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Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Trail Runner's Secret

The major difference between road running and trail running is the terrain: rocks, roots, ruts, and uneven ground from start to finish. Running trails takes concentration which isn’t necessarily required when running along a road on which you can zone out and Zen up.

Another victim of the Scottish fell terrain

And if you’ve ever tried fell running in the British Isles it’s even more difficult, because when your foot disappears beneath that heather, it’s anyone’s guess as to what it will land on. If you are lucky, it’s hard flat ground, but more often than not it is a rut, or soft marsh, or a water bog, or a hole which sucks you down to your hip (yes).

Given those obvious difference between trail/fell and road running, there must be corresponding differences in training, right? Absolutely! Aside from putting in those miles on the trails, doing some additional leg work for the adductors needed for jumping zig-zag from rock to rock, and of course the exercises for eccentric muscle contractions (used when running downhill…ouch!), there is another aspect that should not be over-looked, namely, foot and ankle strength. Sound boring? Well, maybe it is, but ankle strengthening exercises are a lot less boring than spending 3 weeks on the couch due to a rolled ankle!

What the Scottish hills did to my ankles

I used to think that running regularly on the uneven trails was enough to keep my ankles strong, but I learned that lesson the hard way with two sprained ankles in the past two years, the last of which was only 3 hours into a two-day mountain marathon in Scotland, which I ended up finishing only due to the ice-cold temperature of the water that we were constantly sloshing through which kept my feet numb. 

So, how can we keep our ankles strong? The same way we keep our arms and core strong: Focused strengthening exercises. But no fear, these can actually be fun, ranging from slacklining to jump-roping to stabilization exercises in your living room while watching ‘How I Met Your Mother’ re-runs.

My top choices for fun training that doesn’t feel like training:

  • Slacklining: Strengthens not only the feet, ankles and legs muscles but also the core
  • Jump roping (go look in your child’s toy box, there has got to be one in there somewhere)

ankles trail running ultramarathon holly zimmermann
Love my ASICS GEL-Fujitrabucos for the trails

Top choices for focused strengthening:

  • Balance. Stand on one foot and roll up onto the toes, hold for a second, then down. Three reps of 10 on each foot. Daily. You can even do this while brushing your teeth.
  • Toe Jumping. Stand on one foot, roll up onto the toes and jump from side to side and front to back. This is not only an excellent ankle strengthening exercise which simulates actual foot behavior in technical trail running, but it is also an excellent aerobic workout. See how long you can do this without getting out of breath!
  • Mobility. This one is awesome and can actually be done while chilling on the couch. You are simply going to move your feet and ankles in all directions to the limit of their range: flex and point; rotate in both directions; point toes inward, then outward. Then bend the knees to about 90° so that the feet are flat on the couch and act as though you are picking up a marble or other small object with your toes. Lift your toes, keeping your ankles in place. Then release the toes at their highest point. Repeat. Ten times each side.

Having strong ankles will not only keep you from getting injured, but it also it helps with self-confidence. Knowing that you can trust your feet on those loose rocks and down-hill trails provides that extra confidence to notch up the pace.


ankles trail running ultramarathon holly zimmermann
Don't drop the proverbial ball on this one. Keep those ankles strong! 

This article first appeared for ASICS on July 20, 2020:

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Six Ways to Battle the Blister! ...Plus lacing techniques

holly zimmermann running everest ultramarathon mom
These are my feet after the third day running through the 70C sand of the Moroccan Sahara Desert. Could the blisters have been avoided with proper foot care, shoes and socks? Probably not. But most of us don’t run regularly in such adverse conditions so there is a lot we can do to avoid a ‘worst case’ scenario.

What actually causes blisters?

Blisters on the feet are typically caused by friction between your skin and your sock. Running shoes that are ill-fitting, laces tied too tight, too loose or not optimally tied for your unique foot structure can cause blisters. Sharp seams in the shoes, wrinkled socks or ill-fitting insoles can also be the culprit. Then if the skin is irritated by rubbing for a long period of time, fluid will collect under the skin, forming a blister.

Six basic precautions that should be taken to prevent foot blisters from forming while running:

1. Shoe Fit: As the saying goes… “If the shoe fits, wear it”. Proper shoe fit is critical. Since your feet swell when running, your shoe should have a little extra space in the toe box but not enough to move around too much.

2. Socks: Running socks are anatomically shaped, which help prevent the sock from bunching up, and they should have a smooth surface with no seams. Socks should be made of synthetic fiber instead of cotton so as to wick moisture away from your feet. Some runners wear double-layer socks which are designed to localize any friction between the two sock layers rather than between the sock and the skin. Toe socks can also be used with a similar principle. Wash new socks before use and be sure to ‘break them in’ as you would with new running shoes prior to testing them out in a race.

3. Lacing: There are different lacing techniques which can be used to support different foot forms, e.g. high arches, wide forefoot, or to avoid heel slippage. Read on for more details on lacing.

4. Lubricant: A lubricant such as BodyGlide or Vaseline can be applied to hot-spots to reduce friction in those specific areas. Tape or moleskin pads can be used in the same way.

5. Foot Care: Cut toenails regularly. Moisturize skin with an anti-callus cream. Do not remove calluses entirely as they are there to protect your feet.

