Marc Lauenstein: From being a top orienteer to being a top trail runner

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Marc Lauenstein is a former elite orienteer and, today, a successful trail runner. We wanted to learn more about him an about his way from orienteering to trail running. 

It’s 6.00 am. Most people are either still lying in bed or they have just gotten up, still a bit sleepy. Not Marc Lauenstein! He is already dressed for his morning training and ready to start what, for many people, would make a day trip. The 37-year-old Swiss Romand is a dentist and needs to be ready for work at 8.00 am. Before that, however, like most mornings, he wants to run the 800 metres of climb up to Col de la Tourne, from where he is going to ride the postbus down to work. A real early bird, one might think. But, according to Marc himself, he is not a morning person at all. He sometimes really has to overcome his inner temptations and to force himself to do those early morning sessions. However, once he is doing them, he never regrets it. Marc Lauenstein is fond of training and of movement, this becomes apparent immediately. Especially interesting about his story: the joy he finds in running today is different from the one he experienced as an active elite orienteer. Nevertheless, this very orienteering career has been of major importance for his later successes as a trail runner today.

Orienteering career

Picture: ultra-trail.ch

Marc got in contact with running very early on, since his family had been doing orienteering for years. At the age of 10, he started to compete individually. At first, however, he did not focus on orienteering specifically, but he did many different kinds of sports. He only started training seriously for orienteering when he was 16 years old. Marc made progress quickly and in 2003, at the age of 22, he took part in his first world championships. He had his breakthrough two years later, winning the silver medal in the long distance at the world champs in Japan in 2005. He was able to confirm this silver medal with another silver in the Long at the world champs in Denmark in 2006. These successes, however, were followed by a couple of tougher years. In the individual races at the world championships, the most important event of the season, he could never quite live up to his high expectations. It was not until 2011 and 2012, his last two years as an elite orienteer, that he made it into the top 10 at the world champs again.

Change to trail running

For the first three months after having finished his career, Marc didn’t do any training during the working week and he only trained on the weekends. However, he didn’t feel good that way and he soon realised this doesn’t work for him. He feels the need to move and to stay fit. In order for this to happen, he needs goals. They provide him with the motivation to conduct the training during his already very crammed weekly programmes. Apart from his extraordinary endurance, Marc had always been known for his strength in uphills, already as an orienteer. He therefore decided to start training more seriously for trail running. The fact that Salomon supported him for this project was an additional motivation for him.

Picture: ultra-trail.ch

Two of his biggest successes in trail running so far are his victories in the Sierre-Zinal 2013 and in the Marathon du Mont-Blanc 2015. Competitions are the goals which keep him motivated. In this respect, not much has changed compared to the former top orienteer. The comparison between Marc as an orienteer and Marc as a trail runner is interesting for several reasons. For example, in trail running, Marc today profits from the polyvalence acquired in orienteering. He does neither fear steep climbs or descents, nor very rough underground. This ability to handle a wide range of different conditions is a big advantage. Furthermore, the many hours of training he collected during his time as an elite orienteer provide an ideal basis for his training as a trail runner. Furthermore, Marc knows a lot about running, since this was constituted the major part of his training already as an orienteer. Back then, he also trained with a track and field club, in order to improve his speed and competition hardness. “I draw on those training sessions to this day”, Marc says. “They gave me a solid physical basis and they taught me to push my limits”. Given the fact that he is still able to run fast over long distances without huge training loads, this guy must be blessed with a special talent for endurance sports. “I think I might have been a bit lucky with my genes”, he smirks, almost apologetically.

