller than on Tuesday, but still too big to swim fast. The water temperature felt like 22C to me, but I later learned that the official measurement was 18C.

The Witches House at Parc Güell gate. Gaudi was inspired by Brothers Grimm's fairy tale Hänsel & Gretel. The childrens house is on the opposite site.
My Catalonia travel guide book claims that it's usually sunny and warm - overcast grey skies with constant light rain are extremely rare. Unfortunately the weather report for the weekend looked just like that: overcast, constant light rain with heavier showers and possibly thunderstorms, and temperatures well below 20C. I started to doubt my motivation to finish or even start the race. I decided to start the race and then pull out of the race if necessary. I had come here to enjoy the sun, not to torture myself in cold rain. I didn't even have any rain clothing for the cycling.

Casa Comalat is a fine example of Gaudi's influence on other architects in Barcelona.
On Saturday it was pouring when everybody headed to the movie theater for our race briefing. The race director seemed a bit nervous. The bike check-in scheduled for the afternoon would be cancelled due to bad weather. We would only bring our race gear bags into the T1/T2-tent and receive our ankle chip straps. The bikes would be have to be placed in the start area early on Sunday morning. The presentation finished with the RD refusing to show the latest weather forecast to us, only mentioning it changes so often it's not reliable anyway.

60-meter-high Columbus Monument has an elevator inside (if it works).
On Sunday morning the rain had stopped for a while at least. At 7:30am I walked with my bike on the wet roads to the T1. I hang my bike on it's assigned location and memorized where it was. The ground was covered with red carpets, but the mud was bursting out through the seams. All transitions would be more or less muddy today. Also the run course would go through the transition area after each of the four laps.

Huge lions guard the Columbus Monument.
I went inside the transition tent and put on my wetsuit, silicone cap and goggles. I put my street clothes in the green bag and checked again that all my bike gear was in the blue bag and run gear in the red. Then I headed out to the beach to hang out with other competitors. It was about 15 minutes before the first swim wave start at 8:30. I was in the fourth wave at 8:36.

Barcelona view from Montjuic towards Park Güell.
I was chatting with fellow Finnish racers, when I suddenly realized that I had only a couple minutes left. I walked through the gates towards my group with silver caps. I just arrived there on time when the horn sounded and we were off. I calmly entered the water in among the last. My plan was to enjoy the experience and stay at about 50% effort all day.

Another BCN view from Montjuic park.
The sea was relatively calm and the whole swim was very nice. I swam most of the 3800 meters without drafting behind anyone. I wasn't in a hurry and let other swimmers pass me without a fight. I was astonished to see the sun come out on a blue sky. I could see the sandy white bottom of the sea, but disappointingly no marine life whatsoever. We swam towards the lighthouse and back. It felt very easy and comfortable. I clocked 1:15:37 when I climbed back on the beach and hurried to T1.

Rooftop of Fundacio Joan Miro.
I thought it would start raining during the 180 km bike, so I put on a long-sleeve shirt under my short-sleeve cycling shirt. You always feel a bit chilly right after the swim. After about 20K I felt warm and stopped for a toilet break. I put my long-sleeve shirt into an empty bottle cage behind my saddle. The weather was excellent. It was fun and I felt like I could finish this race in under the 15 hour cut-off.

Sculptures and a painting inside Fundacio Joan Miro.
I kept on riding the first 70 km loop at a steady comfortable pace. There were some aid stations where I took bananas and stingy-tasting sports drink. Mostly I relied on my own Clif Blok Shots and Gels with caffeine. I also had a bottle of SiS Go isotonic gel and nuun Kona Cola.

There is a lot of stuff to sort out before a triathlon race.
The old N-II road 'Carretera Madrid-Francia' was in excellent condition. The asphalt was smooth and the hills were small enough not to slow down the pace too much. What's best, the road was closed from other traffic. Drivers who aimed to take this road were given a free ticket for the new motorway. It was fantastic to ride through charming little towns along the coast. The only sound was the wind and the waves crashing on the beach, except tons of people cheering us 'venga, venga, venga' or 'vamos' or 'animo'!

