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Sunday, January 13 2013

Registered for the Grand Raid des Pyrénées

I have just registered for the Grand Raid des Pyrénées, on the "Ultra" (160km +10,000m). I have mentioned this race earlier here, but did not register. It's some kind of UTMB of the Pyrénées, but potentially more brutal with all ascent concentrated in only 5 main climbs, and some paths that might not be runnable. On the plus side, it starts at 5am, allowing to run it with a single night out (touch wood), and an easier time limit (50 hours).

The registration for the "Grand" (80km) was completed in just a few hours, and for the 160km, it looks like it will be done and dusted very soon too. Not much international participation, though...

That also means that I will probably not attempt the Thames Source Quest this year. I will just give it a rest before another fresh attempt.

Ultra new horizons

Thursday, January 12 2012

Not registered for the Grand Raid des Pyrénées

I have been thinking for the last couple of months to attempt the Grand Raid des Pyrénées (GRP). The registration opened today, the 12th January 2012 at 12:12.

This race series is not without similarities with the UTMB, being run at the end of August in high mountain ranges and featuring 3 races. The original race: Ultra (160km +10000m), comparable to the UTMB (166km +9500m), a shorter one: Grand Trail (80km +5000m), against the UTMB's CCC (98km +5600m), and a longer team race with little support and tougher entry conditions: Raid (240km +15000m) vs UTMB's PTL (300km +25000m). The GRP isn't run around a major landmark as the UTMB's Mont Blanc, but goes up the Pic du Midi instead! The wild landscape is stunning.

Looking at the GRP elevation profile is scary, as it features only 5 majors ascents, against 9 for the UTMB. The ascents (and worse, the descents) are therefore very long on the GRP, with 1000m looking like a short ascent, and some featuring about 2000m in one push. The descent from the Pic du Midi is 2400m end-to-end, plus a few extra bumps to make it 2600m cumulated...

On the plus side, the GRP starts a 05:00 as opposed to 18:30 for the UTMB, which I think is a major advantage. Indeed, this means that you run through only one night if you finish in less than 40 hours, which is reasonable, whereas only the elite (sub 26:30) can enjoy this privilege on the UTMB. And given my dislike for running by night, this is a significant bonus point.

In 2012 the UTMB will be run on the first week-end of September rather than the last of August. As far as I know, this is then the first time the UTMB and GRP are not organised on the same week-end, which will obviously give ideas to some :)

I had been contemplating the idea of running the Ultra, as a "secondary" objective, taking my time. But a Little Bird reminded me that one long ultra per year is probably enough for my slow recovery. I keep it my mind for 2013, if we don't need qualifying points by then :) . UTMB will require 7 points next year!

Ultra reasonable

Sunday, December 18 2011

2011 review & 2012 plans

So, how was 2011 running-wise?

In a nutshell, I've carried on with the trend of not training much, or at least not as much as I would like to. Indeed, the Hardmoors 60 (85km in 6 training sessions during the previous month) and the Athens Marathon (44km in 5 sessions during the previous month) consolidate the idea that I can run significant distances following a truly minimal training. It's obviously not ideal, but it gets me (slowly and somehow painfully) to the end of the race.

It is relatively clear that I have trained much less in terms of number of sessions, reaching an all-time low of 55 sessions so far. This is barely once a week! However, I have put forward qualitative work, leading to a higher average distance of about 22km per session.

I have the feeling I might have gone a bit too far in this direction, and for next year, I will try to put back more easy runs in between the quality training sessions to increase a bit my mileage.

And now for the big challenge... I guess I have trained relatively well for the TSQ, but in the end both the mental and physical sides let me down at the same time. I knew it would be an extremely tough mental challenge, but did not manage to gather enough psychological energy beforehand. In particular, I didn't react well to the very slow pace I was reduced to after the night, and was afraid to finish too late on Sunday. And I was cold and very sleepy at night.

So, what's on for next year? The TSQ again! Third time lucky hopefully... Aside the minor fixes for the issues mention here above, I am still considering lowering a bit the challenge by dropping a few constraints. Maybe "self-supported" as opposed to "unsupported", ie. I would be allowed to get water and food from nearby sources (but not from a dedicated crew). That would alleviate the heavy bag issue (but was that an issue?), and more importantly allow for better physical and mental recovery if I can get hot food on the go. To be continued...

I'm also getting interested in the Grand Raid des Pyrénées (GRP). I know about the "one main event per year" rule, but that could be a secondary goal, a kind of super hike, given the generous time limit (50 hours). Something I would not be allowed to think of before the TSQ is completed, if that's possible. Registrations open on the 12th Jan 2012 at 12:12...

Ultra plans
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