My unusual plan for the UTBCN 101km

So what do you do when you get injured before a key race and are just barely able to start. Go aggressively for the win, of course. Crazy, you think? Well, hear me out.

utbcn dorsal.jpg

So only yesterday, I was very unsure whether I would be able to even start the race. I was in a very foul mood (just ask Katri). Ultra trail racing is a sport of consistency and long term planning. This adds a tremendous amount of mental influence as well. This next race is something I have already been planning and preparing for months. After a perfect training block for two hand a half months, the thought of not being able to even start really hurt.

I have actually been following advise from Jason Koop, a top ultra coach. He says that people should pick races that they feel inspired about. Sometimes inspiration happens unexpectedly. For me, this actually started sometime after the UTMB. While I can get very excited about races, big events like the UTMB can also mean that there is a mental hangover. After a big party like that can kind of drain motivation. After such an event, it was a bit hard to find the drive to train really well or be inspired about racing. I recognized that and just took things off after the trail world champs in Portugal. My plan was not to run at all, until I really felt like running again. That all kicked in around December and I just started running a ton and started thinking about races I could do.

After not running for a bit, I felt like I want to do a faster ultra race, rather that something super difficult and slow. I had done the UTBCN marathon distance before and knew there would be quite a bit of easier running. This race course isn’t really very spectacular in any way and kind of has a bit of a bad reputation. I didn’t have a great experience last time, but still, after this break, it really started feeling like the race to do. I started thinking about it more and more, adding race-specific training to my routine and really became committed to train to do well there.

So I have definitely been quite emotionally engaged with this event for a long time now. I think I had a great big training block in the beginning of the year. I just finished that and started my 3-week tapering for the race. Just then I realized I have a serious problem in my ankle. I had a badly swollen ankle after doing 27k of the race course in advance and it really hurt to walk. It’s a bit of a mystery injury, I’m not sure if it’s a stress fracture, or if I banged the ankle on something. It’s the inside ankle bone of my left foot, the one that always gets hits by rolling rocks on downhills. I don’t remember any particular big hit, but it gets banged up all the time. Anyway, the result was a lot of pain and inability to run for 3 weeks. Now I’ve managed to do a couple of 5k runs without too much trouble, although I can always still feel it a bit afterwards.

So why do I have this strange plan? Well, all the training and planning was because I wanted to be competitive here. I still want to do that and that’s the biggest motivator for me. I want to have a little battle at the front of the race, get a feeling for the other runners, their strength and weaknesses. Hang out with them and see if I feel like I belong to the same party. It’s probably very unrealistic to think that I will win the race, be on the podium or even finish it, but I want to get a feeling of what I could perhaps have done if everything had gone well. So I want to stay in some contact with the lead group for as long as I can and it makes sense. When things get too hard, I will hold back and just carry on doing my own race and try to finish with the best results possible while doing the least amount of damage to myself.

We’ll see how things turn out, but I can already tell that I’m a lot damn happier now that I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to line up at the start and have a go.

See you on the trails!

Running Projects

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of running to places from my front door. I’ve been doing it too and the longer the better. Now in Alforja, I live in 480m of altitude at the intersection of two mountain ranges, so I have endless places to go to. I’ve been planning to run from home to a friends house in L’Ametlla del Mar. I knew parts of the way from running in these mountains before, but had to figure out perhaps 60% of the route. I patched it together by scanning routes in WikiLoc and my experience. The original idea was to run the last part with my friend, so that he could guide the final kms near his house. In the end he didn’t feel like it, so I was on my own. I already planned to do only part of the route and play it safe and stop before the final 28km or so. That idea sounded pretty lame, so just a day before the run I thought I should just push all the way and do the planned 65km or so. I put it the unknown parts of the route together in my Suunto Spartan Ultra and had a bunch of separate routes loaded, which should help me navigate all the way.

morning.jpg

All ready, clean and optimistic

I still had a bail-out point in the last village before the final 23km stretch that has no roads or villages. I told Katri that I will try to go all the way, but to watch her phone in case I need a ride out. I also told my friend I’ll be trying to do the whole thing.

