Monday, October 6, 2014

RACE REPORT: RAID Uppsala 2014

RAID Uppsala was one of my favorite events of the 2013 competition season. Combining trail running, paddling and mountain biking with orienteering makes it especially fun, since it challenges not only your physical endurance but also your mental skills in determining the best course to the finish. Alas, for 2014 David had rightfully planned to be away celebrating his wife’s 40th birthday, and after asking around quite a bit at work and with Knivsta CK and Form members, I had all but resigned to passing up this year’s event. Then at Friday breakfast a Facebook post from the organizers peaked my interest and I clicked over to the event’s Facebook page, only to see the following post:

Aha! I contacted Tobbe during the day. “I can’t promise a Top 10 finish but I’m ready to go if you are,” I wrote. We quickly decided that we would compete together and despite the fact that we’d never met, I was aware of his team, Local Heroes Adventure Racing Team (L.H.A.R.T.) as we have been following them on Instagram since this year’s Haglöfs Åre Extreme Challenge.

Tobbe lives in Sundsvall but had been in Stockholm during the week. He had his bike and running shoes with him, but we needed a canoe and he needed a life vest. Fortunately, as a member in Knivsta’s Friluftsfrämjandet, I was able to borrow both on short notice, and by Saturday morning all the gear was loaded into the car and I was headed to Sunnersta.

This year’s RAID Uppsala was divided into the following legs:

Prologue1.4 km
MTBO14.7 km
Orienteering     7.0 km
MTBO6.1 km
Canoe5.5 km
Sprint1.7 km

Of course, these distances are “as a crow flies” and so the actual distances are always longer, as the mountain biking must be done on trails and the running is often fastest on trails, even if the distances can be shorter by using a compass and map to navigate straight lines.

At just after 9 AM, Tobbe and I met at the registration desk and collected our orienteering maps, chip and race numbers. Together, we reviewed the maps and planned a course which would take us through Sunnersta (twice), Nåntuna, Lunsen (3 times) and up and down a section of Fyrisån. It was quickly apparent that Tobbe was a skilled map reader and I casually asked if he’d done this race before. “Yeah, this is like the 10th time,” he replied. We decided shortly thereafter that he would navigate and I would carry the chip and record the checkpoints. :-)

The RAID Herr group started at 10:45 and we were quickly underway running a short, 1.4 km marked route along Fyrisån, up a steep forest path in Ulltuna and then down the paved hill which is a heartbreaker every year during Uppsala’s Blodomloppet. It was fun to run down this hill for once and we were moving fast—under 3 min splits as we made the turn towards the transition area to change into bike shoes, stuff our running shoes into backpacks and grab our helmets.

Now we were proceeding by map and it wasn’t long before different teams started choosing different routes, dispersing the field among the forests around Sunnersta’s ski hill. Tobbe is a strong cyclist and he could really move on his Crescent bike, but I managed my best to keep up and we stayed together as the competition rules require. Crossing Flottsunds bridge, we proceeded into the evergreen forests of Nåntuna, following at times trails that are perhaps more accurately described as infrequently used footpaths. Then we proceeded past the cycling/running transition point, up a gravel road and into Lunsen, a large nature reserve south of Uppsala. Here we cycled on a mix of logging roads and small paths, recording the checkpoints as we went and doing our best not to collide with teams coming in the other direction on some of the smaller paths. By now, my legs were really burning as we had been keeping a high tempo the entire race. We were at one hour and thirty minutes when we reached the transition point to change into running shoes and my heart rate had been averaging well over 170 bpm. My right calf started to cramp as I pulled off my cycling shoe, but I managed to get on my Roclites and we pushed on—my theory being that running would help work out the cramp…

Actually that theory proved to be somewhat accurate and we ran the forest part at a good tempo. We noted at the first checkpoint in Lunsen that we needed to record this twice (once out and once on the way back), and then we started on a long stretch where Tobbe led us by compass and we were climbing over logs, stones and marching through marshy sections of the forest. His navigation skills are excellent and after having run a long stretch without much of a landmark we came out on a wide trail which we turned left on before veering right onto a little footpath. (Actually we missed the footpath at first, but we hadn't come more than 100 m too far before Tobbe realized that we needed to turn back.)  There were not many teams in sight during this part of the course and we started to feel pretty good about our location in the pack. The run back from the farthest checkpoint included a number of more closely spaced targets, and here the pack started to converge a bit, with two teams from Uppsala Triathlon running somewhat parallel to us. (They were easy to spot in the yellow shirts.) We ran as a small group from that first checkpoint that we noted early in the run, back to the transition area and climbed back onto the bikes.

