My 2022 season Training and Racing
The goal of this season was to perform well in short and long trail running races within a few weeks. For that I chose to participate at the 2 short races I believe are most competitive (Zegama and Sierre Zinal) and the 2 long ones that would offer the biggest competition this year (Hardrock 100 and UTMB). The schedule was also interesting because the races were alternated, so: short – long – short – long which didn’t really allow to make a bloc for short and then another for long but to do quick switches several times or be in shape for both distances at the same moment.
Each of us is very different, so to copy / paste or to adapt this plan to you without first analyzing what your different capacities are, would probably be a big mistake.
To make conclusions of a training plan of 4 weeks or 4 months without the context of the previous years of training where adaptations were made and the individual capacities of each athlete have no sense. In my opinion there’s no such a think as the magical session that will make you better or a training program that will work for everyone, but the adaptations, and therefore improvement of performance comes from the repetition of training stimulus (consistency) and the individualization of those stimulus (to see what are those stimuli and their intensity that work for each of us at each time of our program and our career, and what is the recover needed). The purpose of this document is to share my training approach to this season and the knowledge I’ve acquired. I believe that in a good context this could be useful to other trail runners who want to perform in short and long distance races. This document analyzes my training from December 2021 until the end of August 2022.
Inside the red circle the period of training I try to analyze with this document, something that would be useless to interpret without the previous years of training and adaptations.
This year our youngest daughter was all the time home and both my wife Emelie and I training seriously so we did organize our days alternating our training schedules, one from 8:30 to 12:00h and the other from 12:00 to 15:30h. Then a second short session was possible when the girls were sleeping in the evening. With this I couldn’t do long sessions but try to accumulate distance with multiple short and middle sessions during the week, knowing that my body had the physiological and metabolic experience to do 20+h runs. Except the races and a couple of +4h runs, all my runs never exceeded 4h this year, but my weekly distance was as big as always, by doing more sessions in the week.
Then the season was basically a big training period until the end of May, then a short race (Zegama). Then recover, a 4 week block to build a bit more for the next 3 races that were very close to each other, with no real time to build up. That means that from the end of this block til the last race (UTMB) it would be 6 weeks without possibility of creating great adaptations but only adjusting details.
Terrain: Romsdal, where we live, have not a lot of runnable trails. In winter all the skimo training is done either opening track or on mountains with tracks, but not in ski slopes. In summer, most of the mountain trails are very technical compared to the Pyrenees, Alps or Colorado – where the races I did were – and the speed to run on them is very low compared to those places, but they’re great to work all the technical aspects of mountain running: the feet positioning, the muscle strenght and all the cognitive capacities. Also many of the terrain where I do my training – when is off trail – is done in easy climbing routes, (grades III-IV). Most of my runs, Z1, Z2 and some Z3 are done in this terrains. With this trail conditions all my speed workouts are done in dirt roads, roads or in the few – one- trails that is ok to push at any conditions (where I do my uphill workouts). That way I can get the key workouts done in conditions that privilege the metabolical and muscular capacities and the slow workouts on terrain that challenges other aspects (cognitive, mental, technique, visualisation…and they’re much more fun!)
Altitude: I’ve lived until I was 20 years old above 2000m at Cerdanya, and then in the Alps being able to run to +4000m from my door. 6 years ago we moved to Romsdal in Norway and since then we live at sea level (19m to be precise). I was worried at the begining about how that would affect my performance and acclimatization when going higher, but I’ve not felt any of them differently. Maybe because all the years of altitude exposure the genetical adaptations are done and then almost every year I do go for a expedition at +6000m and entretain the stimuli, but I have not felt any difference or need of some days or weeks of acclimatization when going to 4000m in the Alps, Himalaya or Colorado. In terms of performance, I’ve not seen any difference on being more in “shape” when I was living in altitude and racing low or now living low and racing low or high.
