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Lake Baikal Marathon

Thanks to the optimal training conditions last winter, we, the Swiss recreational athletes Dominik Högger and Daniel Eberli, mastered the 42.2 km over the frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia well. Since its first execution 13 years ago, only 9 Swiss have defied the cold and taken up the freezing challenge. The special equipment required included running shoes with spikes, several layers of insulating clothing and face protection. The effort has paid off.

However, the adventure began months before the flight to Siberia. Because of the extreme conditions in Siberia, the organizer checks all runners carefully. In addition to a medical certificate, a “runner’s CV” must also be submitted before the actual registration and visa application for Russia can take place. After studying the reports of previous events and the expected weather conditions, we put together the equipment and planned a hard marathon training over the winter months. We did many training runs with our running group in the snow and on bare ice. The frozen Sihlsee and the skate line, an iced path in the Albula valley made it possible to practice the race with the ice spikes over several kilometres.

The actual flight to Irkutsk, built on permafrost soil, was quickly planned and Aeroflot took us at the beginning of March via Moscow to our destination.

Life is really tough in Siberia. The rough weather forces practically everything to take place inside. Vegetables are rare and have to be delivered from far away. The streets are empty and also the shops look closed because of the barricades and the weather protection. By bus, we drove two hours over snow-covered roads to Lake Baikal. Since the bus windows are decorated with ice roses in no time, we didn’t even notice at first that we have already arrived at the mightiest lake in the world. As you get out, the cold creeps into every crack and we closed all available zippers. It snowed heavily and the contours of the snow-covered lake surface and the clouds are flowing. Bright white as far as the eye can see. In order to reach the snow-covered ice surface, we first had to climb over a frozen wave that pressed the thick layer of ice millimetre by millimetre against the shore. It is a feeling of happiness to finally stand on the lake with both feet. We have arrived.

 

Sunset over Lake Baikal.

 

The briefing in the evening before the race is short and concise: The ice over the entire distance of 42 kilometres is thick and has only two big cracks that we can overcome thanks to wooden planks. Stories circulate that last year a runner fell into a crack and had to withdraw the marathon. Also, frostbite on cheeks and nose is reported, but the weather forecast for tomorrow is rather mild with -10°C. We haven’t seen the sun yet, but tomorrow the clouds will disappear during the day. The evening before we carefully prepare clothes, balaclava, shoes and glasses and fill the carbohydrate stores with a big pasta dish.

The next morning, hovercraft and minibus shuttles drive us to the starting line. It is a strange picture to see all the colourfully disguised runners from all over the world. The majority of the field is from Russia and Asia. Inside a tent, we try to keep warm by jumping until we finally start at 10:30h. The countdown in Russian resounds through a megaphone and the athletes run onto the open ice. The trail is well marked with red flags and the organizers have flattened the snow with a small snow groomer. As the muscles are still very cold at the beginning, there are tensions in unusual places. After an initial spurt, we quickly notice that we have to slow down and try to stick to the GPS watch. The special shoes with spikes work great and we are making good progress.

Dominik, my Swiss compatriot, and I enjoying the wide ice desert.

Of course, it would be more relaxed to run a marathon with a short sleeve shirt and shorts in a warm place somewhere else in the world. But exactly because we take on these exertions, this bizarre place opens up for us and we are allowed to see and experience Siberia. The view into the endless ice and snow desert is breathtaking and always gives us the strength to come over the lows during the following 42 km. At the start, the opposite bank with the high mountains is not yet visible. Only after 15 km, we can confirm that the lake is really surrounded by high mountains.Navigation or distance valuation is impossible in this garish, contourless environment. The soundscape is also unique: twice, the Trans-Siberian Railway rumbles past the shore, otherwise, it is quiet. We only hear snow crunching under our shoes and the harsh scratching of the spikes on the ice. From time to time, accompanied by a black diesel cloud, snow motorcycles and hovercrafts pass us and make sure that we have no medical problems. The aid stations every seven kilometres offer tea, water, dried fruits, Russian chocolate and cheese cubes. We are glad that we have our energy gels with us. To prevent them from freezing, we keep them warm in a pocket under the insulation layer.

