Sunday, 26 February 2017

TGC 2017

What a hard hard race this is! So much climbing and so little "easy running"! What makes it even harder for most of us (living in the northern hemisphere) is that it's very early in the season, - by February there's little time to shape up the legs ready for a mountain quad massacre.

Qu'est-ce qu'elle est dure cette course ! Tellement de D+ et si peu de "passages faciles" ou roulants. Et situé en février c'est pas évident de bien se préparer à temps. Je pensais être prêt, j'avais fait plus de volume, de sentier et de dénivelé que l'an dernier et j'espérais pouvoir bien améliorer ma cinquième place de 2016. Finalement ça ne s'est pas fait !

I thought I was ready for it, had done more than last year, but probably still lacked the leg strength to really do it justice. My main problem however came from elsewhere. Before the start, I found myself hanging around for ninety minutes in the cooling evening air, and without really realising it I was getting quite cold. To the extent that when I got up and moved to the start line I was properly shivering. Not very professional that wasn't! And the knock on effect was messed up guts. I've never had anything like it before and I don't think the tummy issues were linked to food, hence the cold hypothesis, but basically nothing was staying in and as a consequence my energy levels were rapidly dwindling from the gun. I plugged on, trying to run a very conservative race with the hope of sorting myself out and pulling through at the end. But that didn't really happen, more the opposite. Oh what a mission those last 40-50km were! This is a hard race to start with and I had made it even harder for myself!

Malheureusement je me suis retrouvé à attendre une heure et demie dehors avant le départ. J'étais pas assez habillé et je commençais à avoir froid. Au point qu'une fois sur la ligne de départ je tremblais de froid. Ca va vite passer je m'étais dis. Et c'est vrai qu'une fois la première montée sèche de 1000m bien entamée j'avais vite assez chaud, mais je crois que ce petit coup de froid n'a pas trop plu à mon estomac ! En vrac pendant les 14h de course, je n'arrivais à rien digérer. Mes énergies n'étaient donc pas au top, et surtout vers la fin. Qu'est-ce qu'ils étaient durs ces 40-50 derniers km ! Un vrai défi mental ou j'essayais de couper les bornes restantes en morceaux de 5-10km, pour que j'arrive à accepter, à avaler et à poursuivre ! Cette course est déjà hyper costaude, mais il semble que je l'ai rendue encore pire !

Now some recovery time before thinking a little about my next adventure, which couldn't be more different - a stage race though Marrocco, le Maraton des Sables. Shouldn't get cold at that one!

Maintenant place à la récup avant de me pencher sur ma prochaine aventure - une course à étapes au Maroc, le Maraton des Sables. Je ne devrais pas attraper froid là-bas!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Trail Glazig

Quelques images / croquis d'un petit saut en Bretagne, pour participer au Trail Glazig, sous les couleurs d'Ailes Marines et de RES.
Pourquoi ? Parce que la course avait l'air sympa, ca me faisait une bonne prépa longue en début de saison, et aussi et surtout parce que pendant quelques années je travaillais sur le parc éolien en mer que nous développons à une vingtaine de kilomètres de la côte, dans la Baie de Saint Brieuc. Je m'occupais des études de vent et de l'implantation des éoliennes. On peut dire que je connaissais déjà un peu le climat local, et le jour de la course je n'ai pas été déçu ! Quelle belle journée, bien ventée, bien humide, bien boueuse. Organisation et ambiance au top :-)

un départ plutôt rapide, humide, venté...
surprise ! faut prendre le tunnel sous le pont !!
de l'ambience sur la côte !
et splash ! c'est fini !!
vidéo d'après course :
résultats, top ten :

