Thursday, December 22, 2011


As some of you may already know, the lottery results for the 'Way to Cool 50 k' in March came out this week and........I'M IN !!! Very exciting plus a little bit scary.  I believe the American expression for this is 'I'am totally stoked', whilst the English version is 'I'am terribly thrilled'. Its just under 3 months away so I shall now kick into gear with some serious if I wasn't doing enough already. Yesterday I did a 30 k training run with a 1600 metre elevation gain and it felt pretty good; I believe my new regime is helping although I need to stay with it to get the full benefits. My legs definitely felt stronger but the true test will be in the race itself. As I have mentioned before, the effects in ultra running are cumulative so although 50 k doesn't seem that much further than 30 k, in reality there is a big difference.
          My goals will be 1) to complete it, 2) to complete it whilst enjoying the process and 3) to do it in under 7 hours! I know races in the States are quite different to it will be the first time ever that I will understand what everyone is talking about. I shall be wearing my full lycra outfit, which I am told  most Americans wouldn't be seen dead that should raise a few laughs.....and possibly a few eyebrows. I can just imagine the organisers on race day - 'Excuse me sir, are you gonna run the whole race in that outfit?'........'Well, yeh.'...........'Are you from Europe, England?'.........'Yeh, something like that'.
           In France this sort of discussion would be met with a shrug whereas in the States I'll probably be arrested for violating the state law on decency and running etiquette. Hopefully as the race has 'Cool' in the title .....and the fact that its in laid back California.....I might just get away with it. Not sure if Sue will be joining me as she's starting to find these race build ups quite stressful, and all that American enthusiasm will probably drive her nuts. Anyway its 3 months away, so for me its just maintaining focus and sticking to a plan. I will probably do a few shorter races as training runs because the terrain  in Cool, California is more undulating and not as mountainous as here so I need to be doing more 'specificity' speed runs to acclimatise myself to the different conditions.
        I've already booked my flight , hotel and car hire as  I liked to be organised. The plan is to fly in to San Francisco on thursday, drive to Auburn, then register on Friday and check out the course a little, ready for the race on Saturday. The reason for this tight schedule is although I might suffer a bit of  jet lag I'm more worried about  catching a cold on the plane and this way the race will be done before a cold can 'come out'. Of course nothing may happen but I just don't want to risk it. For two weeks before I'll probably be going around with a face mask and gloves on and speaking to no one.......and I'm actually serious!
       As you know I don't get injured too often but just after I got the news I did a very fast and overly excited 2 hour tempo run in the freezing cold hills just after dark. In the last mile I pulled a muscle in my calf......two days later I tried a few sprints and guess what......its now ten times worse......I know..... idiot! Anyway I guess I will be forced to rest up over Christmas and let it heal.....c'est la vie, better it happens now rather than later. The problem is if I go more than two days without exercise I start to feel unfit, fat and irritable, so I'm certain to be lots of  fun to have around over Christmas!    Sue is already calling me 'Grumpy', then again she's got a cold and is very 'Sneezy' and needs to see the 'Doc'; my son Alexander, home for the holidays, seems to spend all day in bed and is permanently 'Sleepy'........, I guess you can see where this is headed :) Merry Christmas to all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


 I am now a few weeks into my new  nutrition/exercise regime, so far so good. It still feels a bit strange eating so much for breakfast but I get the idea. I use to be a two choclolate croissants a day man but I am now down to one, although to be fair I can hardly get that down as I am so full. Still, I am sticking rigidly to the nutrition plan and also the fitness regime. Early signs are that I appear to be moving quicker, (though this still needs to be tested in a proper race). As an example I have already knocked 20 seconds of my 600 metre if I can just pro rata that up to 50 miles then I'll be rocking. My quads already feel stronger and I feel leaner but we shall see.
        Time to get some new trail shoes, no matter what I buy they are all shot to bits within 3 months. I have tried many good manufacturers and all, as you would expect, perform adequately enough. I would love to recommend one type but like most trail runners I have a plethora (love that word), of types. My new pair are Brooks Cascadia, these have a universal platform (don't ask) with neutral pronation. Although I do pronate, in a rather ungainly rolling way, my orthopedist supplies my insoles and it is these that deal with that specific problem..........well thats what he tells me anyway. Brooks Cascadia are also ecological in terms of the materials used, so I'll be running and saving the planet at the same time, (very Kyoto !). I did look at a pair of very expensive Salomon S Lab's and even though Killian uses them to race up mountains faster than a goat on heat I have a sneaky suspicion that its got more to do with the fact that he is a super being from another planet...........and could probably do it barefoot anyway.
     I think I mentioned in an earlier blog that to open up my glut-4 receptors I have to do 50 squats, 15 minutes before the now singular cherished chocolate croissant. I try to do this away from the Cafe because I know the owner just wouldn't understand this at all.... 'Why do you do that before eating a croissant?...Monsieur I think you should do what all my french customers do'............'Oh what's that?'..............' Have a cigarette of course'. .....Ah yes the traditional gaelic answer to all life's problems; coffee and a cigarette. It certainly keeps them slim; well that and not eating. However, if I see a fellow ultra runner lighting up a fag on top of a mountain I'll be sure to let you know..... (As I have quite a lot of American readers I must point out that a 'fag', in English, is a cigarette and in know way was I suggesting that ultra runners are homeophobic and have now taken to setting fire to ultra gay runners!!!...........Shit, I don't mean 'Ultra Gay' I mean, I mean, oh you know what I mean.)
       Speaking of San Francisco I have just entered the lottery for the 'Way to Cool 50k'. (Okay I know I'm losing a few of you here). Firstly 'the Way to Cool' is a race and miles from San Francisco but its sort of in the neighbourhood.......if you live in the South of France and secondly, did you like that rather subtle San Francisco segway?
      So why enter a lottery to run this particular race, well ;-

