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Racereport: Ironman Gdynia

In late 2019 I signed up for the introductory Ironman in Nur-Sultan. What happened in the meanwhile is well known. The 2020 competition got withdrawn and the 2021 version was a write-off as well. For security motives I had been swayed by dear friend Rob Cummins to sign up for the fabled Hardman Triathlon in the south of Ireland. A race that I have been following since a while in an area that I was training and racing in while living on the emerald island. As I organized my travels, I found out that a trip to Ireland is not possible without the second shot. A shot that I hadn’t been given back then. I wanted to race but i was not keen on travelling far, so that left me with three probable race-picks close to home – Tallinn, Copenhagen or Gdynia. The polish coastal city of Gdynia rapidly became the preferred destination due to the easy approachability from Stockholm. Four weeks prior to the competition I further ramped up the training and got myself physically and mentally polished up (…nice wordplay, right?!)

It is nice to have big Ironman events in a smallish towns like Gdynia. The entire place seemed to be behind the event and with some other races during Friday, Saturday and Sunday it was a great vibe in the whole city. The weather prediction looked wonderful. Rain and slight winds were on the outlook. Conditions that I prefer over warmth and sun. Sunday came and so did the race start by the local sand beach.

The rolling beach start is amazing: The first time that I experienced something like this. It took away a lot of stress and assisted me to a good start. I swam fairly hard until the first buoy that was placed about 400 meters out in the sea. Waves, little wind and slight rain weren’t too bad for me and my swimming capabilities. Also, the Australian exit after about 1.500 meter was enjoyable with the crowds lining up at the shore. Virtually all the course I swam by myself. When I finally exited the water, they told me that I’m 5th in my age group and 30th overall. As swimming is undoubtedly not my strongest part, I was highly stunned by myself. Hearing my actual swim time of little over 1 hour made it pretty apparent that the course was longer than the classic 3,8 kilometers. I played it cool and took my time in the transition zone. As more rain and heavier wind came up, I decided to go with a bike jersey and long gloves. Riding out of town I was by myself. One or two guys overtook me after a couple of minutes but then I was all by myself on the bike course.  

Some really nice, newly paved roads and a couple of really bouncy polish country roads later, it began. Pulks of fellow triathletes overtook me. A lot of people had warned me, but to see it firsthand was quite unsatisfying. The drafting and group riding were intense, and I was astounded by all the activities. Swimming fast in an Ironman surely does not help when you ride a bike like I did. And that is the assumption from the second discipline of the day. I must ride harder and faster or stop swimming. I tried to stay optimistic, took in my nutrition and made sure to ride on. I was looking forward to the marathon and tried to use the gathered annoyance for the forthcoming marathon.

When I came back into Gdynia, the sun was out, and I was really looking forward to assembling the Gruppetto. Transition was unspectacular and the legs felt good. I tried to relax myself and find my rhythm. This went well until about kilometer 10. When I tried to take in another gel, my stomach closed down and cramped. I continued to fuel it, but I had to alter to walking mode. I entered the local park for a quick number two stop, but my stomach didn’t like that either. I jogwalked until the half marathon mark but when I couldn’t stand up anymore and I didn’t have the mental strength to walk home a marathon.

The race doctor was stunned by the severeness of my cramps and had to use two doses of drips to loosen up my lower body. It took me quite a while to get over this DNF. Not the first one due to stomach contractions. I felt like a fool after all the training and groundwork that I had been putting into this one.

This Ironman taught me many valuable lessons but primarily I need to get my stomach in check before I can plan on the next adventure.

Tune of the day: Baba Ali – Got An Idea

Rear View

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.

At all times early morning jogs will be something else. This shot was taken on Norra Djurgården. I love to feel the seasons through the year. A simple daily routine I do not want to miss.

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.

The minute I started working from home, I used the daily morning shuttle to the Kindergarten and back to build some extra miles. The freedom of skipping car or public transport in favor for time with my son and supplementary miles was and still is great and something I really treasure. Using running as a form of transport gives me a very satisfying feeling.

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.

43 muddy kilometers later – Finish line feeling with the gang after the Fjållmaraton.

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!

Casual evening shot from a random December night somewhere in Stockholm’s old town, Gamla stan. Certain parts of the town are regularly swamped with sightseers. Throughout this year it was nice to spend more time in the overvisited parts and be a tourist at home.  

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.

Tune of the day:
Grimes – Idoru (Modeselektor Remix) X Anthony Rother – Metrowelt LP

Cozy up

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!

The Hohenneuffen Castle is a huge tumbledown castle in the northern foothills of the Swabian Alb. The medieval castle is situated on a large late Jurassic rock on the edge of the Swabian Alb.
Ran a couple of amazingly pleasant trails on the way to Hohenneuffen Castle.
Trees and trails.
When I was younger, I spend innumerable hours around the Heuchelberg area. Plenty of rolling trails and some decent climbing is on hand. Some friends linked all the finest trails to form the Heuchelbergtrail race. As soon as I’m home, I take every chance to spend time on the track and learn more about new-fangled parts. There are still a lot of surprises.
The Heuchelberg runs through the western part of the county of Heilbronn between Leingarten in the northeast and Zaberfeld in the southwest.
Make sure to sign up for the Heuchelbergtrail next year. Amazing organization with a lot of passion and pride for this wonderful area.

Tune of the day: Cella – Drowning X
Thelonious Monk in Paris

In the press: RUNNING 10/2020

For the german RUNNING Magazin i wrote a feature about the latest trip to Jämtland for the Fjällmaraton.

If you life in Germany, Austria or Switzerland go check it out.

