Monday, June 30, 2008

How to be more interesting

"There are people who exercise and jog for hours every day in order to be fit and healthy. They watch their diets and carefully select what they eat. They load themselves up with vitamins and supplements. The result is often excellent. But how much time do they spend on developing an interesting mind?"

Ouch! That was a quote from How to Be More Interesting by Edward de Bono. The book contains exercises, all of which I have done before. Now I'm doing them again in a slightly different way. I get random words, for example from Random Word Generator, and use them to generate new fresh ideas. It works.

According to the book, possibility is very largely the basis of interest. It is possibility and speculation that can make anything interesting. Possibility is only limited by imagination. 

I thought it might be interesting to see what some other blogs say about this subject.
Then there is the following cautionary advice at wikiHow: "Never be so interesting that you become plain oddball". 

Maybe that's not such an awful danger. It's probably better be extremely interesting than boring.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

The first Kona Ironman

Mark Montgomery was one of the brave competitors in the first Kona Ironman Triathlon on the Big Island of Hawaii in February 1981.

His interesting retrospective trilogy was published at (a triathlon website owned by Dan Empfield, another participant in the race).
There is also a recent John Howard interview by Herbert Krabel.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Smoke: to run or not to run?

Western States 100 has been cancelled due to smoke caused by wildfires (see photo above).

I wasn't going to run there anyway, but lots of dedicated runners like Scott Dunlap were. What a bummer!

However, I'm sure they made the right decision. It makes no sense healthwise to run in smoke. Well I guess most people would think that running 100 miles in perfect conditions would still be totally crazy.  

Talking about crazy, I hope they will be able to improve the air quality in Beijing before the Olympic Games in August. Just look at the photo below: the air seems to be pretty smoggy there. 

But wait there's more insanity (or should I say cognitive dissonance): there are marathon runners who smoke

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

43K with unexpected shoe issues

This is how my Salomon XT Wings look like after I've run 400K with them. They are in fine condition, except for one thing. Can you guess what it is? 

One of those (bleep) shoelaces snapped today after 6K. I'm kind of happy that it happened now and not during next weeks Zermatt Marathon. I tied the loose ends together, but there was no way to fix them properly. Luckily I was able to continue, as there was a long way to go.

By the way, exactly the same thing happened to my previous XT Wings after 900K. I'm not sure what's going on here. I'm not wearing them extra tight or anything like. Actually I prefer to err on the loose side.

The rest of the run was awesome. The weather was fabulous with some sun and cool temperatures around +15C (60F). At 22K point I went home to eat and taped my left ankle once again. 

I ran 43.1K (26.8 miles) in 5:31. This was my 26th ultramarathon of the year and there's 26 more to run before we call it a year.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

21st century flying Finn

There's a new blog posting with lots of photos about Asprihanal's (aka Pekka Aalto) running day in the 3100 mile race. He won it in 2007 and is currently leading the race with a comfortable margin. He seems to be a 21st century flying Finn.

In a recent interview (in a Finnish Metro-newspaper) he said that the first ten days feel always easy and then the rest of the race will probably be more difficult. He's been running a steady 70+ miles per day pace since day three. Check out the daily results to see if he can keep it up.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

More photos from Midsummer Marathon

Here's a few more photos from the Midsummer Marathon here in Helsinki on Friday.

By the way, it's week number 25 and I'm right on schedule: 25 ultramarathons down, 27 to go in 2008. Keep on running!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Paloheinä Midsummer Marathon

Today I was going to run my first race this year: Paloheinä Midsummer Marathon. It's a small but reportedly well-organised local event. They organise marathons there quite often, but I've never done it before. 

At 8.30 AM - 30 minutes before start - I started jogging towards Paloheinä from my home. The weather seemed a little cloudy and humid. It was only about 3K there so I wasn't in a hurry. 

I was surprised to see so many runners queueing for race numbers. The RD told me the total number of runners was 62, and 27 of them were going to run a full marathon like me. 

It was supposed to cost 15 euros, but the RD decided to take only ten this time. This was the largest crowd in race history. 

I hope the event continues to grow as more and more ordinary people want to run a marathon.  

For some reason they gave me the number one, although I told them I'm not going to run fast today!

The course consisted of an out and back, 5.27K, well-marked route on the dirt paths in the forest. The marathon was eight laps. The only aid station was at the start/finish area turnaround point. 

The scenery was wonderful. It wasn't very hilly, but it wasn't completely flat either. 

