End of Cross Country Season

Last weekend was the National Cross Country Championships in Falkirk. I had hoped to get a medal this year but as it turned out it wasn’t my best day and I had to settle for 7th place, 11 seconds outside of the top 3. I found the soft muddy conditions very tough and lost a lot of time sliding around on the uphills. I never felt comfortable at any point in the race and it was a struggle from 2km in. The only good point was recovering slightly on the last lap to regain four positions, although I ended up losing three of them in the final 500m! After a fairly consistent cross country season with good runs at the east district, inter district and British Uni’s cross country it was a disappointing end to the season.

Cross country mud
Cross country mud

Since then I have been looking forward to my next races with some road events planned before the mountain season kicks off later in the Spring. This weekend was my first road race since the 10k I did in January and it’s traditionally the first fairly big road race of the season. It was the Cupar 5 mile race in Fife. The course is out and back along a quiet country road and usually it gets a good field and fast times. This year the weather was perfect with only a light breeze and dry roads. There was a lot of warning before the race about the potholes on the road but it wasn’t really a problem. After last weekend’s disappointment I was very keen to post a good time and show what sort of form I’m in.

From the start I went off very hard, aiming to keep the split times as many seconds below 5 minutes/mile pace as I could for as long as I could. From past experience I knew that the 2nd half of the race is a bit easier with an overall downhill and usually a following wind. I just focussed on getting to halfway as quickly as possible. After turning at halfway I glanced at my watch to see I was still keeping up a fast pace but I had slower a bit since the first mile. The 2nd and 3rd runners were a good way behind but I tried not to notice and concentrated on pushing even harder. I knew the last mile was downhill so I didn’t need to save any energy for that. I had forgotten how long the flat section was after the short downhill but I was fresh enough to keep pushing all the way to the line, making the last mile my quickest in 4.40. My time was 24 minutes and 2 seconds, over a minute quicker than my previous PB and just inside the course record set by Derek Hawkins two years before, although conditions were slower that year.

Overall it was a really pleasing result and it would be good to keep this form up in the next few road races. The next race is Inverness half marathon in a weeks time which will be my first half marathon for two years. It would be nice to take a chunk off the PB there too!

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Race start at Cupar 5

Winter Update

It’s now over halfway through February with four and a half months of consistently good winter training in the bag. The weeks have been tough with fairly high mileage and a lot of quality sessions compared to previous years. Each week has typically been around 80-100 miles of running on a mixture of terrain with three main interval or tempo sessions and some weights. This has been good to get the legs quicker for the cross country season and it should serve me well for the mountain running once the Spring comes. I’ve been able to get some nice hill runs in between the stormy days but once the warmer weather arrives it will be easier. Currently there is some deep icy snow above about 300m altitude on the higher hills which isn’t great. The other week I did a mile in 20 minutes running through thigh-deep snow on Peter Hill!

Snow on the hills above Finzean
Snow on the hills above Finzean

This weekend is the Scottish National cross country championships which I have been looking forward to all winter. Partly because its a great race and partly because its likely to be my last cross country race of the winter! That means the mountain season is getting closer at last. Last year I finished 2nd to Ethiopian runner Wegene Tafese so I am very keen to try and go one place better this time. The competition will be very tough as so many of Scotland’s top distance runners have been targeting Commonwealth selection times and lots of guys are running very well. Either way I’ll leave nothing in the tank and try to end the cross country season with a good run.

National XC 2013
National XC 2013

Close Race at the Scottish Inter District Cross Country

This was my 3rd race of the year and my 3rd cross country race of the winter. Last year I had an unexpected win at the Inter Districts after a tight sprint finish. It’s always a close tactical race where it’s difficult to open big gaps. The course is flat and fast round Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park with only one short section of hilly uneven ground. It’s also four laps of a 2km circuit so it feels longer than it actually is, this makes you hold back slightly in the first few laps. This year it got a quality field with the East, West and North District champions all running and some strong university runners. Last year the field was a bit less competitive so it made it easier for me to win.

