Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Logfiles from Christian Maurer (SUI3) on the first day of the race give an indication of just how hard the Red Bull X-Alps is.

Beginning the 818km adventure race at 11.30am in Salzburg, Austria Maurer raced the 6km up to the summit of the first turnpoint, the Gaisberg, quickly reaching a Training Effect (TE) of 4.0.

The screenshots show his heart-rate rising to a maximum of 180bpm as he hiked up to the 1272m high peak before dropping again while he prepared to take off and then fly.

After his first flight, the 26-year-old Swiss made a two-hour hike and took off again, thermalling up to 2162m. “He was working hard,” says Eddie Fletcher, Suunto Ambassador and top coach. “His heart-rate reached a maximum of 186bpm!”

Maurer’s second flight ended just before dusk on day one at 810m near turnpoint two, the Watzmann peak in Germany. Since the Red Bull X-Alps never stops, Maurer’s logfile shows he carried on hiking, reaching another highpoint at 1164m and then walking downhill in the direction of turnpoint three, the Grossglockner, Austria.

“In total he consumed 6933kcal during the day,” says Eddie. “His energy consumption ranges between 5kcals/min to 22kcals/min, which come in short bursts but are equivalent to 1320 kcals per hour! It works out that he burned 660kcal/hour on average.”


Just nine days, 23 hours and 54 minutes after leaving the centre of Salzburg, Austria, Swiss athlete Christian Maurer stood on a blue float off the coast of Monaco and lifted his arms in triumph.

He was first to complete the 2009 Red Bull X-Alps, an adventure race where the only permitted forms of transport are hiking and flying with a paraglider. Measured over a straight line, the route is 818km but throw in difficult alpine passes, glaciers and inclement weather systems and the actual distance covered by Maurer was 1379km.

The 27-year-old Swiss athlete was one of 30 participants from 23 different nations that began the race on July 19, 2009. Negotiating seven mountain turnpoints in Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France before landing on the float in Monaco, the event is for experienced paragliders and hardened endurance athletes only.

Usual tactics involve hiking to high mountain take off positions and using thermals to stay aloft and paraglide long distances.

When unable to fly, they must carry their entire kit, which weighs up to 12kg. No motorised transport is allowed but they can have one supporter each to provide food, supplies and navigational advice.

Such a challenging race means the athletes are on the edge 24 hours a day, and that to make the extreme decisions necessary, the athletes use quality equipments to assist them.

Each competitor was provided with a Suunto Core, using the outdoor watches’ ABC functions throughout the event to measure altitude, barometric pressure and to make compass readings.

Maurer and his supporter, Thomas Theurillat, hiked over the huge 3600m high Monte Rosa glacier in Switzerland using their Cores to record altitude as they climbed. In such an environment, keeping tabs on changing weather is critical, and the duo were able to use the barometer feature to check on dropping air pressure signalling approaching storms.

While the race itself is tough enough, many athletes spend over a year training and preparing for the physical exertion required. Four athletes, Michael Gebert (GER), Aidan Toase (GBR), Honza Rejmanek (USA) and Christian Amon (AUT) received customised training programmes from Suunto Ambassador and coach Eddie Fletcher.

Fletcher regularly analysed the logfiles of the foursome and provided guidance and tips for six months leading up to the start.

The project was a success, with Rejmanek, Toase and Gebert finishing third, fourth and sixth respectively. Unluckily, Amon injured his ankle on just the second day and had to withdraw.

In the race’s closing stages, Rejmanek and Toase were engaged in a ruthless battle for third place. They regularly overtook eachother, but ultimately an excellent flight by the American saw him pull ahead of the fast running British athlete.

The training programmes’ were documented at

Suunto Ambassador, Toma Coconea (ROM) was one of many athletes to be eliminated after flying into forbidden airspace near an airport.

Coconea, famously known as the Running Man, was in the top ten at around the halfway stage, relying on his unflappable endurance strength to keep him in within reach of the leaders when the rule infringement occurred.

The next Red Bull X-Alps takes place in 2011, check for more information.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Red Bull X-Alps has now started!

The Red Bull X-Alps has now started! Here's the official press release:

Today 30 athletes set out from Salzburg on the adventure of a lifetime: the Red Bull X-Alps.

At 11:30 the start gun went off, startling much of the crowd gathered in the Mozartplatz – but it was nothing compared with the shock of what’s to come for the competitors.

Ahead of them, they face Europe’s harshest mountains and extreme alpine weather conditions. Rules state they must cross the entire Alpine chain by foot or by paraglider in their quest to reach Monaco.