Self-made pockets to keep the energy gels and phone warm.

For the half marathon runners, the finish line is right in the middle of the lake. After finishing, they’re brought to the hotel by hovercrafts. We’re happy that we trained for the marathon, so we have twice as much fun. As always it gets tough after 30 km, but then the finish in the small fishing village Listvyanka comes into sight. However, the good visibility deceives one. You think you’re close to the finish, but you’re not. Again, we rely on the GPS watches and wait patiently with the final acceleration.

Of course, there are no spectators on the whole course, but there will be a lot of clapping at the finish. With our hands up we run across the finish line after 4 hours 25 minutes and then fall into the fresh snow. Euphoric and richer by a big adventure, we go with small steps to the hotel to avoid cooling down.

The organizers deserve a lot of praise. They organized the marathon perfectly in this harsh environment. The only drawback is that the Finisher medals went missing. All the more, we’ll proudly wear our finisher shirts.

Even today, as I write these lines, I can simply close my eyes and see and feel the icy desert of Lake Baikal. The pictures from cold Siberia are probably eternally stored in our heads and hearts.

Yours,
Daniel

Three punctures to victory

Finale Ligure – The world’s toughest 24h MTB race

For the 20th anniversary, the organizers came up with a special format. Different from the last few years, when the competitions for individual starters and teams of two took place one day before the faster teams of four, eight and twelve, everyone started together this year again. Due to the higher number of athletes on the track, the overtaking processes and getting into a race rhythm was considerably more difficult.

This year the lap was the longest ever with almost 12 kilometres and an altitude difference of approx. 550 metres. Especially for single starters, this was a big disadvantage because catering was only possible in the transition area of the race and dehydration of the single starters was pre-programmed right from the start.

The goal is to have as few stops as possible and refuel the 15’000 burned calories on the bike.

In the preparation, I started some units at 3 o’clock in the morning to prepare myself optimally for the racing situation at night. I started with a super light bike and wanted to have an advantage on the up to 22% steep climbs. Since I always start with racing shoes and pedals, the power transmission is higher than with mountain bike shoes and you are also more firmly clicked into the pedal. However, running is a lot more difficult. To my disadvantage, the organisers decided to let us single drivers and teams of two start three hours before the other teams in the Le Mans starting procedure. This means, after the starting signal, we had to run about 800m to our bikes first before the actual mountain bike race would start for us.

Right from the start, I was able to put pressure on the front pack and kept up with the best teams of two. In a descent, however, I noticed that I had a flat rear tire and had to repair it. Accidentally, even my spare hose was defective and almost the entire rider field passed me. Fortunately, though, a German participant stopped and lent me his own spare hose. However, in the hurry, I had inflated the tyre too little and after a few kilometres on a steep, technical descent I had another flat tyre because I hit a stone with my rear wheel too hard. Being the last, I had to run three kilometres into the catering area and changed to my second bike while my care team repaired my bike.

From that point on I had a lot of catching up ahead of me because like every year in Finale Ligure, some of the best endurance mountain bikers in the world compete at this race and every meter has to be worked hard for. After two laps my actual racing machine was ready for use again and I was able to resume the ride properly. With temperatures around 28C and just a few shade-giving trees at the ascents, it seemed as the sun would literally suck the energy out of the body. After three hours of racing, I already got the first cramps in my legs, which indicated a dehydration. Some of my comrades-in-arms even had signs of a heatstroke at that time and the heat also left its mark on me. The cramps should get worse in the next few hours.

This hill challenged me 25 times!

After four hours, I had a more serious fall a blind bend and crashed into the bushes. I tried to rinse the little wounds at elbows and knees provisionally with water and after a short check of the body, I decided to continue racing. A short time later, however, I noticed that I had unfortunately lost my sports watch in the crash. Now, I no longer had an overview of which hour of the race I was in, how my heart rate is or how many calories I burned. It was all about my experience and how well I know my body from now on. To not risk too much, I slowed down a bit after the crash.I had already been able to work my way into the top 10 within the short time and, simultaneously, some of the favourites also had to quit the race. The multiple winner Rudolf Springer from Austria had to finish the race before nightfall as well.

