Back in March, Captain Tom Evans somewhat burst on to the world ultra running scene when he came 3rd in the Marathon Des Sables. He had Precision Hydration in his bottles all the way through the desert. Next up for Tom is the Eiger Ultra Trail, one of the most challenging races in the Swiss Alps in mid-July.
He was over in Chamonix for a training weekend before heading off to Grindlewald and we asked him to share a training diary to give you an insight into a weekend in the life of a top trail runner...
My typical training weekends start with me battling the M4 out to the Brecon Beacons. After 4 hours of driving, I usually feel like I've already done a session. I didn't fancy that and so instead of doing my normal thing I decided that I was in need of a trip to the Alps. Looking at my training program, I had two long runs in two days planned anyway so that'd be ideal.
Door to door only took 6 hours, flew to Geneva and jumped on the Cham express. Arriving at 7.30pm in Mont Roc to meet Robbie Britton (a top GB 24 hour runner (who I discovered also uses Precision Hydration - great minds and all that...) and Natalie White, who's also a pro ultra runner. They were very kindly hosting me for the weekend. From the minute I stepped off the bus I couldn’t stop smiling.
After an early night and a big breakfast, Robbie, Tim Lloyd, Mike Jones and myself were ready to head out for a 3 hour run. We had all packed light, just making sure that we had enough food and water for the duration.
We started with a long steady climb up to Tete Aux Vents, this gave me a good opportunity to practice with some poles. As I do the majority of my training in the South East of England there's limited opportunity to do that really. On the route up, the wildlife and views didn’t disappoint. The ground was a whole mixture, from thin trails through woodland, to climbing up ladders on open rock face.
After pounding some trails, we made our decent, the ground was easy to read and we were all concentrating on form and technique. It’s so important not to burn yourself out on the down hills; in a long race, consistency is key. You don’t need to save energy for the sprint finish, as you will find the strength for that.
Another climb awaited us at the bottom. The trail up to Posetts was almost empty, the scenery also didn’t disappoint. Due to the temperature over the last couple for weeks, there wasn't as much water flowing through the streams. We found a beautiful stream to drink out of on the Posetts ridge (PH never tastes better than with fresh mountain water!).
We were able to let our legs going a bit here as the trail was in great condition. My On Cloudventure Peaks did a good job on the less rocky terrain, the grip was good and there was enough protection for my feet.
From the top of the ridge we could see everywhere we ran, it’s so easy to forget how huge these mountains are. We were just tiny specs of the side of these beautiful mountains. The trail down to Le Tour was the highlight of my day. The ski slope gave us all the chance to open the legs up once again, we all finished the run in high spirits.
I had learnt so much from being with Robbie, the way he navigates the terrain is amazing, he makes it look effortless. We all made sure that we ate sufficient food throughout the run. I am currently weighing 74kg, this means that I have to absorb significantly more carbohydrates per hour. I was pleased with my plan for the day, I felt strong throughout the run.
I know people bang on about it but the nutrition and hydration side of running really is so important. If you're training for anything over 90 mins then you need to be consuming carbohydrates. For multi stage races, early nutrition is essential so that you don’t burn out.
We all went into Chamonix in the evening to catch up with some of the other British runners training in the Alps over the summer. The community is so dedicated with their running and their recovery but you have got to remember to have fun at the same time too. We all do this sport because we enjoy it, sure at times it’s going to be hard, I mean really hard, but at the end of the day you have got to love what you do.
Waking up nice and early to see that the weather was once again perfect, I wanted to get straight outside and run. After another big breakfast, we were ready to go. We had decided to start the run with a steep climb to the Albert Premier hut. I decided that today I wouldn’t go out with poles. The climb was steep but manageable. Trying to imagine what the area looked like 100 years ago was truly fascinating. The distance that the glacier has crept back is astonishing.
On arriving at the Albert Premiere hut, Robbie and I thought that it would be rude not to stop for some cake. After some delicious banana bread and berry tart we continued up the mountain for a bit of an explore. The air was starting to thin and we could both feel our heart rate rising. At approx 2900m above sea level we decided to call it a day and begin our decent.
The decent was pretty steep at the beginning, thankfully it was all covered in snow so if/when we did topple over it was fine, just a bit cold! When we made it to the trail that contours around the mountain, I was in heaven. The gradient allowed you to work hard and stay in control at all times and the view was outstanding, a real highlight of the day… as well as that cake.
Throughout the weekend I was using SiS energy gels and Trek bars for fuel. I find the combination of gel and proper food works for me, especially over a longer run. For my hydration, I'm currently just using water and Precision Hydration. Pre and post session, I'm using PH 1500. During a run (depending on the heat) and the route I'm on, I alternate between PH 1000 & PH 250.
Chamonix is known for its trails, its big races - including (of course) UTMB - and its picturesque landscape. For me, it's an enormous playground. For elite runners to hikers who want to get away, Chamonix is a great option, even if it’s just for the weekend. I'm sure in the weeks, months and years to come I'll spend lots of time over there, but this trip will always be remembered. New friends and new trails, life seems pretty ideal right now...