Friday 12 August 2016

This Year Adventure: AlpenX 100: 103 km trip in the mountains witn 7000 m elevation gain

This was the first time for the AlpenX, organized by PlanB, Salomon & LedLenser.
I have not chosen the longest distance (~160 km) as I still believe that two nights on the trail in one go is a bit too long.

I have run the middle distance that should have been 102.3 km with 6300 m elevation gain and 6800 m downhill... I happened to run around 110 km and 7000 m uphill, but more on this later.

The route went from Steinach am Brenner in Austrian Tirol to Brixen (or Bressanon) in Italian Sud Tirol. The route goes through the most beautiful places in Tirol and the atmosphere of the first time race was rather charged... I was excited, scared and willing it to start.

The day before the race was rainy but forecast for the race day was not bad... I got my number and was told to attend the briefing at 18:00 at Jufa hotel. I should mention that the information on the site was really limited, so I were eager to attend (Oh, I was promised that we shall get the English version of the briefing too, because otherwise I would only "watch the talk" without getting any info)

Well, as it happened, the organizers decided that the limited number of foreign runners does not require the English briefing... so coming was just a waste of an hour and a walk in the rain. That was the pitfall #1.

Next morning around 100 runners lined up before the race start for 100 km. We where told (this time English version really followed the German) that the rain will stop during the day but it would be cold and we shall have strong wind in the high mountains (above 2000 m), which meant three peaks during the day and all the following night.

few minutes before the start
Among the runners there were very few non-German speakers, including me, Italian Simona Morbelli who recently won Zugspitze 100 and eventually won AlpenX100, one more Israeli runner, Naaman Azmii, who shared the trail a lot with me...
At 8:00 I said good bye to Vitaly and Michael until the station at 20km and starting to move with the clouds and rain.

We start at V5 location on the race plan and finish at V14 (160 km starts at V1).

V5 The race starts with the gradual but long climb of the 1000 vertical meters to the first aid station on an easy wide gravel route. Naaman is a much faster runner than me and a strong climber, but I found him still at the station when I got there and it was clear that he meant to join (to pass the time?) So we went on, I, keeping the comfortable effort and watching the mist, Naaman, going forth and back, stopping for the pictures and catching up.

V6 The aid stations were fully stocked, having cheese, sausages, cakes, energy bars, fruits, vegetables, cold and hot drinks, and of course soup as well.

It was still very foggy with almost no visibility, cold, humid and very windy. I felt warm enough with the thermal layer and waterproof jacket (thanks to Tzahi Cohen for supporting me with Inov-8 gear), but it was evident that it won't be good enough for the night.

Next section was sometimes runable downhill and soon I reached the V7 station where Vitaly and Michael were waiting for me. I did not linger there much had 2 cups of tea, some food, few pictures (this time Michael was doing the shots), said good by till the next check point (at 33 km) and went on my trip.

The trail went up again and then down to the town of Gossensass - the start of the shortest AlpenX distance. The weather was a bit warming up, I felt great and kept my pace almost easy: working on the uphills, running the downhills.

V8 Just before the station Michael met me once again with the camera and we had a short while together picking the best food at the station.

just a small part of the treats

"One third is done" - said Vitaly... "Not really" - I thought but smiled in reply.... It's just a beginning when everything feels good, and a long way is ahead of me... First mental check point is a 63 km station... then night will come.

Then came one more uphill to the station V9, it was getting more windy on uphills but it was warmer than in the morning, after we went down almost 1000 meters to V10 station at 49 km.

Once again I saw Vitaly and Michael, who already had been the finish line and checked in to the hotel there. Michael commented that the plenitude of food at the aid stations is giving him thoughts to start ultra running just to go between the stations... This sounded like a plan to me... although the next section to V11 was rather long (15 km) and promised to be challenging: 1400 vertical meters of uphill to overcome.
V11 would be the last station where I would meet my family before the finish and it would be already dark when I get there.

The course was marked by the orange tape (non reflective) and orange dots and arrows markings on the ground (non reflective too!), which was mostly fine during the first day on easy broad trails. It was much less fine in the dark and on uneven terrain.

The uphill began gradually on the asphalt and then gravel wide path. After 5 km the slope became steeper and we climbed on the more technical trail which was slower but more fun than asphalt. I climbed along the trail in the beautiful forest untill reaching the end of the treeline and then went further up the mountains. That was great untill last 5 km of the climb... where I got to the open terrain covered with bushes and water streams and big holes in between. There was no trail to be seen... Did I mentioned that the route was marked with orange dots? I could not spot them till I got as close as a couple of meters and sometimes even not then because of the vegetation...

The race had around 300 runners overall in all 3 distances, 70 km runners would be already over these parts and the rest of the runners were spread out over the distance, so I mostly saw no one on the trail and... no trail and no markings... I felt as Richard Askwith wrote in his "Feet in the Clouds":
what if I just sit here and give it a good cry...
I go forth and back looking for the course and in general extrapolation of the line... untill it getting a bit darker and I see the head lamp ahead... I hurry to it and find the trail... lucky me. Not so lucky the 160 km runner shivering under the space blanket.
Good that he had friends with him who already called the resque team and try to keep him warm, I ask if I can help and they ask to tell the staff (when I see them) to tell re. location of the runner. Of course.

