Marco De Gasperi – Vertical Kilometer® Hints ‘n’ Tips

Marco De Gasperi is a legend of mountain and skyrunning. At the age of 16, he gained special permission to climb Monte Rosa with ISF president, Marino Giacometti and a small group of like-minded adrenaline filled mountaineers. It was the birth of skyrunning.

The rest his history, Marco has six-world titles and a list of victories from races all over the world. Marco, now in his 40’s is still respected as one of the best in the world. He recently became a Skyrunner World Series champion and has established FKT’s (fastest known times) on iconic courses such as Monte Rosa where his career began.

Courmayeur – Monte Bianco record

Marco De Gasperi – Sognavo di diventare Skyrunner

Born in Bormio (in the Alps) a hub for skiing and short-track skating. Living at 1200m provided Marco with advantages, however, he only found his true vocation at the age of 10-years. Marco had tried to adapt to Skiing and Nordic-Skiing, but the reality was soon apparent; he just didn’t have the required size and bulk required to be competitive. The mountains beckoned; daily he would leave his town, climb a peak and return in the same day.

At 12-years old, an encounter with Adriano Greco introduced him to the winter past time of ski-mountaineering and running in the summer months. Adriano was very much a coach and guide for Marco. He was introduced to a new aspect of sport, a new discipline that was at its birth. In 1994, Marco ran his first Vertical Kilometer® on the slopes of the Matterhorn.

Marco’s knowledge is invaluable in regard to mountains and how to run them! With the announcement of a new VK2 circuit HERE in Italy, it is timely that Marco provides some ‘hints and tips.’

Hints and Tips

Do you do any specific training for a Vertical Kilometer®?

My season always includes mountain races and races with plenty of climbing, so, I like to devote myself with specific training in the gym to build strength. For example, I use leg extension, leg press and other exercises such as squats. I also do up and down reps on a large box (60cm high), this is great for strength and endurance. It is also important to apply yourself outside and of course finding a steep incline of 30% and running at a smooth and consistent pace is ideal; it’s difficult to run all the way but I always try.

The Vertical Kilometer® is very demanding and runners incorporate different techniques to reach the summit in the fastest and most efficient way. Hands-on-knees and ‘poles’ are two methods; do you have a preference?

Application very much depends on the individual needs and demands of each runner and the course. For example, you will find many VK specialists come from a Ski-Mountaineering background and therefore they are very well adapted and practiced with the use of poles. Certainly, when slopes become much steeper, poles offer an advantage as they help balance the center of gravity and thus provide a more advantageous position. In principal though, I prefer to try and run!

Aerobically it is very easy to just ‘tip over the edge’ with a VK, do you have any special techniques in training to help to pace yourself?

You need to train and understand the muscular and mental aspects that are required to race a VK well. The correct pace is easy to find if your mind is prepared for the challenge ahead. Take long hills in training at an easy pace, try to keep running and enjoy the process, have fun! If I don’t have the possibility to train on long steep climbs, I like to find a short hill that is steep, and I do reps at a faster pace than racing… I walk back down to allow recovery and then repeat.

Walking for many will be a key element of a successful VK. I am well aware that you will try to run as much as possible. However, do you practice walking?

Long and steep mountains are very difficult, it’s all about efficiency and yes, sometimes it is far more efficient to walk. It’s about balance; I run for as long as possible, but a good climber knows when to switch to maintain rhythm and speed. You want to avoid building up too much lactic acid. I consider myself to be a good ‘walker’ and I am happy to switch as and when required. As for practice, no not really, just go out in the mountains and hike. It’s a perfect way to combine fun and training.

You have already mentioned indoor training and strength work. Have you ever trained on a treadmill and what about core and stability training?

Core and stability are very important, without doubt it provides benefits. Every week I do 3-4 sessions of five key exercises to work on this. In regard to a treadmill; it’s not the best way to train for a VK but maybe you have limited options? It can obviously be better than nothing. Just make sure you have it at an incline and work hard.

In regard to particular VK training, is it better to train on shorter or longer mountains; do you have a preference?

I have many years in the sport, in my opinion; I think that too many long mountains are not good for the specific demands of a VK. In particular, as a race approaches keep sessions in the 30 to 50-minute bracket.

Other than yourself (obviously) who do you regard to be the best runners at the VK distance?

You are very kind! I am going to split this. Urban Zemmer with poles, Berny Dermatteis without using poles and Valentina Belotti. I guess it comes as no surprise that these runners are all Italian, but the records show that they have the fastest times.

Finally, Marco, if you had to provide three invaluable tips for running a Vertical Kilometer® what would they be?

  1. Do 6-7 reps 3 times on a trail that is not too steep, rest by walking down.
  2. Make sure you have easier days between hard sessions
  3. To race and perform well on race day, your legs must be very relaxed and recovered.