Soon after the start the sun came out. Temperature rose to around 17C (62F). I guess that's not exactly hot, but it did feel warm. There was no wind at all and it was humid.

After the first half I was running a little over 5 min/km pace when I noticed that my heart rate was skyrocketing. I'm not sure if it was the humidity or something else, but I had to slow down. I took the second half very easy. 

I finished in 4:18, my slowest official marathon race ever (I've finished only 37 official marathons, but of course I've run lots of self-supported marathons in addition to those). 

After chatting and loading a bit I jogged back home. 

All in all it was a good workout, 48.6K in 5:21. My average HR for the whole thing was ashtonishingly high (151), and boy was I done.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Grandma completes her run around the world

Rosie Swale-Pope (61) has been running around the world for nearly five years. She is already in Scotland and plans to arrive home in Wales on August 25th.

Here's the latest article about her journey. 

Rosie has finished ultramarathons like Comrades and swissalpine before this incredible solo adventure.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Aalto leads 3100 mile race

Pekka 'Asprihanal' Aalto (born in Finland, 1970) leads 3100 mile race in New York after 3 days. Check out daily results. The 3100 mile race blog.

Last year he won the world's longest footrace for the fourth time with his personal record time 43 days, 4 hours and 26 minutes (photo above). He averaged about 71.8 miles (115K) per day.

The record for the event is held by Wolfgang 'Madhupran' Schwerk of Germany, who completed 5649 laps of the 0.5488 mile (883 meters) concrete course in 42 days 13 hours in 2002 (72.8 miles per day).

The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team has organised the 3100 mile race every year since 1997. A cornerstone of Sri Chinmoy's philosophy is self-transcendence - the idea that we are capable of more than we might believe. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The 4-Hour Workweek

The 4-Hour Workweek was fun to listen to during my recent long run. Tim Ferriss provides many valuable insights about lifestyle design and exciting ideas for action. 

Tim challenges his audience: "Resolve now to test the concepts as an exercise in lateral thinking." Fair enough.

I found it interesting that Tim offers "I'm a drug dealer" as an answer to the common question 'So, what do you do?'. It's both provocative and funny. It also happens to be the truth, as he owns a sports supplements web-business.

What I liked about The 4-hour Workweek:
  • Lifestyle design. Designing simpler lifestyles is the bomb. Life design shouldn't be confused with life hacking. Design goes beyond problem solving.
  • Low-information diet: selective ignorance. Actually I've been on this for years. No TV, no news. Just pull the plug and get out.
  • 80/20-rule. The Pareto principle is another favourite of mine.
  • People don't want to be millionaires - they want to experience what they believe only millions can buy. You don't have to wait until you are a millionaire. Start living your dreams today. 
  • Mini-retirement. This a great idea with lower risk than quitting your job.
  • Relative vs. absolute income. I agree it's better to focus on working hours than annual income. 
There were a few concepts that didn't sound quite right for me: 
  • Live Anywhere. I'n not sure that I can buy all that talk about liberation and mobility. "Forever breaking the bonds that confine you to a single location" doesn't sound like me, but maybe I'm too old. If you are young then go see the world, sure. Travelling is not necessarily that much fun. It's true you can live like a king in Thailand, for example. When you've been there and done that, then it's time for something else.
  • New Rich. The audience of this book is probably richer than 90% of the world population in terms of 'luxury lifestyle ingredients' (time, income, mobility). By all means get enough spare time to do what you really want to do. However merely escaping 9-5 does not solve all the problems in the world. I think what we need now most is the new creative and constructive.
  • Outsource life. On a bet, Tim has hired workers abroad to find him dates online. That won't be necessary for most ordinary people. I'd rather generate new ideas or design a simpler lifestyle than hire an assistant. For busy entrepreneurs my advice would be outsource what you suck at.
  • BrainQUICKEN. Maybe this is not for ultramarathon runners like me. Actually I often try to think and communicate slower. I believe it's better to eat best natural food available than synthetic pills. Life is not a race to be hurried through as quickly as possible.
  • Excitement. Yes, excitement is one type of happiness, but I see many dangers lurking here. As novelty wears off, the search for stimulation gets increasingly difficult. Excitement easily leads to boredom. More reliable and balanced forms of happiness include enthusiasm, interest, relief and joy. 
Conclusion: The 4-hour Workweek can be a useful concept, especially if taken as a creative provocation. I wouldn't miss it, but keep in mind that 
  • "It's the dose that makes the poison", and 
  • "Everything popular is wrong", 
as the succesful author himself is fond of reminding us.