I keep climbing and after few more detours find Israeli runner waiting for me and we go on to the aid station shining in the distance... Wind keeps getting stronger, the temperature drops. Few more minutes and I meet Michael and Vitaly at V11 station near a cosy cafe.

I got a cup of hot coffee, ate a protein bar and was getting ready to continue. That was the last station where I saw my family before the finish.

Vitaly told that the temperature at the station is 2 degrees above zero, so it would be negative during the night. The wind was getting stronger. Well, having experienced hypothermia in the past I got dressed as well as I could: to my thermal craft long sleeved shirt I added The North Face Summit Series thin down jacket and the Inov-8 Stormshell HZ jacket on it covering my thin gloves with the sleeves as much as possible.

To the next station V12 there are more than 20 km to go, mostly on the mountain terrain around 2500 meters high. By my day splits I believed that I could finish in around 20 - 22 hours: I were climbing well, running most downhills, not wasting much time on the station and still felt good. Little did I know what the next station held...

I went on... slowly... climbing again... Now it was really difficult to see the markings even with the good light (I used Petzl's NAO and it lasted on a single battery the whole night - love this lamp). I've lost my way more than few times, although at least the direction was clear during the uphill.

Here I meet two German runners Roland and Phillip for the first time. They are doing 160 km race and both are into the second night. Our ways intersected many times and I had a chance to admire there great attitude: both were tired, Phillip was also hurting, but they still had smiles and sense of humor with them without any of the whining.

I have followed Roland most of the way to the Elisabeth Illmer from Flaggerschartenh├╝tte (Marburger H├╝tte) -- BIG thank you for this stop!!! -- who welcomed us to a warm room with tea, soup and what not... Naaman also came in after few minutes and I continued on into the night.

The following 6 km were "special": field of differently sized boulders, no trail, no markings visible, I slowly picked my way using far away head lamp lights as a beacon, hands to steady myself on the boulders - I still fell few times, mostly catching myself with the hands but as I saw later, I had managed to hurt my knee on the way...

I were going forth and back many times looking for any sign of the right direction... After some hours of wandering I saw two lights in some distance and cut across the terrain in their direction -- it were Roland and Phillip trying to find the next station. We shortly discussed our mutual misunderstanding of the map and decided to continue along the route in hope to find the check point somewhere further on the way.

The sunrise came with the downhill and we continued inside the stream (as the markings went) down... eventually the station V12 came 4 km later than was expected according to the race map.

The volunteer on the station handed each of us a cup of soup with no asking and then asked if we wished to stop.... Rather inspiring... I, Roland and Phillip argued that we came a long way to stop now. Well, then we were informed that it was the last 500 uphill before the descent into Brixen... Good, I did not hurry to believe.

We climbed more than 850 meters on the wet and muddy trails before coming to the the view on Brixen valley. It was really picturesque, but my climbing got worse at that point.

Moving uphill became more of a chore and not a natural process... Muscles felt like they are made of wood and I had to concentrate on lifting my legs and doing step after step... I still could not tell that I felt bad, just tired and kind of weird. I felt like watching my progress in slow motion.. well, I think it was literally right ;-)

Vitaly called and I said that I had still 10 km left on the trail and I am slow. He wished me a smooth path and said they would wait anyway. Then came the real last ~200 m uphill and I plodded on... On my way I met a shepherd who chatted something optimistic and cheerful even though I confessed that I did not understand a word.

At last the climbing was finished and I came to a beautiful lake with the official race photographer... There I again found Naaman waiting for me. He said that there is no sense to continue since we are not making it inside the cut off time. I answered that I shall continue until I am made to leave and I advise him to get to the next station anyway.

So I kept going... Finding Roland and Phillip on the way to the last check point (V13)  and the check point itself 5 km further away (again!) than it was marked on the plan. There I asked re. cut off and was said that there were no cut offs due to the trail quality on the last sections. Well at least I get to finish... last 5 km of downhill (we descended 1800 meters in 9 km) was technical, slow but uneventful... I even did not get lost for a change.

I finished the race in 30 hours and 3 minutes and enjoyed a meal and a beer at the finish line cheering for coming runners until Naaman came and we left after congratulating him with the great achievement.

That was the end of the long day for me and the next challenge was getting to the shower 100 meters away.

Big thank you to all the volunteers on the way catering to us, my family supporting me and cheering me up, Tzahi Cohen from Inov-8 Israel and fellow runners for sharing this adventure.

Now I have some time to rest till the next adventure.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Tarawera Ultra Marathon 2016, 103 km of rain, mud, roots and fun of course

On an island far, far away...

This race was inspired by my husband browsing through the list of Ultra Trail World Tour races a day after I finished the Eiger Ultra Trail race. TUM is not a mountain race, although it does have around of 3000m of elevation gain on technical trails, but the maximum elevation is just a bit more than 700m and instead of exposed mountain panoramic trail it goes along rain forest trail with lakes, streams and... plenty of roots...