Now the course proceeded back and forth across Sunnerstabacken (what some people call “Sunnersta’s pit”) and we were accelerating, braking, changing direction, climbing and descending over the entire mountain bike course. Tobbe’s legs were in a lot better condition than my own and at some point we got separated on one of the uphill ascents where he just pushed through on the saddle but I was forced to get off and walk. Fortunately, we managed to rejoin after just a short period of separation and at that point the worst part of the course was behind us. Just a few more descents and flat gravel paths before we arrived back at the start, where my legs seized completely just short of the transition area. I managed to stretch a bit and get my shoes changed, but standing up straight was hard. Tobbe was a very understanding teammate and even offered to help me tie my shoes, but I managed myself and we jogged slowly to the canoe to collect our life vests and paddles.

Image courtesy of Erik Melin
Once we were in the water, cramping legs became less of a worry as canoeing is a bit easier on the legs than sitting in a kayak as one does in HÅEC. We paddled upstream with two teams ahead of us and one or two behind, but again there was not much competition in sight—most notably one of those teams from Uppsala Triathlon. Their lead guy in the canoe was cramping a lot worse than I was—at times he’d let out a scream of agony and stop paddling while he tried to stretch out his leg muscles. 5.5 km in a canoe sounds far but actually it wasn’t long before we could see the turn into a narrow creak which led us to the first water checkpoint. We got tangled up with a few of the other teams at this point as turning a canoe in a narrow channel with boats moving in both directions is not that easy, but soon we were headed back down the creak before turning upstream again towards a bridge where the final water checkpoint was located. Then it was just a quick downstream straight course back to the dock where we lifted our boat onto land just behind that Uppsala Triathlon team, who had managed to complete the water course a bit faster than we did despite the cramping legs of the foreman.

The final leg of the course was a sprint—1.7 km—and the teams received the map after the transition. We were doing well but I had really pushed to maintain the pace we’d kept and my legs were feeling it. We had to climb a hill on the SLU campus and there was nothing left for me to keep up. I yelled to Tobbe that my legs were shot and he turned around to come back and literally push me up the hill! That Uppsala Triathlon team was right with us and we were literally meters from each other as we scrambled around the final section before proceeding towards the finish, but they managed to cross before we (or more accurately I) did and we landed in 11th place with a final time of 4:01:44, just two seconds behind them.

OK. Not a Top 10 finish but still a really satisfying day of competing. 11th place is nothing to complain about in a field of 42, especially with a team that had just met less than 24 hours earlier via social media. It was really fun to get to know Tobbe during the day as we compared notes about being in a multisport team, sponsorships, training and more. I don’t doubt that Team Form will run into L.H.A.R.T. again in the future, either as competitors or as teammates!

Fusion Team Form / L.H.A.R.T.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Stay tuned - product reviews coming

We've been using a wide assortment of awesome gear this year in both our training and races, most of which we have received from our great sponsors. Finding the time to sit down and write about some of it has been tough as we've enjoyed being out wearing and using it, but moving into Autumn we're determined to ensure you get to know a little more about what has helped us on our journey this year.

We've been using plenty of SKINS compression clothing from TRI shorts, tops & caps (read our earlier review here), running shorts, tights, calf guards, short & long sleeve tops to thermal tights & tops. It's all taken quite a hit and we wear it because we love it!
We've had plenty of great use from our GripGrab equipment in a variety of short and long fingered gloves, hats, buffs, caps, socks, shoe covers and arm & leg warmers. It's not only been used for it's primary purpose of cycling or biking but we've used it with our kayaking too. As GripGrab say "It's all about comfort" and this stuff defined the description of comfort!

There's a variety of other equipment we've been using too from shoes, paddles, kayaks, bikes, watches, glasses, cameras, lights, poles, etc. to nutritional items from Fairing, RawBite, Bounce, Paleo Crunch, Vita Coco, etc. and we'll try and do them justice with some posts.

Fairing provided us primarily with GELS for training and competitions this year. We wouldn't use, or especially recommend something if it didn't work for us but these really did. With a key consideration of race food being a balanced and agreeable stomach, we were very happy we'd landed on a supplier whom ticked all the boxes.

Keep returning to the BLOG and see why we love this gear so much.
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Monday, September 29, 2014

RACE REPORT: Lidingöloppet

There are times when things just don't go to plan and for Lidingöloppet, this was one of those days.

At the beginning of the week all was on track, a nice and easy cross country run on Sunday, a very easy cross-trainer Monday and an easy leg stretch on Tuesday lunchtime. The second half of the week though was not as good. A somewhat stressful time at work, headaches on Wednesday, stomach cramps on Thursday and Friday and generally poor sleep but I was hopeful all would be fine at the start on Saturday lunchtime.

