Saturday, 24 March 2018

INSTAssel: Premiär

Ein Beitrag geteilt von runssel (@runssel) am

Racing season is finally on. Might enjoyed it 45 seconds too long. Still happy to get the ol’ legs turning over. Onto the next one! [📷: ]

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Catching up with Christofer Eriksson

It didn't take them too long. 04:28:16 for 90 kilometres of skating is fast. Doing this during an icy and unpleasant Swedish winter night does not make it easier. Swedish Biathletes Oscar Brandt and Christofer Eriksson won this years issue of the Nattvasan. A team-of-two competition on the famed Vasaloppet course, the Friday ahead of the big race. This version of the Vasaloppet is a unique one and creates its very own magic. I catched up with Östersund-based soldier and biathlete Christofer Eriksson to hear what happened on this “different” night out.

runssel: When you did the Vasaloppet back in 2008 (Finishing time 04:50:13) you were on your own and the visibility was slightly better I guess. 10 years later you come back to race the course again. This time with Oskar Brandt and by night. How did that come about? 
Christofer Eriksson: I heard about the Nattvasan race last year and the concept really appealed to me. Since I’m competing in biathlon with skating technique, I thought this race would suit me well. My friend Oskar Brandt is also a good biathlete, so I thought we would have a good chance to finish in the top ranks.

Winners Nattvasan 2018 - Oscar Brandt and Christofer Eriksson (Picture: Nisse Schmidt)
runssel: Leading up to the Nattvasan, how did you guys train? Any specific simulation to copy the unique requirements of a competition like this? 
Christofer Eriksson: We didn’t do any different training from our regular biathlon training, except taking it a bit easy the last days before the race. Both me and Oskar have competed in the patrol competition during the Military World Championship in biathlon, so we are familiar in competing together as a team. Our army experience about the importance of teamwork and maintaining a high ”combat value” was also very useful.
Since you compete together you have to communicate a lot during the race to be able to ski as fast as possible without someone falling behind - you can’t just do your own race like in a regular biathlon/ xc-skiing competition.

Christofer shortly before the start in Sälen. (Picture: Pär Wikström)
runssel: You took the lead early on. Did you guys follow any specific tactic? Were you skating behind each other? Who was leading? What was the most challenging thing?
Christofer Eriksson: We were a bit surprise to get the lead so early in the race, that wasn’t our tactic from the beginning.
After we got the lead we decided to go with a high and steady pace and changed the lead skater regularly to keep the pace high. For me the most challenging factor was the cold, Oskar had some problem with dehydration and muscle spasm after our hydration packs froze early on. Because of our iced-up backpacks we were forced to stop at the aid stations. Hence we knew that we need a pretty big lead to the other teams.

Not a usual Friday night in Sälen. The Vattvasan 2018 is underway. (Picture: Nisse Schmidt)
runssel: What kind of equipment did you use and why? Looking back, would you change anything?
Christofer Eriksson: The big difference for this race was that we had to use headlamps and our own hydration packs. We use headlamps during some of our training sessions, so we were accustomed to that. The difficulty was how to prevent the hydration packs from freezing in the cold. We made some modification using insulation for the tube and the bladder, but the tube froze after about 1 hour into the race. That became a massive problem that slowed us down since we had to stop at the checkpoints to hydrate. The best would be to have a support team along the way with hydration and energy. We had some energy bars with us and had decided to eat at least every hour during the race. It felt like I burned more calories than I thought I would - the pancakes in Evertsberg saved my night!