So we called it vacation and left for New Zealand on the 20th of January. The training before went good except for 10 days with high fever during New Year holidays, but I felt rather confident in my training and we had enjoyed two fine weeks, recovering from the long flights (4 hours + 2x 12 hours in the planes + 8 hours connections in airports) and hiking on the northern island with Vitaly and Michael. Food was good, weather was great and trails were beautiful...
with Jonas Buud (left) and Torkel Skogman
with Ryan Sandes

Before the race we relaxed and joined the organized boat trip on Tarawera lake, going along the parts of the route. The weather was cloudy, atmosphere friendly and I had one of a kind "star gazing" experience meeting athletes I admire. Vitaly, seeing that I were not bold enough asked for a few pictures... One with the fastest 100km runner in the world Jonas Buud and his friend Torkel Skogman.

Another picture was with the South Africa's Salomon star athlete, Ryan Sandes.

One more unique photo taken from the hot water beach included also New Zealand's fastest ultrarunner Vajin Armstrong and a couple of very strong american runners, Michael Wardian and Jason Schlarb.

If you look at the results you would find Jonas as a winner, Ryan on the third place, Vajin came 5th, Jason and Mike took 6th and 7th. Do you wonder who is the figure in Red? That's Paul Charteris, the race organizer.

After that, we had an expo day, with the race welcome, expo, starting numbers pick up, etc...

The compulsory gear was declared as a "B option": rain jacket for the rainy race.

Rainy day also means mud. The mud on the route is not a "bad" kind of mud: it does not stick to your shoes addings tons of weight, but it does mean slippery with bad footing. So I made a critical decision to use both pairs of shoes I had with me on the trip, kindly provided by Tzahi Cohen, the smaller red MudClaws for the first technical 62 km, and then to switch to softer X-Talon's for the last easier 40 km... well the last part cannot be really easy after first 62 km... but it was on very runable wide paths, still muddy, though.

The race started in the dark with the rain in Rotorua. It was not cold, but I had the compulsory rain jacket on + a warm layer, just because I do not like to shiver before the race, even I know that I'll pack the clothes in 15 minutes after the start.

I started slowly and... as expected needed to take off and rearrange the clothes/pack barely 20 minutes later... So I was way into the mid/back pack when the single trail came and got stuck in "traffic". No much problem, mentally add half an hour to projected time, but then it's an unknown anyway... and I would not win the event even with the optimal scenario... So I move through the muddy single trails sometimes standing still and waiting in a line to a slippery up/down with falling runners trying to get with their race. I appreciate my mudclaws' grip and ability to just keep going, although many times I have to wait to get some space not to break on the descents. In parts where the trail widens I keep going slowly on ups, running smoothly the downs...

In a couple of hours I reach first aid station on the Blue Lake where I meet Vitaly and Michael for the fist time, but before getting to the station I am checked that I still have my compulsory rain jacket with me. I do have, so I am ok to go. The lake is kind of greyish blue, thanks to the weather, but I do have fun running easily and taking it all "in".

After the blue lake we had technical single track, but luckily the "traffic" got lighter and I did not have trouble to pass few runners on my way. Then came the only road section of the race, Miller road going around Okataina village with first cut off/timing station with cheerful Santas offering water and fruits to the runners.

We had many lakes along the way (Tarawera should have been the number 4...) But I cannot say that I remember clearly when I went around which... Besides the Tarawera lake that was hard to miss :-)

Okaitana to Tarawera falls is the most technical part of the race and I did not plan to rush it. Especially watching other runners slide and fall along the route. It was the slowest part of my race, but I took my time and even this way manage to twist my ankle twice, luckily with minimal damage.

The Outlet station was full of colors but a bit crowded, so I grabbed a couple of drinks (electrolite? and smth. else) and went on to the Falls station. This part of the trail was along a beautiful stream with plenty of waterfalls, as promised and I loved it even as the rain got more intense.

Tarawera Falls 62k station was also a finish line for the 60 km race. It was very crowded with almost no access for the crews/families and... did I mention the heavy rain? Michael and Vitaly had hard time waiting for me standing in a crowd and watching the trail entrance, I could not even get to them, so they just passed me the bag with prepared package. I were lucky to find a stray chair to change my shoes, socks to get a few minutes break with dry feet, put an active patch on a left gastrocnemius muscle, where the knee got a bit finicky and... managed to forget the wet shoes on the station.
Good thing that Vitaly noticed it barely 100m from the station and Michael stole in to get them back.

This station stop was the longest, took me close to 15 min (including the shoes recovery), but the rest of the trail demanded less attention being wide dirt roads mostly with some single trails here and there.

I got to the "loop of despair" at Arowera station and actually enjoyed the steep path up and more gentle down back... from there on  it was mostly down hill with some occasional short uphills to brighten things up. I was going rather slowly but still faster than on previous single trail section in the bush around Tarawera lake.

