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Switzerland’s Free Outdoor Gyms

November 19, 2014 at 15:36

I ran hill repeats yesterday. I’ve not done that for a long time and in keeping with my nicknames for other workouts I think I’ll call that session “The Reaming”.  Today my body said ‘no running’ and I listened, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend the whole bloody day sitting here like a melting blancmange.

I’ve been looking into different training programmes for my next marathon training phase, and I might give FIRST / Run Less Run Faster a try. This one has you running fewer miles but running much higher intensity workouts and faster pace. In between it prescribes cross-training, and so I thought I’d go do a bit of cross-training today instead.

So I took my bike out. I ride rarely these days as I just don’t enjoy it as much as I do running. I recently got a new bike – it’s a Charge Plug 1 – a single speed effort which I’ve set up with a freewheel. I did try fixed gear and almost fucking died. It’s good though, simple and solid and riding round here is great with no gears. The landscape is all drumlins so it’s a constant undulation and without gears you get to work quite hard but in short bursts.


I rode it out following one of my regular running routes through the moorland north of where I live and then I remembered the “Vita Parcours” in the forest up there.  It’s an exercise circuit made up of various bits of wooden outdoor equipment, each of which has a sign suggesting which exercises you can do on them. There are 498 of these throughout Switzerland, with a combined course length of 1119km.

Now I’ve never actually seen anyone using a Vita Parcours, despite them being all over the place, well maintained, unvandalized, and free to use. I run through there a lot and I’ve yet to witness somebody actually getting it on.

I had a go.


The first obstacle I tackled was a log laid down on the ground, with smaller logs coming out of it at right angles along the length. The idea is to jump forwards over the smaller logs and sideways over the main log. Some kind of plyometric hopscotch thing. Harder than it looks, but not too taxing – I give that one a 6/10.


The next one was a sort of fence thing with cross bars at different heights. The exercises suggested here are inclined push-ups, either regular (facing down) or kinky (facing up). I’ve done the limbo through these on a hash before. I had a go at both official exercises and because I’m really shit at bodyweight exercises and anything upper-body I found this one hard. I guess that means I have to do it more, right ? 4/10


Moving on, there were more logs. This time laid out in a sort of children’s adventure playground interpretation of a railway track. It’s another plyometric jobby, this time you have to do two-footed frog-jumps over all the horizontal log sections. I think with a bit of practice this one could be really good – you know, if you lift your knees right up and jump high. I’m not so advanced yet. 8/10.


And finally the last one I tried (and there are many more I either have not found or didn’t try) was a horizontal pull-up bar. There are 3 exercises described. One is ‘hang off the bar and breathe slowly for 15 seconds’. I tried that one, and my hand hurt – I’ll try again with gloves on some time. The next one is pull up ‘up’ position and hold it. Finally actual pull-ups. This is my nemesis as my upper body strength is less than that of my 2 year old son. I gave it a bash anyway – I guess I need to stick at it. 2/10.

All in all it suits me better than a gym but I know it’s probably not as effective. I’ll try and do it once per week and then at least the local councils can rest easy knowing at least one person is actually using these things.

Moar Speed !

November 17, 2014 at 15:50

I’m currently between marathons, and this is a strange place to be. There’s something reassuring about the constant grind of a marathon training plan – you know where you are – there’s a structure. In between bouts though it’s a twilight zone. I want to run – and I am running – but because I can do whatever I like, I find it hard to plan. I want to improve my speed really.

You see I have a little dream – next September I’ll turn 40, and I’d like to be able to run 10km in less than 40 minutes at 40 years of age.

My current best time for 10km is 48:18 and I know I can run faster than that right now.

So my aim is to run 10km sub 45mins before the end of 2014 and sub 40mins before the end of September 2016. This might be a bit ambitious, I’m not sure – but I can do the speed now for the 45 minute goal, I just need to hang on to it for longer. Here’s the sort of runs I’m doing, and this is all made up, I’m not following a program. I do give them nicknames though :

  • The Tantra – 16km – 21km running anything from 5:30-6:00 per km
  • The Edger –  Intervals – 8-10km where the kilometers flip between slow ones and fast ones all the way round
  • The Happy Spurt – 8km “six plus two” run where I run 6km slowish – 5:10 – 5:30 per km, then go fast for the last 2km
  • The Quick & Dirty - sub 4:29 run – I either run 5km as fast as I can sustainably, or run as far as I can at 4:29 / km
  • The Missionary – 8-10km at a comfortable pace of 5:10-5:20 per km
  • The Strap-On – H3 Hash run where it’s a bit of a fartlek run with slow bits and fast bits, followed by beer

I guess all this will at least keep me fit before I start marathon training again in January, and the runs themselves are good fun – especially “The Quick & Dirty”.

Running the 2014 Frankfurt Marathon

November 10, 2014 at 22:25


This was my 5th marathon and my second pop at the ‘Furt.

My four legged 42km career up to this point had progressed from the 5 hour mail room rapidly upwards to the ranks of just-sub-four middle management. Here’s a potted CV, in five keywords of course :

Zürich April 2013 4’59 : Long, Tedious, Cold, Painful, Trudge

Frankfurt October 2013 4’22 : Touching, Cloth, All, The, Way

Locarno November 2013 4’08 : You, Can, Plan, Your, Race ?