6. Barefoot running: Consider integrating a barefoot session in your training plan to toughen up the skin on the feet. Even if you simply find a grassy athletic field to kick off your shoes and do some running drills back and forth, not only your skin, but the muscles in your feet will reap great benefit.

Since most of the points above are fairly straight-forward, let’s talk a bit about the one that may get the least amount of attention: lacing options.

Shoelaces are there to adjust shoe fit circumferentially, but they can easily come untied, loosen, or bind. Laces tied too loose can produce a poor stride, too tight can cause shoes to pinch. And since every every runner and every foot is different, there are (thankfully) unique ways of lacing up.

Window Lacing (a.k.a. “box lacing”) can be used if your running shoes are causing an uncomfortable pressure on the top of your foot. This technique is also used to accommodate high arches and wider feet.

1. Unlace the shoe down to the eyelet that is just below the pressure point.

2. Re-lace by going straight up to the next eyelet and then crossing the laces over.

3. Finish lacing the rest of your shoe in your usual way.
holly zimmermann running everest ultramarathon mom
Window Lacing

Loop Lacing Lock, (a.k.a. the “runner’s tie”) can be used to minimize heel slippage.

1. Lace to the second eyelet from the top using your preferred method.

2. Run lace ends straight up on the outside and in through top eyelet.

3. Cross lace ends, and then pass them under the opposing vertical section.

4. Tying the laces pulls the vertical sections inward for increased foot security.

holly zimmermann running everest ultramarathon mom
Loop Lacing

Lydiard Lacing (a.k.a. “straight bar lacing” or “parallel lacing”), named after the legendary runner and coach, Arthur Lydiard, who developed the technique, can be used if the top of your shoes feel tight or bind.

1. Begin straight across on the outside and go in through the bottom eyelet.

2. The left lace end runs straight up on the inside, and then goes straight across on the outside.

3. Both lace ends run straight up the inside, each skipping an eyelet.

4. Both lace ends continue straight across on the outside and in through the adjacent eyelets.

5. Alternate until lacing is completed.
holly zimmermann running everest ultramarathon mom
Lydiard Lacing

All of these methods can be found in more detail on the Internet, many with video tutorials.

And if all else fails and you do end up with a blister, here’s what to do about it.

The first alternative for treating foot blisters is to just leave it alone. When left intact, the skin serves as protection from infection and the blister will either break and drain or reabsorb in a day or two. But if you need to continue running, cover the blister with a tape or a bandage to provide protection.

If the blister is painful or at risk of bursting on its own, you can drain it while leaving the skin intact. Anyone who has had blisters underneath their toenails knows that the pain can be bad enough to keep you awake at night and you need to bite the bullet and pop it. To do this, you should sterilize a needle by wiping it with rubbing alcohol, placing it in a flame, or boiling it in water. Carefully pierce the blister at points around its edges. Or if it is underneath your nail, gently insert it into the area of greatest pain (yes). Then press the fluid out, use an antiseptic cream on it and cover it with a bandage. Clean and check daily for signs of infection.
Then… keep on running.
holly zimmermann running everest ultramarathon mom

Sorry to do this to you, but scare tactics tend to work.
This article first appeared on the ASICS FrontRunner DE Website on May 31, 2020

Autsch, Blasen - kleine Ursache, große Wirkung! So kannst du Blasen vermeiden

Das sind meine Füße nach dem dritten Tag im Sand der marokkanischen Sahara. Könnten die Blasen mit der richtigen Fußpflege, Schuhen und Socken vermieden werden? Wahrscheinlich nicht. Die meisten von uns laufen jedoch nicht regelmäßig unter solch widrigen Bedingungen, sodass wir viel tun können, um ein Worst-Case-Szenario zu vermeiden.

Was verursacht eigentlich Blasen?

Blasen an den Füßen werden normalerweise durch Reibung zwischen der Haut und den Socken verursacht. Laufschuhe, die schlecht sitzen oder zu eng, zu locker oder nicht optimal für Deine einzigartige Fußstruktur gebundenen Schnürsenkel, können Blasen verursachen. Schuld daran können auch raue Nähte in den Schuhen, zerknitterte Socken oder schlecht sitzende Einlegsohlen sein. Wenn die Haut dann über einen längeren Zeitraum durch Reiben gereizt wird, sammelt sich Flüssigkeit unter der Haut und bildet eine Blase.

