Friday, December 31, 2010

Cure Tooth Decay

I've sure had my fair share of tooth issues in the past. I had my last mercury amalgam filling replaced by a modern filling early this year.

One of my goals for the new year is to prevent future cavities. That's why I got interested in 'Cure Tooth Decay' by Rami Nagel. His book is to a large degree based on the pioneering work by dentist Weston Price.

Mr. Nagel's videos below certainly provide a solid starting point, but I'd still recommend getting the book (now also available as an ebook). The second edition has a bonus chapter on how to remineralize and repair your child's tooth decay naturally.

'Cure Tooth Decay' gave me a lot of good ideas for 2011. The key points of the book are:
  • Tooth decay is caused by environmental forces such as food. Bacteria are not the cause of cavities.
  • Dentists are surgeons. Dentistry has never promised to prevent future cavities.
  • Our modern diet is deficient in fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. A diet that includes plenty of fat-soluble vitamins and vegetables usually resolves this imbalance.
For recipes along the same lines, 'Nourishing Traditions' by Sally Fallon is suggested.

Tip: remember to take some cod liver oil daily.

Cavity-free New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

100 pushups

This is not a big deal, but I noticed there is a dedicated website (with books, apps etc) for performing 100 pushups: and I did it today. Here's my badge to prove it!

I don't recall doing more than 60-70 ever, at least not in one set without any pauses.

Not surprisingly, the last 30 were pretty challenging. The final ten were pure agony. I guess the only reason to keep going after 90 was the fact that I was too close to 100 to quit.

I'm happy for the achievement. Upper body and core strength are important for runners, especially if you are aiming for ultra trail running in the Alps with a backpack like me.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Running documentary trailer

Running trailer from Stefan Randstrom on Vimeo.
This is the trailer for our documentary on how long distance running made us human.

Stefan & Karen

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Paleo fitness according to Outside Magazine

Outside Magazine January 2011 features a paleo/evolutionary fitness article about MovNat: The Workout That Time Forgot.

You can download a PDF of the article.

They also provide four fitness videos by Erwan Le Corre.
"It's called the paleo-fitness movement, and it sounds like a blast. You eat protein by the slab, roar throught the woods on Flintstone feet, and work off steam the old-fashioned way by hitting something. Nick Heil goes deep to discover whether caveman calisthenics will be the next big thing for adventure athletes."


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NBC broadcast of Ironman Kona on YouTube

NBC broadcast coverage of Ford Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kailua-Kona (on Big Island of Hawaii) has become an annual treat to watch around Christmas for me.

It may seem like they are exaggerating the difficulty of finishing this event, but I can tell you they are not. It's a long hot racing day, no matter who you are. If you haven't experienced this, you are missing out a lot.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Trail Verbier St-Bernard slideshow

One more TVSB video, or actually a slideshow. Mr Bazak DNFed like me, but managed to get a lot of good shots along the way.

Trail Verbier Saint Bernard 3/7/2010 from reuven bazak on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Trail mag 6/2010 is out

The last Trail magazine of 2010 is out there for free. Great stuff about Karl Meltzer, Hoka shoes etc.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Runner from Mirko Beovic on Vimeo.
"Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up."

–-Dean Karnazes

Music: "Hurt" by Johny Cash

My first ever video with my new Canon EOS 7d camera. C&C most welcome. Thx.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rocky Mountain highliners

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGHLINERS from Cedar Wright on Vimeo.
Walking a slackline high above the ground, or "Highlining" as we call it, is surely one of the most terrifying sports I have ever dabbled in.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Another Trail Verbier St-Bernard video

I found one more Trail Verbier St-Bernard 2010 (La Boucle 110 km) video by 'arthurbaldur'. In French, but very nice, merci beaucoup!

Trail Verbier St-Bernard 2010
Uploaded by arthurbaldur. - Basketball, baseball, pro wrestling and more sports videos.

This is the race I DNF'd in 2010, so I'll have to try again in 2011. Viewed in comfy armchair, it looks deceptively easy, but now I know better what to expect.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hoka OneOne max cushion running shoes

While surfing on the net, I came across these crazy thick-soled running shoes called Hoka OneOne. They certainly do not fit the current barefoot running boom or minimalist shoe trend. On the contrary, these oversized shoes seem to have been cushioned to the max.

Whatever your first impression of Hokas, some serious ultra trail runners actually seem to prefer them.

For example, keep your eyes peeled on what Tor des Géants (330 km) 2010 winner Gross Ulrich was wearing in September: Hoka One One Mafate!

Also world class endurance runner Karl Meltzer relied on Hoka Mafates during his recent 2000 mile epic. This is what he blogged afterwards:
"Hoka One One: I’ve been raving about these shoes since I started running in them at the Zane Grey 50 mile on April 24. I really don’t think I would have completed this run on the Pony Express Trail without them. I had only one blister the entire run, which happened on day 2. The blister location was typical on my pinkie toe. It never caused any discomfort. I just had to give myself a little more room and I was set. The ultimate cushioning of the shoe provided so much protection, and along with shock absorbtion, it’s safe to say it had to save me AT LEAST 25% of total impact. That number is even what I consider a low estimate. The shoes rock! I’ll never change to something else, and the support they give me is mind boggling. If you haven’t tried them… are missing out."

Although I haven't seen any Hokas in real life yet, I might give them a try next year.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

TNF Endurance Challenge Championship 2010

Miguel Heras and Anna Frost won the 50-mile race of The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship 2010 in San Francisco. These relatively unknown runners managed to beat Geoff Roes and Lizzy Hawker respectively.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Zugspitz Ultratrail 100K in June 2011

Zugspitz Ultratrail is a new running event on Saturday, June 25, 2011.

There will actually be two races:
  • Ultratrail: 101 km with 6054 meters of climbing, start 7:00 AM, time limit 26h, fee 100€,
  • Supertrail: 64 km with 3622 meters of climbing, start 8:00 AM, time limit 16h, fee 65€.
Both routes start and finish in the town of Grainau located close to the Austrian border, and go around Zugspitze (2,962 m), the highest mountain in Germany.

I've been there and can say that the Wetterstein range is a fabulous mountain region. Just watch the trailer below!

I don't think it will be an easy race by any means, as the Conditions of Participation state that:
  • Each participant must be aware of the distance of the course and the physical challenge it poses and enter the competition prepared for such a challenge
  • Each participant must provide a medical certificate attesting full physical fitness (this medical certificate must not be older than 3 months at the time of registration!)
  • Each participant has to have an appropriate level of alpine running experience
  • Each participant has to be sure-footed and have the ability to move safely on alpine mountain trails, across what would seem to be trail-less terrain and in steep terrain with exposure. This ability must not be compromised by any possible fear of heights
  • Each participant has to be experienced in hiking difficult alpine trails passages such as short cliffsides secured by ropes
  • Each participant has to possess a good sense of direction in mountain terrain, even when weather and visibility turn for the worse. This also means being able to follow a path by topographical maps or by maps and course information contained in the Trail Book
  • Each participant has to be familiar with emergency procedures in alpine mountain terrain
  • Each participant has to be able, physically as well as psychologically, to cope with extremely long runs in a high mountain area at altitudes of up to 2,600 meters above sea level
  • Each participant must have sufficient physical fitness to cope with a difference in altitude of 400 meters per hour and a distance of 6 kilometers per hour, even if the running environment is in high alpine territory and includes technically demanding portions (e.g. short portions secured by rope or exposed trails) and if conditions are difficult (due to e.g., rain, snow or ice)
Mandatory equipment includes:
  • Functional clothing as well as trail running shoes with tread suitable for high alpine territory (running shoes for the road with little or no tread are unsuitable)
  • Foul-weather gear for protection from the elements (as a minimum water-proof rain coat)
  • Warm clothing (long-sleeved shirt and running pants) as insulating layers underneath the rain gear (in case of bad weather conditions which may set in suddenly in high mountain territory)
  • Gloves and a warm hat
  • Functioning headlamp and replacement batteries
  • Water tank containing at least 1.5 liters
  • Emergency gear (i.e. first aid kit, rescue blanket)
  • Trail Book with outline and detail maps, and altitude profile of the whole course
  • Back pack
  • Mobile phone with rescue phone number saved in its address book to be able to make emergency calls (it must be made sure that the phone can make calls from within Austria as well)
  • Identification card and race pass
  • Also recommended: GPS device, trekking poles, sun screen, fatty cream against chafing, additional supply of food and beverages