Michael and Vitaly surprised me and met 10km before the finish where it was getting dark and I put on the small head lamp (neo by LedLenser). The lamp was comfortable and light but as I checked on the next 5km section did not light up the trail much... so I got even slower trying to watch where to go...

It was great to meet my family again on the last station (BTW Star Wars themed with princess's Lea service included) and exchange this toy lamp for my all time favorite Petzl Nao. When Vitaly asked how were I, I said "tired, probably I would walk the rest". Vitaly said, "no problem, take your time just take care". 
He also said that I were one of the cleanest runners around...
Well, I did not fall even once, thank you, Inov-8 shoes grip.

I started on my way and eventually started to run/walk to keep different muscles engaged and just because even though I were tired I still felt too strong to just keep wasting time... 

Then suddenly I started to enjoy it again and even pass some more runners... So I just kept going keeping my eyes open for such things as the Pipe Bridge to Kawerau:

Image: Matt Trappe

I felt the skin on my feet a bit tender, but the feet were soaked wet for the whole time, so a bit tender was rather good... it did not get much worse and I finished with just one not too painful blister.

And suddenly it was over...
I got a hug and a medal from Paul, was weighted and released by medical staff, and finally got my after race beer before the ride to the hotel.

In summary, great race, amazingly beautiful trails, thanks to Paul Charteris and Tim Day for organizing such an event and such a warm welcome for us, runners!

More thanks are due to my family who supports me, follow me on all my races and Tarawera Ultra Marathon was not exception, Nardo Shaimen, who helps me to get to my races with no injuries, Tzahi Cohen for providing the critical tools (Inov-8 shoes + some other gear) for the race and all 350 volunteers keeping their smiles on and taking care of me along the route!

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Sovev Emek 2015, 166 km - Done!

It was a long trip... In every sense of the word...

I poured my disappointment a year ago into this post and I still remember it like it was yesterday.
Yes, I do not regret quitting the race when I did previous years, but I needed this year finish for many reasons.
It was kind of a long time debt... and now it's done.

Of course, I did not do it alone.

Shai managed to get the organization even better than ever, there was nothing I ever wished for and could not find on aid stations, there was always help on the route whenever runners were in trouble.

Atara Ron contacted me few weeks before the race and told me if I do not have crew and/or pacer she would be happy to help and that even if I do not need her she plans to come and volunteer anyway (this way I did not feel that she would have to drive for hours and be awake for days just because I cannot take care of myself). She was amazing as a team/pacer during the whole race.

Vitaly said that he would meet me at stations after work, but I did not guess that it would be almost every station from ~85km till finish. It brightened the way for me during hard hours.

I felt well prepared Thursday morning standing on the starting line.
I had ran Eiger E101 ultra trail three months ago with no injuries and finished strong.
Rested and had a good training cycle with several over 100k weeks feeling "right": not exhausted and strong. The longest run on the route was 78 km in 10 hours three weeks before the race. Atara met me before the start and I was happy to see her, Shai and many other familiar faces of runners and volunteers.

The race started with some fireworks and I felt my heart racing, trying to embrace it... I know almost every stone on that route, every turn and tree, smiling volunteers call me by name, runners are chatting and recalling mutual experiences... and it's such a long way... Sun was rising with gentle colors this morning, and the temperature was pleasant which promised hot day later, but nothing extreme... yet.

Three aid stations were open and handled by 3 good friends and ultra runners on our way: Typhoon station at 6km/26km (of the 33 km round) with Guy Zloof, Trail Junction at 12km/21km with Michael Spivak and Gal'ed station at 16km with Roman Spivak. The guys had some volunteers coming and going, but were "on duty" more than 24 hours helping us to eat and drink in time and manage small problems on hour way.

First 3 rounds I ran mostly alone, saying hello when meeting runners, drinking at stations, filling the water pack... wait, actually it was Atara who did "filling the water pack" part and checking that I do not forget anything while medical stuff checked on me at the start of every one of 5 rounds: weighting me, checking HR + blood saturation, taking blood pressure. I was even told to rest for 10 more min after the first round, since (I believe due to excitement) my blood pressure was too high... it did settle down and I were good to go.

I changed my shoes after 2 rounds. I started the run in pretty and new Race Ultra 270 from Inov-8 (thank you, Inov-8 Israel), planned to run with them just the first round and then to get back to well known and broken in Salomon Sense Ultra SG, but felt really comfortable, so continued to run with Inov-8 second round as well. Then I felt that the shoes were new. First, they were not as soft as familiar X-Talon's and I felt bruises starting at the edges. Second, they were also a bit wide and the feet started sliding on downhills when I relaxed the laces.

Vitaly managed to meet me twice during these first 100km: first time before leaving to work at Gal'ed 16km in, second time after work also at Gal'ed at 83km into the race. Both times he did not come empty handed (how could he? :-)) bringing his new creature, aged Oolong tea with lemon flavored Gu Rocktane Energy drink mix (250 Calories per serving) and a hug of course. He kept on this routing from 100 km on every road accessible point, i.e. at loop start, mid loop and 2 times per loop at Juara junction. Michael joined in till 2am and after 10am on Friday.

