Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Time is tickin'

Why inscribe a race story when the actual competition was weeks ago? The key question is why did I not write anything while it happened. Questions over questions… In the end It all comes down to family, this stunning Swedish summer and available time.

As always. Times are changing. And it seems that it’s always a positive amendment. Life with a family is not the same. In a positive way, though. And in addition to a busy work schedule the keenness on spending quality time with my wife and my son is noticeably bigger than sitting down and bore the internet with egoistic thoughts about racing. Even though there is still a hell lot of fun and enthusiasm involved when it comes to everyday exercise and racing, the blogging share of being a professional amateur endurance plodder will eventually cut short. But then again - not short enough.

The last big race left me pretty drained but highly motivated. Felix and I had an marvellous day at the Utö Swimrun and in the aftermath of this competition I took it easier with an emphasis on recovery and swimming technique and OW excursions. Stockholm is a city that makes it easy to settle in and the training prospects are nothing short of being "otrolig".

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To not be in the way of family-life I altered training-life to the early morning hours. With the well-known extensive Swedish summer days that is currently not a problem. I use my daily work commute to get some of the basic training in but I furthermore catch up with Dan and Karl for regular sessions. I’m thankful that these chaps like to wake up early, too. It is so much easier to step out of bed when you know there is somebody waiting. Above and beyond buying the wedding rings the Thule Chariot seems to be the best investment we have made. Our son loves the stroller and therefore I like to run and cycle with him. Running with the buggy can be challenging but it certainly is very enjoyable. Unquestionably daddy (running) and youngster (sleeping) like it and it is great to discover new places with my son.

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Of course! Training is nice. But there is nothing that beats some proper racing. So here is what happened in the last couple of weeks:

2017-05: Stockholm Swimrun
Fabian came up for a long anticipated excursion of the ill-famed German Sparkle Party. As usual it is so much fun to race with him. At the Stockholm Swimrun we had a mixed competition. We did not show our best performance in the water but on land we reeled back big time. We managed to cruise through the field but missed the podium because of powerlessness in the last long swims. Fabian transcribed a great piece for our Team website. Check it out here.

It was cool to race just a few meters away from our house. I train a lot in Djurgarden and Hagaparken. Eventually the race went across these parts of town. Perfect to show a friend where I train and live.

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2017-06: Hellas Swimrun
A classic race in a classic Swimrun area. Hellasgarden is where the sport of Swimrun has its roots. The midweek contest was previously known as “Ötillö Training Race”. Organizer Erika Rosenbaum then established the term “Swimrun”. The rest is history. On a striking day I cycled out to Hellasgarden to meet a lot of familiar faces. Unusual for Swimrun, the competition is a one-man fight. This was the first time I did a Swimrun race by myself. It felt strange to be out there on my own. However it was so much fun. Pretty exhaustive fun. Two loops around the park with quite some swimming. I managed a Top 10 finish but there is some improvement to be made. Great to see that nearly 100 people came out to race!

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2017-07: Arlanda Aquathlon
Spontaneous excursions are the best. Throughout a morning jog Henrik and I decided to give the Arlanda competition a go. Just 40 Minutes north of Stockholm we found a gorgeous competition in and around the 1,140 km2-large Mälaren lake. The third-largest freshwater pond in Sweden presented great weather and a striking scenery. Pretty unusual for a lake, the swim sections were pretty choppy. Although we did not train together we had a flawless race which we finished as 3rd team. A lot of fun to race this with Henrik!

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It looks like the racing season now is in full swing. Next up is Öloppet with the notorious Knut followed by Angaloppet with Dan. After several years without some Swim-Bike-Run business I will give the Stockholm triathlon, a day prior to the ITU World Triathlon Series, a go. Then it is time to polish the form for the big one – Ötillö.

