Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Running in snowy Chamonix: fast ass on the dread mill

When mentioning Chamonix, many ultra runners think UTMB, the populous Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, one of the world most arduous 100-milers. Now, although it may be rainy and stormy during the race in August, there is a big difference between running these mountains in the Summer and Winter as you can see from several of my posts relating some of my training on the UTMB course.

After a hectic business trip to Jordan last week, I've been in Chamonix for a few days for vacation and to finish renovating an apartment. It has been rainy for a few days (thanks global warming...) but seasonal snow finally came on Monday evening. So, what do you do when you wake up to this wonderful snowy landscape? (View of the Glacier des Bossons, just below Mont Blanc, from the apartment)
If not snowshoeing, then you'd better running inside and that's what the municipal sport center named after Richard Bozon, offers: a fully-equipped fitness center with daily, weekly, monthly or yearly passes.

As you know from my post about running on a tread mill during my last trip to Saudi Arabia, running on a belt isn't my preferred activity but I'll take it when no other safe or reasonable outdoor option is available. This fitness facility is rather small (4 tread mills, 4 bikes, 2 ellipticals, 1 StepMaster, 2 rowers) but the view on the mountains is amazing. Knowing that I would run for a while, I actually picked a machine facing the inside basketball court and, luckily, it was set on the standard system which I'm so much more used to for pacing now (min/mile versus kilometer).

With all the traveling since the beginning of the year, my training has been rather inconsistent and I was eager to go for some distance yet set an aggressive pace of 6:27 min/mile (9.3 miles/hour). It felt so good that, after running 10 miles in 1 hour and 5 minutes, I set my goal to 50K. Quite a lofty goal knowing that I had never run more than 2 hours or 14.6 miles on a treadmill before (that was 2 years ago during another trip to Saudi).

What I like with the treadmill --did I just say like?!-- is that you don't have to think about your pace, you are just 'hamestering' down and keep pedaling. I was amazed though that this machine was actually slowing down if it felt I wasn't keeping up with the pace, for instance while grabbing my towel, picking an S!Caps, a Gu Chew or a bite of Snickers: way to keep you focusing on a straight stride!

After 99 minutes at that pace, the treadmill automatically switched to a cool down mode as it couldn't display more time. I had covered 15.6 miles in that first 1 hour and 40 minutes and had to stop to start another workout. I took advantage of this short break to quickly refill my two Ultimate Direction bottles and start another session less than 5 minutes after the first one.

I passed the marathon mark around 2:48:30 and was super pleased to be able to maintain this 6:27 pace way beyond. As a matter of fact, with 15 minutes remaining, I pushed the pace to 6:17 then 6:00 for the last 10 minutes to cover 50K in 3:19:35, wow! For those who followed my attempts at improving our 31-year standing M50-54 age group American Record of 3:19:33, this is quite a milestone. And comforting to know I'm not that far off my 2012 50K PR of 3:19:09. Of course, the conditions are quite different, and who know how exact the distance really is on a treadmill for such a long workout duration, but that felt about right from an effort, or rather exhaustion, standpoint. Anyway, we shall see in a few weeks, on rolling courses and with different weather conditions, outdoor. At least, that was quite a good tempo run, to say the least!

Hope you have started the year on the right foot yourself, keep it up as we say, and see you on the roads or trails!

PS: back to play on words in the title, for those not used to the Fat Ass expression, this is how we typically start the yearly season in the US, with informal 50K runs. Since I've missed our local Saratoga Fat Ass this year, that is my own version. On a completely flat course (no treadmill incline), so not so comparable, I must concede...

1 comment:

Duke said...

Amazing! Ultrarunner version of John Henry - outran a treadmill.