There weren't any course maps or check point/aid station information available either at this point. Perhaps that's why these events are not yet listed among UTMB Qualifying Races, but they probably will be in due course.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Record 20517 entries for Stockholm Marathon 2011

Registration for the 2011 Stockholm Marathon has been closed at 20,517 entries, which is a new record.

I'm one of the lucky participants, running for the 5th time in Stockholm. This year I was able to improve my course PR from 3:14 to 3:06, and I'm planning for this trend to continue next year.

There would be more much runners for the May 28 event, but the organisers have decided to strictly limit the number of entries in order to guarantee that everything runs smoothly. Stockholm Marathon will never become as big as London, Berlin or New York marathons, but it provides a scenic and challenging course with absolutely fantastic atmosphere.

There will be about 5200 runners from Finland alone, travelling on marathon cruise ships with marathon food, shows and expos. Many will take their family or friends with them, ensuring a great crowd support.

By the way, you can watch Swedish TV coverage of previous events here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jake Gyllenhaal & David Letterman talk about running

Via Chris McDougall: Jake Gyllenhaal talked about running on Late Show with David Letterman. I'm not a big fan of either of them, but it's a fairly entertaining video.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Perfect Health Diet book review

Perfect Health Diet: Four Steps to Renewed Health, Youthful Vitality and Long Life by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet is not just another freakin' diet book to make a fast buck. This is definitely something different, a fresh approach. What's more, I think it might be beneficial - or even ideal - for endurance athletes.

There four steps they refer to in the title are:
  1. Optimize macronutrition.
  2. Eat paleo, not toxic.
  3. Be well nourished.
  4. Heal and prevent disease.
What's interesting about the diet is that although PHD is about 65% plants (by weight), it's far from being vegetarian. PHD says by all means do eat as many vegetables as you like, but also do eat fatty meats, seafood, and eggs, plus healthy oils and fats of course.

What I particularly like is that the diet is paleo-ish, but with a twist. For example fermented or fatty dairy are allowed.

What's not allowed are "the four most dangerous foods in Western diets":
  • cereal grains,
  • legumes,
  • vegetable oils, and
  • fructose sugar.
The book is not cheapest one around, but it's well worth the price. The writing is crystal clear, enjoyable to read and easy to absorb. It's too early to say whether all the promised results will eventually be there, but I do remain positively hopeful in that regard and plan to follow this program for a long time.

So without any further ado, get this gem of a book right away - or if you are not sure yet, go download their free Perfect Health Diet Color Companion (right click to download the PDF) featuring food pictures and images from the book.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Born to Run the Marathon?

Chris McDougall's splits don't show in the results of 2010 NYC Marathon, probably because he ran barefoot and wasn't interested in attaching the timing tag to his foot.

Anyway the NY Times bestselling author of 'Born to Run' has written a piece for the NY Times about his decision to run the marathon after all.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing

If you are interested in endurance training and racing, but aren't yet familiar with Phil Maffetone's methods, I recommend you start with his new 'The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing'.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vegan Wars: Revenge of the Ex-Vegan

1 November seems to be World Vegan Day, which "marks the start of World Vegan Month". In my case however, it ironically marks my return to eating meat and all that goes with it, like saturated fat for example.

As a fresh ex-vegetarian/vegan/raw vegan, I thought this would be a good time to present Let Them Eat Meat's Interview with an Ex-Vegan: Denise Minger. Very interesting stuff there, in case you are not already familiar with all of that.

I'd say any free-thinking person who is capable of digesting her somewhat complex blog entries about China Study is likely to abandon vegan lifestyle sooner or later. Like they mention in the interview, Denise Minger is intellectually tap dancing all over everything T. Colin Campbell has done with the past decades of his life.

By the way, Denise Minger was also featured on Jimmy Moore's Livin' La Vida Low Carb Show podcast recently. Highly recommended, although I'm afraid neither of them are into endurance sports.

Obviously true vegan troopers won't accept any of this, and in fact all references to Minger's criticism against Campbell have been recently removed from China Study's wikipedia page. That's just great, you peace-loving vegan editors there: if pseudo-scientific propaganda doesn't work, let's resort to strict censorship!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kilian's Kilimanjaro record run

Kilian Jornet set a new record for running up and down Kilimanjaro: 7 h 14 mins.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Trail 5/2010 is online

Trail 5/2010 (October/November) is now online.

This German trail ultra running magazine is the only European one, it's only available online, and its free. It's worth checking out even if you can't understand German very well as the photography is outstanding.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Macca vs Raelert @ Ironman Hawaii 2010

This is how Chris 'Macca' McCormack of Australia took his 2nd victory at Ironman Hawaii World Championship triathlon a week ago in 8:10:37. A 2:43 marathon on hot lava fields after a 0:51 3800-meter swim and 4:31 180K bike is quite amazing. He makes it look too easy.

Andreas Raelert of Austria came in second about 2 minutes after Macca. He swam with Macca, but lost a minute on the bike, and then another minute on the run.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bruce Fordyce on Marathon Talk podcast

Bruce Fordyce was interviewed by Marathon Talk podcast. He featured in episodes 38 and 39.

Comrades King talks about a wide range of topics, but I found his training system for the world's biggest ultrarunning race Comrades Marathon particularly interesting: he rans a couple of 42.2 km marathons and the 56 km beautiful Two Oceans Marathon as long, slow & easy training races, while gaining fitness and speed from shorter workouts and races.

Mr. Fordyce, who will be 55 year old in December, has finished Comrades 28 times, and counting. His gun time this year was 7:55.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chrissie Wellington didn't start in Kona

Hawaii Ironman Triathlon World Championship started a moment ago without Triple World Champion and World Record holder Chrissie Wellington.

An official statement: "It is with huge regret and after much soul searching that due to illness Chrissie has announced that she is unable to race. Chrissie started feeling unwell yesterday and attempted to train as normal but without her usual intensity. Chrissie left racking her bike until the last minute and hoped that by this morning her health would have improved sufficiently to start. Chrissie has described this as the hardest decision of her life to date and out of respect for the race and her fellow competitors feels that she should only start if she can compete in the manner that the sport of triathlon has become accustomed to. Chrissie would like to wish everyone an enjoyable and safe race."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How not to fight colds

Jennifer Ackerman makes the following five important points regarding colds:
  • "the most prevalent cold viruses in fact do little direct harm to our cells",
  • "chemical agents manufactured by our immune systems inflame our cells",
  • "it's possible to create the full storm of cold symptoms with no cold virus at all",
  • "strengthening your immune system may be counterproductive",
  • "in any case, the supplements, remedies and cereals that claim to strengthen immunity (and thereby protect you from colds) so no such thing".
You can read the whole article 'How Not to Fight Colds' in New York Times.

