Tuesday, 18 August 2015

On over-reaching your goal: The Eiger Ultra Trail E101, 18-19 July 2015

It is 47 km into the race and I'm walking downhill through a forest towards Burglauenen. It's been a great race so far.  I passed the last check point (Faulhorn, the highest point of the race) 15 minutes before my expected time and enjoyed running downhill to Schynige platte.  A few minutes ago, when I approached a corner on this muddy terrain,  a sharp pain hit my left knee so badly that forced me to stop. I cannot run anymore, I am using my walking sticks to take some weigth off my knee and slowly walking down. I could have run this part of the race quite fast and effortless if my knee didn't hurt. Through my training, I put so much effort to master my downhill running technique and I was quite confident in it that I'd consider it as one of my strength points. It hurts a lot when you have trained a lot and on race day you just cannot perform well. In fact that is hurting much more than my sore knee. As I am limping cautiously, there are many runners passing by, most of whom are kind enough to ask if I need any help. I am thinking how the hell I am going to finish this race. I even question my ability to run the UTMB. I seriously doubt if I am fit enough for the challenge. I know I should concentrate on my race and on taking the next step, but I just cannot help it. 

Eiger Ultra Trail is the best race I've ever run. The course, the organisation and the fellow runners are so great that I couldn't resist to run it for the second time last July. Last year it was my ultimate goal to finish the race, this year however, I wanted to push myself a bit harder in order to evaluate my improvement. It would also be my longest training run for the UTMB. So I set myself a goal time of 22 hours. Last year I reached the finish line in 25 hours 12 minutes, and with all the training that I had since then, three hours improvement sounded reasonable. So I wrote down the time splits based on a 21-hour finish and left one hour in case something unpredictable happened. Here are my expected time for each checkpoint:

First: 3:30
Faulhorn: 6:00
Burglauenen: 8:45
Wengen: 11:00
Mannlichen: 13:00
Kl Scheidegg: 15:00
Alpiglen: 18:00
Grindelwald (finish): 21:00

The race passed by quite smoothly and I reached Faulhorn (the highest point of the course) in 5:46. to Faulhorn. I was ahead of my plan for almost 15 minutes and I enjoyed one of the most spectacular part of the race on my way to Schynige platte. My predicted time for Burglauenen was 8:45. However , due to intense pain on my knee, I reached there in 9:20.

Burglauenen is the main station along the course on 53rd km, where you can have a dish of pasta, get your bag, change your clothes and seek medical care. It is also one of the stations that you can meet your supporters. It was here in Burlauenen that I felt the real meaning of moral support during a race. When I got to the station I was broken. I felt really bad partly because of the intense knee pain but mostly because I missed the joy of running downhill. Sara pushed me to get back to the trail and reminded me of all the hard training I had. She asked me to concentrate on this race and don't let any negative thoughts about the UTMB in my mind. After having a plate of pasta, putting some pain relief gel provided by Perskindol and wearing the compression quad sleeves I was all ready to go. I knew that I can still go uphill relatively fast and the good news was that I had two climbs to Wengen and Mannlichen. I left the station just before 2:30 pm (10 hours into the race) and started running towards Wengen. 

From Burglauenen to Wengen there is 6 km of climb and 4 km of descent. The climb went really smoothly and I even managed to run downhill. After Wengen it came the hardest part of the race. The part that I hated from last year. A vertical km within an ultra. The climb to Mannlichen took me more that two and a half hours last year, and when I got there I had to lie down in a medical tent for one hour and a half. This year though, I was going strong. It took me 1 hour 26 minutes to get from Wengen to Manlichen and arrived at the aid station in 12:52. After leaving Burglaunen 1 hour behind the schedule, I did not expect to reach there before 14:00.  I stayed there for more than 15 minutes,   refuelled, changed my cloths, had a chat with the staff and the volunteers there and thanked them for their kind support last year. When I left the station I was already three hours ahead of last year and I was feeling great.

I got to Kl. Scheidegg in 14:51 and it was still bright. Last year it got dark one hour  before reaching there and I didn't get a chance to appreciate the beautiful landscape. This year though it was still bright when I got to Alpiglen in 16:43. I stepped inside the hut, refuelled with some soup, banana and coke, take out my headlight. I noticed that there are some people sitting inside. When I was about to run again, I was asked by the staff to stop. The race was stopped due to thunderstorm and we had to wait until the weather gets better and the organisers decide how to resume the race.  I ended up staying there for more than two hours. The volunteers really took care of us and gave us plenty of soup and tea. After two hours, they said than we can continue the race, but the route will be 5 km shorter, we had to skip the last uphill to Pfingstegg. That was a bit of disappointment, I was feeling great and I really wanted to run the whole course. The last 9 km of the course passed fairly quickly and when I got to the finish line, the race clock was showing 20:13. Obviously that was not my time.

