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Sekalaisia ultra-tarinoita


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Avataanpa taas yksi uusi otsikko. Monenlaisia tarinoita ja reportaaseja eri ultra-kisoita tulee aika usein vastaan netissä, eikä jokaiselle ole järkevää avata omaa ketjua. Keräillään näitä juttuja tänne!

Tässä avaukseksi amerikkalaisen toimittajan kokemukset San Diegon 24 tunnin juoksusta:

Ultramarathon — Churning & burning



No disrespect to legend, lore or Pheidippides, but there are runners who insist the 26.2-mile marathon distance is merely a warm-up.

A refresher: Pheidippides reputedly ran from the Greek city of Marathon to Athens with news of a military triumph over Persia. He promptly entered the great aid station in the sky. There's more to the story than that, which we'll touch on later. For now we'll deal with those who say there's more to racing than the marathon.

These people are called ultramarathoners. They have their own official organization, in this country the American UltraRunning Association, which in mid-November gathered some of the world's best for the San Diego 1-Day Race.

The race served a number of functions, among them: The official 24-hour American national championship; a special competition between the American men's and women's ultramarathoning teams and their counterparts from Japan; a chance for back-of-packers to get a close-up look at the world's best in their chosen sport. Make no mistake: I fall in the third category.

How did runners like me become spectators, too? In this race, runners covered a one-mile keyhole-shaped loop in a San Diego park. They did it round and around and around for 24 hours. That means the fast ones were constantly lapping the likes of me. If a one-mile route sounds monotonous, then consider that until two years ago, this race took place on a 400-meter track.

The 24-hour run is, admittedly, a niche product. The November race attracted 84 entrants plus a handful of relay teams. An accompanying 12-hour run drew 20 entrants. One lane of road plus a Yakima Greenway-type path atop a jetty proved plenty of capacity for this size of field.

With the coziness comes a camaraderie that finds the best treating the rest as equals.

At the race host hotel the day before the race — very few ultras even have a host hotel — yours truly participated in an impromptu conversation involving Wisconsin's Roy Pirrung and Vashon Island's Alex Swenson, both of whom have represented the U.S. in overseas ultra races. The guys who would finish second and third were chatting with me, who would place 56th. This doesn't happen at the big marathons.

Their informality belied their intensity. Once on the course, they were out to win. There was some money at stake, but also national pride. The mighty Japanese team, boasting men's and women's world champions, were in town. The Americans were eager to fly the flag.

My goals were more modest. My previous best was 55 miles, covered in 12 hours last year at a race in Longview with a similar format. I hoped to top that and reach 100 kilometers (62.2 miles), considered a modestly respectable benchmark in the ultra world. From there, whatever. To come away with a PR, runner parlance for personal record, would make the trip worthwhile.

Race morning brought sunshine and a light, cooling ocean breeze at our bayside site. Off we went at 10 a.m., and after an all-jogging first mile in just under 10 minutes, I commenced a walking routine.

A note about walking. The theory is to walk voluntarily early in the race or involuntarily late in the race. Most runners do the former, though the top ones did very little, only a few seconds a mile. Some of the top runners ran the first hour, then walked. Another popular routine is run 25 minutes, walk five minutes.

I chose a strategy popularized by Yakima ultrarunner Jeff Hagen, whose training tips were featured on this race's Web site. The strategy involved picking the ideal spots to walk between 4 1/2 and 5 minutes per mile.

Three spots looked good for walking: a sharp corner just after the start/finish line (30 seconds walking); a slight uphill leading to the outbound jetty path followed by the stretch most exposed to sunshine (about 2:30), then another stretch inbound on the road (2:00 or so). As the race went and the running pace slowed, the walking pace slowed with it.

The run/walk resulted in an early pace of about 11:15-11:30 per mile. As the race progressed, updates came every hour for every runner, both by loudspeaker and readerboard. At each mile we'd run over a mat and listen for the "beep" from a computer chip strapped to one ankle. That's how they kept track of everyone's miles.

At 15 miles, I changed shoes into an identical pair in an effort to avert blisters that have plagued my previous ultras. Just shy of 16 miles at three hours, I was in 66th place. That's better than 84th. I'm not gonna worry about place just yet (if ever). My marathon mark came just past five hours, and I had moved up to 55th. But remember: We're just warming up.

The top runners came early and often. The Japanese ran like precision machines. The top Americans also came past frequently, more than holding their own. We'd catch snippets of the team update off the loudspeakers — it was a dogfight early on.

I just missed six hours for 50k (31.1 miles), and all seemed well except for the nagging hot spots on the heels. The pounding was swelling my feet, so I switched to emergency backup: an old, worn-out pair of shoes one size too large — a pair I had bought kinda by mistake but wore anyway. Inside was a store-bought foot insert that provided most of the support. Essentially I ran, gingerly most of the time, the rest of the race on these.

Previous ultras had found the miles in the 30s to be rough for me with recovery in the 40s. The 30s indeed were no fun as the hot spots morphed into full-bore blisters. The per-mile pace slowed to 13:30-14:00; some miles I walked totally and recorded 20-minute splits. And chiming in on the chorus of the screaming feet was the stomach.

Nutrition is key to an ultra. Marathoners can get by with water and sports drink. Ultrarunners ingest a bizarre array of water, sports drink gels, fruit, energy bars, energy gels, potatoes, pasta and painkillers.

I began eating early and often, I thought, but apparently not enough. The stomach simply wasn't taking this well as the afternoon wore on. The sun went down reliably; the food stayed down, but less reliably.

My ever-tolerant spouse Carla, taking her position at a tent we had set up, suggested some of the race-provided chicken noodle soup. The soup went right down, and a recovery finally settled in from the late 40s into the early 50s.

A digression: The logical question of "Why do you do this" goes begging for a logical answer. But at least I get a T-shirt, my name in results on a Web site, a bib with my name on it, and a plaque that's still in the mail. What about support people, such as Carla? She slept not a wink and was on constant call for at-times eccentric demands. Runners couldn't get through the race without them.

Now ... back on the course. Distractions helped as darkness deepened. Nearby Sea World put on fireworks show — just for us, at least that was our delusion. Soon afterward, the strains of a lone bagpiper penetrated the gloom. The Scots know about struggling for a lost cause. At 10 p.m., the horn blew to end the misery — er, race — for 12-hour runners. A few of the 24-hour runners had already had enough and left.

And we got a sense of the overall race. I overheard two of top Americans saying the top Japanese runner was struggling — I wasn't the only one with stomach issues. The Americans were pulling ahead. Alex Swenson, the Vashon Island runner, had moved up into fourth place.

My early-50s spurt was short-lived. I came through 12 hours in 54-miles-and-change, but nausea and blisters were beginning to win out.

Witnessing four fellow runners retching along this stretch somehow didn't help. I tried the chicken soup somewhere in the late 50s, but it took a full mile of walking to force it down. Roy Pirrung kept offering encouragement as he zipped past time after time. Alex came by, noting that I had passed 55 — "every step from here is a PR," he said. These guys were running world-class times, yet helping out a back-of-the-packer.

The 60th mile came just over 14 hours with a decision in hand: Find my way past 100k, then take a break and reassess. A lot of walking followed before I stepped into the tent at about 62.9 miles, approximately 14:50, or 12:50 a.m. PST. I'll take a quick nap and see if that shakes the nausea. I vaguely recall the 1 a.m. loudspeaker update before drifting off ...

... consciousness resumed just before the 4 a.m. update. So much for the nap being brief. As if packs of runners wading through the night weren't surreal enough, an ocean mist enveloped the scene and the tent, sans rain fly. An overhead street light offered light to assess the feet — whatever was a heel was a blister, on both feet. This is why I brought a needle and antiseptic ointment. Pop. Pop.

I stared at the tent and pondered other options for spending an overnight in San Diego, but Carla suggested continuing with this one. So ... back on the feet at about 4:30 a.m. At least I can walk to 63 miles.

Then I walked to 64 miles. The legs were loosening up. A quick check of the board saw me in 62nd place, but a couple of miles would mean a couple of places in the standings. Maybe I can reach 70 miles. That sounded pretty good. What was needed was a nutrition fix.

The body was sending a garbled message to a mind that was still sleeping in the tent. So at a trip to the food table, the body downed the following, which would make anyone in his or her right mind cringe, or worse:

(1) A large Pepsi, consumed quickly. (2) Very thick, heavily peppered cream of potato soup. That required a bit of walking, and at the tent, at special request, Carla provided (3) Starbucks Frappuccinos, a standby of Ellensburg ultrarunner Dave Lygre. Say what you wish, it was the magical triad of food groups. I was off and running.

Dawn arrived, and I was still on the course. The sun burned through the mist. Everything changed. Psychologically, the end is in sight. Seventy miles came and went, and those miles with the walk/run rhythm came in about 13:30, which isn't bad this late in the race. After another dose of the magical Pepsi/soup/Frappuccino food triad, I started racing toward 80 amid the startling discovery that I was passing people.

At mile 81, Carla handed me the tongue depressor with my name on it, which sounds vaguely ominous, but you can be talked into anything after 24 hours on a running course. It made sense, actually: When the horn blew at 10 a.m., we placed our tongue depressors at our back heel so race organizers could bring a measuring wheel around to determine our final distance.

My tongue depressor recorded 82.83 miles. That's a PR by more than a marathon. I also picked up six places after getting back into the race, finishing 56th out of the 84. Given everything, I'll take it.

It was a good day for the Americans. Steve Peterson of Colorado took first in 148 miles, followed by Roy and Alex in 141-plus. The first Japanese runner was the first woman, Sumie Inagaki, fourth with 136 miles, with the top American woman being Pam Reed with 134 miles, good for seventh overall. The American men and women prevailed over the Japanese.

And now, back to Pheidippides. What's forgotten is he ran first to Sparta to enlist military aid from that city-state, but the Spartans wanted to wait until the full moon. That was too late to deal with the Persians. That's what made the victory so sweet for the Athenians, who pulled it off with only a little help from other friends.

In the process, Pheidippides probably ran about 150 miles or so, no doubt stopping for baklava, ouzo and other ancient equivalents to potato soup and Pepsi.

Forget the marathon. The ultrarunners have it right.

Now, get me to the hot tub.

* Frank Purdy is a news copy editor for the Yakima Herald-Republic.



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  • 4 weeks later...

Tässä Cornerille luettavaa. :hehe Sähän taidat tykätä tällasista kirjotuksista?

Eli jotain tarinoita, mitä kopioin Brittien Spartathlon-klubin mulle lähettämästä raportista. Kuvia en tähän saanu liitettyä mut niitä on näkyvillä täällä: http://community.webshots.com/album/472967632MTItGL

Toivottavasti ei mee palsta jumiin! :viheltely

In the footsteps of Pheidipides, a 246km Race from Athens to Sparta, 30th September to 1st October, By John Tyszkiewicz

0645hrs on Friday morning and qualifiers for the 2005 Spartathlon are making their final preparations in grey pre dawn light at the entrance to the Parthenon. Race officials, camera crews, reporters and supporters mill around the competitors. Some take group photographs on the start line; others stand silently apart, stretching off muscles that are shortly to be assaulted by 246 kilometer of non stop racing. This, the 23rd running of the race, has attracted 275 entrants from over 20 countries.

There are 10 British entrants, surprisingly few for a country with such a wealth of ultra running talent. 60 have made the journey to Athens from Japan, 18 Koreans form the splendidly attired and cheerful KUMF team (Korean Ultra Marathon Federation), USA, Poland, Estonia, France, Morocco, Bulgaria, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Holland, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Switzerland and of course Greece are all well represented. A couple of Brazilians and an Argentinian fly the flag for South America.

The Start Line - 0700hrs Friday

As the clock nears 0700hrs, I look around at my fellow competitors and as ever am amazed by the variety of bodies on display. While a certain amount of our grey matter might be similar, what is certain is that there is no such thing as a typical body shape for an ultra runner. The smallest competitor is a Japanese lady, who appears to be only a little over 4’ tall, and the biggest a Croatian man, who stands well over 6’ and according to the entry statistics weighs in at over 90 kg.

Thanks to the severity of the challenge ahead, there is no telling who will be successful. All are aware of the stunning course record for the race, set by Yiannis Kouros in 1984 of 20hrs 25mins - he has won the race the four times he has run it, and never had a time in excess of 22hrs. Some are on the start line for the first time and will make to Sparta, others have been there on multiple occasions and have yet to touch the foot of King Leonidas. Jackson Griffith and I are here for the second year running - in 2004 the heat and exhaustion got the better of us. Jackson’s race ending at Corinth and mine at the 172km point, where I was unceremoniously dispatched to the sweeper bus, a frustrating 50km or so from the finish line. We do not want to fail again.

The crowd suddenly parts, allowing the competitors a clear view of the cobbled street that will lead them away from the Acropolis - a long blast on an air horn send us away downhill towards the Athens rush hour, which is just getting into its stride on a hot and humid Friday morning. Police outriders clear the way across junctions for the tightly grouped pack of runners as people at bus stops look on slightly bemused at our presence. The race photographer darts around the field, helmet less on his KTM 650 motorcycle, ignoring police instructions and danger to life and limb with equal abandon, he seems on a mission to capture pictures of every competitor.

One of the many difficulties of the Spartathlon is that not only is it a very long race over some exceedingly harsh terrain, but also that competitor is forced to maintain a fast early pace. To put this into context, the minimum pace required to stay in the race up to the first major control point at Corinth is a sub 4hr 30 min marathon. Twice in a row! Having achieved this, runners are then expect to run the remaining four marathons, a significant piece of which will be on stony, unlit track, including a nighttime scramble up, and descent of, a 1,110 meters high mountain, with strictly enforced cutoffs at each of the 75 checkpoints.