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First published January 2014

4KVDA – 4K Alpine Endurance Trail Valle d’Aosta

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3-9 September 2016

25,000 m D+ 200 miles Start and Finish CogneAosta Valley – Italy

BREAKING NEWS March 15th 2016

THE JUDGE ACCEPTS THE APPEAL OF VDA TRAILERS AND RESTRICTS THE 4K
Regarding the Tor des Géants ® – Regione Valle d’Aosta issue, The Ordinary Tribunal of Turin – Company Division has accepted the appeal presented by VdA Trailers.

The Tribunal of Turin considers the actions of the Region regarding Vda Trailers and the Tor des Géants® to be damaging and harmful and considers the 4K race organized by the Region to be harmful of the rights of VdA Trailers and of the normal operation of the Tor des Géants ®2016, since it overlaps it regarding route, length, altitude difference and duration.

Specifically, the Tribunale prohibits, effective immediately, the Autonomous Valle d’Aosta Region and the Forte di Bard Association from accepting registrations and collecting the related registration fees for the “4k Alpine Endurance Trail Valle d’Aosta” event planned from September 3 – 9, 2016.

In addition, the Tribunal prohibits the Autonomous Valle d’Aosta Region and the Forte di Bard Association from making any reference to the “Tor” or the “Tor des Géants” in the presentation, promotion and publicizing of the “4k Alpine Endurance Trail Valle d’Aosta” event, including the use of the expression and the brand of “Tor des Géants®”.

Finally, the Tribunal prohibits the Autonomous Valle d’Aosta Region and the Forte di Bard Association from engaging in any actions which might hinder the organization or execution of the Tor des Géants®, such as that, in particular, of issuing declarations aimed at leading people to believe that the Tor des Géants®2016 will not be held, or that it has been or will be replaced by another event organized by the Region, or to make declarations regarding the “limited safety” of the “Tor des Géants”.

This decree has become law with immediate effect.

The Autonomous Region of the Aosta Valley is organising an endurance trail running event to be raced clockwise along the Alte Vie 1 and 2 high-mountain trails, at an altitude between 300 and 3,300 msl. A 350 km circuit with 25,000 m. elevation gain which starts and ends in Cogne, in the heart of the Gran Paradiso National Park.

It was the need to make the best use of all the various synergies involved and to focus particularly on the safety and spectacularity of the competition that prompted the Autonomous Region of the Aosta Valley to launch its own project, taking over the organisation of the event and actively involving the whole territory.

These are the main innovations:

  • Obligatory GPS device provided to every runner
  • Possibility of participating individually or in pairs
  • Greatest possible care taken in laying out the course
  • Obligatory small crampons, supplied in the race bag
  • Monetary prizes for those who finish in the first few places in the overallrankings according to the Itra Regulations
  • Alternative routes available in the event of bad weather
  • Random antidoping tests
  • Skin Tattoo with the route elevation profileThe competition can accept up to a maximum of 1,200 runners and is a semi self-sufficiency event. In order to enter, athletes must be at least 21 years old in 2016. Accompaniment is permitted, without transport service or transfer of material.The route highlights key elements of the Region’s rich historical, cultural and natural heritage: as well as the famous Fortress of Bard it touches on well- known tourist destinations such as La Thuile, Courmayeur, Breuil – Cervinia, Champoluc, Gressoney and Cogne, and also gives both athletes and spectators the chance to discover some rather less renowned but outstandingly beautiful spots.The most precious contribution will come from the over 2000 volunteers who will be supporting and assisting the athletes along the route and together with them at least 100 mountain experts. A compact group with a single grand objective: to ensure that the race is a unique and unforgettable experience for everyone and that it takes place in the safest possible conditions.

    Illustrious, silent spectators of the event, the majestic “4K” of the Aosta Valley: Mont Blanc, Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso.

    The race will take runners on an unforgettable journey amidst the marvels of the Aosta Valley Alps, in the company of warm, friendly crowds of spectators who will be lining the route to cheer them on. An extreme experience awaits them, a real physical, introspective and emotional voyage in which mental as well as physical endurance will be a decisive factor.

4K Alpine Endurance Trail Valle d’Aosta is a tough, fascinating competition, raced in a breathtaking natural setting. Ready to accept the challenge?

Pre-registration opens on the 1st of March 2016 at 12 noon on the site http://www.4kvda.com and will close on the 25th march 2016 at 12 pm. The draw is due to take place on the 26th of March at 1 pm.

The registrations can be accomplished from the 27th march 2016 to the 20eth april 2016.

Individual participation fee: € 550,00

Contacts: info@4kvda.com

As a footnote, I am a little confused! the Tor des Geants despite rumours of being cancelled (?) has gained sponsorship from Montane and (according to the website) is still scheduled to take place in September. 2400m and 330km in the valley Aosta….

More news HERE

http://www.tordesgeants.it/en