Zürich April 2014 3’57 : First, Half, Too, Fucking, Fast

I aborted an attempted marathon in Wakefield in June 2014, I was under the weather and under trained and barely survived the half. My training had been laughable and woeful and with it being a two-looper, I broke out after one iteration.

So on to Frankfurt 2014. The city is a special place for me, I’ve worked there a lot and enjoy visiting. It’s a great blend of slick high-rise financial powerhouse, handcheese with music, and seedy red-light millieu. Somewhere in the middle are the cool bars, the beery bars, the Zeil and the place with the full size taxidermied horse.

I flew in from Zürich to a blustery and slightly chilly FFM, took the train down to the Hauptbahnhof and the S-Bahn out to the Messe where I could collect my start number and other tat. Then over to the hotel Maritim nearby where I’d booked in for two nights. I’m a bit of a comfort whore, and if I’m gonna run a marathon then I’m damn well gonna have a hotel room to come back to afterwards. The Maritim is literally 10 metres from my starting block and maybe 80 metres from the finish line.

I spent the evening eating, reading and sleeping. On the Sunday morning I woke up after successfully negotiating end of daylight savings to get breakfast down early enough for it to be well past the point of coming back up during the race. A couple of strong coffees guaranteed to get me down to my racing weight for the 10:20 start.


I’d trained for and aimed for a 5:27 per km target split. This cunning plan would see me across the line in just under 3:50. It was pretty optimistic over this distance but my training had given me confidence and Jack Daniels running calculator agreed.

After the gun went and my block slowly stretched out past the Messe and the hammering man sculpture and on over the starting line, I was running a slower than target pace at around 5’40. This was ok. I always start too fast and the crowded first few km forced me to slow down. From the 5th kilometre onwards I got into my groove and picked up the pace. The crowd – both on and alongside the course – were fantastic. Like an actual child or twat I had worn a superman shirt. It did what it was supposed to and got a great crowd reaction, everyone wanted to yell nice things at superman. My pace settled into the targeted 5’27, drink stops were frequent and huge with great choices and I felt in great shape.

Just after the half way point I was still holding target pace. The city was far behind and we were out beyond Niederrad on the other side of the Main river. I got pulled aside by a TV interviewer from HR television – the local broadcaster and interviewed about my shirt. I was barely coherent, trying to come round from my long distance runner trance, avoid giving them my Swiss-German and tried miserably put my brain right into German-German gear. I soon snapped out of it and told them I wanted to run, and had to give it the beans to catch my pace back up to the target I was chasing.

Now we were approaching the part of the course where it had unravelled a bit for me in 2013. There’s a not so charming section where you have to run up a motorway slip road onto the flyover over the Main river and I’d stopped for a piss last time to take the pressure off the more unfortunate delivery waiting at the back door, and eager to dispatch itself along the course. After that stop I never really got back into gear and had a fairly miserable second half. 2014 was quite different though – at this point I still felt fresh and strong and that boost – knowing I’d got past last year’s breakdown spot feeling good – really helped to push me onwards.

The next section – coming up to 34km – started to get trickier. There’s an out and back leading to a long interminable return leg into the city centre. It’s the sort of stretch of road which is so dull and straight, it messes with your head a bit and here is where I started to flag. I get this in training running next to the canal – I hate it. From 35km through to 40km I was feeling a lot of pain and my pace dropped. I found myself walking through the drink stops. My target pace had drifted into the 5’30s and I knew I couldn’t get it back to 5’27 – now I really wanted to stay sub 4hr so I knew I’d have to get going again and find some sort of mojo for the last 2-3km. Back in among the crowds I found my inner pump-up music again, and picked up the pace despite the pain.

I even rather embarrassingly yelled something ‘motivating’ as I entered the last kilometre. Fuck it – after 41km I didn’t care any more. My last km in FFM was faster than target and I powered into the Festival Hall across the red carpet, past the cheerleaders and across the finish line clocking 3’57 – 2 minutes faster than my previous PB. I knew I could have gone a bit quicker if I’d have avoided the TV interview and been harder on myself in those bleak few km towards the end – but it had been a thoroughly decent marathon. I felt my preparation had been good, my confidence was justified and my attempted pace perhaps just a little too optimistic.

I’ll be back there in 2015, I love that race.

New Website, New Workshop

November 8, 2013 at 13:46


It’s been quite some time since I had grafsnowboards.com up and running and doing anything meaningful. I put this down to my busy last 4 years, in which I’ve simultaneously started an IT business and become a father to 2 kids. That didn’t leave any time for snowboard building or writing about snowboard building !

New Workshop


Our old workshop building was sold and we moved out in June. The new place is incredible. We’re on the 5th floor of an old former spinning mill. Luckily for me there’s a cargo elevator to get the machines up. The building is 100% hydro electric powered, with the power generated right there onsite. We’re at the bottom of one of the closest resorts to Zürich, with a 5 minute drive to the chair. This is gonna get fun.

I’ve set up an office in the same building so that I can try and combine my day job with snowboard building, and get this site back on track – and more importantly build some sweet rides. Can you believe it, I didn’t build myself a snowboard since 2003.

I’ll start adding content again to this site, my intention is to do it all new, and try and demonstrate different levels of build to suit all budgets – from all-singing all-dancing CNC to heated pneumatic press down to simple jigsaw, plywood and fridge pump – it’ll be fun to go back to that level too and document a build process which works at the most basic level.

It’s good to be back !