After a quick start the first lap was uneventful; I was at the front and running at a fast but comfortable speed with a group just on my shoulder. Right at the start of the second lap five guys just sped up and some overtook me so there was a group of us constantly changing positions. This lasted for two laps. On all the slightly rougher hilly sections or where we ran in to a strong head wind I was able to get to the front but then the rest of the group would sprint past and I’d be stuck behind the pack. The pace was fast but not unbearable so everyone was able to stick with it. I was worried that it would end in a mass sprint in the last 200m and I didn’t fancy my chances against some of the fast track guys like Robert Russell and Alex Hendry.

Near the end of the third lap the pack suddenly broke up. I was stuck behind a few guys so was slow to react to the change in pace. Lachlan and Tewolde had broken away from us and were already a few seconds ahead by the time I could accelerate. Catching them seemed impossible but I wasn’t prepared to give up and let them get away. Alex Hendry followed me and the two of us worked hard to try and claw back the few seconds that they had gained. With 1km to go we were just behind them and this was just before the (very) short hill section. Alex passed me then the two of us got passed Tewolde with 600m to go, I was now in 3rd place. On the last uphill bit with a tight bend and a jump across a small stream I was just behind Alex but unable to get alongside him. Going round the last corner before the 150m downhill finish straight he got the inside line and was already sprinting before I got over the stream. I ran as fast as I could, chasing after Alex and both of us passed Lachlan with around 100m to the finish line. Alex stayed just ahead to win by one second and I was in 2nd, 2 seconds ahead of Lachlan.

It was great to get 2nd especially after being stuck in 6th place with just over a lap to go although it is always disappointing not to win a race when the margin is only one second! The race turned out to be very tactical which although was difficult in many ways it made it really exciting to be part of. I think the spectators enjoyed it too! Alex paced his effort on the last lap perfectly and had a really strong sprint finish so I was happy to see him win.

Festive Racing- First Victories of 2014

Boxing Day 5k

Since Christmas I’ve done a few local races to test out my fitness and see how the winter training is going. It’s been fun to get out to races that I’ve done so many times over the years and to catch up with people again.

The first run I did is more of a fun run than a competitive race but it’s still a good workout and a test of who can handle their Christmas dinner. In Banchory they have held the Boxing Day 5k for over 30 years and this time round was my 9th run (I think!). In 2012 I didn’t handle my turkey so well and was very ill before and after the race but I forced myself to do it to keep up the tradition.

The course is a bit shorter than 5k but the steep hill on Corsee road makes up for that. It’s great to run flat out through my local town when all the streets are so quiet. For the first time I managed to break 15 minutes for the course by running 14.59, that’s about 25 seconds quicker than my previous best. More impressive than my run was GB international and local Rhona Auckland who ran 17.20 and only got beaten by two men.

Aonach Mor Uphill Race

The next race I did was on the 1st of January at Aonach Mor ski centre near Fort William. Most folk think you’re mad for racing on New Year’s Day but if you like running up hills then it seems like the perfect way to start the year. I’m not sure Carla thought it was worth getting up at 6.30am for! The night before we were at the wedding of Oleg and Cara Chepelin which was a great and I felt a bit bad having to leave an hour or so early, we still did a few dances though. I raced at Aonach Mor five years ago and broke the record in good conditions but hadn’t been back since. Last year local runner and multiple Ben Nevis winner, Finlay Wild was 1 second away from breaking the record! So, I thought I better get back over and defend it this year.

At the start with Finlay
At the start with Finlay

It’s one of the few uphill only races in Scotland and it climbs around 500m in 3km so it’s pretty steep but all on a good trails. It basically runs up the course they’ve used for downhill mountain biking world championships. The weather was relatively good for the time of year with snow only covering the last part of the course.

I set off with Finlay who was defending his title from last year. After the first short climb I accelerated and tried to pull away on the flatter part. I didn’t look back for a few minutes and when I did I had a comfortable gap. For the rest of the race I concentrated on keeping up a good rhythm and running all the way. I was going well and feeling strong on the steep bits, trying not to do any walking. The only section where I lost time was on a few patches of icy boardwalk that you run across near the finish.