So I set out in the morning just after 10 AM. It was pretty foggy and even misty, but a beautiful quiet morning to go running. I enjoyed the first 40 mins climb up to the Hermita de Puigcerver where I was planning to have my second breakfast, hobbit style. I had another coffee and half bocadillo con queso. From here I continued at a quiet pace through the foggy high parts of our mountain. It was all very pleasant and interesting with all the fog. After all the coffees and drinking, I had to pee all the time. I had to stop 6 times before the first 9 kms. It was crazy.

early fog.jpg

Early fog

I had a tiny mishap in a new part of the mountain, just past the point where the Rally de Catalunya ends, going up to another pretty steep ridge. The trail was pretty non-existent in the side of the rocky mountain and I got lost a tiny bit. I had to track back up the mountain to find the trail, but the Suunto did a great job getting me back on the map. Running by the ridge was great, there were straight drop-offs of 200 meters and it was all very dramatic with the clouds, wind, misty rain. It felt like high mountains, although it was not. I was well prepared with clothes and gear, but didn’t have to put anything extra on, other than using my Buff as a hat.

cliffs.jpg

These scene was amazing.. the best part of the fog cloud had passed by the time I found my phone

I kept up a nice, consistent pace with no stops almost all the way to Colldejou, where I stopped to grab a Nutella sandwich from my backpack and walking a bit while eating it. In Colldejou, km 22 or so, I filled my water bottles and stopped down for a couple of minutes to activate the next part of the route in my watch. I had some trouble with the route, because after switching it, it was just showing the same route I had just done. I thought there was something wrong with the Suunto, so I tried stopping the run, re-starting and trying again. Still the same route. After some messing around, I realized I had screwed up myself and loaded the same route twice. I now had to run the next 10km blind. Crap. The only way from Colldejou to Pratdip I knew for sure was a dirt road. The best plan of action I had was to follow that. I texted my wife and friend with a status update, telling them that everything was looking good and I was moving on. Just before arriving at the dirt road, I came across a trail sign by chance and was happy to see it was pointing to Pratdip, where I was going. Ok, change of plans, I will take the trail and hope it’s well marked. It was and pretty soon I came across parts that I had ran before and I knew pretty well where I was. The trail was beautiful, running through the forest and it was pretty easy with just some moderate climbing. I soon arrived in Pratdip where for the first time I thought I can now feel the run in my legs, after km 32 or so. I had high confidence I can make it all the way, so  it was time for a brief stop to refuel and then move on.

cat flag.jpg

This flag has the best views

In 7km or so, I arrived in Masboquera, the final bail-out point, after which the trail would just be high ridges, no villages or accessible roads. All was good, so I ate my last Nutella sandwich, texted Katri and friend again that I will go for the final stretch, 23kms or so, ETA in 3-4 hours and that I would be following the GR-192. Things were actually feeling pretty good and I was happy and pushing a little bit in the next big climb to the ridge. It was great going up with the running poles, trying to jog along strong, but not redlining it. At the top, it was pretty technical for a bit, but then opened up on some dirt roads, which were great as I could feel I’m making nice headway and the next kilometers flew by.

sea.jpg

I could now see the sea and the sun was out, as was the wind and I was just about to find out about that

I was pretty high again and closing in on the sea side of the mountains. This was great because I could see beautiful views, with the afternoon sun shining over the sea. The downside was also that I was now very exposed to the wind, which the peaks funneled into these crazy wind tunnels that made running on the technical rocks very hard. I was leaning to the wind and running at an angle, but every now and then the wind suddenly stopped when I turned a corner and it was hard. Fighting the wind and balancing every second was also a very good full body exercise and probably burned a lot of energy. The final part of the ridge was the hardest, the trail disappeared completely and it was just rocks, bush and wind. I kept following the line my Suunto was showing me and made my way down the mountain. I was soon in a canyon and protected from the wind, which was a big relief.

Coming down the mountain was very hard, but it also allowed my system to rest a bit. When I got to the canyon, I was actually feeling great. All of the pain and stiffness that I had felt earlier was gone and I was flying. This was the runner’s high, the feeling that only happens in long efforts and that you’ll want to cherish and make it last. I could have gone very fast, but pulled it in a little bit and kept drinking etc, knowing that there would still be a few more km’s to go. Pretty soon I hit a dirt road and I knew the rest of the way would just be like that with a brief stretch of asphalt. The final part was a bit confusing, it was now dark and I was running with my headlamp and had to navigate through some olive tree groves to find the way that would lead me to the urbanizacion where my friend lived. Again, the Suunto did a good job and I found my way with no issues. The final challenge was to find the exact house of my friend from his giant complex of houses. I needed to resort to the map on my iPhone and when I put in the address, I was pretty happy to see I was just around the corner and actually just looking to my left, I could see the party lights on in his garden. Yay.

jps house.jpg

A bit more dirty and bruised than in the morning, but otherwise quite ok

My route was a bit shorter than the expected 65kms. I was able to navigate the route very efficiently (thanks Suunto) and some of the paths were shorter than what the GPS tracks showed. The total stats were 58km and 2,800m+ and it took me 7h 50 min. I did the run with my new Topo Athletic Terraventure shoes, which was half a size too big, but otherwise they performed very well.

calcots.jpg

Beer & cooking calcots

calcots eating.jpg

Bon Profit!