I guess that's about it. Wait, there's one more thing: How does Tim Ferriss spend his 164-hour UNworkweek? 

Pen tricks, for example.           

Monday, June 16, 2008

Comrades Marathon 2008 slideshow

This is just a cool slideshow I found. There is no sound, so don't try to adjust your computer. For more information about the race, please see my previous post

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shvetsov breaks Comrades up-record

Defending champion Leonid Shvetsov of Russia won the 87K Comrades Marathon again in 5:24:49, smashing the up run record just like I predicted on Thursday. His total prize money is R470'000 (about 70'000 USD). 

Shvetsov, a 39-year old medical doctor, broke the Comrades down run record last year. He is the first man to win and own both up and down records since the legendary champion Bruce Fordyce (52), who finished his 26th Comrades in 10:07:33. Fordyce, who is of Scottish origin, joked that he entered the race because runners don't have to pay the race fee after 25 finishes.

Shvetsov was in a league of his own this year. The weather was hot according to the runners, but that didn't seem to affect Shvetsov. During the last 30K Shvetsov had to chase the record alone. The second place competitor Jaroslaw Janicki of Poland had to walk up the infamous Polly Shortts hill, and finished nearly 14 minutes after the winner.  

Women's 2006 winner Elena Nurgalieva fell down at 10K. She hurt her knee, but was able to continue and win in 6:14:36. Her twin sister Olesya came in second place, a minute and 15 seconds behind. 

We also got the fastest ever Finnish Comrades result, when Asmo Ahola crossed the finish line in 6:34:52. He was 10. in the 40-49 age category. What's more his brother Arto was able to get a silver medal as well with a 7:02:37 finish. Way to go guys!  

Comrades Marathon is the biggest ultramarathon in the world with well over 10 thousand competitors each year. Every other year is an 'up run' from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. The same route is then run in reversed direction (ie. 'down run') the next year. 

This year there were 11'191 entrants (9'306 men and 1'885 women). For the first time in Comrades history there was not a South African runner in Top 5. 

The first Comrades Marathon was held on May 24th, 1921. Next year the marathon will be run again on May 24th.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

45K in six hours

The early morning scene by the river sure looked wonderful.

Soon the sky was totally covered with clouds. I thought it would rain soon - like every day this week - but it didn't. The weather stayed ideal for running all the time I was out there.

I chose to run on sawdust-covered x-country tracks, which are hilly and soft. That may have not been such a good idea, as my left plantar fascia (arch tendon) got a bit painful. Running uphill seemed to make it worse.    

After 39K I taped the foot lightly. That seemed to help. My total running distance was 45K. It took me 6 hours. The 8 min/km average pace felt really slow and easy. I guess there's nothing wrong with that.

This was already my 24th weekly self-supported ultra gig this year. This type of training seems to suit me well. I do one long run each week, and then train whatever I feel like I need to do during the rest of the week.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Comrades calves

There's nothing wrong with big, strong calves writes Bruce Fordyce. "The best Comrades runners have very powerful calf muscles", the King of Comrades states. 

Leonid Shvetsov, who in 2007 broke the down-Comrades record set by Bruce Fordyce in 1986, has a good chance of breaking the uphill direction record too next Sunday. And yes, he has huge calf muscles as the photo below proves. 

I have big calves as well, but it took me 9:32 to run the up-Comrades in 1996. In hindsight, I must have suffered from overtraining. If your brain lacks sufficient muscle to restrict excessive training, even the best calves in the world can't guarantee success.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Business run commute in London

Check out how the busiest business dudes run commute in London.

Actually I've been told this type of urban gymnastics is called parkour. Or free running, which they say is a slightly different concept.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Paloheinä Midsummer Marathon: 10 days out

The plot thickens. I just found out that there is a small local Juhannus (ie. midsummer) marathon on June 20th. It's in Paloheinä area, around where I often choose to train anyway. It's 3 or 4K from my home, so I'll get a nice ultramarathon by jogging there and back. 

It's probably one of the best places to run in Helsinki as the quiet dirt paths are great for running even when its raining, and the trees in forest provide protection from wind and sun. There are also lots of hills available, so it's not too easy by any means.

The only downside is that the marathon course consists of 8 loops, so it might get a little boring. On the other side it provides a good opportunity to see other runners. Many of them are going to run shorter distances, but 42.2K is the longest official distance available.

