If you've not heard of the Barkley Marathons, read this. They're regularly touted as being amongst the toughest running races on Earth and so, when a race is commonly known as "The Barkley Marathon of X", you know it's pretty brutal.
The Chartreuse Terminorum is a relatively new race that's increasingly being mentioned in this category, it's referred to as 'the Barkley Marathon of France'. No one finished the first and only edition of the race. Frenchman Cédric Gonçalves is one of only 40 athletes to have been invited this year. We chatted to him about his hopes for the challenge of a lifetime...
So Cedric, the Chartreuse Terminorum is widely known as one of the most difficult ultras in the world, can you tell us more about the race and what's at stake?
Well, the CT is a French version of the infamously tough Barkley Marathons in the US. Benoît Laval organises it in the heart of the Alps. It's 300km (over 5 laps) with +25,000m of elevation in 80 hours. But what makes it special is there are no course markings, no GPS allowed and no assistance whatsoever. Very few people ever finish...
Yikes. Only about 40 people are hand selected each year right? What made them select you?
I'm a veteran as I participated in the 1st edition. In my selection essay I put forward my desire to discover a little more about myself and indicated that I'm not the guy who will manage the full 5 laps, but that for me a loop will be a victory.
And I was one of 16 who finished even one lap last time, so that surely has to count for something!
Sure! Ok, what's your background in ultra running (and sports in general)? What are your best results so far?
I'm a flat land runner who fell in love with the mountains. I progress a little every year (I currently have 600 points in the International Trail Running Association's performance index) and I'm always extending my distance so I'm always seeing more.
My best results in 2017 were 51st place on the Traversée Nord of the Echappée Belledonne (85km, +6000m), 72nd place at the Endurance Trail of the Templiers (100km, +3500m) and lately a podium in 70km race close to home.
How are you adapting your training plan for the CT this time around?
I work with a coach (B.Holzerny) on the physical side of things and to compensate for the lack of elevation in my area! I try to work on my weak points in navigation through going out with an orienteering club.
What are your favourite and less favourite workouts?
I prefer long sessions in the wilderness. I don't really like my weekly split sessions!
What do you think will be the most difficult thing about the event?
From past experience, I know that it will be necessary to leave thinking the race consists only of one lap, not to manage my pace for the long haul as it's just not feasible to go the full distance!
The navigation / orientation part will be more difficult this year too, I think.
What is your hydration and nutrition strategy for longer ultras like this?
Hydration is simple. ELECTROLYTES! I do not drink isotonic drinks. I only take the best, PH's hypotonic supplements.
For nutrition, I'm completely "fat-adapted" now. I can run for several hours without refuelling. But for competitions, I take in a little carbohydrate anyway, just to create a margin of safety!
And, what equipment will be crucial to your success in the race?
Good shoes will be an important element. Last year, I suffered from many blisters. My feet were soaked from the start and never really dried out during the 19 hours on the first loop!
Ok, so what's your target at this year's CT then, to finish?!
I'd love to manage 2 laps! A first loop and the second as far as I can. The goal will be to reach ~120km and +10,000m, no matter how long it takes...