Check out her video below as well.

Friday, October 1, 2010

New Trail Verbier Saint-Bernard 2010 video

This new Trail Verbier St-Bernard video is definitely worth checking out. It captures the energetic atmosphere of the early 5 AM start as well as some of the greatest scenery along the course. Viewers are able to appreciate how much snow there can be in Switzerland, in July, above 2000 meters.

This is a well-organised race and highly recommended, if you are into alpine ultra trail running. I wish they would release a longer video later on. 3.2 minutes is hardly adequate for a race with a 32-hour cut off time.

If (and this should be a big IF) you can finish the 110 km long loop (La Boucle, with almost 7 km of cumulative ascent/descent), you get four points for UTMB (Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, which was cancelled this year, and nowadays requires min 5 points from max 2 recent races to even get a chance to participate in the lottery). Actually part of the La Boucle course follows exactly the same trail as UTMB course, only in reverse direction.

By the way, my pet peeve with the French-speaking organisers appears once again: information is presented in French only, and if you translate it into English, it turns out to be fairly inaccurate nonsense anyway, LOL :)

For example, "1er Trail de Plus de 100 KM entièrement suisse" which I believe means something like "The first trail [running race with a course of] over 100 km, entirely Swiss". Typos aside, this is not a 100% true statement because:
  • Most of TVSB participants choose to run only the last 61 km of the course (and about half of the long course starters, including your truly,  DNFed), so for 90% of participants it's under 100 km;
  • They don't mention that part of the trail is in Italy, so it's not completely a Swiss thing only (of course they could refer to the fact that the race crew is Swiss, but that wouldn't be entirely true either, as some of the volunteers I encountered at aid stations were Finns) - and why should it, I thought the short Italian part of the course was quite fab;
  • There are other notable ultra trail events in Switzerland, for example the 7-day, 370 km Trans Swiss Run, which was organised in 2008 for the first time, so they began a year before TVSB. It also offers fours points to qualify for for UTMB, and the course stays entirely in Switzerland, going through the country from North to South.   
My very long, boring and unsatisfying race report of the July 3 (2010) event can be found here:

I've probably learned my lessons, and hopefully next year it will go much better, so I can finally get this monkey (or more like 900-pound gorilla :) off my back:
  • Certainly my diet will be totally different and much more compatible with the food that's available along the course; 
  • I'll also improve my gear, at least get a better (ie. heavier) rain jacket, which might mean a bigger backpack than the otherwise excellent Raidlight Olmo 5, but we'll see about that later on;
  • Maybe I can even hire a small, but extremely effective support crew to help me (in other words, to kick my ass and stop me whining :) during the more difficult later stages of the race. 
See you in Verbier, home of extreme ultra trails and extremely friendly folks!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Finland bans smoking

Finland has become the first country in the world to make giving up smoking a goal of the state enshrined in the country’s laws. The new strict non-smoking laws will come into effect on October 1, 2010.

That's an excellent start. The next logical step would be making marathon running obligatory for all adults. And tax cuts for those who can finish it in under three hours!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

10 Surprising Secrets of Kenyan Endurance Runners

An interesting article by Owen Anderson for about Eating practices of the best endurance athletes in the world (ie. Kenyan runners) reveals the following ten surprising facts, based on a study of 10 elite Kenyan runners over a period of seven days (in 2004):

  1. The Kenyans were very lean and light, their weight averaging at 58.6 kg (129 lb).
  2. They ate a relatively limited variety of foods.
  3. Approximately 86% of their calories came from vegetable sources (corn 'ugali', bread, rice, potatoes, porridge, cabbage, beans, etc).
  4. They were not taking supplements of any kind.
  5. They spent 1.2 hours per day running, with only a third (23 mins) of this consisting of quality training.
  6. Their diets were extremely rich in carbohydrates (about 77 %, or about 10 g of carbs per kg of body weight).
  7. Their protein (10%) and fat (13%) intake was quite modest, but adequate.
  8. Their water intake was modest, just a little over a liter a day.
  9. They drank lots of tea with milk, actually slightly more than plain water.
  10. A fifth of their daily calories came from plain sugar.
Of course, in hindsight, it could be said that perhaps the most surprising secret of Kenyan elite distance runners is that they don't seem to have any secrets at all! Maybe they are just excellent runners by nature, due to the location where they live.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chris Lieto's More Than Sport

Ironman triathlete Chris Lieto's More Than Sport is based on simple math: 2.4 mile swim + 112.0 mile bike + 26.2 mile run = 141 lives changed.

The Competitor's Radio Show Kona Countdown: Chris Lieto.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Eau de Paris

Eau de Paris - seems like a cool idea to pre-empt the need for buying bottled water.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Strawberries & Cream

Strawberries & Cream, originally uploaded by Myles Noton.
We all have been told over and over again that coronary heart disease is associated with diet.

However, although nutritional recommendations are frequently provided, actually few long term studies on the effect of food choices on heart disease are available. Until now that is.

Food Choices and Coronary Heart Disease: A Population Based Cohort Study of Rural Swedish Men with 12 Years of Follow-up found out that daily intake of fruit and vegetables was associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease when combined with a high dairy fat consumption, but not when combined with a low dairy fat consumption.

This simple scientific result could have quite astonishing consequences if people paid any attention to it.

Interestingly, choosing wholemeal bread or eating fish at least twice a week showed no association with the outcome.

So now I have a pretty good idea how to stay healthy - eat tons of fresh berries with whipped cream!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

iPod nano 6G: RIP

The new i-gadget announcements at the Apple event last week were surprising, but not in a good way. Some were expecting Jobs to kill iPod Shuffle, but he reserved that questionable honor to my trusty workout buddy iPod Nano.

Check out this great video review by PCMag analyst Tim Gideon: iPod Touch (iPhone without the phone) and Shuffle (2 Gb screenless) are still ok, but the 6th Generation Nano gets a RIP-rating.

I'll hang on to my 5G iPod Nano (the only Nano with a video camera) as long as it lives. It's great for listening to podcasts, audiobooks and music while exercising or trying to sleep in a hotel room before a race.

I haven't been using the pedometer feature with Nike+ connection for a long time though. It never quite achieved what was expected/promised.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Great trail running video of CCC 2010

Ultra-chaos is the word that comes to mind with the reports from mostly cancelled 2010 Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc.

With thousands of people involved in several simultaneous mountain trail running events, it's never a piece of cake for anyone. This year the rainy weather forced the organizers to make dramatic decisions.

Also it shouldn't be ignored that the main event UTMB was sabotaged by someone stealing the lighted course markings between 40-50 km, which would have been critical for safe navigating through the first night - thus deliberately putting lives of runners in danger. I've never heard of such terrorism against sports events in the Alps before. Perhaps not all of the local people agree that running around Mont Blanc in masses is such a great idea?

I'm sure the organisers did their best in those extreme circumstances. It's no use getting angry and blaming them for what happened. They will probably be able to make some improvements in the future events.