Katri and my friends were already waiting and finishing their cooking. They expected me to be shattered when I arrived, but I was feeling pretty all right, but very dirty. After a nice hot shower, it was great to be with good friends, with a beer in my hand and good food waiting in the table. It was a really beautiful journey with a great ending.

The Art of Failure

Not everything always goes according to the plan … many would say this is the norm rather than the exception. Sometimes we feel bad about our failures, so they might not be the most publicized stories, especially in sports. However, there are usually really important lessons in almost any failure, so there is value in sharing them. Here are some of my favourite errors.

utsm2015.jpg

One of my favourite race photos (by Jordi Santacana) and I remember this moment well. I was taking a moment to take care of myself and loved it. 

HTMCD 2013 – Energy. This was my first ‘ultra’. It wasn’t a long race, only 47km or so, but 2,800m+ climbing. I did a number of mistakes, but the biggest one was that I had no idea how to fuel for an ultra. My experience was from road marathons, so the plan was to have a couple of gels and pick up some stuff from the aid stations. I was bonking crazy hard by half way point and then finally figured I need to eat lots, so I gorged on some Nutella croissants and other crazy stuff, until I felt really sick. It took a long time before any of that helped and I was in the high point of the race, in a snowstorm with sleet raining in my face vertically. I have never felt so weak and I had to put on ALL the mandatory gear I was carrying and was very happy that I had it. I had been joking with several people about the ridiculous list of stuff we had to carry when it’s +15 and sunny (at the start). I decided to drop out of the race as soon as I possibly can, but still had to make my way to the next aid station. Several people stopped and asked me if I’m ok. I told them I’ll survive and I’m just walking to the next point to drop out. After maybe 1hr, the food kicked in and I felt all right again … once I actually got to the aid station, I saw no reason to quit and just carried on and finished. That was my first experience of getting over a serious bonk, really getting back into the race from a very deep, miserable state. It was important.

utmcd i will get up.jpg

Broken … but still determined to get up. Kiki looks worried. 

utmcd dehydraion.jpg

Dehydration looks like this

utmcd suffer.jpg

And can easily lead into this

utmcd dead.jpg

… and then it’s hard to get up

utmcd finish.jpg

But if you do, you can still get the job done!

UTMCD 2015 – stomach / water – Still not 100% sure what happened here. I started the race conservatively, but didn’t feel that great from the start. I fell at km16 or so, in a very easy part, which was the first warning sign. My fueling plan was a weird mix of all kinds of stuff, which probably wasn’t a good idea. I didn’t feel any better after the first aid point and things just slowly kept getting worse. I was going pretty slow, but it felt hard and I couldn’t figure out why. I usually did far better in training, but now everything was just hard. I realized I was having dehydration issues and then ran out of water. I drank a lot at the next aid station, but perhaps it was too late. I struggled on, made it to the half way point and sat down properly until I could eat something again. I got some stuff down, but it was very hard to eat or drink and just felt pretty bad. After spending quite a bit of time at the aid station, I moved on and felt a little bit better. After the next big climb, I had a nice good moment in the race and picked up lots of places and was getting near to the top 10 again. It was still hard to eat and drink and I was running on fumes. The next big climb then got me and a lot of the people I just passed flew by while I was having hard time just staying up. Once I made the aid station, I tried to eat a bit, but after 15 minutes or so, managing to get 1 piece of pasta down per minute and still 25km to go in the race and still at 0 energy, I decided to call it quits. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure I was dehydrated from the start and ate too much too early and didn’t drink enough water. The proper solution would have been to stop eating and just drink pure water. Again, I learned something that has helped me since then.

UTSM2014.jpg

In one race, I had so bad cramps I could not change my shoes, so I had to take 5 minutes of massage. I still won in the end. 

nuuksio.jpg

Nuuksio, Finland. In a race where I think I fell down 4 times. 

