Merry Vertmas and 5,000 meters at Hirvensalo

This is what 5,000 meters of vertical gain looks like in Turku, Finland

I like to challenge myself in December. In a previous year I did a pushup challenge. This December I signed up for a running challenge organized by Aravaipa Running (Jamil Khoury of the Barkleys Marathons) in Arizona, USA to see who could gain the most vertical meters from December 1-24. The competition was open to anyone in any location and consisted of two different events. I signed up for the Vert is Real event, meaning that all running would take place outdoors. This essentially requires running uphill and coming down. The other group, Virtual Vert, was allowed to use treadmills and could therefore spend all their time going up and never worrying about coming down. Results confirm that people who used a treadmill have many more meters than those who stayed outside. I don’t have a treadmill, but I would love a Nordic Track 40% grade incline treadmill (just in case Nordic Track sees this and wants to send me one – LOL). Anyway, back to my adventure…

Merry Vertmas logo from Aravaipa Running

I was one of 300+ individuals who signed up for the Vert is Real option. I checked the results a few times during the month and found that I was usually in the range of 20-30th per amount of vertical meters. Towards the end of the competition, I spent the day at our local ski hill, Hirvensalo, hiking up 48 meters and running down the same. I did this about 100 times for a total of 5,003 vertical meters. I didn’t actually count the number of ascents; I rather watched the meters on my watch. This one final push put me in 9th place, which was my highest position. But after that immense effort I was too tired for more. I ended up as 19th out of 300 something. I am satisfied with my result because although I didn’t give 100% of my efforts to this, I did achieve a new personal record for vertical gain in one month: My records show that I just passed 24,000 meters in December. My previous best was 17,000 in October in 2019. The screenshot below shows where many of those meters were acquired.

I think I could do 30,000 meters of real vert in one month, but probably not much more. But I currently have no plans to attempt that goal. I do not want to be known as the guy who only does vert, because if you only train on vert, you will lose running speed and conditioning. Perhaps if the UTMB 100 mile race in the Alps – with over 10,000 meters of vertical gain – actually takes place this coming August, I will return to more vert a few months beforehand (it was cancelled in 2019 and I had a spot on the start list).

I’m unsure I would join this particular competition in the future. Unfortunately it seems that the organizers lost interest in the event after it got started. In fact, if you go to their page today – a few days after the competition – and click on “Leader Board”, you get the following message:

Luckily at another password protected site runners can see the results. Below is a screen shot from when I was in 10th place:

At some point I am supposed to get a package with a shirt and hat as a part of this event. That will be nice, even if a bit late.

Probably the craziest thing I did during this whole event, was when I attempted to collect 5,000 meters at Hirvensalo starting on a Friday night – completely in the dark: I had planned to be there all night and I had plenty of food and water. I started at 20.20 and ran for many hours. Unfortunately I only made it to 3,700 meters before running out of energy and motivation. I drove home around 4.30 in the morning. That was an interesting experience and a few memorable events occurred during my time there that night. You see, I thought I would be there alone the entire time, but no, I was wrong. At 20.30, just after I started, a 50-year(ish) man and woman started some hill repeats on the same track as myself. None of us was using headlamps because there was just barely enough light to see the path, though it was fairly creepy as we passed each other going up and down. Strangely, the man completed only two laps and then left. The woman, however, continued until 21.30 but she while she was there, she was talking on her phone the entire time. I mentioned this phone talking to my wife and we both agreed this lady was keeping the line open on her phone to avoid being murdered…. I guess I was a bit scary looking. After the woman left at 21.30, I again thought I would be alone all night. Alas, at 12.30 a car of young 20 somethings arrived. They stayed for about an hour dancing, smoking and blasting music. I chatted with them for a bit. Nice kids, but rather misdirected in life. I wish I had committed them to joining me another time for a run – maybe that would have helped them somehow. Probably not. After these kids left, I really thought I would be all alone, but no, at 2.30 in the morning, two off-road trucks – pimped out in bonus exterior lights and stuff – showed up. They drove up the mountain, which was a new site for me, hung out up there smoking for a while, and then eventually drove down a very muddy part of the mountain while spinning donuts. I didn’t chat with these people. I mostly tried to ignore them and I tried to avoid getting run over. Here is a screen shot from a video I took of these people:

So now I wonder what I will do next December for a challenge? Any ideas?

Below I will add a couple of photos from my time on Hirvensalo:

This was on a day I only did 1000 meters
This was the start of my failed All-nighter

Thanks for reading!


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