I crossed the line just over 70 seconds ahead of Finlay and about a minute inside my old course record which was great. Couldn’t think of a better start to the year! Sitting in the restaurant at the race finish reminded me of being back in the Alps again just with thick broccoli soup to eat instead of spaghetti bolognaise. There should definitely be more uphill races in Scotland although maybe at a slightly warmer time of year.

View from the finish
View from the finish

Lumphanan 10k

The day after Aonach Mor I decided to race again at the Lumphanan 10k which is a local race, only 10 miles away from home. I’ve done the race 7 or 8 times and this was my 5th race win. Usually it’s either wet and windy or really icy so it is difficult to run a fast time. The course is also slow because of the first 2km uphill and a 1.5km section of muddy farm track. There was a storm the night before but luckily on race day the conditions were near perfect although the farm track was pretty muddy.

Near the top of the hill
Near the top of the hill

The course record (31.33) was set five years ago by Robert Russell and each year I’ve gone off fast and tried to get near it and not managed. This year I thought I’d try a different tactic. I started off at a more steady pace and made sure I did the first uphill mile at a comfortable effort. Once at the top I began to wind it up a bit but still holding back slightly. Usually I get to 5km on record pace then struggle on the second half; either it’s in to a head wind or the farm track is thick with mud and I slow down a lot. This time I had more in the tank so I pushed much harder for the last 5km of the race.

Once the mud was out the way I had 2km to go and I needed to run it in 6 minutes 10 seconds or less to get the record. With the first bit of it gradually downhill I thought it was still very possible. I basically went flat out and by the time I started suffering I was on the last 1km where loads of people were cheering me on. This helped a lot and soon enough I was sprinting down the road to get on to the last 100m across the grass. I crossed the line in 31.17 to take a wee bit off Robert’s record. After 5 wins it’s great to add the record to the collection as well. I’ve finally regained both the Deeside 10k records, Balmoral and Lumphanan, from Central AC!

Close to the finish
Close to the finish

Now it’s back to the hard training for the next few cross country races.

Top 5 Memorable Races of 2013

5) Scottish National Cross Country Championships

Before this race my best national cross country position was 5th place back when I was an under 13! This was my first year on the senior 12km course and usually it gets a very strong field. A few weeks before I had one of my worst ever races at the Celtic Nations cross country so this was my chance to make up for that.

For the first two laps I was in the lead and feeling really comfortable but with 4km to go Wegene Tafese shot past me and I couldn’t close the gap which was 14 seconds by the finish. He became the first African winner of the Scottish Championships and although I had a good run and exceeded my expectations it was a bit disappointing to lose out.

Leading the field on lap 1

At the front with Wegene

4) Balmoral 10k

I’ve raced at one (or more) of the Balmoral races every year since I was 12 and have competed in races of 2.5k, 5k, 10k, half marathon and 15 miles. The 10k is normally the most competitive and it’s the one I’ve been most desperate to win over the years. It’s just about the best 10k road course you can get for a few reasons. Firstly, you get to run at 5min/mile pace through some really nice bits of Deeside’s Caledonian pine forest. Half the course is on forest tracks and not tarmac; underfoot it’s still fast but it is a bit more exciting. It also has a long hill after 3km which can slow down a lot of road runners. The course suits me perfectly and it’s the biggest local running event but I’d never won the 10k before.

A group of runners came up from Central AC and they dominated the 5k race and with Scott McDonald doing the 10k I knew it would be tough. On the hill me and Scott were side by side, pushing as hard as possible to try and get an advantage. At the top we were still even but I increased the pace again to a stupid speed as I knew I would recover on the downhill section. This time I got ahead of Scott and used the next few kilometres of downhill to get a gap of 20 seconds. I ran the last 5km of the race in around 14.30 which was enough to get me just inside the course record set by Robert Russell a few years before.

To win my local race for the first time and in a new course record was amazing and one of the highlights of the year.