Hier sind sechs grundlegende Vorsichtsmaßnahmen, die angewendet werden sollten, um zu verhindern, dass sich beim Laufen Fußblasen bilden:
1. Passende Schuhe: Wie ein Sprichwort sagt… "Wem der Schuh passt, der zieht ihn sich an". Die richtige Passform des Schuhs ist entscheidend. Da Deine Füße beim Laufen anschwellen, sollten deine Schuhe etwas mehr Platz in der Zehenbox haben, aber nicht zu viel, um sich übermäßig zu bewegen.
2. Socken: Laufsocken sind anatomisch geformt, um ein Zusammenballen der Socken zu verhindern. Sie sollten eine glatte Oberfläche ohne Nähte haben. Socken sollten aus synthetischen Fasern anstelle von Baumwolle bestehen, um Feuchtigkeit von Ihren Füßen wegzuleiten. Einige Läufer tragen zweilagige Socken, die so konstruiert sind, dass Reibungen zwischen den beiden Sockenschichten und nicht zwischen der Socke und der Haut lokalisiert werden. Zehensocken können auch nach einem ähnlichen Prinzip verwendet werden. Wasche neue Socken vor dem Gebrauch und laufe sie wie bei neuen Laufschuhen ein, bevor Du sie in einem Wettkampf testest.
3. Schnürung: Es gibt verschiedene Schnürungstechniken, die verwendet werden können, um verschiedene Fußbereiche zu unterstützen, z.B. hohe Fußgewölbe, breite Vorfüße oder um ein Verrutschen der Ferse zu vermeiden. Lese hier weiter, um mehr Informationen zur Schnürung zu erhalten.
4. Schmiermittel: Schmiermittel wie BodyGlide oder Vaseline können auf Hotspots aufgetragen werden, um die Reibung in diesen bestimmten Bereichen zu verringern. Tape- oder Moleskin-Pads können auf die gleiche Weise verwendet werden.
5. Fußpflege: Zehennägel regelmäßig schneiden. Befeuchte die Haut mit einer Anti-Kallus-Creme. Entferne Hornhaut nicht vollständig, da diese zum Schutz Deiner Füße dienen.
6. Barfuß laufen: Erwäge, eine Barfuß-Sitzung in Deinen Trainingsplan zu integrieren, um die Haut an den Füßen zu stärken. Selbst wenn Du einfach einen Sportplatz oder eine Wiese findest, auf der Du Deine Schuhe ausziehen und ein paar Laufübungen (Lauf ABCs) machen kannst, profitiert davon nicht nur Deine Haut, sondern auch Deine Muskeln in den Füßen.

Da die meisten der oben genannten Punkte recht einfach sind, sprechen wir ein wenig über den Punkt, der möglicherweise am wenigsten Beachtung findet: Schnürungsoptionen.
Schnürsenkel dienen dazu, die Passform des Schuhs bezüglich des Umfangs anzupassen, können sich jedoch leicht lösen, öffnen oder engen. Zu lose gebundene Schnürsenkel können zu einem schlechten Schritt führen, zu enge Schnürsenkel können dazu führen, dass Schuhe einklemmen. Und da jeder Läufer und jeder Fuß anders ist, gibt es (zum Glück) verschiedene Möglichkeiten zum Schnüren.

Window-Lacing (a.k.a. „Fensterschnürung“ oder „Boxschnürung“) kann verwendet werden, wenn Deine Laufschuhe einen unangenehmen Druck auf die Oberseite Deines Fußes verursachen. Diese Technik wird auch verwendet, um hohes Fußgewölbe und breitere Füße anzupassen.
1. Löse den Schuh bis zur Öse, die knapp unter dem Druckpunkt liegt.
2. Schnüre erneut, indem Du direkt zur nächsten Öse gehst und die Schnürsenkel überkreuzt.
3. Schnüre den Rest Deines Schuhs wie gewohnt.

Loop Lacing Lock (a.k.a. der „Runner's Tie“) kann verwendet werden, um das Verrutschen der Ferse zu minimieren.
1. Schnüre die zweite Öse von oben mit Deiner bevorzugten Methode.
2. Führe die Spitzenenden außen gerade nach oben und durch die obere Öse hinein.
3. Kreuze die Spitzenenden und führe sie dann unter den gegenüberliegenden vertikalen Abschnitt.
4. Durch Binden der Schnürsenkel werden die vertikalen Abschnitte nach innen gezogen, um die Fußsicherheit zu erhöhen.

Lydiard Lacing (a.k.a. "Straight Bar Lacing" oder "Parallel Lacing"), benannt nach dem legendären Läufer und Trainer Arthur Lydiard, der die Technik entworfen hat, kann verwendet werden, wenn sich die Oberseite Deines Schuhs zu eng anfühlt.
1. Beginne außen genau gegenüber und gehe durch die untere Öse hinein.
2. Das linke Spitzenende verläuft innen gerade nach oben und kreuzt sich gerade waagrecht.
3. Beide Spitzenenden verlaufen gerade nach innen und überspringen jeweils eine Öse.
4. Beide Spitzenenden verlaufen außen und innen durch die angrenzenden Ösen gerade.
5. Immer abwechselnd, bis die Schnürung abgeschlossen ist.

Lydiard Lacing

All diese Methoden findest du im Internet ausführlicher, viele davon mit Video-Tutorials.
Und wenn alles fehlschlägt und Du eine Blase bekommst, dann kannst du Folgendes machen.

Die erste Möglichkeit zur Behandlung von Fußblasen besteht darin, sie einfach in Ruhe zu lassen. Wenn die Haut intakt bleibt, dient sie als Schutz vor Infektionen und die Blase bricht und entwässert oder resorbiert in ein oder zwei Tagen wieder. Wenn Du jedoch weiterlaufen musst, bedecke die Blase mit einem Klebeband oder einem Verband, um den Schutz zu gewährleisten.