A dude training in endless pool at race expo as BCN train passes by. 
Soon I finished the first loop and made a U-turn in the roundabout to do the same again. I chuckled at the infamous '666' sign again (indicating the distance from Madrid in km, this is a local joke, there is not much love lost between Madrid and Catalonia). Just as I thought bike riding could not get any better than this, the headwind picked up. I slowed down, and other riders passed me frequently. Spanish drivers are notoriously crazy (although they themselves seem to think the Italians are much worse), and Spanish riders are not much more risk-averse. Some of them passed me very close on the right side without giving any warning. The only thing I fear more than flats are crashes. Fortunately I didn't encounter either.

My trusty old aluminum-frame Cervelo P3 ready to race in my hotel room.
The dark clouds that had slowly gathered over the day finally produced some light rain for the last 40 km. It wasn't too bad, but the temperature dropped and I stopped to put on the extra shirt and cycling gloves. The last short loop went by quickly and I headed back to Calella. The last 3K (the same as the first 3K) was tricky with narrow roads, speed bumps and lots of turns. I reached T2 in 6:43:03 (total time 7:58:38). My Suunto Ambit recorded 474 meters of climbing.

My swim start 8:36am on Sunday (photo: Challenge BCN/flickr).
I changed into a T-shirt, new socks, Hoka One One Stinson Evo shoes and running cap but kept the same triathlon tights on the whole race. I had seven hours to run the marathon and I was sure I could do it. The rain had stopped and the weather was ideal for running with clouds covering the sun.

My swim finish, trying to wash sand off my feet unsuccessfully.
The first of the four 10.5K laps went well once my legs got used to running. I ate oranges and bananas which were good, but the sports drink they served started to bother me. I had a toilet break which made me feel better for a while.

Passing the Calella lighthouse soon after bike start.
For the second lap I changed nutrition strategies. I tried cola and energy bars at every station. The only problem was that the 'cola' they had in small bottles tasted like bad medicine. Soon my stomach felt sick and I was in trouble.

Enjoying the fantastic scenery with local energy drinks.
For the third lap I switched to gel and water. That felt good, but I had to walk a lot to give my stomach a chance to settle down. It was dark already and the full moon was behind the clouds. I wasn't too concerned as surely they would have street lights, right? Wrong, a couple kilometers in the middle of the loop lacked lights. I was walking anyway so it didn't really slow me down though. I might have looked a bit tired, as a medical scooter patrol drove beside me and enquired if I'm ok. I faked feeling fine until they left me alone.

Running the marathon in cool evening air was a blast.
For the last lap the gel and water started to make an effect and I was running again. Not fast by any means, it was more like the dreaded 'Kona shuffle' that you will see a lot if you watch Hawaii Ironman. Still this was mentally easy for me, having for example finished Trail Verbier St-Bernard in about 28 hours this summer. I reckoned at this pace I would finish in under 14 hours, only a half of that and well under the cut-off.

I did it my pace! Vamos! Animo!
The last km's felt like miles. Finally I reached the finish gate in 13:45:37. My marathon time was 5:36:28, not one of my fastest, but who cares. This was my 11th and slowest Ironman-distance finish. I had plenty of fun and mostly a very good time. A heavy 'gold' medal was awarded to me. I went to pick up my bags and bike. An incredible fireworks started right then and I stopped to watch like everyone else who was still around. It must have taken 5-10 minutes. Thank you Challenge Barcelona, Calella and all the wonderful volunteers and supporters!

Finisher T-shirt, medal and wrist band on the table of my hotel balcony.
The race statistics showed me later that there had been 1159 finishers. I had been 1090th. There were 125 DNSs, 92 DNFs and 7 DSQs (for drafting on the bike, you got a 8 min penalty for each warning, and if you got three warnings you were out).

Fantastic fireworks started only minutes after I finished. (Photo Challenge BCN/flickr).

I'd certainly recommend Challenge Barcelona for those interested in a full-distance triathlon in a great location. BCN rocks!