Start of Balmoral 10k

Start of Balmoral 10k

3) Neirivue le Moleson, Switzerland

This was my second mountain race in Europe this summer and my first top 3 result. Going in to the race I was quite relaxed and just wanted to get a few races under my belt to prepare me for the rest of the season. It was a good attitude to go in to the race with as I hadn’t done it before and didn’t really know how I compared to the rest of the guys.

The race went well for me and I was able to take advantage of the fast technical sections and steep ascents to get in to a good position. Alex Baldaccini was well out in front so it left me and Saul Padua Antonio from Columbia to battle it out for 2nd. I was about 30 seconds ahead going in to the last 500m vertical climb to the finish and he was closing the gap quickly. At one point he was right on my shoulder but the steeper rougher ground suited me and I was able to stay ahead. On the last 400m on more runnable trails I had to dig deep to keep the gap but it paid off when I got 2nd place by just over 10 seconds.

Last effort before the finish
Last effort before the finish

The selection of different Gruyere cheeses, local yogurts and fruit at the finish made it well worth the 1200m ascent. The view from the top was also really good as the mountain is right on the edge of the Alps with views over France and higher snowy mountains in Switzerland.

2) Grintovec, Slovenia

This was very memorable but not so much for my result in the race. Grintovec is a 2500m high mountain in Slovenia which is basically a big steep lump of rock with forest on the lower slopes. The area we stayed in was pretty cool and very different to other parts of the Alps, more wilderness and fewer people. I’d heard there are a few hundred brown bears in Slovenia so while out running before the race I was trying to find some but didn’t manage. The weekend of the race was a heat wave with temperatures up to 40 degrees!

The race was one of the toughest I’ve done with a climb of 1900m in 9.5km on a rough path and exposed rocks. The heat made it almost unbearable and if I’d flown out from a Scottish summer to race in those conditions I wouldn’t have finished. My finish position was 4th which was nothing special but worth the trip anyway. It felt like you’d climbed a real mountain and it was really rewarding to stand at the top of such a big steep peak on a clear sunny day.

Possibly more demanding than the race was the 3 hour walk down the mountain back to the 40 degree heat. It was a long day out and a bit of an adventure. The mixed meat grill that me and Carla tried to eat at the prize giving was also an experience!

Grintovec mountain

Grintovec mountain from halfway up

1) Sierre Zinal, Switzerland

This was definitely my best result of the year against one of the toughest fields I raced against. The race is a classic and it gets a world class field every year. Last year I had a disaster of a run and finished way back somewhere around 35th! I learned that it was a very special race and one that needs to be taken seriously. It’s a long race at over 30km and with about 2000m of ascent but there is a lot of fast running as well and that’s what makes it difficult.

On race day I knew that the 10 weeks of training in the Alps would provide me with the fitness to do well but getting the tactics right would be even more important. I set of steady on the first main ascent to leave plenty energy for the faster running in the second half. I moved through the field and caught lots guys who are better runners than me but hadn’t paced it so well. I passed runners from Eritrea, USA, Columbia, Spain, Italy and of course Switzerland to get in to 5th place. Crossing the finish line in 5th place with one of the quickest ever British times was the highlight of the year.

With plenty more hard work 2014 can be just as memorable.

Sierre Zinal prize giving
Sierre Zinal prize giving

Scottish East District Cross Country Championships

This was my first race in a month after having a block of tough cross country training. The last race before this was the Scottish 4k cross country championships where I struggled to keep up with the furious pace and could only manage 12th. It was a bit of a shock to the system after months of mountain races but it gave me plenty of things to work on for the rest of the cross country season!

The east districts were in Dundee this year at Camperdown Park which is a really nice area for running considering it’s on the edge of a city. It’s a big country park with some nice wooded areas, grassy trails and open parkland. The course was three laps with a good mixture of woods and grass; there was even a long (but very gradual) hill to look forward to. The ground was mostly frozen and fast going which was nice for a change. I was a bit unsure of how the race would go for me as although training had gone well the below-par performance in November was still at the back of my mind and you’re only as good as your last race.