The route climbs to 1,100 metes after 160kms. With 275 competitors on the road, there are probably 275 different strategies for pacing. Some, such as Mark Williams, the USA based British 8 times finisher of the event, has a

complex pacing chart with him that extends, concertina style, to display the required pace as well as the gradient

and distances between checkpoints. Others have cut off times written in indelible ink on their arms. Pacing charts taped to water bottles or written up the side of the race number abound. I have nothing, deciding to try and ignore the checkpoint numbers and cut off times as I go. This race is to last 36hours a day and a half of continuous movement. I do not want to repeat my experience in 2004 when I got bogged down by detail and my effort ended in frustration. Barely a day has passed since then that I have not thought about the ‘what if’ factor - I have decided that the race is about patience, and the ability to overcome temporary setbacks. Wherever you get to along the course, it’s going to be along day at the office.

The streets of Athens are choked by frustrated traffic as we weave our way towards Piraeus and the coast. Unfortunately the route out of Athens is significantly less picturesque that it must have been in Pheidipides’ day. Instead of green fields and olive groves we travel along a noisy dual carriageway which seems to be the main artery for heavy goods vehicles. Snarling dogs rattle fences protecting business premises selling building materials and auto parts. Acrid smoke belches from factory and refinery chimneys and the traffic hurtles past, but the runners remain focused. Notes made following the 2004 effort have prompted me to bring along some foam earplugs which I wear to reduce the incessant whine of heavy tires on the concrete road. The heat and humidity increase as after a couple of hours we pull away from the main road and start to enjoy the relative peace of the old coast road.

Jackson and I are still running well, keeping the lid on the pace while staying ahead of the cutoffs, but the unusually high humidity is getting to both of us. It is hot, but nowhere near the high temperatures and searing sun of ’04. I keep falling behind Jackson, struggling to maintain any rhythm in my running.

Memories of my last and longest proper training run, an uncomfortable 100km overnight effort in Belgium back in June, come back to haunt me. Jackson seems to be running freely and I steadily fall behind. It seems that am having problems on all quarters. Some minor pain from a tendon somewhere in my hip niggles at me, and then I think that I can feel the outside of one knee start to ache. My bum bag is uncomfortable and requires constant adjustment. My clothing is too restrictive, or is it too loose? Sweat stings my eyes as I search around every corner for the elusive checkpoints, if only for the chance to

dither while filling water bottles. I long for a race car to pull up beside me and say “That’s enough mate, you’re clearly in no state to continue”, but they just drive on by as ever. Maybe I feel worse than I look.

I get a text message of encouragement from Christian Cullinane back in the UK who is running a website showing our progress during the race - I respond with”feeling crap, lucky if I make Corinth” as I shuffle on up the road. I battle with myself in desperate need of something (other than stopping) to alleviate my distress. As I cross the road to run in the shade of some eucalyptus trees, the answer appears right in front of me. Tomato. A vegetable merchant is offering me a tomato from his stand as I run towards him - I can’t feel any worse than I do already, so I accept the proffered, and hitherto untested, endurance runners food.. Walking briefly I munch on the tomato and drink the juice and pips down. The brief respite from running allows me to gradually gather my thoughts. I decide on a plan. I will head for Corinth - there I can give up gracefully - it’s a couple of marathons into the race, so at least I can claim to have put in some sort of effort.. Once I have my goal, I am happier. I now know where the finish line is, a mere three hours or so away. I can hack that. I settle into a better rhythm but still feel less than well.

A couple of hours later on the long climb up to the bridge over the Corinth canal, I devise the next part of my plan. Somehow I have managed to get 20 minutes ahead of the cutoff times, so unfortunately there is no danger of being pulled out at Corinth. I decide to try and get to the 100km mark instead. It’s only another 20kn further on and would be a far better place to quit. Just before Corinth I take a paracetamol to help shift a headache and force down whatever trail snacks I have with me. I make sure that I am fully hydrated, and stop to wash my face, arms and legs at the CP just short of the canal. As a result I do not feel that bad at all when I lurch into the 80km control.

Better than that, Jackson is there - it’s great to see him looking strong as this is where he quit last year - he urges me to continue - insisting that I take the time to stop for a leg massage. I allow myself a five minute break sitting at the massage bench while stuffing down cold pasta with tomato and chili sauce (we have left pasta sauce in our drop bags to improve the rather dry stuff the CP offers). Before he leaves, Jackson also tells me that I look fine, which drives a further nail into the ‘I’ll give up in 20kms time’ coffin.

Checkpoint board, feed station and massage mats at Corinth I leave the CP fully loaded with trail snacks and water, eating the rest of the pasta as I go. I barely dare think it, but I do feel marginally better at last. In a rash moment, I decide that instead of trying to get to the 100km mark and then quitting, I will try and get there with a 30 minute cushion. Breaking back into a run I am pleasantly surprised by how well I am moving. After a couple of hours the 100km mark approaches. We have been climbing for a while on country roads and the oppressive heat of the afternoon is receding.

A further boost to my morale happens when I eventually catch up with Jackson and we settle into our pace. In various races around the world we have run hundreds of miles together, and are comfortable, steady, keeping control, chatting as we head into the night. Things are looking up for me, I seem to have beaten the low point I suffered for five hours or so on the way out of Athens. I have eaten well better than in 2004 that’s for sure - I am fairly well hydrated and I have also taken the first part of the race relatively easily. The feet are a different matter. I can feel a few hotspots and as usual my heels are giving me trouble. I am sure that blisters are developing, but there is nothing I can do about it.

We progress well and the miles slide by. Aside from the distance, the next really stern test will be 3,300 climb up Mount Parthenio between 150km and 160km. Right now that is still eight hours running away, so it’s far too early to think about it. We satisfy ourselves with ticking off the checkpoints as we go, safe in the knowledge that every step we take brings us closer to the finish line. I do not dare contemplate even getting as far the foot of the mountain. I came so perilously close to quitting just 60km out of Athens, I am thankful just to remain in the race.

In the early evening, Jackson hangs back a little longer than normal at a checkpoint, and I bat on alone. I am sure that he will catch me again soon enough - we have discussed what we will do in the event of one of us slowing, and each is to run his own race. The medaled road soon turns to a dirt track, and darkness falls. My head torch does a good job of illuminating the track ahead on a moonless night and while the surface beats merry hell out of my feet, my pace does not change. I remain roughly 25 minutes ahead of the cutoff point and do not try to improve on this. Just before midnight I pass fellow British runner, Mark Cockbain, who only sticks with me for half a mile or so then drops back. Mark is not looking that good - in 2004 he raced with the lead group to the 150km point, then collapsed. Mark ended his race in a courtyard outside a tavern, under a blanket, waiting for the sweeper bus. This year he has deliberately taken it easy, but now this tactic appears to be backfiring on him as well.

Shortly afterwards I receive a text message bearing news that I did not want - Jackson has succumbed to cramps at the 130 km point, just before midnight and will take no further part in the race. Family and ork commitments have prevented him training with anything approaching the intensity that he would have liked in the lead up to the race, to the extent that he has not run for more than on hour at a time for nearly a month hardly ideal, but hugely disappointing nonetheless. Jackson also sends news that Glyn Marston, a 2004 finisher with whom I ran much of the course last year, has also called it a day at the

same checkpoint.

An hour so or later I catch up with Martin Illott, another Brit, who is running freely and seems in fine spirits. We push on together for the 145km checkpoint, which heralds the beginning of the long descent to the base of the mountain. It is dark, but cool, and soon the valley we have been running down for a couple of hours flatten out, leaving us with the massive and threatening mass of the mountain filling the horizon. This is still all familiar to me and I know that I will be strong in the climb; I figure that while Martin is running better than me on the flat, I will be able to recuperate a bit on the hill where he is bound to struggle. Far above us and almost impossibly far away, we see the flashing lights that mark the goat track leading to the summit of the mountain.

The climb starts and I am rudely reminded that pride often comes before a fall. Martin Illott, it transpires, is half racing snake, half mountain goat. He strides up the hill as though it is not there and I am soon trailing in his wake. A surge of effort from me means that we make it together to the base of the steepest section, where there is a major checkpoint - the CP tent is surrounded by DNF’s waiting for the bus, too exhausted for the final push up to the peak. It is 0425hrs on Saturday morning, and we have been on the road for over 21 hours.

Martin has pushed ahead by a couple of minutes and I set out up the rocky path alone. I climb at my own pace, each step bringing stinging pain as the rocks mash my blistered soles, my thighs screaming protest every time I clamber over a rock, of which there are many. The path is marked by light sticks, flashing LED’s and odd bits of mine tape flapping from bushes. On thing is certain: missing your footing, having a dizzy spell or just plain old falling on this section would result in serious injury. I climb with care but do so relentlessly and hit the peak at 0500hrs. I do not pause on the summit but head straight down again. I immediately lose my footing and almost go over backwards on the loose screed. If I’m going to fall, I figure that I may as well make a good job of it, so I break into a jogging run.

The climb starts and I am rudely reminded that pride often comes before a fall. Martin Illott, it

transpires, is half racing snake, half mountain goat. He strides up the hill as though it is not there and I am soon trailing in his wake. A surge of effort from me means that we make it together to the base of the steepest section, where there is a major checkpoint - the CP tent is surrounded by DNF’s waiting for the bus, too exhausted for the final push up to the peak. It is 0425hrs on Saturday morning, and we have been on the road for over 21 hours.

Martin has pushed ahead by a couple of minutes and I set out up the rocky path alone. I climb at my own pace, each step bringing stinging pain as the rocks mash my blistered soles, my thighs screaming protest every time I clamber over a rock, of which there are many. The path is marked by light sticks, flashing LED’s and odd bits of mine tape flapping from bushes.

On thing is certain: missing your footing, having a dizzy spell or just plain old falling on this section would result in serious injury. I climb with care but do so relentlessly and hit the peak at 0500hrs. I do not pause on the summit but head straight down again. I immediately lose my footing and almost go over backwards on the loose screed. If I’m going to fall, I figure that I may as well make a good job of it, so I break into a jolting run, which seems to work better but stirs up my heel blisters. The one on my right foot has burst, bringing a painful reminder with each heel strike.

I pass Martin on the way down and make good time to the next CP, where I have a tin of “gigantes” beans in tomato sauce waiting for me. They are loaded with carbohydrate and I hope that they will give me some strength for the day ahead. In the event, I struggle to make them go down and I am only able to eat about a quarter of the tin, but coupled with some sweet, tepid coffee and a refill of water, I am confident that now I can at least reach the 120mile point. That will be, for me, the true start line of the 2005 Spartathlon. Better still, I have somehow made up an extra 15 minutes during crossing Mount Parthenio (maybe my climbing’s not that bad after all), and am now 45 minutes ahead of the cutoffs.

In 2004 it was at this point in the race that I suffered a serious downturn in fortune. Having been “10 foot tall and bullet proof” on the hill, I was reduced to a shivering, stumbling wreck within hours. I run through the options in my mind - there are still a couple of hours of darkness left, and I will try and make full use of the relatively cool weather. I have around 80km to go and 13hrs to do it - that’s roughly the equivalent of two 7 hour marathons. Surely I cannot fail now? Surely I must be able to cover the distance faster than some of the slowest people in a big city Marathon? Ok, so I have already run more than four marathons back to back in under 24 hours - oh yes, and climbed a 1,100 meter high mountain - oh yes, and nearly collapsed on the way to Corinth - oh yes, and there is a further climb over 15kms or so to come…. No matter, my personal goal right now is to reach the Village of Lyrkia, whereupon entry into next year’s Spartathlon will be guaranteed, should for any reason I again fail to reach Sparta.

Runners grind out the miles through vineyards and olive grovesI run across the valley floor as dawn breaks, revealing a mass of black clouds gathered around the mountains on either side. Soon flashes of lightning illuminate the sky every few minutes and the puddles on the road tell me that it has rained recently, and rained hard. I continue through the next series of checkpoints, eating whatever I can whenever I can and always drinking as much as possible.

I am on a stretch of road I recognize - it marks the point at which I realized, in 2004, that my race was over. Barely a minute in front of the cutoffs, struggling to put on foot in front of the other, head down, I was thankful to be able to collapse on to a chair at the checkpoint, mumbling weakly that I had no more to give. A long bus ride and a year of frustration followed, until here I am again - stronger this time, but by no means confident that I will reach Sparta under my own steam.

I run a couple of kilometers that I do not remember from last year, and realize that these are on the final approach to the CP. With this comes the confirmation that I must have been in serious trouble a year ago - I remember the detail of the actual checkpoint intimately. The small bus shelter the table and the dreaded plastic chair and the layby in which the sweeper bus waited to collect the DNF’s. There is no bus this time, I am now 50 minutes ahead of the cutoff and run straight through the CP without stopping - I have plenty of water and there is no way that I am going anywhere near that chair again. After 172km and 23hrs 47mins, the race has now finally started for me. I know that I have drop bags every few checkpoint containing spare socks, food and drink.

Unfortunately no waterproofs though and the skies are becoming darker, the thunderclaps more frequent. We are in for a soaking. Soon the first rain drops are falling lightly. I don my tyvek jacket which keeps the damp out, but there is no way that what is basically plasticized paper will withstand a serious downpour. I look around for alternatives scrounging a bin liner at the next CP, tearing head and arm holes in readiness for the storm ahead.

The surviving runners are spread out now, each going at their own pace as they try to manage their remaining resources to allow them to reach the finish line. All are on the edge, those around me secure in the knowledge that they are within reach of the finish, but equally aware that so many things could still go wrong. In the Spartathlon, as in all ultra distance races, the line between success and failure is a fine one indeed. I pass a few that have given too much too early and are paying for it now. The bus will collect many DNF’s between here and Sparta.

I concentrate on maintaining my steady progress and rather than trying to go any faster, I try to make up a bit of time by not indulging in what I call ‘checkpoint hugging’. This is a phenomenon where distressed runners seek the relative comfort of the checkpoint, wasting precious time faffing around adjusting kit and seeking comfort from the officials. What is required at this point in the race for me is mental strength - I remain deliberately monosyllabic at CP’s and do not stop at the actual checkpoint other than to refill my drink bottle or to grab some food. If I need to get a stone out of my shoe, retie a lace or eat, I do so in between CP’s. I notice that I am pulling away from quite a few competitors, while managing to retain an easy banter with my fellow runners as we run along.

