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Corfu Trail Weekend photos

November 14, 2017

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A taste of Corfu Mountain Trail

November 10, 2017

Mountain running in Corfu, Greece is a real treat – especially if you are doing it with the local trail runners who are involved with the Corfu Mountain Trail race. Then you will get to try some of the most beautiful and challenging trails of the island. Instead of the typical touristic relationship we meet as trail runners, sharing the passion for running and exploring trails. In Corfu there are also a few additional perks: the fantastic food, the positive vibe of the people, the cultural and historic heritage, the crystal clear water and of the course the summer climate with 8 months of sunshine.

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The view overlooking Palaiokastritsa bay is stunning, to say the least.

Corfu is a lush island, very green and hilly, I notice flying in from Athens an evening in October. This Mediterranean island is situated just to the right of the heel of Italy’s boot. The first evening we are welcomed by Yannis, the hotel manager of Messonghi Hotel, which is the main sponsor of Corfu Mountain Trail. Yannis brings us to a traditional restaurant in a cosy fishing village nearby. We also get to say hello to the race directors who join us. The food is excellent. Greek salad with fresh feta cheese; grilled pulpo; fried squid, moules, grilled fish… just to mention a few dishes. The greeks really know how to enjoy life.

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The 104k race starts in Ipsos, north of Kerkyra, and finishes in Messonghi on Corfu’s south-east coast. 

Next day we meet up for a trail run at race director Vasileios Alamanos’ butchery shop in Corfu Town. Withing a few minutes several of his trail running friends join in. Vasileios tells that there were 650 participants totally in the 2017 edition and that approximately 50% are greek. Today’s run cover a portion of the 104K race course on the wild and dramatic northwest coast. The trail is technical with many rocks and bushes with thorns that rip legs and arms. You need to focus on your footing. A fellow journalist from France twists his ankle after just a few minutes on the gnarly trail. The view overlooking Palaiokastritsa bay is stunning, to say the least, with turquoise lagoons. We pass the old, sleepy mountain village Lakones (at km50) with narrow streets. Very romantic and picturesque. Further down at Liapades we pass some of the most beautiful beaches of the island. ”Look here, wild Rosemary” says Jefis, one of the local runners. At Gefira Beach a dog makes us company, in true spirit of trail running. Here the trail is densely vegetated and partly quite daunting, following a ledge 40 meters above the crystal clear lagoon. This is certainly not a place where you want to stumble and fall. Coming back to the beach we all have various cuts and scratches but we are very happy. Vasileios suggests we finish the day with a beer in the sunset at the viewpoint a bit further up the mountain.

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The 104 km race course follows many of Corfu’s most beautiful beaches.

The next morning we meet again in Vasileios’ shop in Kerkyra. Today Jefis and Nikos will be our guides showing us the first part of the 104K course, starting in the port of Ipsos, a little further up the eastern coast. Our mission is to ascend to the highest point of the island, Pantokratoras 940m. Late October marks the harvest season for olives. Two old women are checking out their trees. Jefis, from a village inland of Ipsos, tells that he use to make olive oil for his family and friends. ”It’s a hard job, but I believe it’s worth it.” The gravel trail leads us up to the traditional village of Spartylas, famous for its Ouzo.

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Classic bar in Spartylas. In mid October I was invited to Corfu, Greece for an introduction to Corfu Mountain Trail Race April 14-15 2018. My ambition will be to participate in the longest course: Night & Day Trail 104K with +4200 m elevation, and after having run parts of the course I know I will need to be strong, very strong, just to finish. The race course is very challenging with technical trails, steep climbs and descents, but also very beautiful with stunning views of this historic island and the Adriatic sea, passing through traditional villages of northern Corfu and all the beaches of the western coastline. All races finish at the Hotel Akti Messoghi, which is the main sponsor, in the village of Messoghi on the south-east part of the island, approx 30 min drive south of Corfu Town (Kerkyra). This 3-star resort is also where participants from abroad will be lodged.