Plan, sessions and key sessions:
When making a plan we often tend to follow some guidelines that we’ve seen at some other athletes or programs, and try to adapt to our capacities. I believe that this is not the best way to do it. That might work for you or not, but it’s just luck if it does. Instead, I try to analyze what my capacities and weaknesses are (who am I, physiologically, metabolically, psychologically) and see where I should work, where I shouldn’t and where it doesn’t matter.
Another important aspect is that we often want to do things that might give us a small gain but that will decrease our attention or readiness to do the sessions that matter for where we want to make adaptations. This is particularly relevant for professional athletes that have a lot of time and will fill it by doing exercises around the training plan (that can be core, gym, stretching…) Doing lots of skiing in the winter and then lots of my runs on mountain terrain where is mostly scrambling, I don’t do any strenght session, also because having limitated time for training I believe that the stress to the body from strenght training would be too much to be able to give the best at the running or skiing sessions, where I want to put the focus because they are more specific.
For years I’ve been developing a method that works for me. This method has been done mostly being sensitive to where I can create adaptations and where I can’t or I get injured. I know for example that I can absorb a great amount of volume and Z2 and Z3 training, but if I do more speed work for several continuous weeks (Z4 and Z5) I will get injured or metabolically not as efficient. For other athletes it is the opposite. With this base of my method I’ve introduced small changes that made my training more efficient and able to progress year after year, and after more than 15 years competing at high level to be able to deliver my best performances.
The training zones I use are based on 5 training zones (here a good video of Stephen Seiler explaining it ) but adapted to my training needs, using basically RPE for the adjustment of pace during the session and then at some tests every few months where I would look at the HR, lactate or other measurements as a comprobation to my RPE)
At the beginning of the spring I started talking with Jesus Alvarez-Herms and I saw that we had a very similar approach when it comes to training and he’s been helping me a lot on these changes to improve performance, with nutrition and different training stimulus.
I don’t believe at special workouts that will give you a boost on performance, that session or block that will make you much stronger, because that will only give very short term adaptations that will be lost soon, but in the addition of repetitive stimulus that will create adaptations at cellular level and will make you change your capacities for the long run. That means consistency and weighting the charge of stimulus well. Then it just matters on some specific short term adaptations and recovery to get ready for each kind of race.
When I do every workout I’m thinking at why I’m doing this workout? What is the goal? . A session is part of a plan to make physiological, technical, muscular, metabolical or mental adapadaptations, and so I would focus on different aspects during that session to be sure I’m doing what I’m suposed to do. That means that in some sessions I would be focusing on the speed, on others on the breathing, cardio or RPE, on others on the cadence, or in the feeling of regenerating, or in the technique… Normally this comes with being very sensitive at what do I want to feel in that session and focusing on those sensations. This is something that demands time to listen and feel our body, but I believe at the end is the best tool we have to monitor our training. Is not about going out and training hard but trying to focus on what really matters for that session. I think today with social media is very easy to be tempted to race the trainings and that is in my opinion a big mistake. I rarely finish a training very tired, I try to do the work that will make adaptations trying to save energy (physically and mentally) so in the race day I can use it.
For this year specific season with short and long competitions the idea was to do quality workouts all the time 2-3 times per week to keep the speed for short races, having a steady high weekly volume, not because of long runs ( my longest runs were basically 3 or 3:30h runs) but with the addition of short sessions 2 times a day to get the legs used for the long distance races.
This “key sessions” were basically 3 type of sessions:
Speed: To do some sprints (10x100m, 10 x 200m or 10x 400m) didn’t do many of them (4 sessions in total during all year, mostly to keep a bit the speed of legs, I know if I do a lot of this training it’s easy for me to start getting injured because of my metabolism and muscular capacities)
Threshold and tempo: These 2 kinds of sessions were done in different set-ups, this I do in flat or mountain terrain in different sets but closer I arrive to the season I basically do 2 types of sessions, performed either at tempo (Z3) or threshold (Z4).