And as the excellent video composition depicting the CCC (Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix) shows, many runners managed to get something worthwhile out of these chaotic adventures. At the very least, after experiencing some extreme difficulties on trails, everyday life will seem a lot easier.

Another positive outcome of the cancellation is that Scott Jurek will be able to run 246 km in sunny Greece: Spartathlon on September 24-25. He showed what pro ultrarunners are made of by tweeting:

"UTMB is cancelled, hasn't sunk in yet. Now what? How does 246 km in Greece sound? Pretty darn good when it's pouring down rain in the Alps!"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

UTMB stopped due to bad weather

UTMB (as well as CCC and TDS) was stopped for security reasons due to bad weather on the mountains only three hours after the start on Friday.

At the time of hearing the sad news the competitors were doing fine and found it difficult to understand why they were not allowed to continue the race. Just see their faces in the video below!

The last dispatch – the runners react to the race cancellation. | The North Face Blog

At a press conference on Saturday, Aug. 28, at 1 am, Catherine Poletti, the race director explained the motives that have led to the decision to stop UTMB (roughly translated from French).

"We discontinued the UTMB for security reasons. The weather forecast predicting heavy rain continued into Saturday morning and there was a significant risk of fog. There was also a lot of wind and snow at around 2500 m altitude.

We have stopped the race in order not to risk that some of the competitors would be lost.

We mobilized a helicopter, but the weather remained unfavorable and didn't allow us to continue.

We are now trying to find a solution for the competitors who have traveled thousands of miles to run here. [Edit: UTMB and TDS starters have received a text message about a chance to run the last 99 km of the UTMB course on Saturday. It is the CCC-route (Courmayeur - Champex -Chamonix).]

Sectors of the course have been swept away by bad weather.

We have found solutions to fetching the 2,300 runners, mobilizing buses and trains to carry the participants to Chamonix. We have also opened facilities and provided blankets to accommodate people without accommodation."

(Edit: There was also another reason to cancel the race: the signs marking the course had been stolen between Col du Bonhomme and Chapieux (40-50 km).]

Thursday, August 26, 2010

UTMB 2010 recon videos

UTMB (Ultra Trail Mont Blanc), the biggest mountain running race of the world will start on Friday, August 27th, at 6:30 PM, in Chamonix.

>>>TNF Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc>>pre-race_dispatch from camp4 collective on Vimeo.

I won't be there with those 2,300 lucky lottery-winning runners tomorrow, but perhaps I'll be able to participate in this mega-event in the future.

This year's race will be exciting to follow, as there are so many competitors who might win: Kilian Jornet (Bib No. 1; has won two previous UTMBs), Geoff Roes (Bib No. 2028; beat Kilian at Western States, has never lost an 100-miler), Scott Jurek (Bib No.19; the best vegan ultra/trail runner), and so on.

There are strict doping tests at UTMB. For example, Geoff Roes has already been tested to be ok.

These are the four new magnificent trail recon videos covering the entire 166 km (± 9,500 m) race course.

UTMB : Reconnaissance du parcours Chamonix - Chapieux from OVERSTIM.s on Vimeo.

UTMB : Reconnaissance du parcours Chapieux - Courmayeur from OVERSTIM.s on Vimeo.

Part 3 is of special importance to me, because I ran the same trail between La Fouly and Champex in July - only in reverse direction. Nice!

UTMB : Reconnaissance du parcours Courmayeur - Champex from OVERSTIM.s on Vimeo.

UTMB : Reconnaissance du parcours Champex - Chamonix from OVERSTIM.s on Vimeo.

The competitors will have to carry a lot of stuff in their backbags.

The list of obligatory material is longer than before:
• mobile phone
• personal cup or tumbler 15cl minimum (water bottle not acceptable)
• stock of water minimum 1 litre,
• two torches in good working condition with replacement batteries,
• survival blanket,
• whistle,
• adhesive elastic band enable making a bandage or a strapping (mini 80cm x 3 cm),
• food reserve,
• protective raincoat for bad mountain weather,
• running trousers or leggings (covering the knees),
• cap or bandana
• identity papers.

In addition to this, many will carry sticks. According to the rules, if poles are used, they have to be carried all the way from the start to the finish.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Paleo means old, but old does not mean bad in my book

I think Paleo Runner (the name of this blog) should be understood simply as an old(-ish) runner. After all, the original Greek word παλαιός [palaiós] means just that: old.

There are paleo diets and so on, but I'm not referring to or practising them anymore.

Old does not necessarily mean negative consequences; on the contrary, I believe old runners can enhance the positive aspects of life like health, happiness and humor.

I'd like to finish by quoting from my favorite running book, Born To Run by Christopher McDougall (p. 14):
"In Tarahumara Land, there was no crime, war or theft. There was no corruption, obesity, drug addiction, greed, wife-beating, child abuse, heart disease, high blood pressure, or carbon emissions. They didn't get diabetes, or depression, or even old: fifty-year-olds could outrun teenagers, and eighty-year-old grandads could hike marathon distances up mountainsides." 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

U2 found what they were looking for in the best country of the world

Bono revealed last night at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium that U2 found something they were looking for in the best country of the world: Jussi!

According to Malibu Healing Center, Mr. Jussi Lomakka "is a well-renowned Certified Massage Therapist, whose reputation and expertise is legendary, in the Unites States and internationally. He has worked on patients with minor, self -limited issues to high severity injuries including but not limited to gymnasts, athletes, and swimmers, using myofascial release techniques and manipulations."

See the video below to hear the testimony from the horse's mouth.

U2 will perform again tonight in Helsinki. A record audience of 104,000 is expected for the two concerts. I hope they are paying Jussi well for helping the band be at their best physical condition during their 360 Tour.

Friday, August 20, 2010

My LFRV days are over

It's official: my 4-month Low Fat Raw Vegan experiment ended on August 1st. The main reason for this was my alarmingly low weight. On July 31st I weighed 59 kg (130 lb) only.

I totally freaked out when I realized that:
  • this was my lowest adult weight ever (as far as I know),
  • it resulted in Body Mass Index of 18.2 (anything less than 18.5 means you are way too underweight).
It was measured at 5 AM, fully loaded/rested/tapered/recovered, 3 hours before the start of Swiss Alpine K78 trail run. By the way that particular race was my main fitness test for this year, and I didn't achieve my goals. My time was 55 minutes slower than last year and I felt weak right from the start. Also my earlier extreme trail race experiment failed with a DNF largely due to lack of energy.

I'm crazy enough to try new lifestyles, but I'm not stupid enough to continue with them if the expected results are not there.

Also about the same time, I happened to read Denise Minger's life-changing critique of The China Study.

What's more, her ashtonishing example of the Tuoli people of China shows that dairy, meat and wheat are not necessarily unhealthy, as long as they are not spoiled by the Western food industry. The Tuolians also seem to lack the Western concept of food variety. For example, Tuolians don't eat vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, plant oils, seafood, and so on. It's really just dairy, meat and wheat, which results in the following macronutrient breakdown: 46% fat, 35% carbohydrates, and 19 % protein. Yet their total mortality and disease rates are lower or similar compared to the other counties in China.

I used to be on a high fat low carb diet before this stint with low fat high carb - I guess I'll be a medium fat medium carb paleo runner in the future. After three weeks of reduced intake of fruits (compared to a frugivore diet), I'm happy to report that my weight has normalized around 64.8 kg (143 lb), which means a 20.0 BMI. That's probably quite perfect for a marathon/ultra trail runner.