After almost nine race hours, I took a short break to pee. The first one. My team used this time to attach the lamps for the night session to my bike and helmet. The night is always a bit riskier at this race compared to other 24-hour races, because the track demands full concentration all the time. Especially the sections at the cliffs do not forgive any mistake. I knew that 24h races would be decided at night and that’s when I could make up a lot of ground on my competitors in front of me. An advantage over my competitors was also my gear. During the night it got rather chilly and whereas the others had to stop to change or put on jackets, I simply kept on riding in my X-BIONIC gear. Trust me, it keeps you performing under all conditions!

Riding right next to the cliffs was a bit thrilling during the night.

In the morning at five o’clock, the sun rose again and throughout the night I was able to claim the second place. However, I was aware that the last four hours are always the toughest of the race. You’ve been in the saddle for 20 hours and you think almost made it, but there are still four hours to go before the finish. Yet, this remaining time alone is usually longer than a normal bike tour. Four hours at this point of the race is a lot. A lot to make up or also lose positions.

As expected, the last hours were once again gruelling. Why do I keep on doing this to myself? In the meanwhile, I had cramps all over my body – in my legs, arms, fingers and even my tongue. The body was maltreated. Since last year. I have been working for and with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) sufferers and could now imagine for the first time how such a boost with cramps must feel like. It was no different for the competition and the leading Frenchman even had to give up the race a few hours before the end. I was now in first place and could actually put a lap between myself and my pursuers. By the end of the race, I even managed to increase the gap to two laps.

Over the moon, after a whole day and a whole night in the saddle, I reached the finish line of the biggest and toughest 24-hour MTB race in the world. In the first position! Victory!

Without the support of my family and friends, no matter on or off the track, this great achievement would not have been possible. I’m really thankful for how everyone helped me to achieve this success.

Yours,
Kai

X-BIONIC BOUND FOR MARS!

X-BIONIC spotted on its way to Mars!

Galileo, German science TV show, aired an insight into the future of humankind on Mars past Monday. Walking audiences through the scientific research that’s done in the deserts which resemble much of the conditions found on the extraterrestrial planet. Hard to miss were theanalog astronauts Dr. Carmen Khler and Dr. Stefan Dobrovolny, from the Austrian Space Program, wearing their Moto Energizer Decision Layer and Apani Merino layers underneath their Mars expedition spacesuits!

The journey to Mars is no longer as far away as it used to be – Not for humankind, much less for X-BIONIC.

“Do what you love and do it with a smile”

Danny Vogel participated at the Joberg2c, a 9-day mountain bike adventure. The 36-year old sports nut, from Mainz in Germany, told us about his project in late January 2016, to participate at this big race. Hence, he was looking for high-tech bike wear.
Danny is not a professional cyclist, he just wanted to achieve his personal goal! To spice up the entire challenge he decided to compete with a single-speed bike. His objective was to show that it is possible to achieve something great, even with simple means. Considering the South African trails it was definitely a tough target.

The Joberg2c consist to 99.5% of off-road paths – on rarely used or yet even unused trails! The riders are covering 900km and 13’000m of altitude difference on their way from the start in the south of Johannesburg to the finish at the KwaZulu-Natal coast!
His idea to start at this tough mountain bike race just with a single-speed bike sounded adventurous to us and it was the perfect occasion to test our new X-BIONIC® TWYCE collection!

Day one - Karan Beef (Heidelberg) to Frankfort Sports Grounds

Joberg2c_Day1The first stage led from Heidelberg to the Frankfort Sports Grounds.
Danny had to accustom himself to the single-speed first. Therefore, it was challenging at the beginning. It took him 5 hours and 15 minutes for the 116km. His mantra “Do what you love and do it with a smile” helped him through the tough sections.