Wenn die Blase schmerzhaft ist oder von selbst platzen kann, kannst sie abtropfen lassen, während die Haut intakt bleibt. Jeder, der Blasen unter den Zehennägeln hatte, weiß, dass die Schmerzen so schlimm sein können, dass man nachts wach bleibt und in die Kugel beißt und sie platzen lassen muss. Dazu solltest Du eine Nadel sterilisieren, indem Du sie mit Alkohol abwischst, in eine Flamme legst oder in heißem Wasser kochst. Steche vorsichtig an den Rändern der Blase ein. Wenn sie sich unter Deinem Nagel befindet, führe die Nadel vorsichtig von oben unter den Nagel in den Bereich mit den größten Schmerzen (ja). Drücke dann die Flüssigkeit heraus. Verwende eine antiseptische Creme und bedecke sie mit einem Verband. Täglich reinigen und auf Anzeichen einer Infektion prüfen.

And then… Keep on Running.

Dieser Artikel erschien erstmals am 31. Mai 2020 auf der ASICS Frontrunner-Website

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Chemistry and Endurance: What does the body really require to run for hours, or even days?

I am not a chemist, nor have I taken a chemistry class since college, which wasn’t even in the past decade (nor the one before…nor, uh, you get the point), so when I was recently asked to speak at the University of Regensburg to a group of gifted high school (gymnasium) students interested in studying chemistry, my first reaction was, What does ultra running have to do with chemistry????

Answer: Just about everything.

holly zimmermann ultramarathon mom running everest

After I thought about it I soon realized that not only do endurance sports and biological chemistry go hand-in-hand, but without a basic understanding of our own body’s chemistry, we runners wouldn’t get very far on our feet!

Looking back on my preparations for multi-day stage races, I realized that I’d spent hours determining just what my body needed to function under extreme circumstances because I knew that if my training had been adequate and my mental strength was in good form, then nutrition would be the key to optimizing my performance and reaching the finish line.

So for the chemistry students, I did some research and applied some of their jargon to the runner's lexicon and introduced myself to the endurance athlete's two best friends: Electrolytes and Amino Acids

Let’s start with electrolytes.
Electrolytes are chemical elements which, when mixed with water, conduct electricity and support specific bodily functions. The heart, muscle, and nerve cells use electrolytes to carry electrical impulses to other cells. They function to regulate nerve and muscle action, hydrate the body, balance blood pressure, and even help rebuild damaged tissue.
Electrolytes that are found in the human body include, but are not limited to:
Magnesium: supports heart, muscle and nerve function as well as digestion
Sodium: assists with the absorption of fluids and muscle contraction
Potassium: helps keep blood pressure stable and regulates heart contraction
Calcium: supports muscle contraction, blood clotting and cell division
Chloride: aids in fluid absorption

Electrolytes are lost when we sweat and need to be replaced. A general electrolyte deficit can lead to cramps, dizziness, confusion, an increased heart rate, and nausea, which are (coincidentally?) some common complaints of runners during long distance races.
There are many scientific studies about what the body needs during sport. Depending on many factors including length of exertion, air temperature, humidity, and individual factors, if and how much of an electrolyte supplementation is required varies widely. A general consensus is that an electrolyte supplement is not vital under exertion of less than 90 minutes. That said, during a foot race of 10 km or shorter, we should not require more than water to maintain good hydration. But what if the race is longer? And it is sunny and HOT?
That’s when isotonic drinks come into play.

We are all familiar with the term ‘isotonic sports drinks’, but what does the term isotonic really mean?

An isotonic drink is a drink in which the ratio of nutrients of liquids corresponds to that of human blood, which means that the osmotic value has the same tonicity as human blood and can therefore be digested relatively quickly. Some isotonic drinks have been recommended for restocking levels of electrolytes during and after exercise to help restore lost sodium and potassium as well as to retain water. 
As a comparison:
  • Isotonic: An isotonic drink has a similar concentration of salt and sugar as the human body, for example, Gatorade and PowerAde
  • Hypotonic: A hypotonic drink has a lower concentration of salt and sugar as the human body; the best example of which is water
  • Hypertonic: A hypertonic drink has a higher concentration of salt and sugar as the human body, which include energy drinks such as Red Bull and Coke
Hypertonic drinks typically contain high electrolyte content and consuming too much can lead to an excess, which results in similar side effects as a deficit. Excesses are typically filtered out of the body via the kidneys, but during a race we certainly don’t want any of our organs working on overload. They have enough to do already!

Most sports gels contain electrolytes but many also have a considerable amount of sugar (carbohydrates), which may or may not be desired. Another means of replacing sodium is by taking salt supplements which are readily available in tablet form specifically produced for athletes. When I ran the 257-km Marathon des Sables across the Sahara Desert, prior to the race all competitors were provided with a bag containing 200 salt tablets and we were required to take two tablets with each 1.5-liters of water that we drank. We were reminded of this at each check-point by the doctors and staff because in that extreme environment a sodium deficit could quickly lead to dehydration and even death.

The message here is that during exertion of several hours or longer when we are sweating, our bodies will require an electrolyte replacement for optimal function and health, the amount of which varies upon the individual and the conditions.