”The trick, Jefis explains, is to drink your ouzo fast and then leave, otherwise there will be another round, and another…” Above Spartylas the view is breathtaking but the ascending gradually gets more and more serious: the technical trail with continuous changes of the terrain pass through lush jungle vegetation and climbs over sharp lava rocks. Actually it doesn’t get more technical than this. Slightest mistake will be painful – in the best case… Considering the race starts at 7pm the participants will have to cover this difficult section as darkness falls. ”During my training for the RUT Ultra (Greece’s most famous ultra-trail) I did this climb every weekend. I believe it helped me a lot.” Jefis explains. We make a short photo stop at the ruins of an old abandoned church, overlooking the calm blue Ionian Sea, the jagged eastern coastline of Corfu and the pink hills of Albania, from a distance seemingly void of vegetation. The next part up to Pantokratoras is gently ascending, however at parts the lava rock surface prevents any attempts to running. At the top of the treeless landscape of rocks and pastures there is a monastery, with a bar and a souvenir shop. It’s evidently a popular tourist point. The view of Albania, just a few kilometres away, is impressive. ”During winter, Jefis explains, ”sometimes this peak is totally isolated by low clouds, fierce winds and thunder storms.” There is a mystic atmosphear inside the tiny, simple chapell. You can imagine what it is like here when the electricity breaks down, with hammering winds and whipping rain. During winter Jefis, who use to work as a bartender at a friends bar, try to make some travels. ”We have 8 months of sun and 4 months of rain. It’s a green island. The water reserve usually last until June.” Below the mountain peak we cut into an almost invisible trail that will take us to the traditional village of Palia Peritheia. The trail is surrounded by thorns that rip legs, arms and sometimes even the chest. Jefis stops and pick some wild oregano. ”Prior the race in April, me and Nikos use to clear the trail. Now it’s a bit overgrown.” For a 58 year old Nikos has a young appearance. It’s almost impossible to outrun him on the trail. Appearenly he has some kind of army background, he is very religious and is living a pure life when it comes to food: he cultivates, collects or hunts all his food.

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Francois-Xavier, Jefis and Paolo enjoying an excellent lunch in Perithea after the run.

After some detours we finally reach Palia Perithea at km 12, the first central food station in the race. It’s a village made of stones and according to National Geographic, one of the 20 least unexplored places of the world. Our guides have booked a big table on the terrace, shaded by a roof of vines. Cold drinks, like home made ginger beer, and an assortment of local delicatessen arrives. ”Here, just like in other remote villages, you eat better, compared to the typical tourist fare. Everything is produced or has grown here: the olive oil, the honey, the feta cheese, the vegetables, the meat… ” Jeffrey explains. I must admit that I appreciate meals like this as much as I enjoy running on beautiful trails. Three different cakes round up the delicious lunch. It seems that there is no limit for how much we can eat. Mountain running makes you hungry, but also dirty and sweaty, not to forget putting a smile on your face. Coming here, running the mountain trails together with the local trail runners, sharing the fantastic food and the breathtaking views of this beautiful island, is indeed a very nice way to experience Corfu.

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Jefis, Fredrik, Balázs, Francois-Xavier, Nikos, Gaël and Paolo

And: when you visit Corfu – don’t miss an evening in Corfu Town, it’s very beautiful. Many thanks to Yannis, Vasileios, Adrienne, Costas, Jean-Paul, Jeffrey, Nikos and all the others working with Corfu Mountain Trail. Also thanks to Gaël for bringing me. See you in April!

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Race director Vasileios Alamanos enjoying the rather technical trail.

Facts: Night & Day Trail 104 Km
Start: 14 April 2018 at 7pm in Ipsos Port, Corfu
Closing: 15 April 2018 at 4pm Hotel Messonghi
Ascent/descent: +4110m/–4110m
80% un-paved trails
The first year 2017: 53 finishers out of 67 starting
The course record of the 104K race is approx 12 hours.
Entry Fee 60USD (early reg.)
No prize money
Finishers get 5 ITRA-points
But you can also opt for the shorter distances: Rain Trail 40K +1800m and Olive Tree Trail 19K +1200m.
http://www.corfumountaintrail.com

Strong line-up in MaXi-Race Ultra 110 km

May 26, 2017

Annecy

The MaXi-Race has become an unmissable event in the trail running calendar, this year bringing together over 7000 runners in 10 races of all levels. New for 2017 is the ULTRA-RACE – 110km in 30 hours with 7000 metres of elevation gain. The ultra-trail race starts at 01:30 am on May 28.
500 volunters also play a crucial role in this giant mountain running event that marks the start of the Alpine trail racing calendar.

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Partly thanks to new official sponsors Salomon and Gore-Tex the line-up for the 2017 edition of the 110 km ultra-race includes big names like Francois d’Haene, Dakota Jones, Max King, Andrea Huser, Caroline Chaverot and Francesca Canepa.

After six successful years of collaboration with Tecnica, the next three years will continue with Salomon, the market leader in trail running. In association with Gore-Tex®. MaXi-Race in Annecy is the original event, an event that has spread all around the world: China, Ecuador and South Africa.

”Our concept is mountains and water, and circumnavigating the beautiful Annecy lake is congenial”, says world class ultra-trail runner Cyril Cointre of the Maxi-Race Team. ”After the race you will see many runners cooling-off in the lake, but make no mistake, he adds: the race course is Very tough with several long, steep and technical descents.”

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The Maxi-Race long courses circumnavigates the stunning Annecy lake. Photo credits Maxi-Race

For the runners the current heatwave with temperatures reaching 30°C during the day will for sure pose a tough challenge. It will be very important to hydrate properly, and the race organisation has changed the required minimum of carried fluids from 1 litre to 1,5 litre.

