Friday, December 12, 2014

Race in Cyprus - 4 Day challenge for every runner

If you enjoy running (no matter if recreational or elite), warm weather and like the idea to take your post-race recovery nap on the beach then the Four Day Cyprus Challenge might be just perfect for you!

Cyprus is located South of Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea

Being very new to running, I decided what better way to get great workouts in than heading into the sun in middle of November for a 4 day running event.

The four days were compromised of very different running races.

It all started of with a 6km flat, paved time trial, each runner starting 10 seconds apart. Sounds easy, right?

Well, right from day one tactics are played because the winner would be the one with the fastest time of all four races combined. 

So do you run those six kilometers hard and hope you have enough left at day 4 or play it safe but potentially losing valuable seconds? 
Either way, day 2 would test your physical and mental limits with a 11km off road race with an 600m elevation gain. If it's not your quads that scream for oxygen, your lungs will! The race strategy on this day is pretty clear: survive!

Even in November, Cyprus can offer temperatures around 20°C (68F)
If hills are not your strength, you can shine on day three at the off-road half marathon with a 8km descent. But not so fast. You need to work for this treat by climbing up 10km beforehand.
Although the idea of running downhill sounds fantastic on day 3, day 4 might be a different story, especially if your legs are not used to descending.

The “fast” 10km on day 4 through the near-by town Paphos will make sure to remind you of the past three days. Setting a new personal record seems to be out of question, but how much slower the time will be depends on the tactics you played the last three days.

Fantastic views from the mountains
All these intense moments are shared with a great, welcoming, friendly community of about 200 runners of every age and ability. At every finish volunteers and runners cheering for other runners. You share the stories of glory and pain. 
And if you happened to wake up and forgot what you signed up for, you will remember at breakfast when watching your fellow runners hobbling back and forth to the buffet. But dont be mischievous because you will too!


Either way, it’s all good fun. The fantastic, upbeat atmosphere of the runners, the top-notch organization, the beautiful scenery combined with the welcoming Cypriot mentality make this a perfect vacation in November (and since it is off-season, no tourist crowds anywhere!)


Monday, August 25, 2014

How to succeed at tough races



Two months ago I signed up for one of the harder races in Switzerland: the Alpenbrevet, a 276km race with over 7000m of elevation. However, with a new job I have less time for riding and only two months ago I hopped on my bike maybe once a week. 

Still, I signed up for the longest and hardest distance of the three racing options. 

Finishing a race of that magnitude is not an easy goal, especially if your training capacity is mediocre at best. 

However, although physical fitness is very important, what gets you really up the mountain, through nasty weather conditions and across the finish line is your mind!

Here are a few suggestions that help me get through tough challenges, even with less training:

Never doubt your success. You gotta be on the start line thinking that you will succeed. Any doubt will later, in tough times, knock on your mental door and question your sanity. During the first climb of the Alpenbrevet, all the different distance groups (Silver, Gold, Platinum) rode together. I asked a few riders what distance they will ride. A lot said `I will see. I was thinking of Platinum but if I do not feel well, I will go for the Gold distance`. All of them set themselves up for not completing the highest goal they could achieve. 

Don’t focus on the pain. If you do it will only get worse. It`s the same with feeling sick. If you think about getting sick, you will. Distract yourself. Especially on long challenges, try to distract yourself with something else than your current activity. Sooner or later, you will find yourself thinking about it all the time anyway. Now, when it is easy to entertain yourself with other things, like chatting (if possible) with other riders, enjoying the nature, counting the white stripes of the middle lane, will make the latter and tougher part of the race mentally easier. 

Tell as many people as possible about your goal. Because you would have to tell all of them you had to quit. Then try to imagine what you would tell them. If it sounds like an excuse, keep going.

Play worse-case scenario. If you are getting tired climbing up a mountain, ask yourself: How could it be worse? The grade could be steeper. It could rain. There could be headwind. It could be a cobble way. All of a sudden, your current condition does not seem too bad anymore.

After all it all boils down to:
Pain is temporary but failure lasts forever.

Plus, crossing the finish line after a very tough challenge is an indescribable addicting feeling.

What gets you through a tough race?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How a dating service gets you through a 1000km race

Three weeks before the race

I got a strange email question from a still unknown person : Would I want to join a four person team for the Tortour? Ahemmm YES!.

I knew about the Tortour too well. It`s a 1000km race around Switzerland with 14,500m elevation gain that not only requires some serious physical fitness but, if not more importantly, a well organized support team, a similar format as the Race Across America.

So from one day to the next I was on the team to join them only three weeks later.

I would learn soon I had the fortune to be on a fantastic team that not only was organizational top notch but funny that would even make the most serious German smile.

And here goes the story in pictures and videos:

Thursday, 14 August: Morning

Everyone was excited on the way to the race (f.l.: me, Stefan (racer), Isa (racer), Ariella (support))


A lot of gear is required with the hope you can find it when you need it.


