Dienstag, 15. August 2017

Sierre Zinal 2017

The race
When you are looking for the most iconic mountain race Sierre-Zinal must be right on top of the list. This year there were again 85 invited athletes coming from around the world and most of them with an amazing palmarès. The starting list reads itself as a who is who – especially if you look at the history of this race.
Here you are toe to toe with so many (World-) Champions. But how did I feel previous to the race? I was not able to do the kind of training I was hoping for. The previous races cost me more energy than I thought they would and at the Swissalpine Davos I was slower than the previous year whilst fighting harder. On a positive note, I was then able to train a few days in the Engadin really good to also get used to the high altitude. I just didn’t know if my shape was any good. I would be happy with a time of 2:45 hours.
At dinner before the race legend Pablo Vigil (4-time winner 1979-1982) sat next to me. He was talking about all the fancy material one can buy nowadays and all the nutrition. But in effect running is simple. So he said: “You have to train hard and race like hell” – that was his secret and he must know!

First part (steep!)
After this inspiring conversation, I was quite positive for the race. The preparation went well and I felt ready. The first kilometre on the road is usually a bit fast so I was trying to find my own rhythm. There were probably 50 runners in front of me and as we hit the steep climb which would go from Sierre (585m) to Ponchette (1870) I would just gradually overtake one athlete after the other. After about 30 minutes I had Juan Carlos Cardona (2nd in 2013 & Olympic marathoner) in front of me and Marco DeGasperi (6-time World Champion and 3-time Sierre-Zinal winner) and Matthias Kyburz (4-time Orienteering World Champion) around me. I had no idea what position we were in but the feeling was surprisingly well.

Second part (undulating uphills)
Once we reached Ponchette and with it the flatter section I was still doubtful of my form but I was able to keep up with the others. I kept my rhythm, was able to maintain my energy level with the right nutrition thanks to the Winforce Gels I was carrying with me. With the exception of Max King who was just flying past us on the short downhill (up&down World Champion 2010) at Tignousa nobody would overtake me. It was my strategy to save some energy and finish strong. I realised last year that you need enough reserves from Nava (highest point with 2424 masl) to the finish even though everything is “just” downhill. It is still about 40 minutes (for me) of running. If you are out of energy it is a long way! I went up there the day before to look at every passage to be prepared for every step that was somewhat technical. It helped me also mentally that I knew I had everything under control.

Last section (downhill)
When we were climbing to Hotel Weisshorn (20km) I saw all the athletes who were in front of me ligned up one after the other. There were still quite a few of them but the gap was surprisingly small. Steadily I closed the gap of a minute on Frenchman Thibaut Baronian who would then chase me to the finish line. On the steepest part of the last kilometre a couple of Columbians (Jose David Cardona – Jungfrau Marathon 2017 Winner) were probably struggling with their quads as we were just flying past them. The last 500 meters are always tricky as they are on the road. I had immediately calf cramps. Usually I am able to get rid of them quickly but not this time. It was a fight to the finish line but was able to hold of Thibaut by 4 seconds. I crossed it as 6th in a time of 2:37:12 and am extremely happy about this result. In the meantime Petro Mamu was caught positiv which means I am ranked now in 5th position. 

Montag, 1. Mai 2017

Duathlon European Champioships Soria

My comeback at an international Duathlon Championship

It is now 6 years ago I have attended at an international Duathlon Championships. It was sort of a coming home to what I have been doing in my first part of my sports career. There are still quite a few athletes around that I used to race at the time – and others have switched to the coaching staff. The continental championships were held in Soria in the province of Castilla & Leon (Spain). It is one of the least populated area in Western Europe.
When I checked the starting list, I recognised many athletes from the past. Quite a few of them are excellent runners with an athletic background but are also solid cyclists. It was obvious the first run would be very fast. The 2.5 km running course had five 180° turns and some more sharp corners which made it a bit of a stop and go race. The bike course was quite undulating with two inclines per lap (with 6 laps). With Valentin Fridelance I had a teammate with me, depending on the race development we would be able to work together. It stayed dry during the whole race but it was seriously cold that day.