I eventually get an hour ahead of the cutoff and dare think about the climb ahead as we turn onto the main road that will eventually lead into Sparta. The road stretches into the distance as far as the eye can see - one long ribbon running relentlessly uphill. With a theatrical clap of thunder, it also starts to rain properly. No UK style drizzle here, no mountain mist to gently cool these Spartathletes, but a torrential downpour and crosswinds that will last, on and off, for five hours.

Soon the generous torrent of water running down the hill soaks my feet and my blistered soles start to give me significant pain. In what turns out to be a brief lull in the weather, I stop to change my socks. What a waste of time that turns out to be - no sooner have I struggled to get my shoes back on than the heavens open again. All I am left with is another pair of soaking socks and a hard earned five minutes lost. I decide to push on to the finish no matter what and struggle on against the wind and rain. At the next CP I manage to scrounge a see-through chuck away cape. Less than elegantly attired in this and using my head torch strap to hold the hood in place against the blustery wind, I make good progress up the hill.

My tyvek jacket is donated to another runner, who has nothing but his running vest to keep the wind out. I am strong on the hill and regularly pass runners. Eventually I catch up with two diminutive Japanese ladies and a Greek runner Dimitri Kechagogliou. We have been overtaking one another for many kilometres depending on the terrain and now settle in to a steady trot. Dimitri is running his tenth Spartathlon, but has only been successful twice. He is as excited about the prospect of reaching Sparta for the third time as I am for the first. He tells me that his friend, Seppo Leinonen is a few miles ahead, about to complete a record 14th finish of the race. Seppo will wait at the Evrotas River crossing - the last checkpoint, and we will all finish together.

Discussion and bragging rights after this race will not be about what time you finished in, but merely about whether you finished at all. We pass a sign telling us that it is 11km to Sparta, and we have almost 1hr 25mins in hand. We can see Sparta quite clearly, but this is because we are on the edge of a very steep escarpment, and Sparta is in the valley below. A painful 8km descent follows, during which legs scream in protest and I can feel my blisters tearing as my sodden feet slide forward in my shoes. As though to punctuate the stabbing pain from my feet, almost every vehicle that passes toots its horn, the driver and passengers waving their congratulations. The Spartathlon really is a major event in the local calendar, what with the fiesta and fireworks in the town square that follow the official presentations that evening. Everyone is aware of what the competitors descending carefully into the town have achieved.

We approach the final CP, where Seppo Leinonen is waiting, looking remarkably fresh. Children on bicycles also wait to accompany us over the final 2.5km through the town. We get a police car as well, which follows us, lights flashing, preventing the traffic from disturbing our final moments. Unusually for Greece, not one honk of protest is heard from the delayed traffic; instead people in tavern’s hail us from their seats. A lady washing her windows and another hanging laundry on a balcony stop what they are doing to cheer us on. Young and old alike raise their hands in greeting and respect for our achievement. Other competitors, whether successful or not, raise their arms in salute. It is an emotional time and we trot silently on towards the finish line. Nothing can stop us now.

One last turn and we are on the final straight to the finish line. Flags of every nation decorate the final stretch. Past the Spartathlon monument we go, seeing at last the giant statue of King Leonidas glaring fiercely down at us. One touch of his foot will stop the clock. In order to preserve our feet we have lost some time descending the escarpment, but we are still a comfortable 1hr 10mins inside the cutoff. I have thought of this moment almost every time I have been for a run for the last 12 months.

The three of us join hands and stride up the few steps to the monument together, touching the polished foot of King Leonidas in unison. The disembodied voice of the announcer battles with piped music and the cheers of the crowd to herald our arrival. We are crowned with an olive wreath and offered a sip of water from the sacred Evrotas River. Heavy medals are pressed upon us along with a bear hug from an emotional mayor. My basic Greek goes down a treat as I thank everyone I can see for organizing such a superb and challenging event, before we are escorted off to the medical tent for a checkup.

Shoes and socks are removed and placed in a bin liner, feet are sponged with disinfectant and a doctor casts a quick eye over us. Those looking shaky are offered a stretcher on which to recuperate; those who look as though they can still look after themselves get a sandwich and a carton of drink.

I am indignant when offered orange juice - “Is it water you want?” asks a concerned nurse. I reply that I have been dreaming of a beer for nearly 35hours and she crosses the road to the local tavern returning with a smile and a cold can of Mythos. I turn down the offer of transport back to the hotel in favor of watching the remaining runners come in. I can have a shower anytime, but it’s not every day you can watch someone finish the Spartathlon. Shoes and socks are removed and placed in a bin liner, feet are sponged with disinfectant and a doctor casts a quick eye over us. Those looking shaky are offered a stretcher on which to recuperate; those who look as though they can still look after themselves get a sandwich and a carton of drink. I am indignant when offered orange juice - “Is it water you want?” asks a concerned nurse. I reply that I have been dreaming of a beer for nearly 35hours and she crosses the road to the local tavern returning with a smile and a cold can of Mythos. I turn down the offer of transport back to the hotel in flavor of watching the remaining runners come in. I can have a shower anytime, but it’s not every day you can watch someone finish the Spartathlon. Fatigue and cold gets the better of me and I retire to the hotel. My room mates are two Poles and a Frenchman - three of us having completed the race.

One of the Poles has limited German, the Frenchman only speaks French (loudly) and so I am left as the main communicator in this little corner of Europe. As I lie exhausted on my bed, tattered feet hanging over the end, one of the Poles comes over to inspect my blisters. Despite my protestations, he returns with a medical kit and proceeds to pierce, drain and dress my blisters, waving away my thanks once the job is done, pointing to the olive wreath on the bed beside me and giving the thumbs up.

A meal and a few beers with Jackson follow until I am forced to admit defeat. I wave the white flag of surrender and drag my sore limbs off to bed. By then I have been on my feet for around 40 hours and 246kms. As we head back to the Sparta Inn, I am overwhelmed with fatigue and cold, an uncontrollable shivering taking over my body. I get to bed and pass out, only to be woken at 0140hrs by the crazy Frenchman, who cannot stand up on his own and needs to take a shower. “I smell so bad I woke myself up” he exclaims as I limp with him to the bathroom. I have to go and fetch him when he is finished, as he can’t make it across the room alone. I then give him my spare water as he has somehow managed to go to bed having run 246kms without even so much as a drop of liquid to hand to stave off his dehydration.

The following morning breakfast is full of stiff limbed people, each plate is piled high with food and gallons of orange juice consumed. The harassed waiters of the Sparta Inn can barely keep up. Stories of battles fought, both won and lost, are told. Congratulations and commiserations given and accepted as appropriate. Some will return in 2006, others will move on to different challenges. Not one person asks that question which usually plagues the endurance athlete but tends to fixate those outside our rather exclusive club: “But why do you do it?” Everyone in the room knows why they came here.

The bus ride back to Athens is a long one - well, around 153 miles I suppose, although the bus doesn’t try and cross Mount Parthenio……. During the journey the athletes really get the opportunity to appreciate the terrain that they have covered, since a lot of the really spectacular scenery was lost on them the first time either through fatigue or darkness and rain, or a combination of all three. The feeling that the Spartathlon was gracious enough to allow me to complete my journey is reinforced. I am not a victor, merely a survivor. The feeling of humility upon touching the foot of that magnificent and foreboding statue of King Leonidas was genuine.

Will I be return next year? The jury’s out on that one, but I get the feeling that Jackson needs a finish in this race…….and what are team mates for if it isn’t making sure that we all make it over the line?????

Some random stuff about the Spartathlon: USA ultrarunning legend Don Winkley does not remember anything about the last moments of the race. Martin Illott, part racing snake, part mountain goat, who participated in the Spartathlon medical research programme, lost over 10% of his 73kg bodyweight during the event. Sammy Kilpatrick stormed along in the leading group until only 20km out of Sparta where he succumbed to hypothermia in a rainstorm. Mark Cockbain was not seen again between his heroic arrival in Sparta until it was time to board the bus - he was sleeping. Mark Williams finished comfortably - again. Within 48 hours of finishing the race I found myself in Dublin, where I played 18 holes of golf with a client (badly, as usual) at the Island Club.

Spartathlon 2005 By Peter Foxall

On Wednesday I and William Sichel travelled on the same flight to Athens. On the bus from the airport to the Hotel we met up with a German and French runner also here to do the Spartathlon.

After booking in to the hotel and having lunch we register for the race and let Athens University use us a Guinea pig. They took blood, weighted us and connected electrodes to us to check our body fat and filled in a questionnaire. The rest of the time was ours till Thursday afternoon when there was a pre race briefing. (But we still had drop are bags to sort for the race)

At the race briefing we were told of route changes due to road works. The weather report for the race said it was going to be about 25 c and sunny and dry all thought Friday and night was going to be dry with rain for about 09:00 am Saturday (Ha Ha). Dinner was at 20:00. After dinner I had a beer and read a book to chill out and went to bed at about 22:30. The four of us in the room two Brits and two Germans set are clock for 04:15 wake up. In the morning it was a shower dressed and pack the last of stuff in the bags. One bag to stay in the hotel and one bag to go on the bus to Sparta. Then down for breakfast and a 30 minute bus ride to the Acropolis were the race starts from. We then weighted around in nervous anticipation and quick runs to the loo. O yes we were interviewed by an attractive young lady from Associated Press.

At 07:00 the race started which was to take us though the street of Athens. With the Police holding the early morning rush hour traffic for us to pass though busy junctions. After 10km we were running down the side of a duel carriage way to the coast. But this was no picnic with it being rush hour we had Lorries going passed belching diesel fumes. And on the coast there were oil refineries which added to the fumes. Put all together this is the worst part of the route.

At c/p 4 we left the main road to run on quieter roads. Some of the time we were running just two meters from the clear blue sea (it was very inviting). We did have to run passed two more oil refineries. There was even a C/Ps out side of them (they did half smell). And also Army barracks so no photos (we know what happened to the British plane spotters) The route took us though the town Elefsis where junior high school kids were lining the side of the road to cheer us on and to collect high fives.

Also some of us had to stop to let trains cross the road at level crossings (there seemed to be more trains this year). From about 35miles I started to get twinges of cramp in my quads dew I think to low blood salt. And all the feed station had plenty of fruit and sweet good but next to nothing with salt (In future I will carry succeed capsules). I got to C/P 22 the Heller can factory at Corinth in about 7 to 7 1/2 hours which is about average for me. I was able to get a salt water drink and was given some sashay of salt to carry in my bum bag by some Brits who were following the race. (Two of them are hoping to do this race next year). It was after C/P 24 my stomach felt was very bloated and uncomfortable. Did what worked in the passed and that is walk for a few miles till I blow the gas out of both ends. It was while I was walking that William passed me and he was looking good. I was able to start running again by Ancient Corinth. It was after the C/P in the town of Zevgolatio that I could see heavy clouds building at the head of the valley and it was moving towards me with flashes of lighting and thunder.

Suddenly I was engulfed with strong winds and lashed with heavy rain.( it was so heavy that it was bouncing high into the air and the runoff the mountain was some thing to behold). But luckily in only lasted about 10 minuets and it was not cold.I got into the half way C/P at Ancient Nemea at about 19:30pm. Here I had some fun trying to find my drop bag. I did find it after about 5 minuets (I had printed my own labels and the rain had washed the ink off)I change into dry socks and my night gear and had some warm food.

At the next C/P I met up with Mary Larrson who was after a plaster for her blister. Luckily I had one in my bum bag which I gave her. After that C/P we ran together for about the next 5 miles but she pulled away from me (for some reason I was getting slower). On the clime up the mountain my left knee to point I was not shore if I was going to get over the mountain.

At the C/P at the base of the mountain there were sports therapists who did some work on my knee and strapped it up. And I pushed over the mountain. At the C/P at the village of Sangas I got a 15 minutes nap. While I was in here Mark Williams arrived. I left the C/P at the same time as him only to see him disappear into the night.I continued on but not as fast as passed years.Just about dawn it stared to rain (luckily I had plastic bin bag on me just for this).

From C/P 58 to C/P 61 I ran with a Greek runner I have known from passed years and has always encouraged me Dimitri Kechagogliou. But on the 5 mile clime to C/P 63 I lost contact with and passé by other runners including a British runner John Tyszkiewicz who was wearing a clear plastic cap he had scrounged from a marshal. He said “I bet Pheidipides did not have to run in weather like this”.(Runner were trying beg, borrow and steal bags the wear. One Korean runner was seen crossing the road to a pile of fly tipping. He empted a bag and put it on just to try to keep warm and dry)It was on these 5 miles that my knee got very painful. So I retired from the race at C/P 63 128 miles. I did not what to do any more damage to my knee. There is always next year.

I have finished 7 out of the 9 races I have started.


SPARTATHLON 2004 (1st/2nd October).

256KM (153 miles) road race from Athens to Sparta.

I went through the programme of events again and again, the organizers had really put on a week of events for runners, and as we were here from all over the world, it was a great way to get know other competitors ,and as the week wore on the language barrier disappeared.So Thursday evening I had packed all my kit into the boxes allocated for each checkpoint along the way, these items would be there waiting for me at my preferred points of the race-my drinks bottles, energy gels, extra vests and shorts, and just in case extra pairs of shoes (which I didn’t need).I had spent a few hours in my hotel room plotting what I would need and where-this job was usually done by my mates at SNEYD STRIDERS -and boy did I need them now!!

After doing all I could in my pre-race preparation, I went to bed only to get about three hours sleep, I had never felt like this before, never had I felt so worried about anything in my life, had I done the right training, had I done too much, or not enough? Friday morning, I ate very little breakfast, I just wanted to get this over and done with, and hopefully be successful. John Foden being the great man he is, inspired me to think "I'll give it my best”, and the man himself wished me success-he didn’t wish me luck, as he said "a man like you doesn’t need luck, so I wish you success", his words helped eased the nerves.