My stomach still wasn't 100% on Saturday but we drove to Lidingö under blue skies and in long traffic queues on Valhallavägen. This'll be the last time to sit in the traffic above ground on the way to Lidingö as they'll open the tunnel later in the year.....and I'll be running through that on 22nd November as part of the 10km Tunnel Run

Weather was sunny but windy. In the shade it was rather chilly but in the sun rather sweaty, rather good conditions to run in. Myself and the family took the 1700m walk from Lidingövallen to Koltorp where the start is and started to join the other 20,000 runners who would take part. 

Standing on the start line in Group 2 I thought I was prepared for the 30 km ahead but little did I know that after nearing 2 km the fate of my race would be almost decided. The first km sailed by and all felt OK, not too quick, tried to keep to the path as much as possible, kept to an even steady pace and made sure I made the left turn where the mass of people come to a bottleneck without issue. But my HR was high and climbing and already my legs started to feel heavy. Slow down, relax and drop the HR I thought to myself, but no matter the pace, my HR remained high and I was already struggling. "Not good!" I thought.
As the track wound back towards Lidingövallen I met the family cheering me on. If it wasn't for them coming along, I would have walked back to the car there and then and called it a day. But my stubbornness and with Team Form's motto to "never give up" ringing in my ears I decided to push on and evaluate some more, hoping in vain that I could lower my HR and suddenly all would be well again. Km after km passed by and it wasn't getting any easier. I was finding myself walking the hills to try and keep a lower HR but with legs that didn't want to walk let alone run. I kept telling myself that after 12 km it's almost all downhill to Grönsta (albeit with many little inclines and declines about 5km further on).

I tried to enjoy the views instead, knowing that any hope of a good finish time had long gone but I wasn't even enjoying those. At just over 20,1 km and 1:55 of running, where the track passes the point where you'd finish 9.9 km further on, I took the very, very tough decision to stop the race. I was exhausted. I had made the final decision around 18-19 km when I couldn't maintain a pace downhill yet something inside of me still willed me to take a bulle, a banana, a salta gurka and a few cups of sport drink and progress onwards. But today the head was strong, having nothing to prove by dragging myself to 30km in what I predict would have been somewhere between a 3:00 and 3:15 finish time I live to race another day.

It was clear that I had some kind of virus which had not left my system and which left me without energy and contributed to a high HR. But it happens, I'm not at all despondent about it, there are always other races, other goals, other days to train and compete. Sure I'm disappointed not to finish but I think I would've been more so if I'd finished properly and not met my goal for this year.

So now what? 1 week of good rest and then start again to train hard towards finishing off the year in a good way for Tunnel Run. It's been a great year so far with 2 personal best times in 10km races in April & May, an improved time in Knivsta Duathlon, a successful Åre Extreme Challenge, a first time finish in Cykelvassan 90 km and a 12yr best half marathon time in Stockholm 2 weeks ago. There's plenty there to be positive about so one result is not something to dwell upon.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

RACE REPORT: Stockholm half marathon (DN Stockholm halvmarathon)

This past Saturday, David and I ran in the 2014 DN Stockholm half marathon, along with 18 000 other runners from every country, age, race and fitness level that you can imagine. This was my first half marathon and the first time that I have run in a competition with so many partipants, so I was a bit uncertain as to what I should expect when I woke up on Saturday morning. 

Leading up to this race, I've been following training program that I found online that basically includes 3 runs a week of increasing distances over a 10 week period. I chose this plan over several others because it felt the most manageable. (And who cares that it's published by Women's Health Magazine? Running is running, right?) Even with work and kids and other activities, 3 days a week is not too hard to schedule in. (It turned out that one of the R&R weeks even coincided with Cykelvasan!) 

Having trained regularly, I've been looking forward to this event, but unfortunately I woke up on Saturday morning with a bit of a headache and a bit of soreness in my calves from a workout that I'd done the previous Thursday. I was really thinking "How is this going to go?", but after a good breakfast and a hearty lunch of spaghetti bolognese I started feeling much better, and my the time we arrived in Kungsträdgården in Stockholm, I was feeling quite good. 

The weather on Saturday was perfect for a long run: partially cloudy, no wind to speak of and temperatures between 15-20C. I collected my start number and chip and had plenty of time to take in the festivities since I was starting in the second-to-last group (Group G). 