Tune of the day: Knxwledge - Nvrending

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

shoeporn: Salomon - S-LAB XA Amphib

It was overdue. Finally French Trail Running Giants Salomon released a shoe solely dedicated to SwimRun. The S-LAB XA Amphib caters all the needs, on land and in the water. 
Something that sticks out is the outer material. Salomon uses a fast drying mesh material to get the water out of the shoe quickly. Besides this the unique web-style creates a safe and steady feeling for the feet while running. 
A stylish and trully unique peace off footwear - S-LAB XA Amphib. Fast drying and breathable single layer mesh combined with nylon layer allows extrem breathability. A key feature as the shoe certainly will get wet. 
What is this S-Lab? Well, the people at Salomon describe it as follows: "There's no secret to the S/LAB. Just two words. Play and progress. Engineers, athletes and designers gather around the table to design the future. Never satisfied, always dreaming, delivering exceptional performance gear.That's the S/LAB."
Salomon gathered an expert team to develop this shoe. Besides the 2016 Ötillö Champions, swedish duo Daniel Hansson and Lelle Moberg, several other experienced Swimrunners helped to develop this shoe. 
It is  hard to mix two different worlds. Swimming with a shoe is not that common. Although the Amphib does not help the swim performance, the light and water absorbent material does not slow athletes down. Once entering land, water leaves the shoe fast and efficient.  
The Amphib comes in with a pleasant weight of 215g.
I particularly became a fan of the outsole. The gnarly design paired with the soft rubber creates great grip and a secure feeling on technical trails during all weather conditions. 
Finally! A sweet drop of 4mm is what i like.
Salomon established the Quicklace system several years ago. Also the Amphib features this reliable and minimalistic one-pull tightening system. The Lace pocket storage system makes sure the laces are stored away securely.
A internal sock system makes sure the feet stays in place. Salomon called this Endofit. It certainly does the job during demanding trails.
This was worth the wait. While the former Sense models were a great partner for Swimrun races, the all new S-LAB XA Amphib takes the advantages of Salomons trail running flagship and pairs it perfectly with the singular needs of Swimrun. 

Tune of the day: Madchild - Badchild

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Checked: Berghaus - Hyper 100 Extrem Waterproof Jacket

Undeniably 110 grams are not much when it comes to clothing. It feels kind of bizarre to lift a petite bag, unfold it and discover a proper rain jacket. The utter weightlessness thoroughly fascinates. Berghaus, England’s pioneering outdoor driving force surely raises eyebrows with their state-of-the-art raincoat – the Hyper 100 Extrem. 
Apparently there is no other 3rd layer jacket on the market that beats the Hyper 100 when it comes to weight. The ultra-lightweight rain cover was developed as a steadfast companion during mountainous excursions. It’s ultramodern accuracy seaming and pattern-cutting style make it extraordinary. 
Minimalist will love this jacket. I undoubtedly like the humble, well-organized and effective style. The well-thought-out design makes sure that the lowest weight is accomplished. Just what I treasure on such a demanding piece of gear. No thrills! 
Berghaus’ engineers used the widely recognised Hydroshell Elite Pro fabrics to stitch something really special. Although rain covers can get a bit sticky during running sessions, the durable Hydroshell material stays extremely breathable (…no sweatbox effect!) whereas still being fully and rightly water-resistant. Additionally the main body is kept seamless. A well cut one piece panel protects against whatever weather you face and makes up for a comfy, non-bulky, feeling. 
Despite the fact that the Hyper 100 Extrem jacket is more expensive than other running rain jackets, it is difficult to find a comparable product that features the equal waterproof and light abilities. 
With this pioneering and product Berghaus created an own category. Without doubt it is no surprise that the company won a Gold award in the 3-layer outer category at the 2016 OutDoor show and topped it up with a victory at the 2017 ISPO. 
The hood of a rain jacket is an essential part.  The Hyper 100 Extrem features a well-shaped solidified peak that makes for great rain protection and still has enough space to wear a cap under it. 
In the course of numerous training excursions the jacket was stowed in my running shorts. Drawn-out off-trail, forest runs and scrambles did not worry the Hyper 100 Extrem and I am more than stunned by the robustness of the material despite some close encounters trees and rocks. By now I use the jacket on several occasions as it can be used as an alternative softshell layer. 
Inside look - I love the attention to detail when it comes to the isolated sewing on the inside. Proper quality!
Feedback from the ones that know - Berghaus’ elite MtnHaus design squad assisted to shape this incredible piece of mountain gear that will be loved not only by geeky outdoor weight watchers. 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Sunday, 16 July 2017

On point with Lars Ekman

Brothers Lars and Jonas Ekman have quite some similarities. Growing up in Lagga, a little town just 65 kilometres north of Stockholm, the duo successfully swam on national level for Upsala Simsällskap. Furthermore both are doctors and pretty gifted Swimrunners. Best-known as the “Ekman brothers” or under their official team name “Bröderna Bäver” (the Beaver Brothers), it seems like both know how to have fun and win races. Lars and Jonas won ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Utö back in 2016 and finished 2nd this year. Just a couple of days ago the brothers blitzed the difficult high altitude course across the Engadin valley to win the prestigious ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Engadin. While recovering, Lars found time to response to some questions.

