June 23 – 2907/02/2014

6/23/2014
Mon – Rifugio Ra Vales – Cortina, IT (2:31, 5400′)
On the west side of Cortina there is an imposing cluster of craggy summits, the three Tofana’s: Tofana di Rozes (I), Tofana di Mezzo (II), and Tofana di Dentro (III), from south to north. They are all over 3200m in elevation (di Mezzo being the tallest at 3244m), putting their summits a full 2000m above town. Improbably, they are also host to a lift-serviced ski resort, and di Mezzo’s summit is—true to European style—accessible via a gondola from town. On an intermediate ridge between town and the summit, however, the gondola passes through a rifugio at just over 2400m, Ra Vales. This seems like a natural destination. To get there, I first run ~30min of steep, paved road that leads to a restaurant in the ski resort. From here, a rapidly-climbing trail continues through the forest before steeply switchbacking up a massive scree slope to a snow-capped saddle in the rocky ridge at 2300m (Forc Ra Vales). At this vantage, the full splendor of Tofanas di Mezzo and di Dentro are laid out in front of me, separated from the ridge I’m on by the swooping head of the snow-filled Ra Vales (a valley, duh).

Across the vast snowfield I can see bits and pieces of trail poking out of the snow on the massive face of the Tofanas, but restraint and reason leave me content with the 2400m elevation of the Rifugio. I’m here early enough in the morning that the snow is still frozen, meaning I’d want crampons and/or an axe to feel comfortable, not to mention that I’m supposed to be racing at the end of the week, so 7000′ of vertical probably isn’t prudent. Part of me is bummed because the peak is so inspiring and because I’d like to experience some of the mandatory via ferrate to reach its summit, but a large part of me is simply grateful that I have the opportunity to be where I am, on this magnificent alpine ridge in this fairytale mountain range. Life is good. The snow has softened appreciably in the 20min I spent site-seeing at the hut, so the descent back to the  forc is quick and from there I run the undulating ridge north on psuedo-trail 446 which eventually leaves the ridge via the flowy descent I enjoyed yesterday evening, making for a wonderful loop back into town. Ok, I had my bit of fun, time for some rest for the remainder of the week.

6/24/2014
Tue – Lago Ghedina, etc – Cortina, IT (1:28, 2000′)
I sleep as late as possible this morning—which, despite jet lag, turns out to only be 8:30am or so—and then spend another couple of hours wandering around town trying to figure out the best coffee options.

I know that Italy is the birthplace of espresso, but I find I’m not especially a fan of drinking my coffee standing up, hurrying through a couple concentrated ounces as if it’s nothing more than a requisite injection of caffeine. Rather, in the past 18 months (I know, I got to coffee pretty late in life, especially considering that I spent two summers employed as a barista and somehow managed getting hooked on only the smell during that time), for me, drinking coffee has become at least as much about the sitting, the lingering, the book-reading at my window, the allowing for my body to wake up slow, the conversation and company if I’m so lucky, even the mug itself, as it has been about the caffeine. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize the positive benefits of this drug on my physiology. But the fact that I was disappointed a few days ago at a Boulder coffeeshop when my jav arrived in a takeaway cup instead of a ceramic mug not out of environmental/landfill-type concerns (though that registered, too, of course), but simply because I much prefer the way it feels to drink coffee out of a mug instead of a paper cup, signals to me that the habit has gone far beyond the clinical need for a certain chemical. I like my routine. And when I’m training hard, it seems my body and mind’s daily ability to meet the mountain’s demands becomes even more reliant on such routines.

So, against all logic (this is Italy, afterall!) coffee has been a bit tough here. At home, the Bialetti stovetop espresso-maker is my go-to. I brew a 6oz pot, and then drink two ~6oz servings—each consisting of 3oz of espresso stretched with another 3oz or so of boiling water. The addition of water is simply for sipping purposes, to extend the ritual, get in 20-30 pages of reading instead of only 10-15. Silly stuff, I know, but we get into these routines. These are probably considered “americanos”, which is what I typically order back home in American java huts. I’m sure the basis for this name is sound—a lot of weak, watery, “American” drip coffee deservedly has a reputation for being pretty bad—but I’ve fallen into this routine for the simple fact that I get to enjoy the coffee for longer, not because I necessarily enjoy the somewhat diluted flavor. I mean, come on, I have class. In fact, it’s a bit ironic, given that my first coffees ever—the one’s that won me over—were very much of the European style: a straight shot of espresso, imbibed quickly, while standing up, mid-morning, with Seb Montaz at an espresso bar on La Palma two years ago. Then we piled back into the car and ripped off to the next spot to catch the runners. In the moment, it seemed like the thing to do. And I enjoyed it. But it became something I would do only in Europe and it took me another year (and two more trips to Europe) before I brought the concept home and started looking for the best way to make it on my own.