Finished. By any means... (Picture: Pär Wikström)
runssel: Your winning time of 04:28:16 was about 4 minutes slower than the winning time of the main race two days later. Are you planning to come back next year to go faster and defend your title?
Christofer Eriksson: It was a really great and fun race, but we haven’t decided yet if we will race next year since our main goals are still within biathlon circus. But I really want to do the race again and ski faster, now with the experience I think we can cut the time by at least 20 minutes in the same weather conditions. But it’s more difficult to do a really fast race like this when you’re in a team and not "co-trained” for it, but if both team members are strong and well coordinated with a perfect team work - you can ski very fast!

runssel: What is on the agenda for the rest of your season?
Christofer Eriksson: We have the last competitions in the Swedish Cup and Swedish Championships. Then we have the Military World Championship in Hochfilzen, Austria, in April.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Racereport 2018-01: Vasaloppet - Öppet Spår Monday

Softly the first couple of sunrays drop into a snow covered valley. The bus just stopped its engine and an exceedingly encouraging chauffeur whishes well to each person that steps off his vehicle. It is early. I check my watch but I do not recall the actual time that is shown. On the screen there is only one data that undoubtedly will stay in my mind for a long time: -29 Degrees. I stop in distrust. My friends text-message a couple of seconds later just approves what my drained brain does not realize. “Fxxx, -29. Fxxx!!!” Before I can even think about the stony temperature I need to guard my fingers in my (way too thin) gloves. I collect my skies and my baggage. Everything is freezing cold. Just beside me there is a massive open space. These couple of resilient sunrays that guise through the forest enlighten a huge field, jam-packed with spectacularly lined-up cross-country spurs. It is Monday morning. I’m in Sälen. I’m at the start of the 94th running of the Vasaloppet.

Just some hours earlier and a couple of time-zones east, my family and I leave Phuket at 3am. Two weeks holiday are sadly over. We head back home to Stockholm. Succeeding a 6 hour stopover in Qatar we lastly reach Sweden and solid subzero temperatures. After sleeping for 1 hour I start the car and get on the road for an 3,5 hour drive north. When I reach the town of Mora, the finish of the Vasaloppet, I can feel the adrenaline leisurely making its way through my sluggish body. Sleep deprivation is, for a reason, a highly effective torture method. Soon I will find out how this combines with a 90 kilometer cross-country ski cruise.

The Vasaloppet does not need any form of introduction. It is an institution, one of those extremely iconic competitions. If people just know about one XC-ski race, they confidently know this one. This race is deep in the Sporting-DNA of swedes. They are proud and everyone seems crazy about it. To cater all demands, the Vasaloppet organizers offer several possibilities to experience the course that’s been skied since 1922. As well as the real-deal Vasaloppet, you have the following possibilities:

  • Nattvasan – Race as a team of two during the night. Usually you need to ski with the classic technique, in this race you have the possibility to skate.
  • Öppet Spår Sunday & Monday – Timing for all competitors but no mass-start. You can start whenever you want from 6am-10am.
  • Stafettvasan – 5 people share the full course.
  • Tjejvasan – Women only race. 30 kilometer long.
  • Halvvasan – Race 50% of the course.
  • Kortvasan – The short-version. 30 kilometer long.
  • Ungdomsvasan – 19 or 9 kilometer long.
  • Blåbärsloppet – 9 kilometer kids race

With a friends visiting and spontaneous holiday re-planning my only chance to undertake the course was the Öppet Spår Monday. It turned out to be the best choice. With a cruel mass-start of 16.000 people the main race would have been far out of my comfort zone. While I was training for the competition I established a loose time-goal. With the fitness I was building up I could see me do the course in a time of 7:15, perhaps eye to break the 7 hour mark. As we had to re-plan our holidays I saw myself not able to reach this goal. Now I just wanted to do the course and finish. I knew that I was going to be worn-out straight from the start. I set out with the flawless objective to eat four Kanelbullar (a traditional Swedish cinnamon roll) and drink as much as possible at EVERY aid station. Typically I’m not the finest feeder during competitions. I had to pay the painful price for this numerous times. To get through this mission in one piece, I knew that I had to have a blameless nutrition approach. It turned out to be a life saver.

Lacking the hustle of split-times and the subsequent stress, I had the chance to experience the route in its full and exceptional splendor. I got changed, organized my skies and gear and made it stress-free to the start. Once I arrived there just shortly before 8 am most people were already gone. I put on the skies and hit the spur. While I was slithering into the vale the sun became clearly visible and the stout sunrays made me smile. After some meters the first and major climb of the course commenced. I took it easy and found a comfortable tempo. When I entered the plateau the morning sun had lighten up the forest and the course that was winding through it. It was one of those moments that make it all worth it. However I was skiing I made sure to look around frequently and bath myself in this splendor of a picture-perfect Dalarna daybreak.

