24h of elevation in ski

It is 4 kind of activities we can do in the mountains; training, social, activities and tests. Yesterday was one of the last. If an activity is when you include different variables a test is when you isolate one of them to explore-it and push-it at your best. Here the variable was elevation and endurance. It is not fun or interesting for anybody else than the one doing to know a bit better himself. So here I was trying to see how my body reacted on doing lots of elevation for a day, and it was interesting on knowing how to keep the energy high (foot and drink) and managing the pace. So in Friday 8 february I went to Molde to ski as much meters of elevation I could in a 24h period.

© Matti Bernitz

First I would like to say that is not any oficial record of this, since every person who did-it has been doing in diferent places, conditions… so it is not really possible to compare. (to be named a “record” it should be done with same “rules” place, conditions…) Said that is a common intrigue many athletes have had to know better their body and their capacities, so many have been doing this kind of things. I remember the 24h uphill’s done in the 90’s by italian skyrunners in Val d’Isère, running up and going down with a lift. With skis, in 2007, Ekkehard Dörschlag did 17.476m in Bad Gastein. In 2011 Florent Perrier did 18.255m in Arêches Beaufort. In 2017, Mike Foote did 18.654m in Montana, spring 2017 Lars Erik Skjervheim did 20.993m in Myrkdalen. At same time as Lars-Erik, Malene Blikken Haukøy did 15.440m.

Conditions: sunny during day and night, cloudy during 2nd part of the night and next morning. Temperature between 2º and -2

Slope: In Tusten ski area, Molde, Norway. Start at 118m of altitude. Flatish slope for 60m+ (12%). Then a steep section (26,22%) to the end of the tracked slope (315m of elevation). From here it was off-pist. A short 30m flat and then a very steep section (30%). Here I turned in the short loops. Then 4 conversions to the top, below Tusten summit, at an altitude of 668 meters. The Downhill was down off pist first section then in a strainght slope to the bottom. The long loop was 4.4km aprox with 550m of elevation. The short loop was 3.6km with 428m.

I think steeper is a slope faster you do meters, and less transitions are less time you loose on that (15 seconds to take off skins, 30 seconds to put on) but a slope with incline variations can help on working different muscles and in different ways and shorter uphills (I think the perfect may be around 500-550) can help on setting shorter goals and having a “recovery” break every 30′.

Gear:

  • Skis salomon Minim + Ultimate Pierre Gignoux binding (750gr- I use only one pair of skis but had others in stand by in case something breake)
  • Salomon nordic poles 135cm
  • Gignoux Race boots (same pair of boots and liner for the hole time)
  • Suunto 9 Titanium
  • salomon skimo suit
  • salomon long tee
  • Salomon thin down jacket (loops 1,2,12-37)
  • salomon down jacket (loops 37-51)
  • Thin globe (change to 2nd pair after loop 37)
  • buff
  • beanie (after loop 30)
  • Headlamp (Silva explore 3 from loop 15-37, Petzl Nao from 38-46)
  • Pomoca Race pro / Grip skins (4 pairs, I had the 3 pairs not using in the uphill in the bottom of the slope to dry )
  • Sunglasses (loops 1-15)

Logistics:

I want to thank Tusten ski area for all the support, let the lights on during the night and let us to stay in the building on the bottom of the slope during all the time to be warm. Romsdal Randoneklubb was super helful too, Ola Hovdenak and Jorid Bjerkeset did an amazing work to arrange, and many guys join me for many laps, thanks Ola Hovdenak, Thomas Kvalsvik, Håkon Klerud (both this guys did a lot of meters with me!), Sebastian Krogvig (who did more than 7000m!), Magnus Røysum, Haakon Lundkvist, Robert Nakken… In the bottom of the slope we had a table with food and extra gear (skins, clothes, headlamp…) and Joan Solà (from suunto) and Jordi Lorenzo (from Lymbus) were there to help giving me all I needed and counting the laps/times. Matti Bernitz was filming the hole thing and of course Emelie was there all the time! Helping with food and gear and also cheering in some loops!! Tusen takk!!