- Uphill and flat: To do a steep uphill (500 to 700m elevation, 1 or 2 times) taking the downhill for recovery. Followed by some flat workout. (2x5km, 10k tempo, 10x 1km…) and then occasionally another uphill. The structure of the session depends on the moment of the season and the time to recover from it. (ex: https://www.strava.com/activities/7005941524/segments )
- Race simul: This would be a long tempo or a race simulation. Starting at a high Z2 for some time until feeling tired as I would feel at the key moment of the targeted race and then do the workout for the distance that I’m targeting at that key moment in the race. That can be also the training races where I try to simulate these intensities in only some moments of the races or workouts like 30km slow and then 20 fast for example. (ex: https://www.strava.com/activities/7145853740 )
- Tests: I think it is important to monitor the shape with real conditions besides the physiological measures. I do all my shape tests in the same route so it’s easy to compare, a route that doesn’t get too affected by conditions and that I can do easily at least one time a week. This test can be part of a workout (for example the uphill and flat) or just for the test. (my test route is at Nesaksla, a 2 km distance with 700m elevation: https://www.strava.com/activities/7608363147 ) Sometimes I would bring some gear to do measurements in this tests to check where we could make small changes on the stimulus during the training or resting (lactate, HRV, glucose, oxygen saturation – NIRS and finger – , temperature)
On addition to those I would do some sessions or add elements and different stimulus to those sessions to work specific aspects and other areas than metabolism (cadence, ventilation, amneas, altitude, fuel, kind of fuel substrate, food or hydration deprivation, etc)
A hard thing to manage is the volume of training vs intensity of training. The most volume of training the harder is to recover from a intense session and to be ready for the next one. In general I try to priorize volume or key workouts and if the focus is volume, I know my key workouts will lack a bit of quality and my speed will be more similar during all the sessions but if I want to priorize on the adaptations from the key sessions the volume will not be something established before but what I would feel I’m able to do keeping the readiness for this key sessions.
In general I do make a training plan for the season with a general period to build an aerobic base (this can be done in ski, climbing, etc) followed by a specific period to build the specificities of trail running running and then microperiods to build the different capacities for each kind of event. I plan to work specific areas in specific periods and on base of that I decide which and how many of the different sessions I should do every week during that period. Inside the week I decide when the session is done on base at how I feel: HRV, mood, muscle soreness, feeling during the training, etc. taking some more “easy day” or doing the session. And if I see that I’m unable to do the sessions I’m suposed to do, I try to understand why and decide what is the best way to get over (take a few easy or rest days, reduce the volume and keep the key sessions, keep the volume and reduce the number of X key sessions…)
Winter block: beginning of December to end of March
In this period I did most of my training in skimo (mostly 2 to 4h at Z2) and in the evening I was going for a 40’-1h run on the treadmill) I believe this allows me to build a great aerobic base and since I’m someone who handles well volume and doesn’t need a lot of weeks intensity to get in racing shape I prefer to don’t do any intensity except a couple of skimo races during this period.
In February I did a 100 miles race in Sweden (Tjornarparen: https://www.strava.com/activities/6683060434 ) mostly to do some tests when it comes to fueling with Maurten and to do a long run far away from the running season to start preparing the legs for the long races.
Spec. Block 1 : From end of March to end of May (Zegama)
Here I started doing mainly running. In terms of volume progressively increasing volume from 130 to 180 6 weeks before Zegama. Then to keep a high weekly distance (150-190km) with 2 big quality sessions per week (Uphill/Flat and Race Simul mostly, this session at this period were pretty big loads for me, the Uphill and flat for example was with 2000m of uphill at tempo/threshold pace and a 10-15km flat at tempo/threshold pace, and the Race simul were about 50k runs with 20 of them at race pace) and introduce some different stimulus in high cadence. Here it was still a good amount of workouts at Z2 to keep building running endurance. The taper before Zegama started the week before with a decrease of distance but still high and keeping the key sessions (last one with a uphill session followed by a local race: Åndalsnes Loppet: https://www.strava.com/activities/7179228491 ). And that week I did some of the easy runs with warm clothes to acclimatize to the heat temperatures at Zegama since the weather in Norway all summer has been cold and rainy. The race week was very easy workouts, from 30’ to 1h at Z1 except one day of 3h at Z2.