1) Its one of the most sought after 50k's in the USA.
2) It runs on part of the Western States 100 course.
3) How can you NOT run a race called 'The Way to Cool'.

     Many of you know this but the race name is even cooler because it actually goes to a town called 'Cool' ( get it, the way to Cool, )...... I love the names of US races; 'The Burning River 50', 'Badwater', 'Diablo', 'Mountain Masochist', 'Hardrock', 'Speedgoat 50, 'Bigfoot', 'Run Rabbit Run', and my personal favourite; 'Dude,where's the trail ?'.......The names make you want to do it, they're inspiring. Unfortunately this hasn't caught on as much in the UK or France. Its all rather dull. 'Trail du Coussons', '100k de Millau',' Coastal trail series-Devon', 'Cumberland ultra', 'Trail du lac', 'Round Rotherham'. Yawn, yawn, I mean the Europeans make it sound like a boring stroll on a wet Wednesday whereas the yanks make it sound like a Hollywood blockbuster!  Put it another way, you've just run 50 miles and suffered for over 12 hours.......which t-shirt do you want to wear as a mark of your achievement ????.............I think you get the point.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


So last week I finally completed my fitness assessment which is very intense and detailed. I now have a program targeting my quads, thighs and vmo muscle in order to strengthen them for the hard mountain climbs. It includes various squats, as you might expect, but also a whole new range of activities including Olympic-style squats which sound cool, split squats which sound a little painful and finally sled towing!! Now as you know we don't get a lot of snow in the Meditteranean, so what's this all about? Well basically its a rather bizarre contraption with heavy weights pinned on to a red disk that sits on a sled with a harness for me to pull it....and wait for it, pull it uphill, on a road.....and backwards. The first thing Sue said when she saw it was 'I have to get a picture of this'. I feel many mocking comments are headed my way. Helen, my physio, has already started to refer to me as her 'husky'. Sue is convinced the police will arrest me; probably for 'pulling a dangerous object backwards without due care and attention....... or a licence!' How do I get myself into these situations?
        My running has been divided into 3 main types, which I do any way but now its much more targeted, mainly;-
 1) Short sprints - 6 x 1000 metre repeats  at 90% heart rate with 90 second rest. This is to increase my anaerobic threshold.
 2) Medium tempo run, 20k average at  heart rate 80% max.
 3) Block Specifity run, 30k average at heart rate 75% max; but including one long (block) for say10k at 90% max heart rate and uphill.
Apart from the short sprints all my other runs are in hills and mountains. The running program is designed to increase my speed over a whole race whatever the terrain and the exercises are to assist in avoiding isn't it ??
        Then there is the diet. The first thing we did was to analyse my fat content with a Biosignature analysis. The results were that my Body fat is 14.7%, which I'am proud to say just puts me in the 'Athlete category', however there were areas where work needs to be done in order to bring this down whilst at the same time increasing muscle density. My thighs, hips and abdomen are to be targeted as the rest of my other body measurements were pretty good.
         I will be reducing my carb intake,(unless I am doing a long run or race) whilst increasing my protein and healthy fats. Before meals and with post workout protein shakes, I am adding L-Glutamine to assist in absorption, along with green drinks, pro-biotics, Juice plus, fish oil, vitamin solution, etc, etc; and before breakfast I will be doing a series of squats to open up my glut-4 receptors, ( sounds like something out of Star Trek). You should see our kitchen in the morning, its like a chemical laboratory what with so many different concoctions being prepared.......Sue is going nuts......'Why can't you just go out to work every morning and grab a coffee like everyone else?' Well for two reasons 1) Coffee ain't going to help me run up mountains. and 2) What does 'go out to work every morning' actually mean?
      After all this if my next race isn't a triumph then I will take up golf.
      Yesterday dressed in a bright red running shirt and my long winter snood, I  did my first sled pulling workout on a quiet country road and low and behold a police car turns up.....unbelievable.... I thought how am I going to explain this?  Luckily he drove slowly past, smiled and just shook his head. His expression could have been translated into 100 different languages all with titles such as; tosser, dork, idiot, dickhead, dweeb,..........and finally, 'must be English'. I can just imagine him getting back to the police station that night.....'Hey Pierre I saw that mad Englishman again today'...........'you know, the one in the ballerina outfit we saw last week'......'You'll never believe what he's doing now?'............'Don't tell me.......I bet he's probably dressed up as Father Christmas and pulling a bright red sled'............'Ha ha Pierre.....He is, He is !!'