Moving on to Amino Acids…
As opposed to electrolytes, amino acids are not chemical elements but chemical compounds. They are the building blocks of proteins in the human body and serve primarily to build up body tissue. Thus, for the athlete, they are important for recovery and regeneration. In a very long distance or multi-day stage race, an accelerated regeneration is essential to maintain (or minimize the reduction of) performance levels.

Of the 20 standard amino acids, nine are called essential amino acids because the human body cannot synthesize them from other compounds at the level needed for normal growth, so they must be obtained from food. The 9 essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. 

Glutamine is another important amino acid but one that the human body naturally produces; although, intense physical exercise drains glutamine stores faster than the body can replenish them. When this occurs, the body breaks down muscles and becomes catabolic, and performance and recovery can be compromised. Glutamine supplementation has been shown to aid in recovery and recuperation in addition to boosting immune function. The best time to take a glutamine supplementation is right after a hard exercise session since glutamine stores in muscle can be depleted up to 40% after exhaustive exercise.

Thus, unless you are competing in a non-stop multi-day race, amino acids typically do not need to be supplemented during a race, but can be taken following the exertion to help with regeneration. I use them in the evenings during mult-day stage races, after difficult training sessions, a tough race, or regularly during periods of intense training.

Amino acid supplementations are widely available for athletes in the forms of tablets, gels, powders and drinks.

Again, I am not a chemist, a doctor nor a nutritionist. I am a simple engineer and passionate runner who is fanatical about being prepared for extreme events. Please do your own homework* on this topic when planning for your own needs and use your training sessions as your own chemistry experiments.

*Dietary exposure to the non-standard amino acid BMAA has been linked to human neurodegenerative diseases, including ALS.
Overtraining syndrome: a practical guide. Sports Health 2012; 4(2):128–138.
Glutamine: Metabolism and Immune Function, Supplementation and Clinical Translation. Nutrients. 2018; 10(11): 1564.
A critical review of the postulated role of the non-essential amino acid, β-N-methylamino-L-alanine, in neurodegenerative disease in humans. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2017; 20(4): 1–47.
MedicalNewsToday (online)

Image Credits:
Essential Amino Acids: Chromatos / Shutterstock
Aid station: Freepik
Periodic Table: Amazon.com

This article recently was recently published for ASICS on https://www.asics.com/de/de-de/frontrunner/articles/chemistry-and-endurance-what-does-the-body-really-require-to-run-for-hours-or-even-days for which I received a form of compensation.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Running Everest: Adventures at the Top of the World

running everest holly zimmermann himalayas trek ultramarathon mom

Running Everest tells the story of a group of adventurers from around the globe who embark on a remarkable journey through the Khumbu Valley of Nepal, battling high-altitude sickness, deplorable sanitary conditions, freezing temperatures…and enjoying every minute of it! When they reach their destination, Mount Everest Base Camp, they turn around and run a marathon, the highest marathon in the world, back to civilization. Are they extremists? Or the new generation of ordinary people? Written with humor and passion, Running Everest explores the culture, inhabitants, and the delicate balance of Hinduism and Buddhism in the breathtaking Himalayas, topped off by an exhilarating race over glacial moraines, high altitude plateaus, and steep rocky climbs, all in the shadow of the highest mountain on earth.

Holly Zimmermann, the first international woman to reach the finish line of the 2018 Mount Everest Marathon, recalls her incredible Himalayan journey. Fans of her first book, Ultramarathon Mom, will be thrilled to be reunited with some familiar names in this next narrative, including her running accomplice, Beatrice, a Zurich-based fashion-blogger who is equally tough in running shoes as in high heels, and Kyaron, a young Nepalese environmentalist.

This book is for everyone: runners, trekkers, mountain lovers, Everest fans, and anyone who adores a good story. But be warned, after reading Running Everest, a part of you may long for adventure.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Roasted Eggplant and White Bean ‘Meat’balls

meatballs eggplant vegan holly zimmermannWith a couple of eggplants in the fridge and not wanting to make ratatouille again (though it's one of my family's favorite dishes), I decided to experiment. And I was very surprised at how delicious these meat(less)balls came out! I also made some regular meatballs (with beef) and had the kids try both of them in the spaghetti sauce ... and they said, except for the finer consistency of the eggplant-balls, it was hard to tell the difference! This recipe is high in fiber and protein and can be made gluten-free by using GF oatmeal and breadcrumbs.
Makes 24 balls... enough to freeze some! 

2 large eggplants
1 large can of white beans, drained and rinsed (approx. 500 g (18 oz.) when drained)
1 Tbs Italian seasoning
½ cup oatmeal
½ cup polenta
¼ cup yeast flakes
1 tsp salt
Half a dozen twists of the pepper mill
¼ cup fine bread crumbs (optional)
Olive oil

eggplant meatballs vegan holly zimmermann
Cut eggplants in half, rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast open side down in a 180°C (350°F) oven for an hour. Turn off oven leaving eggplants in to cool (or take out when time constrained). When cool, scoop eggplant out of skins and place in a large bowl. Discard skins and stem. Drain and rinse the white beans and add to eggplant. Puree the beans and eggplant with your favorite mixer. Add all remaining ingredients except the bread crumbs. Mix thoroughly, preferably with your hands. Lastly add the bread crumbs, using only enough to bring the mix to a consistency which allows forming balls. Form the ‘meat’balls and fry in olive oil over med-high heat until brown on all sides. The ‘meat’balls will be very soft until they have that brown crispy exterior, so turn carefully. They can be served hot as-is or in your favorite sauce over pasta, or even cold on salad as a type of falafel.