Facts
Distance: 116km
Descent: 867m
Ascent: 855m

Day two - Frankfort School to Reitz Showgrounds

Joberg2c_day2.1It is more than 93km and about 1000m of elevation from Frankfort to Reitz through the eastern part of Freestate. Here, you’re still riding through South Africa’s granary. On these endless straight paths between enormous corn fields, you can get an idea of the country’s infinite wideness. The inhabitant’s warmth is perceptible along the way and you always feel welcome.
Unfortunately, the first two days of the Joberg2c on the single speed are rather tough for me as it is very flat and I just have to find a good rhythm pedalling quickly to ride, at least, reasonable fast. But day 3 should promise a hilly stage profile and on day 4 we’ll face the real mountains.

Facts
Distance: 93km
Ascent: 1001m
Descent: 916m

Day three - Reitz to Sterkfontein Dam

Joberg2c_day3With 122km and roughly 1100m of elevation, day three was one of the longest days. We rode from Reitz to one of South Africa’s biggest freshwater dams, the Sterkfontein Dam.
The first 100km of the day are quite easy and fast through infinite fields and magnificent stream landscapes. With the ascent to the top of Mount Paul, the stage’s difficulty only started after about 115km. After already 5 hours in the saddle, this was a real challenge for every participant, no matter whether with gearshift or without. But, on the other hand, the reward was waiting at the top: a stunning view back to the dam and towards the finish! Despite sitting more than 6 hours on the bike, this was one of the most beautiful days for me.

Facts
Distance: 122km
Ascent: 1188m
Descent: 1082m

Day four - Sterkfontein Dam to Emseni
Created with oQey Gallery

At day 4 the Joberg2c participants started at the big water reserve “Sterkfontein Dam”. The stage started with a steep climb at the Kerkenberg. Later on, Danny drove through real African bush land enjoying the Serengeti single-tracks.
Arriving in Emseni he enjoyed a scenic view with the Drakensberg in the background!

Facts
Distance: 93km
Ascent: 1100km
Descent: 1706m

Day five - Emseni to Clifton Nottingham Road

Joberg2c_day5On day five the scenery changed significantly. So far, the temperatures have been warm and the landscape was mostly green and overgrown. Now Danny feels the mountain air. The thermometer only showed 13 degrees and rain was accompanying the riders throughout the majority of the stage. He really had to fight riding the trails on his single-speed. Children along the course gave him motivational boosts and mentally pushed him through the day.

Facts
Distance: 122 km
Ascent: roughly 2241m
Descent: roughly 1757m

Day six - Clifton – Nottingham Rd to Glencairn Farm – Sani Pass Road
Created with oQey Gallery

Day six was a very tough day!
The backcountry tracks and trails have never seen a rider before. They led through isolated regions, which are inhabited by Zulu people. These technical single-trails included as well the so-called “Gumtree climb”, which is the steepest climb at the Joberg2c. The stage contained everything: scenic landscape, breathtaking views, warm-hearted people and challenging trails. Danny recapped this remarkable day that “it is a real privilege to be able riding through this stunning landscape and experience the people in this region. Actually, it is priceless.”

Facts
Distance: 98km
Ascent: 2022m
Descent: 1997m

Day seven - Glencairn Farm – Sani Pass Road to Mackenzie Club
Created with oQey Gallery

Yeah – rest day for the participants of Joberg2c!
Of course, not really. But nevertheless it almost felt like one after the previous stages. It was an easy ride for Danny and the other participants, as the stage was just 82km long. The trails were especially prepared for the race. The highlight of the stage was the crossing of a floating bridge. That was fun!

Facts
Distance: 82km
Ascent: 914m
Descent: 1356m

Day eight - MacKenzie Club (Ixopo) to Jolivet (Highflats)
Created with oQey Gallery

Day seven was just the calm before the storm, though. Stage 8 was promising to be one of the most exhausting stages of the Joberg2c! 1,705m of altitude difference had to be climbed and the sun was blazing. After the brutal climb, the riders dropped down 35km into the scenic Umkomas Valley. This scenic downhill section was followed by another tough climb for about 65km.
This stage was very challenging for Danny and he fought through agony. But the experiences and views along the course were compensating for all the struggle.