Transvulcania 2014 (and 2016) – stupid falls. I experienced a proper runner’s high for the first time in Transvulcania. I had gotten over a low point in the race and was back with tons of energy, heightened senses and strong legs at km 55k… the start of the legendary monster downhill (21km and -2,500m or so). I was flying past people, yelling and feeling invincible. Then I fell in a soft spot and had a bit of a WTF moment … but I still felt great and figured I’m still a superman and can just keep going at close to autobahn speed. Then I fell really bad on some sharp volcanic rocks in full downhill speed. I instantly knew things were pretty bad with blood everywhere (chest, knees, hands, arms..). After taking an inventory of my body, I realized I was bleeding pretty hard, but that my knees and legs were still ok. I was in 1,900m altitude still in the middle of the forest with several kilometers until the next aid station. The only option was to keep moving and to my surprise, I still felt great and could move pretty fast. I was still passing some people, while being pretty much completely covered in blood and I though it was pretty comical. I was probably giggling as I went past these people. I made it to the aid station and was immediately taken to the first aid tent and was attended by 4 doctors / nurses simultaneously, who did a super job of cleaning everything up and bandaging it. We were still in 1,200 meters and the nearest hospital was sill 9 or so km away. They asked if there is any way I can continue going down. I was thrilled, I just wanted to finish the race and was pretty happy that they would let me continue. They fixed me up as well as they could and got the bleeding more or less stopped and then let me go again. It was +30 degrees hot and full sun and I had stopped to eat an drink since the fall and I kind of forgot to start that again. I made it to the coast, but was now totally out of my mind from dehydration, shock, low energy, but it was such a great race that I was still having a good experience. I grabbed some watermelon and water from the next station, but otherwise just ran through .. people were shocked to see this bloody, giggling guy still continuing.

transvulcania.jpg

In the hospital, about to get stitched up. 

Trail world championships (2016) – logistics / water issues

This is a very humiliating story. The race in Portugal started well and I was well positioned at km30. Katri, my wife and our team aid station manager tried to hurry me through the aid station quickly (as was her job). I wanted to hear who’s leading, how the other Finns are doing etc, so it was quiet a chaotic pit stop. Just 5 minutes after I moved on, I realized I had forgot to fill my other water bottle. I remembered that there is a stream that the course crosses some distance ahead, so I planned to just fill my bottle there. This little snafu was the beginning of a race-ending disaster. I proceeded to fill the bottle as planned, but was a bit worried because there was cow shit all around the fields nearby, so I wasn’t 100% sure about the water quality. I thought I would replace all the water I now had in the next village if I could see a water source. Arriving into the village, I spotted a water fountain with some tourists around it, so I went there, poured all the water I had on my head and went to fill the bottles. The tourists tried to help me, but it turned out the fountain didn’t work at all. I cursed, having just poured all my water away. The only thing I could do was to take some water from a not-very-clean looking pond. I had to move on and face the biggest climb of the race in the full sun with no drinkable water. I was looking for water everywhere, houses, people, but nobody had any. I begged water from the organizers, who were very reluctant to give me any because of penalties in the rules. I told them I don’t care, I’m not sure if will get to the next aid station at all. I got a couple of sips from them (and was never reported). I dreamily looked at mud ponds, wanting to go see if I could drink that somehow. I stumbled on for kilometers and kilometers and it felt like a desperate life-and-death battle. When I finally reached the next aid station, I had to stop and drink and eat for 10 minutes. All this made me very sick and for the rest of the race, I could hardly walk straight and had to finally drop at km65 and quickly fell asleep in the sun in one of the villages. This was a really a freak incident and shows how a series of small errors can lead into a total catastrophe.

IAU portugal.jpg

In Portugal, shortly after finally finding water again. I would drop an hour or so later …

I like to have a positive viewpoint to most things and the silver lining with all of these has been that each failure has made me a better runner. I’ve learned from these far more than from the smooth races. And in ultra mountain trail racing, avoiding problems is often the most important thing and I’ve become much better at it.

IAU Trail World Championships, Portugal

If all things go as planned, I will be running in the Finland team for the second time and competing at a top international level. What sets these championships apart is that the average level of the runners is very, very high. The top competition is the same as in many big international races and I have been in races with the very best before. Getting even into the top 50% is not a walk in the park (for me, at least).

