Yeeeha The Legs Are Tired! – Saintélyon Training Update

We’re about a week and a half out from the Saintélyon 44k and the core of the training block is done. It’s time to look back and see whether I came through on the goals I set in my last post where I mapped out the three core weeks of race preparation.

Generally I’m very happy with how the training has gone. Strava reports that I averaged 99km over the last four weeks, not counting the hours of hiking I also did during that period. This gives me a really consistent block of training which gives me some good confidence going into the race. Obviously it’s nowhere near a perfect training block of 12-16 weeks but that’s okay. I feel like it is enough to have rebounded fairly well after a slow summer and particularly the three 35km long runs felt more and more comfortable.

I managed to do a fair few runs at night, I did enough vertical to keep the legs comfortable in that sort of terrain whilst also working a lot on my leg speed in the flat. One of the key workouts I’m really almost proud of in that regard were the three Bastille Repeats at threshold intensity (2,2km with 260 D+).

The second key workout was last week’s 36km long run at night which incorporated a climb with 820 meters vertical and a 5km segment towards the end at uptempo/marathon pace. The rest of the workout was run at steady-state intensity. Most notably however, I started the workout at 11pm at night which is exactly the time when the race will start as well.
It was arguably the toughest workout I ever did and I learned incredibly much doing it. The workout was hard physically because the legs were already a little tired going into the day and because the 8km shakeout in the morning of the same day was probably not the best idea but more so than that it was mentally challenging. Normally I do not struggle maintaining steady-state pace – indeed it fun to pick up a little bit and have the kilometers just flying by. Seeing how late it was however it suddenly became incredibly hard to pick up the shovel and slowly dig into that pain-cave. Going up the climb was actually surprisingly enjoyable. It’s only you, your breath, your steps and the light cone of your headlamp when you’re out so late and that allows you to really focus on pacing yourself well up the climb. At the same time I must admit it felt a little scary running up that mountain in the middle of the night. Sounds in the bushes rattled me and I did run from a herd of boar half way up the thing which just kinda drains you. It was a good lesson descending in the dark and I was surprised at the pace I managed to sustain. I guess you have to just be a bit more gutsy than during day. In the flat however where the terrain suddenly wasn’t as interesting anymore it was a real struggle to keep pushing in the dark. It was the first time in my running career that I wished for music to keep me entertained and pushing. As tough as it was however, that is exactly why I did it. I will know what to expect going into the race and maybe I will even have some company out there. It prepared me for the race like no other workout could have. It was tough but I’m happy I did it. It also got me to fundamentally rethink my nutrition strategy but I think I’m too lazy to elaborate on that now. I’ll probably just have pasta with pesto for lunch and baguette with avocado and some salami for dinner.
In the end I was 2s per kilometer slower than on the same route the week before but back then it was also during the day and with fresher legs.

So was it perfect? No. Ideally I would’ve done more runs late at night, but I’m truly dreading them so I’m happy with every session I did. I should’ve done a session with downhill repeats to make my quads more descent-proof but I hope the overall amount of vert I did will suffice to keep me from the worst of pains.

Currently, the weather is looking great and the long-term projection estimates positive temperatures even late at night which will make the racing much more enjoyable.
I’ll finish this week reasonably strong doing somewhere between 90-100km and then use next week to taper off in line with Sage’s BQ plan. I’m super excited to race next week! Can’t wait to see where the fitness is really at right now and whether I can realize the goals:

Top 10.
3:30h Finish time.

 

 

More than happy to see the weather turning to comfortable temperatures as we’re getting closer to race week.

 

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Finding Motivation in a Challenge – Saintélyon Training

I’m currently in the process of planning my 2018 season, just last evening I was brainstorming potential races together with Paul, looking for races which are “awesome”. For me, to be awesome a race has to be a real challenge. Arguably any race is a real challenge but in order for me to get really excited about a race, to dedicate myself and focus on races the way they deserve it, they need to have more to them than just being longer than what I’ve done before. Equally, just aiming to run a faster time on say a marathon course would not be enough for me to dedicate myself to all the hard training sessions that would require. At least not at the moment.

This year I did my first ultra with 80km and about 4000m of vertical gain. Training for that required me to essentially learn a new skill set and become a different runner, do new and exciting types of training sessions and experience a new kind of pain – that of high volume rather than just pure intensity.

For long I had not found a race which could motivate me to go back to the daily suffering of hard training, but that changed in the last seven days. I signed up for Transvulcania which will take me to a whole new kind of terrain and for which I will be able to train perfectly here in the mountains around Grenoble.