Thanks partly to Salomon having invited many world class runners, this year is set to be an exceptional event. In the 110 K Ultra-Trail,the big favourite is François D’Haene, multiple winner of the l’UTMB®, the Grand Raid de la Réunion and winning Madeira ultra-trail earlier this spring with a big margin to 2nd place Xavier Thevenard. Alongside them will be a selection of the best runners in the world, namely in the men’s, Dakota Jones, winner of the NF San Francisco and Transvulcania, Courtney Dauwalter, winner of the 2016 Javelina Hundred and Run Rabbit and Max King. Jules Henri Gabioud of Switzerland and Julien Navarro of France will also be contenders for the podium.

The competition amongst the ladies will be just as fierce, with Andrea Huser (Switzerland) 2nd in the UTMB® and the UTWT in 2016 and the 2017 Transgrancanaria in stiff competition with Caroline Chaverot. Francesca Canepa of Italy, winner of the Tor des Géants will be a strong outsider! Follow the race live on http://www.maxi-race.net/fr/page-live-salomon-gore-tex-maxi-race/

Swedish participants: This ultra-trail race will also be my own comeback to ultra-trail racing after 8 years. My bib number is 175. Swedish participant Anders Widegren, a former world class adventure racer, has bib number 85. Magnus Andersson has bib No 41. Triathlete Sussi Lorinder has bib No 40. But unfortunately Swedish top runner Mimmi Kotka will not start due to injury. Petter Restorp runs the 83 km course with bib No 10045. Jonas Paurell runs the 42 km course with bib No 4088.

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4km to 111km, the Salomon Gore-Tex® MaXi-Race comprises ten different races over three days, from 26 to 28 May. “Developed by runners, for runners”, all the race formats on offer are open to amateur and elite athletes alike and give each participant the freedom to choose the appropriate distance. This 7th edition is already a major event in the trail running calendar. There will be an impressive international line-up for the event around lake Annecy, in the all new 110km route, the 83km and the 42k

 

 

Dags att utveckla löptekniken

August 18, 2016

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Foto Fredrik Ölmqvist.

Det är först när du vet vad du håller på med som du kan förändra löpningen i positiv riktning. Löpteknik handlar inte, som många tror, bara om att ‘landa på framfoten’. I själva verket är det ju en mängd saker som sker samtidigt, och som vi kan lära oss att styra med bättre precision. I arbetet med löptekniken ägnar vi uppmärksamhet också åt hållning, kroppslutning, stegfrekvens, muskelminne, hur rörelserna känns, avslappning, studs, med mera. Men det blir inte bra om det bara blir teknik. Rörelserna skall kännas mjuka och naturliga. Feelingen är kärnan. Feelingen är du. Tekniken är hjälpmedlen du kan experimentera med för att hitta och hålla kvar den lätta, mjuka löpkänslan.

Det finns många anledningar till att springa. Med bättre uthållighet får du mer energi både för arbete och fritid. Bättre kondition innebär också ett starkare immunförsvar. Dessutom håller fysisk träning hjärnan ung, samt hjälper oss att hantera stress. Regelbunden löpträning avlägsnar också eventuella överflödskilon och håller kroppen lätt och ung.

Trots uppenbara vinster tycker många att det är svårt att upprätthålla löpträningen, något som förstås blir ännu svårare om man inte tycker om att springa, eller ens känner sig bekväm i sin löpning. Det är sannerligen inte helt enkelt att springa utan krav, förväntningar och jämförelser. Men det går faktiskt! Om du inte tycker om att springa kan jag rekommendera att utforska denna den mentala sidan av löpning. Istället för tid och distans kan löpningen handla om att få kontakt med varje del i sin kropp och vara uppmärksam på dina tankar och känslor.

Som löpcoach är det min uppgift att visa saker som kan underlätta löpningen. Med bättre löpteknik blir löpekonomin bättre, dvs. det krävs mindre energi för att ta dig framåt. Med bättre kunskap om löpmekanik kommer löpningen också att upplevas mer meningsfull. Genom att fylla på med lättare komplementträning för extra styrka förbättras förutsättningarna ytterligare.

Jag brukar säga till mina klienter att de får en ’verktygslåda med verktyg’ av mig. I denna verktygslåda ingår även alternativa perspektiv på löpning. Oavsett om det är prestation eller själva löpupplevelsen som är ditt syfte kommer löpcoachingen att ge ahá-upplevelser och redskap som kan förgylla ditt löparliv. Faktum är att de flesta av mina klienter aldrig tidigare fått några instruktioner för bättre löpteknik. Och att försöka ‘springa på framfoten’ kommer inte att leda dig på rätt spår. Att, som vissa, förlita sig på barfotaliknande skor med tunn sula och noll dropp kommer heller inte lära dig att lära dig springa med bra teknik. Du skall veta vad du gör och varför, och kunna springa bra med i princip alla skor, gummistövlar inkluderat.