Photographer: David Carlier, www.davidcarlierphotography.com

When meeting Marc, one can tell that he does not belong to the category of the over-ambitious, who subordinate everything to sports. For him, running is about keeping balance in life and it serves his personal fulfilment. Through his profession and his family (Marc is married and a dad of two) he has other responsibilities, which he takes very seriously. Today, unlike the years as a professional orienteer, he sees training and competitions as something he does with great dedication and passion, but which is primarily a hobby. Marc tries to organise himself in a way which makes it possible for him to pursue his passion in his free time slots. His wife Sandra has great understanding for her husband’s hobby, though. She is a former elite orienteer herself and she has lots of experience in endurance training, too. She is a coach for the youth orienteering squad of the Canton of Neuenburg, for which she organises trainings during the week. Marc often joins these trainings and, for example, helps her setting out controls. That way, he can train and spend time together with his wife both at once. Marc likes these common activities: “I think it’s really nice to be able to live and to share the passion for sports together with my wife.”

The balance between pleasure and duty

Marc Lauenstein still takes part in orienteering competitions on a regular basis. If he compares his performances in the past with the ones today, he notices considerable changes. Although he doesn’t train as much as he did back then and although sports has a lower priority for him today, his performances are often just as good, if not better. Marc has the following explanation for this: “Due to the great amount of purposeful training, I sometimes felt rather empty, both physically and mentally, so that I lacked the energy to perform at the best of my abilities on day X.” Today, he faces competitions rather relaxed and he just looks forward to the challenge, without thinking too much about the result. He is a little surprised himself, how good the results turn out this way. This ease is probably what gives him so much joy in sports even today. A reduced amount of training, less pressure and more energy for competitions: no surprise that his motivation is high!

Picture: rtn.ch

Rather indicative of this is the fact that Marc Lauenstein took his silver medal at the word championships 2006 between the written and the oral final exams of his dentistry studies. His studies had always been important for him and he had worked for them with great interest and conscientiousness. In 2006, he laid his main focus on his studies – and performed at his very best in sports. When he later started a life as a professional orienteer, he suddenly struggled to show his full potential. It seems as if the life as a professional simply didn’t suit Marc. Maybe, the focus on work and family he has today helps him to perform as he wishes again.

Training and competitions

As already mentioned, Marc runs up to Col de la Tourne before work on most mornings. Although he runs the same course every time, he does not get bored. “I can, for example, enjoy the different seasons and see how the landscape changes”, he explains. This training takes 1h 10min in average, wherof 20min are in the flat and 50min uphill. He often plays with the pace and runs, for example, 30min fast in one go or he inserts an interval session (e.g. 10x 3min). Today, the percentages of high-intensity training time in Marc’s training are generally higher than before. Quality sessions make up for reduced quantity. On Tuesday evenings, he trains intervals with the youth orienteering squad of Neuenburg. As opposed to earlier years, Marc now deliberately picks the trainings he enjoys and leaves aside the ones he dislikes – strength training, for example. In his orienteering training, strength training was rather important, but today, he refrains from it completely. However, slowly but surely, he starts to notice a lack in stability and he admits that especially the resumption of core strength training would be sensible. Due to the early starting time for his morning sessions, he mostly trains on his own. He really appreciates it when he gets accompanied by his brother or Baptiste Rollier, another former elite orienteer, for a change.

A few days ago, the 37-year-old celebrated his first trail running victory of the season at the Trail de Mont Ventoux. This race usually marks the start of the trail running season. It is a first test for Marc’s shape and shows him what needs to be done until the next competitions. Obviously, the start was successful and he seems to have done everything right so far. The big goal of the season for Marc are the races in the Golden Trail Series. This series consists of 5 separate races: the Zegama-Aizkorri marathon (ESP), the Mont-Blanc marathon(FRA), the race Sierre-Zinal (SUI), the Pikes Peak marathon (USA) and the Ring of Steall Skyrace (SCO). The top 10 runners in the total standing after all 5 races will be invited to the final race  Otter Trail in South Africa. Marc belongs to the top favourites!

We wish Marc all the best for the Golden Trail Series and lots of fun with running in the future!

