Pre-UTCT training update

After CCC I travelled to South Africa for two weeks. When I was there I got food poisoning and felt terrible for almost the entire two weeks. The stress of the race at CCC and then immediate travel left me vulnerable and my body wasn't ready for all the demands I put on it. I knew it was time to rest and recover so I took a week off in October and then started a block of work to prepare for UTCT beginning at the end of the month. This provided me with six weeks to build back some fitness and get into race shape.

Focus for the block
  • use the same weekly route as pre-CCC to prepare for UTCT
  • increase weekly vertical with climbs similar to Platteklip Gorge
  • prepare with a single race in mind rather than building for a season

Training statistics
  • Time: 88hrs 46min
  • Distance: 673km
  • Vertical gain: 30,700m

Training log

Green bubbles = normal training
Yellow bubbles = workout
Red bubbles = race
XT = cross training

Review of the block
This block of work went very well. I felt good, I was motivated and I picked up the routine and structure quickly. I would have liked to do longer long runs, but the snow and poor trail conditions meant my long runs were more slogs against the conditions rather than efficient runs for long distances. The volume of work was good for this block, but I definitely need to build that more if I want to race with the top competitors.

Overall, I felt well prepared and excited going into UTCT.

Pre-CCC training update

I approached CCC with a short-term plan to do a good block of training in the six weeks between the Eiger Ultra and CCC. I knew that I needed a good block with some intensity and higher mileage and also some time at altitude in the final weeks leading into the race.

Focus for CCC preparation
  • 3 day training blocks with intensity early in the week
  • long runs in the mountains to simulate the race length

Training statistics
  • Time: 91hrs 33min
  • Distance: 693km
  • Vertical gain: 35,800m

Training log

Green bubbles = normal training
Yellow bubbles = workout
Red bubbles = race
XT = cross training

Review of the block
I was very pleased with how this block of work went. I found a good weekly routine, achieved the consistency I wanted and did some excellent long runs on the CCC route with Patrick and Moises. Ending off the block in Chandolin really helped during the race in terms of being ready for the altitude, but also in terms of setting me up mentally for the race.

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June training update

After a good month of training in May and a good effort at MaXi Race I was looking forward to more miles and vertical gain in June. My plan was to continue and build on my level of climbing per week and run some race-specific sessions.

Focus for June
  • climbing, descending and total vertical gain per week
  • long runs in the mountains to simulate the race length

Training statistics
  • Time: 72hrs 25min
  • Distance: 453km
  • Vertical gain: 24,000m

Training log - running by distance

Green bubbles = normal training
Yellow bubbles = workout
Red bubbles = race
XT = cross training

Training log - all by time

Green bubbles = running
Purple bubbles = cycling

I have included the log by time for this month as it shows the volume of training more accurately after I shifted to cycling more after a fall in the second week of the month.

Review of the month
June started off really well with a big week including a race at Pierre A Voir. I was a little tired, but happy to start off the month the right way. Unfortunately in the second week I fell hard on a descent and bruised and scraped my hip, side, elbow and knee. I thought I would bounce back quickly, but the recovery took longer than I hoped. I spent a lot of time in the following two weeks on the indoor trainer (bike) trying to keep up my aerobic fitness and letting my body recover. In the last week I did some good work with a long run and some hard workouts.

Overall I had a decent month, but didn't manage to build on from May as I had planned. Sometimes little setbacks happen and luckily for me I didn't lose any fitness and still did some good training.

Trail de la Pierre A Voir

In the last five weeks I've made some great progress on my climbing with some solid weeks of training and a good race at MaXi Race. After a good week with a long run on Thursday, I wanted to run a different route and I decided to use a race to ensure that I would complete a good effort on tired legs.

I found the Trail de la Pierre A Voir after looking for new climbs and routes around Martigny for training. The timing of the race was perfect and the race was just what I was looking for: 33km with 2200m of climbing and close to home. There is also a character to Swiss races that I love so this was definitely a great goal for the weekend.

I had a fantastic time in the race and achieved my objective of completing a good outing with lots of climbing. However, I felt quite tired and my legs were heavy from the last few weeks' training. It was good to train in a state similar to the final part of a long race, but it also reminded me of how tough that is!

Overall I had a great experience and I'll be going back to do this race again in the future.