I slowly took my place on the coach that was taking us to the Acropolis and the start of this great journey, as we made our way there, I still kept wondering if I had the strength and endurance to make the whole distance. At the start there was a mass crowd, T.V. crews and other media were there to capture the beginning of an epic race, the Japanese runners had their own T.V. crew to follow them, as Ultra distance running is huge in Japan-as is the SPARTATHLON.My wife waved me on my way, and we set off bound for Sparta, my plan was to do just enough to get me through this race within the time limit, so I was horrified to find that within the first mile I was in fifth place !

Easing back on the pace, I allowed the lead runners to disappear in the distance and I ran at a good, but sensible pace-however at certain points of the race it was so easy to let yourself get carried away, as passing cars would sound their horns in admiration, and crowds of onlookers would cheer you on, and the more they cheered the faster you would find yourself running.The first day was hot and humid, but it was bearable to run in, I just wanted to get the first day over with and plan to run a little faster in the cool night air.The course was surrounded by stunning views and lots of hills; one huge hill was to take us over the Corinth canal.Now this race is one in which runners pass each other over and over again, so it was no surprise that I bumped into two other British runners "John and Jackson" ,these guys were great and enjoying every step of the race.

However, Jackson had felt the need to retire from the race after battling an injury for some distance, John had passed me on a huge hill, and he was going well-really well. I caught up with him in a village, only because the local children had trusted pens and paper in front of us asking for our autographs, we felt really honored being asked for our autographs. As the evening drew on, we ran together which were great company for us both, and passed time and distance discussing anything and everything.However the hills got steeper and longer, John had got us to adopt a "run, walk" up the steep climbs, but he was stronger than me on the climbs, and my plan to run a little faster through the night when it was to be cooler, was thwarted by the continuous plod!

As we approached the 100 mile stage of the race, we realized that we had to climb over "Mount Sangor", a steep and rocky uphill straggle that seemed endless, though the views from the top were well worth the climb-I say the views from the top, it was the early hours of Saturday morning and lit up only by the light of the moon-but the lights in the distance that were from the towns and the villages made a stunning kaleidoscope of colours.The support from the checkpoints was fantastic. These folks couldn’t do enough for us runners, but as I was finding it hard to digest food, I began to feel a little weaker than I should-so I started chomping on sugar cubes, this disgusted some runners "how can you eat sugar cubes”? They asked. It gave me the fuel I needed to get me through what was to be a bad patch, and, more importantly-I got my appetite back and was eating normally again.

Alas John was not so fortunate, he had not felt too well for quite some time, and told me to go ahead-he would catch up with me if he could recover. From now on I was on my own, having to get my head around the fact that there was still another forty four miles to go before I got to Sparta, and the finish at King Leonidas statue-I was still able to motivate myself by thinking of Sneyd Striders and imagining them cheering me on from checkpoint to checkpoint.

I ran alone for quite some time, with a line of runners behind me in the distance, but alas-a line of runners in the distance ahead of me too! The second day (Saturday) was to be just as hot as the previous day, I had discarded my running hat some hours earlier (to my regret and my wife's disgust), the heat was taking effect -my face was red with sunburn, in fact it was so bad that officials at each checkpoint were sponging my face and head with cold water even though I never asked them to. I was still timing myself between each checkpoint and I was keeping a good thirty minute "cushion” all the way-I had the thought that I was doing just enough to make it all the way within the time limit of 36 hours.

However I hit yet another steep hill, so I walked up it, only to find that man- John Foden waiting at the next checkpoint, he was quick to point out that time was going against me, and if I didn’t pluck up the courage to run up part of these hills ,I could be timed out- in fact the hill I was planning to walk up, had a steep uphill climb that went on for 9km, "walk for that long Glyn,and time will slip past you, and you may get to the last checkpoint only to find it closed and yourself out of the race" John explained. NO WAY, NO WAY, I couldn’t get that near to the finish then be timed out- so now I was on a mission, I marched, then ran, then marched up each agonizing hill for the next 9km-and the next 5km hill after that. With about 20 miles to the finish, I was unaware that the line of runners behind me had, one by one, failed to reach certain checkpoints in the allotted times -therefore they were pulled out of the race. At this time, John Foden pointed out that I was last but one in the race, and needed to find something, anything from somewhere and quick!

I kept saying to myself "I don't want to be last, not last to finish", now bear in mind that there were 140 or more runners who had quit a long time ago, so to reach the finish in whatever position is an achievement anyway, but this wouldn’t surface-so I went into a near sprint with about 6 miles from the finish. I was passing runners who looked at me surprised, they were on their last legs, but it seemed it that I had got a new pair from somewhere. John Foden jumped with delight "GO FOR IT GLYN, GO FOR IT" he shouted from a checkpoint that I was running past.

I ran into Sparta with an escort of kids on mountain bikes, and a convoy of cars behind me as no-one tried to pass me (a mark of respect for a weary runner). Car horns were blasted, Police sirens wailed as to inform the waiting crowds at the finish line of my approach-all of a sudden I could see the statue of king Leonidas right in front of me, I sprinted, even though my legs were screaming in pain, and the closer I got, the faster I ran, sprinting up the few steps to the monument, and the cheers of huge crowds ringing in my ears.I touched the statue of King Leonidas,signaling that I had completed my aim of running the whole of this grueling run, people were even leaning out of windows to cheer my acheivement,two young girls dressed as Greek Goddesses were on hand to crown me with my "Olive wreath" and give me water from the Evrotas river.

What a feeling-I had finished in a time of 35 hours and 24 minutes, not a record breaking time, but I had endured the most punishing hills and mountains-lets face it, 153 mile flat would be grueling, but over this terrain it was tough, then there was the heat-need I go on? But I had followed in the steps of an ancient messenger, a modern day Pheidippes if you like, as some would say.......all that finish can claim with pride that they are- "ALMOST A GOD".

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Tuolla Badwater -viestiketjussa olikin jo puhetta Barkley Marathonista. Alla osallistumiskaavake sinne... :hehe (ks. http://www.mattmahoney.net/barkley/)

this form not intended for use by miners



55 mile fun run

Put this down. Get away from it. You are holding a one way

ticket thru the portals of Hell. One way in and only one way out.

The Barkley is not the most imposing 100 miler. Only 2000'

separate the highest and lowest points. Yet, somehow, year after

year nobody finishes. Why? Because, eventually, everybody quits.

Maybe it is the endless gut-wrenching climbs. Maybe it is the leg-

wrenching descents. Maybe it is the sawbriers and blackberries.

Maybe it is because the Barkley is truly man against the

mountain. We don't have cute little glo-lights every hundred feet.

If you can't find your way, you shouldn't be in the woods. No

gourmet stands every half mile. You are lucky we put out water.

The Barkley is not for the pretty boys. The Barkley takes away

your speed and leaves you a struggling shadow of yourself. The

Barkley runner must be tough. A thousand foot per mile elevation

change exacts a heavy toll. He must be savvy. Finding your way with

a map is easy if you know how. Knowing where you are on a remote

mountainside at night requires no little skill. He must be self

reliant. At the Barkley we provide a venue, and render it

reasonably safe. The rest is between you, the mountain, and that

little voice inside you that says " Mommy, it is too hard, I want

to quit."

There are reasons that the fun-run averages only 2 finishers

a year. There are reasons that no one has ever finished the 100. To

know the Barkley is to know humility...and fear.


Date: April 1, 1995 : packet pickup March 31

Starting Time: Saturday morning

Time Limit: 55 miles, 36 Hours : 100 Miles, 60 Hours

Location: Frozen Head State Natural Area

Don't ask, if you can't find the park on your own, then

you don't belong "out there".

Average Weather: Temperatures 0 to 80 f. Possibly during the same

race. Rain, snow, sleet, hail, hot sun have all occured

in the past.

Requirements: Rigorous requirements must be met: NO women. They are

too soft. No children. They are too small. No Californians. This

race is not cool. NO soccer fans. Soccer sucks. NO marines. They

don't biodegrade. NO yankees. We don't want them buried here. NO

wimps, worms, slugs, or weenies. They don't got what it takes. And

most of all, NO Health Fascists. We encourage smoking during the


Course Profile: Gently rolling, numerous downhills (27,000' in the

fun-run alone). Very scenic.

Trail Description: Varies. Some of it ain't for sissies.

Recomended Clothing: Enough to get thru briers. You should carry

emergency gear. (dry clothing, matches, etc.)

Aid: Access to your car @ 20 mile intervals. Water @ 5-8 mile


Fee: $1.55 and a pair of thick, warm boot socks.

Entry Limit: 25 runner limit. Selection by whim.

Your chances of finishing: You Will Not Complete the 100 Mile Run.

You have about a 10% chance in the fun-run.



* include discussion of all issues involving deorative wood

shavings, unnecessary surgery, Tommy Lasorda, uninspected poultry,

shampoo, duck costumes, reptiles, investment bankers, and unwanted



send entry to: Idiot

233 Union Ridge

War Trace, TN 37183

NAME:_________________________________AGE:_____(in Mercurian years)

ADDRESS:_____________________________________SEX: Y/N

CITY:__________________________________ST____HAT SIZE:_____

FAVORITE PARASITE:_________________________________________________

Complete the following: You can never know too much about fungus,


*** read before signing ***





SIGNED ______________________________________________DATE_________



DEFFN: Fool- enters the Barkley

Moron- enters the Barkley, expects to finish

Idiot- enters the Barkley, thinks he will do the 100

Sissy- does not enter the Barkley

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Tässä on asiallinen tarina 24 tunnin juoksusta, jostain syystä näitä asioita on tullut funtsailtua viime aikoina. :viheltely Tämä juttu ja paljon muuta jupinaa menneistä ja tulevista ultrakisoista ympäri maailman löytyy täältä: http://worldultranews.blogspot.com/

Across The Years Race Report - Jim Skaggs

Jim Skaggs, of Layton, Utah, USA, veteran ultrarunner and RD of the Antelope Island Buffalo Run coming up March 18, 2006 http://www.buffalorun.org, shares his race experience at last year's exciting Across The Years 24 Hour Run, his first attempt at a fixed time run.

First, it was my first attempt at a timed run rather than a distance run. I had this lofty goal of 100 in 24 hours. I figured that I had done a trail 100 in under that time, I should be able to run 100 miles worth of flat circles in that time. My training wasn't the greatest from Thanksgiving on, low miles that week, low miles the week after due to a cold, low miles the week after due to very cold weather (I hate running in cold weather), then it was taper time. So I ended up having an extended 4 week taper. Could I still do the 100 miles?

I drove to Tucson 2 days early to stay with my brother and his family, went for a short 4 miles the day before the race and generally took it easy. I arrived at Nardini Manor at 7am or so on the 30th, set up my stuff (not much, and chair and sleeping bag), and watched the runners that started on the 29th. There was a group of about 12 that started on the 30th at 9am, mostly 24 hour runners, but some 48 hour runners as well. The weather was perfect for running, mid 40's at the start, rising to about 70 during the day, a slight breeze and lots of sun. I actually got a bit of a tan during the day. I started out running easy 3 minute laps (9+ minute pace) with the goal of doing that for the 50k or so. I managed to do that and just kept right on going, hitting 50k in just over 5 hours, 50 miles in about 9:30, and 100k at the 11:45 mark. The day was going well, I had no physical issues to deal with, stomach was fine and I had a great time watching and tracking the progress of the other runners. Yiannis was something to watch, like a metronome with his laps. Andy Lovy, 70 years old and doing 72 hours was like the energizer bunny. Every time I turned around, there he was clicking off the miles. He mentioned to me something about us younger runners being an inspiration, and I told him that he was the inspiration and that I hoped to be doing this when I turned 70. Michelle, always with an encouraging or funny comment, was running interference for Yiannis.

Meanwhile, my day was still going great. I was still on track to complete at least 100 miles. The night came and it had to be the longest night I have ever run thru. I did hit one kind of bad patch at about 1am. I went intothe nice, heated tent, sat in my chair, set my watch for 10 minutes and slept for 45 minutes. Guess I needed this because I felt much better afterwards. Still, the miles clicked off. By this time, I was running 8 laps and walking 2, with the lap times coming in at about 3:45. Not too bad I thought. Occasionally I would feel the need to speed up a little and I could turn a few 3:20 laps.

At around 6:30am, I started looking at the eastern sky on every lap, looking for the smallest hint of daylight. Finally, the night was over and there was only 2 hours of time left. I was still on track to complete 100 miles and it was looking like I might get it in less than 23 hours. That boosted my spirits. The other thing that kept me going was that for the 24 hour runners on the 20th, I was second in terms of distance, Carolyn Smith was pulling away from me big time, but I knew that would happen. At around daylight, the runners starting on the 31st started showing up. That seemed to infuse some new life into those of us on the track. I know my lap times started coming down a little bit. I finally hit the 100 mile mark at 23:55, not my best 100 mile time, but given the last few weeks of training, I was very happy with it.

After that, every mile was just bonus miles and smiles.

Finally, the last lap was upon me. I crossed the timing mat for the last time with about 2 minutes left, and took a picture of the screen showing my mileage. Final tally, 103.77 miles. Good enough for 9th place. I was very happy the running was over and that I had made my goal and got that nifty 100 mile belt buckle.

How did I like the race? I loved it. Rodger and Paul and crew did a phenomenal job with everything, from the venue, timing, facilities, aid (nothing like an aid station every 500 meters), food (the fresh hot lasagna was a huge hit with me) , people, weather, etc. The e-mails were great. I had e-mailed a bunch of friends and family and they came thru. I received 22 e-mails all thru the day and night. I loved being able to see how I was doing on every lap.

Will I run this again? You bet, I'm planning on signing up as soon as I can for this year's race.

Jim Skaggs

Layton, Utah, USA

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Ei ihan buffaloitten mailla, mutta biisoneitten kylläkin (vähän toista kymmentä kappaletta on!), eli Lehmäohjalla asuu hyvinkin pitkälti samanlaiseen tulokseen ekalla kertaa päätynyt ultraaaja, tehän tiedätte tämän Karjalohjan Haisielassien! joka ylitti 100 mailin viivan ajassa 23.50.