Things have been a bit weird since the UTMB. It certainly took something out of me. Especially mentally, it was such a huge engagement that the tank has been empty. I entertained myself during the last kilometers of the UTMB by thinking how I will immediately cancel all of my upcoming races because I hate running so much. Especially this one marathon relay race I had signed up for. Well, I didn’t do that, of course. Just 2 weeks later, I ran the race and did surprisingly well, keeping a 3:41 pace for my 10,5km leg in a pretty slow course snaking through a village. I also did a 25km, 1,500m+ super hard mountain race where I had a good fight for 3rd position and until half way in, I was quite sure I would get it at the end, but then calf cramps got me and I had to hold back. While these were both good results, I didn’t feel all that good during the races and I had to dig quite deep. I had no superman-like moments in there.

Vinyols.jpg

Running in Vinyols, photo by Blanca de la Sotilla

Pratdip.jpg

Trail ‘running’, Pratdip style, photo by Miguel Sanchez

A few days ago I also had a disastrous training run, where I could hardly walk a 6,5k route and was really trashed at the end. Last weekend I did a 31km, 1,600m+ training run, having lunch in the middle and then turning back. While there were some nice moments in there, a lot of the run was a bit of a struggle, especially coming back. It just feels a bit like the fall is coming and there isn’t that much energy around. Some little things, like the fact that my toes are still mashed into pulp and I have lost four toenails and they hurt can be a bigger deal than it is. Physically, it hasn’t helped that I started Crossfit again after the summer break and really jammed up my legs and glutes. It felt like all the power had gone from the legs.

But then today, things felt good again. I could feel that when just warming up and taking the dogs for a little run. I was dancing down the trail again. Training after that felt good and I was powering up my usual hills very well again. I did a silly mistake and left my headlamp home and ended up in the dark, but that didn’t really bother me. It feels like the run today changed my whole perspective. UTMB is now in the history books and it’s time to tackle the challenge in Portugal. We’ll be facing 85km and 5,000m+ climbing. The profile and terrain seem very similar to what we have at home, so that sounds quite good. The Finland team is strong, we finished 4th last year and I know the top runners in the team have improved.

Pratdit2.jpg

Feeling good again here, photo by Blanca

I guess my lesson is that no matter how crappy things might feel every now and then, it’s all likely to pass. No need to panic, or force things if the motivation isn’t there 100% of the time. Things have a tendency to fall into place, so what is to be, will be.

Happy trails and wish us swift legs for Portugal!

Suomi.jpg

 

 

UTMB 2016 Race Plan

It is UTMB time. This is by far the biggest athletic challenge of my life. Even in the best case scenario, I will be running about twice as long as I have ever done. So it’ll be a journey to the unknown. It’s not exactly easy to plan for that, so I’m going to keep it pretty simple.

The going in position is very good. Training since May has been good and there are no significant problems and I should be and feel fit. Mentally things are also very good, I have a positive outlook into the race and confidence is quite high. I have been racing very little this year, but my last (night) race I won and it was all good.

So my race outcome objectives are really to go and run a good race and try for a good time. My plan A is to loosely target a time in the 25-28 h range. 25h would be an amazing time. I think the best Finnish time is just under 28 hours. I’m not going into the race to slow myself down and with the attitude ‘to just finish’. I want to run efficiently and will try to be smooth and consistent. Surely there will be low moments in the race and these I will treat with humility, respecting the course and will use whatever time it takes to fuel and fix whatever problems come up.

There are a few challenges I can foresee that I try to account for:

Profil_UTMB2016.png

 