Back to Cortina. Even a double-shot here is a frustratingly small amount of liquid. And it seems it’s always served pretty damn tepid (hot enough to scald has become my curious preference, a previously-confounding idiosyncrasy of my Dad’s that finally makes sense to me). And, despite Joe‘s often passionate arguments to the contrary, I still don’t understand the milky coffee thing (don’t get me wrong, Joe has good, pure taste when it comes to coffee, he just thinks it’s better served with milk in the afternoons, makes it easier on the stomach or some bullshit like that). Which is the most confounding thing about Italian cofffee to me. Italians are perfectly willing to whip up a cappuccino—i.e. dilute their wonderful espresso with milk foam—but performing the same dilution with hot water is apparently unthinkable. Out of frustration, I tried the whole cappuccino thing yesterday. It sucked. I don’t want a lukewarm cup of milk for breakfast. I have found one place here in town with a lovely woman who seems perfectly happy to make me a “double espresso lungo”. Which I have found is a shot of espresso simply brewed with more water (i.e., not an americano which is a typically-brewed shot of espresso with hot water added post-brewing). Whatever it is, it’s great, and she seems to pull it sans any judgement of me as an uncultured American, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there’s an insecure part of me that definitely still feels that way. That is, uncultured and profoundly American for wanting my coffee stretched out a little bit.

[EDIT: By the end the of trip, I found that, of course, plenty of places are willing to make Americanos, with the endearing and lovely twist of providing a small, metal pitcher of hot water to add to the espresso at one's own taste. Much of the above rant may be completely off-base, in retrospect.]

Either way, the resulting run was fine. A jog up and down part of the first climb of the race course. There was a definite moment as I was coming back into town that I crested a small rise in a grassy meadow that seemed to be a full-stop carpet of wildflowers, not grass at all, and the sun was shining brilliantly between rain showers and the mountain walls were gleaming and I totally felt the need to pinch myself. I’m in Italy. In the Dolomites. Running through a field of wildflowers. How does this happen? I’m a lucky dude.

6/25/2014
Wed – Bike Path, Cortina, IT (1:03, 600′)
There’s a bike path that runs right behind the Hotel Cristallino (my digs), so today I jumped on it for a leisurely cruise. When I first woke just after 5:00am this morning it was cloudy and raining; when I peeled an eye a couple hours later it was full-on pouring cats and dogs, like, I think the pounding drops is actually what re-woke me; when I rolled over again at 11am it was still drizzling but now I was just starting to feel slothly—time to get up. Over my lungos and Solzhenitsyn (Cancer Ward) at the pasticceria, however, the precip finally abated and I knew it was time to grab a run. Sure enough, within an hour of finishing up, the cloudy sky began darkening again and a steady drizzle was broken only by a handful of 10-15min sessions of drenching. It seems pretty likely at this point that we’ll be getting wet for at least some portion of the race Friday and Saturday.

6/26/2014
Thu – Bike Path, Cortina, IT (0:41)
Just another pre-race jog; nothing much to report here. First sunny—well, non-raining—day of the week, though.

6/27-28/2014
Fri/Sat – Lavaredo Ultra Trail 119K (12:42, 20,000′)
Overall, a good run. It wasn’t an A or A+ day for me performance-wise—probably more like B+—but it was enough and the landscape in the second half of the course was some of the more dramatic, stop-and-crane-your-neck stuff I’ve ever seen.

6/29/2014
Sun – nothing.
Day off. The physical damage is actually pretty minimal. Other than the typical hip/quad/knee/achilles creakiness that comes after a long effort like that, the only reeaally sore thing is my right knee cap, the one carrying a bone bruise coming into the race. So, not surprising.

38 Responses to “June 23 – 29”

  1. Chris says:

    Congrats on the win at Lavaredo!