Description of the day:

© Jorid Bjerkeset

I wake up at 7:30 and took a light breakfast (2 small cinnamon buns). Emelie and I drove straight to Molde and at 9:30 I arrived in Tusten ski center, I meet there Joan, Jordi, Jorid, Håkon and Thomas. I started at 10:05 in the morning, it was cloudy and snowing a little but the forecast announced sun for the day. When we came up to the end of the slope it was sunny, I opened track for the last 200m of elevation to the highrt point (5-10cm maximum). I didn’t have my belt to I don’t know the pulse but I was going all time in the upper aerobic treshold. I felt very good since the start, for the first 6h it was difficult to not push and go faster but to control a steady pace. Since there and up to 8.000 meters I was around 1100m/h (not only uphill pace but counting the time to go down also and transitions). There I was feeling really good and easy. After 7h it became dark and I decided to do the short loop during the night, since the upper part of the downhill offpist started to be a bit more difficult with all the tracks in the pow snow.

From 8.000 to 13.000 I was around 1000m/h, feeling still good but start to push a bit, I was lucky from there to have company in the uphills from some of the guys from the Romsdal Randoneklubb. From 13.000 to 16.000 around 900m/h, feeling still ok but working on and start to feel sleepy at moments, the eyes were closing and needed to concentrate. I had 2 loops where I was feeling tired ( 820-802m/h at 16h) so I took a short break, I felt I had energy but my body started to be worked out. After the 10′ rest I went up to 900m/h during 1 hour and drop again to 828m/h for another hour before I took a 2nd break where I also took coffe to keep me awake.

With the “finish” approaching and a bit of freshness after the break I started to feel more energy, but needed to push very hard. I did the last 4h around 950m/h. In total it was an average pace of 978,6 m/h. With I feel super happy, since the goal was to keep a steady pace (the max was 1222 m/h, and the lower 802 m/h but mostly many around the 950-1000m/h range) and also that I didn’t had any very low moments, some during the night due to sleep deprivation and the “motor needed a short cold down”, but never felt missing energy or any muscle tireness. If I take only the uphill time (taking away the time putting skins on/off and downhill) it comes to an average pace of 1065m/h. That’s 64,1% of my VO2max and my fastest 1000m in skis (around 36′). I’m happy since other 24h performances in other sports are on the same range (Yiannis Kouros 24h record is at 58,5% of half marathon, or cycling 24h is 68% of the hour performance)

We recorded all the loops times and exact elevation by the people who was there and I also recorded the activity in my Suunto 9 and shared the Activity in Strava. (there it shows 23.112m and 195,72km – by detailed topography and gps elevation in a single loop it comes to 23.486 m and 200,4 km)

loop nºTimeloop timecum. ascentm/h
10:29295501.137,93
20:56271.1001.222,22
3*1:21251.6001.200,00
41:49282.1501.178,57
52:16272.7001.222,22
62:45293.2501.137,93
73:14293.8001.137,93
83:42284.3501.178,57
94:12304.9001.100,00
104:41295.4501.137,93
115:14336.0001.000,00
125:46326.5501.031,25
136:17317.1001.064,52
146:47307.6501.100,00
15**7:10238.0781.116,52
167:35258.5061.027,20
178:00258.9341.027,20
188:26269.362987,69
198:53279.790951,11
209:192610.218987,69
219:442510.6461.027,20
2210:092511.0741.027,20
2310:352611.502987,69
2411:002511.9301.027,20
2511:262612.358987,69
2611:502412.7861.070,00
2712:182813.214917,14
2812:472913.642885,52
2913:162914.070885,52
3013:442814.498917,14
3114:102614.926987,69
3214:392915.354885,52
3315:072815.782917,14
3415:362916.210885,52
3516:073116.638828,39
3616:393217.066802,50
37***17:082917.494885,52
3817:472917.922885,52
3918:152818.350917,14
4018:463118.778828,39
4119:173119.206828,39
42****19:483119.634828,39
4320:272920.062885,52
4420:542720.490951,11
4521:212720.918951,11
4621:492821.346917,14
4722:182921.774885,52
4822:432522.2021.027,20
4923:102722.630951,11
5023:372723.058951,11
5124:002323.4861.116,52