  • The first part is very easy, I have no concerns about that. I was lucky to get into the elite starting area with my ITRA ranking points, so I will go with the flow and run at a nice, efficient pace. Many people go very fast here, too fast.
  • The first 31k are really easy. Then at around midnight, we start the long climb quite high up. I’ll meet my crew in Les Contamines at km 30 and they’ll help me get ready for the night.
  • Night-time strategy is usually the same for me… take it easy, don’t do anything silly and just get into the rhythm. I love nighttime racing, so I don’t have any concerns about it.
  • The concern with the night part is that it is very long. I’ll probably be out there for 7 hours and it’s difficult to carry enough calories with my setup for that long. There is a lot of mandatory gear, so my pack is really full. I will need to have the patience to fuel well at the aid stations during the night.
  • In the morning, I’ll see my family again in Courmayer. Many people take a lot of time at this aid station to transition from night running to the day. I’ll need to do the same, put on suncream etc. I would like to be out in 15 minutes or so, but will take the time I need.
  • After Courmayer, there is a big climb and then a flattish section in altitude. This is probably going to be quite hard, after running so long. Important to fuel well in Courmayer.
  • The previous section is followed by another climb, even higher, to the highest point in the race. I could envision this to be one of the most difficult moments in the race.
  • There is a long downhill from here that is most likely going to destroy whatever is left of my quads.
  • The aid station following this downhill where I see my crew is probably going to be important to regroup, fuel up and get ready to face the remaining distance.
  • The last three climbs are going to be hard. I’m not sure which I’m more concerned about, the uphill or the down. We’ll see.
  • In addition to the course challenges, I will probably have some trouble with my shoes. I’ve made some sizing mistakes and don’t really have an ideal race shoe. I will go with the Salomon S-Lab wings normal, not the soft-ground version. This is likely going to be slippery in any mud, but otherwise a nice fast shoe. All my other alternatives have some kind of compromises for this kind of a race, so I’ll just have to deal with it.
  • Nutrition will be really key. I will go mostly with gels during the run and try to consume soup and other real food at the aid stations. Need to drink loads, all the time. If my ‘running time’ is 25 hours and I take 3 gels per hour, that’s 75 gels. Disgusting…

Now that you know my plan, feel free to show your support. The race will start at 18:00 on Friday evening and there is likely going to be a system that posts  progress on Facebook. You can also follow the race on http://utmbmontblanc.com/. I think there will be a continuous online broadcast of things. My bib number is 222. You can send me messages via FB messenger, whatsapp, text and I will check these out every time I meet my crew. Any info about the race situation, encouragement, whatever is always welcome. There is still one more week to go before the race and the first objective is always to get to the start line. From there, I hope to be able to tell you the full story about how all of this will really play out in reality.

Vertical Week

I experimented with a new kind of a training block for me. For some time I have been thinking that doing a vertical km, or 1,000m+ of ascent every day for a week and see how I feel about that. Well, that about the perfect kind of training for the upcoming UTMB (with 10,000m+ of climbing in the race). Another part of good timing was that I had an upcoming trip go Malaga to go to a wedding, which meant that I would be training less, so that was good for recovery.

vert.jpeg

So I did this 2 weeks ago and wanted to document the process and what I think about it.

Training 1 – medium steep, soft ground repeats

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.29.44 PM.png

I started my vertical week with just 1 day of rest after a hard 21km night race with 1,200m+ of climb. My recovery day was a BBQ at a friends house and during this training, I realized I had only eaten 1 potato and some nachos the previous day (plus some protein, beer and wine, of course). I had eaten minimal carbs. My plan was to climb to the local high point, then run back down and do another run up, but avoid the end that had a couple of flatter sections. I then cut back even more and did only the steepest part of the climb.

I was starting to bonk during the second climb and felt low energy and power. A silly food mistake in training and this was a hard, hard session … I was starting to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into for the week.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.27.41 PM.png

Profile. This was on some local trails, in a forest trail that is quite soft.. but the grade is something like 30%.

Training 2 – semi-hard grade, long climbs

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.30.05 PM.png

This one is a bit short, I did get 1,000m+ because I rode my bike to do this training and then walked the road up home, which is 100m vert. Legs felt pretty tired, but this was a better run than yesterday. This is one of the best runs around here, going up a steep and quite technical section and then down a nice rocky downhill. The rocks are solid, so it’s nice coming dancing down them.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.30.21 PM.png

Nice about 600m+ steady climb to warm things up.

vila

Also had this nice bonus of above-clouds views that day.

Training 3 – diverse repeats

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.31.24 PM.png

This was a fun one, four repeats on a very nearby trail. It starts with a nice pretty steep narrow trail, then joins with a steep dirt road, then goes on a little trail again, which then turns into a very technical and super steep section that I have cleared for myself for training on exactly this kind of terrain. This one is also fun downhill. Very diverse and enjoyable trail. I was now starting to feel like I had recovered a bit from the race and legs started to work again and got better as the session continued. It’s still damn hard to run 1,000m+.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.31.12 PM.png

The grade at the end is 40%+. This was the shortest distance where I was able to achieve 1,000m+ during the week.