*Most of these measurement are guesstimates as I normally cook by 'feel' instead of precision, but with this recipe the key is simply to add enough solids (polenta, oatmeal and breadcrumbs) to get the mass to be solid enough to form balls that stay together when fried.

eggplant meatballs vegan holly zimmermann

Thursday, December 12, 2019

A few days ago I got an email from a man named Apa Tenzing Sherpa, an Everest summiter and mountaineer. He called my attention to a web page that he oversees via the Climbing Gear Lab which posts helpful, interesting and well-written articles about mountaineering and rock climbing gear, technique as well as general geographical information. He asked if I’d be interested in including a link to one of his articles on my blog* since it related to my post on the Mount Everest Marathon. The article, entitled Mount Everest Deaths Statistics by Year (1922-2019), is self-explanatory; it summarizes the deaths over the past 100 years on Mount Everest alone. Since I studied up on the dangers of high-altitude exposure and climbing in extreme weather conditions for sections of my book Running Everest, I am all too familiar with the risks; yet, people still die every year attempting to summit (or descend) the highest mountain on earth. A decision to climb any mountain should be considered and planned very carefully, and the articles from the Climbing Gear Lab can help do just that.

Mount Everest and neighboring peaks. Photo courtesy of Climbing Gear Lab

*I did not receive any compensation for this post, but found not only the article on Everest deaths, but the entire website so interesting that I wanted to share it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


If you've been wondering why I haven’t posted a report, or anything actually, since the pre-race post on the Adventure Race Croatia, it’s because that race was the very first one in which I did not reach the finish line. Not that I didn’t want to or wasn’t capable of it, but in a team event, there is more than one person making decisions, and after only 33 hours, with a total of 15 minutes of sleep during that time, two of the guys on my team decided to throw in the towel.*

Was it inadequate training that forced them to quit? Or lack of resilience? Or both?

The term ‘resilience’ can be defined in many contexts: In ecology, the capacity of an ecosystem to recover from climate change; in engineering and construction, the ability of buildings and infrastructure to absorb assaults without suffering complete failure; and in psychology, an individual's ability to adapt in the face of adverse conditions. In endurance sports there are two aspects to resilience: physical and mental. Is our body capable of withstanding prolonged stress and is our mind strong enough to keep us pushing through it?

When I was in school, we were given a handout in a chemistry class that had sketches of laboratory equipment on one side and motivational text on the other. I hung that sheet of paper with the text on it over my desk at home, brought it with me to college and still have it today. Those words have guided me and inspired me throughout my life. Here’s what it says:

Press On
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

So, if we believe in the truth of being rewarded by persistence and determination, and we add to that the definition above for resilience, then we can see that success has little to do with physical condition, environment, nor money, but rather is wholly reliant on one’s mental focus.

An ultra marathon is said to be 90% mental, and the remaining 10%... is also mental. If that’s the case, can anyone who is strong-willed just go out on a whim and run one? Probably, yes. There are many such documented cases. But most of us do a lot of conditioning and training to boost our performance and minimize the physical pain. Training plans for any distance race can be found in legions of books and everywhere on-line. But is there a method to train our minds? Of course there is, just ask any psychologist. But I personally believe that to be truly resilient we have to love what we are doing. We have to be passionate about it. Something that we love so much that we are willing to suffer for it. May it be sports, work, family or a social movement, I believe the single most important motivational criteria to master resilience and achieve our goals is passion.

This topic of resilience will be discussed next week in a forum called the Eckert Talkrunde where I have been invited to be on the panel along with other experts in sports therapy, training, coaching and even an Olympic medallist

I’m curious to see what the others believe… and if I’ll get some insight as to why even some of the most hopeful endurance athletes only rarely cross the finish line.

*Of course I've documented all the gory details of the entire race in nearly 30 pages of text which are just waiting for the right time and place to air them ;)

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Expedition Extreme: pre-ARC

Next week I will begin the greatest adventure of my life. At least I hope it will be great.

I am nervous.

Nervous because there are so many question marks and so much for me that is new. Not only will I be racing the longest distance that I’ve ever competed in, for the longest duration non-stop, but there are sports disciplines which are new to me as well as the dynamic of competing on a team.

What is this crazy race? It’s called the AdventureRace Croatia, a 500-kilometer, 10,000-meter elevation gain/loss, non-stop event involving not only running, but also mountain biking, climbing, rappelling, kayaking and, since there is no marked course, navigation with maps and compass. 

Teams of four athletes must include both males and females and any combination thereof. Our team consists of three guys and me. We must complete the entire race together, staying within 100 meters of each other at all times. There are 41 teams from around the world; we are the only one representing Germany. 

