Year in review: a quick look back at 2017

How to summarize an entire year in just a few paragraphs? Even if I just concentrate on track&field, trail running and cycling (which covers 95% of what this blog has been about recently), I could still fill pages.

My focus for 2017 was on trail running, both at local events and in the mountains. Trail races brought me to Southern Germany, France, Switzerland and Scotland. In 2015 and 2016, I first ran vertical kilometer races, and I expanded upon that by doing several “skyrunning” events in 2017 with distances of up to 29km with 2500m of elevation gain and loss. My longest race was 6 hours 47 minutes. I thoroughly enjoyed these races, even if some results were disappointing. No matter the time and placing, every single race I did resulted in expanding my comfort zone a little and allowed me to discover new and exciting places. In 2018, I hope to further spiral outwards and expand my comfort zone even more. I’m signed up for the Marathon du Mont-Blanc, which will be my first marathon. In the six month build-up, I hope to do several preparation races and then use the resulting fitness to tag a few more new or old locations over the summer months.

I ran a few indoor track races and one outdoor 100 meter in 2017, but the results were disappointing. I haven’t yet made up my mind on how much track work I should do in 2018, especially since our training group shrank somewhat over recent years, but I may sign up for an indoor competition in January to see if there’s any fast-twitch muscles left in my body.

2017 saw quite a few work commutes by bicycle, and I hope to expand on that in 2018; as long as it doesn’t interfere with my other training. Maybe I’ll also be able to use the resulting fitness to do a few more duathlons. I’ve done one cross duathlon each year in 2016 and 2017, and the format is an interesting challenge for me.

Overall, I did slightly less than 2000km of running (road, trails, track) and slightly over 2000m of cycling in 2017. I also walked or hiked almost 450km (which isn’t much). Elevation-wise, 2017 sits at over 53000m of elevation gain while running, and 18000m while cycling. All of those numbers should go up somewhat in 2018 if I manage to stay healthy and make good life choices with regards to my fitness, food intake and recovery.

It’s been an ongoing goal of documenting as much of my life as an “athlete” as I can. Most years, the actual execution of that goal left a lot to be desired. I feel like I made a few steps in the right direction in 2017 – I revived this blog, posted somewhat regularly on Instagram and probably took more photos during training and racing than ever. But I feel like there’s still a lot of potential for improvement.

Race report: Freelander’s Trail Mersch-Hollenfels (18km, 500Hm, 4°C)

It was a lazy Saturday morning. Rain was pouring down. Either I’d drive to Mersch, 30 minutes away from home, and do a late sign-up for a 18km trail race; or I’d sit at home, complain about the weather and not get any run done. The weather was a concern, but if I managed to go out and “get it done” I figured I would not just train my muscles, but also strengthen my mental fortitude and reinforce a positive habit. So before I could change my mind, I assembled my running gear and got in the car.

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Race Report: Mamores VK 2017 (5km, 1000Hm)

I like traveling to new locations for races. But there’s also a certain appeal to return to a race you’ve already done, and giving it another shot. Especially if said race is in scenic Scotland.

Since I’ve written quite extensively about the race in my 2016 race report, I’ll keep the writing short(er) and let the photos speak for themselves.

I wore a technical shoirt-sleeved Under Armour t-shirt, my Ronhill 2-in-1 shorts, calf-length compression socks and Salomon Speedcross 3 shoes with about 280km on them already. In my backpack (Salomon Adv Skin 5), I was carrying the mandatory protection layers (waterproof pants and rain jacket) and 0.5 liters of water in a soft flask. Also pictured is a grey-coloured second layer which I’m not sure I actually carried in then end. Not pictured are gloves, a buff and a beanie; which I all wore at higher elevations.
The starting line in Kinlochleven, next to the “Ice Factor” indoor ice climbing hall.
Emelie Forsberg started just a few people (and minutes) ahead of me. Obviously, I didn’t catch her.
1km done, already 132m up. Up to here, the surface is mostly gravel. From here on out, it got a lot muddier.
The route is sign-posted really well; even in spots where it’s not really necessary. Here, the biggest decision is in selecting the rut that has the least amount of mud.
This was probably the nastiest puddle. Looks are deceiving, I went in almost up to my knees. I saw another competitor actually trip and fall in with his whole body. (I took this picture on the way down.)
Here, the elevation gain is slightly more moderate. A decent runner can actually run this. I tried and mostly succeeded; but of course the pace is still not very fast.
2km and 220m of elevation done. km2 took me 9:06. I had an average HR of 178 on this bit, which is higher than I can usually manage.
It’s definitely worth it to look behind yourself, especially if the sun is peeking out between the clouds and there’s scenery like this.
By km3 (which took me 16:15), the real climb had started. 447m of elevation covered, which meant that over the course of the next 2km we’d still need to cover over half of the vertical kilometer. We’d left the easy trails and were now on a path-less “bog” – basically, you go up a soggy hill the quickest way possible: straight up.
Again, it pays to look further than just your own feet. Taking the camera out probably cost me a little time and some effort, but it was definitely worth it.
A look back down. Top right is the start in Kinlochleven, in the middle is the short 50m stretch of gravel road at 330m elevation gain that marks the start of the real climb.
The route up is the way down. Depending on your start time (it’s a staggered time trial start spread out over several hours) you’ll encounter people already coming down. Unlike most VK races in the Alps, there’s no cable car to shuttle yourself back down.
Eventually, the going gets slightly less steep, but rockier. The route is at the very right.
4km done, 862m up. 25:21 to cover a kilometer seems much, but it also climbed 390m.
After an endless amount of climbing up a slope that seemed almost vertical, I finally arrived at the ridge. The top is still all the way up.
And I’ve arrived. It seems that I did not take any pictures during the final kilometer.
Looking East
Quite a bit of interest in the top runners.
A look at the rockier part of the final meters. Here, the going is quite technical.
Wet bog, steep descent. I only fell on my behind about four times. I think this is where I regret that I took shoes that already had 280km of thread wear.
Shoes and socks are a little worse for the wear.
At the finish line. 14 seconds faster than the year before.