Right from the start the pace was very fast. And more importantly my legs felt like led. Apart from a few athletes that fell off the pack right from the beginning, I was the last athlete. Different coaches tried to encourage me to hang on but I also knew that it would have been not very smart to try and chase the leading group. Even though it was very frustrating because I did not feel like I could speed up at all. I seriously thought of quitting the race. But at the same time I knew exactly that the race is not over yet. In the second of four laps I started to overtake a few athletes and the further we got, the more athletes paid the price for over pacing. Maybe the splits were normal for them but with all the corners and the few meters up and down it takes its toll. During the last lap I managed to get in contact with what formed the chasing group on the bike.

The transition went relatively smooth and found myself in a group of about 15 athletes. We soon caught 3 Spaniards. We had about 7 athletes from Spain in the group and 5 Belgians. But – they had absolutely no team tactics. I don’t know what their coaches told them but I thought it was quite an odd situation. We were about a minute behind the leading pack but either everybody looked at each other or we closed gaps consistently for these 6 laps. During the second lap nobody followed me on the uphill but I was left on my own and I was hoping a couple of other athletes would bridge the gap so we could work together. Unfortunately, that did not happen and we returned as a very big group back into second transition as the pack behind us with Valentin worked together and caught us. At the front, very quickly a group of 4 strong athletes formed the lead with 4 more strong runners which did not have the legs to follow the others. One gave up with cramps in the legs so we were running now for 8th position.

The second run was hard again. The pace could have been worse but it just felt terrible. It took me 4 kilometers until I found my rhythm which was just before the finish line. I wish I would have found another gear but that just did not happen. I crossed it after 1:51:07 hours in 17th position with five U23 athletes in front of me which puts me officially in 12th position.

It was a hard comeback on this level of racing but overall I probably did what was within my abilities. Retrospectively it was wise to stay at the back of the pack initially. I tried to make a difference on the bike several times and break away but that did not happen. I have to analyse what went wrong but I felt a lot stronger during the run at the Gürbetal Duathlon. 

Montag, 24. April 2017

Duathlon Comeback in Mühleturnen

Gürbetal Duathlon

Es ist das erste Mal, dass ich am Duathlon in Mühlethurnen gestartet bin. Der Anlass ist zeitlich deutlich nach vorne verlegt worden, sodass er in der Schweiz den Auftakt zur Eisenhorn Duathlon Serie bildet.

Nach 2 Wochen Radfahren im Trainingslager in Giverola, sollte ich eigentlich genug gewappnet sein für das Einzeilzeitfahren, das es zuerst zu absolvieren gilt. Ich habe mich dazu entschieden, das gleiche Material zu fahren wie eine Woche später an der Duathlon Europameisterschaft in Soria – also mit meinem 11-jährigen (!) Kuota Kalibur mit Rennlenker, sodass das Velo kompatibel ist mit den Anforderungen für ein Windschattenrennen.

Nach dem Trainingslager mit 1500 Kilometern auf dem Rad und 7 Kilometern Laufen war ich relativ skeptisch bezüglich meiner Laufbeine. Die Lauftrainings danach fühlten sich auf jeden Fall nicht sehr toll an.

Als ich von der Startrampe rollte, brauste gleich Andi Kälin an mir vorbei, der auf seine 2. Runde ging. So hatte ich jemanden, an den ich mich halten konnte. Bis zur ersten Steigung nach kaum 2 Kilometern wusste ich bereits, dass es heute schwer werden würde. Die Rampe hoch konnte ich ihn zwar überholen, bis zur Abfahrt war er dann aber wieder an mir vorbei. Nach der ersten Runde (etwa 9 km) überholte mich Felix Köhler, der 30 Sekunden hinter mir gestartet ist und zog sogleich davon. Ich war mir bewusst, dass es für mich «bloss» ein Vorbereitungsrennen für die EM sein würde, doch das war schon gerade deprimierend. Ich kämpfte mich mit schweren Beinen über die 3 Runden und klassierte mich auf dem 16. Platz und 2:02 Minuten hinter dem Duo Sutz und Köhler. Das empfand ich im ersten Moment als aussichtslose Situation.

