11 July 2014

Thoughts about Hardrock 100, Adventure racing and Though Mudder when running a Fartlek

Today I had hoped to be on the starting line in Silverton, Colorado, but as so many others I will have to wait for my luck. There are only 140 runners at the Hardrock 100 mountain ultramarathon trail race each year and so far there have been no Swede on the starting line. This year’s elite field is probably the strongest ever seen with the possibilities for Kilian Jornet, Seb Chaigneau, Julien Chorier, Tim Olsen, Dakota Jones, Jared Campbell and Joe Grant to be the first runner to kiss the Hardrock at the finish line. One of the few elite runner’s missing this year, Anton Krupicka, but who I guess anyway will be there pacing his friend Joe Grant, has written a great pre-race review of the runners. As always, good pre-race analysis and interviews are available at www.Irunfar.com , where it is also possible to follow the race live later today.

I have instead run a Fartlek in the certainly more modest hills around Uppsala this morning. When I woke this morning I was quite sore and I had no motivation and no ideas what to run today but when I finally put on my shoes and went out the door it quickly felt great again. This is something very liberating with running – to just put on your shoes and go out without any careful planning beforehand what to do and without any expensive equipment and gear. My wife is an avid road cyclist and my 8-year old son is really into alpine skiing and it is amazing how much more the equipment mean in these sports – not only the bike rig itself or the skis, but all other things around these sports as well (not to disrespect the importance of having the right running shoes, but...). For me personally one of the drawbacks of running longer races like PTL (La Petite Trotte à Léon) is all equipment needed – it is not only expensive, but also quite time consuming to plan and gather.

This aversion for being dependent on gear is one of the things that make me hesitate to try for instance triathlon or adventure racing. Having just read the old book “The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of My Feet: Tales from the World of Adventure Racing “ edited by Jamison, Moslow-Benway and Stover I see a lot of similarities between PTL, where we will be orienteering for over five days in teams along a not way-marked track, and multi-day adventure racing. Indeed, in adventure racing there are appear to be a lot of "retired" ultrarunners. I am also intrigued that there are multiple sports combined into one event. During my high school and early college years I competed in military pentathlon, a very small sport in which the main ingredients is that you have to be a good runner and a good swimmer, which I was with a background in both sports (for a good introduction video to military pentathlon see below). And, if I know myself well enough I would not be surprised if my curiosity made me try at least one adventure race and a triathlon sometime in the not to distant future.


However, I think there is a fine line between it being a challenging sport and being a fun spectacle, and, looking at the development of obstacle race competitions like Though Mudder or Though Viking, I think the line has been crossed with these events, at least for me personally.  Having spent numerous ours on the obstacle course used in military pentathlon and gained respect for each and every of the twenty obstacles, I am not at all attracted to the more theme park oriented obstacle courses in these other events. It is evidently also quite dangerous to run these courses as discussed in two new articles by Eichner ER “Tough mudder injuries, triathlon drownings, and team rhabdomyolysis in the Navy” Curr Sports Med Rep 2014; 13: 66-7 and Greenberg et al “Unique obstacle race injuries at an extreme sports event: a case series” Ann Emerg Med 2014; 63: 361-6. On the other hand, I know others who really like these events and who have started to train harder just in order to be able to complete on of the courses, much like I am training to be able to complete the PTL, and hopefully someday also the Hardrock 100 course, so why not. But I guess my personal reaction if an ultrarunning friend said to me that he/she had signed up to "run" a though muddler would be as captured by the whatisultra animation below.

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