Facts
Distance: 99km
Ascent: 1705m
Descent: 2163m

Day nine - Jolivet (Highflats) to Scottburgh

Joberg2c_Day9It’s time to head to the coast! Compared to the previous days, it was an easy roll out. Nevertheless, with a lot of mountain bike trails. The day started with trails through sugar cane farms and ended with an exhilarating finish at Scottburgh Main Beach at the Indian Ocean. Here, at the finish line, families and supporters were already waiting for their riders.

Facts
Distance: 84km
Ascent: 854m
Descent: 1551m

Joberg2c – a really tough mtb race with a lot of up and downs but also a lot of fun and happiness – Congratulations, Danny!

But, How did Danny feel in our X-BIONIC® TWYCE Outfit?
Danny answers by himself:

The TWYCE series was perfect once again. Especially under this constant strain over nine days with various weather conditions. No matter, whether heat, dust, cold, mud or rain. In particular, the cushion of the pants as well as the perfect fit were highly satisfying and I never felt uncomfortable wearing the X-BIONIC® TWYCE. I was neither overheated nor cold. And I also realised that they’re odour neutral. Especially at stage races you have to wear the clothes twice as you can’t always wash them after each stage. The clothes had to endure the training in Mauritius, the extreme Cape Epic as well as nine tough days at the Joberg2c, but, nevertheless, everything still fits perfectly as before. Nothing is worn through or frayed and also, the stitching still looks like new. I’ve worn various cycling clothes in my past 15 years on the bike and the high-quality X-BIONIC® clothes are without a doubt the best and most unproblematic I’ve ever tried.

Shop Dannys Joberg2c TWYCE kit here -> www.x-bionic.com/twyce-running-and-biking

Speed freaks

Last month we met again some fans of X-BIONIC® at the Velodrome Swiss in Grenchen for another track cycling workshop. Like in our two previous events there, experienced guides showed us how to ride on a wooden indoor cycling track. Track cycling is a great alternate sport for the indoor season here in Europe when the streets are wet or frozen. The average temperature inside the Velodrome is always above 20 degrees.

Before the cycling fun started, our workshop guides introduced the basic steps of track cycling. Especially the bike without breaks and gears looked quite interesting.
Before the cycling fun started, our workshop guides introduced the basic steps of track cycling. Especially the bike without breaks and gears looked quite interesting.

For this event in Grenchen, we also invited a special guest: European Ultracycling Champion and Race around Ireland winner Bernhard Steinberger talked about his great experiences at the green island last year. He showed some impressive pictures and videos of his great success. You can read our race report and an interview with Bernhard here: LINK.

Bernhard explains the RAI course and how difficult it was to win this race.
Bernhard explains the RAI course and how difficult it was to win this race.

After the theoretical part, the workshop continued at the cycling track. Each participant received a test set and the prepared track bike for the ride. X-BIONIC® TWYCE, X-BIONIC® for Automobili Lamborghini and X-BIONIC® THE® TRICK bike wear were handed over for the test session.

Three colors, three technologies and one approach: getting the best performance on the bike.
Three colors, three technologies and one approach: giving you the best cycling performance!
Before the ride started, the guides explained us how to start and to stop with a track bike.
Before the ride started, our guides explained us how to start and to stop with a track bike.
Listen to the guide: ride a track bike safely.
Listen to the guide: how to ride a track bike safely.

After some laps, each participant enjoyed the fun and could increase his bike handling the more laps he rode. The most important thing about track cycling is to be attentive what happens before and behind you. On a track bike, you also need to ride a minimum speed of about 25 kph to get through the stiff turns and not to slip downwards. This is the first thing you learn when you ride a track bike.

Follow me: the closer you ride behind another cyclist, the less power you need.
Follow me: the closer you ride behind another cyclist, the less power you need.

The workshop lasted three hours at the track and everyone enjoyed it. Special thanks to our guide René and his mates, who did a great job again for a safe ride. If you want to ride on a cycling track, you need to attend the basic lessons before you can join public training sessions, you can find more information here.

We will return to the Velodrome this year, stay tuned!

As a cyclist, you need to get this experience at least once in a lifetime, you won't regret!
Happy cyclists: you need to get this experience at least once in a lifetime, you won’t regret!