  2. andrea says:

    like your style,bravo anton!
    i’ve just post your photo on my blog http://www.motobast.com
    ciao

  3. Matt says:

    We should have discussed this coffee issue on our New Balance Games run outside of Springfield, MO. Go to ~0:55 in this clip for my favorite take down of espresso. http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/ovndas/anarchy-in-the-ukraine

  4. Eli says:

    Love your tangent on coffee. And great job at Lavaredo!

  5. DBo says:

    I was also mostly disappointed in my Euro coffee experience. I thought there’d be plenty of french presses in France? No such luck.

    Glad that ankle held up.

  6. Randy says:

    Nice run! And thanks for your coffee rant…I’ve turned into a “I just like it the way I like it” kind of guy too. So when I leave town and travel beyond my usual coffee habitat, it can be really hard to find a coffee shop that will do it the way you want, but when you do find that shop, I’m so excited and make sure I show my enthusiasm to the servers….oh yah milk and coffee sucks!

  7. ray says:

    Loved the bit on coffee. Im down on milk in coffee, not a fan. Ever tried about a tablespoon of heavy whipping cream though? Its not enough to make your coffee cold, but seems to turn it into a sweet bit of deliciousness.

    Keep knocking out the races. You seem to be on track for a great year of running.

  8. Paul says:

    Hi Anton,
    Well done on winning your race. Entertaining writing about your coffee habits and European experiences. Give it time, you’ll adapt.

    Cheers,
    Paul

  9. Ethan says:

    So I find your training logs inspirational / entertaining / et cetera but it is miscellanea like your coffee tangent and the quality of writing therein that elevates this blog to something greater and for that I am thankful and forever a loyal reader. Don’t stop.

  10. David Hill says:

    Congrats on winning one on a “big stage” and the season you’re having so far. I’m a fan whether you come in 1st or 50th; just keep the deft writing, mountain life musings and coffee-like rants coming.

  11. Eric Bataille says:

    Hi Anton, congratulations on win at Lavaredo.You’ve made a great job.Good luck for your next races.

  12. Sara says:

    I think that at the high altitude the coffee is not always good…is a question of water, not suitable to make a perfect espresso. About the “caffè americano” I think like you: long coffee, long time, long relax…
    However, I so glad for your win. You are ready for the UTMB! It will be a positive rematch of last year! Good luck!

  13. Megghi says:

    Hi Anton, I recently discovered your blog and I find very pleasant reading it.
    I’m italian and I don’t like coffee (what a joke), but the same is true for me for a good hot cup of tea, just wake up in the morning (I love my habits too)

    Congratulations on your win at Lavaredo (and sorry for my bad english!!)
    Megghi

  14. GZ says:

    While I have enjoyed your training and racing posts for years and it is a part of my regular subscription stuff, this post on coffee is WAY more interesting.

    Timely as well as there has been a debate among several adults I am about to go packing with as to whether an aeropress is necessary weight in the pack. OF COURSE IT IS. My debate is if I am going actually haul the ceramic mug or just go with the plastic travel mug.

  15. Brad says:

    Since everyone else is chiming in on coffee I might as well too. Tony, have you ever brewed a cup using a Hario V60? I’d have to say its my preferred method. I have a Chemex and a French Press as well and when I brew V60 there’s just something different about it. Best way I can describe it is there’s a flavor I can pick up on with the V60 but don’t quite get it with the others. I’m sure there’s some fancy coffee lingo I should be using there. Regardless, congrats on the race.

  16. Enzo says:

    Hi Anton, congratulation on winning at Lavaredo Ultra Trail. I met you in Cortina on Sunday and i can say that you are not only a great runner but also a great man, always available for a picture or for a handshake with yours fans. All my best wishes for UTMB and Nolan’s!!!!

  17. Anton,
    Great win! I kept waking up during the night to check your progress.
    Psyched that you’re back in action.

  18. Malcolm says:

    Loved the coffee rant. Living in France, I’m with ya. Great report over on the UD blog. Now please go and buy a camera, I’d be happy to pitch in, I am sure a lot of your readers would.

  19. Jackie Lai says:

    I too am obsessed with hot coffee. The best way I have found to get my coffee nice and hot, actually scalding hot, is to use an old-fashioned percolator. My husband swears by the good old french press. Happy trails and good coffee for all!

