Thursday, October 13, 2011


  2 days to go before the daunting Trail du Coussons. I have decided to do it because it looks stunningly beautiful and I just want the experience........what will be will be. I figure if I can get through the first 16k including 3,600 feet (1,100 metres)  of climb then the other 28k might be fun. There's a few more big climbs later on but it looks breathtaking  being 'up their', and in the moment with all that nature stuff! (Yeh, Hippy Phil again)  I don't know the area at all and so every step will be a suprise. Its an Ultra (44k's) with a total elevation gain of 7,500 feet (2,300 metres) for the whole course. The weather forecast looks good and Sue has booked the most fabulous stone farmhouse perched on a hilltop village called Aiglun. I'm hoping she doesn't get too attached to it or she just might not bother meeting me at the 30k cut off point!........There I'll be, no food, no drinks, just a tired forlorn figure all alone.......and Sue sunbathing in luxury with a glass of wine......... I know, poor Sue having to leave all that. ( Sue's balcony view below).
 I estimate it will take approximately 7 hours, based on my mountain marathon time in Val d'Alloss  as its higher and further. It just trips of the tongue doesn't it?.......7 Hours!!.... as you can imagine (or maybe you can't) its a whole different ball game when you are actually doing it. At present I am getting the usual niggling aches and pains that always happen before  a big race. I know its psychosomatic but I can't help it. If someone sneezes within 10 yards of me its face mask on and my full defense mode kicks in so that no one gets near me. It sounds ridiculous but after weeks of training, a cold or other illness can seriously damage your day. My niece Charlotte sent me a great quote she saw on a wall  the other day;-
'People who are busier than you are running right now'.........Love it.

Lately I've been researching hill running as regards the best technique, it seems simple, you just run up and then run down again but actually energy conservation is the goal. (thats my energy conservation........not the enviroment). Fast, slow,even paced, power walk , euro hump, scramble....and even climb; you choose which one depending on elevation, weather, distance and your own level of fitness. Sometimes you can power walk up a hill faster than other people run and they may be expending huge recources for no benefit. Many times I've run up a hill and 2 mins after hitting the top a guy who power walked it bombs past me and then sprints off.....its most disheartening. I'm still learning the right way to do this because over a long Ultra you just have to pace yourself sensibly.                                                                  
   Then there's the coming down and this is where the serious fun begins. If you take your time and jog down easily in a relaxed manner then you will end up at the back end of the race very quickly. Quite simply no matter how steep or eneven the surface the idea is to go down at great speed taking small quick steps. You have to seriously concentrate and relax at the same time because if your tense you will screw up. The goal is to be perpendicular to the slope all the way down and let gravity do the work just like when you were a kid running as fast as possible downhill until you fell over. If this sounds crazy you should see the experts do it......No Fear......they just go; leaping over rocks, roots, mud and streams, the difference is they don't fall over because the next quick step catches them if they make a mistake.I have really tried to perfect this 'technical' descending but I usually end up with strained quads,a headache and a shock of white hair!!..OR 18 months ago, a broken leg.
But, there's really no easy way around it. I remember a few months ago I had done a really fast descent and then found myself on a lovely smooth flat trail, I jogged along feeling all relaxed and chilled and 10 seconds later, Bang! I was flat on my back with cuts all over me.....You just have to stay focused all the time.
My next blog will be my race report and as you know I have altered my training for this and done more speed and strength work and NO long runs, which is tantamount to heresy in the Ultra community; the results will therefore be very interesting, to say the least. I leave you with a brilliant  picture of  the No1 Ultra runner in the world today, Killian Jornet, running alone through the Alps........To be honest this is what its really all about.

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