Thursday, April 19, 2012


     The Ultra Trail des Balcons D'azur (UTBA) as its title suggests is a series of trails that run along the mountains of the Esterel overlooking the Cote d'azur and the bay of Cannes. It is of course stunningly beautiful, the volcanic red rocks tower over the ocean and provide an incredible backdrop to the Meditteranean. In the middle of summer there will be thousands of tourists along a tiny strip of coastline and yet if you venture only 500 yards inland it is a haven of peace and tranquility. Gosh, it sounds like I work for the Riviera tourist office, anyway you get the picture.
       Over the last few weeks I've just run hills, mountains and canyons, its been relentless and quite waring. If I'm on a track and I see a particular tough climb ahead then up I go. Its not an easy decision as I'd much prefer to head down to the sea but I know if I keep doing it then it will help get me through the race. In the gym I would do mountain climbs, squats, renegade rows, split squats etc etc but over the past 5 weeks I have done virtually no gym work or cross training of any kind. My reasoning is that having built up my muscle strength I now want to get the feel of the actual terrain and elevation as well as the demands of many hours on my feet. I guess having done a lot of cross training and crossfit type work a few months ago I'm now covering all my bases. Its a combination of Tim Ferriss new school thinking and old fashioned endurance (time on feet) training.  I'll either end up with the best of both........or the opposite. Its an interesting experiment because if I hadn't developed my quads then this run would never have been possible as I would have trashed them very early on. Still, I'll found out in 10 days time.
     Despite my complaints about the terrain it is still 'better' to run on trails rather than roads. Karl Meltzer, who has won more 100 milers than anybody else says that he always feels more tired and takes longer to recover after a flatter event with lots of roads, as opposed to mountain running. The stresses are  more 'evened out' than on a road run.
       I have been focusing on how fortunate I am to be able to do this in such a wonderful place as generally the course is dry, the climate perfect, and the race well organised. They tell me that to have good local knowledge is a big advantage and I know the course backwards, literally, so I know what to expect; I have no excuses. From my house I can be at the start line in 10 minutes, so even though its my biggest ever physical test at least it's on my training ground.  I will probably never have a better opportunity to do something so epic. My mental preparation has to be 100% to get me through the day as this is going to hurt but nevertheless I am grateful for the chance to be able to attempt such a challenge; I am determined to do it. The race director of the Leadville 100 miler  once said to the runners before the start -

    ' You are better than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can'.

 I need to keep this in my head as I climb up mountain No 4 in 2 weeks time.....and speaking of which, I did a 3.5 hour run yesterday and climbed all the way from sea level to the top of it. It was hard but doable, only problem is in the actual race I will be doing that same climb after having already run for 6.5 hours! The mental and physical calculations of this are starting to send me crazy. This will be my 5th ultra in my very first year of endurance running so  I may need to have a bit of a rest afterwards and let my body recover...and my brain......and I think Sue could do with a rest as well. Maybe we should go on holiday to Silverton, Colorado in the USA, in mid July....that should take my mind off ultra's.......ooops!
 Hint; Google - Hardrock 100 :)

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