 

This blog entry was written by: Marion Aebi

 

 

Kilian Jornet: an exceptional athlete

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“Hi, my name is Kilian Jornet, I’m thirty years old and I’ve been training for thirty years”. These are the words with which Spanish Kilian Jornet (30) describes himself in a sponsoring video. Kilian is one of the best (if not THE best) ultra athletes in the world. Learn more about the life, the training and the convictions of this exceptional athlete.

Kilian Jornet has a seemingly superhuman performance capacity, which has already led to many records on his part. His maximum oxygen uptake capacity (VO2max), for example, is 85-90ml/kg/min – an outstanding value. With ski mountaineering and trail running he dominates two sports at the same time. While others may be faster over specific distances, his main qualities are his extreme endurance and versatility. One could describe him as an athlete, as a sportsman, as a runner, as a ski mountaineer, as a nomad or as an adventurer – Kilian himself prefers the simple title of a “lover of the mountains”. But how did he become the outstanding ultra athlete he is today? What do his training routines look like and what does he do apart from sports?

Picture: runners.es

Some facts:

Personal: Birthday: 27.10.1987, Place of residence: near Åndalsnes (NOR)

Anatomy: Height: 171 cm, Weight: 58-59 kg, Fat share: 8.72 %, Muscle share: 46.1 %, Bone share: 21.0 %

Performance diagnostics: Maximum heart rate: 205, Resting heart rate: 35, Lung capacity: 5.3 l

Background

Kilian Jornet grew up in the Ski resort Refugio de montaña de Cap del Rec in the Catalan Pyrenees. As a consequence, him and his sister spent a lot of time on sports already as children, since opportunities for other kinds of activities were limited. In summer, as soon as they came home from school, the two siblings would run around in the forests and the mountains surrounding the resort and they would do the same thing on skis during winter. Kilian’s parents, both of which are enthusiastic mountaineers, would take their kids on tours to the mountains on a regular basis. That way, he says, he startet internalising the love for sports and the mountains at a very young age, without being aware of it.

When Kilian was 13 years old, he discovered that his school had a training centre for ski mountaineering. He decided to apply for it and he was accepted directly. This is where he started to get to know and to love sports from the side of competition. He started with regular, goal-driven training and he soon participated in his first Spanish championships and European championships, followed by first successes. Since ski mountaineers often take part in trail running competitions during summer, in order to stay in shape, Kilian soon took up trail running as well. Today, he competes in ski mountaineering during winter and in trail running during summer.

However, it is not always easy to be a representative of a fringe sport. Kilian is aware of this fact and he stresses how important it is to have the necessary support in ones own environment. During his school time, it was his mother who woke him and his sister before school to go on a tour together. Also for competitions he depended on his parents, who would accompany him.

Despite the large amount of time spent on sports already at a young age, Kilian went to a regular school and he also studied at university. When in 2005/2006 he received his Bachelor’s degree, he decided to definitely go for a sports career. However, in order to have a plan B ready, he continued his studies, namely at the French University of Font Romeu. He studied STAPS (Sciences and Techniques of Sports and Physical Activities), where he could integrate some of his training into classes. Furthermore, he profited from a special programme for elite athletes, which allowed him to invest the necessary time in his career. Today, he is a full professional, supported by sponsors and instititions. Apart from him, however, almost no mountain sports people have the possibility to make a living with sports.

Training

“Don’t professional sports people have way too much time?”, one might aske oneself. When looking at how much Kilian trains, you soon realise that this is not the case for him. He train up to 35 hours during some periods. Normally, he does a longer session in the morning (3-4 hours) and a shorter one in the afternoon (1-2 hours). During competition season, the amount can “drop” down to 15 hours. In total per year, Kilian trains up to 1000 hours, including 550’000 metres of climb, half of which taken on skis and half of which by foot. Rest days are nothing for Kilian. He trains 7 days a week 365 days a year. In the course of a year, Kilian collects an astonishing amount of kilometres: 7’000km of running, 6’000 on skis, 1’000 on the bike, 50’000km by car and inumerous (“way too much”, he says) by aeroplane. Earlier, he had a coach, but since a couple of years ago, he has been his own coach. He states that he hasn’t found any coach who supports his training methods, but that, since his methods seem to work, he doesn’t feel the need to hire any either.