The start takes place on Stockholm's oldest preserved bridge, Norrbro, in front of the Royal Palace. The start groups are coralled into fenced-in pens and there is not much room to warm up as you've got people all aroud you. But then the gate opens and the whole crowd starts moving towards the starting line and then "Bang!" up Brunkebergsåsen, quickly into a tunnel, then back in the open air and onto Vasagatan. After the first two kilometres, the third goes only slightly uphill along the railway on Torsgatan, up to Odengatan and then down, down, down to Kungsholms strand. Here you are along the waterfront before climbing one of the toughest kilometres over a hill before continuing left up to Drottningholmsvägen, then right towards Västerbroplan and around the school of Rålambshov before decending down to the park with the same name. At this point, the course is over half complete having rounded most of Kungsholmen. What an experience to run right through the Parliament Building on the way into Old Town! Continuing onwards to Slussen, the rest of the run is on the island of Södermalm. This section is primarily flat following the water instead of going up and down the demanding hill across Bergsund. Just as David had warned me, at kilometer 18 a long uphill stretch awaits, but then its downhill again towards Slussen. Here you meet the folks who are leaving Kungsholmen on their way to begin the part you've just completed. As I passed through here, the winners were already across the finish line! But then it's a sprint to the finish, right past where you started to the finish line on the bridge Norrbro.

My personal experience running this course was really great. I ran according to my heart rate monitor and tried to keep below 170 bpm for the entire run. This turned out to be a great strategy, as I was able to maintain a steady pace of around 4:41/km the entire race. In fact, the final km was my fastest at 4:17/km! I was really happy with my final time of 1:38:33, having set a goal beforehand of wanting to be under 1:40:00. 

Next adventure? I think I'm going to run the Fall River Half Marathon when I'm in Boston in October. 
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Multisport training in Asia

It's hard to believe that over a month has past since I returned from a two week trip to China, Korea, and Japan, but time does indeed fly. I've been meaning to write a few words about this trip and my reflections on the different countries and their training culture, but it hasn't been until today that I've managed to find the time. Nonetheless here's a quick summary.

I started my trip in the relatively new (30 year old) city of Shenzhen, which is at the southern tip of China, just north of Hong Kong. I stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel which is a beautiful facility with huge rooms, a big outdoor pool, a full gym and spa, and even a full 25 m swimming pool.  Here I had the opportunity to use the gym, but also to run outdoors and even to swim one day in the pool.
After an early (and sweaty!) run in Shenzhen

Running gave me the opportunity to see the city a bit more close up and Shenzhen is truly a great place. There are lots of green areas and on my two morning jogs I encountered a lot of locals out practicing Tai Chi, or using one of the many outdoor gyms that are strategically placed near all of the children's playgrounds. (I guess the kids play and the adults work out.) The only downside of Shenzhen is the humidity, which can be oppressive at times. If you are going to run, you definitely have to get up early to beat the heat.

Fact or tip about China
Swimming caps are mandatory in China. Don't buy one at the hotel gym--they want like 300 RMB for one. Just find a local street market that sells touristy stuff and buy one for 30 RMB.

My trip continued in Seoul where I stayed in the Gangnam neighborhood, made popular by last year's pop hit. I stayed at the Imperial Palace Hotel, which like the Intercontinental had a full gym and spa, although lacked a pool big enough for swimming laps. The Imperial Palace's gym is actually a local gym located in the hotel, and they had a complete weight room, a fitness court, two banks of treadmills and stationary bikes, as well as a lot of stretching equipment that I have to admit I'd never really seen prior.

Koreans obviously take exercise seriously and here you can see people out running, walking and cycling at all hours of the day. The Han River runs through the entire city and there is a recreational area on the banks of the river that extends for over 40 km. You can rent bicycles for $2.50 USD/hr at a number of stations or you can do like me and my coworker who ended up walking over 16 km on the first Sunday we were there. (I recommend the bike, by the way.)

Fact or tip about Korea
The hotel gym at the Imperial Palace Hotel has an ominous sign at the check in desk which says "We reserve the right to refuse service to guests with tattoos." I guess body art is not appreciated in Korea.

The final leg of my trip was in Tokyo and here I was put up at the Keio Plaza Hotel. Nice hotel but the gym was really just a little room with almost no equipment, so I found myself happy that I had remembered to pack my Casall Exetube which also works in a pinch to turn a hotel room into a gym. I also had a morning run on the streets of Tokyo and managed to find my way into a private park where I was promptly chased down by a security guard who explained to me (via pleasant hand gestures) that I was not welcome to run there.

Fact or tip about Japan
Running is a bit difficult in Japan since the streets are really crowded. That said, the real rush doesn't happen until sometime after 9 AM, so if you are an early riser you can get in a pretty uninterrupted run without irritating the locals.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

RACE REPORT: Cykelvasan 90

Despite the quiet appearance on the blog, Team Form Multisport continues to be busy training and competing. Our most recent competition was this past Saturday, Cykelvasan 90.

