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Tag: Via Natura Ultra

Via Natura Ultra Trail Video

Back from the Bergmarathon around the Traunsee lake (once again), off to the OutDoor Friedrichshafen shortly, I finally put together a little video chronicling May’s Via Natura Ultra Trail (race report here, ‘high’ notes here, training – or rather, non-training – thoughts there). Instead of cutting together a Bergmarathon video, which will come later ;)

Untrained Ultra – 12 Weeks, More Than 50k…

When you experiment with yourself, you can get fantastic and fascinating results – because you quit trying to find the best way first and get going instead… and because your sample is just 1.

I’m on record complaining about Tim Ferriss and his brand of personal development going astray, exactly as it applies to ultramarathons – and all the more so because I claimed that he probably could finish a 50k within the 12 weeks of training he ‘advertised’ (but never came through with even mentioning anymore).

Still on through the Seetaler AlpenInadvertently, I created a similar situation for myself in the run-up to the Via Natura 100 mile trail:

Where a real ultra-runner preparing for such a race would rake in 100-200 mile weeks, I hardly did that in the 12 weeks leading up to the race.

The last run before the race was 3 days before, doing lactate testing to finally get the medical certificate necessary for participation. (I had thought I’d just go to my usual doctor on Monday and get it signed, only to find out that he was on vacation until the day before the race. Fortunately, I asked at the ‘Sportordination‘ in Vienna, and promptly I got lucky with someone having to cancel their next day’s appointment and me getting it.)

Six 3-minute episodes rising to 18km/h speed. On a treadmill. Not what’s recommended mere days before a race.

The last time I had been out training before that (there was also a little work-related hike), I went up the Feuerkogel at the Traunsee lake (one of my usual ‘quick’ mountain training runs) the day after a sauna/steam bath visit, feeling weak and steamy. And then, after getting up there in 1 hour 30, I moved back down, checked when the next train back would go when I was down quite a bit, found that it would be in some 15 minutes, and ran all-out to catch that train.

12.6 km, 1156 m of ascent and then descent, in 02:16 hours, (at an average heart rate of 177 and reaching a maximum of 225(?)). Not all that unusual for me, but a mountain trail sprint race more than anything training-like.

Before that? Aside from one of the usual relaxed circles, that was the Linz marathon, just about a month before the 100 mile race. There, I ran in Salomon S-Lab (trail) shoes because I found that I neither had any decent road-running shoes anymore, nor the money and inclination to get new ones just for that race. And I started out only too fast, as usual when I do such things, only to get close to some cramping later on, have to walk a bit – and finish in my (apparently) usual 3:45.

April Training Statistics

April training statistics: 4 ‘moves’

All in all, after February (which was a good training month), I did only 14 “moves” I recorded as training, spanning 19:30 hours, covering a distance of 195 km, ascending merely 3000 m. That’s what a good runner may do in 2 weeks, not in more than 2 months… and I may have counted some twice because they were recorded once with my usual Ambit2 and once with the Ambit2R I was then testing.

FitBit data for last 12 months, in contrast

FitBit data for last 12 months, in contrast

Then again, my average daily number of steps during that time, as recorded by the FitBit One I carry, was between 12000 and 13000 (where 10000 steps is said to constitute a “highly active” lifestyle). So, I wasn’t just sitting around, either.

Is there anything to learn from that, though?

Well, it apparently is possible to finish a 100 mile mountain ultra marathon, going into it with a decent foundation of fitness but having done relatively little training.
Having had the adequate gear and enough experience certainly helped – but it all, aside from a decent physical foundation, mainly comes down to just what I’d written before, I feel: Do you really want to do it and are you able to overcome the obstacles in the way? Especially the psychological ones? Especially the competitive spirit that tells you that you’re not good enough if you aren’t among the fastest of finishers?

No way to know that in theory, no way to gain the fitness – whether from the usual training plans or some “minimum effective dose” – by perfect planning. You’ll just have to go out, find out for yourself, and get better at it by the doing. Or realize you don’t want that.

Still on through the Seetaler Alpen

Via Natura 100 Mile Mountain Ultra Trail Marathon

Writing the title as fully descriptive as the above seems an attempt to hit all the sweet key word spots of modern trail running – but how not? After all, this is – finally – the first 100 mile ultra marathon in Austria. And, it follows the uber-modern way of the MUT (mountain ultra trail) that Alpine trail runs have pretty much always followed…

Read More

Sunrise in the Seetaler Alpen

Getting on a Via Natura-l High…

I cherish my mind too much – or maybe fear it’s all too fickle, anyways – to drink alcohol or do drugs. The 100 mile Via Natura ultramarathon proved mind-altering, anyways…

One hears a lot about the runner’s high. Some stories sound as if being on the move, running, was not a natural activity that a human body is made for, but a mere possibility that people get hooked on because of the way it taps into the brain’s production of opiates.

It all belongs together, though.

Going barefoot (or “barefoot shoes”) or not, the human body probably did evolve so that we are “born to run.” And a part of the ability to go on may well be the production of opiates stimulated by the running and making it possible to go on and get self-drugged further. The brain works by chemistry, anyways.

The Via Natura ultramarathon had the additional element of sleep deprivation.

I thought I had some experience with that thanks to the night shifts I used to work for a while (when I had had to take a job as security guard to get by). I was mistaken.

Sunrise in the Seetaler Alpen

On the Via Natura, we went straight through the first night and on the next day, not sleeping until arriving at the third and final control point, some 27 hours after the start – and then, my stop there was a total of 45 minutes. Later that second night, even the husky with whom Stefan runs started falling asleep while moving and refusing to go on, at which point we all stopped again.

That had been and would continue to be a constant, the surprising realization that one could keep walking while actually having started to fall asleep.

Then and there, though, we crashed at the roadside, a little up, head on the running vest propped against a tree trunk, in my case. Wrapped up in the rain gear and with hat, hood, and gloves, it was sufficiently warm. Some raindrops hit the visor. After maybe half an hour, someone in the group noticed that the “hikers” were coming, turned on his headlamp again, and we all awoke and continued.

Hallucinated, I had before. There was the headlight of a van parked by the roadside, there to provide aid until it turned out empty, at an odd angle… and then turned out to be just the reflector strip of the roadside marking, finally. The place where we slept… I’m sure I’d been there, slept at a spot just like that – if not that very spot – before. When we continued, I took off for a little, got off track into a cow pasture… and I’m pretty sure the same thing had happened once before.

Many places, I felt like I’d been there before.

In part, it was easy enough to tell how they reminded me of one or the other of the (relatively few, after all) places where I’d been on such adventures before. The Alpannonia. The Ötscher. Areas I go more often.
Some places, though, it was the total deja-vu. Even while knowing that I’d never even been in that area before, let alone on those trails, I could have sworn and would still swear I’ve been there and did some of the same things before.

The paths we went up and across that one mountain where we also ended up sleeping for a little bit, on the side of the forest road. The very spot we slept. The wrong path I took just a little later, leading inside a cow pasture when it actually goes by just outside of it.

Old memories of similar situations combined with ideas of such places, rattled around my sleep-deprived brain, and came out as recollections of previous experiences I never actually had, the way they seemed (and still seem) to be remembered now.

It all still is a perfection of memories.

Fancies of exquisite delicacy…

…when the bodily and mental health are in perfection…

…where the confines of the waking world blend with the world of dreams…

 … where all that we see, or seem, is but a dream within a dream.

(A Dream Within A Dream, Alan Parsons)

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