Sunday, 30 October 2016

2016 World Trail Championships

Trail World Championships 2016
Peneda-Gerês, Portugal
Also known as the World flag-spotting championships. Something to keep you occupied whilst chipping away the miles. Well, it beats train-spotting, right?
So how did this one go for me? It’s always a bit tricky to gear up for a late-season race. Peaking in the spring or summer seems easier and more natural. By the 29th of October the year had already been a long one for a lot of the runners towing the start-line at these championships, and I was no exception. June to July was probably when I hit peak form this year and since then and particularly after the utmb failure, I’ve not really been too focused. Don’t get me wrong, this was my first GB vest (just England vests until now) and I wanted to do it justice, but at the same time I was fully aware that I wasn’t in the physical shape that would be required to battle right at the front, medal-end, of this race. So the tactic was a simple one: Be prudent. So I set off steady and enjoyed running for the first couple of hours with team-mates Tom Payn and Kim Collison, neither of whom I really knew very well before coming out here. I know the French team much better than the Brits these days!
The tomato red T-shirts of the 2016 GB trail running team:
As daylight started to hit the rocky slabs above Vila do Gerês, I was cruising up the hill with American Alex Varner. So we chatted a bit of politics and flag-spotting. I learnt all sorts of interesting facts, such as that his fourth-grade project was on the Nepalese flag, the only non-rectangular one around (we had just overtaken a Nepalese runner). I’m pretty embarrassed about the state of British politics at the moment (leaving the EU on a conned decision, building expensive and nonsensical nuclear power plants, airport runways, shale gas,.. the list could be long), but hey – conversing with an American always puts things into relative perspective!
Cruising into the final kilometers
The scenery was varied and spectacular. At times it reminded me of running back home in the UK, but with the weather conditions of the south of France. Late in the morning heat became a major factor and the rising mercury took a lot of runners down. The Peneda-Gerês long-horned cows seemed little phased by the warmth however. "What funny creatures" - Who thought that? The runners or the cows?
(for the record – I did not run this race with poles, or horns)
Re the running: Over the course of the last couple of months my priority has been to get fresh and speedy again, so I’ve done quite low mileage, virtually no long runs and I’ve concentrated more on accumulating a good set of speed sessions. It felt like this approach was paying dividends, as I was quite fresh and relaxed for the first two thirds of the fifty mile race. Having started in around 30th position, over the middle climb I was picking off a lot of places, I moved into the top 10 and even thought top 5 might potentially be feasible, peut-être. But I needed to be wary and not get carried away, as I really wasn’t convinced I’d have the strength to close it out. And that’s exactly what happened – by 55km I had pulled though to ninth place, and that’s where I was to stay all the way to the finish-line. In the later stages  my legs started shutting down and the final 20km were a little complicated. I made a final effort to speed up over the closing 5km to out-run a German chap, but it was a risky thing to do, as with a few hundred meters to go all the muscles of my legs clubbed together for a harmonious cramp-style shut-down! Any earlier and it would have been really messy.
A not-too-frequent sight - me and a Union Jack. Unfortunatly there were no European ones to hand :-)
So, in conclusion: great course and exactly what trail running should be, very happy with a top ten, tactics worked a treat, but I’d have to be fitter and stronger to fight for a higher place in the future.
Results: Top 10 men 

(action photos : iRunFar)

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Trail de Saint Didier

La course à pied est certes un sport plutôt individuel, mais il n'est pas non plus un sport anti-social !*
*pas comme la chasse par exemple
Ce matin j'ai emmené d'autres touristes anglais (oui, je suis bien un touriste: un touriste permanent même :-) au petit village de Saint Didier. Et voilà une grande partie de la famille Symonds / Manning sur les collines vauclusiennes :
Toute en famille, on a pu partager ce lieu splendide, les superbes sentiers du Luberon, les gorges, les roches et la végétation épaisse ainsi que l'ambiance avant et après course. On va également partager les bouteilles que nous avons pu ramener chez nous à Lagnes :-) Ma sœur gagne chez les femmes, moi chez les hommes et ma mère fait première V60 (et 5ème F).
What a great way to spend a Sunday morning !