I know there's also an ultra 100K race in the same area in August. I think it's 55 times about 1.8K loop or something like that, so I think I'll let that one pass.   

Monday, June 9, 2008

Gobi March on its way

Ryan Sandes of South Africa captures stages 1 and 2 of Gobi March 2008. They were only about 40K each. It was a bit hot though, around 35C (95F). 

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Creativity Workout

Creativity Workout (aka How To Have Creative Ideas) by Edward de Bono is not really a book in the traditional sense. It's more like a training program for your brain to get more creative. 

Many people do some physical exercises every day. They should also make a habit of doing at least one of these 62 exercises every day. Each of these creativity workouts will typically take less than 5 minutes.

Why are creativity workouts necessary? Here's a few answers from the Introduction:
  • Creativity makes life more fun, more interesting and more full of achievement... Without creativity there is only repetition and routine. 
  • Creativity is needed for change, improvement and new directions.
  • Creativity is a skill that can be learned, developed and applied... Everyone can seek to get better through practice.
  • Instead of working harder with the same ideas, perceptions and concepts, we seek to change them.
  • The purpose of this book is to provide opportunity for practising the mental skill of creativity and developing the habits of mind that make creativity happen.
  • Our culture and habits of thinking insist that we always move towards certainty. We need to pay equal attention to possibility.  
These exercises shouldn't be confused with brain puzzles, where the purpose is to find the right answer. The purpose here is to provide training in creative thinking. Although there is no one right answer, some answers may be more practical, more unusual, or offer a higher value. The exercises are always an enjoyable way to spend time and can be regarded as games.

All exercises are based on the Random Word, the simplest of Serious Creativity provocation techniques. With new random words, every exercise can be performed over and again in a different way. 

As always, what you get out of Edward de Bono's products will be directly proportional to the effort you put into using them.  

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Self-supported ultramarathon of week 23

This pheasant didn't seem to like the idea of me running on his property.

The summer is coming along very nicely. There is so much vegetation already that it's sometimes difficult to follow the trail. 

It looked like it was going to rain in the morning, but then the clouds disappeared. It was again surprisingly cool today, around 14C (57F).

My left foot still hurts a little, so I took it easy today. I totalled 44.7K (27.8 miles) in 6:24. I climbed lots of small hills and found some new trails. 

Friday, June 6, 2008

Brooks Racer ST 3

I bought new shoes again. 

I needed something lightweight, yet well-enough-cushioned, for road racing and tempo training. 

I chose Brooks Racer ST 3. I have never had them before, so the following is all I can say about them now.

First, they are light. My pair (US size 10.5) weighs only 520 grams (18.3 oz). Compared to my trail running shoes, they feel almost like running barefoot.

Second, I figured that if Scott Jurek can win both Spartathlon and Badwater TWICE with these shoes, they can't be that bad for ultramarathons. However, officially they are recommended for distances up to marathon only. I guess at the end of the day everything depends on your weight and running style. They should be ok for me though, as I'm not going to attempt anything like Jurek in terms of speed or distance, and I believe he is heavier than me (I don't ever allow myself to get above 69 kg = 152 lb, but I'm often leaner).

Third, they were not as expensive as most other shoes. The price has to be right because I have to buy new shoes every 6-8 weeks. Generally the prices in Europe, and especially here in Finland, are extremely high, so it's worth all the trouble to find bargains. 

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Downhill running Indy-style

Although I've always been a big fan of downhill running, Indiana Jones and Lego, I've never actually gone as far as these guys in SF. Good job, dudes!

Here's a neat trick for you: whenever you are slow going downhill, imagine there's a huge boulder rolling right behind you. It may not provide free speed, but it's more fun.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Zermatt Marathon: one month out

My first race of the year will be Zermatt Marathon in southern Switzerland on July 5th. I've never been there before, so I took some time to examine the course. 

The route seems to be challenging, with a total elevation gain of 1,944 m and drop of 444 m.

The start is in St. Niklaus (1,085 m) and finish on Riffelberg (2,585 m). 

It's the standard 42.2 km marathon distance, which is not sufficient for my weekly ultra challenge, so I'll add a warm up and down. 

I'm looking forward to running beside the magnificent Matterhorn. I'll take my camera with me and try to take as many photos as possible before, during and after the race.

Hopefully this will prove to be good training for swissalpine 78K in Davos on July 26th.