*a skin missing (turn at 500m) / ** start short loops due to night and offpist conditions / *** stop 10′ /****stop 12′

Food and drink:

The stratedy was to be eating around 250cal/ hour. I started eating gels after 1h and from then every 30 minutes I eat one gel. I was taking Spring energy gel (Speednut – 235cal, Long haul – 110cal, Mcraecovery – 150cal, Canberry, Hill aid – 100cal ) and Mountain Fuel jelly’s ( Cola, Orange and Lemon). After 10h35′ I eat a slice of Pizza and for the next 4 hours I eat “normal” food when I came to the bottom (small slice of pizza, small portion of cheese sandwich, bilar candy). Then back to gels from 14h to 17h. I had then a 10′ stop to eat a slice pizza and a bit of warm potatoe stove change down jacket and rest a bit and then eat gels every 30′ for 2h30. After 19h48′ I took another 10′ rest to drink a hot coffee/chocolate and eat some pasta. The last 4 hours I eat a piece of chocolate (10 gr) every 30′. In total I eat around 5500-6000 calories.

For drinking I was taking water or water with a little of blueberry sirop, about 1L every 3h during the full time, taking small zips every 15 min aprox. In total I drinked 7,5-8 liters of water.

I had not any moment during the 24h where I felt missing energy, if I was going slower it was more for sleep deprevation and general fatigue than energy. I had not any stomach truble during and day after. I did not shit and piss 4 times during the hole time. After 10h I was a bit full of gel flavor so I changed for 4 hours before eating gels again. ( I eat 40 gels in total). So I’m super positive of how the nutrition strategy went! I lost only 1kg during the activity, that I gained straight after.

plenty of gels!

Mental and motivation keeping

Doing the “hamster” (looping around in a slope or mountain) is not that exciting, so fighting the boredom can be an isue, I do many looping in my training and I can use music or podcast and I had prepare some entretainment for the dark hours but at the end I didn’t use any music or podcasts during the hole time. The 4 days before friday I didn’t train much (monday and tuesday I was going to school and only run 1h, monday I also ski 1h with Emelie, Wednesday I was going to a nice summit with a friend and Thursday I completly rest, so I was looking to exercise a bit. During the first 8-10 hours I was feeling really good so it was just fun to be there, then I had company all night and to the end, so even if we didn’t talk much, mostly because I needed to save energy, it was good to have them there. During the laps I was looking for short goals: get to the end of the flat, steep section, the off pist…and in a bigger scale setting short-period goals, as only 2 loops for 20.000m or in 2 hours is 20 hours… So at the end I never visualize more than 6 hours far.

Preparation:

I haven’t done any specific preparation for that, but since this winter season I’m not racing in the world cup I can train much more (racing means traveling, resting and tapering to be in perfect fit every week-end). So since I started skiing in the begining of December I have done mostly weeks of more than 20.000 meters of elevation in a good pace. Only last week I rested 1 full day (thursday) and had some easy days. The night before the test I eat a plate of pasta with homemade pesto in a normal portion and after we went to watch the film Free Solo of Jimmy Chin featuring Alex Honnold in the local cinema and sleep for 8 hours.

Recovery:

I finish the test Saturday at 10:05. I ski down slowly and short after we drove home. I didn’t feel eating or drinking anything for the next 3-4 hours. I took a bath and eat a cinamon buns and a soy yogurt and take 1 hour powenap. After that we had normal dinner (rice with veggies, salad and bread with cheese). I slept a good 9 hours and Sunday I took the morning to rest and just did 30′ of easy indoor cycling to move the legs. My muscles felt tired but not any particular point with pain or overcharged muscles. The only part of the body affected were the feets, a bit swollen and painfull but during sunday all those disapear so in monday I started training normally.

Some fun facts:

Maximum speed going down was 115 km/h, distance was around 199 km. It was light during 9h and dark during 15h! Ascent time was 20:02:41, and downhill time was 3:22:44. I used the mode “best” in my suunto 9 and when I finished I still had 10% of battery!

© Matti Bernitz