Now on to the actual topic of this though – the Saintélyon, or rather the Saintexpress since I won’t be doing the full distance (73km) but the 44km marathon. I didn’t realize it when I first thought about participating in the race just two days ago but the race got me genuinely excited about training again. It’s a net downhill course with ‘only’ 1000m of vertical gain, making it very runnable and close to my roots. At the same time it is literally in the middle of the night. The race starts at 11pm so I will finish at around half-past two. That is unlike anything I have ever done before. Never have I raced with a headlamp, rarely have I ever run on trails with one.
This is a whole new challenge but one that is well withing my wheelhouse because I’m fundamentally familiar with the type of race. Indeed it is not dissimilar to the Schönbuch Trophy which I did in April this year. Yet, it does require me to get creative with my training in the next three weeks and adjust my body to get ready for this unique challenge. I will not be training with a fixed training schedule but make up my schedule on my own whilst focusing on a couple of key characteristics:

Firstly, I need to do a couple of serious long runs. I think I will be able to do another two 35km long runs. Before starting to taper off on the weekend before the race where it will be closer to 25km. Crucially, those long runs will also feature some vertical gain and intensity.
Secondly, whilst doing some vert and enjoying the mountains here I will have to be careful not to go too crazy on the vert. Last week I did over 4000m vert in training which was fun but will definitely not be the ideal training going into Saintexpress. So purely running I will try not to do much more than 3000m vert per week. Seeing that the next days will see the first snow fall around here I don’t think I’ll be too tempted into going totally crazy anyway.
Third, I will focus on night runs. I believe this will be the most interesting, exciting and also tiring aspect of the training. I will have to go out at 11pm, well after dinner, for all kinds of sessions. I want to do a couple of easy sessions after dusk, I want to do at least two intensity sessions after 11pm and I want to do one of my long runs at that time as well. I also want to get a couple of runs in after midnight. Time to charge the headlamp I suppose.
Fourth, I’ll go and order a whole bunch of Espresso GU gels.

When I first saw that the race starts so late at night I was put off by it. Now it excites me more than anything. So what is it that makes for a motivating challenge? A challenge which requires you to rethink your training, which probably feels uncomfortable at first and one which requires you to get creative. Now it’s time to let the next weeks show whether this creativity was any good and this whole thing a good idea at all.

Finally supposing anybody read this far – any further workout ideas to get fit for this race?

The last serious mountain run this year? Certainly the most entertaining session I did this week up the summit of the Taillefer at 2850m

 

Planning a year. Running.

Running is a lot about planning, structure and quite frankly the proper training, which in turn, requires a fair bit of training. Here I’d like to lay out my race plan for 2017. The questions I will try to answer will always include why I am running the particular race, how it fits in the big picture, what the goal for the particular race is and how I will be able to train for it (in theory).

The primary race this year is going to be the Zugspitz Supertrail XL in mid-June, which is preceeded by two races. The TrailRUN21 in late March as well as the Schönbuch Trophy race at the end of April.

TrailRUN21

The TrailRUN21 is a trail-halfmarathon with about 600m of elevation gain. It starts and ends in ‘Zell am Hammersbach’ in Germany’s black forest. The primary goal is to get in a good trail workout as part of my buildup for the upcoming races. I’m also running it to spice up the early season a little more. By then it will have been almost three months since my last race and a little race every now and then usually also helps a fair bit with motivation in training. Having been sick way too often this winter, it is also going to be a little form test. The field last year was rather strong so I don’t have many hopes to finish on the podium and I haven’t yet gotten enough alitituted in during my training to really perform well in this kind of setting. But that’s alright. It’s supposed to just be fun and another practice run for the upcoming trail races. As such, I’ve also not been tapering a lot for the race. Race week will see me total just over 80km and the week before I’ve done 100k. Within race-week I took Monday off, went for a tempo session on Tuesday, 15km on the trails on Wednesday and 19k of forrest tracks and roads on Thursday. Currently it is Friday, which will see me running about 10k in a little bit. Saturday will be a rest day, before the gun goes off on Sunday.