However, unlike quicker and younger dudes like Tynan, I won't start eating meat just yet. I fully accept that The China Study may not scientifically prove that animal protein is the cause of disease like cancer. Still, even bad scientists can sometimes draw the right conclusions. I believe that people changing their diets away from animal-based processed foods towards plant-based raw foods will continue to enjoy great health benefits.

According to UN and mostly anyone paying attention to our environment, a major shift like that in our lifestyles is a must, if we plan to live on this planet for much longer.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Trail magazine 4/2010 online

European Trail magazine 4/2010 is online (free, but in German only).

Including Trail Heroes 2010, part 1/3:

  • Lizzy Hawker (UK), 
  • Tony Krupicka (USA), 
  • Anna Frost (NZ), 
  • Matthias Dippacher (GER), 
  • Ryan Sandes (SA), 
  • Mohamed Ahansal (MAR). 

Part Two will be in Trail 5/2010, and finally a chance to vote in 6/2010.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Trans-Kalahari Adventure Run 1000K

During August and September 2010 a team of three friends will tackle a challenging and historic adventure run across the Kalahari, following a route that extends 1,000 km through some of Botswana’s most remote wilderness.

Follow Jukka, Kirsi and Greg as they test the boundaries of their own endurance while raising awareness for one of Africa’s most endangered animals, the cheetah.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

RunLikeCrazy runs Helsinki Marathon on Saturday

Tristan Miller of Australia aka RunLikeCrazy is going to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks, and Helsinki City Marathon on Saturday will be the next race on his busy international schedule. Welcome to crazy Helsinki!

If you're a participant or spectator, look out for Tristan's race number 6457.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Story of Bottled Water

I don't buy bottled water or other beverages. I also stay away from marathons that serve plastic bottles to competitors at aid stations.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Emil Zatopek highlights

Rare archive video consisting of the best races of 'the human locomotive' Emil Zatopek.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Swiss Alpine 2010 videos

Here's a couple of good videos from Swiss Alpine mountain ultramarathon on Saturday in Davos.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Swiss Alpine K78 race report

The weather was the best ever for the 2010 Swiss Alpine K78 mountain ultramarathon in Davos. It was sunny all day, but not too hot: 8 C in the morning, rising to a little over 20 C during the day. There were hardly any clouds at all, and not even a typical thunderstorm on the mountains in the afternoon.

The weather had been truly horrible with cold and rain the days before the race, and I'm sure all the competitors (there were a record number of 5910 entries altogether, with 1661 entries for th K78 alone) taking part in one of the eight Swiss Alpine events (K78, K42, C42, K31, K21, K11, Walk, Mini) were both relieved and delighted when they woke up on Saturday morning. RD Andrea Tuffli commented "This Swiss Alpine is the best in all its history... superb conditions with beautiful weather and ideal temperatures."

As expected, Jonas Buud of Sweden took his fourth consecutive victory of K78 in 5:49:11. He missed his 78.5 km course PR set last year by 28 seconds, but he has a real good excuse for that, as he reportedly tripped and wounded his knee a bit on the asphalt streets of Davos only about 3K from the start.

Like Buud, also I missed the course PR that I set last year, and by whopping 55 minutes too. Right from the 8AM start I sensed that my legs couldn't provide sufficient power and speed on this day. It became clear to me that I still had not recovered from my extreme TVSB experience a month ago.

On the other hand, it was a great fun day as I was able to just relax and enjoy the awesome scenery. I stayed easily well within the 12-hour cutoff the whole time. My only worry was getting burned in the sun, especially because I was wearing the same Dave Scott triathlon singlet as in my first Swiss Alpine 15 years ago, and no sun screen as usual.

Everything went smoothly until about 20K, when we ran through a series of tunnels carved through mountains. There was a traffic sign depicting rocks falling from the mountains, but I was running here for the fifth time and I had never seen any rocks falling, so I totally ignored the warning with confidence. Until a rock fell and smashed a couple of meters behind me. I slowed down to turn and see what kind of rock it was, and then another rock fell and smashed into pieces right in front of me. I wasn't really frightened as the chance of getting hit by a rock was relatively small, but nevertheless made a conscious effort to increase my pace to get out of the dangerous area asap.

Then I encountered something that forced all runners to stop and give way: the local passenger train taking spectators to Bergun. That took only a couple of minutes, and it was a lot of fun to see all the people hanging out from the wide open train windows, and shouting encouragements and waving to us runners.  

I reached the lowest altitude of the course in Filisur (30K from the start and about 1000 meters above sea level) in 2:38 (5:12 min/km). The town was full of cheerful action. It was starting to get warm, and I made sure to drink enough water.

The next big town was Bergun (39K, 1365 m) where I arrived in 3:45 (7:42 min/km) - at the same time when over a thousand K42 marathon runners started their event. Suddenly the peaceful streets and mountain paths were filled with energetic runners. I got access to my race bag, from where I took a small plastic bag with dates in it. I was hungry and ate a few dates right on the spot for some quick energy. In spite of that, most of the marathon runners were passing me left and right like I was standing still.

Everyone was aware that the hardest climb of the course was ahead of us, and the undeniable fact was that everyone was going to struggle - more or less. On a steep hill like this kilometers feel awfully long, but finally my eyes found what they were looking for: Kesch hut (53K) on top of the mountain. It was the highest point of the course (2632 m). My time there was 6:18 (11:14 min/km). That wasn't a bad effort, but I knew that Mr. Buud would have very likely already finished the race and probably the inevitable interviews too by that time! Anyway the race doctor briefly checked everyone by the huge mountain hut, before allowing us to continue.

The race organisers have to be true masters of logistics in order to transport ten tons of stuff onto the mountains on race day by helicopters. There are three aid stations there that are not accessible by car.  My main staple was Swiss vegetarian bouillon (with MSG) and Swiss 'mountain bread' (buns with raisins) - not my first choice by any means in normal conditions, but this was an Alpine ultramarathon,  and I had little choice in the matter as I chose not to carry a backpack like some competitors did.

The Panorama trail looked better than ever in full sunlight. For the first time I could see all the wonderful mountains around clearly without clouds, and I somewhat regretted not carrying a camera this time.

The next 7K to Scaletta pass (60K) was the best part of the race for me emotionally. I felt great but ran slowly because there were a long queue of runners. Trying to pass all of them wouldn't have been worth it, as I was comfortably heading for a sub-10-hour finish, and had no chance to beat my PR anymore.

On Scaletta pass (60K, 2606 m) I caught RD Tuffli alone for a moment, and congratulated him for the great race. He congratulated me as well, before taking off in his helicopter to yet another location. Although 67 years old, he is still actively controlling that his excellent race organisation consisting of hard-working volunteers runs perfectly.

After the steep 4K downhill to Durrboden (64K, 2007 m), I took my time covering the remaining 14K to the finish, sipping a little bit of coke at every aid station along the way. I knew this green valley leading back to Davos Sports Centre (78.5 km, 1538 m) well, and I was sure that I could finish well under ten hours - not an ambitious goal at all, just something to get it over with before the cows come home.

Well actually I literally did see some cows go from the fields to their home before I finished in 9:51. That's my worst performance so far in Davos, except my DNF in 2008 of course. But at the end of the day I wasn't really disappointed, because I knew exactly why my time was slow. I also believe that the time does not matter that much anyway, compared to all the great experiences during a magnificent mountain race like Swiss Alpine K78.