Warm up: 30’ easy jog. I started strong at a controlled pace to make a selection of the group, and half way it was only me and Davide Magnini. The strategy was to keep a steady pace for the first 30km and do the last 12km faster, and it went perfectly. I felt I could start pushing at that point and energy levels and muscles were following.
Spec. Block 2: Zegama to Hardrock
Recovery after Zegama was quick, 2 days after the race I started the next training block, of 4 weeks. This block I augmented the distance to get more muscle work for the ultras (200km/week) but never doing long workouts ( except 2 5h scrambles my longest run at this period was 2 sessions of Uphill/Flat of 4h) and keeping the 2 key fast sessions / week to maintain speed for the short races after Hardrock (some I did using some local races to do Race simul or tempo workouts)
Geiragner half marathon: https://www.strava.com/activities/7290246688
Isfjorden Skyrace: https://www.strava.com/activities/7365729523
Mefjellet opp: https://www.strava.com/activities/7372388383
The taper started 2 weeks before the race with a 150k week and then the week before the race 110km (This week I was sick – from something caught by our daughter in kindergarten 😉 so that helped to keep a low intensity and low distance week. The week of the race I did a long scramble workout before traveling to the US and then just 30’ runs. I was doing a couple of altitude nights at home before traveling to the US that week (I leave at sea level) not enough to acclimatize but to send a stimul to my brain that altitude was coming and since I’ve never suffered of altitude at 4000m I thought that this would be enough for the race.
Warm up: none. Start easy, trying to keep a comfortable pace both up for the cardiovascular system and downhill for the muscles. Since I arrived only 2 days before the race and that is in altitude I wanted to keep it very easy for the ⅔ of the race to not feel much of the altitude effects. With François d’Haene and Dakota Jones we ran most of the time together at a comfortable pace until half way (Ouray) where Dakota Jones started to run faster and move away from me. At that point I started to have some energy issues and I changed from gel fueling to bar fueling, and took it very easy for 30’ and after 1h the energy was back. With François d’Haene we continued and eventually passed Dakota after Handies, and continued through the night together. Both cardio and legs were feeling great till there, and I was thinking that the best strategy would be to run as “easy as possible” to save energy for the next races and try to race hard for the last 10km. A km or so before the last aidstation I started to pick up the pace and François followed. After the aid station, 10km to go, I did a strong move in the 700m uphill and put some time to François, and then ran fast the last downhill and flat to the end to secure the victory. It was the first time ever I had felt so much energy at the end of a competitive 100 miles and finished with not any GI discomfort and not any food problem (under foot pain, black toes or blisters).
Inter-race: Hardrock to Sierre-Zinal to UTMB
Recovery from Hardrock 100 was quick – the quickest I had after a 100 miles ever – I started running 2 days after and did a easy week (70km) to start moving the legs and the week after back to normal training. Here the goal was mostly to recover between HR100 and Sierre Zinal (4 weeks) and do some workouts to get back the speed, so I didn’t really cared about weekly distance but just to do some quality sessions (2 per week – Uphill/flat and Tests mostly) and easy days in between (Z1). The week before Sierre Zinal I did my best times in my test runs, much better than in the previous years and that was a good proof for me that the approach for switching from long to short had been working well. The week of Sierre Zinal I did on monday the last key workout, making a PB at my uphill test run and then rest and very easy runs.
3 days before Sierre Zinal I saw my HRV decreased a lot and my resting pulse increasing by 10-15 ppm. I thought it could be from the travel but the trend continued and since my partner had been testing positive from Covid that day I started doing antigens tests that were negative.
