A new year’s just started, time to set a major running goal and plan out the running year. For me it’s going to be a big step. Coming from a 2017 with great runs in the mountains and two completed 60k mountain trail races in the Swiss and French Alps it’s now time to get one step further. And one step closer to my big running dream, finishing the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.
But for this step I’m going to make something different. This time I wanna take you with me on this journey. I’m going to post my progress and the experiences I made regularly on this blog and on social media. Interested? You’ll find all the information on how to follow me on my adventure at the end of this post.
Before I let the cat out of the bag and tell you what I plan for this year, let me explain you why I intend to share all of this with you.
Recently I stumbled upon a study that showed a positive impact on social media on ones fitness and exercise habits. The reason is simple: Reading about the progress and achievements of others can be very motivating. This impact can happen in both ways. Not only the shared content of others can give you a boost, but also sharing your own training on a regular basis.
When you tell everyone your goal and let them participate in the process, some people will follow you, give you feedback and help you stay on track. This is what I’m trying to do here. By sharing my training and the experiences I made, I hope I can give you some insight that might be beneficial for you or you get inspired to work towards a tough running goal yourself.
Also this is a great way to get feedback from you, my readers, and improve my training even more and therefore increase my chances of success.
So what’s my big goal for this year? You might get a hint when reading the title of this post. And no it’s not (yet) a 100 miler. As I’m used to the metric system the Mission100 is all about a 100k race.
But why going triple digits distance wise? And why now?
A former music teacher of mine once told me that after succeeding at something three times in a row, one is ready for the next step. This statement was made at least 15 years ago, long before I even started running. But I remembered it and let this philosophy influence my running as well. Do a thing three to five times successfully and then go on.
After finishing four half marathons I started training for my first road marathon. After four successful marathons in the flat I went on to ultra trail races. And now after four successful mountain races between 45k and 60k it’s time for the next step.
But why going even further? Is running 60k in the mountains not enough? Well not really 😉
As I’ve mentioned many times before on this blog, my dream is to one time finish the UTMB, the full loop around Europe’s highest mountain. For this 171k race running a 100k trail run is just the logical next step. But without a doubt it is quite a big one.
The race I’ve signed up for is one that I have in mind for quite a while. After its first holding in 2013 the Eiger Ultra Trail became one of the most prestigious races in the European mountains. Today it is a race of the Ultra Trail World Tour series and the demand to run this mountain race exceeds the 600 runner limit by far. This year over 20,000 trail runners visited the sign up website on the first day of registration. And I was lucky enough to get in.
The E101 competition is a 101k loop around the world-famous mountain scenery in the Swiss alps. Covering 6,700m (22,000ft) of elevation gain on technical mountain trails is obviously a huge challenge and serious training is required to have a chance to finish this race.
If you wanna have a look on the landscapes the runners move in, check out this video:
The start of the race is at 4.30am and the time limit is set to 26 hours and it’s held on July 14th. So it’s a mid-summer alpine race but the weather and temperatures can be pretty unpredictable. I probably go there two days before and stay at a local campground. I guess having enough sleep in the 2-3 nights before the race will be key to get a good start early Saturday morning.
I chose this event because of the awesome nature and scenery that surrounds its route. Just have a look at the title image of this post. This will be the decor of this trail run.
When I take the next step in my running career and sign up for such an intimidating distance and elevation profile, I set myself three goals. The first two a the same each time and the third one specific to the event and tough to achieve. Just to make sure my motivation stays high.
1. Stay healthy and finish
This is always my number one priority. Don’t get beaten up too much, no serious injury and just crossing that finish line within the given time limit. This is supposed to be the easiest of my three goals but success is not guaranteed at all. So many things can happen in a 100k race especially in an alpine environment. Dropping out is a scenario that can happen after stumbling or the smallest mistake in regards of hydration, nutrition or equipment. So achieving this alone would make my mission a success.