  20. JA says:

    Congratulations on your win at Lavaredo. First comment here, it’s always very inspiring and motivating to read here about your daily exercise routine and thoughts. Keep up the good work, i hope to see you in Chamonix in August ! :)

    On coffee, as a French (and also as an Italian), i would say that we believe that we are the best when it comes to making coffees while abroad people believe exactly the opposite (i bet that the same would be true for ultra running… :) Recently came across an article about that on Slate: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/roads/2014/01/coffee_in_france_is_terrible_why_can_t_the_french_brew_a_good_cup_of_coffee.html

    Greetings from France !

  21. Fabrice says:

    Hello

    Congratulations on your victory. Could you give me information on your MT 110, they seem to have beeing processed. Then?? ;-)))
    Fabrice

  22. Woody says:

    Awesome job Anton, another great performance this season. Your blog is always good with a cup of hot mud.

  23. CJ says:

    Love the prose on your coffee experiences. Coffee has it’s own culture…like cheese, wine and beer. I think part of the reason we like something bigger is that it’s built into us from an early age as Americans. Bigger is better, super-size it please, give me the most value for my dollar. Totally agree with your preference for “scalding hot” coffee because it allows us to take our time and enjoy the warmth longer, especially on those wintry mornings.

    Congrats on the win over there!

    • anton says:

      While I definitely agree about your pretty standard American “bigger is better” observation, I guess that’s exactly why I wrote a rant…the typical “bigger is better” bs ISN’T why I like Americanos. When it comes to coffee I simply prefer sipping to slamming. It has nothing to do with the size, it has everything to do with the amount of time it takes to consume it (and that I’m a little afraid of what, say, 4-6 shots of espresso in one go would do to my body). Double espressos and Americanos are generally the same price, so, not really looking for value here.

  24. Daniel says:

    Congrats on the win!…as far as coffee I never drank the stuff (I have an addicting personality) and I would only assume it would be wreckage on my wallet and mental ability to function once hooked.

    So I just eat a shit load of HI-Chews (Jap Candy) ha!

  25. Patrick says:

    Congrats on the win and a successful racing season. Consider eating fresh ripe fruit instead of coffee when possible. Smoother, cleaner lift and very hydrating as well. Start a new trend.

    • Don says:

      Thanks Patrick, my thoughts exactly. It would be fun to see how much of a gain we would see with truly smart diets.

  26. Josh says:

    Same with monsters and redbulls. Id rathe drink a monster, takes longer. Just like a dog with a chew toy. Give him something to chew on and he will leave you alone for an hour

  27. Chad says:

    After some serious coffee issues on a climbing trip to Rodellar, Spain. I NEVER travel without a camping coffee cone, filters and a bag of Vic’s… Nescafe just won’t cut it for me :)

  28. redux says:

    If you’re digging the Russians, have a look at “Oblomov” by Ivan Goncharov.

  29. Tripp says:

    Where was the photo taken that’s at the top of the blog page? The blue and green hues are amazing.

  30. Carlos says:

    Anton, as you may check in the attached link, double espresso lungo or “americanos” are pretty valid options for any coffee fan. So nothing exotic, uncultured or “profoundly american” in that department. My personal choice for caffeine sins is double espresso. Just to enjoy it just for a little more time. So, unexpectedly we share a tiny common place. Shame it is nothing about out running excellence. http://www.visualnews.com/2014/07/11/nothing-makes-morning-like-exceptionally-great-espresso-fine-print-tells-make-right/

  31. cody rawls says:

    tony ranting and raving about coffee is by far the funniest thing I have seen all year. He seems like the calmest most mellow person ever, but coffee upsetting. I AM DIEING, but i do feel the same way about his opinions of coffee.

  32. Anton, i live in Western KY and have been following you for years. This is only the 2ND time I’ve posted on your spot. I thank you for sharing your running/life with us, I’ts very enjoyable reading. I’m posting today to put a coffee plug in. Check out http://www.bluesmoke.com, I too am a HUGE coffee lover and seek it out wherever I go. This coffee is the best ever, you order, they roast it and send it to you. Give it a shot, glad you are back and healthy.

  33. Logan says:

    Tony, have you ever given Dave Eggers a try? In regards to your literary preferences? I know you seem to mention a lot of fiction and non-fiction that occasionally have a strong economic and/or social, environmental morality to them. Or maybe I am reading into it too much? Anyhow, if you are ever at the library and you want to dip your foot into the pool, try How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers, a book of short stories. I think you will be moved. I am keeping the good vibes rolling for ya for Saturday in the Beehive State.

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