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).