Sunday, 11 September 2016

TBV 2016

J'ai ouvert le four hier après-midi, pour me retrouver dans les Dentelles de Montmirail !
C'est vrai qu'il faisait bien chaud (32°C selon ma montre), mais honnêtement je ne me plaindrai jamais des conditions climatiques. J'ai quitté une douche quasi-permanente il y a quelques années (le nord de l'Angleterre), justement pour retrouver ce soleil fracassant. J'assume mon choix !
En jetant un oeil sur mon historique de courses, je constate que j'ai pris l'habitude de courir à Beaumes tous les deux ans (2012, 2014, 2016) et si je reviens sur ce trail c'est parce qu'il me plait bien ! Les Dentelles sont certes un petit massif montagneux, mais le terrain pourrait être celui de la grosse montagne - des crêtes, des roches, de l'escalade même sur ce parcours. D'où les chronos relativement modestes pour un parcours de trente kilometres.
Je ne cache pas mon avis sur la chasse et le Trail de Beaumes (TBV) est encore un exemple de l'impact de cet occupation bizarre, barbare et franchement plus de notre temps. Le TBV est donc obligé d'avoir lieu un samedi après-midi, car le dimanche matin c'est l'ouverture de la saison de chasse - le moment où ces paysages magnifiques perdent leur tranquillité pour se transformer en terrain de guerre. En conséquence le trail a souvent lieu sous un soleil qui tape fort, plutôt que le matin, à la fraiche.
Toujours content de ramener une ou deux belles bouteilles ! (oui, j'avoue que je participe aux coures locales pour maintenir du stock au cave :-)
Voilà pour les résultats - top 10 H.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

utmb (Cham to Champex only, unfortunately)

I confirm - to complete the hundred (rather mountainous) miles of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc is no easy task! Yesterday was my first attempt at this famous race, and I tried and I failed to get all the way round it. Hard to know exactly what went wrong, no doubt a combination of factors, but the simple answer is that my legs just weren't up for it on the day. I knew from the first climb that I wasn't fresh enough, the following descent was abnormally uncomfortable, and from then on it was a question of pushing on and seeing what happens. It's not completely unusual to feel poor at the start of a race and then to pull through, but yesterday there was no miraculous change in form on the go. It was on the climb up the Grand Col Ferret where my quadriceps finally give in, at which point I was in forth position, just a minute or so behind the second and third placed runners. By the top of the col I'd started loosing ground and through the course of the long descent down to La Foully the gap rapidly expanded. By the time I reached the valley floor I was struggling to even run on the flat, and it was at this point that getting to the finish line was starting to look dubious. Damn it! I really did want to complete this race, giving up is not an option I normally allow myself (I think the last time was five years ago at Cavalls des Vent ?) But by Champex, 124km in, I was left with no choice. It was hard to even keep up with Carole and Steph walking slowly by my side into the aid station. So a day I called it. Such is sport! It's only a big game anyway, right?! Some games you win and others you loose, even if it's not easy to accept at the time. But games are to be replayed and this one is not one I'm willing to abandon entirely! I learnt a heap of stuff out there during the course of the sixteen hours that I ran. I'll be wiser next time and hopefully fresher too. So, yes, utmb or a different one - we'll see, but I'll certainly be having another crack at the hundred mile distance, with the intention of completing! But that will be next year now. Just one more competition left in 2016 for me - the World Trail Championships in Portugal, nine weeks away. Between now and then - rest then some speed work, because that race in Portugal won't by a slow jog or a survival exercise! I need to remind myself how to run fast.. So it's sadly (?!) time to stash the poles away in the garage until next season. In any case, a massive well done and respect to all those that did complete the full circuit back to Chamonix - hats off! And especially incredible was seeing people rolling into town this morning, after a second full night out on the mountains, whilst we enjoyed a coffee in the sun, having had a full night's sleep - these people who complete in forty hours are the hardiest!
Huge thanks to Yo Stuck and Christophe Clerc for providing the perfect race support - driving many miles and loosing a night's sleep just to get my cheese & marmalade sandwiches and bowls of rice & jam to the assistance points in time and in condition! Thanks also Carole and Steph for providing the support for the race support :-) and obviously for the encouragement out on the race course. Also thanks to TorQ France for your support out there, and obviously the rhubarb & custard energy gels :-)

Thanks finally to all those who sent or posted or shouted messages of encouragement out there, before, during and after the race. Really appreciated!