When registration opened last year on the 21st September 2013, all 12,000 places for Cykelvasan 90km sold out in 3mins 21secs!! David & I were two of the earlybirds to secure start places and on Saturday morning we found ourselves at the start line in a dreary Sälen, ready to tackle the 90km of mountain bike tracks ahead of us.

David just before Eldris
Photo courtesy of
Having never done the course before, we didn't fully know what to expect, but we had heard that the competition consisted primarily of hilly dirt roads, mixed with some short jaunts of asphalt and a bit of single track. More than 7,800 people had already entered the course as we lined up for our 11 AM start. Earlier in the day we had loaded our bikes onto a DHL truck and taken a nearly 2 hour bus trip north from Mora, where we stayed the night before. Like everything with Vasa, the event worked like a well-oiled machine. There are so many volunteers supporting these events, and everything is really well thought out in advance. When our start group was released, we started up the long hill towards Smågan and quickly found a group of riders that were moving at a good pace.

David and I had hoped for a finish time of under 4 hours, and this would mean that we would need to maintain a 26 km/hr pace on average, without burning out too early in the course. We kept this pace going early on without too much trouble, dropping into pelotons and then passing when the pace got to slow. For much of the course, we managed to stay together, but at some point halfway through we separated and David pulled ahead of me. The pace felt good and my legs felt okay as well through the first half, but somewhere between Evertsberg and Oxberg I started to fatigue a bit. Just before Oxberg is a long, steep hill that is preceded by a tall, steep bridge. Here I really started to feel the distance as I made a slow, but steady climb in the lowest gear I have. Eventually, the Gopshus stop was in reaching and after having passed through I heard "Hello there" to my left and there was David, who had stopped for a bit of a stretch after that killer hill.

Jon just before Eldris
Photo courtesy of
We continued to cycle together towards Hökberg but again we got separated with David pulling a bit ahead. At this point, I started checking my watch and doing the math and 4 hours was starting to feel a bit of out reach, but it depended of course on the terrain ahead and I had no real idea what that was like. But when I saw the sign indicating 14 km left I knew that I would come to the finish after 3 PM, so I decided to just enjoy the last bit of riding through some of Sweden's most traveled nature, arriving at the finish line at 3:10 PM for a final time of 4 hours and 10 minutes.

Despite a bit longer time than I'd hoped for, I was happy with the finish. 95 km of pedaling is the farthest I've cycled in a single stretch in since 2007 and I finished with a respectable time and without any major cramps or mechanical issues with my bike. Maybe 2015 will bring an even better finish? :-) 
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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Training in The Netherlands

This week I have been travelling in The Netherlands for work. I stayed on for the weekend and came to Leiden to visit friends and the city I lived in for 11years from 1996-2007. I spent many a good hour training on the streets, cycle paths & canals so it was great to be able to put on the running shoes and get out on those same streets to relive the past and to check out if anything has changed. After a rainy morning and afternoon I ventured out late in the day when the sun was out and the temps were rising quickly (as was the humidity). But as I remembered, there are no hills in Holland (except the small bridges over the canals) but the country makes up for it with the wind.

I ran a circle around Leiden following the Singel Canal which circulates the city. Now you'd think the wind at some point would be on all sides as you run a circle. It began in my face as I ran west in a clockwise direction, but alas it continued to blow in the face almost the entire time no matter if I ran in a north, east or southerly direction!

Leiden is a city and municipality in the Dutch province of South Holland. The municipality of Leiden has a population of about 120,000, but the city forms one densely connected urban area with its suburbs Oegstgeest, Leiderdorp and Voorschoten. The larger Leiden agglomeration counts 332,000 inhabitants which makes it the sixth major agglomeration in the Netherlands. Leiden is located on the Old Rhine, at a distance of some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from The Hague to its south and some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Amsterdam to its north. A university city since 1575, Leiden houses Leiden University and Leiden University Medical Centre. It is twinned with Oxford, the location of England's oldest university.

As The Netherlands are playing in the World Cup 1/4 final later this evening  I thought sporting their national colours would be appropriate :)
It was a really fun run and a great leg stretch after last weekend's Åre Extreme Challenge. There were some lovely bridges on route and with boats parked outside of houses could this be Venice of the north? I've paddled the canals here in the past, these were and are a lot calmer than Åresjön last weekend!

I return to Sweden tomorrow, looking forward to seeing the family again after a couple of weeks away, then starts the training for Cykelvasan in August.
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