How do you prepare for the Red Bull X-Alps 2019?
Chrigel, 2019 is all about "beating Switzerland". How can this be done? In other words, what are the key components that every athlete should take into the race, in order to beat Switzerland?
For me there are five fundamental factors: physical fitness, very good paragliding skills, GPS know-how and excellent orientation, the ability to make decisions, a committed, trusted Supporter Team, and a precise study of the rules.
About 1,138 kilometres lie ahead of us this year. Physical fitness, condition and a strong will are important, either to ascend to the starting positions, or to go longer distances on foot, depending on the weather. It is important to master the paraglider, being able to handle longer distances in the air (weather permitting) will give you an advantage. The take off and landing sites are also rarely ideal.
The average travel time over the last few years has been between 15 and 17.5 hours daily. Five hours of sleep will have to suffice to run a distance of about 49 kilometres at an altitude of approximately 2,800 metres and depending on the weather, fly 150 kilometres for six hours.
Yes, that's about right. The weather dictates the amount that you can run or fly, be that more or less.
Past races have shown that it is also worthwhile, within the framework of the rules, to make other decisions. For example, this can mean ascending further east into a neighbouring valley and risking a detour as the flying conditions will be better. Strategic thinking, deliberately making decisions for oneself - without focusing too much on the competition - can pay off.
Do you have a master plan for the X-Alps 2019?
(Chrigel laughs). Yes, I like master plans. The better prepared I feel, the more I look forward to the unknown. My goal is to have a strategy for every situation and every area so that I have the best possible flexibility in the race!
The X-Alps is perfect for me: there is some structure, but during the race I have to intuitively implement what I've learned over the year, with the help of my team.
The detailed overview helps me to define what I already know and what I still have to focus on. I develop the content of my master plan from my own experience, during discussions with other athletes and the multiple mental "play throughs" of the race with my team.
When does preparation for the X-Alps begin for you personally? Or does it never really stop?
What do you do in the winter to stay fit?
There is a small time window to relax in the late summer/early autumn. That’s when I have a chance to take it easy.
In October, strength training and muscle building are back on the agenda. Also longer Hike & Fly sessions.
As soon as the snow arrives, I am motivated to start the ski tour training. Altogether, I cover ascents of 20,000 metres each month. On average, this equates to eight hours of fitness training and 60 hours of endurance training per month.
Do you participate in Ski mountaineering?
Yes, it helps show me what shape I am in. From January to April, I regularly take part in races. Racing also motivates me to really "put my foot down".
From February, I add 1-2 running sessions per week. I continuously increase these on-road running sessions. Four months later, in May, I run 150 kilometres a month.
And the flight training?
That almost never stops. (Chrigel laughs)
Acrobatics, in other words technical training, becomes more important in the winter, I even use skis no matter how bad the snow is. Experience shows that from March onwards, thermal lifts allow for longer flights. Every year I get a renewed sense of enjoyment when I fly like a bird over my homeland. That's also the time to try new material and possibly buy some new equipment. This applies equally to my diet, running clothes and optimal footwear. Since I know my body very well, I can quickly notice whether the changes have been positive or not.
The Hike & Fly race season begins in April. I use these races to become more efficient. Until then, I know my current physical condition pretty well.
We now have about three months left before the X-Alps.
And your final touches before then will be...?
I will soon replace strength training with high-speed strength jumps and stretching or coordinative training: Running up mountains, I will mostly be improving my circulation and when I am running flat or down the mountain, it will be my legs and structure. I think it's important to be familiar with my environment, so that I feel good and have a clear mind.
As I said: The better prepared I feel, the more I look forward to the unknown. My anticipation this year is huge.