Tune of the day: Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth – It’s Not a Game (Instrumental Version)
Read of the day: Cathal Dennehy: Welcome to the age of the super shoes
Tune of the day: Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth – It’s Not a Game (Instrumental Version)
Sometimes it gives the impression that not too much has happened this last year. Notwithstanding, the time undoubtedly passed away quickly. Though I hate the term “the new normal”, it feels strange that in comparably monotonous times, the time is essentially moving pretty fast. At least that is what it feels like to me. And so, it did since the last time I sat down to reassess the past twelve months. Despite the fact that the Corona ponderings are not getting quieter, I’m certainly over it.
That doesn’t mean that I do not respect and treat it seriously, I mean it is more important than ever to continue and focus on what’s right in front. And whereas a lot of people seem to fight with a limited lifestyle we still have to retell ourselves that the most people who read this chunk of internet, are in a fortunate position and probably haven’t had to deal with much restrictiveness in life. Essentially that is a good thing and somewhat that we need to retell ourselves and focus on positives. Although it now and then seems to hard to find, it is still there. That doesn’t mean that I do not respect and treat it seriously, I mean it is more important than ever to continue and focus on what’s right in front. And whereas a lot of people seem to fight with a limited lifestyle we still have to retell ourselves that the most people who read this chunk of internet, are in a fortunate position and probably haven’t had to deal with much restrictiveness in life. Essentially that is a good thing and somewhat that we need to retell ourselves and focus on positives. Although it now and then seems to hard to find, it is still there.
To reflect and prompt myself on what has occurred I try to reflect on my sporting happenings once a year. Like inscribed previously, I used to do that recurrently but with less time on hand one post per year need to do. And this is the one.
Number 1 – ÖTILLÖ SwimRun Catalina
Earlier than ever I got sucked into the racing spell with the first ÖtillÖ competition in America on Catalina Island. What feels like luck now, was just one big coincidence. I wrote a bigger blog about the race in California which can be found HERE. My family and I were fortunate to get one of the last planes out of Los Angeles before the first big shut down set in. Robin and I couldn’t take part in the Ötillö World Champs for apparent reasons. The week after she knew that it is impossible to travel over to Sweden from the US, the competition got cancelled. First time in history.
Then the big Corona break set in. Not so much in Sweden as the country chose to take a more liberal take on the whole thing. But still most races got cancelled and that meant that there was a lot of training on the schedule. That wasn’t too bad, and it appears that I never really lost inspiration. We organized some unsanctioned 5.000 and 10.000 club champs on the local track to keep things candid and daily training went on as normal.
Number 2 – YO Super Sprint Triathlon
As a group we even managed to get some triathlon action going. On a gorgeous summer evening in Stockholm we went back to the triathlon origins and organized a fun little encounter. Great fun with a pleasant hang out afterwards. Some images by Henrik Kindgren can be found HERE.
Number 3 – Langholmen Swimrun
With an inventive and senseful concept, it was one of my favorite races that managed to get a permission to go ahead. Creativity harmonizing with some eagerness goes a long way and a brilliant race was set up. While the long-distance event had to be annulled the sprint distance was set. I raced two heats with Ebba and Johan, and it was remarkable to put on a bib and have fun. Some more words and pictures can be seen HERE.
Number 4 – Åre Fjällmaraton
With the summer sun serving to keep the Corona spread to a minimum and one more creative race organizer another iconic competition in the Swedish calendar was about to go ahead. What seemed to be a bit of a mystery show before the race, played out to be a wonderful day up in Åre with a bunch of great friends. My boludo Mauri made sure we all got a slot for this one and we certainly enjoyed this trail rollercoaster around Jämtland.
Number 5 – YO DIY Half Marathon
It all started with a hasty conversation during a training jog. Now and then you just need to set up your own reality and, in our case, that was some sort of contest. It doesn’t take much, but it takes some keen people and power to organize something like this. Hallbäck scouted a flat loop and we organized what needed to be prepared. Set up three start groups to keep it Covid safe and gave our people a clear goal in the calendar. A half marathon at the start of December. It turned out to be a heck of an happening that left some informal PBs and keenness to continue with self-made racing.
Number 6 – Stockholm Virtual Rogaining
Looking back this was a super fun day out with Fredrik Axegård. But we need to confess that both of us are no orienteers and we also do not like to read a race manual. Still some fun to try something new and get the hands on an orienteering map for a long and sluggish day on good-looking trails around South Stockholm!
All over this ambiguous year the sport gave me so much and I’m completely grateful for that. No lack of motivation and plenty of inspiration through friends or simply checking Strava made sure that I kept grinding. Looking back, this makes me happy and just shows me how much this simple endurance sport bustle means to me.
After years of running and swimrunning, I wanted to take on the Ironman distance once more in 2020. I signed up for the inaugural Ironman in Kazakhstan in November last year but the competition as most of the other races got annulled. When the organizers finally called it a day, I didn’t feel any disappointment and happily took the slot for the 2021 race on the 15th of August. I still enjoy the process of getting fitter and heathier. Will there be a race in Nur Sultan next year? Who knows? Will there be plenty of training and adventures. That’s for sure. Its nice to keep and build fitness. Though it is nice to have a goal to train for it is also enjoyable to just advance and learn on a daily basis. That is what this year showed me straight forward.
Onto the next one.
It is the end of a weird and uncommon year.
A lot has transformed and things possibly won’t be the same again. Well, some things undoubtedly do never change. It’s exercise in fresh air alone or with good friends. At least in the last couple of demanding months, this has been a life saver to some. Also, for me.
Crushing and chatting away on my childhood paths in southern Germany feels virtuous and at least it is some sort of consistency in these December times.