48 miles done for my 48th birthday.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Aalto likely to win 3100 Mile Race on Thursday

According to 
"Leader Ashprihanal Aalto needs only 175 more laps to reach the promised land. He passed the 3000 mile mark in 44 days+16:48:27, and will finish Thursday afternoon. Amazing."
Looks like Finnish Wave (Aalto = Wave in Finnish) will beat the NYC heatwave after 7.5 weeks of struggling. When he had to take the 25th day off and then failed to cover even 50 miles on day 27, many thought we might see a new winner emerge this year.

However Aalto managed to beat all other runners from day 33 to 43, and has now a comfortable enough margin to enjoy the final miles.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to deal with heavy metals in protein supplements

In Drinking Heavy Metals Slowtwitch Science Editor Jonathan Toker discusses the fact that several protein supplements have been analyzed to contain heavy metals.

I have the simplest solution to the problem: never consume any protein supplements at all.

And while you're at it, quit taking other supplements as well! It's a popular marketing myth that we need these expensive "natural" products for health and peak performance. Actually the opposite is closer to the truth. Spend your money on whole fresh fruits and vegetables instead - they are the real health food.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

ST4: my secret weapon for Swiss Alpine K78

Brooks Racer ST4 racing flats are my secret weapon for Swiss Alpine K78 next Saturday. Don't tell this to my competitors, but these shoes can provide a huge competitive advantage in a fairly untechnical ultra trail race like K78.

As my course preview reveals, K78 is not normally anything like some extreme mountain races, where heavier trail shoes are preferred by most runners. As a rule of thumb for European races, if poles aren't allowed, then flats like ST4 should be ok.

Few racing flats are flat, and ST4 is not an exception:
  • midsole height: heel 22 mm, forefoot 10 mm, ie.
  • heel-to-toe offset 12 mm.
Although ST4 is marketed as a minimal shoe, it's really not. It contains a Hydroflow unit in the rearfoot area and the Diagonal Rollbar technology for pronation control. Therefore it's a bit heavier than really minimal shoes. Still, I like this shoe a lot and my feet seem to love it - or actually it's predecessor ST3.

I've done the K78 a couple of times before with Racer ST3. Scott Jurek, who is sponsored by Brooks (unlike me), had won the 246 km Spartathlon ultra marathon in 2006 wearing a pair of ST3's. He was actually able to do that for three years in a row.

So in 2007 I ran my first K78 with ST3's. Finished in under ten hours as planned (9:43), I was happy with that.

In 2008 I made several mistakes and DNF'd. That was the year when I covered an ultramarathon distance once every week. I managed to run 47 km before they stopped me, so I had my ultra for that week done. The main reason for my pitiful pace was my Salomon trail shoes. My feet had been hurting a lot that year, because that's when I got the crazy idea of running with trail shoes. I also had a pair of The North Face Rucky Chuckys, but they were not much as far as my feet were concerned. It took me months to realize that my injuries were directly caused by wearing robust stability/motion control/trail shoes.

In 2009 I was back with vengeance and a new pair of ST3's. I was rewarded with a course PR (8:56).

So I've ordered a brand new pair of ST4's, which should be the same as ST3, except some minor modifications in the upper of the shoe. I hope they have changed the laces as well - I hate the laces in ST3. I don't know why, but they they don't work well for me. [Edit: Yes ST4 sports improved laces and lacing system. Well done, Brooks!]

By the way the latest blog by Anton Krupicka is interesting. It's about his training run in the high altitude of Rocky Mountain National Park with Scott Jurek. The photos (by Jenny Uehisa) show Scott wearing ST4's! Jurek is training for UTMB next month, and who knows may be brave enough to consider racing it with them. I think he has been wearing Brooks Cascadia trail shoes in his previous attempts, which have more or less failed. Wouldn't it be fantastic if Scott beat Kilian Jornet and Geoff Roes wearing ST4's!

Alright that's enough speculation, more to come after some real results.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Fruitarian runs Vermont 100

The Fruitarian got the 100 mile monkey off his back last weekend, when he succesfully finished Vermont 100 mile run. 17:12 earned him 5th place on the results list.

The video about his race may not be as perfect as his race performance, but it's fun to watch. Few runners fancy mountain climbing the day after a 100 miler.

It's interesting to note that The Fruitarian consumed the following foods during the race:

  • 6 lbs Medjool dates
  • 3 Cantaloupe melons
  • 1.5 watermelons
  • 8 bananas
  • 2 oranges
  • 60-64 16 oz water bottles (about 30 l = average 1.75 l/h)
  • 50-55 salt pills (average 3 pills/h).
That's a lot of fruits and water for one race! Well done.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Math of Salt Loss

I suspect the hypothermia that lead to a DNF in my recent extreme ultra trail race, was actually to a large degree caused by hyponatremia. I certainly didn't get enough sodium, and way too few calories in general.

Anyway I've been studying The Math of Salt Loss by Jonathan Toker, who is an elite runner/triathlete, has a Phd In organic chemistry, and is the inventor of Saltstick.

However please note that natural sodium (as in celery juice and so on) is usually the healthiest option - just make sure to get organic. I'm a celery stick man!

Sorry about the dumb video - back to replacing salt loss. In summary:
  • if your race is likely to last longer than 3-4 hours, 
  • the weather is hot and humid, ie. you'll be sweating considerably, and 
  • you plan to avoid dehydration by replacing most of the lost fluids, 
  • then you'd better take some sodium during the race, but
  • aim for just the right amount, as excessive sodium intake is harmful.  

Monday, July 19, 2010

Swiss Alpine K78 preview

To celebrate my 48th birthday, I'd like to run 48 miles. Conveniently there will be a 78 km race on July 31 in Davos, Switzerland: Swiss Alpine K78.

They are celebrating their 25th anniversary and are throwing a party for everyone after the race. As a special gift they will also give us a running jacket this year instead of the usual T-shirt.

This will be my fifth start there, so I know the course well already. They claim to be the ultimate challenge, but compared to extreme ultra trail races like UTMB (166 km) or TVSB (110 km) it's going to be a lot easier.

There's basically only one big mountain to get over with. The cumulative ascent and descent is 2,260 meters. The start/finish is 1,560 meters and the highest point 2,632 meters above sea level.

The trail is usually in good condition and there's nothing too technical, just some short snowy and wet patches. In Davos and couple of other larger towns the route follows some asphalt roads as well.

The course is relatively fast, and everyone is expected to take full advantage of that in order to finish in 12 hours. There will be a few cutoff points to be cleared as well. This race is for runners as there won't be time to walk too much. Poles are not allowed.

Every time I've been there the weather has always been warm and sunny, with a thunderstorm up in the mountains during the afternoon. I'll expect the same once again, although you can never be sure of course.

The winner will probably be Jonas Buud of Sweden again, as he has won the three previous races. It will take him around 6 hours. My goal is to have fun and beat my course PR 8:56.

There will be over 1,500 competitors in K78 alone and there will also be a marathon along the last 42 km of the course with about a thousand participants. With a few other races in the same area on the same day, it's a fairly large event.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chrissie Wellington improves her Ironman WR with 8:19:13

Triple Ironman Hawaii Champion Chrissie Wellington improved her own Ironman-distance triathlon World Record today at Challenge Roth 2010 with 8:19:13.

She set the previous record 8:31:59 at Challenge Roth 2009. At the time that was already thought to be an incredible achievement.