Däremot är rätt sko en bra början. Med rätt löparsko för dina fötter och dina biomekaniska behov kommer löpningen att kännas bättre, i bästa fall ‘fantastisk’, och du kommer att kunna undvika löprelaterade skadebesvär i högre utsträckning. Om du springer mycket och t ex tränar inför ett långlopp kan jag varmt rekommendera en grundlig utprovning av löparskor. Men vad som är rätt sko för dig kan vara svårt att själv avgöra. Därför samarbetar jag med löpskoexperterna på Löp & Sko Kliniken i Göteborg som alltid säljer löpskor utifrån en grundlig utprovning på spegellåda och löpband.

En grundkurs 120 min Löpcoaching innehåller:
Videoanalys före & efter, skriftlig löpanalys, grundlig genomgång av löpteknik, löpskolningsövningar, funktionella övningar för bättre löpstyrka och rörlighet, pdf-fil med alla moment.
Vid ev. ytterligare tillfällen slipar vi på tekniken, kör fler övningar, går igenom olika fartpass, löpteknik uppför och utför etc.
För dig som vill ge bort löpcoaching i present finns det presentkort för 1, 2 eller 3 tillfällen.

Kort presentation:
Fredrik Ölmqvist, löpcoach & frilansskribent & föredragshållare (specialiserad på löpning och hälsa). Har sprungit aktivt i 18 år och bl a fullföljt äventyrliga traillopp som Marathon des Sables, Jungle Marathon, och Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc. Varit verksam som löpcoach för privatpersoner, mindre grupper och företag i ca 5 år.

 

Elisabet Barnes vann Big Red Run

July 2, 2016

Svenska ultralöparen Elisabet Barnes blev totalsegrare i etapploppet Big Red Run i Australien: 25 mil fördelat på sex etapper. Elisabet, som slog igenom 2015 då hon relativt okänd vann Marathon des Sables, visade återigen att hon behärskar etapplopp i ökenmiljö.

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Elisabet Barnes visade klass och var snabbast av alla, på samtliga etapper.

Hur var loppet?
– Big Red Run är ett lopp med god stämning och kamratskap och alla stöttar varandra oavsett ambition och förmåga. Vi hade väldigt kul i lägret. Terrängen är relativt lättsprungen och består av dirt roads, sanddyner, steniga platåer och ojämn, sandig terräng mellan the parallella sanddynerna. Det var ett speciellt år då det hade fallit mycket regn så öknen var grön och det var mycket vegetation. Detta är väldigt ovanligt och ett privilegium att få se även om jag hade förväntat mig ett torrare och mer typiskt ökenlandskap. Loppet gick bra för mig: jag gick ut relativt snabbt dag 1 och höll min ledning genom hela loppet.

Vad var svårast?
– Dag 2 var tuff. Det regnade under natten och öknen förvandlades till lervälling. Det var den typ av lera som fastnar under skorna och stundtals sprang jag med kilotunga lerklumpar under fötterna!

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– Överlag så var det ett positivt lopp för min del. Det är klart att man alltid har några low points under den långa etappen (Dag 5 – 84km) men det var inga motgångar som så. Hade regnet fortsatt efter Dag 2 vet jag inte om det hade varit så kul! Dag 3 blev inställd på grund av regnet eftersom inga fordon kunde ta sig fram för att märka banan eller placera ut check points. Jag spenderade nog minst två timmar på att skrapa lera från mina skor den dan och göra dem brukbara igen för dan efter.

Vilka var dina framgångsfaktorer?
– Jag sprang varje dag utan att tänka alltför mycket på följande dagar. Detta lönade sig eftersom vi fick en oväntad vilodag Dag 3. Detta var också ett lopp som passade mig med en hel del löpning på väg och inte alltför tekniskt. Jag var mer eller mindre tvungen att gå ut hårt Dag 5 för att säkerställa segern och min förmåga att upprätthålla min styrka och fart hjälpte mig att vinna den etappen med god marginal och loppet som helhet. Jag åt bra och hade tid till återhämtning mellan etapperna. Att ha en daglig rutin hjälper också för lopp som detta.

High points?
– Lägerlivet som helhet var fantastiskt, och att få springa i en sådan unik miljö och besöka Australiens outback. När regnet väl slutade hade vi en solid vilodag följd av en stjärnklar natt och även om det blev ganska kallt så var himlen spektakulär. Att springa i mål som vinnare är ju så klart en high point också!

Har du något särskilt minne från loppet du vill dela med dig av?
– Oj, det är många minnen. Jag tycker alltid det är inspirerande i sådana här lopp att stanna uppe och se folk komma över mållinjen efter den långa etappen. Att springa in 8.5 timmar är ju ingen konst. Det är de som är ute dubbelt så länge och mer som verkligen behöver ha den mentala styrkan att komma över linjen.