Vähän meni ohi osia tuosta tekstistä, kun ei ole tullut kielitaitoa ensinkään riittävästi tankattua koskaan, saati ylläpitää sen jälkeen, mutta kyllä siitä jotain tolkkua sain sentään.

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Enempi maraton-raastoa on tämä ensiluokkainen raportti Sohin veljesten urasta, mutta mukana on pieni pala rankemman puoleista ultra-asiaakin... http://raasto.com/zcorner.htm

Kerran Uuden Seelannin leirillä pälkähti veljesten päähän juosta todella pitkä lenkki. ”Juostaan 4 min / km-vauhtia koko päivä”, tuumivat veljekset ja alkoivat pistää jalkaa toisen eteen. 125 km ja vajaat kahdeksan ja puoli tuntia myöhemmin sai Shigeru tarpeekseen, mutta Takeshi jatkoi aina 128,4 kilometriin saakka (aika 8.37).

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  • 2 weeks later...

Tässä on mainio tarina London to Brighton -juoksusta. Sitten kun on ennätykset juostu eikä tulokset enää treenamalla parane, voisi olla mukava käydä kokeilemassa ultra-klassikoita tyylin London to Brighton ja Comrades!

There’s Only One ‘F’ in Cuckfield

Written by Mick Rice

This race had called out to me for the last couple of years. I had read about it, thought about it and dreamt about it. All that was left was for me to run it. The whole package is almost irresistible to anyone with an interest in ultramarathons. This race combines running history with a raw physical challenge in a way that no other event can hope to. For many ultrarunners I know this race represents the very best that the sport has to offer. There may be tougher races out there, and there are certainly longer courses, but a rare combination of virtues continues to ensure that the London to Brighton Road Race remains, for my money at least, as the premier ultra distance event in the world. I had no choice. I had to run this race at least once.

Race Morning

On race morning I was woken by the alarm on my mobile phone at 4:59am. Thirty seconds later my watch alarm went off. A minute after that, my wake up call from the hotel reception came through. It wasn’t a morning to be late. As is usual for me all my race gear was laid out on the chair in my hotel room and all I had to do was dress, eat and leave. The ‘Breakfast of Champions’ consisted of shortcake biscuits water and a banana that morning. My plan was to leave the hotel in Westminster at 6:00am. Registration was at the London Nautical School in Stamford Street, which I reckoned was about a ten-minute taxi ride from the hotel. The race was due to start at 7:00am. On the advice of the hotel porter I started walking towards registration and watched for a taxi to hail. By the time I reached the Houses of Parliament I was still walking, late and in a panic. I eventually got a taxi on Westminster Bridge. Registration was a blur of race numbers and baggage tags. Within a few minutes I was back on the streets again and running towards the race start, which was about a mile away in the shadow of Big Ben. Even for someone like myself, with a decidedly tenuous grasp of what might constitute normality, it was clear that this wasn’t ideal preparation for a long race. What could I do? I arrived at the start with about four minutes to spare.

On the 'B' of the first BongWhile I knew that the race absolutely had to start on time, the assembled group of runners appeared mostly unconcerned as the fateful hour approached. This race famously starts on the first stroke of seven o’clock as announced by Big Ben. We had been warned against being fooled by the preliminary chimes but rather to start on the ‘B’ of the first ‘Bong’. As these preliminary chimes rang out the runners moved casually out onto the road and seconds later we were on our way.

On the advice of a good friend I had noted where defending women’s champion Vicky Skelton was running. She was one of the few runners I recognised and I had been told that she normally ran a well-paced race that would most likely see her finish in a little over the seven hours. If everything went perfectly for me I was hoping to finish in just less than seven hours but I realised from the start that this was being optimistic. Over the course of the next fifty-four miles there was going to be a lot of room for the unexpected. The early miles were quite relaxed. Superb stewarding allowed runners to glide easily through the early Sunday morning traffic. As distance markers would only appear every five miles it was going to be tricky to judge pace with any accuracy. I tried to relax and glide. I thanked as many stewards as I could and soaked up the experience. I spoke briefly to another runner but for some reason I wasn’t really in the mood to chat. I just wanted to drift along and look around myself. Streets of shops and offices came and went as we moved, ever so gently, towards Brighton and the coast.

Somewhere round Brixton

At the five-mile aid station my ‘pacer’ Vicky was about a hundred yards ahead and she appeared to be moving along effortlessly. We passed this point in a little over thirty-eight minutes, which works out at about 7:49 per mile and all was well with the world. Although London was starting to get up to full speed the traffic didn’t seem too bad. Some of the time I ran on the road and more often I ran on the pavement. Keeping clear of the cars, bikes and busses gave me something other than the miles ahead to think about. Somewhere around Brixton I passed by Vicky. Without being aware of it she had eased my nerves through the first six or seven miles of the race and I shall be forever grateful. It takes a long time to move out of London on foot and we seemed to pass one commercial center after another. The suburbs of Streatham Hill, Norbury and Thornton Heath came and went. The stewarding was still impressive. Each major junction had at least one yellow-bibbed race steward looking after our interests.

At race registration many runners had handed in bottles of sports drink and other supplies like fruit and energy bars. Each bottle was individually labeled with the name of the runner, their race number and the mile-point at which it was to be kept. The refreshment stations were placed at five-mile intervals along the road. These drinks were then transported ahead to the appropriate place on the course to await their owners. To the outside of each of my own bottles I had taped an energy gel and I also carried some electrolyte replacement capsules with me in a waterproof container. My plan was to drink the entire contents of each drinks bottle along with the energy gel and to supplement that with an electrolyte capsule every hour. In broad terms this plan worked out perfectly. In the later stages of the race I passed on the gels twice but I don’t think I suffered in any way because of it. The only other hitch came towards the end of the race when I realised that the electrolyte capsules had shaken themselves apart in the bottle. I think the lesson here is to use a smaller container the next time. I passed through the second drinks station at the ten-mile mark in Croydon with a little over an hour and fifteen minutes on the clock. My pace had dipped under 7:30 per mile but I still felt very relaxed.

Even in these early stages it seemed a long way between distance markers and, as I’ve said, this made it difficult to judge pace with confidence. Five miles is quite a long way between reality checks. The day was heating up and for the first time I could feel myself starting to sweat. Occasionally I checked my stride slightly and consciously tried to slow the pace. Slowing from 7:30 or 7:40 minutes per mile pace felt a little awkward but I knew I needed to be conservative. We passed through South Croydon, Purley and Coulsdon before reaching the fifteen-mile marker just before Farthing Down. There was a good sharp uphill stretch at this point, which came as quite a surprise top me. I had been prepared for a hilly finish to this race but hadn’t previously contemplated too much climbing in the middle miles. Boy was I was in for a shock. This first climb was but a gentle introduction to a series of long challenging inclines that continued in almost unbroken sequence until the finish in Brighton.

The Marathon Point

Having crossed Farthing Down we descended once again through a twisting series of small country roads. From time to time the course would wind in amongst houses and activity and then pass through into greener pastures again. As I look back my memories of this part of the course wash into one another and sometimes it’s hard to recall the exact order of events. I can see from the race map that we moved on through Redhill and Salfords and approached the ‘marathon’ point somewhere close to the Horley Roundabout. Although the marathon point wasn’t marked on the road I reckon I passed it with about 3:18:00 on the clock. I was still a little ahead of schedule but couldn’t see much profit in slowing. There was still a lot of ground to cover and I was keen to keep going.

My first real sign of difficulty came at around the marathon mark or perhaps even slightly before then. Unusually for me I was having trouble with my quad’s and running downhill, even gently, was getting very uncomfortable. Obviously this was a concern with thirty miles still to travel. There wasn’t a lot I could do apart from trying to run cautiously on the downhill stretches. The field was very strung-out by this point and, although I’d occasionally see another runner, long periods would pass where I ran on my own. Having passed through Pound Hill and Balcombe at thirty and thirty-five miles respectively, I felt I was at last making progress. By this point I had been on the road for nearly four and a half hours and fatigue was starting to kick in. I was starting to realise that this race was going to more of a waiting game than anything else. It was going to be a case of just keeping-on, and on, and on, and on. My five-mile splits had been consistently in the 37:00 to 39:00 range and if I could just take whatever the course was going to throw at me, and not stop running, there was a chance I could make it to the finish line in respectable shape. We left Balcombe behind and headed on towards Cuckfield.


I had never even heard of Cuckfield before race day but I will forever remember the tortuous, grinding, two-mile hill that leads up into that admittedly very pleasant village. The route wound and twisted along forested roads following a steady incline that seemed never-ending. Even though I shortened my stride to meet the rising ground I still passed another runner roughly half way up. Afterwards he told me that he had vomited several times during the climb such was the shock to his system that this obstacle provided after nearly forty miles on the road. It was with great relief then that I eventually emerged into the village itself. Another runner later remarked that, “Thank God there’s only one ‘effing Cuckfield.” Personally, I couldn’t have agreed more.

Although Cuckfield was behind me the remaining fourteen miles or so of the course was far from level. As we left the village I could spot the last great barrier along the road to Brighton. In the distance a huge ridge of land arose sharply on the horizon in a sweeping line. If you were going to the seaside you were going up and over. Before meeting this monster in the distance, which is called Ditchling Beacon, there was roughly ten more miles of plod to get through. I could feel my pace slowing although I thought hadn’t tired drastically. I felt sure that the fall-off in pace was more to do with the hills than real tiredness. As the road descended out of the village it only served to exaggerate the scale of the rising ground far ahead. The road wound on towards Burgess Hill and Hassocks where I picked up my second last drink. At the last two stations I had chosen to have watered-down Red Bull in place of sports drink. This concoction normally doesn’t agree with me but when watered down it looses some of that sickly sweet aftertaste that many people find disagreeable. I was running reasonable freely now along a blessedly flat section between Keymer and the last great climb at Ditchling.

Calm before the storm

There was a moment of calm before the storm. As the sharply rising slope approached the course ran along the appropriately named Underhill Lane for about a half-mile. I had been cautioned that this Ditchling Beacon was ‘unrunable’ for all but the elite. I wasn’t really sure what this meant but I was just about to find out. As I approached a junction a race steward directed me sharply to the right and uphill, with the terse advice “Fifteen hundred meters of hill!” Over the preceding mile I had bargained with myself that I would continue to run until I ran out of steam and only then I would allow myself to walk up the remainder of the hill. I had harbored vain dreams of plodding all the way up if things had gone well. This folly was exposed within seconds of turning the corner. It’s difficult to explain just how steep Ditchling Beacon actually is but suffice it to say that I’m sure it would be ‘first gear and a prayer’ if you were driving. I walked as briskly as I could manage towards the top with my hands firmly planted on my knees. This was perhaps the one part of the course where traffic caused me problems. The road was very narrow and steep and cars were passing in both directions. After a moment or two I settled on the novel strategy of completely ignoring everyone and everybody and looking at the ground six inches in front of my toes. Surprisingly enough nothing actually hit me although I did get a few ‘friendly’ toots of the horn. Up and over Ditchling, back to running, and we were four miles from home.

The ‘Glory Stretch’

Just over the top came the final aid station just before what locals call ‘Old Boat Corner’. At the fifty-mile marker my split was 6:31:00, which was a nice round figure if nothing else. Normally I would consider the closing miles of a long race as the ‘Glory Stretch’. By this I mean that you can relax in the knowledge that the main work has been done and that in all likelihood you will finish the race. This time things were a little different. For one thing, after the near euphoria of cresting Ditchling Beacon, my spirits had dipped sharply along the relatively lonely stretch that started to wind down into Brighton town. Another difficulty was the downhill gradient itself. My quads, that had given trouble earlier, were by this stage completely shot. Each step forward was painful but even the prospect of stopping didn’t seem very attractive either. There was absolutely nothing else to do but jog as gently as I could in the direction of the beach.

The view over the last few miles is spectacular as all of Brighton is laid out below. I was now totally focused on the finish line and making sure I got there as soon as possible. Of course there was absolutely no question of running any faster; it was just a case of not stopping until I arrived. I had been warned that there was one last sneaky climb before the end, around Hollingbury Golf Course, where the road sweeps up over a hillside before the very final descent to the finish line in the suburbs of Brighton. It was only late into these final few miles that I sank into ‘death-march-mode’. Running downhill was painful, breathing was painful and I suspect lying very still on a bed of feathers would have been painful too, if I had tried. All of the mental tricks I had used to cajole myself forwards through the preceding fifty-odd miles had long since passed their sell-by date. My right hamstring was starting to cramp and I had to shorten my stride again into a sort of choppy ‘trit-trot’ for the last half-mile or so. Eventually I was directed around a corner, along the footpath and over the finish line. It was over. I was done.

The Finish

I had crossed the line with 7:04:00 on the clock, which was good enough for tenth place overall and I was more than happy with both of those statistics. In my wildest pre-race nightmares I had never anticipated such a hilly course but on the other hand the weather was about as benign as it possibly could have been. I’m so glad to have had a chance to take part in this event and the organisers deserve great credit for putting on the race in the face of huge administrative difficulties. Unfortunately I had to leave Brighton within a couple of hours in order to catch a flight home and so I wasn’t able to attend the presentation of prizes that evening. Before I left Brighton I spoke briefly with the winner, Johannes Oosthuizen from South Africa, who was full of praise for the event. He spoke with apparent great sincerity of his admiration for the each and every athlete that finished the race. I also bumped into the fourth place finisher, Massimilianno Monteforte from Italy, who claimed with a completely straight face that the longest race he had previously run was 5000m. He said he was disappointed because he had started to cramp after 15 miles and only managed to finish in 6:29:04 – and some people have to cheek to say that I’m a lunatic.