MaXi Race XL

The MaXi Race in Annecy has multiple different options for runners. There is a 110km race, an 83km race, a 110km race over two days, an 83km race over two days, a marathon, a 15km race and even a kids' event. There were a lot of trail runners who raced and an amazing race village was set up on the edge of Lake Annecy where the start and finish took place. I ran in the XL race which was the 83km race split into two days with 42km on Saturday and 41km on Sunday.

Day 1

My goal for the first day was to run conservatively, to run my own race and to enjoy a mountain race. I haven't had such a great start to this season so I wanted to be relaxed and to do everything right in this race. There was lots of climbing and I know I still need time to put in enough vertical in training, but this was a good chance to do some varied climbing in the Alps.

The first climb to Semnoz was long and all runnable. I kept a good pace and was very happy with my climbing. From there I ran a great descent passing lots of people (who were a mix of competitors from all the races taking place at the same time) and worked hard to arrive at the base of the next climb. On the second significant climb I used my poles and tried to set up a good rhythm climbing. I wasn't moving very fast, but I was making progress and feeling good. I ran well on the final descent for the day and kept a moderate pace to the finish although I was starting to feel the heat and the miles by then.

It was a good first day and I came away feeling a lot of confidence and happiness that the work I've been doing in the mountains was starting to pay off. If the race had ended here I would have been happy with my performance.

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Day 2

Waking up on Sunday morning wasn't easy. In an unpleasant reminder of stage racing my legs were protesting and feeling very tight and sore. I wasn't sure what I would be able to achieve in the second half of the race, but I also knew that I'd run multiple days in a row in the past and managed to keep going. I did a good warm-up, loosened up a little and felt more relaxed by the time I was on the start line.

The first climb of the day was steep and technical. I set a good rhythm and felt surprisingly good despite how my legs had felt just a few hours earlier. I noticed I was moving about the same pace as the people around me until the last 10 minutes of the climb where I seemed to move more efficiently and keep a good pace to pass a few runners. On the long descent I was feeling fantastic! I ran smoothly and overtook at least five or six runners. On the bumpy and hilly section to the half-way point I kept a solid pace and felt positive about running a good stage.

The last climb was sustained and it felt much hotter and more difficult than I expected. I was going really slowly, but only one person caught up to me and in reality he seemed to be keeping a similar pace to me. Over the top of Veyrier I was hot, thirsty and crawling along. Fortunately I was able to run a great descent to the finish surprising myself with a great pace all the way down the technical trail. I was pleased with the second day and the good sections (mostly descents) where I ran strongly and with a lot of motivation.

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Overall I was pleased with my performance at this race. I made a lot of progress in my training since Nivolet-Revard and my climbing and descending was a huge step up from that effort. I hope I can maintain this work and focus in the upcoming weeks before Eiger Ultra Trail.

May training update

After three races this season (Cabornis, Reculées, Nivolet-Revard), I knew that I needed to work on a number of areas to be ready for my focus races. I struggled with the climbing at Nivolet-Revard and my endurance for longer races was not good enough. May was the month to put in the work to start fixing these issues with an aggressive and focused approach.

Focus for May
  • climbing, descending and total vertical gain per week
  • back-to-back sessions to build on endurance and prepare for MaXi Race XL

Training statistics
  • Time: 66hrs 34min
  • Distance: 492km
  • Vertical gain: 26,269m

Training log

Green bubbles = normal training
Yellow bubbles = workout
Red bubbles = race (in this case MaXi Race XL)
XT = cross training

Review of the month
I started off with two and a half really solid weeks and by the third weekend I needed to rest and recover. After an easy weekend, I did a hard effort with climbing and then raced MaXi Race XL the following weekend where I was happy with my result. Overall it was a good month with good climbing volumes and four back-to-back sessions. I made a definite step-up in my vertical training and I'm glad I managed to hold off pushing too much when I felt the fatigue accumulating at the end of the third week. I think I did the best month of training that I was capable of for May. I need to build another one on top of that in June!

Nivolet Revard

At the end of April (30th) I started Nivolet Revard for the third time. Last year I ran faster than the year before and I was pleased with my result. This year I was looking forward to running and I felt like I was in good shape; I had run less mileage in training, but had done some faster running and high quality sessions.