Every racer got a box which should minimize chaos. I successfully created chaos anyway.
Thursday 12pm 

At the race briefing. Being surrounded by 500+ other excited racers and supporters made for an incredible atmosphere. If you werent excited before this briefing, you are definitely now! The anticipation was rising!
Thursday 15:30

Then, the prolog in the afternoon. Merely a kilometer or so of high intensity to place the teams into an order for the next day.

video

We won the prolog in our category. That meant we start first at 2:33AM, a minute ahead of the second placed team.

Friday 2:30AM Start

The starting formation. The team to the right and the follow vehicle behind.

Just imagine about 130 vehicles with `Caution Bicycle ahead` driving around in Switzerland....Bikes rule the next 48 hours
No idea why we were waving to the follow vehicle. I (pink arm warmers in the front) was occupied with other things apparently.
And then the countdown. 1000km ahead


 
Ariella and Mirco...let the fun get started

Friday 10:30AM: 8 Hours - 233km

There were three team stages (first, middle and last). The other ~850km were split between the four racers.
We had highly concentrated drivers. Not only the cyclist had to ride 1000km, our support crew had to drive those too!
I wasnt aware that we had a mountain goat on the team. This woman can climb!

The views were breathtaking....in two ways.


Friday 14:30 PM - 12 hours - 340km
As hard as we were working, we had at least the same amount of fun (here on the way up the 14km climb, Flüela pass.)

video


Friday 18:30 - 16 hours - 480km

Not a lot of rest time between the individual stages: Transfer to next check point, eating and getting clothes ready for next stage do not give a lot of time to relax
The weather couldnt decide. It was sunny. 10 minutes late it poured down.


Saturday 4:00 AM - 26 hours - 770km
After some 30 hours of having fun and riding, the energy was slowly draining and I got tired. My last shift (before the team stage) was about to start. It was 4am. 26 hours on the road. 50km to ride to the next check point.

It was dark. It was wet. I was tired.


10km into my stage, I was falling asleep on the bike and swerving around the lane.I needed some entertainment. I asked our support team to tell me a story.
Of all the stories Barbara could tell me she chose to give me the pros and cons to date her two brothers. After a 30 minutes very entertaining monologue she decided herself, it might not be a good idea to date either of them.

And all of a sudden I was at the checkpoint.

Saturday 13:29 34 hours: 1000km

After the last team stage and 34 hours of being on the road we crossed the finish line. 


We made it! From left: Max, me, Isa, Stefan


Then, the entry into the arena onto the stage with our song. No matter how often I watch this video I am still getting wet eyes. It brought all the fantastic memories into one moment.

video



The moderator asked me three questions back-to-back. Sleep deprived, I forgot all of them and answered my own.
Thanks to a fantastic team: Stefan, Max, Isa, Ariella, Barbara, Betty and Mirco!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Preparing for a new level of EPIC


There is no shortage of tough rides in the Alps, especially considering the endless possibilities of climbing up passes without a lot of flats between them. This ride was a preparation for the highly respected Alpenbrevet race. I was pretty exhausted after this ride of 147km and 4,300m elevation. The Alpenbrevet with an additional 130km and 2,700m elevation gain will ask for a new level of toughness in two weeks.


 The route:

The elevation:
Barely any flats, climbing from 500m up to 2,400m
video



video




On the way down from Grimsel with the view towards Furka Pass


But before testing my climbing legs, the non-stop 1000km Tortour around Switzerland will challenge the endurance of my team and I. With a highly organized five person support crew, a camper, a follow vehicle and a loooooot of food, we are ready for the challenge starting this Friday EARLY morning. We hope to cross the finish line 39 hours later, Saturday evening!

You can follow us via live tracker. Link will follow.

Oh, this race will be so epic!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A new challenge and number game: Cycling all Swiss passes

When I learned about the infinite cycling possibilities here in Switzerland I thought it would be quite appropriate to add another challenge (in addition to surviving all the races) to my to-do list: Riding all Swiss passes (above 1200m).

According to Wikipedia:
There are 105 passes that need to be conquered with a total of 137,000m (449,475ft) of elevation gain.
 (That`s more than 1/3 on the way to the moon or 15 times up Mt Everest)

Source: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_der_P%C3%A4sse_in_der_Schweiz#mediaviewer/Datei:Schweizer_Passstrassen_ueber_1200.png

That means for me another 81 climbs to go and 94,496 m to climb.

Any interest in joining me for a few kilometers of elevation gain?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Tour du Mont Blanc - 330km with 8000m elevation


This weekend`s cycling tour led through Switzerland, Italy and France hitting climbs like 

  • Col de Champex (9.3k, 560m elevation), 
  • St Grand Bernard (45km, 2000m elevation), 
  • Petit St. Bernard (28km, 1287m elevation), 
  • Cormet de Roselend (20km, 1100m elevation) and 
  • Col de Montets (11.5km, 420m elevation)

....all around Mt. Blanc.

We had every kind of weather. From cool Spring-like temperatures while crawling up Grand St. Bernard to Mediterranean heat in Aosta, Italy having lunch in a park to damp and rainy weather in Ugine, France to clear sunshine in Chamonix. 

