Wednesday 6 June 2012

Chamonix in Photos - Mountain Training

I just got home from a month away in Europe where I fitted in more mountain running than ever before. It's eye-opening to try to fit in more vertical than I'm used to and on gradients that are steeper than I'd usually train on (up to 1,900ft/mile - definitely not douche grade as the Skyrunners described easier slopes!). I have an even more deep-founded respect for the guys who can fly up those slopes and achieve things like 30-minute Vertical K times (a 3,300ft climb over 3 miles or less).

Combining the volcanic slopes of La Palma for the Transvulcania race, then muddy slopes of the Spanish Pyrenees for Zegama-Aizkorri was tough. Then an easier weekend at the Northants Ultra 35 miler with just 2,000ft of ascent before heading to Chamonix to run around the Mt Blanc area and 'run' (ie hike) up thousands of feet per day and trash the legs on the downhills. And all while watching the Comrades Marathon jealously from afar, especially the incredible runs from Ellie Greenwood (2nd), Jo Zakrzewski (4th) and Devon Crosby-Helms (5th) and Mike Wardian battling through pain from the start line to still run 6h03m, only half an hour off the men's lead.

There's an obvious trade-off within training that if you run up and down mountains all day long you lose some of that speed for the flatter races and specialization is the key to success within the increasingly competitive men's fields. For example, just nine minutes separated the top 10 men at Comrades. So this summer I'm giving Western States a bit more respect and training for it rather than the road races. It's just 17 days away and I'm getting kids-at-Christmas giddy about it. As a nice reward, I got some of the views below within the last week.

Chamonix Vertical K course up a ski slope


  1. I'm running UTMB in August. I'm still trying to comprehend 300 feet ascent per mile for 100 miles. Hard to even find these kind of steeps to train on! Good luck at Western States!