Competitions

Competitions in winter, in tendency, are shorter than the ones during summer. However, Kilian doesn’t prefer any of the two sports over the other and he values the fact that they combine very nicely. The shorter competitions in winter (all from 1km short, extremely steep distances to competitions over 90min help him to get some speed for competitions in summer, while the ones in summer lay perfect foundations for the winter season. Also, he can avoid putting too one-sided stress on his body. Especially the competitions in winter can be very tough. The many metres of climb (most of which taken at a high altitude), which have to be overcome, really require all accessible energy of the athlets. Kilian had to realise that himself rather painfully, when in a competition over 100km in 2010, he had to manage the last 30km completely dehydrated and tortured by cramps. Despite the troubles, he made it to the finish, on 3rd place. According to him, the overwhealming emotions you get from arriving at the finish make you forget about all the suffering.

Picture: Ariño Visuals

If you hear about the incredible stress which Kilian’s body has to tolerate on a regular basis, one may assume that injuries are a daily business, too. However, a fracture of the patella in 2006 and a recent operation of the shoulder were the only two serious injuries Kilian had to suffer from. He says himself that he has been very lucky with his body and with having been injured only a very few times.

How does Kilian manage to motivate himself during such intense performances? When he is really close to hitting the wall, what does he think about? During long competitions, running turns into some kind of automatism, just like breathing, he says. One distracts oneself with the joy of competing, with enjoying the scenery or even with music sometimes. Kilian often thinks about what he would be having to do at this moment if he was at home or if he was working. And when it gets really tough, he sets himself some intermediate goals. “Only this one little hill now”, he tells himself, for example. That way, he is able to always celebrate some small victories on the way, which motivate him to give all he has got all the way into the finish. When he is really exhausted, however, it can happen that he is incapable of even thinking anything and that he only keeps moving forward in some kind of trance-like state.

Picture: Philipp Reiter, Salomon Running

Ultra competitions are thus to a large extent a psychological challenge. Kilian does not work with a professional psychologist, but he uses visulisation techniques and tries to go through the whole race in his mind beforehand (handling of other competitiors, refreshments, etc). During a competition, he says, it is utterly important to think rational and positive in order to handle potential unforeseen happenings, because they almost always do happen! The important thing, according to Kilian, is to have the appropriate reaction ready for such situations, which he can prepare by visualisation.

Kilian personally

If Kilian isn’t training for a change, you can find him reading a book in a quiet place by a mountain lake or relaxing at home. He can also relax when listen to music or drawing, he says. Being a lover of activity and movement, of course, he also has hobbies requiring movement, such as, for example, slack-lining or climbing.

Picture: Kilian Jornet official Facebook page

Kilian Jornet for sure is very disciplined and he knows what he wants to achieve. However, his biggest strength seems to be his unlimited love for what he does. He keeps stressing the importance of having fun and of enjoying what one does. That it is not primarily about success, but about personal fulfillment. This is also revealed in his attitude towards doping. Doping is a problem, he says, but it is not caused by money only, but mainly by wrong goals on part of the sports people. A lot of them see only the goal and they do not care a lot about the way there, Kilian claims. In his opinion, under these circumstances, doping seems like a suitable solution in order to arrive at these goals as fast as possible.

What Kilian likes especially about his life, though, is the connection with nature, which is unique in the mountains. His advice to people who want to take up ski mounainteering or trail running is thus to see the sport as an experience, as an adventure, and to take step by step, enjoying the way. It is not necessery and neither is it possible to go from 0 straight to 100, he warns. Kilian’ss main message is thus: “enjoy what you are doing and listen to your body!”.

It is easy to believe him. It is hard to imagine that someone who is ready to take such suffering and pain on a regular basis would do this for other reasons than pure love for the sport.

 

This entry was written by: Marion Aebi