Doch es wartete auch noch der 7.9 Kilometer lange Lauf. Einige Konkurrenten verloren nur wenig auf dem Rad auf die Spitze, sodass ich mir ausmalte, wohl noch die Top 10 zu erreichen. Gut eine Stunde nach dem Zeitfahren begann der Jagdstart mit den Führenden. Mit dem Handycap von gut 2 Minuten machte ich mich auf die Verfolgung. Schon auf dem ersten Kilometer konnte ich einige Konkurrenten einholen. Es bildeten sich kleine Grüppchen von Läufern vor mir, die ich ein- und überholen konnte. Schliesslich fand ich mich nach 2 von 3 Runden auf Rang 4 wieder, 30 Sekunden hinter Fabian Zehnder. Dieser schien mich trotz einem Blick nach hinten noch nicht wahrgenommen zu haben und ich witterte meine Chance. Ich gab noch einmal alles, um näher zu kommen und tatsächlich war ich einen Kilometer vor dem Ziel noch 10 Sekunden hinter ihm. Doch dann bemerkte er mich und stürmte mit langen Schritten dem Ziel entgegen.

So platzierte ich mich auf dem 4. Platz, konnte 12 Plätze gut machen und in 26:19 Minuten einen neuen Streckenrekord auf der Laufstrecke aufstellen. So muss ich mir für die Duathlon EM weniger Gedanken machen über die Lauf-, als auf die Radform. 

Sonntag, 26. März 2017

Männedörfler Waldlauf

Es ist das erste Mal, dass ich an diesem regionalen Anlass teilgenommen habe, der auch zur Serie des Züri Lauf Cups zählt. Nachdem ich letzte Woche nicht beim Kerzerslauf wegen Oberschenkelproblem teilnehmen konnte, fühlte sich dieser nun deutlich besser an. Der Lauf führt über Waldwege durch den Ausläufer vom Pfannenstiel und ist gespickt mit vielen Steigungen, was mir natürlich entgegenkommt. Doch dieses Profil passte natürlich auch dem amtierenden Berglauf Schweizermeister Christian Mathys.

Nach dem Startschuss werden sofort die ersten 50 Höhenmeter absolviert, um dann für einige Kilometer eher bergab zu gehen. Christian Mathys schlug sogleich eine hohe Pace an und suchte schon eine Vorentscheidung über diese Kuppe. Diese 50 Höhenmeter schienen den meisten schon den Schnauf zu rauben, und da ich mich an seine Fersen krallte, waren wir gleich alleine unterwegs. Christian schien sich ziemlich wohl zu fühlen und lief sein Tempo vorne weg. Nach 2km liess ich ihn dann gewähren und verlor langsam aber sicher Meter um Meter. Nach 5 Kilometern waren es dann etwa 20 Sekunden, die uns trennten. Ich wollte nun einfach mein Rennen laufen, und doch noch eine solide Zeit ins Ziel bringen. Doch in der darauffolgenden Steigung zum höchsten Punkt schien ich plötzlich Meter um Meter an meinen Kontrahenten zu kommen. Bis Kilometer 10 kam ich auf 10 Sekunden an Christian ran, doch dann konnte er nochmals einen höheren Rhythmus anschlagen als ich und siegte mit 16 Sekunden Vorsprung.

Mit dem Rennen darf ich dennoch sehr zufrieden sein – es war die 5. Beste je gelaufene Zeit auf diesem Kurs. Trotz dem, dass ich mich nicht ganz so stark auf dem Rad fühle wie ich mir erhofft habe, kann ich nun auf meine Laufform zählen. Jetzt geht es ab ins Trainingslager nach Giverola, wo ich einmal mehr die Basis für die kommende Saison holen möchte.
Als Ausblick steht zuerst der Gürbetal Duathlon auf dem Programm, danach die Duathlon EM in Sorìa (Spanien).