There are seven checkpoints along the 90 kilometer route. All are laid-out the same way. On the first checkpoint, Eldris, I familiarized myself with the offering. After that I established a little routine which I sustained until the second last station, Mångsbodarna. As mentioned earlier, I ate at least 4 Kanelbullar. Occasionally I took some more which I was consuming along the way. Due to all the hustle beforehand I needed to hydrate a lot. Throughout the plane trip I was already taking care of my hydration but I could feel that It was not enough. Before the start I prepared a flask with water which I was carrying on my waist. I armed this bottle with 6 gels. The strategy was to have a steady and reliable energy reserve. Through training this worked fine but little did I think of the severe temperatures that I was expecting. Once I tried to drink just shortly after the 15 kilometer mark, the bottle was iced up and I couldn’t get any sip out of it. I’m going to file this in the “Rookie-Mistake” folder.

Some “expert-friends” stated that the spur was “slow” and the conditions mostly harder then the years before. The cold did not allow the skies to slide the way they should. Seeing the finishing times, it is apparent that the times in the top ranks are significantly slower than the years before. This could be a pointer that my mates are real specialists ;-) Fortunately it did not made a huge difference for me. It did not matter and I’m not in a place to feel a massive difference as I still face other struggles such as skiing technique. As usual I had no difficulties on the lengthy, flat sections where I could double-pole my way through the field. Likewise the uphill sections do not bother me too much. A fact I need to look into is the downhill part. Way too many people passed me. A fact that would have concerned me but did not this time. I got on with it and remained in my auto-cruise approach. 1.000 meter height gain displayed my Garmin after the contest. It did not feel that heavy for me. Furthermore I enjoyed the long uphill stretches. Not so much the many short and sharp inclines that spiked up the course-contour.

Just a couple of kilometers after the Oxberg checkpoint, roughly in the middle of the path, my left stick broke. It was not even a severe uphill part when I could not believe what had just happened. I tried to stick the top piece of the broken pole back into the other part to use it somehow. It did not work and I continued holding the broken part of my fancy Atomic Redster Carbon Ultra stick, that I just bought two months prior to the race, and used it as good as possible. The problem was that the imminent part was a pretty hilly one. So I fought my way up and down the slope and was so happy when I arrived in Evertsberg. Every aid-station had a massive Swix service point. They provided an incredible service with all sorts of poles, skies and waxing service. Superfast I had my new stick and was able to continue. Thanks for that Swix. No thanks to Atomic, as they requested a picture of the broken stick (that I obviously left there) to permit a recompense!

More and more clouds sheltered the sun and there was no need to wear sunglasses any longer. By now I was very close to Mora. Every single kilometer of the course was well marked with a big sign that showed how much is left until the finish and also to the subsequent aid station. What appeared to be a frightful view on the first kilometers turned out to be a very motivating fact the lower the kilometer number went. With 25 kilometer to go, I still felt good. My mind was fresh enough and my body replied. I decided to give it a go and set myself the target to not get overtaken until the Mora finish line. This worked out pretty well as I found a good momentum that I enjoyed a lot. Only two skiers made it past me. The famed view towards the Mora church tower was a very satisfying one. A long and positive day came to an end. After all that had happened in the last 48 hours this was exactly what I hoped it would be. I could soak in the atmosphere and the moment. To get through this in the way I did made me proud. To enjoy something special like this the way I did made it really worth it.

Lucky enough two of my friends drove my car back to Stockholm. I had to cut the phone call with my wife short as I took seat in the back. I still cannot reminisce when we left Mora. I fell asleep immediately and the next think that I recall is me waking up as my friend left the car back in Stockholm.