Stay healthy, stay sane!
Special times call for special actions.
With no races in sight we made sure to create proper motivation for serious training. Some flat loops around the local park, paired with several start groups made sure that there was no lack of motivation and COVID-19 safety.
Our little DIY half marathon turned out to be an amazing happening and left some empty tanks together with tired but smiley faces all around.
All pictures by Henrik Kindgren!
When German Triathlon legend Timo Bracht initiated to link some of the finest local trails, nobody could tell how fast this little project would catch the attention of hikers, bikers and runners alike. A 126 kilometer footpath with an elevation of 3.127 meters that follows the river Neckar through the southern foothills of the hilly Odenwald area, was what got plotted out and marked accordingly. Since then the Neckarsteig trail is known locally and nationwide. In 2018 the trail got promoted to “most beautiful hiking trail in Germany”.
This part of the Neckar gorge is frankly unique and the waterway curves nicely through this romantic part of the vale. Historic castles and timeworn villages plaster the way amongst pristine trails in the dense and lust woodland. A wide-ranging path where I personally spend a lot of hours running and biking.
The Neckarsteig trail is laid out to be nine stages long, constantly linking to local train stations to create user-friendliness. Until now, the track has seen some proper runs but just recently 27 years old Frenchman Pierre-Emmanuel Alexandre crushed the exiting FKT (Fastest Known Time) down to an unbelievable 12:05:51 Minutes when he undertook the trail from Bad Wimpfen back to the iconic Heidelberg Castle.
I catched up with Pierre-Emmanuel to find out more about himself and this effort.
Q: Give us a little rundown on your sporting career and how you ended up running off-road?
Quite early on I started playing football with my brother. We played in our garden and with a small team in our village. I played football with this club until I was 15 years old.
After that I discovered cross-country running as I watching my brother during some competitions. He inspired me, so I tested and I started to run alone at the start. At that point I joined an athletic club in Angers, in the west of France. I started with the traditional stuff that you do in an athletic club. That meant that I was racing 1500, 3000, Cross country etc. It happened that I won the French high school championships in the 3000 steeplechase.
With 20 I moved to Strasbourg to study chemistry at an engineering school and I think in 2015 I ran my first 9 km trail race in the Vosges mountains. Then I moved to Frankfurt and spend my time running in the Taunus region. Eventually I started to run longer. I made some private excursions as I wanted to discover new places as fast as possible.
My first noteworthy victory was at the Trail Marathon in Heidelberg in 2017. It was also my very first race over that distance. I had an amazing day and managed to beat the highly decorated runner Flo Neuschwander… Pouahh.
Then I ran more and more trail competitions and won some races around Heidelberg and in the French Vosges area (Trail du Haut-Koenigsburg, Joker trail, ZUT basetrail XL) and some more… This helped me to score a Salomon Germany sponsorship deal in 2020.
Q: When was the first time you heard about the Neckarsteig Trail?
I think in autumn 2017. Some months after I arrived in Heidelberg. But at that point I never had plans on running this trail. With my girlfriend I hiked the first part of the trail from Heidelberg to Ziegelhausen. At that time ultra-running was a complete new world to me. The longest I had ran was the Heidelberg trail marathon that same year.
Q: You set an remarkable new FKT on the Bad Wimpfen to Heidelberg direction. What was the reason to run this way and will you try to approach the FKT correspondingly in the other direction? In your opinion, what is the quicker route?
I wanted to finish in Heidelberg. This city means a lot to me. I spent the last 3,5 years in Heidelberg working on my PhD. I really fell in love with the city and the forest around the old town. Moreover I knew that I could get more support if I finished in Heidelberg because most of my friends live there and it was easier for them to join me on the route rather than travelling to Bad Wimpfen.
On the Bad Wimpfen to Heidelberg direction you get most of the altitude meters at the end. I think there are 1000m+ during the last 20k. At first you would think that it is harder to run in this direction. Most of the hiking groups in fact start from Heidelberg. But I am happy with my choice. I don’t think I would have been much faster on the other way. Somehow I managed to save my energy on the first part of the track and kept something in the tank for the most beautiful part, from my point of view. Even if there are plenty of beautiful places on the first part, for example the Margarethenschlucht.
Q: In the preparation of the FKT attempt, how much time did you put into the logistical preparation and specific training on the course?
Quite a lot actually. I spend a lot of time organizing my food, checking where I can plan the water stations. I checked the track mostly on a GPS app because I didn’t have the time to run all the parts. I knew the last 20k but that was it. I didn’t train more than usually. I might have done some longer and slower runs but I still only ran 80k a weeks in average.
Q: Which part of the route is the toughest in your opinion?
The long loop between Neckargerach and Neunkirchen was quite unpleasant for me because this part is flat and kind of boring. Moreover I ran this part before my first big break (~10min). With 19k this was the longest part without an aid-station. When I approached this part the sun was quite strong and there was not much shadow where I could hide.
Q: Besides the obvious challenges (distances and climbing) what were the biggest difficulties for you along the way?
Definitely the heat. But this is always my problem. I have to drink a lot and get enough electrolytes to avoid cramps.
Q: What material did you use and why? How often did you change shoes?
As an Salomon athlete I only used their products and I love them. I wore a Slab T-shirt and shorts. The Sense Ride 3 was my shoe for the first 60k and the Slab Ultra 2 for the second part. I only changed my shoe once but I would do it more often if I run another Ultra. Furthermore I used the Leki Micro RCM poles.
Q: MC Solaar, Suprême NTM or IAM?
Haha actually I don’t listen to this kind of music. Paul K, Klingande or Petit Biscuit is more my style. I think I was also too young when they were popular. But if I had to choose I would say IAM – Petit Frère 😉