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Pitkä tarina "ultra-pyöräilyn Kouroksesta"


That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stranger


Jure Robic, the Slovene soldier who might be the world’s best ultra-endurance athlete, lives in a small fifth-floor apartment near the railroad tracks in the town of Koroska Bela. By nature and vocation, Robic is a sober-minded person, but when he appears at his doorway, he is smiling. Not a standard-issue smile, but a wild and fidgety grin, as if he were trying to contain some huge and mysterious secret.

Robic catches himself, strides inside and proceeds to lead a swift tour of his spare, well-kept apartment. Here is his kitchen. Here is his bike. Here are his wife, Petra, and year-old son, Nal. Here, on the coffee table, are whiskey, Jägermeister, bread, chocolate, prosciutto and an inky, vegetable-based soft drink he calls Communist Coca-Cola, left over from the old days. And here, outside the window, veiled by the nightly ice fog, stand the Alps and the Austrian border. Robic shows everything, then settles onto the couch. It’s only then that the smile reappears, more nervous this time, as he pulls out a DVD and prepares to reveal the unique talent that sets him apart from the rest of the world: his insanity.

Tonight, Robic’s insanity exists only in digitally recorded form, but the rest of the time it swirls moodily around him, his personal batch of ice fog. Citizens of Slovenia, a tiny, sports-happy country that was part of the former Yugoslavia until 1991, might glow with beatific pride at the success of their ski jumpers and handballers, but they tend to become a touch unsettled when discussing Robic, who for the past two years has dominated ultracycling’s hardest, longest races. They are proud of their man, certainly, and the way he can ride thousands of miles with barely a rest. But they’re also a little, well, concerned. Friends and colleagues tend to sidle together out of Robic’s earshot and whisper in urgent, hospital-corridor tones.

‘‘He pushes himself into madness,’’ says Tomaz Kovsca, a journalist for Slovene television. ‘‘He pushes too far.’’ Rajko Petek, a 35-year-old fellow soldier and friend who is on Robic’s support crew, says: ‘‘What Jure does is frightening. Sometimes during races he gets off his bike and walks toward us in the follow car, very angry.’’

What do you do then?

Petek glances carefully at Robic, standing a few yards off. ‘‘We lock the doors,’’ he whispers.

When he overhears, Robic heartily dismisses their unease. ‘‘They are joking!’’ he shouts. ‘‘Joking!’’ But in quieter moments, he acknowledges their concern, even empathizes with it — though he’s quick to assert that nothing can be done to fix the problem. Robic seems to regard his racetime bouts with mental instability as one might regard a beloved but unruly pet: awkward and embarrassing at times, but impossible to live without.

‘‘During race, I am going crazy, definitely,’’ he says, smiling in bemused despair. ‘‘I cannot explain why is that, but it is true.’’

The craziness is methodical, however, and Robic and his crew know its pattern by heart. Around Day 2 of a typical weeklong race, his speech goes staccato. By Day 3, he is belligerent and sometimes paranoid. His short-term memory vanishes, and he weeps uncontrollably. The last days are marked by hallucinations: bears, wolves and aliens prowl the roadside; asphalt cracks rearrange themselves into coded messages. Occasionally, Robic leaps from his bike to square off with shadowy figures that turn out to be mailboxes. In a 2004 race, he turned to see himself pursued by a howling band of black-bearded men on horseback.

‘‘Mujahedeen, shooting at me,’’ he explains. ‘‘So I ride faster.’’

His wife, a nurse, interjects: ‘‘The first time I went to a race, I was not prepared to see what happens to his mind. We nearly split up.’’

The DVD spins, and the room vibrates with Wagner. We see a series of surreal images that combine violence with eerie placidity, like a Kubrick film. Robic’s spotlit figure rides through the dark in the driving rain. Robic gasps some unheard plea to a stone-faced man in fatigues who’s identified as his crew chief. Robic curls fetuslike on the pavement of a Pyrenean mountain road, having fallen asleep and simply tipped off his bike. Robic stalks the crossroads of a nameless French village at midnight, flailing his arms, screaming at his support crew. A baffled gendarme hurries to the scene, asking, Quel est le problème? I glance at Robic, and he’s staring at the screen, too.

‘‘In race, everything inside me comes out,’’ he says, shrugging. ‘‘Good, bad, everything. My mind, it begins to do things on its own. I do not like it, but this is the way I must go to win the race.’’

Over the past two years, Robic, who is 40 years old, has won almost every race he has entered, including the last two editions of ultracycling’s biggest event, the 3,000-mile Insight Race Across America (RAAM). In 2004, Robic set a world record in the 24-hour time trial by covering 518.7 miles. Last year, he did himself one better, following up his RAAM victory with a victory six weeks later in Le Tour Direct, a 2,500-mile race on a course contrived from classic Tour de France routes. Robic finished in 7 days and 19 hours, and climbed some 140,000 feet, the equivalent of nearly five trips up Mount Everest. ‘‘That’s just mind-boggling,’’ says Pete Penseyres, a two-time RAAM solo champion. ‘‘I can’t envision doing two big races back to back. The mental part is just too hard.’’

Hans Mauritz, the co-organizer of Le Tour Direct, says: ‘‘For me, Jure is on another planet. He can die on the bike and keep going.’’

And going. In addition to races, Robic trains 335 days each year, logging some 28,000 miles, or roughly one trip around the planet.

Yet Robic does not excel on physical talent alone. He is not always the fastest competitor (he often makes up ground by sleeping 90 minutes or less a day), nor does he possess any towering physiological gift. On rare occasions when he permits himself to be tested in a laboratory, his ability to produce power and transport oxygen ranks on a par with those of many other ultra-endurance athletes. He wins for the most fundamental of reasons: he refuses to stop.

In a consideration of Robic, three facts are clear: he is nearly indefatigable, he is occasionally nuts, and the first two facts are somehow connected. The question is, How? Does he lose sanity because he pushes himself too far, or does he push himself too far because he loses sanity? Robic is the latest and perhaps most intriguing embodiment of the old questions: What happens when the human body is pushed to the limits of its endurance? Where does the breaking point lie? And what happens when you cross the line?

The Insight Race Across America was not designed by overcurious physiologists, but it might as well have been. It’s the world’s longest human-powered race, a coast-to-coast haul from San Diego to Atlantic City. Typically, two dozen or so riders compete in the solo categories.

Compared with the three-week, 2,200-mile Tour de France, which is generally acknowledged to be the world’s most demanding event, RAAM requires relatively low power outputs — a contest of diesel engines as opposed to Ferraris. But RAAM’s unceasing nature and epic length — 800 miles more than the Tour in roughly a third of the time — makes it in some ways a purer test, if only because it more closely resembles a giant lab experiment. (An experiment that will get more interesting if Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour winner, gives RAAM a try, as he has hinted he might.)

Winners average more than 13 miles an hour and finish in nine days, riding about 350 miles a day. The ones to watch, though, are not the victors but the 50 percent who do not finish, and whose breakdowns, like a scattering of so many piston rods and hubcaps, provide a vivid map of the human body’s built-in limitations.

The first breakdowns, in the California and Arizona deserts, tend to be related to heat and hydration (riders drink as much as a liter of water per hour during the race). Then, around the Plains states, comes the stomach trouble. Digestive tracts, overloaded by the strain of processing 10,000 calories a day (the equivalent of 29 cheeseburgers), go haywire. This is usually accompanied by a wave of structural problems: muscles and tendons weaken, or simply give out. Body-bike contact points are especially vulnerable. Feet swell two sizes, on average. Thumb nerves, compressed on the handlebars, stop functioning. For several weeks after the race, Robic, like a lot of RAAM riders, must use two hands to turn a key. (Don’t even ask about the derrière. When I did, Robic pantomimed placing a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger.)

The final collapse takes place between the ears. Competitors endure fatigue-induced rounds of hallucinations and mood shifts. Margins for error in the race can be slim, a point underlined by two fatal accidents at RAAM in the past three years, both involving automobiles. Support crews, which ride along in follow cars or campers, do what they can to help. For Robic, his support crew serves as a second brain, consisting of a well-drilled cadre of a half-dozen fellow Slovene soldiers. It resembles other crews in that it feeds, hydrates, guides and motivates — but with an important distinction. The second brain, not Robic’s, is in charge.

‘‘By the third day, we are Jure’s software,’’ says Lt. Miran Stanovnik, Robic’s crew chief. ‘‘He is the hardware, going down the road.’’

Stanovnik, at 41, emanates the cowboy charisma of a special-ops soldier, though he isn’t one: his background consists most notably of riding the famously grueling Paris-to-Dakar rally on his motorcycle. But he’s impressively alpha nonetheless, referring to a recent crash in which he broke ribs, fractured vertebrae and ruptured his spleen as ‘‘my small tumble.’’

His system is straightforward. During the race, Robic’s brain is allowed control over choice of music (usually a mix of traditional Slovene marches and Lenny Kravitz), food selection and bathroom breaks. The second brain dictates everything else, including rest times, meal times, food amounts and even average speed. Unless Robic asks, he is not informed of the remaining mileage or even how many days are left in the race.

‘‘It is best if he has no idea,’’ Stanovnik says. ‘‘He rides — that is all.’’

Robic’s season consists of a handful of 24-hour races built around RAAM and, last year, Le Tour Direct. As in most ultra sports, prize money is more derisory than motivational. Even with the Slovene Army picking up much of the travel tab, the $10,000 check from RAAM barely covers Robic’s cost of competing. His sponsorships, mostly with Slovene sports-nutrition and bike-equipment companies, aren’t enough to put him in the black. (Stanovnik lent Robic’s team $8,500 last year.)

Stanovnik is adept at motivating Robic along the way. When the mujahedeen appeared in 2004, Stanovnik pretended to see them too, and urged Robic to ride faster. When an addled Robic believes himself to be back in Slovenia, Stanovnik informs him that his hometown is just a few miles ahead. He also employs more time-honored, drill-sergeant techniques.

‘‘They would shout insults at him,’’ says Hans Mauritz. ‘‘It woke him up, and he kept going.’’

(Naturally, these tactics add an element of tension between Robic and team members, and account for his bouts of hostility toward them, including, in 2003, Robic’s mistaken but passionately held impression that Stanovnik was having an affair with his wife.)

In all decisions, Stanovnik governs according to a rule of thumb that he has developed over the years: at the dark moment when Robic feels utterly exhausted, when he is so empty and sleep-deprived that he feels as if he might literally die on the bike, he actually has 50 percent more energy to give.

‘‘That is our method,’’ Stanovnik says. ‘‘When Jure cannot go any more, he can still go. We must motivate him sometimes, but he goes.’’

In this dual-brain system, Robic’s mental breakdowns are not an unwanted side effect, but rather an integral part of the process: welcome proof that the other limiting factors have been eliminated and that maximum stress has been placed firmly on the final link, Robic’s mind. While his long-term memory appears unaffected (he can recall route landmarks from year to year), his short-term memory evaporates. Robic will repeat the same question 10 times in five minutes. His mind exists completely in the present.

‘‘When I am tired, Miran can take me to the edge,’’ Robic says appreciatively, ‘‘to the last atoms of my power.’’ How far past the 50 percent limit can Robic be pushed? ‘‘Ninety, maybe 95 percent,’’ Stanovnik says thoughtfully. ‘‘But that would probably be unhealthy.’’

Interestingly — or unnervingly, depending on how you look at it — some researchers are uncovering evidence that Stanovnik’s rule of thumb might be right. A spate of recent studies has contributed to growing support for the notion that the origins and controls of fatigue lie partly, if not mostly, within the brain and the central nervous system. The new research puts fresh weight to the hoary coaching cliché: you only think you’re tired.

From the time of Hippocrates, the limits of human exertion were thought to reside in the muscles themselves, a hypothesis that was established in 1922 with the Nobel Prize-winning work of Dr. A.V. Hill. The theory went like this: working muscles, pushed to their limit, accumulated lactic acid. When concentrations of lactic acid reached a certain level, so the argument went, the muscles could no longer function. Muscles contained an ‘‘automatic brake,’’ Hill wrote, ‘‘carefully adjusted by nature.’’

Researchers, however, have long noted a link between neurological disorders and athletic potential. In the late 1800’s, the pioneering French doctor Philippe Tissié observed that phobias and epilepsy could be beneficial for athletic training. A few decades later, the German surgeon August Bier measured the spontaneous long jump of a mentally disturbed patient, noting that it compared favorably to the existing world record. These types of exertions seemed to defy the notion of built-in muscular limits and, Bier noted, were made possible by ‘‘powerful mental stimuli and the simultaneous elimination of inhibitions.’’

Questions about the muscle-centered model came up again in 1989 when Canadian researchers published the results of an experiment called Operation Everest II, in which athletes did heavy exercise in altitude chambers. The athletes reached exhaustion despite the fact that their lactic-acid concentrations remained comfortably low. Fatigue, it seemed, might be caused by something else.

In 1999, three physiologists from the University of Cape Town Medical School in South Africa took the next step. They worked a group of cyclists to exhaustion during a 62-mile laboratory ride and measured, via electrodes, the percentage of leg muscles they were using at the fatigue limit. If standard theories were true, they reasoned, the body should recruit more muscle fibers as it approached exhaustion — a natural compensation for tired, weakening muscles.

Instead, the researchers observed the opposite result. As the riders approached complete fatigue, the percentage of active muscle fibers decreased, until they were using only about 30 percent. Even as the athletes felt they were giving their all, the reality was that more of their muscles were at rest. Was the brain purposely holding back the body?

‘‘It was as if the brain was playing a trick on the body, to save it,’’ says Timothy Noakes, head of the Cape Town group. ‘‘Which makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. In fatigue, it only feels like we’re going to die. The actual physiological risks that fatigue represents are essentially trivial.’’

From this, Noakes and his colleagues concluded that A.V. Hill had been right about the automatic brake, but wrong about its location. They postulated the existence of what they called a central governor: a neural system that monitors carbohydrate stores, the levels of glucose and oxygen in the blood, the rates of heat gain and loss, and work rates. The governor’s job is to hold our bodies safely back from the brink of collapse by creating painful sensations that we interpret as unendurable muscle fatigue.

