Saturday, November 28, 2015

Ultratrail Collserola 2015 Highlights

85km race course.

Having now finished Ultratrail Collserola 85km in Barcelona on November 21st 2015, here are some of the highlights of the race.

85km race profile.

The weather was good for running. It was often very cloudy and windy, but only a light drizzle of rain. It was nice and sunny in the afternoon. The temperature varied between 8-18C. I ran the whole in shorts and t-shirt, except for the last 10K I put on my jacket, hat and gloves.

Collserola Park from Montserrat mountains.

The race organization was absolutely superb. Everything worked very smoothly and efficiently like a well-oiled machine. Everyone was friendly and relaxed while 100% effective. On many occasions they asked how I felt, and I was always able to answer "good". I could tell these guys are pros!

Street art in BCN.

Race markings were clear and left no chance for me getting lost. That was fortunate, as there were many crossing trails and paths in the area. It was easy to find the right way, even in the dark.

Pre-race jogging in Park Güell by Gaudi.

The aid stations were well-stocked with drinks, fresh fruit and GU gels in different flavors. This was all I needed on a warm day like this.

Local coffee for performance enhancing breakfast.

This was the third edition of Ultratrail Collserola. I haven't participated before, but the new longer 85K course seems well-designed as it provides a great variety of trails. According to ITRA the course was 86.6km with +3025 meters of elevation gain, instead of 84.7km and +2940m as published before the race. My Suunto Ambit measured +3268m of climbing. This was good news to me, as I had been worried that the race would be too easy. Fortunately it wasn't!

Buying groceries from the market hall.

The race HQ at CEM Mundet was a convenient location for the race start and finish. I could get there in 20 minutes by metro from my downtown hotel as it's only a 300m walk from Mundet station. This is the first and only ultra trail race starting and finishing in the City of Barcelona, a premier holiday destination in Europe.

Picking up my bib the day before in Mundet Sport Center.

The max number of runners was 500 in each of the four races (85/38/23/10 km) starting at 7am, 8am, 9am and 10am. This seemed just about right. It was never too crowded, but I didn't have to run alone for long distances either.

Ready to race!

There was the famous 'El Clasico' soccer match Real Madrid vs. Barcelona going on in Madrid on Saturday evening. It was fun to run for a while with a couple of loud local football fans with their phone radio turned on. I didn't understand a word, but I later learned in my hotel that Barca had won 0-4, which was a big deal in BCN city of course.

Race souvenirs: hoodie, medal, T-shirt.

Live timing data was made available online at I seemed to have kept on improving my position gradually, passing 16km in 1:58, 31km in 4:04, 43km in 6:00, 57km in 8:15, 79km in 12:07, and finish 86,6km in 13:56. There were 339 finishers.

A fellow competitor.

Just when I smelled the barn and anticipated an easy km to the finish, a surprise appeared: Mortirolo, a steep monster uphill with a sign warning of the danger, an arrow pointing straight up, and a rope anchored to the top. Normally it would have been just a fun distraction, but with my tired body it required a more careful approach to avoid potential cramps. Eventually I conquered it. I had a good laugh at this bizarre but genius obstacle.

Photo break around 35km.

The race goods were excellent. Before the start we received a large foldable course map covering the whole Collserola park area in detail and a Helly Hansen running T-shirt. After the finish we received a race medal and a black hoodie as Finisher souvenirs.

La Sagrada Familia by Gaudi is a must visit.

In addition to the bag left in the race HQ, 85km runners were able to leave a drop bag for the 43km aid station. This would have been really helpful had the weather turned bad. As it was fine and sunny, I didn't need to take anything from it. We were required to carry a jacket, a headlamp with extra batteries, an emergency blanket, a whistle, a hat and a drink/food reserve in our backpack anyway. I also used Mountain King Trailblazer poles the whole way and found them helpful.

El Clasico football match in Madrid on race day was won by Barca.

To sum up, I would recommend Ultratrail Collserola for runners looking for a great November race in Mediterranean climate. Barcelona is a popular travel destination for millions of visitors, but very few tourists have been able to experience a sightseeing tour like Ultratrail Collserola.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Best Waterproof Running Jacket Secret Leaks

Running in Swiss Alps with my zipper open.

My eternal quest for a waterproof running jacket continued in Swiss Irontrail 2015. As faithful followers of this blog know, I've abandoned way too many ultra trail races after suffering from dire consequences of Alpine storms in so-called 'waterproof' jackets.

Haglöfs Gram Jacket made of 3-layer Gore-Tex Active fabric proved to be the best jacket I've tried so far for demanding mountain ultra trail running.

I found the fabric surprisingly breathable without condensation issues. As I understand it, this amazing material is made by bonding a teflon membrane on to both the inner lining and the outer fabric of the jacket.
I scrambled a Via Ferrata through rain, hail and fog to the top of Zugspitze 2962m in July 2015 with a little help from Haglöfs Gram Jacket. 

Gram is also lightweight for a Gore-Tex jacket: my size M weighs 290 grams. More importantly, the jacket performed fantastically well when the going got tough.

Like most Alpine Ultra Trail races, Swiss Irontrail is infamous for frequently challenging weather conditions. As the weather turned increasingly windy, wet and cold during my 204.2 km (as measured by ITRA), +11,500-meter, 55-hour adventure, this this jacket kept me dry, warm and comfortable. After long hours in pouring rain it remained 100% waterproof.

I was initially attracted to the minimalistic design with an innovative pattern of construction, only one iPhone-size upper chest pocket, articulated sleeves with internal thumb loops, superb 3-way adjustable hood, waterproof durable zipper and reflective details.

Haglöfs was founded in 1914 by Victor Haglöf in Sweden. Today it is the largest supplier of outdoor equipment in Scandinavia. Japan's Asics bought Haglöfs in 2010 for billion (1,000,000,000) SEK.

The Gram jacket is made in 'South-Finland', ie. Estonia. Unfortunately I believe this model has been discontinued recently. Should you be interested in acquiring one, you may still be able to find great deals for this outstanding jacket that can be used for cycling and other aerobic outdoor sports as well. I paid under 200 euros for my 'over-200-km-jacket'. It was money well spent for a change.

The secret leaks out, but this jacket does not leak.

If this jacket got me to Swiss Irontrail finish, it has to be pretty good.