Click here for results
Click here for strava

Gear used: 


For the first time, I started at the regional Männedörfler Waldlauf which counts towards the Züri-Lauf-Cup. I missed the Kerzerslauf the week before because of a quadriceps injury which has improved a lot. The race takes place next to the Pfannenstiel and is quite undulating which helps with my abilities. At the starting line, I met a few familiar faces – amongst them was Christian Mathys who is currently Swiss Champion in mountain running.

Right after the start we had to climb 50 meters from where it goes mainly downhill. Mathys quickly tried to get rid of everybody else and pushed over the top. These 50 meters seem to have taken the steam out of everybody else’s legs so I was the only one who was able to follow. After 2km I started to lose meter after meter because it was just a fraction to quick for me. After 5 km it were about 20 seconds between us. I tried to focus now on myself and have a good race. In the following uphill I seemed to get closer. With a mile left I was about 10 seconds away from Christian. But he was to strong for me on the day and won with 16 seconds ahead of me.

I am very with the race – it was the 5th best time which has ever been run on this course. Even though I don’t feel as good as I would like to on the bike I know I have solid running legs. Now I am in Giverola where I am setting the base for the rest of the season.

Next race is the Gürbetal Duathlon, followed by the Duathlon European Championships in Sorìa (ESP). 

Sonntag, 11. September 2016

The essence of the Jungfrau Marathon

What is the significance of the Jungfrau Marathon (JFM)?

The JFM is the biggest Marathon in Switzerland, some say the most beautiful Marathon in the World and maybe even the most prestigious regular mountain Marathon in the World. Apart from that, I have good contacts to the organisation and it is a great opportunity to meet a lot of good friends who come back every year to this race. There are a lot of repeaters. And it is really worth it because it is a very attractive race.

Weshalb ich immer wieder am Jungfrau Marathon (JFM) starte

Der JFM ist der grösste Marathon der Schweiz. Manche sagen, er wäre der schönste Marathon der Welt und er gehört sicher zu den prestigeträchtigsten Bergmarathons der Welt. Aber ich verbinde vielmehr mit diesem Lauf. Neben dem grandiosen Panorama und Erlebnis an sich, habe ich gute Kontakte zur Organisation und es ist immer schön, viele Freunde wieder zu treffen. Es gibt viele Wiederholungstäter, was auch für den Anlass spricht.

Race preparation

Coming off Sierre-Zinal with a strong performance I knew I had the legs for another big effort. But I felt that I probably peaked already and wasn’t sure if I could keep it up for another month. I am so happy that it worked out. I was also mentally very tired and needed two weeks off from hard trainings. Then I did with the Hoher Kasten Berglauf a short distance race. And just a couple of days before the race I climbed the Schwägalp which I did as well just a few days before Sierre-Zinal to see how my shape is. It didn’t feel as fresh anymore but I knew the legs were ready.
I was a bit anxious about my running in the flat. I didn’t do enough miles to be sure I would be ready. The point is that you use the gastrocnemius a lot different in the flat than in the mountains which could lead potentially to cramps.


Nach der tollen Leistung bei Sierre-Zinal war ich mir nicht sicher, ob die Beine für einen weiteren so grossen Effort reichen würden. Ich dachte, dass ich den Zenit für dieses Jahr schon erreicht habe. Ich bin sehr glücklich, dass es so geklappt hat. Ich war mental sehr müde und brauchte eine gute Pause von den intensiven Trainings. Eine erste Standortbestimmung war dann der Start beim Hoher Kasten Berglauf. Ich habe gerade auch in dieser Phase viel auf dem Rad trainiert und habe eine letzte Trainingsfahrt auf die Schwägalp gemacht – genau wie vor Sierre-Zinal. So hatte ich nochmals einen letzten Vergleich und wusste, dass ich bereit war.
Ich war aber auch besorgt, da ich relativ wenige flache Laufkilometer absolviert habe. Denn in der Fläche braucht man vor allem den Wadenmuskel Gastrocnemius ganz anders als am Berg, weshalb ich eine Überlastung und Krämpfe nicht ausschliessen konnte.