If we are good at navigating, the course is about 500 kilometers, if we are bad, it could be much, much more. The terrain will range from dry karst mountains to wetlands, grasslands, bogs, trails with dense overgrowth, natural caves, the Adriatic sea and winding rivers dotted with rapids and waterfalls. We will be completely self-supported, carrying all our own food, water and gear.

There will be 17 legs in the race, commencing with 32-kilometers of kayaking in the Adriatic sea, which will be followed by a 40-km run with 2,200 meters of elevation gain. And that is just the beginning. 

In total there will be 8 running legs summing to about 130 kilometers, 6 mountain biking legs covering 300 km, and three stints in the kayak adding up to about 70 km. And at every transition zone where we begin or end a bike leg, we need to build up or respectively break down our bikes. That means removing the wheels, pedals and handle bars and carefully tucking it all away into a 140cm X 80xm X 30cm box to be swiftly and easily moved to the next transition area by the race crew.

Last year the competitors had to rappel from a high bridge down to their kayaks waiting in the water below… in the darkness of night.

Sleep will be a luxury. The best teams do not sleep. We will try to get by with as little as possible. Looking forward to the hallucinations.

My training consisted (obviously enough) of mostly endurance. Long mountain runs/treks, hours on the bike and with regular strength training and a few short races for speed.

My biggest concerns are the rappelling sections (I have a bit of a fear of heights) and the sleep deprivation (who doesn't love to curl up in a warm cozy bed for 8 hours each night?), but I am also so excited to be free from commitments, telephone, Internet and to be able to (completely undisturbed) enjoy two things I love: nature and sports.

Our team goal is far from being on the podium. Our hope is simply to finish the race, injury-free and come home with a team comradery that keeps us motivated for future adventures.

*All photos courtesy of the Adventure Race Croatia and the Adventure Race World Series.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

MountainMan Nesselwang

 Click here for the English version

11. Mai 2019
Strecke M: 16 km (17+), 960 hm (1040)
Bedingungen: Schlamm, Schnee, Regen, Schneeregen, Wind, Kälte und mehr Schlamm

Obwohl es sich um eine neue Serie handelt, werden die MountainMan-Rennen professionell organisiert, als hätten sie jahrelange Erfahrung, aber es herrscht ein unverkennbar familiäres Gefühl. Die Organisatoren und das Support-Personal lächeln und lachen immer und haben Spaß dabei, sich auf die Bedürfnisse eines jeden ihrer Läufer einzustellen. Bei ihren Rennen fühlen Sie sich wirklich wie ein Teil der Familie und treffen sich zu diesem jährlichen Wiedersehen an einigen der malerischsten Orte, die die Welt zu bieten hat.

Bin es nur ich oder hast du das Gefühl, je schlechter das Wetter ist, desto mehr Spaß haben Trailrunner? Man hört sie nicht jammern, wenn Mutter Natur böse und wild ist und sie an ihre Grenzen treibt, aber man hört Trailrunner an schönen Sonnentagen jammern, weil es dann einfach zu ... na ja, sie sagen 'warm', aber was ich denke sie meinen, ist "einfach".
Nehmen Sie zum Beispiel den Original Mountain Marathon (OMM) in Großbritannien. Es findet seit 50 Jahren statt und ist absichtlich für Ende Oktober geplant, um „herausforderndes Wetter“ zu garantieren. Dies geschieht ganz einfach, weil die Leute das wollen. Wenn das Wetter am Rennwochenende mild ist, gibt es viele enttäuschte Läufer.
Für Nichtläufer, die denken, wir wären verrückt genug, um bei bestem Wetter die Berge zu bewältigen, ist es völlig unergründlich, warum wir an einem stürmischen Tag überhaupt nach draußen gehen würden, ganz zu schweigen von stundenlangem Kampf gegen Schnee, Schneeregen, Minusgraden und Kilometer aus schlamm und stürmischen kraftwinden zum spaß daran? Aber für diejenigen von uns, die Bescheid wissen, ist das genau das, wonach wir verlangen.

So viel Glück hatten wir beim Nesselwang MountainMan in den deutschen Alpen am 11. Mai. Nach einem Frühling mit milden Temperaturen war Jack Frost plötzlich mit aller Macht zurück.

König Ludwig II und seine Braut Sissi waren da, um uns zu verabschieden. Ok, nicht der wahre König und die wahre Königin, die mehr als ein Jahrhundert zuvor lebten, sondern Schauspieler in prunkvollen, königlichen Kostümen, die das Ereignis in den ohnehin schon idyllischen Alpen eher zu einem Märchen machten.

Die beiden langen Strecken (38 km und 30 km) begannen um 8:00 Uhr und mein Rennen (16 km) begann um 10:00 Uhr. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt war das Wetter am Start / Ziel stabil. Meine jüngste Tochter, Amelia, war bei mir und positionierte sich beim Start etwa 200 Meter entlang der Strecke, damit sie beim Vorbeirennen ein paar Fotos machen konnte. Ich erhielt die amerikanische Fahne von den Organisatoren in der Startzone und die Flaggen anderer Nationalitäten wurden auch entsprechend ausgegeben. Die Aufregung stieg in diesen letzten Minuten im Startblock, bis wir den Countdown von Rudi und Stephan hörten, der uns losließ. Ich rannte mit der Fahne weit über meinem Kopf vor und zurück und als ich an Amelia vorbeikam, gab ich sie ihr, um sie zum Start zurückzutragen. Klar, dass die anderen Fahnenträger zu glauben schienen, dass sie die offizielle Fahnenbringerin ist, also gaben alle anderen ihr auch ihre Fahnen, als sie vorbeirannten. Sie war froh, ein Teil der Verrücktheit zu sein und trug die Ladung glücklich zur Startlinie zurück, sobald die Läufer durch waren.