The athletes burst over the start-line and ran full pelt for the first of seven turnpoints: the Gaisberg. Pierre Carter (RSA) was the first to reach the 1288 m summit. Thousands of spectators watched the 43-year-old South African crush his opposition with a 1hr 10min time, recorded by event sponsor Suunto.

This is Carter’s first Red Bull X-Alps, and before the start he commented that he was feeling relaxed: “this is my first time, so there’s far less pressure on me than the others”, he said. Carter’s reward is the SalzburgerLand Gaisbergkonig prize: a luxury three-day break, but he won’t be taking that for quite some time.

Hot on his heels were Christian Amon (AUT2) and Michael Gebert (GER). All athletes launched their paragliders into cloud-covered skies. With no lift to keep them aloft, they glided down to the valley below before packing up their rucksacks and setting off south-west.

A tight race is now unfolding as athletes battle it out on foot. Their next objective is the Watzmann. They must then conquer the mighty Grossglockner: at 3798 m, it’s Austria’s highest mountain. Then they must tackle the Marmolada, the Matterhorn, France’s Mont Blanc before heading south to Mont Gros and gliding to the beach at Monaco. The race is expected to take between ten and fifteen days, depending on weather conditions.

Film and photography crews are in pursuit by helicopter, paraglider and SUV. Hundreds of thousands of people are watching the race unfold live at The site’s Live Tracking and news reports reveal every athlete’s position and route in real time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Aidan ups the kilometres

Just days to go to the start, and Aidan, well known for his endurance ability, has spent the last month upping his training to long distance running carrying his backpack.

"After my fall my knees are still swollen and a little sore," said Aidan. "However the injury, although not fully recovered, appears to have stabilised so I ramped back up the training again running, 42km in four hours with my rucksack. My knees seem to take that relatively well so I stepped up to a 70km run the next day.

"Mixing walking and running I kept my heart-rate between 55% and 75% of the maximum and averaged 65% over the distance. This can be clearly seen in the chart (below).

"There is a period where I walked a long section in the middle where my HR dropped to 80bpmm (45% of maximum). My overall Training Effect for this was 2.4 and I burnt about 4000 calories.

"The beauty of running in London is that there are no mountains, and wonderful river paths which are almost perfectly flat – my height gain during the entire run was only 70m (and it also has the advantage that I did not trip over).

"Anyhow this meant I could keep up a steady 9km/h and cover the distance in just under 8hrs (not including a short break for lunch). My knee stood up reasonably well to the pounding although the swelling did increase a little which is not ideal.

"The obvious thing that stands out here is how much easier it is to cover large distances on well paved flat London roads compared to struggling across difficult mountain paths. Maybe we should do a Red Bull X-London?

"This was followed up a couple of weeks later by a 90km jaunt again around London over 12.5 hours – average HR was 57%, average speed 7.1 km/h and I burned a massive 4640 calories (below).

"Just what I need to prepare for the daily requirements of crossing the Alps!"

Says coach Eddie Fletcher: "These are great long distance logs and show the massive calorie count with the combination of long duration and low intensity and speed.

"Overall daily ‘effort’ in the Alps will be higher so the calorie intake will be an important issue."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Adrenalin Rush!

The buzz of flying is something paragliders talk about frequently, but with Honza Rejmanek's latest logfile you can actually see it happening.

Says coach Eddie Fletcher: "On this fly and hike session you can see there is a big heart-rate (HR) spike right after takeoff as adrenaline caused his HR to jump to 184bpm - his maximum is 189."

"He says he knew it would be a choppy ride for the first half minute until he was well clear of launch. His HR then settles down to normal levels as the flight commences before rising again as he lands and gets into the hike.

"This will be a typical race log, although with longer duration hikes, his EPOC/Training Effect will rise well above 3.6."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Suunto launches limited edition Core

Red Bull X-Alps partner Suunto has launched a limited edition version of its award winning Suunto Core outdoor sports instrument. The Suunto Core Extreme - Limited Edition features a refreshed, brave design, and will be available in a limited number of 3000 individually numbered pieces.

Suunto Core instruments will be supplied to all Red Bull X-Alps athletes to help them meet the challenges that await them during this extreme race.

Combining advanced ABC (altimeter, barometer and compass) functions, the instrument shows elevation gained and lost, and records sessions for review. The automatic alti/baro mode switches between altimeter and barometer depending on the activity. Along with the compass setting, the three functions are valuable tools for Red Bull X-Alps atheltes who depend on their equipment to help them navigate and keep tabs on the weather situation.

The Suunto Core Extreme - Limited Edition will be available at selected retailers from July 2009. Retailer details will be announced soon, but for more information on this instrument, click here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael training in the Alps - Photostory