How I prepared myself mentally

The JFM is tricky. You can easily overpace in the first half and suffer on the bottom half where it counts. Before my first participation I was told that the race starts in Lauterbrunnen (26km) or maybe Wengen (30km). And you will find out if you paced yourself well after Wixi (38km). So I basically tried to stay calm on until Lauterbrunnen. 1h15min was exactly what I was aiming for on the first half. Then I could feel that the legs were ready for more so I pushed a bit more until it started to climb. On the steep parts I speed-hiked and passed already four runners until Wengen. From there it is another 12km and about 1000 meter uphill. You have to tap into your energy reserves and you will feel that it is hard on your body. I think the hardest thing about this race that you have not a single stretch where you can recover the cardiac system. Usually you have longer downhill passages where the heart rate can drop a bit but here it only goes flat, up, up & up.
I had three people who were looking after me and supplying me with drinks and gels where necessary. An important part is for me to cool down early in the race – or already before the start to cool down the core temperature. Other athletes even use cooling vests for exactly that reason. Maybe I should get one!

Meine taktischen Überlegungen

Der JFM ist relativ heikel, denn es gibt keine Erholungsmöglichkeiten bei diesem Lauf. Wenn du dich überschätzt auf der ersten Hälfte, wirst du automatisch am Ende leiden und viel Zeit verlieren. Vor meiner ersten Teilnahme wurde mir schon beigebracht, dass das Rennen in Lauterbrunnen (26km) oder Wengen (30km) anfängt und nach Wixi (38km) wird abgerechnet, ob man das Rennen richtig eingeteilt hat.
So hielt ich mich auf der ersten Hälfte zurück. Die Hälfte passierte ich in 1h15min, was genau meiner Vorgabe entsprach. Dann versuchte ich noch ein bisschen Boden gut zu machen bis zum Anstieg. Da lief ich die ganz steilen Passagen, um die Kräfte zu schonen. Und doch überholte ich bis nach Wengen schon 4 weitere Athleten. Dann geht’s noch auf 12km noch 1000 Meter bergauf. Von da wird es hart, denn während des ganzen Laufs gibt es keine längere bergab Passage, wie dies bei vielen Bergmarathons der Fall ist. Somit muss man hier gut einteilen, dass noch einige Körner bis auf die Moräne im Tank sind.
Ich hatte drei Leute, die mich stets bei den offiziellen Verpflegungsposten verpflegt haben. So konnte ich mich auf meine Produkte verlassen und hatte jeweils eine ganze Flasche Wasser zur Verfügung, um mich abzukühlen – für mich ein Schlüsselfaktor bei Langdistanzrennen, was die grösste Leistungseinbusse verursachen kann. Das fängt eigentlich auch schon vor dem Rennen an. Andere Athleten benutzen dafür Kühlwesten. Vielleicht sollte ich mir einmal eine zulegen!

I sticked to my race plan from the first meter on and let the first group go. This was a crucial moment in the race – should I hunt the first group or can I pace myself possibly losing the contact completely to the leaders. I knew there are 2:15 (Simpson) and 2:17 (Wieser) marathon runners and they are also excellent climbers. My 2:29 is nowhere close so I just sticked to my 3:25-3:30 min/km pace in the flat and passed the first half in a 1:15 time. If you gain 1 minute in the flat you can easily lose 3-4 minutes from Wixi to the finish. This race is a lot about finding your personal balance and this is true for all abilities.
Even though I was down I had all psychological advantages on my side because I had Wieser and Mekonnen always in my sight and could time the gap whereas they could only look back and estimate. I saw that they got both nervous and tried to fight off each other. I hoped at least one of them would fall back so I would manage to get a place on the podium. This happened after about 39km when I overtook Wieser. For me it was all about optimizing the end time.