Runssel: Congratulations on your victory at this year’s Engadin SwimRun. Beating a heavy-duty Flinta and Olsson duet by almost 13 Minutes is impressive. As you took the lead quite early, how did the race unfold for you guys? When did you know you had this "in the bag"?
Lars Ekman: Our game plan was to start at a moderate pace, as not to push ourselves to hard uphill in the beginning. However I think we both felt strong from the start and when we got an early lead we just kept pushing it. So the game plan changed quite quickly.
Since we knew that the teams chasing us were really strong teams, and very good long distance teams, we did not feel that we had the race "in the bag" until at the end of the second last run. We started to feel confident coming towards the longest swim, 1400m, where we were told that we had a 6 min lead and we knew we were stronger in the water compared to the other teams.

Picture: Jakob Edholm

Runssel: In a quite new sport the equipment is always a discussion point. What gear do you use? Did you make any special alterations towards the Engadin race?
Lars: We use Sailfish wetsuits which we like since they have a lot of extra pockets for storing gels and energy. They are also easy to take on and off quickly during the race and work great for both swimming and running. We have been testing a lot of different shoes and so far not decided on any brand. However we both like them to be very light and right now we are starting to use vivobarfoot which most likely will be the ones we use for Ötillö.
Otherwise we like to keep it clean with just paddles and a small buoy to make transitions as easy as possible. We have been working a bit with Olanderswim where we find most of our extra equipment such as paddles and buoys.

Picture: Jakob Edholm

Runssel: As a full-time working doctor you need to fit your training around job and family. How does a typical training week look for you leading up to the big races? How often do you train with your brother?
Lars: I just started working as an AT doctor in Karlskrona at Blekingesjukhuset. And as you say both me and my brother need to train when our schedules allow us to. I try to get 6-7 training sessions per week. 3 swim, 3 run and one other(gym, core strength) the trick is to do the quality sessions when I'm not to tired after work so I try to get at least 3 quality sessions per week which are the ones I plan the most and focus on. The other training sessions I fit whenever I can. Leading up to the big races I just try to get some good sleep, stay healthy and not train to hard. Usually I rest the last two days before a long race.

Picture: Irina Kurmanaeva

Runssel: It seems that you guys have established the mustache as a team talisman. Who’s idea was this and what makes competing with your brother special?
Lars: Haha... we both like the mustache as a fun gimmick however I think I was the first one to have it. But competing with my brother is always great. And I feel very fortunate to be able to share this with him. We both have ups and downs during the races but we are always able to push and help each other the extra mile which is great, and important if you want to be in the top. So running with my brother is the best part of Swimrun and always feels like a win.

Picture: Jakob Edholm

Runssel: With a time of 8:28:14 you finished 5th at last year’s ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship. What did you guys learn from the race and what is the goal for this year?
Lars: We learned a lot after our first Ötillö together last year. I think we'll be better prepared this year both for us and the goal is to win. It will be very hard with a lot of good teams going for it, however if we have a good day we feel confident that we have a good chance to come out on top.

Runssel: Your sporting undertakings are not only SwimRun linked. Do you have any other exciting competitions coming up?
Lars: This year it actually is mostly Swimrun due to the lack of time working full-time as a doctor. But I still try to do Vasaloppet in the spring and maybe some obstacle-races if I have the time.

Runssel: Do you currently have a favorite record you are listening to?
Lars: I'm a Bruce Springsteen fan so anything with the Boss works!