After 3 loops, Atara changed her role from crewing to pacing. 4th loop is my nemesis. Bad things happen on 4th loop. This time I started it limping, no idea how but something felt twisted in my hip when I started the loop. I changed into long tights and took plenty of warm clothes in my backpack to avoid last 2 years troubles with hypothermia. The hip bothered me, but otherwise I were still fine.

Luckily for me Typhoon station had its magic in hands of Gilad Krauz. Gilad is a very strong ultra runner who ran the first edition of Sovev Emek, finishing second just a minute after Tal Sela. Gilad is also one of a very few (2, if I remember right) Israelis who finished 246 km Spartathlon race with very strict cut off times... finished several times.
But today Gilad was not running. He was helping runners to get to finish line in one piece. As I found out on Thursday night, Gilad is also very talented in sports massage and after he worked on my hips for a 15 minutes I were good to go.

The night was warm, so the warm jackets stayed in my pack... but I felt big blisters growing bigger on my both feet... Balls of the feet were covered as well as several toes... By Gal'ed the blisters opened up on their own and I felt my socks getting "squishy"... and of course I felt each steps in a very special way.

That's right, blisters are just painful... it's not life threatening condition. But pain slowly sucks one's strength away. I felt it, tried to fight it, but anyway I slowed down to crawling speed. Atara got worried (for the first time). Trying to motivate me (she did succeed), she said that we would consult Gilad when we get to Typhoon. Eventually we got there although it felt like eternity till we saw the lights of the station.

Gilad worked on my feet around 45 minutes, he cooled them with ice, massaged in some "magic potion", massaged my twin muscles as a bonus... and sent me on my way, saying that I should start running, since tomorrow would be very hot. I did start running. All the way to the next loop was non-too-technical downhill, which helped. Feet still hurt, but there was nothing to do about them till the finish.

finishing with friends and family
5th loop was slow, but steady. We got to Gal'ed station with morning cool temperatures, but then the sun said it's word. It got hot. Like "oven hot + sun burning down". I felt tired, pace slowed, Atara got worried. Really worried. At the Trail Junction station (154 km into the race) she asked a paramedic to meet us on the next station, check on me and give their "ok" to continue. On the next station we had 10 km to go till the finish.
When paramedic's car got to the station, I got in for the checks and had few minutes lying down and breathing deep.
I also managed to drink and eat, so when they said that blood pressure was fine and all other parameters were not too bad, I felt a bit more rested.

Vitaly met me again (he did it at all accessible from road stations) in 2 km, and I said that I would survive, but it would take time, although actually I started to move better again.
8 km left...
On the last aid station before finish (3 km to go) Vitaly met me with Michael even though the access to this station was much more complicated. I rested for 5 minutes with them, then sent Vitaly to the finish, but Michael volunteered to accompany me for the last part. We were really warping this story up... the finish was getting in sight.

Vitaly met us with a camera 200 m before the finish line, taking my last running pictures of the month.

I passed through the gate, stopped running, got hugs from Vitaly, Michael, Atara and Shai... Then got for the medical checks for one last time. The first thing I asked for was to remove my shoes, which was followed by shocked faces of those, who saw my feet.
I laughed, that the feet would get their well deserved rest now and had ice brought for them along with a nurse who checked on me and confirmed that I were good to go "for the next round". Well, not for some time yet...

I must admit I still cannot fully encompass the fact that it is done. I have finished this race after 3 failed attempts.My feet are still a mess, but my muscles are fine. And you know, I enjoyed it all. It was painful, but it was not survival with ugly finish.

Thank you, Shai, Atara, Vitaly & Michael, Gilad, Roman & Michael, Guy, all 300 volunteers and runners! you made it a celebration and next time I am joining the camp on the other side as volunteer.

See you in a year, Sovev Emek!

Sunday 18 October 2015

"Obsessed is just a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated" Inov-8

Actually the box that contained my first Inov-8 pair had the following inside (yes, I did copy it 5 years ago):
"The hills are calling. Bone hard tracks
and muddy forest trails scream your name.
Jagged rocks and shattered slate are
waiting with a special 'welcome home'
surprise for the unwary. Say hello as you
breeze past them on another flying visit.

Once it gets into your blood, mountain running
is a powerful narcotic. Technical running
shoes from Inov8 are your only hope of coping
with it's painful addiction.
signed: inov8

I have a long history with inov-8 shoes, they met many mountains and handled them well.

Haute Route 2012
Transvulcania 2014
They even done well on roads, because I did not want to move to other shoes.
There were other good shoes, but Inov-8 were always special, they fitted like a glove, did not forgive aggressive approach, insisting that I would be light on my feet and had a mad grip on rocks and mud.

But until 2 months ago I had to go hunting for them in Europe, mostly on-line or while running abroad.

Not a long time ago I was told by a good friend and neighbor, Yaniv, that the shoes I love are getting to Israel and even in my size (4.5 UK, it was often the smallest size for many models, although new models are available even in UK 3 size).