Ich musste mich gleich nach dem Start entscheiden, ob ich der Spitzengruppe nachjagen möchte, oder ob ich mich ganz auf mich konzentriere, mit der Gefahr, dass ich ganz alleine laufen muss. Doch dies hat sich ausbezahlt, denn so hatte ich eine Pace, die mir entsprach und ich musste mich nicht dem Tempodiktat anderer beugen. Ich wusste, dass andere 2:15 (Simpson) und 2:17 (Wieser) Marathons laufen können. Da sind meine 2:29 doch eher bescheiden und ich wollte mich auf meine Stärken besinnen und hielt mich in der Fläche an eine 3:25-3:30 min/km pace. Eine Minute auf der ersten Hälfte zu schnell, kann sich dann schnell in einen Verlust von 3-4 Minuten auf den letzten 4 Kilometern auswirken! Man muss hier die persönliche Balance finden und das gilt für alle Läufer.

Trotz dem, dass ich hinterher lief, hatte ich die psychologischen Vorteile auf meiner Seite, da ich näher an die vor mir laufenden Athleten kam und ich diese ständig in meinem Sichtfeld hatte. Ich merkte, wie Wieser schon kurz nach Wengen nervös nach hinten schaute. Von vorne den Rückstand zu messen ist nicht einfach, ohne ständig zurück zu schauen, was einem normalerweise automatisch zurückbindet. Ich hoffte, dass sich Wieser und Mekonnen gegenseitig aufreiben, sodass ich davon profitieren kann und noch einen Athleten aufholen kann. Dies gelang mir dann auch um Kilometer 39, als ich Patrick Wieser überholen konnte. Für mich ging es während des ganzen Laufes darum, meine Endzeit zu optimieren und nicht in Spielerein verwickeln zu lassen.

The scenery

I have barely seen anything of it. I have been coming back to this race several times and know the area already pretty well so it’s nothing new. But to be honest I was constantly in a tunnel, trying to find the right mindset for every stage of the race. However, I enjoyed every moment of it and I perceive the spectators and everything that happens around me quite well – so if you cheered for me I most likely noticed it!

Die Berge und die Ambiance

Leider bekam ich davon so gut wie gar nichts mit. Einerseits kenne ich diese Region von mehreren Teilnahmen und anderen besuchen schon ziemlich gut, und andererseits war ich wieder total fokussiert auf mich, den Weg und die Rennsituation. Ich habe aber jeden Moment intensiv genossen und kann mich an viele Einzelheiten und Gesichter unterwegs erinnern, die mich angefeuert haben. Vielen Dank dafür!

What’s coming next?

For the moment we go on a holiday to Sardinia. If the body and the mind tells me that they want more there is plenty of races to do but if not I will just end the season here. I think this is often a risk factor if the body is tired but still in good shape and you squeeze everything out. I rather have a break and be fresh again both physically and mentally when I need to.

Wie geht es jetzt weiter?

Zuerst werde ich mir Ferien auf Sardinien gönnen. Wenn ich merke, dass Körper und Geist immer noch bereit sind für weitere Abenteuer gibt es viele Optionen. Wenn nicht, werde ich einfach die Saison beenden. Es ist für mich Zentral, die Signale des Körpers wahrzunehmen. Wenn man noch die letzten Reserven aus dem Körper auspresst, wenn er schon müde ist, wird er sich entsprechend langsamer davon erholen. Man muss ihm auch wieder etwas zurückgeben. Und man muss ja nicht darauf warten, verletzt zu sein, um eine Pause einzulegen. So kann ich dann auch wieder körperlich und mental frisch an einer Startlinie stehen, wenn es wieder Zeit dafür ist.

Gear used: 
Running shoes: Scott Kinabalu RC
Running top: Scott RC shirt
Glasses: Scott Spur

Mittwoch, 31. August 2016

Hoher Kasten Berglauf

This is likely to be the only short distance mountain race I will do this year. It is located in a very scenic part of the Swiss alps. Not to take anything away of any of the other parts but the Alpstein is a little gem on its own. I participated already twice in 2012 and 2013 when I cam 1st and 4th respectively. Because the course was extended by not even 100 meters the organizers called out to set a new course record. The old one (41:37) by Andrea Erni was simply to good to get beaten.

