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

Episode 170 – Mike Wardian #fktisrael and Kaytlyn Gerbin

Episode 170 of Talk Ultra is here… We bring you a full and in-depth interview with Michael Wardian after his stunning FKT on the Israel National Trail running 631-miles in 10 days 16 hours and 36 minutes. We also speak with Kaytlyn Gerbin after her excellent podium at Transgrancanaria.
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NEWS
MIKE WARDIAN SETS NEW FKT
Read the full story and view the images HERE
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Interview with MIKE WARDIAN
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JORDAN FKT
Dan Lawson and Robbie Britton set new FKT in Jordan 650km in under 10-days
BEHIND THE ROCKS ULTRA
Courtney Dewaulter is at it again…. She won the 50 miler in 7:23. Erik Sandstorm won the men’s race in 8:07. Results https://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=56961
NINE TRAILS 35 MILE
Jim Walmsley broke a long-standing CR of 5:35 (1994) to cross the line in 5:12 with Jared Hazen and Kris Brown 2nd and 3rd in 5:23 and 5:29.
Taylor Nowlin won the ladies race in 6:24 ahead of Sandi Nypaver in 6:30 with Jade De La Rosa 3rd in 6:58.
CHUCKANUT 50K
Hayden Hawks took the win in 3:37 getting over his Transgrancanaria disappointment ahead of Tyler Sigi and Rob Watson. Kathryn Drew took the womens top slot ahead of Kim Magnus and Emily Hawgood 4:26. 4:29 and 4:38 respectively.
TRAIL DU VENTOUX 46k
Marc Lauenstein won in 3:39 ahead of Thibaut Garrivier and Nicolas Martin. Rachel Drake and Blandine L’Hirondel had a battle for 1st with Rachel taking the edge by 40-seconds. Sarah Vieuille was 3rd – 4:28, 4:28 and 4:30.
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Interview with KAYTLYN GERBIN
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03:20:30
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Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 – THE STORY OF THE FKT IN IMAGES

Michael Wardian from the USA just set a new FKT for the Israel National Trail. The time, 10-days, 16-hours and 36-minutes (time to be confirmed.)

I was fortunate enough to be asked by Mike and the creator of this crazy idea, Zoli Bihari of Canaan Running Adventures, to document this incredible journey in images and words.

Daily I produced a morning video and chased Mike around the FKT route for up to 20-hours a day to capture images. In the 10-days, I managed to cover 187km’s with Mike and I have to say, I was there at the most remote and beautiful sections of the course. It pays to commit oneself to the process to get the really special images that I seek and desire.

My daily reports typically have 6-10 images selected, but as you can imagine, I captured so many more. So here, I want to summarise the most incredible 14-days of my life with a summary of the journey.

The journey started in Eilat and Mike, Zoli, Erez and myself did a couple of days preparation to get everything ready for the epic journey. This allowed us to check out early sections of the course and do some pre FKT photography.

HIGHLIGHT SLIDESHOW PORTFOLIO

→ HERE ←

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PREPARATION DAY 1

PREPARATION DAY 2

DAY 1 FKT

“The landscape and scenery on day-1 is truly spectacular. Beauty comes at a price though – the trails are technical, have plenty of climbing and descending and then add some intense heat.”

 

READ THE DAILY REPORT HERE

 

DAY 2 FKT

“The highlight of the day came at Vardit and Barak Canyons. These natural wonders are truly spectacular, no, mind-blowing.”

 

READ THE DAILY REPORT HERE

 

DAY 3 FKT

“Mispe Ramon towards Mahmal Fort brought a conclusion to the day at 1900 hours. Mike, as the previous day, was robot like. He maintained a consistent pace. At no point did he say he was tired, on the contrary, at all times, he said, ‘I feel so good!’”

 

READ THE DAILY REPORT HERE

 

DAY 4 FKT

“Karbolet is known as the hardest and most challenging section of the whole Israel National Trail – it was stunning. It involved a long technical climb with rungs, exposure and technical sections. Once at the summit, the trail went up and down, mostly on angled slabs of rock. To the left, a drop to the valley below.”

 

READ THE DAILY REPORT HERE

 

DAY 5 FKT

“Day 5 or 6 are not the days to push over the edge, as a team, decisions will be made on day 7 on what is needed over the final couple of days. Mike is prepared for that and quite simply it may well come down to one or two very long days and then a big rest.”

 

READ THE DAILY REPORT HERE

 

DAY 6 FKT

“Today felt very different to the first 5-days. Not only because of the terrain but mostly due to the amount of support Mike received. Throughout the day runners joined him. At no point was he left alone.”

 

READ THE DAILY REPORT HERE