Saturday, 24 June 2017

shoeporn: Hoka One One - Hupana

This is Hoka One One’s latest running shoe creation is named Hupana. Sure as shooting this one does stick out in the Hoka armoury. The sleek and plain looking appears to be special in the companies current collection. If there has ever been a niche for “running and everyday shoes”, this one wants to fit right in there. As (hopefully) just about every reader of this blog sees running is an everyday action this category seems to be a particular treat. 
Style, cushioning and performance can go together. This is what Hoka tries to achieve with their latest model.
Unwovement  - A feature that is currently very popular amongst many shoe manufacturers are knitted fabrics that are used for the upper. Hoka did a good job on the Hupana and you can feel the breathability while running. Some other big benefit is the astonishing fit which I like a lot. The flexible material help to create a glove like fit. However i would not urge to run this shoe through puddles or wet terrain.
Front end details – The lacing at the front of the shoe
Primal – The sole will always be the central part of a running shoe. While Hoka had their fair share in the maximising trend they go less large here. After the Tracer the Hupana is the “flattest” model in their collection. With a 20mm height on the forefoot and 25 mm on the back the shoe comes in with a 5 mm drop. I liked the outsole that created pretty responsive feeling.
The field of use seems to be wide open for the Hupana. I used the shoe for intervals and long runs. Nevertheless it likes to stay on the roads. The sole profile is not made for off-road traction.  
Zero news – By now it is no hush-hush that Hoka delivers impressive cushion paired with lightness. No difference with the Hupana. With 232 grams and a responsive sole, it is a fun shoe. 
While the Hupana does appear to be less bulky towards the other Hoka models, it also delivers that feeling of a more agile and direct foot strike. 
The Hupana is available in four different colourways. Pictured is the Anthracite / Deep Lichen Green style.
While running the Hupana, one question regularly came up. “Why do they market this shoe as a lifestyle shoe?” I might be ignorant or do not have a sense of style but this shoe is a proper and good running shoe. There is nothing wrong with wearing the Hupana casually but it takes the seriousness away from a proper running shoe. At least for me.
The word Hupana is taking from the Maori language and stands for "spring back".

Concluding – Besides the Clifton 2 and the Tracer, this is my favorite Hoka model. The overall performance is hard to beat as the shoe allows a range of workouts and runs. Also it features a complete new design approach towards the characteristic Hoka layout. I can see myself racing with this shoe as it combines the pro’s of a road flat with the support and comfortableness of a lightweight trainer. 

Tune of the day: Hybrid Minds - Meant To Be

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Höga Kusten

Our first family trip in our novel home base took us about 500 kilometre north of Stockholm. The High Coast (In Swedish “Höga kusten”) was the journey's end of our first lengthier voyage with our tacky V-Class campervan.

Primarily I have heard of this share of the country (what else could it be…) through the Höga Kusten SwimRun competition and the MoDo ice hockey squad (Swedish Champions in 1979 and 2007) that is based in Örnsköldsvik. But there is way more than this.

Since 2000 this share of the Swedish east coast is a World Heritage Site thanks to its uncommon countryside with imposing cliff creations. We set camp close to Norrfällsvikens and got spoiled with a week full of sunshine, peaceful sea and remarkably fresh air. With empty shores and lonesome hikes this was a picture-perfect time to hit this popular part of Sweden.

As usual. Pictures do say way more than words.


Tune of the day: Prodigy Tribute Mix
Read of the day: One of my favorite bloggers is back in action - JOGHARD

INSTAssel: Morning solitude

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Tune of the day: Mobb Deep - Hell On Earth

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Racereport 2017-04: ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Utö 2017

Hopefully most blogophiles that come across this infinitesimal fragment of the breathtaking interweb do not need a detailed description to the following lyrics. My brain played B-Real’s renowned hook-line on rewind while Felix and I got ready for the first big competition of the season.
"Time for some action...just" 
"Time, time for some, time for some action...just"
It was about time. Time for a severe SwimRun combat. Time to venture to the islet that started it all. Time to travel to the striking east of the Stockholm archipelago. Time to go to the island of Utö – the home of SwimRun.

For this years race I teamed up with homeboy Felix Schumann. Although his Triathlon and Xterra heydays are gone he caught the SwimRun bug at last years Costa Brava race, which he finished in 2nd place side-by-side with Tim Lange. (My race report…). Furthermore he was keen to lead me around Utö and see where it all started.

Our race homework was fairly brief and nearly inexistent, as we did not train together and did not check the course and the distances prior to the race. Fabian and I raced Utö in 2015 (Racereport) but the up-to-date course has changed and is a bit lengthier. However I did remember some portions. Most parts did hit me be surprise, though. Felix and I agreed to have no tactic and to go with the flow. We are far off beeing SwimRun pros I guess.

We set out in a reasonable pace and hit the first swim section after a 2,6 kilometres run in the Top 5. Way to fast for my liking. So we decelerated a little bit and sailed the first techy trail sections and short swims in a well-ordered speed. No shocker - Felix lead all the swim section. Significant info: He did not use Paddles! It surely makes a change if one can swim properly. The first “clean” running segment was a long gravel road and we swiftly found a pleasant rhythm that allowed us to catch up on some other line-ups. It must have been a pretty pleasant pace I guess as Felix filched a hasty “B” as I nudged on.

Like Andre Hook explained in his short race summary, it can be very challenging to recall all the specifics of a competition. Both of us were focused and nearly all transitions went efficiently and smooth. We did not loose unnecessary time. It is no secret that Trail running on Utö is a blast and the technical running took both of our minds off, as we adored the versatile and exciting terrain. Time flew by and all of a sudden Tim and Diane jumped out of the bushes. They followed us all day and made sure there was no negative thinking. Thanks for the effort and thanks for making us grin surprisingly all over the course.

