Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Get Your Vert

In May we enjoyed an early summer weather. It was sunny enough to make running feel hot. Luckily it was also warm enough for a quick refreshing dip in one of the hundreds of lakes around. The water in lakes is already 18C, which is pretty unusual in May.

My training focused on accumulating vertical ascent, not horizontal distance like before. Swiss Irontrail involves 11.5K vertical. I figured it out by finishing T201 last year that if I cannot do at least the same amount of climbing in one whole training month, the race will certainly eat me alive - shorts and all. Get your monthly vert or DNF - the choice is yours!

I don't care about collecting horizontal 'junk miles' any more. I simply stay on my feet all day to make my legs stronger. For example I'm writing this blog post standing up, not sitting down.

I did six all-day trips to Nuuksio National Park for on/off trail running. The park is only an hour away from Helsinki and absolutely fab. Not surprisingly, the marked trails were filled with hikers, immigrants and tourists. By going off-trail I was able to enjoy wilderness solitude in Barkley Marathons type of terrain. In other words it was unforgiving terrain where every step felt like a challenge.

I also did 6x Vertical K in Malminkartano 'Jättäri' - the biggest skyrunning hill in Helsinki. There are always people training there these days and the steep Fasaaninousu trail is wider than ever. After a while it gets a bit boring to do 16 repeats of the same hill for every 1000 meters of ascension. On the other hand, having done 100x ascents in one session a few years ago helps mentally.

My May total climbing in running sessions was 10300 meters. Then there is a little extra climbing for climbing stairs, cycling around the town, bouldering and frequent indoor workouts at the climbing gym. I don't record those, but I'm pretty sure that my body gets its money's worth.

It will be an interesting June, July and August this year. Each month has great challenges for me, but more about that later.

See you at trails and races!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Random Microadventures

"When some systems are stuck in a dangerous impasse, randomness and only randomness can unlock them and set them free."
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 'Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder'

I got off the morning bus at a random stop in Nuuksio National Park. I didn't know exactly where I was going, but I was determined to get somewhere. I call these random microadventures.

There are no rules, except getting somehow back home before dark. It will be a long day in wilderness. There's no hurry.

If I meet a friend, I'm likely to stop for a chat. If I'm hungry, I'll enjoy a snack from my backpack. If I see a boulder, I'll try to climb it. If it's hot, I might go for a quick swim in one of over hundred lakes in the area. I like to keep my options open.

Sometimes it's nice to follow trails, paths and even roads. Usually the real adventures happen off-trail, where even hiking pace can feel hard.

You might see some wildlife if you are lucky. You will certainly visit a few stunning new places.

In May there are not too many mosquitos yet, but not any berries either. However there are plenty of edible wild greens in Finland. Or maybe I find a cafe, shop or even a restaurant.

Inspired by aboriginal practice of walkabouts, Dean Karnazes suggested runabouts in his book 50/50: "...pick a weekend morning to set out the door with a running pack containing a credit card, a cell phone, and some fluids and snacks - maybe also a map or a GPS... Choose a direction (say, north) and start running... Try to make a complete day of it. Don't worry how many miles you actually run. Focus on staying on your feet and moving forward... Mostly, have fun... Rarely in our modern society do we spend an entire day outside."

Just get out there and spend a full day outdoors, preferably in wild nature. Stay safe, but don't overplan it. Forget structured workouts. Keep your eyes open and your legs fresh. Microadventures like this are great training for your next ultra trail race.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Health, Shinrin-yoku and Trailrunning

Shinrin-yoku or 'forest bathing' is the latest fitness trend (via Ultramarathon Daily News).

Eyeballing Lake Valklampi boulders mindfully.

The aim of the exercise is to promote overall health by reducing stress, anxiety and tension.

Soaking it up at Lake Iso-Holma.

This is not achieved by hard training, but by going slowly and soaking up the natural setting.

Almost stepped on this small animal skull.

You pay attention to everything you encounter in the nature mindfully and possibly with awe.

Sun, fresh air, a beautiful forest trail beside a deep lake - a great shinrin-yoku opportunity for sure.