Timing was a bit complicated after all. We were told in Alpiglen and at the finish line, that everyone's time will be calculated depending the time they were waiting. I was in Alpiglen for a bit more than two hours. The next morning, the results were on datasport.com and my time was 18:10. That did sound reasonable considering the 2-hour pause. But after a couple of hours, they decided to subtract 90 minutes of everyone's time (instead of more accurate individual waiting time) and changed my time to 18:43. There runners who were behind us, in Kl. Scheidegg and Mannlichen had to take an even shorter route of 88km. Some even had to get back to the previous station when the race stopped. Although some of us lost a bit of time in the final calculation, I reckon the organiser team did a really good job in keeping everyone safe on the trails.

I believe if I wasn't stopped by the thunderstorm and I had the chance to run the whole course, I'd get to the finish line around 19 hours. That means over-reaching my goal by three hours. Eiger still remains one of my favourite races and I'll definitely be back in a few years, if not next year.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Eiger done, Swissalpine tomorrow

Just a quick update about the Eiger. I finished the race under 19 hours (slightly shorter route due to bad weather) and will run the Swissalpine K78 tomorrow. I've almost recovered from the Eiger, just slight pain on my knees. Hopefully it won't cause any trouble tomorrow. 

Stay tuned for the race reports in a few days. 

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Two ultras in 10 days, yet another new experience

I am heading to Switzerland to run the Eiger Ultra Trail E101 and the Swissalpine K78. I have run both these races before. Both were my major goals at the time. This time though I am going to run theses races to prepare myself for the UTMB.

The training has been all right so far. I have trained much more than last year and climbed much higher. The only problem is a slight knee pain that I have since last week. It's kind of weird as it happens when I started tapering. Hopefully it won't cause me any trouble this Saturday. And if it does, it will be a part of the suffering you always experience during an ultra. So there is nothing to be worried about.

My goal time for the Eiger is 22 hours. Last year I did it in 25:12. Considering the amount of training that I had, it should be possible.  I have spent some time analysing the route and set time limits for every check point. Whatever happens I am going to give it all I've got. This is what ultra running is all about, pushing yourself to your limits, and then reach beyond that. It's about moving on when you think you cannot take the very next step. 

A week after the Eiger, I will be at the start line of the Swissalpine K78. The race that means a lot to me. It was on that trail that I ran my first ever marathon (C42 in July 2012) and my first ultra. This time I will run it shortly after the Eiger. So that would be yet another new experience which I cannot wait for. 


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The Eiger E101, The Swissalpine K78 and The UTMB

The title says it all, in the following 11 weeks I will run three ultras. The Eiger Ultra Trail E101, the Swissalpine K78 and the UTMB.

My training is going fairly well and I have three more weeks of intense training before tapering for the Eiger. Last year I finished it in 25 hours and 12 minutes and this year I will try to run it under 22 hours. A week after the Eiger I'll be heading to Davos to run the Swissalpine K78 for my second time. These two races will be my longest training sessions for the UTMB. After the K78 I'll have a week of recovery, two weeks of training and 10 days of tapering.

Now I am analysing the UTMB route. Trying to set a time goal for every check point. I'll try to post more frequently and update you about my training. You can also have a look at my movescount profile or instagram page (both links are in About / Contact tab)

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

One step at a time

The UTMB is now only 15 weeks away and I cannot wait for that. Having said that, there are 15 weeks of intense training ahead and I already feel a bit stressed. 

Training for an ultra is pretty much like running an ultra, both mentally and physically. During an ultramarathon, there are moments - better said "hours" - that you enjoy running. You move forward effortlessly. There are also hours of struggling and pain. There are moments that you seriously question if you can go on, you wonder if you can climb the hill in front of you, sometimes you just thinking of how to take the next step. 
“I always start these events with very lofty goals, like I’m going to do something special.And after a point of body deterioration, the goals get evaluated down to basically where I am now – where the best I can hope for is to avoid throwing up on my shoes.” – Nuclear Engineer and ultrarunner, Ephraim Romesberg, 65 miles into the Badwater Ultramarathon
When you are training for such an event, you have to get out six or seven days a week and run. If there are times that you cannot move forward due to fatigue or an injury, if  you miss a couple of training sessions because of your busy schedule, you probably feel stressed. Then you need to think about the race. You won't run a 100 Miler easily, there are for sure moments of pain and fatigue. You have to be prepared for the physical and mental torture.Everyone has good or bad days. Learn to push yourself as hard as you can on your good days, and to embrace the failure when bad days come.

I've got a couple of long runs planned for this weekend. The first proper back-to-back long runs of the season. Hopefully I'd cover 50km and 3000 meters of elevation. 15 weeks to the UTMB and 8 weeks to the Eiger! There are loads of training to do.

I'll post a weekly update on my training from now on. Take care and stay tuned.