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I mars i år vann Didrik Transgrancanaria. Med andraplatsen på Western States etablerar han sig definitivt som en av världens bästa ultratraillöpare. Det skall bli spännande att följa honom under UTMB i slutet av augusti. Foto: Fredrik Ölmqvist

Övrigt:
100-mileloppet Western States 25-26 juni. I sitt första försök tog den norske ultralöparen Didrik Hermansen en imponerande andraplats i klassiska Western States Endurance Run i Kalifornien på 16 tim och 16 minuter. Det var första gången Didrik fullföljde ett 100-milelopp. Vann gjorde blott 20-årige Andrew Miller, som knappast tillhörde förhandsfavoriterna. Jim Walmsley, som länge ledde loppet på rekordtid, klarade inte att hålla den höga farten och sprang dessutom fel vid mile 93, och klappade igenom totalt. Jämfört med de flesta större ultra-traillopp i Europa är WSER betydligt mer snabbsprunget. Den kanske största svårigheten är att det är väldigt varmt, uppemot 35-40°C. För att kyla ner sig väljer deltagarna att lägga sig i bäckarna utmed banan.

Till norska löpartidningen Kondis kommenterade Didrik sitt lopp.
–Jag bestemte meg for å løpe mitt eget løp i det jeg følte var fornuftig fart fra start. Var usikker på hvordan jeg kom til å takle løpingen i høyden. Første 50 km gikk på ca 2400 meters høyde. Etter hvert går løpet ned i lavlandet og de beryktede cayonene som er bratte og ekstremt varme. Føler jeg takler varmen bra foreløpig. Kommer opp av cayonene etter 55 miles. Da kjennes varmen ytterligere og et langt lettløpt parti i sola står for tur.

Varmen var en virkelig utfordring
–Jeg gleder meg mer og mer til elvekryssingen, en stor elv som må forseres med delvis smeltevann. Fantastisk avkjølende. Hele løpet løp jeg med isbiter i ermer, caps og halstørkle. Alt for å prøve å kjøle meg ned, fortsätter Didrik.

– På 80 miles begynte jeg virkelig å få det. Slet med å få i meg mat og drikke og varmen var ekstrem. Jeg la meg ned i alle bekker og etter hvert små pytter på leting etter noe kjølende. Kilometrerne går sakte, den siste biten og ja, bakkene må gås på slutten. Også fordi jeg da visste ingen kom bak og jeg var ferdig fysisk og mentalt.

Andra resultat från ultratrail och bergslopp:
Ida Nilsson följde upp segern på Transvulcania och vann Mt Blanc Marathon på 4:46. Som brukligt sista helgen i juni avgjordes ett flertal bergslopp i Chamonix. Norge visade sin styrka inte minst i Vertical Kilometre-klassen där Stian Angermund Vik vann herrklassen och Hilde Aders vann damklassen. Yngvild Kaspersen vann dessutom 23 km-klassen, där Hilde Aders kom tvåa.
André Jonsson kom sexa i Livigno Skymarathon, och Jonas Buud kämpade sig igenom Lavaredo Ultra-trail, där han kom 7:a. Så här skrev Jonas på sin facebooksida: “En 7 plats är ju godkänt. Men mitt lopp är långt ifrån godkänt. Riktigt stum i den andra långa backen. Tog över 2 timmar innan det började släppa så jag kunde springa lite igen. Sista långa backen ville aldrig ta slut, backkrön efter backkrön.
Tre punkter att träna vidare på:
1 springa en backe på 1000 höjdmeter, 2 springa en backe på 1000 höjdmeter, 3 springa en backe på 1000 höjdmeter
Svårt att bli bra på något som man inte tränar på.
Nu blir det full träning mot Ultravasan, den miljön kan jag ju träna i varje dag.”

 

 

 

 

 

Running on the edge

June 23, 2016
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After the long, cold night. Andy Symonds (Scott) descending from Roque Nublo with burning quads.

TransGranCanaria ultra-trail 125 km is a seriously tough race.

By Fredrik Ölmqvist

At the start line in Agaete on the Friday evening something wasn’t right with Jonas Buud. You could see it in his eyes. An insecurity. A hint of weakness. Like he shouldn’t be there. What we didn’t know was that the swede since a few days had suffered from a cramping-like stiffness in the leg area, more precisely the area of the stress fracture that stopped him from running for several months in the beginning of 2015. The day before the start the stiffness had spread to the neck and right shoulder. Getting prepared for departure to the race start he considered his chances to finish the race less than 2 %. This was not going to be the perfect Jonas Buud race we have seen in Ultravasan, in Tarawera and of course at the 100K world championship in the Netherlands 2015 the past fall. Make no mistake, Jonas knows very well that more runnable courses suits him much better than Transgrancanaria, which is considered as a very technical course, with steep climbs requiring more walking than running. His participation in a technical race like TGC is primarly for learning and to develop, to become a more complete runner.