See you for more #UltraStupidity next year :-)

Dans l'utmb il y a vraiment beaucoup d'abandons, et maintenant je comprends pourquoi !! 170km avec 10,000m de dénivelé - ce n'est effectivement pas facile ! Je l’ai tenté hier et j’ai été malheureusement contraint à rajouter mon nom sur la longue liste de “Did Not Finish”. Pourquoi ? C’était sans doute dû à une combinaison de facteurs différents, mais assez simplement je n'avais juste pas des bonnes jambes hier. Je l'ai senti dès les premières montées et surtout dans la première descente jusqu'à Saint Gervais. Le moteur ne tournait pas de façon fluide. J'ai continué tout de même, en croisant les droits que cela passe, mais au bout de 100km il n'y avait plus rien à faire, les quadriceps étaient cassés. Je n’aime pas arracher le dossard avant franchir la ligne d’arrivée, et j’étais prêt à me faire très mal aux jambes pour y arriver, mais honnêtement au bout de seize heures de course je ne pouvais simplement plus faire autrement - je n'arrivais plus à avancer du tout ! C’était dommage et c’est sûr que c’est un peu frustrant sur le coup, mais je n’oublie pas que ce n’est qu’un grand jeu et que les jeux se passent parfois bien mais parfois mal aussi. Mais surtout - les jeux sont là pour être retentés ! Mon histoire avec les cent miles ne terminera pas là :-) !! Je ne sais pas si ce sera à l’utmb où ailleurs, mais prochainement j’ai très envie de me retester sur cette distance, car je suis convaincu que cela peut se passer beaucoup mieux ! Il faut dire aussi que j’ai encore appris un tas de trucs pendant la course hier, comme sur toutes mes experiences en ultra cette année. Mais pour 2016 il est temps de faire une pose sur les ultra-ultras, sur les courses de distances (complètement) ridicules, afin de me concentrer sur une seule dernière épreuve - les championnats du monde de trail, au Portugal, fin octobre, qui se dérouleront sur une distance (presque) raisonnable - un petit 85km.

J’en profite pour remercier Yo Stuck et Chris Clerc qui se sont fait une nuit blanche pour m’offrir une assistance de formule 1 ce weekend - les kilometres qu’ils ont dû faire en voiture juste pour assurer que j’aie mes sandwiches fromage / marmelade et mes bols de riz / confiture à temps. Merci également à Steph et Carole - d'avoir assuré l'assistance de l'assistance :-) et d'avoir été là pour me soutenir ! Merci aussi à TorQ France pour le soutien sur le parcours et pour les gels rhubarb & custard (entre autres :-)

Finalement un énorme thanks à tous ceux qui m’ont encouragé avant, pendant et après la course. J’apprécie.

Hasta la próxima !

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Sky Running World Champs / Buff Epic

Last long training run before the UTMB. Well that was the idea - but the thing about 105km races in the heart of the Pyrennees that go more up 'nd down than they go flat is, well, they kind of rip you to pieces no matter how "easy" you try to approach them!
Here is a completely non-exaggerated race profile! :
So, yes, the idea was to use this race as a long day in the hills, - a real leg strengthener on a beautiful course - and also to use it to practise ultra-eating and ultra-poling. So I ate as much as I could during the 13 hours, and I did something I've never done before - yes I raced with er, poles - SORRY !!! I know, I understand if you're now instantly unsubscribing from my blog. Truefully I couldn't personally bear to use them on the first climb, for fear of blinding the poor bloke behind, in the long snake of runners going up and out of Barruera. But I'm not going to deny that they were pretty useful later on. At the end of the day, if you're out for 13+ hours on very steep terrain then you are going to be race-walking a fair bit, and this is where poles are handy. This and to prevent people overtaking you on the latter stages of the race: - good luck if you want to overtake me now!! :
So my "steady away" tactic went generally really well. Luis Alberto broke away off the front around 40km in. I let him go, rather than trying (and most certainly failing) to chase - that guy is strong! Then I got into a nice, steady pole-kind-of rhythm. And there was no sign of anyone behind, perfect. That is until the last summit. As I crested the final peak I glanced back to see the blue vest of Javier Dominguez, a Spanish runner who's known for his fast finishes. Oh no!! Back into race mode! So there was no choice but to bomb down those last 15km to the finish line! That I did. And I think it's the reason why my legs are so sore today!!
But anyhow I held off any last-minute charges from behind. And I didn't even have to use any pole-spinning barrier techniques to do so :-)
Chuffed to get round this course in one piece. It's a monster! What a difference from the undulating, wide trails of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail four weeks ago! But after all, this is Sky Running, and the "Sky" bit means real mountains and the rough and narrow paths that navigate them. Well, that's one difference!..
Here's the results. Now it's time for some holidays in the Pyrennees :-)