Tune of the day: Evidence - Weather or Not LP – What a good record that is. 11 years after Evidence’s solo debut, The Weatherman LP, he just issued a proper and all-round classy hip-hop record. In times when artists strive for single hits, he comes up with an album that features only quality productions and lyrical masterworks. By this time already the album of the year in my ears.

Friday, 2 February 2018

INSTAssel: Again

Ein Beitrag geteilt von runssel (@runssel) am

#fbf to Monday, September 1st 2014. @nadjaodenhagephotography snapped this fine-looking image as we scrambled over one of the numerous archipelago islands. Fortunately it was close to the very last islet - Utö. This day was the very first time we took on the Swimrun World Championships. Several journeys, many competitions and, most importantly, a lot of friendships followed this day and influenced our life. Monday, September 3rd 2018 will see us standing on the startline for the 5th consecutive year. After last years DNF I’m pumped to fight again. This time with good buddy and overall badass @bastifixo. Thanks to @michaellemmel and @mats.skott aka @otillorace for all the trust. Bring on another remarkable season.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

INSTAssel: Diagonals

Ein Beitrag geteilt von runssel (@runssel) am

Diagonals - I don’t know why but I haven’t done this kind of jogging for a while. As I ran by an artificial football pitch close to my office the other week I got inspired yet again. This fake-grass rectangle appeared to be one of the few spaces in Greater Stockholm that was not covered by snowflakes. Greasy roads makes it hard and risky to run fast outdoors these days. Every time I ran this session I liked this low-key interval style workout, simple and effective. Today lunchtime Dan and I met up to run from corner to corner of the wet soaked but snow free Huvudstafältet. 30 minutes later I got retold why this is a solid but tough session. To be continued.

Tune of the day: Chakuza - Neben mir

Sunday, 21 January 2018

INSTAssel: Ice and snow

Ein Beitrag geteilt von runssel (@runssel) am

These Icebug Zeal2's were hiding in my shoe drawer for way too long. Conditions weren't really ready for soft spikes, i thought. With clear skies and snowy trails on the agenda for todays run with Dan, i decided to break 'em in. Around 90 percent of the footing of our run was covered with ice and snow. Pretty difficult conditions. But the soft spikes of the Zeal2 performed flawless. One less thing to worry about.

Tune of the day: Lyle Mays - Close To Home

Friday, 19 January 2018

INSTAssel: Luxury

Ein Beitrag geteilt von runssel (@runssel) am

Luxury can be defined in many ways. Luxus to me is mostly simple stuff we easily take for granted. Nowadays it's a leisure 600 meter stroll that take me to some decent Nordic skiing spurs. After a hectic day that is exactly what i call luxurious.

Tune of the day: El P — Truancy

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

shoeporn: New Balance - FuelCell

New Balance hits the market with a spectacular designed approach on a neutral cushioned road-allrounder. The new entry into the running shoe portfolio goes by the name of FuelCell. This could be seen as the advancement of last years Vazee 2090 release. 
With only 295 grams, the FuelCell offers a lot for less weight.  
A slick and definite design approach makes the FuelCell a special shoe. 
I dig the highly comfortable mesh upper with well placed seamless overlays. The design creates a snug and safe sock-like fit around the foot. 
Inside look - the base for a neutral, light and responsive ride. The foam is basically NB's nitrogen-infused N2 material with a new name. It is the firmest the company offers. Pronators will enjoy the design of the sole. 
Front - The toe box is sheltered by a lightweight breathable mesh material. While some of the other parts miss proper air circulation, this part of the seems to compensate the lack of breathability. 
A closer look at the nitrogen foam.  
The sole of the FuelCell provides an excellent responsiveness. When it comes to grip, this shoe is made for the roads and provides great traction. For a shoe with that amount of weight, the FuelCell provides proper cushion. 
The sole is the key element that makes this shoe a proper allrounder. From daily jogs to workouts. The sole provides enough protection and absorption without being to slow and damp. 
The brand logo is prominent featured on the heel section. Throughout the last couple of years NB developed a innovative approach to shoe design and style. The FuelCell might not be everybody's favorite style-wise, but is surely knows how to perform. 
Definitely a feature that can not be overseen. Little diamond-shaped dimples can be found all over the mid-foot part of the FuelCell. I'm not sure what the purpose of these diamonds is. 
Measurements: 26mm heel, 20mm forefoot, 6mm heel-toe offset
While the FuelCell offers a wide range of play, runners with wider feet may find themselves a bit restricted. 
It did not take me long to fully appreciate the new FuelCell. I became a fan of the brought spectrum this shoe offers. I trained on the track, ran long and slow runs and tempo workouts. Throughout all the sessions the shoe was fun. While it took a bit of time to "break-in" the sole, the actual perforamce was great. 