Warm up: 30’ easy run. Since the start I felt heavy legs but I was in good shape so I supposed that was just a feeling and I started pushing in the lead group. After only a few minutes I felt that my breathing was unusually strong and I was sweating too much. I kept in the lead group with Mark, Patrick, Philemon, Moses and Remi until the top of the uphill. The pace was fast but not as fast as other years, but I was working too hard for that rythm. After the uphill at the flat section I felt some chest heaviness and decided to take it a bit easier for a bit to lighten that. Petro and Robert caught me and we ran together from there. In the downhill from Hotel Weisshorn legs felt a bit clumsy and heavy – I couldn’t keep the cadence I wanted – and used a bit the technique in the last 3km that are a bit steeper to gain some time and finish 5th after Petro passed me in the line – My mistake to not be attentive until the very line 😉 In general feelings were very bad during the race, but since I think I was in very good shape I saved the race and I was happy with the time I did with this conditions and to prove myself that it was possible to be competitive in a short race 4 weeks after a 100 miles.
- Strava activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/7630702635
After Sierre Zinal it was only 12 days till UTMB, and here the goal was to recover the most basically, thinking that the endurance work done before Hardrock (plus the muscle memory from Tjornarparen and Hardrock) would be enough. I knew the speed from Sierre Zinal was good and I recovered well after the race so I was mostly worried about the Covid recovery (at that point tests were positive) Basically between the 2 races I did very easy days (0,5-1h at Z1) and rest days except one longer run (4h at Z2) 6 days before the race with Petter Engdahl. The feelings when resting and training slow were normal and talking with the doctors they said that it would be more muscle damage than normally but if I didn’t reach high intensity and had fever it was ok.
Warm up: none. The race started at a fast pace for a 100 miles, but common for the start of UTMB and since the shape for short races was there it felt very easy pace. But my legs were feeling the same as Sierre Zinal since the first downhill (Clumsy, not strength) After a few km the pace went down to the normal ultrarunning one and we formed a group with Jim, Zach, Tom and myself running more or less together for the first 60km, at that point with a bit of technical downhill I took the lead to see if we could make a selection and Jim and I ran away alone. At the downhill to half race (Courmayeur) Jim started to run faster but I wanted to keep my legs fresher for the 2nd half and let him take a minute or so. After Courmayeur we ran together on a controlled pace until rifugio Bonatti at km 98, and there Jim attacked in the downhill to Arnouva. My energy levels felt good all the way until there but my legs were struggling since the start so I did that downhill easy and tried to increase the pace in the next long uphill, but since the start of the uphill I felt heavy in my chest again (same feeling as at Sierre Zinal, I don’t really know if it was still from Covid or if it was a psychological mimetism of the symptoms from the previous week) so I decreased the pace a lot and tried to recover as much as possible. In the next downhill my legs continued to hurt more and took it even easier. At that point mentally I was in a very negative bubble, with legs pain since the first downhill and the perspective of 60 more km with that pain was not helping it. At km 120 Mathieu Blanchard passed me and I told myself to follow him till the next aidstation and then see what to do. In the 2 or 3 next flat kilometers running faster my legs were hurting but the short term motivation was making things easier, and the encounter with Mathieu did switch my psychological status from negative to racing mode again. In the next climb to the aid station I felt that my energy levels were good and that the metabolism was working well, that motivated me to keep pushing but to change the race strategy. Since my downhill skills were very limited and if pushing hard in uphills I was a bit unsure of the chest feelings but I saw that going up I was stronger than Mathieu, I decided to manage the next 30km and race the last 10km. In the next uphill I increased the pace a bit to see how Mathieu was doing in uphills and in the downhill to see how much time he was able to recover. The before last uphill and downhill we ran together and after the last aid station at Vallorcine I increased the pace progressively and started to take some distance. At the top of the climb I had between 8 and 10 minutes gap and I thought that that was enough to secure the win despite how I was feeling in the downhill and tried to do a controlled downhill without losing too much time.
