Earlier this week, I hopped on an airplane and flew to Europe. It’s my second journey throughout the pond this yr. The primary was for a gathering with The North Face and a race in Andorra. This time it’s to run the UTMB, a 100-mile foot race that begins and finishes in Chamonix, France.
Though it’s my sixth time right here, it has been three years since I final set foot in Chamonix. The primary time I got here right here I used to be full of giddy pleasure. Now I come and it feels a bit commonplace.
That sounds harsh, for the place is something however widespread. In reality, it’s one in all a sort. The valley through which Chamonix sits can’t be way more than half a mile throughout, if that. On both facet of this slim valley are mountains that stretch upward about as aggressively as large metropolis skyscrapers. It’s an unimaginable place, and although it could be void of its new automotive scent for me, I’m grateful to be right here.
But it surely’s not simply this place that I’m grateful for. My time as an ultrarunner has taken me to all types of superior locations. France, Italy, Brazil, Portugal … the listing goes on. Some locations I am going to solely to race, others to coach as properly. Even when I’m at residence in the US, I typically discover myself bouncing round from place to position to coach.
This yr I kicked my coaching off with a bunch of snowboarding and splitboarding, some working, and a little bit of biking in Oregon. From there I took issues south to California and Nevada, after which east to New Mexico, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. Subsequent, I spent a few month coaching in France and Andorra, adopted by extra time in Oregon, a short interval in Pennsylvania/Virginia, and two weeks again in Colorado. My thought was to coach in Colorado for a further two weeks, after which fly to UTMB, however as an alternative, I discovered myself again in Pennsylvania with my household.
Though I really like my residence state of Pennsylvania, I used to be a bit not sure about utilizing it as a coaching base for my closing large weeks of preparation for UTMB. Don’t get me improper, Pennsylvania is a superb place, however I’m a sucker for the large mountains and skinny air of the American West, particularly when getting ready for an enormous mountain ultramarathon. Nonetheless, I packed my luggage and gave it a go.
My first day again, I ran for 2 hours within the sizzling, thick, sticky air that’s so widespread to Pennsylvania this time of yr. Sixteen miles later I returned, drenched in sweat, and simply in meal time. Two-ish hours, 16 miles, tons of sweat — I concluded that it was environment friendly coaching.
The subsequent morning, I wakened and logged one other 16 as I ran hill repeats with some native high-school children. That night, after dinner, I hit the close by rail path for an interval exercise and logged one more 16, this time refueling with a fuel station slushie. Each run left me drenched in sweat, and most every single day introduced one other spherical of warmth and humidity.
By the third day, I used to be on the hunt for vert, so I headed throughout the river to the Mason Dixon Path the place I spent a little bit greater than three hours working up and down the Excessive Level climb. 4 laps later, I had logged simply over 4,000 ft of climbing, an quantity of vertical that I may have gotten in a single climb in Colorado.
The pattern continued as the times handed: discover one thing steep, run up and down it a bunch of instances. The Dugan Climb within the Hellam Hills, the Pinnacle Climb on the Conestoga Path, the Thousand Steps on the Standing Stone Path, and the Knauber Climb simply off of the Appalachian Path grew to become my playgrounds.
None of those climbs are so long as what you’ll discover out west. The longest one might be Knauber, which ascends 1,077 ft in 1.12 miles. The steepest is probably going the Thousand Steps, which climbs 807 ft in 0.43 miles. Positive, they’re good climbs, however you’ll be able to simply discover extra spectacular ones.
Nonetheless, I beloved coaching on them. With every repetition, my vert and miles climbed, and on the finish of every week, I used to be happy to seek out that I used to be capable of amass nearly the identical quantity of vertical ft climbed as I had in Colorado. Positive, I didn’t do it at altitude, however I did get to do it in a sauna!
Sarcastically, as I spend time in Chamonix this week and suppose again upon my coaching, it’s these lengthy hours logged in sizzling, sticky air on quick, steep climbs that I really feel most pleased with. Have been these classes kind of efficient than classes I did in Colorado, Andorra, or Oregon? That I can’t inform you, however what I can inform you is that perhaps typically the most effective coaching surroundings is an imperfect one. Enable me to clarify.
As runners, we now have a behavior of eager for the right coaching grounds. Trails out the again door, countless mountains to discover, and quick access to a mixture of terrains all sound like a dream, and they’re, however typically they may simply be a bit too good.
How can an excellent factor be too good? Properly, this occurs when the too good turns into too distracting. Place your self in too enjoyable of an surroundings and also you would possibly discover that you just go on loads of adventures, however don’t do sufficient exercises. Or you could end up doing loads of large days, however not sufficient straightforward days. When the coaching playground is that good, there are many methods you’ll be able to stray from good coaching habits. However, put your self in a much less ultimate situation and I feel coaching can turn out to be very centered and, in flip, excellent.
As I informed some mates the opposite evening, I feel typically the most effective coaching surroundings is a boring one. Years in the past, once I was simply entering into ultrarunning, I used to work and prepare on board a cruise ship. I’d estimate that again in these days, 50 to 70% of my coaching was finished on the ship. I simply ran up and down stairwells and hammered away on the treadmill.
On an pleasure stage from one to 10, it was a adverse two. However what it lacked in pleasure, it made up for in effectiveness. By the point I jumped off that ship for good, I used to be arguably in a number of the finest form of my life.
Quick ahead to this yr’s UTMB coaching, and I really feel equally. Coaching in Pennsylvania for the ultimate two weeks was an excellent change of tempo. It inspired me to be intentional about how I educated and to hunt out the particular kinds of trails and terrains that I felt would assist me put together for the duty forward. Positive, these are issues that I do somewhere else as properly, however one thing concerning the must be so intentional about it made issues really feel much more centered.
I say all this to level out that you just don’t have to have an ideal coaching surroundings to coach properly. When you occur to have such a luxurious, that’s nice! Take pleasure in it and make the most of what it has to supply. However, don’t rely your self out in case your surroundings is lower than dreamy.
As a substitute, embrace what you’ve gotten at your disposal, and benefit from it. Be centered and intentional. Relaxation when it’s best to. Practice laborious when mandatory. Be inventive. And final however not least, work with what you’ve obtained. In any case, nothing beats do-it-yourself, am I proper?
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- What do you suppose? Do you discover exploring lovely locations lets you prepare?
- Or do you suppose you’ll be able to focus higher on coaching someplace acquainted and bland?