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

INSTAssel: Honest

Ein Beitrag geteilt von runssel (@runssel) am

The older one gets the longer it takes to re-claim that cherished VO2max. The splendor of endurance sports lies within the honesty the sport offers. There is no easy way to run fast. The easiest way to run faster is to, essentially, run faster. Nice one Terrible Tuesday horde for letting me hurt with you at tonights indoor track session at Bosön Idrottsfolkhögskola. Keep it honest. Keep it fast!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

racereport 2017-11: Hellas Frostbite

I get a message on my phone: “What is the last chance to race a SwimRun this year?” It is my pal Basti texting from Germany. He is keen for some exercise and a leisure stopover in Stockholm. However it is already late September there is still one competition left in the calendar.

The first Saturday in December is the traditional day for a classic in the SwimRun diary. I had seen the photographs and I had heard the anecdotes. What sounded like a entirely absurd idea caught my attention and those of several of my group of friends. SwimRun itself is pretty distinct as you possibly face all kinds of weather conditions, but a SwimRun in Swedish wintertime sounded like the satirical icing (!) on the multisport cake. The decision was made quick and a group of friends was organized to come over to Sweden. The apparent choice of activity: Hellas Frostbite SwimRun - conceivably the frostiest Run-Swim-Run competition on the calendar.

As soon as you face extreme circumstances, the equipment talk goes into an extreme as well. With an outside temperature of about +/-0 degrees combined with a water temperature of just about +1 degrees we had some extended debates on what to wear. From experienced Frostbite competitors I heard that it was pretty common in the last few years that people did overheat. The running chunk of the race around Hellasgården is significantly longer then the swimming fragment. Dependent on the water temperature the distance of the swim will be altered by the race-directors. Albeit there was no snow this year, layers of ice on the shorelines of Källtorpssjön combined with frost in the forest and on the footpaths was clearly visible.
I picked some finger paddles, neoprene swim gloves, a neoprene thermal skullcap and the mandatory swim cap. All of this matching an ARK SwimRun suit with long sleeves and short legs. Under the suit I was wearing a sleeveless compression shirt and an old prototype SwimRun suit with no sleeves. Looking back this was way too much. After about 2 kilometers I could feel my body boiling but the thought about the forthcoming swim part was way to imminent to get rid of some shelter against the frosty waters. At the end of the first out of three loops I was actually looking forward to enter Källtorpssjön.

The crowds were already lined up to observe the main spectacle of this race. This left not much time to think and rest. Straight in and high turnover crawling towards a jetty that was approximately 40 meters away from the swim entrance. It was nice to get some agreeable body temperature back and the cold water was not too crazy on the skin. I climbed out of the lake and opened up both of my wetsuits to allow the body to keep the good temperature.

Just a couple of weeks after my end-of-season break the running form was not really on top and I lost some places in the last rounds. Overall it was so much fun to be out there, experience such a unique event and see how much fun everyone had. Wrapping up such a race with good friends in the neighboring sauna and cooling off stark-naked with a jump into the Källtorpssjön makes it even more special. The Hellas Frostbite delivered and can straightforwardly be called “The mother of Winter SwimRun”.