I thanked him, and written down the details, but were not in a hurry to search new shoes, since that I have a race ahead and "do not want anything new" before (yes, rookie mistake #1, which I may still make... again)

A couple of weeks after we had a short talk about life/shoes and everything and he mentioned again that the importer of the inov-8 in Israel, Tzahi Cohen and the choice of shoes he has in his shop, ProRunner.
Jungfrau 2012

Katzrin Ultra 2014
Well, the shop is in Tel-Aviv and I would certainly visit it for shopping for next pair, but currently I were with crazy schedule: work/life/racing, etc.

UTMB, 2011
In a couple of days I got a call from Yaniv and he said that he talked with Tzahi and mentioned my long relationship with inov-8 shoes and Tzahi wished to support me as an Inov-8 Israel representative.

   Well, first of all I was touched. This the shoe that I use even when I pay for it, so it's an honor to represent the brand I love.

So I met with Tzahi and... doing the famous "rookie mistake"... again... I got a new shoe, Race Ultra 270, which have different fit (standard, not precision), but after ~50 hilly and technical km on these shoes I really like them and willing to try them during the race as well.

Race Ultra 270 still have "close to the ground" feeling while having good protection. Sharp stones are a lot less painful than in X-talon or Bare Grip 200. That's not surprising, but still nice.
The shoes are less flexible than X-talon, but still allow for a natural stride.
The feeling is different from "hugging" or "like a glove" from precision fit, although it is comfortable. Standard fit is also much wider than precision fit, but do not slide too much on the foot, still have to work on tying them the right way: not too restrictive, and so that they do not slide on the feet.

The wider fit may be the reason they feel "shorter" than usual inov-8 sizes, so that's good that I had a chance to try them on and not just order the usual size on-line.

Wish me luck, please and thank you, Inov-8 Israel!

Matterhorn Ultraks 201

Jerusalem marathon 2014

Haifa stairs 2013

week before the race

Saturday 25 July 2015

Eiger Ultra Trail: E101 2015

This race scared me. Well, I've done some difficult runs, but after failing time after time in local 166km run that should take around the same time, I had my doubts. This race is amazingly beautiful and consists of 101 mountainous km's on some smooth some very technical trails with ~6700m of vertical gain (and back of course).

I trained for this race seriously including long runs on the local downhill bike trail on Manara Cliff, with up to 3000m elevation gain and loss followed by technical trails on Carmel "mountains" (small bumps compared to alps, but that's what I have).

I arrived to the area 5 days ahead of the race with my family and we had time to travel a bit in the area, relax and "feel the ground". The weather was hot even in the mountains this days (up to 30 deg. Celsius) and the forecast for the race day was "sunny", but during instruction one of the points was how to behave during the lightening storm while exposed in the mountains.
Specially built bridge for the finish (last ascent/descent)

The morning of the  race... ok it was 2 am wake up + 2:30 breakfast and then 4:30 start. I have misty memory of watching runners slowly gathering close to starting line, none really in a hurry, checking equipment last time with the tune of the official "are you ready to win the race" song. I was still scared but keen to go. We heard the count down, followed by the gun and then went ahead, some faster trying to reach the single trail with less crowds, others (like me) much, much slower.
What does the 5 min wait before the single matter if the run lasts more than 20 hours... not that much.

 First part was steady climb with some rolling sections and not too technical, so I stayed comfortable and gone through the Grosse Sheidegg with 10 min to spare relative to my (very conservative) schedule. I tried to keep the same routine on the aid stations:
  1. throw the empty gel covers
  2. drink one cup of water + 2 (or 3) cups of energy drink
  3. eat something (what looks good)
  4. grab a couple of gels for the road
  5. optional: fill the water pack -- did it 2 times
This was efficient and I felt well with the food (Sponser mostly).

I passed First first time with sunrise colors still in the sky - in Europe it takes time for the sun to get up, especially with mountains around, and ran down an easy smooth pass to Bort station (17.4km). The climb back to First went through forest trail, steep but not dramatic, I took it easy, we had plenty of more climbing to do this day... and arrived to First station (22km) well before 9:00 (projected time). Here I met Vitaly and Michael for the first time in a set up that will be repeated 3 more times during the race: Vitaly waiting with camera at the station, Michael 200m before the station ready to catch me and walk with me to the station.
I got few pictures, the  food, a hug and was sent on my way till I meet them next time at half past 3 at Burglaunen station, 53 km. I still had a lot to climb before it though... The highest point was at Faulhorn that we saw from our hotel room looming at 2680m. On the way there it became colder and windy and the rain started, I got dressed up on my way, and did not stay long up there ...
The way down was the first and one of the most technical steep descents, enhanced by the rain.