When the gun went the guys from Central AC set off at a killer pace, as they do in every cross country. They had three of their best runners there but not quite as many guys as they had at the 4k championship. This time I was able to stay at the front with them. Shortly in to the race I made use of a downhill section to break through the wall of Central runners and get to the front, just before a section of sharp corners and then the uphill through the forest. Two of the guys, Robert Russell and Ali Hay, caught me up and went passed again but I had managed to break up the field a bit. We did the hilly first mile in around 4.55 which made me realise the start was a bit too quick! For the rest of the lap I tried to stick on the back of Robert and Ali whilst saving some energy for the other two laps.

At the start of lap two I passed Ali to get in to 2nd place but by this time Robert had pulled a few seconds clear and was really motoring. For the rest of the lap I tried to close the gap but I was running as quick as I could sustain and wasn’t making up any time. I was conscious that I had another runner just behind me so I had to focus on losing him going in to the last lap. On the last lap I really pushed it on the uphill section to try and steal a few seconds to keep 3rd place far enough away before the last 1km of flat running before the finish. Robert was still flying along and had a comfortable lead going in to the home straight. I’m fairly sure he’s won four east district cross country titles now!  I was pleased with 2nd place, it was a big improvement after coming 12th in the National 4k cross country. It was also the same position I finished last year. The only slight disappointment I had was not being able to stick with Robert at the start of the second lap. It’s still early in the cross country season with the National champs still over two months away. This will give me time to get that extra bit of pure leg speed that is needed to stick with the Central guys.

Trofeo Vanoni Relay- Unlucky 13th for Scotland

The Trofeo Vanoni mountain relay race in Morbegno, Italy, was a race to forget for me and the rest of the Scottish men’s team; Kyle Grieg and Pete Harrison. We did manage to complete the race in a reasonable position but every member of our team finished with an injury and ran below par. The bad luck started just over a week before the race when our original team member, Wegene Tafese, had to drop out. Luckily GB junior international mountain runner Pete Harrison was able to step in last minute even if it did mean he had to quit his job to get the time off to travel; that’s dedication! Unfortunately Pete was suffering from sciatic nerve pain during the week of the race so had a few doubts as to whether he could get round in one piece.

Morbegno- photo by Kyle Greig

Morbegno- photo by Kyle Greig

 

 

Kyle had been running well all summer and set a half marathon PB just 3 weeks before the relay at the Great Scottish Run. Unfortunately he picked up a hamstring injury so had run very little in the weeks before the race to let it recover fully. Even more unfortunate was Kyle’s luck in the week before the race where he got his road bike stolen and crashed his car! This was all due to not being able to run to his work because of the injury. As it turned out Kyle was the least affected by injury in the relay and put in a good performance considering his 3 week layoff.

I had been feeling strong in training during the week before travelling to Italy. Everything was going well until an easy jog the day after arriving in Morbegno which caused my hip to tighten up and reduced me to a hobble. After some stretching and massage it loosened off but hadn’t disappeared completely on the day of the race.

The plan was for me to run on the first leg of the relay then Kyle on 2nd and Pete on last leg. The course is fantastic and has a bit of everything with an especially fast and technical descent which we were looking forward to. It’s only 7km long so is all pretty much flat-out effort.

Scotland team in front of Morbegno church

Scotland team in front of Morbegno church

As soon as I started the race I knew my glute muscle tightness was still there and it got worse every minute. I ran very hard on the first part of the ascent and was comfortably with the leaders; Mitja Kosovelj from Slovenia and Luca Cagnati from Italy. I thought if I could get to the top of the hill in one piece then the tightness might loosen off on the descent. Halfway up the hill my hip was getting worse and my stride was very restricted and painful. There was a section of steps which were incredibly difficult for me to lift my leg over. At this point I was in 3rd place and unable to keep with the leaders anymore. For the last part to the high point I tried to block out the pain as much as possible and stay as far ahead of 4th place as possible. Once the descent started things got even worse. The pain was still there and my mobility was very restricted meaning the corners and steep steps were difficult to negotiate. By the time I got to flat 500m of road to the finish I was reduced to a very slow jog and had lost a few places. Both legs and my lower back had locked up and I felt like I was running in slow motion. I crossed the line then couldn’t walk which was a bit of a problem. For the first time ever I had to get put on a stretcher!