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A worried Jonas Buud (Asics) before the start.

Agaete is a cosy village on the north-west coast of Gran Canaria. Compared to the hot and sunny south this part of the island is battered by bitterly chilly northern winds sweeping up the mountains during winter. Mentally you need to be prepared for this.
The event has grown steadily since the start in 2003 amassing international media attention. For the 2016 edition TransGranCanaria had attracted a strong international line-up, partly as an effect of being part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, where runners assemble their top points from maximum three races. Notable runners were: Andy Symonds, Nuria Picas, Long-Fei, Seth Swanson, Julien Chorier, Seb Chaigneau Caroline Chaverot, just to name a few.

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In his bubble: Didrik Hermansen (far left, orange singlet). In the limelight: Gediminas Grinius(1), Nuria Picas(2), Tim Tollefson(28) and Seb Chaigneau(10).

Among the elite runners at the front of the starting line Jonas’ Asics team mate Didrik Hermansen looks relaxed and composed, silently watching Gediminas Grinius, the winner of last years edition. The Lithuanian pose for the press photographers with raised arms, playing the extrovert role that amass likes on social media, but likely it only fuels Didrik’s desire to prove his aquired strenght, because this is what TransGranCanaria is all about. Strong legs. The steep descends and technical trails will eventually trash your legs, elite athletes included. After his second place 2015 Didrik Hermansen is here to win. After months of thourough preparation he is quite confident, although he knows that the field is considerably stronger this year, including a Gediminas in peak fitness and the 100K world champion Jonas Buud. Didrik knows of course of Jonas’ predicament. Actually Didrik’s accompanying friend Jörund happened to be a chiropractor and had given Jonas a much appreciated treatment before the start, which has done wonders for Buud’s back and neck. Even if they aren’t training partners, they know eachother well and Didrik has podium finishes behind Jonas in Ultravasan, the 90K ultra-trail along the classic Vasaloppet nordic skiing course in Jonas’ home region. It’s a race where Jonas has two consecutive victories and Jonas himself considers his 2015 race, where he won in 5:45, his best race ever. A perfect race, on a runnable course, which is right up his sleeve.

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A shattered Andy Symonds trying to enjoy his post-race beer, and Jonas Buud’s struggle is finally over after 14H22.

But TransGranCanaria is a completely different kind of race. Although situated on sunny Canary Islands with finish in Maspalomas, this race isn’t the least about leisure. Make no mistake TransGranCanaria 125 is very VERY tough on the legs. Only approx 50% of the participants finish. The rocky trails works the muscles from all directions. Like putting the legs into a stone crusher. You only need to see Ian Corless’ picture of Anton Krupicka efter his finish in 2015. Sitting on a chair with an empty gaze, void after having endured hours of suffering, trying to figure out what’s left of him. Jonas Buud’s facial expression after the finish is one of a survivor, like he just came out from a war zone. While he endured the course he looks at least 10, maybe 20 years older than his 40. Normally Jonas Buud is tall, lean and elegant, with a faint resemblance of Harrison Ford. He has class and perseverance and he is not one to withdraw without very strong reasons. Symptomatically he gritted through the punishing course. Still standing he greets a horisontal and likewise shattered Andy Symonds who took 5th. They ran together much of the course but Buud’s legs just wasn’t there. To manage this course you have to do your homework, which is lots and lots of uphill trekking and steep descending, preferably on the gnarliest trails possible. Jonas Buud didn’t and he, just as most, had to pay the consequences. Suffering. Burning quads. Dark thoughts. Agony. Desperation. Beyond hope. For the runners TransGranCanaria has nothing to do with hope. It’s all about staying power.

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Jonas Buud at the finish.

Mental strenght is Gediminas Grinius ace. He was once in a place where running saved him. Suffering from depression as an effect of post-traumatic stress from his military experiences he started running on his doctor’s advice, to enable an escape from haunting memories. And the longer he ran the easier it got, he told photojournalist Ian Corless in his podcast ’Talk Ultra’. ”When you have been to hell in real life with the potential for death or in the dark depression of post-traumatic stress, the challenges of enduring the hardships of a 125K race are put in perspective, says Ian Corless, a former elite cyclist and keen trail runner with many ultra-trails under his belt. He is intrigued by the unpredictability of the sport.