After UTMB I did basically rest. Did a couple of bike rides with my daughters and the week after (7 days after UTMB) did a short (8,5km 1000m) local race to see how recovery was going and to see if it was still ok to change from long to short. Romsdalseggenløpet: https://www.strava.com/activities/7746332154
Here the diary with all my training sessions during this period:
Legend: sport (c=running, em= ski mountaineering, b= bike) feeling: 1 to 5 scale. Surface (h: treadmill, s: skimo on slope, tr: skimo on tracks, ot: skimo opening track, m: mountain skiing or running, grave above AD, t: trails, r: road )
My approach to recovery is very simple: Focus on what is more efficient, and those things are normally very easy to find and non expensive:
- Sleep. With 2 young kids at home nights are short but I’m lucky that I have never needed many hours of sleep to recover. My average sleep time is around 6h per night, this is how long I would sleep if I don’t have any alarm to wake up. This is very individual, some people might need 8 or 10h to recover and some less. I think I’m just lucky to don’t need that much sleep to be able to train and work and have kids waking up early.
- Quality of the nutrition: I believe this is one of the factors I have improved the most in the last years.
- Nature and surroundings. As an introvert, I find that social activities take a lot of energy to me, so being in a calm environment and not meeting many people on a daily basis is key to keeping a good resting rate. That might be the opposite if you’re more of an extrovert.
- Load of training: I take care to take very easy days if I feel that my body is not assimilating the charges of training. I use HRV measurement + Subjective feeling at waking up + Mood + Subjective feeling at workouts to determinate if I’m assimilating or no the charges (workouts + life stress + work + recover)
- Travel is a big stressor for training (It’s not resting and it increases the risk of getting a cold or some virus) and it takes away at least 2 days of training each way. I believe it’s better for training to stay home and do all the training there (build the “training camp” conditions home instead of going to do X weeks of training camps abroad). Also when it comes to B or preparation races to do it locally so it doesn’t involve traveling nor tapering and becomes just a key session day.
- After a race I don’t plan any specific training for the week after. Then is the body who will tell me when to get back to train, and this comes from 1) muscle soreness, 2) Metabolical fatigue – how tired I’m when I start running and 3) Desire to train – if genually I feel super motivated to get out and train it means generally that my body and mind are recovered. I often start training with slow activities that involve mobility (scrambling, long days in the mountains) and increase speed gradually.
The physical therapy I’ve used during this period where I had not any injuries it’s been with a chiropractor. I do sessions with Kristian Bjølstad here in Åndalsnes several times during the year- approx 1 time per month or 2 months, and Arnaud Tortel (previous day to Sierre Zinal and UTMB). Mostly to adjust the imbalances due to my right – left leg differences since my 2006 patella injury.
I think this has been one of my biggest improvements in the last few years. With Jesus I started to be much more focused on daily nutrition for my characteristics and I think that increased not only my performance level but the capacity of recovery. My daily diet is vegetarian, with a base of carbs in potatoes, rice, pasta, quinoa, bread…) veggies, protein and fat from legumes, nuts, avocado, cheese, egg… And I take supplemnentation on Omega 3 and 6, Vitamin D and some probiotics.
During training I never take food and rarely drink. Only if it’s a specific workout for GI training I will take gels or some fuel for training my gut. This is something I believe I can do because of my fat metabolism and my renal work of many years of practicing it.
Fueling during the races:
Short: (Zegama and Sierre-Zinal)
- Dinner pre race: carbs (rice, potatoes or pasta, some fats like avocado and nuts) normal quantity.
- 3h pre race: Breakfast (a slice of bread)
- 2h pre race: Maurten carb bowl (40gr CHO)
- drink water
- During race: 1 gel every 30’ (GEL Maurten 25gr CHO, 1st one with caffeine, others without) Drink at aid stations water or water with CHO (MIX 320) around 0,2- 0,25 l / hour
- First 10h: 1 gel (GEL Maurten 25gr/CHO) every 30’. Drink 0,5l/h of water with CHO (Maurten MIX 160), 1 bar every 4h (Maurten Solid)
- Second 10h: 1 bar (Maurten solid) every 1,5h, Drink 0,5l/h of water with CHO (Maurten Mix 160), Solid food at 3 aid stations ( Rice with avocado, quesadilla, soup…)
- 1 caffeine gel (CAF Maurten) in the night, before the last 2 last uphills.