Running in pain on the descent- photo by Peter Ryder

Running in pain on the descent- photo by Peter Ryder

Kyle managed to regain some places with a solid run on leg 2 to get us up to around 5th position. Although he wasn’t too restricted by the hamstring injury during the race the exertion made it worse after being rested for 3 weeks. Pete also struggled with pain in his hip but from his sciatic nerve. He basically ran the race on one leg while the other was numb. He battled round and although he lost a few places he kept us in the race and we finished in 13th place. This was a disappointing result overall as we expected to get near top 5.

Kyle starting leg 2

Kyle starting leg 2

Any one of us could have justified pulling out the race before the start but kept going to not let the team down. The pain I felt was severe, almost unbearable at times. Pete and Kyle were probably the same for much of the race but the thought of a DNF was even worse. Although we learned from the disastrous race we spent a lot of time laughing at the funny side of our misfortunes. Lots of things went wrong but we were still able to work as a team. We will be back and we will make up for it.

Next Race and Update

Running in the Alps seems like a distant memory now as I’m back in to the way of things at home. I have recently had some great news that I’ve been picked to run for the Scottish team at the Trofeo Vanoni relay on the 27th of October which means one final visit to the Alps this year! The race is one of my favourites and I’ve done it the last 3 years. It’s a short and steep up and downhill course that has a very fast technical descent. The team is made up of me, Wegene Tafese and Kyle Greig. We each run one lap of the course which makes it very exciting as positions can change a lot. Wegene is the National cross country and trail running champion and won the Snowdon uphill race so is a quality runner, especially off road. Kyle is also in very good shape after getting PB’s over 10k and half marathon over the last few weekends and also beating one of my hill race course records. We will have a very strong team so should be able to challenge some of the top Italians.

 

Steep descent at Vanoni- 2011

Steep descent at Vanoni- 2011

Although Scotland seems flat and cold compared to the countries I visited over the summer it is quite nice to be running on familiar territory again. After two easy weeks I’ve started increasing the training again and last week was my first week of running over 100 miles for quite a few months. Over this winter training block I’ll be aiming for lots of weeks of 95-100 miles with as much as possible off roads and hilly. With a much lighter racing schedule over the winter it means I can concentrate on getting as fit as possible for next season. After racing in Italy in a few weeks the next race will probably be the National 4km cross country championships in November and then the Scottish east district championships in December after that.

As well as being back to hard training I’ve started my final year of studying at the Scottish Rural University College at Aberdeen. It’s good to be back in to routine again but it does mean a lot of runs at 6am in the dark. There are plenty of very good runs straight from the Campus at Craibstone which makes it easy to get some hilly miles in whenever I can.

Jungfrau Marathon

4 months of racing in Europe has gone by very quickly and now I’m back in Scotland until next year. Last weekend was the Jungfrau marathon which I had hoped to run well at after putting in a good block of training for the last 5 weeks in Livigno. My original aims were to run faster than last year’s 3 hours 10 minutes and improve on my 9th place finish. In the end I was slightly disappointed only to achieve one of those aims.

Race leaders in Interlaken

Race leaders in Interlaken

As far as the race went it was a fairly solid effort and the pacing went well. I ran a decent first half and was still running strongly at the end of the marathon. It wasn’t a particularly great performance; I didn’t feel very good for most of the way and I had a bit too much left in the tank at the end. I did run 3 hours 8 minutes which was good and not spectacular but it could only get me 11th place which was the most disappointing thing. In other years I could have been top 5 with that time! The only difference this year was the quality of the competition. Last year Jungfrau marathon was the world long distance mountain running championship so I expected this year to not be so competitive but I was very wrong.