Training 4 – fast, short repeats

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.31.39 PM.png

This one was about improving the motor. This was mostly cement / dirt road, but in very bad shape so there was a little bit of technical twist. Mostly it was just an aerobic push. It was a bit different, so it was kind of fun. I ran light with my water bottle stacked by the road. This was by far the fastest 1,000m+ during the week.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.31.51 PM.png

Training 5 – long hard climbs

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.32.10 PM.png

This is the longest climb I have very nearby. It’s also technical at the end and very slow. It goes to the highest point in the mountains that we see from the house, so it’s nice and quite fresh at the top. Things kind of sucked at the top of the first climb. I was quite dazed and slow. Things improved a little, but it still felt like a pretty hard session.

Training 6 – long run

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.32.49 PM.png

We had plans to go have lunch in a restaurant in the mountains, so of course I would run there. It was a very hot day. It had nice water spots on the way, so I was able to swim in a stream twice, which totally saved the day. It was a really nice run, feeling quite good all the way, except that I was hot, out of energy and a bit irritated (poor Katri) when I got to the end. I only had 1 gel during the day (and spent 2,300 calories according to Strava). Quick garden hose shower, new clothes and a beer quickly fixed things though. A nice day out in the mountains.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.32.40 PM.png

 

Training 7 – usual route with some repeats

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.33.03 PM.png

So this was a run on my usual trails. Legs felt the best all week and I was able to keep a nice pace. I could have cut it short since I already had well over 7,000m+ for the week and thats what I had in mind when I set out. It was so nice and I was feeling good that I decided to do the full 1,000m+ again. I just did some repeats at the end to get the meters. You can see I didn’t feel like doing much extra, so 1,001 was enough.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.33.12 PM.png

For the week: Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.25.55 PM.png

So was this good training? 

I think it was. In the beginning of the week, I was thinking that this is silly. The first days were hard, which made it also more difficult mentally. Things improved every day however. Also what was really significant was that every day was +30 degrees and many of these days I was running in full sun. I needed a lot of water so was also running with a backpack most of the time.

The recovery week was good. I did run about 40km in Malaga, some flat stuff, but also trails. Things felt pretty good and also flat pace was decent. When I got back home, I went for a little walk with the dogs and legs felt really good. Just the kind of feeling you want before a race. Today I did a good longish run of nearly 20km with some long tempo sections in it and it was a good run. Uphills felt good, downhills were a bit sluggish.

Top tips

If I was to repeat this, I would try to:

  • Start the week very fresh, not after a race
  • Keep an arsenal of different trainings and routes and pick the most suitable one for each day and decide this each day based on feeling (I did this)
  • Consider energy use… perhaps have one bottle of sport drink or take gels. I took one gel all week.
  • Remember to eat well and focus on good recovery between races. Always take in carbs within 30 minutes of each workout. Forget weight control and things like that – eat and drink to maximize performance in the next workout.
  • Avoid, or properly prepare for hot weather
  • The objective is to get the vertical meters. Speed,  terrain, etc doesn’t really matter so don’t worry about anything else. This helps mentally when you can just do what you want as long as you get the meters in the end.
  • Schedule this in some good times in the training calendar. I think it was a good training for the UTMB and not too hard for me. Some people can do more, some probably less, so plan according to your level and race objectives.

The road to UTMB2016

So I guess everyone participating in an event like the UTMB, or any other 100-mile race, especially for the first time is going to write one of these stories about preparation, being ready blah blah blah … and I don’t blame them, it’s an outlet for some of the built-up stress and writing stuff down can be a good way to sort out one’s thoughts. Whether this makes interesting reading to anyone else, that’s up to you to decide, but at least you’ve made it this far 🙂

utmb-logo.jpg

Early Season

The early season really started around christmas holidays. I took some time off running in December and picked things up a little bit during our trip to Andalucia. I did some nice runs / hikes, including a trip to summit Mulhacen (3,479m), the highest peak in the iberian peninsula along with some other peaks in the Sierra Nevada. It was pretty tough conditions with wind, cold and a good experience in dealing with higher mountains. Things went really well from here and training was good and I was pretty fit at the end of Feb. I did a road half marathon as a fitness test and managed a personal best by far of 1:17:03 and the day was very windy and I got injured in the race which also slowed me down. I guess in ideal conditions something starting with 1:15 could have been doable. This is also where my problems started as I hurt my achilles tendon, which took me our of running for at least 2 weeks.