- 0,5l/h of water with 80gr CHO (Maurten MIX 320), 5 gr of protein every 2nd hour.
- 1 bar every 2 hours (Maurten Solid)
- 1 gel before every section I needed more glucose (fast uphills first hours of …)
- Solid food at aid stations (fat+fiber+cho):
- Rice with avocado
- Potatoes boiled
- burrito avocado
- Avocado, banana, dates, nuts, dark chocolate mixed (this I also took in a flask with me in the 1st half of the race)
- Beetroot juice to drink
Life: I think I’m in a moment of my life where I’m happy. I feel that I do not have any unaccomplished desire in my sports career and racing motivation today is just to play and to learn about training, physiology, etc. So I feel much less internal pressure towards the result than years ago. After a few years of anxiety when living in France, moving to Norway and finding a calm and “isolated” place has proven to be the best decision, being able to be more relaxed in my everyday life. When it comes to life stress I believe it’s very important to have a environment and training expectatives that fit well with our other things in life, to not force anything into it. For me it took some time to understand that I should say no to many things to priorize the time to the things that matters most for me, and to organize them well. With my wife Emelie we shedule our training when our older daugther was at kindergarten, and in the evening when they were asleep so we could spend time with the kids when they’re home. For the work, I would do it in the naps of the kids and I would spend some hours every evening on the Foundation and Nnormal, and try to get at bed at least at 23:00h. If I had meetings or interviews I priorized to do them to be in the evening so it didn’t interfere to my training or familly time. If not I was doing them in my easy runs with headphones.
Not perfect for performance? I feel that when I was younger and Today, being a dad and spending time with our daughters ( you’re never “resting” but always walking around, running after, carrying…) would seem that in terms of pure training programing isn’t perfect but in my experience it’s just to be aware of that when making small changes in the training loads – keeping the key sessions but taking more care of the easy days- but all the moving and carrying around is also some metabolic work that counts. Also in the past years I’ve been working more time (with the Kilian Jornet Foundation and recently with Nnormal) this also takes away a great amount of time for training but it also helps in keeping the thoughts on other things than training, racing and oneself and thinking about things that matters more.
Pressure is something important to deal with when being a professional athlete and since my career has been successful to this point, not only the external expectations, but also my internal expectations and what I work for it is to win the competitions. To feel ok with this I think 2 things had been working very well for me:
- If I have been training well, I know I’m ready and I shouldn’t stress because that will only use energy. If I haven’t been training well, there’s nothing I can do and I should think on how to minimize my weak points and use my strong points to get the best possible result. So at the end, I enter a race in the conditions I enter it and the previous days it’s nothing to do to change it, but just to enjoy – I’m so lucky to have the health and the possibility to do something that I love and to be in such beautiful places – and to compete for the best I can do, the result at the end will make me a bit more or less happier for the couple of hours after the race but will not change anything.
- Put into perspective what is the result of a race. This is just a small part of the journey that involves training and preparation. To focus on the process and what I’ve been learning and living during this process is way more important than the result of the race, that would be only a kind of validation of that process. But to switch the focus from the goal and result to the process and the journey is key to keep for me from feeling the pressure on the race day.
Training solo versus group: I do the 85-90% of my training alone, that is something I like to be able to feel very free when it comes to the decisions of where to go but also with interpreting and being very sensitive to the feelings of my body, and adapting the training session from there. Especially on easy days. When training with people, I like to do some of the easier sessions with some friends or my wife and some of the hard sessions with strong partners that help to keep a high pace on these sessions that are hard. To have Jon Albon here to do some of those it’s been definitively great.
Racing not at 100%: I believe that I’m very good at racing when I’m sick. That might come from confidence about my training and the process to get to the race and to minimize the importance of the sickness to only a small % compared to the capacities and the training. Also that I’m used to train and do efforts in very different physical conditions (from races with fever to expeditions where you’re exhausted and with disease but you need to keep pushing to survive) and I got used to those sensations and being able to tune until where I can push before it gets worse or for how long. To race being sick is something that it’s not good for health of course, and it’s something I think about what could be the consequences of doing one or another race with a determinated injury or sickness and decide being very conscient of that.
