Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Girl Gone Wild

"Ann was a girl gone wild for competition. During one stretch, she averaged an ultra marathon every other month for four years... she won twenty races... she won on roads and trails... on smooth tracks and scrabbly mountains... in America, Europe and Africa."
- Christopher McDougall: Born to Run
Ann Trason in Pietermaritzburg finish in June 1996 after winning Comrades Marathon with a new CR 6:13:23 and waiting to be awarded her Gold Medal by Nelson Mandela.
I've met Ann Trason only once. It was in the international finishers' area for Comrades Marathon, the world's biggest and oldest ultrarunning race. Her winning time 6:13:23 was a new Course Record for the uphill run.

I remember thinking she looked amazingly fresh after such an grueling race. I don't remember what I said to her as I was completely exhausted, but I managed to take the snapshot above. Then I crawled outside and passed out on the lawn.

This happened in June 1996. Only 12 days later she would also win Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, the world's oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race. She is the only runner who has been able to achieve this. The next year she won both races again.

I guess Ann Trason really was a girl gone wild back then. She won Comrades twice and Western States 14 times. I feel lucky to have briefly met the greatest American ultra trail runner of all time.

Friday, December 11, 2015

December Morning Trailrunning Half-Marathon

Mt. Haltiavuori today.

It was unusually balmy +6°C today for a December morning. The skies were relatively clear and even the sun might show up. It was a no-brainer to go trailrunning. I did about a half-marathon. I also tested You Tube Capture on my iPhone. The video is below and Suunto Movescount here. Great half-day outdoors.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Montserrat Mountain Monastery

After Ultratrail Collserola my schedule allowed for a long-awaited daytrip to Montserrat. It's a popular 10 km long and 5 km wide mountain area, where Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey is located about 48km west from Barcelona. The history of Montserrat started in 880 when shepherd kids saw a bright light descending from the sky. Today there are about 100 Benedictine monks based at the monastery. According to their philosophy, there is an importance to what every person is. They have a famous boys choir called L'Escolania at Montserrat.

In case you are interested, here's how I travelled there. In the morning I took a metro from my hotel in Barcelona to the Espanya station and walked to the railway platform R5. There is a ticket machine and a person behind a desk to help you using it. I bought a return ticket to Montserrat Aeri, including the cable car ride to the Monastery, for about 20€. The train to Aeri takes an hour and then the cable car five minutes more.

I got a free map from the information office at the monastery and chose itinerary #3 from it. It involved taking Sant Joan Funicular up. From there I hiked the scenic about 10km trail back to the Monastery via the highest peak Sant Jeroni (1237m) and Pla dels Ocells. On a clear day like this you can see the whole Catalonya from up there. They say it's also possible to see the island of Mallorca, but I couldn't see it. Anyway "The spectacle is out of this world", the tourist itinerary boasts, and I have to agree. This is mainly due to some spectacularly unique rock formations. The hike took me four hours because the weather was gorgeous and I made some explorative detours while shooting a lot of of photos and video. I snacked in the monastery cafeteria and took the cable car, train and metro back to my hotel.

I saw some hikers, trailrunners and climbers, but didn't find the route too crowded. It was a Monday in Mid-November after all. In summer or during weekends there would surely be more people everywhere. The trails are wide and there are concrete stairs with handrails in the steepest places.

While admiring the views around the highest peak Miranda de Sant Jeroni, I saw two climbers coming up Via Ferrata Teresina. They had started their climb 660 meters below at Santa Cecilia de Montserrat, where Sean Scully Art Space opened in July 2015 (closed for winter now). I might be tempted to climb it myself in the future - with a proper guide and gear of course.

Without any further ado, below are some of my pictures and the Gopro video. My Suunto Ambit Movescount data is here. Hope you enjoy them and remember to visit Montserrat the next time you go to BCN!