Half way down to Shynige Platte at Egg station it warmed up again, so I put away the jackets, but this filled up the pack and I did not feel that I was almost out of the water already at the station. It's just about 6 km from Egg till Shynige Platte, but with the trail being that technical and mostly single trail (so every one had to wait in the line from time to time) it took not less than an hour, so I had time to get thirsty.
From there we had more rather steep descent to the midway station at Burglaunen were I saw Vitaly and Michael and we had two more meetings scheduled for the day: one in Wengen, another in Maennlichen, both  after rather brutal uphills with 1 VK of ascent each.
Arrival to Wengen carried plenty of positive energy just as it was each time for the Jungfrau marathon: people were cheering on the streets, with traditional "Bravo! Hop! Hop!", caw bells ringing and a lot of smiles on the way. I filled the water pack, this time on schedule, said "hi" to Vitaly and Michael and said that I plan to take it slow (not easy, even very slow was not easy on the climb to Maennlichen).
These 6 km took me more than an hour and a half... I had passed people taking every excuse to rest (like passing 100 more vertical meters, taking long time to take pictures, etc...) A couple of guys were right a step behind me, but when I offered to step aside so they could pass me, they insisted they felt much better where they were.
waiting for the storm to pass, Kleine Sheidegg

I took a bit more time for this station since I would not see my family till the finish, took warm clothes for the night and prepared the head lamp for the journey to Kleine Sheidegg, then started running easy downhill well before 20:00. It was still light, but there were more clouds and wind was getting stronger. It started raining and by 20:30; there were plenty of impressive lightnings followed explosive thunder with seconds between. I got to another turn to be met by race marshals who directed me to the short cut trail to Kleine Sheidegg, just ~500 m ahead and said that the race was interrupted, the storm was too dangerous and I would be safe at the station.

There was a long waiting till the storm passed and the runners were allowed to continue at 23:15. Due to the long wait the original route was changed and did not pass through Pfingstegg anymore. We went down almost to Grindelwald and then up to Alpiglen + Marmorbruch and then back to Grindelwald.
I had no idea where the updated went, and the timing made much less sense after a long break, so I took it even more slow than the rest of the race... Of course it might be also a touch connected to the couple of blisters that broken up and made sloshing sounds while I moved, or the fact that I managed to get a bit stiff during the break, but I believe that it's also the fact that I do not like to work too hard.

Eventually I got to the finish and even managed to send SMS to Vitaly 5 min before I passed (running!) this special bridge on the finish line. Unlike many other races I did not have to look where to hand in the chip or collect my finishing gear: I was met immediately after crossing the finish line by race official who took the chip off, handed the finisher sticker + t-shirt (in right size!!!) to me and a finishing Eiger stone!

It was amazing race, beautiful, hard, perfectly marked route (with reflective color on the ground + ribbons + signs), well stuffed stations with smiling and professional volunteers (500 of them!) who helped us all the way to have the best race possible.
crossing the finish line

finishing gear: Eiger stone, sticker + t-shirt with celebration bottle cork!

Monday 27 October 2014

Sovev Emek Saga NOT Finished or the Thought on the Morning After

So one more year came and one more attempt at 166km was made.
Again I came close to finishing 4 laps only. And this time it so accurately followed the last year pattern it was just maddening...
There were some small things that were better or worse... Physically I felt good both years.
I have pictures with smiles at the aid station after 116km done as an illustration.
Now barely 2 days after my legs are not sore or not tight.

I even did not suffer at any point of the race... Yes I did get big blisters on the balls of my feet but the pain was manageable and the feet would have served me for more ~40km, I am sure of it.

Well, a few words about the race itself... Shai manages to get the race better and better with each passing year and while it seems almost impossible the race quality continues to improve.

Although somebody has to complain, right? Thus I add one more thing to wish list (hope Shai listens somewhere...): please, provide hot drinks (tea) at aid stations at night for those who really need it!!!
It just may save our race... Gal'ed and Zorea are too far apart when you are hypothermic, and hot drink every few km could really be a savior.

I loved the race atmosphere, seeing familiar faces, smiles and good morning/evening greetings of passing runners, the staff was helpful and encouraging. The sunrise was gorgeous... the weather was just perfect.

I kept it easy, the only aim was to finish full 5 rounds... I eat well, hydrated well, ran/walked smoothly and felt strong all the time. I finished 3 rounds (100km) 20 min slower than last time but as conservative as I where that was really not surprising and I where really happy with how it went. Yes I were getting tired but that was to be expected: even 100km walk in the park takes some energy.
I did not feel cold, but it was night, so I swapped the light sleeveless shirt to thermal long sleeve craft shirt I use when temps are above 10 degrees. I were still warm when moving, but felt some chill when stopped to drink at aid stations.
Then I started for hot drink at aid stations... but the was none... so I just kept moving.
I got the 4th green band from Zorea to Gal'ed and there was hot tea. That was a blessing!