Alpujarra hill.jpg

Big hills in the Alpujarra

Alpujarra.jpg

Winter training with the Andalucian snowman

Training Stats:

Dec – 39 hrs, 220km, 10,658m+

Jan – 35 hrs, 266km, 11,865m+

Feb – 20 hrs, 214km, 5,870,+

Training stats are all just running – this excludes 6-8 hrs / mo of Crossfit during the winter and 4-6h during the summer.

Spring Season

The spring season following the half marathon was a disaster. Once I has somewhat recovered from the achilles problem, I got the flu, which continued to sideline me for another two weeks. Whatever running I managed to do was mostly easy just and I was happy just to be able to get out of the door. At the end of March I did my first ultra of the year, with very little training after all the problems so I knew it wasn’t going to be spectacular. According to my secret “fitness test” routine, I estimated that I’m about 5% off peak fitness compared to last year. It might not sounds like much, but in an 90km ultra that’s a lot of minutes. I finished 7th (I think), with exactly the time I expected to do. I was quite happy with it anyway, considering the circumstances and it wasn’t one of the ‘key’ races for the year.

utmcd climb

Climbing hard at the UTMCD

Then, in the first run after recovering from the ultra I fell really bad and hurt my knee. My plan was to run a downhill section fast after I had done some warmup. I accelerated to a good speed and then pretty soon tripped on a rock at high speed and banged my knee hard. I had trouble walking back home and knew I had to keep moving right away while the knee was still warm. There was almost no running again for the next 2 weeks and it took a long time to be able to run downhill on trails, so I was restricted to some flat running and it really took a while to get training back on track.

The key focus race of the spring season was Transvulcania, in the Canary Islands. I did manage to get over all the problems and at least made a start with proper training again and felt quite positive about upcoming race. I was emotionally invested and really excited to be back on La Palma to do this exciting race. Once we arrived on the island, I went to do an easy run checking out the big descent in the race that is quite technical. It went really well and I felt good both going uphill as well as coming and and I was already thinking in my head what to tell Eetu, en elite Finn also doing the race. While I was having these happy thoughts, I fell really bad again literally just 10 meters before I was going to turn off the trail and go on the road back to our house. This was 3 days before the race and after assessing the damage, I was 90% certain I wasn’t going to be able to even start the event. I was deeply disappointed and really angry with myself for being so sloppy and destroy all the preparation and most of all, eliminate the opportunity to even take part in the event. Well in the end, I did manage to start after some heavy medication and even finished. The knee made downhills impossible to run, but it didn’t bother much in the uphills so I gave my everything in these sections and they felt really good. There was one point in the race where in the uphill portion I overtook 50 runners in a 16km section.

Palma.jpg

Top of La Palma (my favorite island in the world) during Transvulcania 2016

Training stats:

Mar – 20h, 136km, 8,181m+

Apr – 25h, 157km, 7,023m+

May – 35h, 262km, 12,961m+

Summer

Training has been good since Transvulcania. I did one local short race, but wasn’t really very ready for it. I wasn’t that fit and also wasn’t very engaged mentally. I finished something like 11th. The next race was an ad-hoc marathon in the Pyrenees. The plan was to run with Maija Oravamäki and see if she can win the thing. She did. It was a hard 45km, with 3,200m+ in very technical terrain. I think we finished in 7h 20 or so. It felt pretty easy.

CRVA.jpg

CRVA – one of the most fun races I have done

One key point in the summer training season was actually a business trip to the US. I had some time to kill, so I trained a lot at the hotel treadmill and gym. I also did a nice long run on some local trails in North Carolina. I also watched the race coverage for Hardrock 100 online. It kind of woke me up that it’s about time to start adding some volume into my training. I decided to train as much as possible for the next few weeks before taper to the UTMB. The plan was to also include one ‘vertical week’, with a vertical km (1,000m+ ascent)  every day for a week. That’s the project I’m doing right now, but more about that later in another post.

So I’m sitting one month away from the UTMB and I’m pretty happy about where I am. I also did a small 21km 1,200m+ night race and won in 1h 46m. Even better than the position was the way the run went. I chased the leaders aggressively from the start and applied pressure until they faltered and then I got away easily and had a good control for the rest of the race. Good boost for confidence.

win.jpg

Best run of the year

Jun – 26h, 233km, 9,285m+

Jul – will be about 43hrs, 310+km, 18,000m+

So now it’s only about fine-tuning and keeping it all together.