Quite a few athletes also from neighbouring countries such as Austria, Liechtenstein, Germany or even Italy were attracted by the prize purse of 1000 Swiss Francs. The only thing was - the winner takes it all. But I knew that many other good runners were such as Fabe Downs but also the 3 time winner Aemisegger and also world class athlete David Schneider attended who won in 2008. Schneider told me a week before the race that he wouldn't be in a great shape and I already thought it was time to beat him finally!


The Hoher Kasten Berglauf is a relatively small race with a field of about 250 runners for the main event. The atmosphere is very familial and everything very uncomplicated - just as you would expect with a local mountain run. This time the quality in the field was much higher than it is usually.
The start is on tarmac which leads After the start we were a pack of about 8 athletes who all tried to set the pace and keep it high. Soon it was David Schneider and me who were the ones leading the pack as it got smaller and smaller when only Thomas Niederegger and a heavy breathing Arnold Aemisegger were able to follow. The legs felt somewhat heavy but we pushed quite hard so what would you expect to feel.
After two kilometers there was a relatively flat part where I tried to get away from everybody for the first time. Schneider stayed close and we stayed more or less together until we reached the halfway point from where it crosses a steep meadow. Now the legs were tired and burning and I had to walk because I wasn't able to maintain the rhythm of David Schneider and so it happened that Niederegger overtook me as well. In my head I was close to give up the race. But I knew as well that this was the passage where I would be weaker than David and once we reach the road again I should have the advantage. It was a real fight in my head because I was suffering with all the lactic acid in my legs. But then again I knew that this was the reason that I was here in the first place. So I pushed through this mini-crisis.
A few minutes later on the road I had a deficit of probably 15 seconds on Schneider and Niederegger was just in between. It was great to see Thomas Rusch with friends who helped out with a bottle of cold water which was much appreciated. I could feel that I gained a few centimeters with every step and that I was able to really push on this section. This is where my strength lies when it's flowing and I can use the long reach of my legs. I know that many runners dislike this part and describe it as mentally hard but for me it's exactly the opposite.

I finally closed the gap to David Schneider just before the last steep climb started with about 100 meters vertical. I tried to stay with him but the legs were heavy and everything was burning and to my disappointment I had to let him go again. As we reached the old finish line I had 42:27 - it would have been the third best time. There were a few more steps and stairs to the new finish line where I dragged myself somewhat disappointed and I crossed it in 42:59 and 20 seconds behind David.

Retrospectively I have to say it was a good performance and David had to push himself pretty hard too. And he came recently second on the Skaala opp race just behind vertical serial winner and world champion Angermund-Vik. We both did some very good times on this course and I am pleased to get in under 43 minutes. It shows me that I am still competitive on shorter distances and that I am ready for my next challenge: the Jungfrau-Marathon!

Gear used: 
Running shoes: Scott Kinabalu RC
Running top: Scott RC shirt
Glasses: Scott Spur

Click for results
Click for strava

Montag, 15. August 2016

Sierre-Zinal – my highlight of the year!

Have you ever heared of Sierre-Zinal before? That would be a shame but one thing is for sure – it is one of the most iconic races you can do as a mountain runner. If you look at who won the editions you will find that most of the finest runners will come back year after year to see who is the champion. It has also been called “the New York marathon of mountain running” which gives you a good idea of the status of this race.

This year the elite starting list included 80 runners from all over the world. There is a long tradition of Columbians making an appearance. But there were also runners from East Africa including Mamu and Toroitich, two of the biggest names in recent years of mountain running. Otherwise multiple world champions like Wyatt (2 wins and course record) or De Gasperi (3 wins) were not missing either.

It was always a goal of mine to do this race. But because there are always so many excellent runners at the starting line you might end up quickly outside of the top 30 if you are not in the best shape. Coming after a win at the K42 of the Swissalpine with a 34 minute lead I was probably a medium fish in a very tiny pond. It was not easy to estimate how I would perform on such a big platform. I knew the big barrier is always a time of under 2:40 hours. All runners who manage to get below this mark are mentioned on their homepage which would give you a feeling of being part of a somewhat exclusive circle. But as a first-timer it is hard to tell what my potential would be.