I decided to use the event as a test to learn about the pacing and effort at the front of the pack. I went out fast with the lead group and held in amongst the top 10 for about 45 minutes. I was handling the pace well with respect to the aerobic effort and my ability to run at that speed, but as we climbed my lack of vertical in training clearly showed up. I couldn't keep up on the steep climb and struggled with the speed of ascent.

As the race went on I slowed and faded significantly suffering on the climbs. I was eating and drinking well and my gear all felt great, so clearly the issue was with my fitness. The lack of specificity in my training, in particular endurance and climbing, were a big issue. At ~30km I decided to call it a day and abandon. I knew that I had a lot of work to do to be ready for my goal races this season and that continuing the way I was running (or not really running) would not be as effective as stopping and starting some focused training as soon as possible.

I love this race and I know I can run it well, but I wasn't ready on this day. I've made some adjustments from last year's off-season training that are designed to set me up for my goal races later this season, however, they also mean I wasn't well prepared for Nivolet Revard. I will be back next year with better fitness and focus to race well.

Trail des Reculées

This race was on 2 April in the French Jura. It was my second race of the 2017 season and I absolutely loved the route. There was lots of climbing and descending the reculées and running through small French villages.

I started off well and I felt like I was running a smooth and consistent pace until about half way through the race. However, at the halfway checkpoint I noticed that I was a little slower than the previous year despite feeling like I was running faster. I kept running, keeping a good rhythm and I thoroughly enjoyed the route. In the last 6km to 8km I started to fatigue and slow up. The last part of the race was tough and a bit of a slog.

Overall I was happy with my result and the shape I am in considering the training that I've done this season so far. I need to do some longer endurance runs and increase my weekly volume to build my aerobic endurance. I have been doing lower mileage compared to the same time last year (by design) because I feel I may have peaked too early last year or perhaps been a little too enthusiastic in my total volume of training. Hopefully this adjustment will mean better results at the key races this summer, but it does leave me a little short on endurance right now.

This way!

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Spring in #Jura. Awesome!!

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Première sortie de la saison à Mont Tendre

On Saturday I did my first run up Mont Tendre for this season. It's one of my favorite climbs, the views are great and there is a good mix of forest and open trail to run on. It has been warm here with beautiful spring weather so I thought that the route might be clear of snow, but there was still quite a lot in the shaded areas higher up. Hopefully it will all melt soon for faster ascents and better trail-running training.

Mont Tendre is the closest long ascent to home so I expect to be climbing it frequently over the next six months. I'll post a tally of my ascents at the end of the season so we can see how often I run there.

Views from the Swiss Jura

The trails I run on the most are in the area between Lake Geneva and up into the Swiss portion of the Jura Mountains. The climbs are not as steep as the Alps, but there are some good climbs and incredible views into the Jura and also back across the lake over the Alps. I love being up in the mountains and exploring the trails to find new view points. Here are some of my favorite pictures of the Alps and the canton of Vaud.

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Trail des Cabornis

Last weekend I ran my first race of the 2017 season: Trail des Cabornis. This is a well-organised race on the outskirts of Lyon through the fields and around Mont Verdun and Mont d'Or. It is one of the first trail races of the season so it's well attended and everyone is excited to be out racing on the trails.

My goals for the race included testing my training over the winter to compare to where I was at the same time last season, trying out a new nutrition plan I want to use in my longer races, and running conservatively through the first half to be able to finish strongly. I managed to achieve all three goals and I feel quite positive about the outing.

Compared to last year I ran a faster race. The route was slightly different so even though my time was 41 minutes faster than last year I think I ran about 15 minutes faster effectively. My nutrition plan of eating frequently and using only simple gels went well and didn't present any issues for this length race. Finally I managed (mostly!) to run conservatively in the first half, resulting in a consistent effort throughout the race without slowing towards the end. I may have been too conservative at the beginning because I recovered very quickly and felt good in training again this week.

It was tremendous fun to be racing again and I'm looking forward to my next race in a few weeks.

2017 race calendar

In 2017 I have scheduled a great set of races. In the last few years I've refined my racing and training to perform better in the mountains, but I still haven't quite raced as well as I think I'm capable of. This year I want to race to the limit of my abilities and to do that I've been more conscientious and careful in building a season plan that suits me.