The new WR is simply stunning, although the event is one of the fastest in the world. With over 3,100 competitors this is the largest triathlon in the world. Although drafting is strongly discouraged during cycling, with so many people on the course it will inevitably happen here and there.

The swim course consists of one 3,800-meter loop in the Main-Danube Canal, which feels pretty much like swimming in a big pool. The water quality is monitored and ship traffic is stopped during the race. Wetsuits are allowed.

The 180 km bike course follows undulating countryside roads. The fanatic Tour-deFrance-like crowds powered by local beer - they even have a 'beer mile' along the course - make the riders climb the hills quickier than planned.

This year being the 950th anniversary of Roth, the marathon run course was modified to lead right through the old town of Roth. A forest section of the run course was respectively shortened.

The weather was favorable: sunny and partially cloudy. The highest temperature of the day was 25 C.

Wellington's record-breaking split times were:
  • 3.8 km swim - 0:50:28
  • T1 - 0:01:56
  • 180 km bike - 4:36:33 (best female bike split ever)
  • T2 - 0:01:25
  • 42.2 km marathon run - 2:48:54 (best female marathon split ever).
This was enough to beat all but six men - she finished 7th overall. Men's winner was Rasmus Henning with 7:52:36. The second woman to finish was Rebekah Keat with 8:52:10.

This was Wellington's first race at this distance since her latest World Championship victory in October. In June she won Ironman Kansas 70.3 (a half-ironman) and was honoured with MBE.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Death Valley Jack - the oldest man to run Badwater ultramarathon

Jack Denness aka Death Valley Jack, retires at age 75 with his 12th finish of 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon across the Death Valley. The first four clips were filmed during his final preparation for the race.

Here's the official Badwater Recap Video, showing Jack's finish at the end in 59:13:02 (the cutoff was 60 hours).

Help Death Valley Jack get more facebook fans than Usain Bolt and share your support for Cerebral Palsy care!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tour de France 2010 crashes

I don't usually watch Tour de France anymore, except the crashes of course!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

TVSB 2010 race report

Trail Verbier St-Bernard (aka TVSB) 110 km ultra trail race started 5 AM on Saturday in semi-darkness. I hadn't slept enough as my hotel was next to the noisy competition center in the heart of Verbier, at 1490 meters above sea level. This is the exact same spot where Alberto Contador won the 15th stage of 2009 Tour de France. Skiing resort Verbier has a great athletic vibe to it also in the summer.

However the long stalls selling booze and crepes under my hotel room balcony as well as the continuous muzak driven through huge loudspeakers mixed with assorted announcements in French had torpedoed all my attempts to go to sleep at 7 PM. As a last resort, I had put my iPod on to cancel all outside sounds, and it worked surprisingly well.  

I was a bit nervous and woke up before my alarm clock rang at 3 AM. I had some bananas and dates for breakfast. I left my room 20 minutes before start, but had to come back for my personal bag with honey, dates and a pair of socks inside. We would have access to those bags at 48 km check point in La Fouly.

With 15 minutes left I came back to the starting area, where they registered electronically the chips behind our bibs. It would be controlled at every CP before you could continue the race. Shockingly I discovered that my chip wasn't there behind my bib - it had fallen off somewhere!  I found it on my hotel room floor and quickly taped it on permanently. What a close call, I could have lost everything right then and there.

With 10 minutes left I went down to the lobby and then instantly came back up to get my squeezable 250 gram container of honey, which I'd forgotten to stuck in the thigh pocket of my Raidlight R-DRY 3/4 tights. Consequently I was probably the last of the 307 La Boucle (The Loop) starters to arrive inside the starting area.

I had divided the course into five parts, allocating about four hours for each:
  • Verbier - Sembrancher (0 - 26.7 km): two peaks above 2000 meters, some easy paths but also some extremely difficult trails.
  • Sembrancher - La Fouly (26.7 - 48.4 km): steady climb to Champex, and then the UTMB trail to La Fouly (where the La Traversee 61 km race would start at 12 noon).
  • La Fouly - Bourg St. Pierre (48.4 - 76.4 km): three highest peaks of the race, lots of snow along the route, a very demanding section.
  • Bourg St. Pierre - Lourtier (76.4 - 98.9 km): three peaks above 2000 m, and probably in darkness, not going to be fast or easy.
  • Lourtier - Verbier (98.9 - 110.5 km): last two of the 10 peaks above 2000 m, it's not a long way and you might get here after the second sunrise of the race for a little mental boost, but you sure are going to feel tired.
Had I been able to follow my dream plan and finish in 20 hours, I would have actually been in the top 40! I reached the first CP on Croix de Coeur (9.7 km) in 1:29, in 46th position. However it soon became obvious to me that I'd be lucky to finish at all, as the trail was much longer and more challenging (+/- 6904 m) than the 78 km race in Davos I had completed several times before. 

Running down the first big descent, I chatted with an English guy. The sunrise greeted us and we thought were moving on pretty fast, while the local trail nuts zoomed by left and right. As the trail marked with red-and-white plastic ribbons got narrower and more technical, we were forced to slow down. On our left side was a steep mountain wall, which logically continued as steeply on our right side. I'm slightly afraid of heights, so I consciously avoided looking down. I heard the familiar sound of thundering water, and sure enough there was a bit larger than usual waterfall behind the next corner, no doubt thanks to previous evening's thunderstorm and all that melting snow. 

We stood there in awe for a while, clueless where to go next. Then I got it, at the same time as the Englishman moaned in disbelief "Oh ****!" The course markings continued on the other side. We were supposed to go through the fall. There was no other way. I forced myself to jump across, hoping the stepping stones wouldn't be too slippery. Although my La Sportiva Crosslite shoes were very good for trail running, I'd already noticed their grip on the wet stones wasn't perfect. I made it, but realised that this course is going to be scary and insanely dangerous for flatlanders like me.

From there on, I took all the difficult spots real slow and easy. In hindsight, I also hoped I would have paid for the mountain helicopter rescue insurance.   

An even more serious issue was that I wasn't getting enough calories. The aid stations were few and far between, I didn't have any crew to assist me, and my Raidlight Olmo 5 backpack was full of mandatory survival gear - not much room for food there. I carried 250 g honey as an emergency reserve, but by Champex 34 km checkpoint it was all gone! In a normal 42K road marathon a similar container of honey had been sufficient for me.

The volunteers at the aid stations were very friendly and I appreciate all their hard work, but I wasn't able to communicate to them what I required. Most people spoke French only, and all I got was a few orange wedges, banana pieces and raisins. Eventually I was desperate enough to try even some diluted Coke. Not surprisingly I didn't like it. Then I demanded to know if their bouillon was vegetarian or not. The volunteer in charge agreed enthusiastically "Yes yes vegetable", showing me the container they prepared it from. It was beef stock, with a little celery, carrot and the usual stuff in it. I thanked them and secretly poured it on the ground behind some bushes.   

I reached Le Levron CP (21.6 km) in 2:45. Things were going pretty well I thought. Soon after I was already in Sembrancher (26.7 km). Only 3:24 had passed, so I was well ahead of my ambitious 4-hour plan. The sun became strong enough to burn, so I put on my white Raidlight Sahara cap, which has a special flap on the back protecting the ears and neck.