2. Be in the better half
Being in the better half of all the runners that started an event is usually my indicator that I didn’t overdo it and accept a challenge that I wasn’t ready and well prepared for. Being one of the last to finish is still a great achievement but running in the faster half of the pack gives me the confirmation that I chose a goal that suits me and that I prepared well.
3. Finish in 15 hours
This is a really hard and ambitious goal. I will only succeed at this when everything plays out perfectly. I know it can be done but only with a perfect training routine and a fair amount of luck. My diet, running workouts and cross training need to be planed and carried out professionally and with no excuses. I need to test and optimize equipment and lay out a detailed race strategy regarding pacing, hydration and nutrition. An injury in the months to come or any other issue will make achieving this goal impossible. If I succeed, I might end up in the top 10% of an UTWT race, if I don’t I get at least some lessons learned out of it.
Ok so the goal is set, I’ve signed up for a race and the expectations are on the table. Time to get serious and plan my preparation.
My last race was the OCC, a 56k mountain run in the UTMB event week at the end of August 2017. After that I wasn’t running at all for almost the entire September due to other stuff that consumed my free time. But after about three weeks of complete recovery, I was ready to go again and increase my training week over week.
The last two years I was preparing for 60k trail races so I have a pretty good base. A thing to optimize is my weight. I’m not overweight at all but as a chocolate addict there’s still some room for improvement in my diet and some kilos to get rid.
After some days without running I started my first training block early October last year. I mainly focused on building up mileage and increasing aerobic capacity with interval trainings.
At the end of last year I did a Cooper test on the track to estimate my VO2max and just get an idea where I’m standing fitness wise. I’ve run 3.1km (2 miles) in the 12 minutes of the test which is an estimated VO2max of 58. Not too bad for an amateur athlete but still quite some room for improvement.
January was an easy running month. I didn’t train that much mainly because I spent some time in the mountains skiing.
This week I start my second (out of three) training blocks which will last until end of April. This will also to be the time of my first race of the year. It’s not a tough one (35k, 1,500m elevation gain) and its purpose for me is mainly to test if my training is working in a race scenario.
In the coming three months I will train more on a hilly terrain and on more technical trails. Not yet heavy alpine trails but my training grounds will get closer to the terrain I will run on my 100k race. The most important workouts will be a long run over some hills once a week (30-35k with around 1,000m elevation) and an intense interval training to build aerobic fitness and increase pace (20-25k hill repeats, 1k intervals or HIIT). The rest of the training runs will be 8-15k easy to moderate runs.
As far as cross training I will do some strength training if possible two times a week. Regarding strength I will mainly focus on leg and core muscles. With that I will relieve stress on my knee joints and foster a proper running form that I can maintain for hours straight.
Every third week I will do a recovery week. That doesn’t mean that I don’t train at all but I will reduce training volume and intensity by about 30-40%. This is mainly to avoid overtraining and injuries. In these easier training weeks I’ll probably do some cycling and swimming to get variety in my training routine.
Apart from working out I’ll try to shift to a healthier diet. Less sugar and more fruits and vegetables. If I can get rid of 3kg in the coming three months that would be great. Also stretching after every hard workout run will be an important part.
In my last training block beginning by the end of April until mid July I will focus on running on trails that are as steep and technical than the one on the Eiger Ultra Trail. I will run a high training volume probably averaging over 100k a week and test equipment and nutrition. Strength training will be less in the focus these last weeks before the race. Of course tapering in the last two weeks before the big run will be crucial.
So are you interested in seeing me fail or succeed on my next big step in running? If yes, awesome and welcome on my journey. Here’s how you can check out how I’m doing:
On Instagram I will mainly share pictures of my runs and the equipment I use.
Here I’ll share how my training is going and the stuff I learned on the process.
On this blog I will write-up a monthly update of my Mission100
So that’s about it. And who knows, maybe one or the other video will end up on YouTube.