Hoch, hoch, hoch auf einem Pfad, der zur Metalltreppe neben einem prächtigen Wasserfall führte. Zweihundertsechzig Schritte, die alle ein wenig langsamer machten, was nicht unbedingt bedeutete, dass sich unser Puls verlangsamte, als wir die Treppe voller Kraft und Energie hochmarschierten und begierig darauf waren herauszufinden, was vor uns lag.

Dann kam der Wurzel-Weg, ein steiler, schmaler Weg, der überall mit rutschigen Wurzeln durchzogen war. Jeder Schritt musste gut platziert sein, um einen unangenehmen Sturz zu vermeiden. Aber bald hörte ich Stimmen und als wir den Wurzel-Weg erklomm, jubelten uns ein paar Leute zu. Einer von ihnen rief mir in Bezug auf mein Buch zu: "Wie geht es dir, Mama?" Und ich antwortete keuchend, dass meine Kinder stolz sein würden. Zugänglich über die Gondel, die die Zuschauer auf den Berg brachte, hatten wir die erste Verpflegungsstation im Sportheim Böck erreicht.

Dann stiegen wir über die Baumgrenze, der Wind nahm zu und es gab eine massive Mischung aus Niederschlägen: Eisregen, Schnee und Hagel. Ich musste anhalten, um meinen Rucksack abzulegen, in dem ich meine leichte Regenjacke aufbewahrte. Ich hatte beim ersten Aufstieg geschwitzt, aber jetzt zitterte ich.

Wir setzten unseren Aufstieg fort und der Wind setzte gleichzeitig seinen Ansturm fort. Ich schaute in den Himmel, um Anzeichen für gefährliches Wetter zu finden, aber es schien eine dicke Wetter-Front zu sein, die dort eine Weile hängen bleiben würde. Deshalb hoffte ich, den höchsten Punkt der Strecke in über 1.500 m Höhe zu überwinden und sobald wie möglich wieder unter der Baumgrenze zurück sein. Aber ein Teil von mir war begeistert von der Aufregung des wilden rauen Wetters und drückte meinen Körper an seine Grenzen.

Ich habe noch nie so viel Schlamm auf einem Kurs gesehen. Zuerst versuchte ich behutsam, mich in den Flecken zurechtzufinden, aber manchmal konnte ich es nicht vermeiden, so dass eine gerade Linie meine Strategie war, obwohl ich bis zu den Knöcheln in der dicke Matsch war. Aber ich war trotzdem vorsichtig, da es andere Läufer gab, die mit Schlamm bedeckt waren und anscheinend ausgerutscht waren und ein Schlammbad genommen hatten. An einem warmen Sommertag kann ich das freiwillig tun, aber bei eisigen Temperaturen kann ein Bad jeglicher Art gefährlich sein, deshalb habe ich alle Anstrengungen unternommen, um aufrecht zu bleiben.

Plötzlich wurde ich auf einer breiteren Strecke im Wald auf meiner linken Seite rasch vorbeigelaufen... von einem Hund! Eine gemischte Rasse flitzte mit seiner schnellfüßigen Besitzerin hinter sich her! Beide mit einem breiten Grinsen. Hunde sind in diesen Rennen auf der Strecke erlaubt. Muss man lieben!

Die Finishzeiten für Trail-Rennen auf unbekannten Strecken sind schwer vorhersehbar. Aber schon in der Mitte des Kurses wusste ich, dass ich weit davon entfernt sein würde, in 2,5 Stunden fertig zu werden, meine erste Einschätzung. Aber nach 3,5 Stunden, als ich den letzten Abstieg machte, sah ich meine treue Tochter mit einem breiten Lächeln zur Begrüßung in der Kälte warten, um ein paar Fotos von ihrer Mutter zu machen. Und vor der letzten Kurve überquerten wir einen Checkpoint-Empfänger, der den Moderatoren im Ziel, Rudi und Stephan, mitteilte, dass ich auf dem Weg ins Ziel war. Also hörte ich meinen Namen über den Lautsprecher, bevor ich sie überhaupt sah, und hörte den Jubel in Rudi‘s Stimme, der mich nach Hause begrüßte.

Wenn man in der Zielbereich durch die Finisher gehen, von denen viele mit Schlamm bedeckt und für die schlimmsten Elemente der Natur gekleidet sind, werden man nie eine Ahnung haben, dass die meisten erschöpft sind und unter einer Vielzahl kleinerer körperlicher Beschwerden leiden. Alles, was man sehen konnten, war Aufregung und Zufriedenheit. Und obwohl nur einige von ihnen an diesem Nachmittag auf dem Podest standen, hatten alle das bekommen, wofür sie gekommen sind.

Abenteuer. Herausforderung. Spaß.