Fatigue, the researchers argue, is less an objective event than a subjective emotion — the brain’s clever, self-interested attempt to scare you into stopping. The way past fatigue, then, is to return the favor: to fool the brain by lying to it, distracting it or even provoking it. (That said, mental gamesmanship can never overcome a basic lack of fitness. As Noakes says, the body always holds veto power.)

‘‘Athletes and coaches already do a lot of this instinctively,’’ Noakes says. ‘‘What is a coach, after all, but a technique for overcoming the governor?’’

The governor theory is far from conclusive, but some scientists are focusing on a walnut-size area in the front portion of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex. This has been linked to a host of core functions, including handling pain, creating emotion and playing a key role in what’s known loosely as willpower. Sir Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA, thought the anterior cingulate cortex to be the seat of the soul. In the sports world, perhaps no soul relies on it more than Jure Robic’s.

Some people ‘‘have the ability to reprocess the pain signal,’’ says Daniel Galper, a senior researcher in the psychiatry department at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. ‘‘It’s not that they don’t feel the pain; they just shift their brain dynamics and alter their perception of reality so the pain matters less. It’s basically a purposeful hallucination.’’

Noakes and his colleagues speculate that the central governor theory holds the potential to explain not just feats of stamina but also their opposite: chronic fatigue syndrome (a malfunctioning, overactive governor, in this view). Moreover, the governor theory makes evolutionary sense. Animals whose brains safeguarded an emergency stash of physical reserves might well have survived at a higher rate than animals that could drain their fuel tanks at will.

The theory would also seem to explain a sports landscape in which ultra-endurance events have gone from being considered medically hazardous to something perilously close to routine. The Ironman triathlon in Hawaii — a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and marathon-length run — was the ne plus ultra in endurance in the 1980’s, but has now been topped by the Ultraman, which is more than twice as long. Once obscure, the genre known as adventure racing, which includes 500-plus-mile wilderness races like Primal Quest, has grown to more than 400 events each year. Ultramarathoners, defined as those who participate in running events exceeding the official marathon distance of 26.2 miles, now number some 15,000 in the United States alone. The underlying physics have not changed, but rather our sense of possibility. Athletic culture, like Robic, has discovered a way to tweak its collective governor.

When we try understanding Robic’s relationship to severe pain, however, our interest tends to be more visceral. Namely, how does it feel?

‘‘I feel like if I go on, I will die,’’ he says, struggling for words. ‘‘It is everything at the same moment, piled up over and over. Head, muscles, bones. Nobody can understand. You cannot imagine it until you feel it.’’

A few moments later, he says: ‘‘The pain doesn’t exist for me. I know it is there because I feel it, but I don’t pay attention to it. I sometimes see myself from the other view, looking down at me riding the bike. It is strange, but it happens like that.’’ Robic veers like this when he discusses pain. He talks of incomprehensible suffering one moment and of dreamlike anesthesia the next. If pain is in fact both signal and emotion, perhaps that makes sense. Perhaps the closer we get to its dual nature, the more elusive any single truth becomes, and the better we understand what Emily Dickinson meant when she wrote that ‘‘pain has an element of blank.’’

It’s a gray morning in December, and Robic is driving his silver Peugeot to one of his favorite training rides in the hills along Slovenia’s Adriatic coast. The wind is blowing 50 miles an hour, and the temperature is in the 40’s. If Robic’s anterior cingulate cortex can sometimes block out negative information, this is definitely not one of those times.

‘‘This is bad,’’ he says, peering at the wind-shredded clouds. ‘‘It makes no sense to train. You cannot train, and I am out there, cold and freezing for hours. I am shivering and wondering, Why do I do this?’’

Robic often complains like this. Even when the weather is ideal, he points out the clouds blowing in and how horrible and lonely his workout will be. At first it seems like showboat kvetching that will diminish as he gets more familiar with you, but as time wears on it’s apparent that his complaints are sincere. He isn’t just acting miserable — he is miserable.

The negativity is accentuated, perhaps, by the fact that Robic trains exclusively alone. What’s more, he’s famously disinclined to seek advice when it comes to training, medical treatment and nutrition. ‘‘Completely uncoachable,’’ says his friend Uros Velepec, a two-time winner of the Ultraman World Championships. Robic invents eclectic workout schedules: six hours of biking one day, seven hours of Nordic skiing the next, with perhaps a mountain climb or two in between, all faithfully tracked and recorded in a series of battered notebooks.

‘‘I find motivation everywhere,’’ Robic says. ‘‘If right now you look at me and wonder if I cannot go up the mountain, even if you are joking, I will do it. Then I will do it again, and maybe again.’’ He gestures to Mount Stol, a snowy Goliath crouched 7,300 feet above him, as remote as the moon. ‘‘Three years ago, I got angry at the mountain. I climbed it 38 times in two months.’’

Robic goes on to detail his motivational fuel sources, including his neglectful father, persistent near poverty (three years ago, he was reduced to asking for food from a farmer friend) and a lack of large-sponsor support because of Slovenia’s small size. (‘‘If I lived in Austria, I would be millionaire,’’ he says unconvincingly.) There is also a psychological twist of biblical flavor: a half brother born out of wedlock named Marko, Jure’s age to the month. Robic says his father favored Marko to the extent that the old man made him part owner of his restaurant, leaving Jure, at age 28, to beg them for a dishwashing job.

‘‘All my life I was pushed away,’’ he says. ‘‘I get the feeling that I’m not good enough to be the good one. And so now I am good at something, and I want revenge to prove to all the people who thought I was some kind of loser. These feelings are all the time present in me. They are where my power is coming from.’’

As a young man, Robic was known as a village racer, decent enough locally but not talented enough to land a professional contract. Throughout his 20’s, he rode with small Slovene teams, supporting himself with a sales job for a bike-parts dealer. It was with the death of his mother in 1997 and his subsequent depression that Robic discovered his calling. On the advice of a cyclist friend, he started training for the 1999 Crocodile Trophy, a notoriously painful week-and-a-half-long mountain bike race across Australia. Robic finished third.

In October of 2001, Robic set out to see how far he could cycle in 24 hours. The day was unpromising: raw and wet. He nearly didn’t ride. But he did — and went an estimated 498 miles, almost a world record.

‘‘That was the day I knew I could do this,’’ he says. ‘‘I know that the thing that does not kill me makes me stronger. I can feel it, and when I want to quit I hear this voice say, ‘Come on, Jure,’ and I keep going.’’

A year later, he quit his job and volunteered to join the Slovene military, undergoing nine months of intensive combat training (he surprised his unit with his penchant for late-night training runs). He earned a coveted spot in the sports division, which exists solely to support the nation’s top athletes. For Robic, the post meant a salary of 700 euros (about $850) a month and the freedom to train full time.

This day, despite the foul conditions, Robic trains for five and a half hours. He rides through toylike stone villages and fields of olive trees; he climbs mountains from whose peaks he can see the blue Adriatic and the coast of Italy. He rides across the border checkpoint into Croatia, along a deserted beach and past groves of fanlike bamboo. He rides in a powerful crouch, his big legs churning, his face impassive.

While I watch from the car, I’m reminded of a scene the previous night. Robic and his support crew of fellow soldiers met at a small restaurant for a RAAM reunion. For several hours, they ate veal, drank wine out of small glass pitchers and reminisced in high spirits about the race. They spoke of the time Robic became unshakably convinced his team was making fun of him, and the time he sat on a curb in Athens, Ohio, and refused to budge for an hour, and the time they had to lift his sleeping body back onto his bike.

Stanovnik told of an incident in the Appalachians, when Robic, who seemed about to give up, suddenly found an unexpected burst of energy. ‘‘He goes like madman for one hour, two hours,’’ Stanovnik recalled. ‘‘I am shouting at him, ‘You show Slovenia, you show army, you show world what you are!’ I have tears on my face, watching him.’’

At the end of the table, Rajko Petek wondered whether he could continue to work on the crew. ‘‘It is too much,’’ he said to a round of understanding nods. ‘‘This kind of racing leaves damage upon Jure’s mind. Too much fighting, too much craziness. I cannot take it anymore.’’

Robic sat quietly in their midst, his eyes darting and quick. Sometimes he’d offer a word or a joke, but mostly he listened. At first it seemed he was being shy, but after a while it became apparent that he was curious to hear the stories. The person of whom they spoke — this sometimes frightening, sometimes inspiring man named Jure Robic — remained a stranger to him.

Robic finishes his ride as the winter sun is going down. As we drive back toward Koroska Bela, a lens of white fog descends on the roadway. We pass ghostlike farms, factories and church spires while Robic talks about his plans for the coming year. He talks about his wife, whose job has supported them, and he talks about their son, who is starting to walk. He talks about how he will try to win a record third consecutive RAAM in June, and how he hopes race officials won’t react to the recent fatalities by adding mandatory rest stops. (‘‘Then it will not be a true race,’’ he says.) In a few months, he’ll do his signature 48-hour training, in which he rides for 24 hours straight, stays awake all night, and then does a 12-hour workout.

But this year is going to be different in one respect. Robic is going to start working with a local sports psychologist who has previously helped several Slovene Olympians. It seems that Robic, the uncoachable one, is looking for guidance.

‘‘I want to solve the demon,’’ he says. ‘‘I do not want to be so crazy during the races. Every man has black and white inside of him, and the black should stay inside.’’

He presses the accelerator, weaving through drivers made timid by the fog. ‘‘This will be good for me,’’ he adds, his voice growing louder. ‘‘I am older now, but I have the feeling that I am stronger than ever before. Now I am reaching where there is nothing that is too hard for my body because my mind is hard. Nothing!’’

Robic attempts to convey the intensity of his feeling, but can only gesture dramatically with his hands, which unfortunately are needed to control the steering wheel. The car veers toward a ditch.

Acting quickly, Robic regrips the wheel. After a shaky second or two, he regains control of the car. We barrel onward through the mist. His sidelong smile is pure confidence.

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Vaihteeksi suomenkielinen tarina... Sain kaivettua Googlen välimuistista suurimman osan Marko Silventoisen Flying Finns palstalle postaamaa raporttia Swiss Jura Trail ultrasta. Tarinan neljättä (viimeistä) osaa ei Googlesta löytynyt, mutta hyvä näinkin.

Löysin itse tämän tarinan Flying Finns -palstalta vasta joskus vuonna 2004, enkä tullut silloinkaan sitä kommentoineeksi, mikä on sinänsä harmi koska kirjoitus on erinomainen. Marko ehti juoksemaan ennen tsunami-onnettomuutta Swiss Juran myös vuonna 2004.


“Ensin luulin että kuolisin. Sitten toivoin, että kuolisin. Ja nyt jälkeenpäin ymmärrän, että ennen tätä en ollut edes elänyt.”

1 Keväällä 2003

Sovimme perheen kanssa, että tänä kesänä voin pitää viikon omaa lomaa. Siispä netistä etsimään sopivaa juoksutapahtumaa. Niitä löytyykin useita, valitsen Swiss Jura Trailin, joka on Sveitsin Jura-vuoristossa seitsemänä päivänä Genevestä Baseliin juostava 323 km:n mittainen etappijuoksu. Valintaan vaikuttaa kaksi seikkaa: ensinnäkin kyseessä ei ole kilpailu vaan yhteisjuoksu ja ajattelen sen sopivan paremmin ensikertaiselle etappijuoksijalle. Toiseksi olen aina haaveillut vuorilla juoksemisesta ja tässä on oivallinen tilaisuus juuri siihen. Ilmoittaudun, varaan lentoliput ja aloitan entistä tiiviimmän harjoittelun.

2 Lauantai 28.6.

Saavun Geneveen iltapäivällä lähes 10 tunnin matkustamisen jälkeen. Rekisteröitymisen yhteydessä saan numerolapun ja T-paidan. Alan odotella muiden osallistujien kanssa illallista ja tiedotustilaisuutta. Muut juoksijat tuntuvat kaikki tuntevan toisensa, ovat huippukuntoisen näköisiä eikä kukaan tunnu osaavan englantia. Saksa on valtakieli ja sitä en osaa kuin muutaman sanan. Tiedotustilaisuus käännetään myös ranskaksi, siitä sentään saan jotain selvää, mutta en kuitenkaan kaikkea. Olo on kuin orpopojalla markkinoilla. Kaiken lisäksi huomaan, että sveitsiläinen sähköpistorasia eroaa suomalaisesta, enkä pysty lataamaan kannettavan tietokoneeni akkua. Tämäkin vielä! Mieli maassa käyn nukkumaan.

3 Sunnuntai 29.6.

Mukava yllätys heti aamusta, minut toivotetaan tervetulleeksi sujuvalla suomenkielellä! Tervehdyksen esittää Hans, joka on lapsuudessaan sen oppinut. Sen lisäksi Hans puhuu sujuvaa englantia, joten ainakin yksi juttukaveri on löytynyt.

Lähdemme juoksemaan pari minuuttia yli kello kahdeksan. Juoksijat on jaettu viiteen ryhmään juoksunopeuden mukaan. Olen ryhmässä kolme. Ryhmänjohtaja Karl-Ernst soittaa huuliharpullaan lähtöhymnin ja niin lähdemme 323 kilometrin matkalle kohti Baselia. Alussa ensimmäiset 25 km on melkoisen tasaista, joskin vaihtelevaa maastoa. Juoksemme rantabulevardilla, asvaltoidulla maantiellä, metsäpoluilla, peltojen halki, pikkukaupunkien läpi. Aurinko paistaa, linnut laulavat, puut antavat mukavasti varjoa ja huoltopisteissä on hyvä valikoima juotavaa ja syötävää. Vauhti on hidas, käytämme 25 kilometriin reilusti yli 2.5 tuntia. Sitten alkaa nousu, yhtämittainen 12 km:n ylämäki joka vie meidät kilometrin korkeammalle. Kävelemme, ei tulisi mieleenkään yrittää juosta jyrkkää mäkeä keskipäivän helteessä. Kävelyvauhtikin hidastuu kuin huomaamatta. Viimein, yli kahden tunnin hikisen urakan jälkeen, saavutamme tämän päivän etapin korkeimman kohdan. Lyhyen tauon jälkeen jatkamme matkaa alaspäin, kohti St Gerguen kylää, jossa on tarkoitus yöpyä. Loppumatka onkin pääasiassa alamäkeä, minkä ansiosta eteneminen on helpompaa, mutta paikoin irtokivien ja mäen jyrkkyyden takia ei kuitenkaan aivan ongelmatonta. Lopussa, turvallisella asvaltilla, matka sujuu kuin lentämällä. Päivän urakka kesti tasan 6 tuntia ja etenimme 44 km, nousua oli 1300 m.