Schönbuch Trophy

Once again we are racing on the trails. The race will be a trail-marathon with about 1100m of elevation gain in total. On the 30th of April it will be five weeks after the TrailRUN21 and seven weeks away from the Zugspitz Ultra. I’m still not certain wheter signing up for this was such a wise idea, since it will take me a minimum of two weeks just to come back from the race, which will then leave a mere five weeks of preparation until the Zugspitz race, which will also require a two-week taper, leaving me with a three-week training block, which will probably already see me decreasing mileage towards the third week. So what I’m saying is that I’m not certain whether I’ll be racing the Trophy all-out, or whether I’ll just take it as a somewhat more intense long-run. At the same time however, I don’t usually like doing that because I feel like it’s a bit of a waste. So where does that leave us? Well, I’m probably going to race it all-out, hoping that I’ll still be able to get enough training in for my first ultra-marathon.

Last year I did the same race as a relay with my dad and we even managed to pull of a win which will also make it that much harder not to race all-out with quite a few eyes on my performance. That is not aided by the fact that the race takes place in my hometown Herrenberg. Anyways it will surely be a strong workout and the slower pace compared to a normal marathon and the moderate elevation gain involved should make a reasonable recovery possible. If I run well and the competition is not too strong I might even be able to get a podium finish. I’m excited to see how it goes!

Zugspitz Ultratrail

During the weekend of the Zugspitz Ultratrail 2017 in mid-June, I will be running the Supertrail XL race which is an 81km ultramarathon, covering about 3000m of elevation gain. It will be my first ultramarathon race and poses a challenge like none I’ve ever faced. The past two years I ran a marathon each fall, followed by an adventure run a couple of weeks later once I was recovered. In 2015 that was a 55k with about 1500m of elevatoin gain and in 2016 it was a rather flat 75k. That gives me the confidence that I should be able to cover the distance, which still leaves the 3000m of elevation gain to cover. So in summary, this puts me in a position where I genuinely don’t know how (or even if) I will be able to finish this race.

That is exactly what’s drawing me to it though. When training for my first marathon I was training with the pressure of potentially not being able to finish. Not knowing what will await you at a certain point in the race pushes me to be more focussed, more committeed, and more prepared to train harder. So that’s what the next months will be all about. Getting myself in the right physical shape and the right mental state to run this race. With the considerable amount of altitude that is to be covered I am also looking to spend a couple of days in more mountainous terrain to get my body used to those hard and long climbs. My training will also incorporate a lot more hill repeat sessions than it has before. I’m also evaluating gear choices and nutrition plans and everything else that may become relevant.

With all that in mind, I hope that the preparation will suffice to get me through this long race. It sure will be tougher than anything I faced so far, finally dragging me out of my comfort zone again.

 

What is this about?

Right now I’m sitting in my bedroom, having procrastinated for days, having binge-watched the ‘West Wing’ and having had more cake and coffee than would be good for me. For weeks now, I’ve been wanting to start this blog and for weeks I had ideas popping to my head about what I might write. I’ve also had other things to do and all those ideas usually vanished about as quickly as the fatigue of a recovery run.

Now though I believe I have pondered enough, to actually get started. Also, I’m aggressively trying not to start work on a paper I have to write for university. So here it is, the first post, a written declaration of intent or rather a collection of thoughts. I run a fair bit – usually around 100k per week – but even more than I run, I think about running and everything that is connected to it. Be it gear in form of shoes and clothing, nutrition, training, racing or just general lifestyle choices. This blog is to give me the opportunity to share those thoughts.

Running shoes are probably the bit of gear which I get most excited about and which I feel most passionate about. Working as a brand ambassador for Hoka One One my views are certainly somewhat biased. I want to make clear from the start however, that my bias doesn’t stem from my working for Hoka but rather does my working for Hoka stem from my passion for Hoka shoes. Call it a self-perpetuating bias if you want.

Here, I want to talk about brands, I want to talk about the market for running shoes, how I feel certain product categories are represented by different brands, how shoe lineups compare and how the image of brands makes a shocking difference in running. I want to explore technologies and innovation, I want to share my experience and my knowledge with you and provide more people access to the sport of running. Being a brand ambassador for Hoka, I feel like I represent more than just a lineup of shoes. I represent a spirit and in a way I represent the sport. Now this might just be an expression of my incredible hubris because after all, I’m neither particularly fast, nor particularly well-known around the running sphere. Despite all that though, I believe that everyone can make their impact count. Just by greeting other runners and people in the outdoors in a friendly way we further the spirit of the sport and the culture of our society. Not by much, but we do it and that’s what matters.

Concluding, this blog should be an inspiration and a place where passion, experience and knowledge come together. At the same time, this is very much an open project, which will go whereever we may take it. Personally, I’m curious to see where we are going to stop along the way.