”Fitness in any endurance event will only take you so far, but in the end the mental strenght is what actually will make you finish. The biggest problem with ultra runners however, is that they are so good at turning off the physical signals.” One tragic example is pro cyclist Tim Simpson who actually died from a heart attack on Mont Ventoux while cycling, He died on his bike and the doping had made him into a machine, feeling invincable.” Another recent example is Swedish runner Johan Lantz in TransGranCanaria 2015. Despite horrendous pain from a stress fracture he pushed himself to the limit. He was in superb shape, easiliy outrunning both Sondre Amdahl (4th 2015) and Didrik Hermansen while training on the course prior the race. TGC 2015 was supposed to be his great debut on the international ultra-trail scene, but it nearly ended his running carriere. He was in 3rd place when his right leg just snapped under him and he collapsed onto the ground while running on the tarmac in Tejeda, some 70K into the race. The femur bone was completely broken. The doctors gave him slim chances to ever run again, primarly as a consequence of the initial failed surgery in Las Palmas. But thanks to skilled Swedish surgeons Johan is now training with obsessive determination focused on his second debut at TransGranCanaria 2017.

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One of his aces: Asics ambassador Didrik Hermansen’s ability to descend fast on technical trail

Initially Hermansen and Buud ran together but 5 hours into the race Jonas has to let go of Didrik. He doesn’t dare to keep the same pace, especially downhill. Being 100K world champion on road or even the undisputed king of the runnable 90K ’Ultravasan’ is no guarantee. TGC 125 has +8000 metres of steep climbs, and 8000m of steep descends – mostly on technical trail. Jonas Buud’s quads suffer in the descends, normally one of his strong assets and one that helped him to win Swiss Alpine Marathon eight consecutive times. His major goal this year is Comrades, a completely different race where you run all the time and where Buud’s unique endurance and excellent running economy makes him a podium contender. But in TGC you spend more time walking than running. In walking or speed hiking you use different muscles. You can’t win the TGC if you haven’t prepared your quads properly for the massive descents. Reaching the highest point of the race Pico del las Nieves at approx 85 K Jonas still feels fairly fresh but in the following descent his legs have no desire whatsoever to run downhill. He is ’hobbling like a scared old man’ only to see Andy Symonds, who he had been running with for a while, dissappear in front of him.

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Superior. Caroline Chaverot (Hoka) won the female category with a 2 hour margin.

At Roque de Nuble french runner Aurilien Collet still has the lead but the looks tired, and he’s being chased. Gediminas and Didrik are hot on his heels, steadily working their way up to the front of the race. Before the race Gediminas has said that he’s much stronger this year than last year. Just like Didrik he appears leaner. None of them are newbies anylonger. After last years 2nd place Didrik went on to win Lavaredo in the Dolomites, another prestigious ultra-trail. They know eachother well, having trained together on Gran Canaria. The pace increases. Gediminas tries to pull away uphill but is soon caught in the descent.,. With his ability to descend fast on technical terrain Didrik runs into first place in the downhills to Ayagares, some 25 km before the finish. At the last food station he gambles and only grabs something to drink, while Gediminas spends three minutes eating. Gediminas ability to suffer can’t prevent Didrik from being the faster runner. Without knowing exactly where Gediminas is, Didrik pushes hard all the way to the finish in Meloneras. He has given everything and he’s running on the edge of what his body can handle. After Garanon he hasn’t been able to eat anything, just to drink. Coming down from the mountains has also meant it’s got much hotter. Running through the cheering crowd the final metres before the finish line as number one – this is moment he’s been training for with 100 % focus since previous year. Through the winter, many, many cold traning sessions in darkness. Crossing the finish he can’t hold back the emotions and exhaustion.

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Didrik Hermansen coming to terms with his achievement.

Realizing the suffering is over and that he’s made it for a split second his face turns into a cry. But just as quickly he composes himself and returns to the smiling, humble athlete. Overjoyed he gives his wife a long, big hug. Sharing the victory. Thankful. Gediminas arrives just three minutes behind. Looking strong. Happily hugging his kids. While the top runners arrive, one more shattered then the other, Didrik has to work hard to stay on his feet. He can’t anylonger control his body with his mind. During an interview he has to excuse himself before he rushes aside and vomit. Another side of the victory, curled-up in the grass behind the sponsor banners, now covered by a survival blanket, utterly weak and drained. He is brought to hospital on a stretcher and treated with IV-fluids due to extreme dehydration. It was a tough race to win.

Getting fit for the mountain

May 26, 2016

By Fredrik Ölmqvist
Peak fitness is paramount to succeed, and there are no shortcuts. Time spent at the gym or in action in the outdoors will take you closer to your goal, wheather it’s finishing your first ultra-trail, setting an FKT or pulling off your dream expedition.

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Photo credit: The North Face

The North Face Mountain Athletics is a concept with extra durable training clothes and a training app that helps you to evolve in the right direction, according to the time plan. The North Face product development team realised that their outdoor athletes not only needed outstanding performance outerwear for physical activities, in all kinds of mountain conditions. They also needed extra durable training clothes that could stand extraordinary wear and tear in crossfit exercises like pulling car tyres, sliding up and down climbing ropes, or carrying rocks – like ultra runner Jez Bragg does to strenghten core and upper body.