The course can be divided into three parts. It starts in Sierre (585 masl) with a long and steep uphill to Chandolin (2000 masl). From there the race leads you on the undulating alpine trails past Hotel Weisshorn to the highest point with 2424 masl. The last 5 kilometers drop down into the town of Zinal (1675 masl). It takes a complete mountain runner to do well on this course.

Being on the bus from Zinal to Sierre I realised that I forgot my Garmin. My initial reaction was “oh shit, what’s not on strava never happened” and “I need my Garmin, I won’t know how far I am and what altitude I am at and how long it’s probably gonna take me”. It just showed me what control freaks we are so I dealt with it in my head fairly quick and had a laugh about it with my mate Daniel Green.

Waiting and warming up in the starting area I realised 20 minutes before the start that I had to do something about the heat and dry conditions. I decided to look for a fountain or a stream – anything liquid really to cool myself down. There was nothing close so I decided to go to the Rhone which was a few minutes away to fill my bottle. Even though I couldn’t drink this water it was the best thing I could have done to prevent my body to heat up more than it would anyway.

I went back into probably the fourth starting row to not get run over because most runners will overpace themselves anyway. The first kilometre was on the road and I kept myself back and found myself on the heels of Jonathan Wyatt so I thought he must know how to pace this race. After the first few bends I found my rhythm and started the pursuit of the guys who were in front of me. On the first 5 kilometres it climbs 1000 meters. Most of the steep climbs I speed-hiked up there and was just as fast as those running except the first few who started to disappear in the distance. I felt pretty good and knew the race wouldn’t start before Chandolin. It just so happened that I ran a lot with the former triathlete Cedric Fleureton. I think he tried to get away from me quite a few times but we were always within 50 meters of each other. It was not until at least half way when I learned that we were in 6th and 7th position. 

We had also two African runners around us. We passed them way before Chandolin and I almost forgot about them. When they passed us they seemed to take off on the undulating trails towards Hotel Weisshorn. But then again they were struggling too and we caught one of them and for some time I was in 5th position not far behind 4th place. I couldn’t believe that I was running in the middle of world class athletes I was really surprised – and this was only about 5 weeks after my graduation!
Well I got caught again and as I knew there must be better downhill runners around I knew I had to fight off the other competitors who were not far behind. 

I feared the worst that I would end up outside of the top 10. But somehow I managed to stay strong on the steep part downhill into Zinal. Thanks to my Scott Kinabalu shoes I had always perfect grip. My final sprint to catch Cedric ended prematurely as cramps kicked in immediately. And as I slowed down towards the finish line I realised on the last few meters that the last 5 seconds were ticking away to get a sub 2:40 time! I threw myself over the finish line in 2:39:58. I am now the 65th runner in 43 years of the race who managed to stay under 2:40! I was quite surprised by this amazing achievement! It is hard to compare this race with what I have done in the past (especially Duathlon) but I would expect this to be one of my finest results.

My target wasn’t to race for a certain place but to optimise my end time which would probably give me the best end-position. If I passed someone it had to feel natural. If you pass someone for the sake of passing him because you feel like it, you usually regret that rather sooner than later.

What did I see of the scenery? I got to tell you: absolutely nothing! What a shame that was, passing five stunning 4000+ meter peaks with glaciers and I didn’t notice anything. All my senses were just focused on how I felt, where my next foot would make contact with the ground and so on. And my missing strava upload..: I might have stayed beyond the 2:40 mark considering the distractions it would have given me and the additional weight (as the watch makes half my body weight it is quite significant! lol).

What surprised me was that I reached Ponchette in 6th position and still felt really fresh. I would have estimated that I would lose a lot more time on the top guys and would be further down in the ranks. Looking at the splits it was even my strongest section!

I am so looking forward to come back to Sierre-Zinal! If you like mountain running you absolutely have to do this one! 

Gear used: 
Running shoes: Scott Kinabalu RC
Running top: Scott RC shirt
Glasses: Scott Spur

Click here for results
Video: click here for a video from athle.ch or here more personalised (only temporary)