“Time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted”. This saying has been hammered into me from the early days in my military career. With my next race being the Eiger 101km, I thought that I should practice what I preach and spend some time in Grindelwald and run the route that I will be racing in a couple of weeks.
The Eiger Ultra Trail is a 101km mountain race with 6750m vertical ascent, not for the feint hearted. The race has been running for four years and has become a big event in the local calendar. After racing in the Marathon des Sables in April this year, the opportunity arose that I could race in the Eiger 101km. After some research, I was a little bit nervous as I would be operating completely out of my comfort zone, this was also exciting as I knew that I would have to learn a lot and fully commit to running in the mountains, so I said yes!
Training for me has got to be fun. Yes, there are going to be tough times but the time when you work hard in training will be rewarded in a race. Whether that’s a 3000m on the track or a 24-hour race, there is no substitute for hard work. I didn’t want to rush the route in a couple of days so I decided to take my time, learn the technique, get used to the altitude and test some new kit.
The race will be won in around 11hrs 40mins, considering the technical terrain, the steep climbs and descents, the altitude and the unpredictable weather, those 11hrs + are going to be no walk in the park.
I split the course down into different sections, using the cable cars and train system to get up or down from the mountain. I spent more time on the technical sections to make sure that my body fully understood what I was going to be telling it to do. After my weekend in Chamonix with Robbie Britton, I had lots to think about. My nutrition, my hydration, my heart rate, my clothing, what trainers to wear, the speed of my decent and pole technique.
In total, I covered over 140km in my training. To aid my recovery I had a couple of swimming sessions added to my training, this cross training helps to remove the lactic acid from your muscles and flush them with fresh blood and oxygen. I also attempted stand up paddle boarding… I think I will stick to running!
My kit for the week varied as I wanted to test some new things out. Once again, my Precision Hydration 250 & 1500 worked wonders, it’s a great product which I fully trust and would recommend it to anyone. For my nutrition, I was working hard to get the necessary carbohydrates into my body. This always seems like a lot, but it makes such a huge difference when it all goes to plan. I have been working with Reene McGregor on my nutrition plan for racing, training and everyday life. For me, I need to break up my nutrition plan and use a combination of liquids, gels, bars and real food. It is a really personal thing, a process of trial and error to find the right foods for YOU may take a long time. Then sometimes your body may decide that it doesn’t want to have that gel or bar, so you have got to maintain your flexibility and have a backup plan.
My trip to Grindelwald was a real insight of the life as a full-time athlete. Even though it was for less than a week, I feel that my training was all going in the right direction. Being able to take the stresses out of your life is so important for your recovery. For example, sleeping with your phone in a different room, minimising the distractions and allowing yourself to have a really good sleep.
I am now on my way back to the UK where I will have another week of hard training before I go into my taper for the Eiger Ultra Trail. I am off to support Dan Lawson and Robbie Britton in the 24-Hour world championships in Belfast. Best of luck to those two, the remainder of the GB team and all of the other athletes who are going to be pushing their mind and body through hell over the weekend!