Lenkin jälkeen lyhyet venyttelyt, sitten juoksuvaatteiden kanssa suihkuun ja vaatteet kuivumaan. Hiertymiä tai rakkoja ei tullut, lihakset ovat hyvässä kunnossa, eikä iho kärventynyt auringonpaisteessa kuin hieman olkapäistä. Muut juoksijat osaavatkin pääsääntöisesti ainakin vähän englantia ja löydän paljon juttuseuraa. Lisäksi saan lainaksi adapterin, tietokoneen toimimaan ja digi-kamerallani ottamani valokuvat siirrettyä tietokoneelle. Elämä hymyilee jälleen, kaiken kaikkiaan hyvin alkoi tämä savotta.

4 Maanantai 30.6.

Aamulla lähtöajat on porrastettu siten että ryhmät lähtevät 20 min välein, hitain ensin. Ryhmä kolmen lähtöaika on 7.40. Sitä ennen olemme syöneet aamiaisen ja pakanneet tavaramme kuljetettavaksi seuraavaan majapaikkaan. Juoksuvauhti on alusta asti tosi hidas, ilmeisesti muilla eilinen painaa jaloissa, minulla juoksuhaluja olisi. Karls-Ernst pitää ryhmänsä tiukasti koossa takanaan näyttäen itse tien ja määräten tahdin. Nousemme muutaman sata metriä ensimmäisen 18 km:n aikana, aikaa kuluu lähes kolme tuntia. Kävelemme paljon, pidämme taukoja ja nautimme maisemista jotka ovat kuin suoraan matkatoimiston esitteestä. Taivallusta ei oikein juoksemiseksi voi kutsua, parempi termi voisi olla nopea vuorivaellus. Aikaa riittää hyvin valokuvaamiseen, mutta juoksemaanhan tässä on tultu. Pikkuhiljaa mielessäni kypsyy päätös kokeilla huomenna nopeampaa ryhmää. Viimein, tuskastuttavan pitkän ja hitaan taivalluksen jälkeen olemme perillä klo 14.25, aikaa on siis kulunut 6.45, mikä on 47 km:n matkalle järkyttävän paljon, olkoonkin että nousua oli yhteensä yli 700 m. Erittäin kuuman ilman takia tuntuu, että helpommalla olisi päässyt, jos olisi juossut reippaammin. Mutta tämä kuuluu pelin henkeen: tässä ryhmässä juostaan hitaimpien ehdoilla ja nopeammille on omat ryhmänsä.

Lenkin jälkeen normaalirutiinit: venyttely, suihku, vaatehuolto ja pikatankkaus pastalla ja palautumisjuomalla. Palautumisjuoman tehosta en oikein tiedä, tuskinpa siitä haittaa kuitenkaan ole ja kun purkki kerran on jo ostettu niin nyt on hyvä tilaisuus käyttää se pois. Hiertymiä tai auringon polttamia ei ole, mutta kantapäissä on pienet rakot. Saavat olla, elleivät ala haittaamaan en niitä aio puhkaista. Sitten lepäämään ja nestetankkaamaan paikallisen koulun voimistelusaliin, joka on meidän majapaikkanamme tänään. Ennen illallista on vielä kevyt hieronta.

Illallisen jälkeen pidetään aina tiedotustilaisuus. Tänään pääosan saa sää: koskaan aikaisemmin ei kuulemma ole tämän kilpailun aikana ollut yhtä kuuma, elohopea oli iltapäivällä kohonnut maalialueella 36 asteeseen. Eipä siis ihme, että vettä kului tavallista enemmän. Lämmin Föhn-tuuli oli tehnyt tepposet ja päättänyt puhaltaa poikkeuksellisesti myös Jura-vuoristoon. Huomiseksi on luvassa suomalaiselle tutumpaa säätä, vesisadetta ja n. 20 astetta. Toivottavasti ennuste pitää paikkaansa.

5 Tiistai 1.7.

Eilinen sääennuste pitää paikkaansa, ja herään kello kuudelta sateiseen ja viileään tiistaipäivään. Jalat ovat kuin lyijyä, mutta matkalla aamupalalle parinsadan metrin päähän majapaikasta alan vertyä ja suorastaan odottamaan starttia. Aamupala noudattaa tuttua kaavaa. Tarjolla on mysliä (kun kerran Sveitsissä ollaan) leipää, leivän päälle juustoa, makkaraa ja hilloa, sekä kahvia. Ei mikään hotellitason aamiainen, mutta juoksua varten suunniteltu ja siihen hyvin sopiva.

Uudessa ryhmässäni on hieman erilainen juoksukuri, ryhmänjohtaja Bruno juoksee itse viimeisenä ja antaa muiden määrätä vauhdin ja hoitaa reittimerkintöjen löytämisen. Ryhmän suoritustason huomioonottaen tämä on oikea tapa, kaikki ovat kokeneita juoksijoita eikä pahoja uupumisia tarvitse pelätä. Uusi tapa sopii minulle hyvin, pääsen useaan otteeseen juoksemaan kärjessä juuri sopivaa vauhtia. Vauhti tosin ei tänään ole kummoinen, sillä 37 km:n matkalle on mahdutettu nousua lähes 1400 metriä. Se tarkoittaa, että pitkät nousut kävellään ja vauhti luonnollisesti hidastuu alle 6 km tunnissa. Toisaalta rasitus on kävellessäkin melkoinen. Käytän pulssimittaria ja näen, että nousuissa pulssi nousee 140-150:een, tasaisella juostessa se on vähän alhaisempi ja alamäkeen lasketellessa laskee jopa alle 120. Jotkut alamäet tosin ovat jyrkkyyden ja sateen liukastuttamien kivien takia juoksukelvottomia, paikoin on käytettävä käsiä apuna.

Mitä korkeammalle nousemme, sitä kylmemmäksi ilma muuttuu. Lisäksi vaatteet ovat sateesta litimärät ja tuulee kovaa. Onneksi olin tajunnut ottaa Löfflerin takkini mukaan. Se on todella hyvä: pitää tuulen ja veden, on kevyt, helppo pukea päälle vauhdissa ja pakata takaisin vyötärölle Järjestäjät ovat reagoineet kiitettävällä tavalla muuttuneeseen säähän ja juoma-asemilla onkin tarjolla kuumaa vihanneslientä ja teetä. Kuuma juoma tulee tarpeeseen, sormeni ovat niin kohmeessa, etten tahdo saada edes banaanipalaa pidettyä niissä. Myöhemmin kuulen, että lämpötila tällä asemalla oli 9 astetta. Ero eiliseen super-helteeseen on valtava.

Huonosta säästä huolimatta juoksu kulkee erinomaisesti. Olen ilmeisesti aikamoisessa juoksuhumalassa: laulattaa, millään ei väsytä ja sateinen maisemakin näyttää kauniilta. Fantastista, tämmöistä juoksun iloa ei usein koe! Reilun 5 tunnin jälkeen saavun hyvävoimaisina maaliin. Hyvin menneen päivän ansioista uskallan siirtyä huomiseksi nopeimpaan ryhmään, jossa juoksenkin sitten koko loppumatkan.

6 Keskiviikko 2.7.

Keskiviikon taival alkaa 15 km:n tasaisella osuudella. Vauhtia on n. 5 min / km, mikä on minulle kovaa vauhtia kun ottaa huomioon, että olemme kolmessa päivässä juosseet jo lähes 130 km. Enhän ole kuin kerran juossut edes viikossa enempää! Ensimmäinen ylämäki vie meidät kuuden kilometrin matkalla 550 metriä korkeammalle. Ryhmämme kovimmat juoksijat juoksevat ylämäet, mutta en jää kävellenkään heistä kauaksi ja saan tasamaa- ja alamäkiosuuksilla heidät kiinni. Sydän hakkaa kuitenkin yli 160 kertaa minuutissa, ja alan epäillä että olen liian kovassa seurassa. Pikkuhiljaa vauhti kuitenkin tasaantuu ja pääsen keulapaikalla n. 3 tunnin juoksun jälkeen. Kun muissa ryhmissä hitain määräsi vauhdin, tässä ryhmässä sen tekee nopein ja loivilla alamäkiosuuksilla on mukava maksaa ylämäkien nöyryytys takaisin. Päästelen muutaman pitkän alamäen lähes täysillä, alle 4 min/km vauhdilla eikä niskaan ole kukaan hengittämässä.

Maisemien katseluun tai valokuvaamiseen ei aika riitä, juoksu vie kaiken energian. Aurinko paistaa mukavasti, mutta ei kuitenkaan ole liian kuumaa. Kun lisäksi tuuli tuntuu puhaltavan aina selän takana, on juoksukeli mitä ihanteellisin. 42 km:n matkaan kuluu reilu 5 tuntia, siitä n. 20 min taukoja. Lopussa matkantekoa hidastaa se, että joudumme keularyhmänä merkitsemään jäljessä juokseville reitin. Olen maalissa hyvissä voimissa, rakkoja ei ole tullut lisää eivätkä lihakset tunnu erityisen väsyneiltä. Tästä on hyvä jatkaa huomenna koko tapahtuman rankimmalle osuudelle.

7 Torstai 3.7.

53 km:n etappi sujuu hyvin alusta loppuun. Aikaa kuluu 6.12. Matkalla on aikaa ajatella ja jutella, keskustelu pyörii luonnollisesti paljon juoksemisessa. Ryhmänjohtajana ensimmäisessä ryhmässä Jens, joka on erittäin kokenut ultrajuoksija. Jensin saavutuksiin kuuluvat mm. Sparthathlonin voitto ja pari toista sijaa. En ole ennen näin kokeneen juoksijan kanssa päässytkään juoksemaan ja on todella mielenkiintoista keskustella hänen kanssaan ultraharjoittelusta, vuorijuoksun taktiikasta, kilpailuista, ruokavaliosta ja muista asioista joista minulla ei vielä paljoa kokemusta ole.

Ylämäissä oleellista on huomata milloin juoksu kannattaa vaihtaa kävelyksi, vain huippujuoksijoiden kannattaa juosta kaikki ylämäet. Jos jääräpäisesti juoksee jyrkkää ylämäkeä, ei vauhti ole paljoa kävelyä nopeampaa, mutta rasitus on moninkertainen. Jonkinlaisen käsityksen ylämäkien raskaudesta voi saada esim. Sveitsin armeijan ohjesäännöstä, jonka mukaan 100 m nousua vastaa 1 km tasaista. Juoksija, jolla ei ole raskasta pakkausta mukana, pärjää ylämäessä paremmin. Sadan metrin nousun arveltiin vastaavan 500-800 m juoksua. Laskujen suhteen samanlaista nyrkkisääntöä on vaikea antaa. Loivaa myötälettä pitkin juostessa on alamäestä paljon apua, mutta jyrkissä pudotuksissa vauhti hidastuu kävelyksi eikä alamäestä ole kuin haittaa. Tietysti tässäkin on juoksija- ja tilannekohtaisia eroja: hyvässä kunnossa ja hyvällä tekniikalla saa jyrkemmästä alamäestä hyödyn irti kuin jos on väsynyt eikä oikein tiedä miten alamäet kuuluu juosta. Minunlaiselle tasamaantallaajalle pitkät nousut ovat kieltämättä vaikeita, koska lihakset eivät ole kiipeämiseen tottuneet Ja kun lihakset alussa väsyvät ylämäissä, on myöhemmin alamäkien hyödyntäminen hankalampaa. Pitäisi tietysti harjoitella paljon mäissä, mutta Etelä-Suomen nyppylöissä ei kilometrien mittaisia yhtäjaksoisia nousuja yksinkertaisesti voi tehdä. Ehkäpä juoksumattoharjoittelu voisi olla ratkaisu, matollahan kallistuskulman voi säätää hyvinkin jyrkäksi.

Aloittelijalle ja miksei myös kokeneemmallekin pulssimittari on erinomainen varuste vuorilla, muuten rasitustasoa on hankala määritellä. Polar-mittari näkyykin joka toisen juoksijan ranteessa. Naurattaa, kun muistan että tämä alue on maailmankuulu nimenomaan kelloistaan ja siitä huolimatta suomalainen tuote on ylivertaisesti suosituin ajan ja rasituksen mittari.

Pitkä etappi nälättää ja niinpä juoksun jälkeen menemme parin juoksukaverin kanssa ravintolaan syömään ja juomaan myöhästyneen lounaan. Pastavoittoiseen ruokalistaan kyllästyneinä tilaamme lihan kanssa ranskalaisia perunoita ja juomaksi paljon tummaa olutta. Vatsa ja pää täyttyvät mukavasti, aurinko paistaa terassille ja olo tuntuu taivaalliselta.

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... Sain kaivettua Googlen välimuistista suurimman osan Marko Silventoisen Flying Finns palstalle postaamaa raporttia Swiss Jura Trail ultrasta. Tarinan neljättä (viimeistä) osaa ei Googlesta löytynyt, mutta hyvä näinkin.

Koko tarina löytyy Peräkylän ultraosiosta. Sieltä löytyy myös toinen tarina

jossa todetaan mm että "ultrajuoksijan tärkein elin on vatsalaukku", kuten

J-U:kin mainitsi äsken omien kokemustensa perusteella.


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