Monday, December 26, 2016

Die Hard 50 Mile Christmas Training Run

In a recent Talkultra podcast Zach Miller discussed (transcript of the interview by Ian Corless) his impressive victory of 2016 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships and mentioned: 'But you never go out there and race a full 50 miles in training.'

I started brainstorming right there how to fix that this Christmas. I must run a 50 Mile training run!

Christmas Day, 7:02am. I'm getting out to run 50 miles on familiar local trails. The weather is great with slightly above 0°C temps. I start my GPS, turn on my headlamp and head into the darkness. I have prepared well for this - by watching Die Hard the previous night.

Welcome to the party, pal.

Fast forward to evening, 70.8K down. I'm home for my third and last 'aid station' visit to grab food. I'm tired. My legs hurt. I crave for energy, but lack appetite. I feel like it would make sense to quit this stupid training run now. I've hit the Great Wall.

Please don't let me die.

Then I realise Die Hard's bad guy Hans Gruber represents that familiar voice in our head rationalizing us into giving up.

Happy trails, Hans.

I drag myself out to shuffle in the final 10K. I see very few people, certainly not any runners.

80.7km down. I stop my GPS. It's 9:40pm. I finish Die Hard 50 Mile Training Run in 14 hours 38 mins.

If this is their idea of Christmas, I gotta be here for New Year's.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Running Man - book review

I'm guilty of several DNFs, but this book I finished fast. I found Running Man both interesting and inspiring. What's more, Charlie Engle can write and tell a story.

I have followed Charlie Engle with some interest since Running The Sahara came out. I liked the epic documentary produced by Matt Damon. Then I found out he has has done a lot of adventure, bike triathlon and ultrarunning races.

However this is not primarily a book describing all of his races. The most compelling parts of the book are about the crazy ideas he has filled his wild life with: booze/drugs, running across Sahara, and simulating 135-mile Badwater in prison.

The main take-away point from the book is that life is all about adaptation - it's not the circumstances we are dealt that define us.

Running Man is the best endurance sports memoir since Rich Roll's Finding Ultra. Run and get it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Case of Disappearing UTMB Points

Christmas is soon here for ultra trail runners: UTMB 2017 registration starts Dec 15.
"Enter the legend! 8000 runners from 5 continents. What about you?"

Me? Yes! Who wouldn't want participate in the "Sommet Mondial du trail running".

Let's visit ITRA to check if I have the required 15 points from 3 qualifying races.

Yes, I do seem to have 6, 5, 4 and 4 "Endurance" points from my races in the past two years. Just ignore those "Mountain" points for now. So far, so good. 6+5+4=15 would buy me a lottery ticket.

Let's now see if they are in UTMB's list of qualifying races, because "It will not be possible to register for the 2017 UTMB® by making reference to a race not included in this list." Got it.

Damn, Ultra-Trail Collserola 2015 isn't listed anymore. I remember seeing it there before. The whole race with my 4 points has mysteriously disappeared! WTF?

No panic, my other 4-pointer Ecotrail Oslo 2015 is there. We're cool.

Also Swiss Irontrail 2015 is there with the 6 points for T201. I would have gotten the same amount of points by finishing the much shorter and easier T139 or T121. Surely 204.8km with +12,000m would be worth seven points, but six is the max they give for any race. Ok, whatever.

So I have 4 + 6 = 10 points. The remaining 5 points should come from  Zugspitz Ultratrail 2016. It is listed, but marked "To be checked" - meaning those points are not available, because UTMB apparently has some minor dispute with Plan B, who organize Zugspitz Ultratrail. Get over it!

OMG! Zugspitz Ultratrail have announced that they have terminated their membership with ITRA and there will be no UTMB points available for any 2017 races.

However when I chose Zugspitz Ultratrail it was advertised as UTMB-qualifier worth 5 points. Unfortunately that's not the case. Had they been honest about this, runners could have chosen another race.

German blogger Trailfieber found out this disagreement is basically about Plan B's Zugspitz Ultratrail failing to respect UTMB's Ultra Trail brand. Meaning UTMB and other UTWT races would like to own everything in the world related to Ultra Trail. Good luck with that.

I travelled across Europe with planes, trains and cars for those points. I spent my hard-earned cash on that trip. I ran all night in rain and mud to celebrate at the finish for those points. Take my finisher T-shirt and medal away, but give me those points you promised!

So now when I'd like to use those points, they aren't valid - only because an ultra trail running race had included the words ultra trail in it's name? Good job, guys!

Fortunately Swiss Irontrail 2017 doesn't have a lottery for T214 in July. I'm a trailrunner, not a trailgambler.

[Edit: UTMB informed that UTMB 2014 finishers will be allowed to get 6p, although normally only 2015-16 races apply. This slight deviation from the usual rules is welcome in a situation where some races are not acknowledged. So combined with the 10p from Ecotrail Oslo and Swiss Irontrail 2015 I can now get a total of 16 points. In other words while I have lost the 9p regarding Ultra-Trail Collserola 2015 and Zugspitz Ultratrail 2016,  I could participate in UTMB 2017 lottery if I wanted. I think Irontrail T214 offers a much better deal.]

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Living With A SEAL - book review

Living with A SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet by Jesse Itzler is a funny and inspiring book about the art of getting uncomfortable for self-improvement. Routines can be useful, but sometimes you need to push beyond to get better.

The story goes something like this: Mr. Itzler is participating in an ultra relay race. He observes a big African-American runner attempting the challenge by himself. Against all odds the big guy finishes 100 miles in under 19 hours.

Itzler learns he is a badass SEAL who says 'I don't stop when I'm tired. I stop when I'm done.' SEAL believes that when you think you are done, you are only at 40% of what your body is capable.

Inspired, Itzler gets SEAL to live in his home with his family in NYC as a personal trainer for a full month. The book tells the lessons learned during those 31 days.

The unidentified SEAL in the book is David Goggins. Most ultra endurance athletes have heard about this Ironman & Ultraman Hawaii, UTMB and Badwater finisher - to name just a few of his accomplishments.

I found it highly interesting to learn about his unorthodox training methods and uncompromising principles like 'If it doesn't suck, we don't do it.'

For me this hilarious book is a most welcome antidote to all those boring pseudo-scientific training bibles. I laughed out loud frequently while flapping through the pages. SEAL says: 'It doesn't have to be fun. It has to be effective.'

Living with a SEAL is both fun and effective. It's a quick easy read, but at the same time it offers a great opportunity for self-improvement. You don't have to invite SEAl to your home. Just keep in mind that 'Every day do something that makes you uncomfortable.'

For example, I tend to suffer a bit from vertigo, so I climbed a 140m vertical rock tower recently. Or it can be something as simple as taking an ice-cold shower. Just keep in mind: 'Every day is a challenge, otherwise it's not a regular day.'

Drop your self-imposed limits and get out of your comfort zone. Because after this book, 'The only easy day was yesterday.'