There are a number of factors that are important for me which led to the season plan in its current form. The basis of deciding what races included the following principles:

  • I race best when I'm running in events that excite me and that I know I will be motivated and driven to complete a full training cycle for;
  • I prefer to race on routes that I know or where I can reduce the number of factors outside my control by careful study of the race profile and route;
  • I am able to adapt to heat (Jungle Ultra) or altitude (Atacama Crossing) but I need to perform a full and diligent adaptation protocol; and
  • I find traveling and new race venues add additional stress and without careful management that can affect how I race.

Using these principles I have prioritized races that are close to home, that particularly interest me, and which are well scheduled to provide time for any adaptation and specific training. I will be racing almost exclusively in France and Switzerland on race routes that I've run before and within an easy drive from home. Fortunately I live in trail running heaven with some of the biggest races, the best competition and the most scenic routes nearby.

2017 race calendar
This is my calendar of key races and includes all the races I've already entered and a few more at the end of the season that I will enter closer to the event. I may enter a few other smaller races for preparation and training, but these are the goal events and where I'm focusing my effort.

Trail des Cabornis
Details: 40km, 2000m D+
Date: 5 March 2017
Location: Chasselay, France
Previous result: 2016 - 4h26
Focus: My first race of the season in 2016. I want to go back as a test to see what state my fitness is and how effective my winter training has been.

Trail des Reculees
Details: 46km, 1800m D+
Date: 2 April 2017
Location: Lons-le-saunier, France
Previous result: 2016 - 4h13
Focus: This race is in a beautiful area in the Jura with some spectacular little villages that it runs through and amazing scenery (the Reculees). I'm excited to go and enjoy this region again.

Details: 51km, 2700m D+
Date: 30 April 2017
Location: Voglans, France
Entry: Yes
Previous results: 2016 - 5h44, 2015 - 5h56
Focus: This is a great early season race that's close to home and I have run it for the last two years. I want to run the race again to test my fitness and compare my results to previous years.

MaXi XL Race
Details: Day 1 - 42.5km, 2550m D+; Day 2 - 41.5km, 2780m D+
Date: 27 & 28 May 2017
Location: Annecy, France
Previous result: First time racing.
Focus: I love the area around Annecy and enjoyed some great running there with Moises before he ran the 85km MaXi race in 2016. This race is my first goal race of the season where I want to race all out and go for a top performance. It will be great to run a stage race again and I'm looking forward to having a great weekend of running in Annecy.

Mont Blanc Marathon
Details: 42km, 2730m D+
Date: 25 June 2017
Location: Chamonix, France
Previous result: First time racing.
Focus: This will be a test event for me and a chance to run hard and fast before the Eiger a few weeks later. Chamonix is an incredible place to run and I'm keen to run a new race there and to explore some new trails in the area.

Eiger Ultra E101
Details: 101km, 6700m D+
Date: 15 July 2017
Location: Grindelwald, Switzerland
Previous result: 2016 - 14h05
Focus: I ran this race last year and it was fantastic! This is definitely one of my favorite races so it's an easy choice to go back and to try and improve on last year's result. The is my second goal race of the season.

Details: 101km, 6100m D+
Date: 1 September 2017
Location: Courmayeur, Italy
Previous result: 2016 - DNF
Focus: The UTMB trail festival with all of its races is the pinnacle of trail running for me. I've been there to crew, been there to watch the races, and last year I started CCC. I know the trails well and I want to race the best competition and run the best I can at this event. The CCC is a great distance for me and I have some demons to concur after last year's DNF. This will be the third goal race race of the season.

Humani'Trail Les Diablerets
Details: 56km, 3600m D+
Date: 23 September 2017
Location: Les Diablerets, Switzerland
Entry: Not yet.
Previous results2015 - 7h13, 2014 - 7h52
Focus: Les Diablerets is a beautiful area and this was my first trail race in Switzerland so it has a lot of significance for me. I can run faster here and I want to!

Trail Vallee de Joux
Details: 35km, 1870m D+
Date: 8 October 2017
Location: L'Abbaye, Switzerland
Entry: Not yet.
Previous result: 2016 - 3h59
Focus: This race takes place on the trails that I train on all year round. It's my local race, it's over some beautiful trails, and it's low-key and fun.