The design team went to the Mountain Athletics gym in Jackson Hole, where mountain guides, alpine climbers and professional free-skiiers workout to get in peak shape during pre-season. The training methods were much rougher on the clothes than the ’normal’ city-gym session. Thus, new, stronger materials with re-inforced seams was developed and eventually tested by TNF’s own athletes.

The new clothing line Mountain Athletics is very functional and basic. There is no rocket science. Basics fabrics. Flash Dry has been around for some years now. But they have just been well thought out. All the stitching is nicely flat-locked to avoid rubbing, if you’re let’s say carrying sandbags. And they have been moved to an area where they aren’t going to bother you. Generally the T-shirts, especially for the girls, are cut slightly longer, so you’re not going to show off you belly doing pull-ups.

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James Pearson. Photo Fredrik Ölmqvist

 

With The North Face gear your more than well equipped to go into the mountains. What TNF is doing with Mountain Athletics is ticking the box of the necessary preparations.
– The exercises we do in the gym are very different than going in the fitness gym. Normal training clothes will eventually fall apart. So you need strong, well fitting clothes, explained renowned British climber James Pearson at the European launch event of Mountain Athletics in London earlier this spring. According to Pearson TNF’s new line of clothing, focusing on the training side of the outdoor achievements, is telling a human and true side of the story that has been forgotten.
– It’s been designed for climbers and skiers and runners, and for all the exercises we do all the time. For me personally, simply by going in this direction, I feel like it’s one of the most pure and hones moves that TNF has done in recent times, because training is boring, and ultimately when you’re on your own, in the gym. No one r e a l l y likes training. But you have to, because you want to be able to go out there, into the outdoors and realise your dreams. Before, the training side of our life, was forgotten about. It was like, ’look here are these fantastic athletes. They are superpeople. They just go and do these amazing things all the time’, except there was 50-60 % of our life took place in gyms, where we were sweating, suffering.

After having enjoyed the natural progression James Pearson reached a plateau where he didn’t really develop as a climber, no matter if he increased his training. He realised that he had to change something. So in recent years he has started to do more cross-training style training, mainly indoor. To be able to perform the difficult climbs he was dreaming about his only option was working on his weaknesses.
– As you get older, the body doesn’t react as well as it used to, and you’ll need to work extra. Another option is trying new training methods, learning to train in a way to make the whole body, stronger, stabilizing the whole body. For me as a climber it has generally meant working more on the antagonistic systems, the ones that climbing forgets, like stretching out the fingers with therabands in the opposite direction. Doing it 15-20 minutes a day really helps avoiding finger injuries.

James Pearson’s top training tips:

“Always start your training session with a warm up. This is especially important for those who carry an injury.”

“Plan the session and stick to the program. It’s important to have clear goals in order to make every training session effective.”

“Hydration is vital and training sessions can get intense, so make sure you are ready in advance.”

Nowadays James travel the world with his girlfriend searching for new cutting edge traditional climbing routes, like the one he found in South Africa, one that defied both belief and gravity, and one that he had to go back home and work for. Long time. Hard work.
– As outdoor athletes we’re obliged to train because the world of an outdoor athlete is advancing soo fast that nowadays if you’re not training, if you’re not spending the majority of your time physically preparing yourself you’re getting left behind.

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Fernanda Maciel, Photo: The North Face

Brasilian ultratrail-runner Fernanada Maciel is another TNF athlete that has been working out with the Mountain Athletics garments the past year and using the Mountain Atletics App, a training tool designed to help reaching your goals. In Fernanda’s case the primary focus the past winter was her speed record attempt of ascending and descending Aconcagua 6962m in February, when she set a new speed record: 22h52min. Getting prepared for the objective meant very hard work: walking and running up and down in a technical terrrain with lots of snow, rivers, rocks, muddy and strong wind.
– This experience was completely different for me. I had to learn how go up slowly for my body assimilate the high altitute and pression without oxygen.
Her training also included carrying some weight (10kg) until 6.000m (19.800 ft) from base camp and back. She also ran up and down long stairs and performed various indoor and outdoor exercises to keep the whole body strong.
– For confidence on exposed trails it was necessary to get strong quadriceps, ankles and to have a good proprioception. In high altitude we loose lots of muscles, so my objective with the indoor training was to keep my back, arms and legs strong, to endure long days in the high mountains.
In order to get a balanced and strong body Fernanda performed various exercises: squats, stretching, carrying weight while running a few meters, carrying ropes, working the abs, the human flag, dragon fly movements, etc. As an ultra runner she has become aware of the many benefits of an overall fitness in terms of performance, avoiding injury and recovery.
– Two years ago I twisted my ankle and had to learn the right exercises to get a good balance, which meant doing proprioception exercises to strenghten my ankles. So I learned to value these simple exercises. to be able to practice sports outdoor they are in fact they the most important.