After a cup of tea I was on my way (116km done), got back bounce (well, kind of) into my step and good mood with it. All was great until it was not... I was getting colder... asked to spare hot drink at next aid station, but they had none.
Just few hundred meters after (a bit more than 120km) I were shivering, I tried to move faster but my muscles where contracting while I shivered and I had really little control over them. That were the longest 2.5 km ever till the next station and I remember not much of it, the only thought I had to get warm soon... Of course there was no hot drinks at next station, but the was a car. I asked for a few min with heat on and immediately got it with worried smiles and wind jacket to warm up. I thought to start going as soon as I get better... but I did not. I did not get better and could not held people from their plans forever... Finally I got the ride to Zorea, thanked my kind hosts and went  to return the chip and GPS again... barely 10 meters off the heated car and I could barely stand shaking from cold.
Measured body temp. was 34 degrees.

I was helped to warm up there with blankets and hot drinks but as soon as I got up (with wool thick jacket on me now) I was shaking again. My race was over just like the last year after 20 hours and the cause was the same: hypothermia. No I am not sorry that I decided to stop at the circumstances... I still am aware and shocked by Jon Tvedt death, so I did not wish to play with fire (cold).

But... of course I am disappointed. What did I do wrong? What should have I done to prevent it? These questions are on my mind now and I have research to do, problem to solve.

I must admit I am not the best person to keep body heat even in my everyday life... I am one of those who always need more clothes to stay warm, are against air conditioners, and ask for hot drinks during summer. I am also have a light form of hypothyroidism... although I seem to pick up the muscle mass from breathing alone...

Still I was warm moving one moment and shivering just a minute later...

Shall I come again? I believe that I shall, so Shai, looking forward to enjoy your hospitality once again.

Thanks to everybody who helped/smiled/cheered me on the route!

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Matterhorn Ultraks 2014

After a long (a whole year!) silence I am back for another race review. I have been asked a few times about my last trip and I would love to share my impressions from this beautiful race: Matterhorn Ultraks, 2nd edition - 2014.

The race is relatively short: about 46 km (although many Garmins measured a couple of km more than that) with good 3600m climbing (and of course 3600m descending).

It was not exactly a "focus race" of the year, but I must admit I was kind of scared for some reason. Well, I were not injured and had a good recovery + training after Transvulcania in May, the race is not the longest (distance or time) I've done, but... still I had proper butterflies in me going into it.

Before going into details, I can tell that the race is hard, really hard, the climbs are properly long and steep and descents are good too, less technical than I expected after Transvulcania and reading the race reports, but still with few rather slow parts, which would be even slower in wet weather...
...But in good weather it's just amazing. The route is so beautiful that you can forget about the race just staring around in those moments you are not fighting for the breath on the climb or staring on the technical trail on steep descent.

At 7:30 in the morning, August 23, I left Michael and Vitaly on the starting line in Zermatt (1600m) and started the run to the first uphill... to Sunnegga (2260m). I kept effort on comfortable level trying to ease into some kind of rhythm.
I felt ok... but definitely not a strong day for me... legs were not too heavy, but lacked the "pep" and the uphills took more effort than usually... Yea, I know that I train at sea level, but it's not the first mountain race that I did... Well, as long as I did not brush the cut off times, I decided not to fight with myself and just ran along and enjoyed every moment of the trip... I stopped to take pictures more than a few times and even moved from the trail when the view was better in some places. Anyway this race is relatively short and you cannot tire of the scenery.

At Sunnegga I was @ the back of the pack since I was slow starting and then the single trail had traffic jams, but later on runners were a bit more sparse and I slowly made my way to Gornegratt (3130m) starting passing people but not too aggressively... and of course getting them pass me back when I stopped for the pictures :-) Trails were mostly not too technical and the only reason not to run them was their serious grade... so I got full worth of my BD Z-poles and settled into familiar hiking style.

The downhill to Riffelalp (2222m) was really pleasant although I am still too slow on downhills I've got much more confidence after Muhraka+Manara repeats... well, I even tried to take a wrong turn... 3 times (!) on my way, but luckily was shouted at every time and at most lost a couple of min each time.

After Riffelalp the route took us down with some technical parts to the rather dramatic hanging bridge at ~23km with "no running" sign... we were also promised one more aid station at Furi (24km, 1867m) but it for some reason was not there... Good that I did not learn the route too well, so was not too much disappointed :-)

The next big up was to  Schwarzsee (2583m), were I met Michael and Vitaly and after a few shots and 10 min I were on my way to the Stafel check point

Stafel is not an aid station, more just junction where the 30k and 46k routes part for the last time and the final cut off is enforced for 46k runners. The trail was runable and beautiful downhill, so I got to the point in time and continued upwards and again down to the last aid station in Trift (2583m).

At aid station I helped myself to a piece of really delicious cake took some pictures of sheep on the trail and continued to the last up along waterfalls and final downhill to Zermatt.

We were lucky this year to have few dry days before the race, so the downhill was with a good grip and I ran it all (slowly :-)) and suddenly it was going to end... "1km left" sign and the entrance to Zermatt followed way too quickly and I was welcomed by music just before the finish line.

Michael and Vitaly welcomed me at finish and we finished the lovely day with a good dinner at Miyoko restaurant (Michael's choice) just 300m from the finish line.

Yes, I know my time was relatively slow even for me (10:15) but I cannot say that would want to finish this race earlier, this course is worth every minute I spent on it and I loved all of them!