Friday, 1 December 2017

shoeporn: Saucony - Liberty ISO

Fresh and Clean - Saucony expands their product line with a brand new model. The 275 gram Liberty ISO is the newest addition to their performance line. With its slick and clean light-weight design it certainly draws the attention. This model can seen as the robuster and more stable sibling of the popular Freedom ISO. 
Saucony aims to provide a broad set of running options. A medial TPU guidance frame in the inside of the midsole aims to limit lateral motion and therefore provides some extra support to this light shoe. For a shoe in this weight category the Liberty provides amazing cushion and a decent support for overpronators without making the shoe to stiff and clumsy. A big part of the active feeling is down to the Everun TPU midsole. Apparently this EVA material delivers a 83% energy return. I did not had the chance to measure it but the responsive feel is definitely there. 
The prominent Logo pattern on the medial post of the sole highlights the structured support frame of the Liberty. A comparison to the Freedom is imminent. While there are certain similarities the overall support is way better in the Liberty then it is in the Freedom. With the Liberty being only a couple of grams lighter, the difference in weight between the shoes is very little though.
Saucony stays true to their style. The appearance of the shoe is fast and classy with the distinctive outfit that is known throughout the scene. A full-length Everrun midsole ensures that the comfort is there. While the Freedom was the first shoe with a full on Everrun protection, the Liberty adds on this feature. Saucony calls it "lively cushioning". That pretty much hits the note. 
A short history lesson - Saucony started their shoe production back in 1898 in a place called Kutztown, Pennsylvania. At the beginning they were specialized in kids shoes. The factory building was situated on the high banks of the Saucony Creek. The distinctive brand logo represents the reek's constant flow, and the boulders lining its creek bed.
Isofit  - More and more companies offer shoes with an sock-like inner sleeve inlay. At an performance based running shoe this helps to avoid possible movement of the tongue. Despite that the overall feeling while running with the Liberty feels amazing as the thin stretch mesh adapts to the shape foot and holds it perfectly in the shoe. I can also see a big advantage for Dua- and Triathletes when it comes to fast transition times. 
Late Starter - Until 1977 Saucony was pretty unknown to the masses of the running community. In that year the running media turned the spotlight on the brand as it continued to surprise runners in tests and reviews. 
The direct 4mm heel-to-toe offset totally hit the note for me. While it helps to maintain a natural and efficent stride, it makes your body work and creates a direct feeling throughout the run. Throughout the years i experienced this with a lot of performance based Saucony shoes. Also the Liberty will make the Saucony fanbase happy and will surprise runners that are experiencing Saucony for the first time.
If you ever ran in Saucony shoe you will remember that softish feeling. It is down to this outsole. I think the sole feels great and with its softer approach the grip is nice and controlled maybe sometimes a bit to spongy on the ground. 
Nice little details can be found all over the shoe. Saucony not only knows how to please runners feet, they also add some nice visual features. 
Sauconys midsole technology goes by the name Everun. The Technology ensures a sweet and responsive feeling and the energy return can be felt, especially during high paced runs. The lively material is used throughout the full lenght of the shoe.  
Fact sheet - Offset: 4mm, Heel: 22mm and Forefoot: 18mm
Very durable, comfortable and soft mesh material in the front part combined with thicker and rougher mesh, which includes the ISOFIT bands, in the back offer a great overall feeling while striding. The construction is very supportive without being to stiff and dense. Saucony places the ISOFIT bands in the right places to ensure a comfortable and safe feeling.  
It did not take me long to get friends with the Liberty ISO. It is a go-to everyday training shoe which i can see myself racing in over longer distances. Saucony delivers the known feeling in a shoe that combines lightness with stability and comfort. A mix that is pretty hard to achieve but well finished.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

INSTAssel: Red Clay

Ein Beitrag geteilt von runssel (@runssel) am

Winding back to marvellous times on less-crowded clay boulevards around Iten. When I first came to Kenya’s Rift Valley area in 2009 a white guy running down the road was the highlight of the day for most of the local youths. With the town getting more and more exposure in the world of running quite some things have changed the last few years.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Stockholm to Norsborg

All flicks by YO RC

Tune of the day: Pete Rock - Lost Sessions