It`s fun cycling through three different countries with different food options, weather and terrain. We stayed in small ski resort towns that offered cute hotel rooms with a homelike character. 
Here is the route with some pics:


The route

The pain measured in elevation

Fantastic weather

A glimpse to the Mt. Blanc

Tunnels - sometimes so dark you have no clue where you are riding

St petit Bernard....Not so petit though with 1,300m of climbing!

Since we just crossed into Italy, a crostata had to be on the re-fuel menu

What a view!


Sunshine on the ascent, mystic fog on the descent

Cycling in the clouds

View to Martigny, our start and end point

Turquoise lakes

Another view to the Mt Blanc
On next weekend`s agenda will be Italy with climbs like Stelvio Joch, Gavia und den Mortirolo.

Picture source: http://www.chamonix.net/english/summer-activities/cycling/tour-du-mont-blanc 
Photo Credit: Paul Boerner

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mountains + Lakes + Cow bells = Cycling in the Alps

If there are routes from the Giro d`Italia, Tour de France, Tour de Suisse, Tour de Romandie basically at your foot steps (or an hour train ride away) it was clear it would be only a matter of time that I start racing again here in Europe.

Having moved to Zurich seven weeks ago was a surprise. But an awesome surprise. Just looking at the riding possibilities it is like a cyclist playground. Last week I rode through the Black Forest in Germany, this weekend, I am heading to the famous climb to Chamonix, France. And next weekend I am staying in Bormio, Italia to ride the 21km climb (13mi) up the Stilfzer Joch....partly for fun and partly for training because all of a sudden weekends are filled up with races.

The Alps region has incredible and TOUGH races to offer. In fact every weekend if desired.

Last weekend`s 230km (142mi) Engadiner Radmarathon with 3,800m (12,500 ft) of racing was just the tip of the iceberg. On 23. August, there is a true climbing test: the famous 280km Alpenbrevet with an entire 7,000m (23,000ft) of climbing. Just a few days beforehand, the Swiss version of Race-Across-America (RAAM), the Tortour challenges the racers with 1000km through Switzerland.

Oh yea, and then there is a race in Mallorca in September and a training weekend at Alpe d`Huez.
With the very centric location, Switzerland not only offer national but international cycling experience: Whether you want to enjoy a crêpe two hours West in France or a home-made pizza two hours South in Italy or a Linzer Torte two hours East in Austria or Black Forest cake two hours North in the Black Forest, Germany. Destinations are infinite and the variety for cycling unbelievable.

I will be posting all my rides on twitter (@MonikaSattler) for those who are visiting the heart of Europe and need some riding routes.

Here are some pictures from some of my cycling tours and two amateur videos.

View from the train towards where we are heading

Arrival at the train station

On top of the Furka Pass

More Furka



In the distance: Grimsel Pass

Klausenpass
Along the river back to the train station



video
The video is turned to the side but it`s the sound that counts.

video

Saturday, May 10, 2014

I love riding in Minnesota - 100mi Fulton Gran Fondo

I forgot about the pain.

I forgot about how loooooong 100 mi could feel.

I forgot about the wind!

But four months away from Minnesota did not make me forget how awesome its cycling community is. 


Today at the Fulton Gran Fondo I was able to be part of it again. There is this energy in the air; that anticipation to have fun that gets me excited to ride my bike. 

It’s easy to fit in. Only rule is to be nice. 
It doesn’t matter what kit you wear or how fast you ride. Enjoying the ride is the motto. 

The Minnesotan cycling community rocks! Thank you for a wonderful day!

Thanks to the Fulton Brewery for a great race! And huge thanks to Foundry for putting me on a great bike!


Only 156 hours to the Royal 162! Oh man, I cant wait to race gravel again!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Have I found the cycling paradise?

What can I say about Australia? "Wow” comes into mind. “Unreal”, “Heaven”….something along those lines.

Before I start writing an entire dissertation about my first impression about Brisbane, I will keep it in bullet points:

  • Holy cow! Everywhere mango trees (my favorite fruit) Delicious, juicy and for free! 
  • Weather! It is always T-Shirt or less weather. Rain? Well, let it rain, it is still so warm that it doesn’t matter if it is pouring.
  • Cycling scene – Overwhelming! If I would do every group ride in town, it might take me a year or two to do all of them. At 5:30am when I ride 20 minutes to a group ride meet up point, I see 10 other cycling groups on their rides, no kidding!
  • Every group ride ends in a café. And oh my god, they make amazing strong coffee!!!
  • The terrain is great here in Brisbane. Mostly undulating terrain... those short little 10-20 seconds pitches everywhere make every ride more or less to an interval training.
  • Scenery – love it. Very varied. You got the ocean with some beautiful beaches in riding distance, the river through the city, the subtropical vegetation and colorful fauna everywhere. In fact, this morning at breakfast, rainbow colored parrots argued over the nectar of a pink tree flower. Seeing kangaroos on a ride is not unusual either. 
  • Atmosphere – relaaaaaxed. The best indicator how relaxed a region is the time in the coffee shop after a group ride. I might have spent a solid 1.5-2 hours there. Of course, with a coffee shop and bakery on every corner combined with the amazing weather makes it hard to be stressed out.
Yep, I think I will stick around here for a while. J