ÖtillÖ organisers Mats and Michael came up with the great idea of cutting down the unnatural sugar sources at the aid stations. As I use dry fruits in training it was a no-brainer for me to eat plenty of what was provided at the aid stations. Although I was pretty hyped by the style of food I must have eaten way too much. My belly started to cramp up and I started to feel sick just after 2,5 hours of racing. Instantly I felt that there wont be a major change until I empty my stomach. It did not take me too long. Four short but effective breaks and an apprehensive Henrik Kindgren (“Do you want me to call the ambulance”) later we were back in grinding mode.

Our careless pre-race preparation and consequent lack of course understanding let to quite some disbeliefs. We could smell the food and the cold beers. But no. As we thought we were on our way back to the finish line our ruthless followers Tim and Diane greeted us just another time. Firstly we thought that Tim’s statement: “Nice one guys. Just another 5-6 Kilometres of running and some swims…” was meant to be a gag. Unfortunately he did not lie. To get some energy back in our lazy bodies we took a gel. Well, I tried to take one. My stomach did not like that try. Still, we managed to catch another team and somehow made it through the last couple of swims. Undoubtedly I ran out of gas in the cold water.

We reached the finish line in 4:58:37 and agreed that this was a tactical nightmare. Despite sleep deprivation (both of us have young families) and the necessary preparation it surely was a fun day. The Utö course is a great course and caters all needs that create this special sport.

As “Sickla-Janne” took care of my beaten legs, Michaels announcement during the Ötillö slot assignment hit me be surprise. We got granted a slot for the World Championships in September. 2017 will be the fourth year in a row that our The German Sparkle Party enterprise will have the chance to venture from Sandhamn to Utö.
"Time for some action...just"
I received some requests regarding equipment. As there are no secrets you’ll find a gear list enclosed:

Wetsuit: HUUB – Amphibia 2 (Prototype): This should hit the stores pretty soon and is worth the wait. Incredibly bendy and durable.

Goggles: HUUB – Aphotic: For me the perfect SwimRun goggle. I dig the Photochromatic specs and the wide vision.

Socks: CEP – Short Socks: You cannot go wrong with this one. For SwimRun I wear the socks one size smaller as usual.

Shoes: Salomon - S/LAB XA Amphib: Salomons first SwimRun shoe is just good. Amazing traction and remarkable fit. A true racing shoe.

Paddles: Swimrunners Size L – You just need the power to paddle them through ;-)

Pullbuoy: HUUB – Big Buoy: Just the right amount of foam for my horrible technique and water position. While running I wear my pullbuoy on the back, though. This gives me more freedom while running technical trails.

Running on empty - Despite some lack of energy we’re having some fun. (Picture: Time Lange)
Spirits are high as Tim cheers us on. 
Tow the line – we swam nearly all swim sections towed together. In my opinion this is still the simplest way to match speed and efficiency as both team members benefit. 
OTILLO UTO - 2017 JakobEdholm_8104024.jpg
Tallholmen - the final stretch of the versatile 42,8 kilometer course . Some short transitions make sure that there is no boredom. (Picture: Jakob Edholm
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Anders Malm - Owner of the Utö Vardshus Hotel and member of the "Original Four" observes what happens to his bet.  (Picture: Jakob Edholm
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We exit the second swim section (350 meter) towards the Dive Tower. (Picture: Pierre Mangez
OTILLO UTO - 2017 PierreMangez_280517-120250-LR
Followed by fellow german Wolf Grohe we enter the water at the Båtshaket Restaurant. The wind creates a choppy 430 meter swim. I forgot to put on my swim cap. It did not take me too long to recognize this. (Picture: Pierre Mangez
OTILLO UTO - 2017 PierreMangez_280517-120305-LR
After a mere of two intense hours racing there is a bunch of fast guys entering the cold waters with Felix and myself (No 118) . German Team 119 Andre and Wolf (Campz.com) and Team 145 Bad Boys Ticino are still close together.  (Picture: Pierre Mangez
OTILLO UTO - 2017 - PierreMangez_280517-151305-LR
47:15 Minutes after the first team, Pontus and George, we arrive at the finish line in Gruvbryggan. Just in time to refill with some proper beers and warm food.  (Picture: Pierre Mangez

Tune of the day: Miami Lenz - Miamix #1