Tune of the day: Richard Spaven – In Readiness

In pictures: Åre

Tune of the day: Lenny White – Big City X Knucks – Standout (feat. Loyle Carner & Venna)

Neckarsteig FKT with Pierre-Emmanuel Alexandre

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.

Picture: Björn Alt

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.

Picture: Björn Alt

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. 

Picture: Björn Alt

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. 

Picture: Björn Alt

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 😉

STRAVA
Instagram
fastestknowntime.com
Neckarsteig.de

RACEREPORT-03 / Långholmen SwimRun

Distinct times are calling for diverse procedures. Even though Sweden wasn’t excessively restrictive concerning the Covid-19 pandemic, all mass gatherings have been shut down. Apparently this contains racing happenings. Stockholm’s classic and constantly innovative SwimRun around Långholmen was one of the first races in the calendar to start back up. 

The organization did a clever job that followed to all restrictions and shaped a special day with everybody respecting the new procedures. A withdrawal of the long course event meant that different starting waves were offered over the sprint distance.
Långholmen SwimRun organizers accomplished to produce a contactless event – Online race briefing, a course description via Vimeo, race bib self-pick-up and isolated start boxes. Super well prearranged and appreciated by all competitors.
I was privileged to race with my friends daughter and last year’s women champion Ebba Kindgren.
More of my Långholmen SwimRun race chatter can be found HERE and HERE
We gave it all from start to finish. So much fun to race alongside Ebba. I was more than impressed by her performance. She dug deep and we pushed all the way.
Grinding on some technical trail early on.
Leaving the last swim segment and on the way to a second place finish. Only giving space on the podium to ÖTILLÖ World Champ Annica Ericsson and her companion. “Next year we go for the win.” was Ebba’s final announcement after the competition – You bet!
Only one photograph from my second excursion of the day. With training companion and friend Johann and I raced the 2nd heat. So much fun to escort him throughout his first SwimRun. We went way faster than anticipated and he was entirely hooked when arriving at the finish line. “This was the toughest thing I ever did. So much fun…”
Undoubtedly Långholmen SwimRun does know how to run the show. Even thru pretty unusual times. For my part I wonder how they accomplish to organize these nice and sunshiny race days. Until next year!

All pictures courtesy by Henrik Kindgren for Långholmen SwimRun

Tune of the day: Lady Saw – Serious Allegations X Peshay 1996 Studio Set
Podcast of the day: Boris Stein meets Clemens Coenen (German Only)

shoeporn: Adidas SL 20

Adi Dassler hits the market with a brand new model – the SL 20. SL stands for “Super Light” and that is no lie. Straight from the get go this shoe supports a dynamic stride purely by its lightness. My US13 pair weights in with 235 grams.
I received this shoe a few weeks ago. A couple of minutes prior to a 10.000 meter test race on the track. The pure feel of the shoe was so convincing that i put my trusted adidas Adios aside and used the SL20 straight out of the box. I just dipped under 37 minutes with a nice threshold effort and the shoe certainly played its part. While being dynamic enough the sole might not be springy enough for harder track efforts and performs better on the roads.
Yes, im german. So it is kinda nice to see two big german players pairing up. In this case Continental, a German multinational automotive parts manufacturing company that is famed for its tires and other parts for the automotive and transportation industries. On the SL20 they provide a nice grip that almost can feel a bit sticky from the start. I really like the traction and the grip – Solid german engineering.
The Adidas Torsion System, in the case of the SL, the red plate in the middle of the sole, was released in 1991 and still remains one of the most iconic features that has been released by adidas. In the SL20 it provides structure and control to the shoe. There has obviously been some sort of development process and one can feel that, compared to other lightweight trainers, the SL20 feel very stable for a neutral running shoe.
It has been a while that the Herzogenaurach based brand came up with some sort of foam development. With the latest Lightstrike material, adidas released a lighter and more responsive foam. Im not sure how this material stands towards the well known Boost material when it comes to the springiness. What is pretty obvious is that adidas can now provide more cushion without scarfing on the weight of the shoe. The style of the SL20 sole provides great all-round cushioning but it does not transport that direct toe-off feeling that the boost material is known for.
The SL20 can be describes as a lightweight trainer for uptempo runs. The cushioning certainly benefits the muscular stress level. I took the shoe to several paces. East runs – no problem. Faster road workouts – i like it. Track – the sole would be too soft and not direct enough. Despite the soft sole, the shoe is easy to accelerate which makes the SL20 a real fun shoe.
The SL20 comes with a 10 mm Midsole drop (heel 24 mm / forefoot 14 mm). This caters for a lot of different strike styles. As a mid and forefoot runner i had enough cushion to feel comfortable.
A classic mesh upper can be found on the upper. The material is super comfortable but misses a bit of breathability to me. A nice surprise for was the nice and wide toe box. Pretty unusual for a shoe of that style. The laminated panels that can been seen in the picture above, provide quite a great support while running.
So where does this new Adi shoe stands? As a user of several adidas models i would put this one somewhere in the Boston lineup. It certainly has the same feel to it with the additional cushion but i think it is more comfortable in a nice way. After several runs the SL20 reminds me of a the recent Nike Pegasus Turbo, only a bit firmer and less bouncy. A great allrounder that provides a lot of fun in several tempo segments.

Tune of the day: Kemal & Rob Data ‎– The Encrypter

Ötillö Testimonial

I answered some questions for the recent Ötillö Testimonial series.

Check out the feature on their website.

Tune of the day: Chevron – Chippy Chips

In Pictures: YO Intervals at Stockholm Olympic Stadium

What is better than running some hard laps with the gang around the venue of the 1912 Olympic Games?

Yes, homie Dennis Wernersson capturing it!

Tune of the day: Haze x Falco – No Time For Revolution

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