I kept on sweating profusely under the scorching sun, probably losing some essential minerals and wrecking my electrolyte balance in the process. I didn't carry any salt or sodium-rich vegetables with me, but I didn't get any muscle cramps or cravings for it either. Interestingly at higher altitudes I noticed salty clear mucus pouring from my nose, probably a residue from my heavy salt intake days during previous decades. I think it was rather due to lack of sugar calories that I bonked pretty badly around Champex (34.0 km), where I arrived at 9:54 AM, 4:54 after the start. It could well be that I was slightly hyponatremic too. Anyway at that point I was moving in almost automatic zombie-style and dreaming of the delicious meal I had left for after-race nutrition at my hotel (see photo below).

I finally arrived in La Fouly 12:30 PM, 7:30 after the start and half an hour after the La Traversee competitors had started from there. I saw the helicopter filming them, but I never saw any of the 61K runners. You can see them in the video below.

I sat down and cleaned my feet from debris and needles, then changed into clean dry socks. Preventing blisters and other foot issues is first priority in races like this. For ultras I choose bigger shoes to make sure that they have enough extra room to accommodate my swelling feet. Maybe that's why I don't lose toenails, like some runners do, or get any other serious foot issues either. 

I also grabbed two full 250 g containers of honey from my gear bag. The Organic Blueberry Food Bar that I had slipped in the bag as an experiment caught my attention, and I ran away happily while munching half of it. I didn't like it too much though, and threw the other half away. Distracted by the bar, I completely forgot to take the dates. Those sweet little things were supposed to be the first thing in my mind. How I  managed to completely forget them is beyond me. I planned to get a major part of my calories during the race from delicious Medjools, and ended up with having none. Now how did that happen?  

I climbed towards Col de Fenêtre in a good mood, as I had decided to use the Mountain King Trail Blaze Aluminium Alloy trail poles. Folded into four sections, they had been strapped on my backpack all the time. Although 120 cm long when assembled, they weigh only 115 g each. They made climbing up and down the steep hills considerably easier for my legs. My quads and calves were screaming already, but my arms and upper body had unused power reserves.

It started to rain for a couple of hours, so I had to pull out my Inov-8 Mistlite 210 shell jacket and waterproof gloves for the first time. By the time I reached a higher lake area called Lacs de Fenêtre it was sunny and hot again. The scenery there was absolutely fantastic all over. The trail navigated through turquoise lakes and waterfalls. It was like being in a lost world. If you have ever experienced an amazing silence like that you know what I'm talking about.

This was my favourite part of the course and it certainly made every painful step of the climb up there worthwhile. I guess this is what I came here for, and I considered it as a first-class experience already a huge success.

I conquered the top at 2698 meters (59.3 km) in 10:34, 15:34 PM. There was a volunteer with binoculars looking over the climbers, making sure everyone was doing fine.

Without further ado I descented to Col du Grand St. Bernard (2469 m, 62.5 km) in 48 minutes. At the aid station there I met some Finnish volunteers who have lived in Switzerland for a long time. I was not in hurry - as I was unconcerned of the danger ahead - so I chat with them in Finnish for some time, snacking oranges like on a leisurely stroll. A Finnish lady kindly described the route to the big resting place, Bourg St. Pierre 13.9 km away: "You go on from here and climb Col des Chevaux and then it's a few km's downhill from there."

Things are often more easily said than done, and this case was not going to be an exception. They say that a mountain is not a safe place to be during a storm. I was congratulating myself on the highest peak of the course, Col des Chevaux (2714 m, 64.7 km), when a thunderstorm arrived out of the blue. It started gradually with hail, and I thought it wasn't a big deal. Just in case, I put on my jacket an gloves.    

Soon it started to rain really hard, and I pulled the hood over my head. The raindrops were big and icy cold. Soon I was soaking wet. There were a few other competitors up there, and we all knew without saying a word that we ought to get down to the valley asap. The steep slope where the trail leading down should have been was covered with deep wet snow. That wasn't an unsurmountable problem, but it slowed our descent just enough to allow the rain to double the volume of each stream we were about to cross.

We were uncontrollably slipping and sliding down the mountain without always managing to stay in upright position. My light jacket clearly wasn't made for this kind of weather. I felt cold already with all that icy rain and snow inside my clothes, but when we crossed the first icy mountain stream I knew we were really in trouble. All the stepping stones that would normally allow a trekker to go across were now underwater. Also all the trails had turned into muddy flowing canals.      

Although we felt dead tired before this happened, the adrenaline rush gave us super strength for a while. We instinctively realised that the only chance for a happy ending was to sprint towards the safety of Bourg St. Pierre about a 10K down the valley. Despite running faster than at any previous point in this race, I only felt more and more frozen.

About halfway through a huge herd of cows blocked our way. They seemed as panicked as we were. A local guy who knew how to handle a situation like this told us to step back. Then he said something to the cows while walking carefully forwards, and the herd divided into two, letting us through peacefully.

The cowboy mumbled to no-one in particular: "I'm going to quit." You are not supposed to give in too easily, so I asked him "What are you talking about?" He replied "When we get there, I'm going to quit. Just look at this weather, it's too much, it's impossible keep on running like this!" I couldn't help agreeing with the cowboy.

Ironically the rain stopped completely on our arrival. The birds sang again. But too late, the damage was done. I was surely in hypothermic condition.

Just outside the long-awaited shelter, I met an English-speaking man who was going to the other direction, but nevertheless asked if I was ok. I said I'm frozen all over and definitely going to quit. He asked me to reconsider my decision and offered to show me around the shelter, which was actually a large community building with a restaurant.

He guided me to a large room with a few other runners covered with blankets. A lady volunteer, possibly a doctor or nurse, asked how I feel. At this point I was shivering like crazy and I noticed that words didn't come out of my mouth properly. It must have appeared just a blurred mumble to others as I couldn't say certain letters at all. She got me a couple of cups of some kind of hot herbal tea and told me that I'd be fine.

After about half an hour my condition wasn't getting much better. I didn't feel like trekking the remaining 34 km to the finish, likely all alone and certainly in darkness, on slippery slopes and without any crew to call for help if something happened. Theoretically I had the time to do it, as I had used only 14 hours and change. But the wheels had come off big time, and I honestly didn't have the drive anymore.

They tried their best to persuade me to sleep a while on one of their cozy army beds, and offered to get me a free warm meal of spaghetti, but I turned them down politely. I inquired about immediate transportation to my hotel in Verbier - I knew where my favorite food would be waiting.

Finally they nodded in agreement, and the English-speaking man lead me to the other side of the building. There was a bus just about to leave for Verbier. To my astonishment, the bus was full of runners like me, with or without blankets around them. Not a word was spoken during the 45-minute trip.

Throughout the night I would wake up to the enthusiastic and loud announcements of yet other successful finisher arriving. This would continue until 1 PM on Sunday. It was a weird feeling to relax on the balcony and enjoy delicious food, and watch runners coming in as much as 30 hours after the start - some of them up to 17 hours after I had DNF'd. Altogether there were 159 finishers of the complete La Boucle, meaning 148 of those who started DNF'd.

Actually DNF (Did Not Finish) sounds too limited and negative from my point of view, considering all the positive aspects. TVSB wasn't just another ultra trail marathon to test your fitness and endurance. It was a life-changing adventure through some of the most amazing natural scenery in the world, and with some of the happiest people I've ever met. Wherever you looked, there was a stunning view. Every person I encountered, offered spontaneously a friendly greeting or word of encouragement.

I'd like to conclude with a word I often heard people of Valais say to me: bravo!