My friends would probably agree that my running resembles shinrin-yoku these days, mostly because I'm awfully slow on technical trails.

 A fellow UTMB 2014 finisher at Haukkalampi trailhead.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Nuuksio Explorations

Nuuksio National Park is only about one hour from Helsinki. We enjoyed sunny warm weather for the past week. I managed to do a couple trailrunning explorations in Nuuksio.  I discovered epic sights I've never visited before.

Nuuksio is hardly a secret. There can be lots of people on some of the trails, both local and tourists. About half the time I went off-trail to experience the wilderness alone.

I found big boulders to climb over, conveniently followed by a nice beach. There are lots of lakes in Nuuksio, but beaches like this are rare. This was my first open water swim this year and it was great.

I enjoyed the quiet moment for a while, only to be disturbed by someone talking loudly and coming closer. A backpacker making business calls hiked swiftly by me with his trekking poles swinging. Soon he disappeared in wilderness again, still chatting away.

See you in Nuuksio!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0 review

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

Ready for a great wilderness adventure with PB Adventure Vest 3.0: packed with 2L drinks, Clif bars and other foods, jacket and other clothes, Z-poles and other gear it feels very comfortable.

The Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0 I had ordered from UK arrived. It wasn't love at first sight, as this new pack was quite a different than my worn-out PB Adventure Vest 2.0 - with only one bottle holster, where am I going to practically place my hydration in this weird asymmetric design? One option would be a bladder in the back of the pack, but I haven't used any of those in years.

The Z-pole holders in front are great for situations like this when you suddenly need to attach your poles to the pack and free your hands for something else before continuing with the poles again.

Actually I soon realised that this new updated Vest has plenty of carrying capacity for the most challenging mountain ultra trails - 16L volume instead of the old 11L can make a difference in longer endeavours. Once I replaced my old bottles with new soft flasks, I found it easy to stuff several of them in various zippered or open mesh pockets all over the vest. Good news for my running companions: No More Sloshing! And I really liked the new design: one favorite detail is the long blue elastic cord that can be attached to small plastic hooks in many ways to hold bulky stuff in big mesh pockets.

Oops snow ahead - no probs, the poles come out quickly without wasting time to take the pack off my back.

Most importantly, I had been looking for a comfortable lightweight running vest with easy Z-pole attachments on it. Just a couple simple elastic loops in the front on both sides achieve this wonderfully. The new 412g vest is slightly lighter than the previous 454g model. And I found the new sizing Medium fits me better than the previous size M. To be honest, I prefer a loose fit and just figured out with 3.0 Vest there are those hidden lateral fitting straps on both sides and the sternum straps can be vertically adjusted as well - so I could have done more precise adjustments with 2.0 Vest all this time - live and learn! :)

The vest has proved to be super comfy and well-fitting for me in all terrain and weather.

The vest came with one small-ish 420ml UD Body Bottle. That's fine and thanks a lot. The only mistake I made was that I forgot to order a couple of bigger 500ml UD Body Bottles as well. Because the earlier vest came with two full bottles, I probably thought this would be the deal again. The local stores seem to sell Salomon Soft Flasks only, which in my opinion suck (pun intended) in comparison. So keep this in mind when ordering your PB 3.0 vests, which is most likely the best one out there today - unless you like UD AK 3.0 Mountain Vest better, which is the same vol as PB Vest 2.0 and has two bottle holsters in the front. All UD 3.0-series Vests are quite expensive, especially when counting the cost of delivery and extra soft bottles, but probably worth it in the end. After seriously considering AK 3.0 Vest I decided to get PB 3.0 Vest: it has more volume and is not that much heavier. This adventure vest is always packed full of possibilities.

He loved Big Brother.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Monthly Everest

Blurred view on Peak Malminkartano - the top of Helsinki where my run training is mostly done.

Instead of coaches and training plans I have Monthly Everest.

My total run elevation gain in April on Strava is 8,910 meters.

Mount Everest is 8,848 m above sea level.

Mission accomplished!