Visualization: In trail and mountain running, to know well the track and conditions of a race it gives a great advantage, it’s very useful when it comes to energy and muscle management but also in navigation and in anticipating the technical movements. The races I did this year were well known for me, I’ve raced before this year Zegama 10 times, Hardrock 4 times, Sierre Zinal 11 times and UTMB 4 times, so I knew pretty well how the track was and the different conditions I could encounter. So to maximize training, resting comfort and time with family I did travel to the races just before the races and didn’t run any part of the course the days before, but was able to mentaly visualize each of the races, it’s trails and possible conditions almost meter to meter from the past experiences.
Race plan: It’s very easy to imagine and plan what it would be the perfect race but that (almost) never happen. It’s a good strategy to visualize and imagine that to keep motivation during hard sessions but it can be a mistake to believe it because then during the race, when shit happens, there will be easy to DNF or stop fighting. I do plan what I can plan (fueling, gear, training, route knowledge…) and be prepared to face unknowns (GI problems, muscular problems, not good shape, injuries, sleep, pain…). For that I think experience is a big advantage, because the tools available are many more and it doesn’t require to do a long searching process and normally panicking or taking not wise decisions and spending extra energy (Oh shit! This happened → Why is happening? try to find that why… → What should I do? to stop? it’s dangerous? Slow down? Change my way of running? Eat something different? → Ok I try this… → It didn’t work, reanalyse and try something different…) that it takes a lot of time and resources but instead the response is automatic from experience (Oh shit! This happened → I change that from experience).
What do I think during an ultra: I think this article summarizes very well what I think and what is the state of mind during a ultratrail : https://www.maurten.com/magazine/kilian-jornet-story
I’ve done all my trainings with the same shoes, doesn’t matter if it’s on technical terrain, road or scrambling I’ve used the same model (Nnormal Kjerag – 2 pairs for training: one December-April / another April/September, and a 3rd pair for all the competitions) I believe this way I’m used to what I will have during the races and avoid blisters, black neils, different plantar or foot pain and will feel in all training the same as during the races.
I do almost all my runs with little gear (shorts, tshirt, shoes) and don’t carry any water or foot. That’s mostly for what I’m used to do and that I feel is more simple. If I do a mountain day, I see what I need to bring depending the activity (vest with rope, ice axe, some cams…depending the route).
For the races I try to organize my pants – or vest – pockets for the gels and flasks. One for gels, one reserved for waste and another for bars or other food. That way it’s almost automatic when looking for some fuel and when need to empty waste or change in aidstations.
At Hardrock 100 and UTMB I did used poles but I didn’t used them at any training. I think with the ski season – and years of skiing – it was enought practice and prefered to focus on more fast and light running during the summer.
At the 3 ultras (Tjornarparen, Hardrock and UTMB) I used a headlamp (Moonlight 800) with a double battery to be sure it could keep a full night without rechange. I found that it was enought to run on the 2nd level of 2 – 200 real lumens – even in the most technical terrain. I did some ski training at night in winter but not any practice with headlamp during the summer.
Temperature management: In the ultras I prefer to be on the safe side when it comes to heat management and that’s why I was using tshirt instead of tank (more sun protection on the shoulders) and a cap to keep heat cool (with dark hair I feel it pretty much) and trying to put water on both teeshirt and cap – try to keep cool head, shoulders and neck and hands- during the warm hours (the vest-backpack have a waterproof pocket where I have all my clothes and gear so putting water over – or my sweat- would not make them wet. During the night at Hardrock I changed to a merino shirt to be more comfortable with chill temperatures. If it’s cold I try to keep the stomach warm (with teeshirt under the pants or stimcare patches), the neck with a buff, and the head with a beanie. If this is warm, I feel the rest it doesn’t matter much.
Pictures by Nick Danielson