Last year I overtook around 15 people in the second half and despite running a similar split time this year I only caught two runners. I had a bad patch at the start of the ascent and dropped back from two guys I was running with; this meant I ran from 26km to 40km entirely on my own. This is probably the most important part of the race and I was finding it hard to push enough with nobody in sight for 80 minutes of racing. The guys at the front were unbelievable though; the top 3 ended up running some of the fastest times ever. The Kenyan who won ran 2 hours 50 minutes which is only one minute slower than the record by Jono Wyatt which many people thought was unbeatable. Viktor Rothlin who was the favourite of most people ran an incredible 2 hours 53 but that could only get him 3rd with Petro Mamu from Eritrea finishing a minute or two ahead.

It was still an enjoyable race to finish the season with and I’m glad I decided to pick that race. One of the good things about this year’s race is how quickly I’ve recovered compared to last year. Last year I was in agony for a week and didn’t feel recovered for around three weeks. This year I felt back to normal after two or three days. It’s probably down to do training on the road a bit more in the build up which has helped my legs adapt to the extra pounding.

400m before the finish with the Eiger north face behind

400m before the finish with the Eiger north face behind

One week on from the marathon and I’ve still been taking things very easy. The plan was to take a full two weeks of recovery and do short easy runs every day. This has given me a chance to catch up with things at home and do some quality fishing for the first time in ages.

First salmon of the season

First salmon of the season

I did manage to fit in a small hill race at the Invercharron highland games which was really fun. The course was short and fast with some really nice bits of single track trail. Despite not managing to find the short cuts I managed to win comfortably with Colin Donnelly coming 2nd. It was good to do a race with proper downhill again. I was worried I might be rubbish at running downhill after so many uphill races but after turning at the summit I completely forgot that and I remembered how much fun it is!

One more week of easy running then in to some proper winter training with lots of hard miles on hills and mud.

Last week in the Alps

The last race of my trip to the Alps is the Jungfrau marathon which is this weekend. It’s an amazing race where you start in the Swiss town of Interlaken and finish just below the north faces of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains. Link to race website; http://www.jungfrau-marathon.ch/en/

 

Eiger north face from near the race finish

Eiger north face from near the race finish

The race is tough and needs very specific training. The first 25km are very flat with only a slight incline, and it’s nearly all on tarmac. The second part of the race climbs 1600m on tracks and mountain paths. This makes it quite tricky coming from mountain training as the first half of the race can take so much out of you. Similarly, fast road runners can lose lots of time on the second half if they aren’t used to hills. Ideally you want to be able to run for 25km at a fast pace and not lose too much time to the top road runners but have enough left in the tank to climb strongly for another 17km!Last year I took part in the race which was the world long distance mountain running championship and came 9th place in 3 hours 10. I didn’t do much specific training for the race so I think its possible to do much better. This year I’m hoping to get closer to running 3.05 and finish higher up the field.

Me finishing the race last year, wearing some oddly matching kit!

Me finishing the race last year, wearing some poorly matching kit!

After spending the last few months doing loads of uphill only mountain races the first half of Jungfrau is where I need to improve most. So in the last 6 weeks I’ve spent a lot of time running on the flat cycle road in Livigno to get my legs used to running on the hard roads. Like most mountain runners I don’t really enjoy running lots of miles on tarmac but for this it is necessary. Even in the spring when I was running PB’s for 5km and 10km races I wasn’t doing many road miles at all but it’s possible to get away with it on short distances. For this race I need my legs to feel very fresh after running a half marathon (with a 200m climb) in under 75 minutes.

The competition looks pretty tough this year with all the usual top mountain runners plus a few Kenyans and most interesting of all, Viktor Rothlin. He is the Swiss marathon record holder and has a best time of 2 hours 7 minutes! He’s also won the European marathon championships and got a medal at the world championships. So he’s a class above everyone else on the roads but it’s hard to know whether he’ll be able to stay ahead of the best mountain runners in the second half. He could be so far ahead that nobody will catch him! At the weekend I will find out.

One day after the race I’ll be heading back to the UK to get back to my studies and a block of winter training.