Trails de la vallée du Brevon

In preparation for my goal races of 2016 I've done a series of 45km to 60km races in the spring to test my pacing, nutrition and to work on being race ready. Last week it was the Trail des Allobroges in the Haute Savoie region of the Alps. A 60km race with 4,500m of climbing means it was very tough and a good chance to test my legs on big ascents and descents (a lot of the higher passes in the mountains have been difficult to traverse in training because of lingering snow).

I ran a conservative and consistent race as my goals were focused on resolving a few issues from last season and nailing down a good pace and strategy for longer races this summer. I felt positive the whole day and learnt a couple of things I'd like to tweak and work on in the lead up to Lavaredo in June.

During the early part of the race there was thick fog and there weren't too many views or chances to admire the landscape. However, later in the day the sun came out and I could enjoy the spectacular alpine landscapes and viewpoints from the tops of the many climbs the race took us over. I'd love to go back to this region to train or maybe to do the race again next year!

A grey and cloudy start to the day.

Arriving at the second checkpoint and moving along well.

As always, there were lots of beautiful little towns along the route.

Still going strong at the next checkpoint.

Up high in the early morning there was a log of fog and some snow.

Into the fog!

At the aid station V had gear ready for sunshine and 32Gi to keep me going.

Lac du Vallon.

Later in the day it was beautiful in the mountains.

Just after the last aid station and the start of another climb.

Race result: 8:44:33 and 4th.

Bread and butter in the spring

A great piece of advice that I have implemented into my training is to have "bread and butter" training sessions. These sessions are easily repeatable, are performed over the same route and don't require any special motivation or thinking to do them. The sessions are not especially race-specific or demanding, rather they are simple building blocks to create a training routine and to perform when tired or low on motivation.

I like to run mine without a watch so I'm not looking to compare each run and so there's no pressure to run a certain time. Typically I love having the data at hand and I enjoy the process of keeping a log and tracking my training, however, I have come to love these sessions where I just go out to run. [I do know the distance of the route and assign a rough estimate of my time for each one and that's enough to keep the training log accurate and up-to-date.]

A staple in my training diet is the easy hour. This is a great run to do as a second run of the day, as a recovery run or just to squeeze in when I'm a little tight on time. I run from home and link through two of my favorite features of the Aubonne zone: the arboretum and the parcours vita. The route is about an hour in time (depending on how tired I am), about 12km and there's only a few hundred meters of climbing. For insight into my easy hour, below are some pictures from along the route.

Leaving home and running through the top part of town. The Aubonne tower is the green, dome-shaped tower in the top right of the picture. This is the reference point and an easy way to find my way back to Aubonne.

About 500m from home I hit the trails. From here the route gets better and better!

A favorite little bridge on the outskirts of town. This is easy walking distance from home so I often see people strolling or walking their dogs here.

Spring weather means it's green, but also that it can be quite wet.

Climbing up from the river towards the farmlands and arboretum. Although there are roads to do this route, the pedestrian trails direct me up this grassy hill.

The area around Aubonne is agricultural. There are cows in the fields, the crops are rotated two to three times a year and we can buy great local produce in the supermarket. The arboretum forest is in front and to the right in the picture.

Welcome to the arboretum. I love this place! There are kilometers of trails, it's well marked and well maintained. There's always a fun route to run and the trails feel different as the foliage changes throughout the year.

A little winding trail through the forest.

After gradually climbing up to the hills of the arboretum from home this stairway descends down to the Aubonne dam. They have put fencing (chicken-mesh) over the stairs so the grip is good no matter how wet it gets.

The Aubonne dam is at the top end of this route. I run a loop around the dam and start heading back home at this point.

The dam is a beautiful place for a picnic or to run, but it's also an important part of the electricty supply. 50% of the power for Aubonne and four other nearby villages comes from the hydro-electric plant that is fed by this dam.

There are plenty of marked routes through the arboretum and it's always possible to find some guidance on how to get home.

From the arboretum I can see the Aubonne tower in the distance - that's the way home. On a clear day Lake Geneva and the Alps are visible beyond the rolling hills.

A quick pass through the parcours vita provides a couple of extra kilometers of soft footing and easy trail.

Like any good trail run which has to end on either a climb or descent, this route climbs back from the river and up to town via a short, steep staircase. This is an old entrance to the town through the historic town wall.

That's it - my "bread-and-butter" route around the local attractions of Aubonne. For anyone who comes to visit this is a definite route we'll run together!

When it snows...

A short video of a very snowy day out on the trails last week. I run through the arboretum almost every day and it seems like the trails are different every time I'm there. This day had the most snow I've ever seen there.

When it snows... from Daniel Rowland on Vimeo.

Winter in Switzerland - an update.

My last post was from my final race in the 2015 season (Trail Vallée de Joux). Since then I've had a break from training and started to put in the base work for the 2016 season. I haven't had a true offseason period for a while so it was great to have some time to rest, recover and plan for the upcoming year.

My winter training is going well and I'm enjoying the consistency of uninterrupted training and lower intensity mileage. A lot of the higher climbs and mountain trails are covered in deep snow so I have been focusing on my training volume, economy and aerobic development. I feel like I'm making a good start to the year.

I'll let the pictures tell the story of my adventures and training over the last few months.

V and I went away for a break in Zinal after the 2015 season.

The valley which Zinal lies in is one mountain range away from Zermatt.

Zinal is in Valais - the awesome star flag is the cantonal flag.

Summer sunshine lasted late into the year.

In autumn I managed a few snow-free runs in the Alps near Martigny.

A perfect autumn day near Bovine.

A great spot for lunch!

One week after my picnic lunch and winter arrived.

Snow capped Alps, low clouds and weak sunshine in the Jura.

I'm still excited every time it snows...

A winter wonderland in Ravoire.

An incredible weekend away in Adelboden.

My parents came to visit in December. I had to show my dad the Jura!

Adventures in the snow above Martigny.

Near Col de Forclaz with my mom. She loved Switzerland!

Chamonix on the beginning of the climb to Brevent.

Chamonix is very cool in winter too.

New trails I haven't run on before at the base of the Jura.

Playing in my winter wonderland.

Yes - the views are always incredible no matter the season.

Markings for the Vallée de Joux route - not so runnable at this time.