Pointe Feuillette Training Run

On Saturday I went for a long run, but took a new route for the first time and discovered a great trail that despite being on my doorstep, I had never ran.

The panorama above shows the view from Pointe Feuillette, the high point of the run.

It was a hot and sunny day, so as usual I ran 8km around our valley with Eric, my border collie, then left him at home in the shade while I went on to run the rest of the route. For the first 20km I didn’t see anybody, and had the whole place to myself.

Click on the photos below to see the full-size version.

The first hour of ascent was through shaded woodland which kept me cool and the sun off

The first hour of ascent was through shaded woodland which kept me cool and the sun off

The trail is getting a bit precarious, but nice and cool and shady in places

The trail is getting a bit precarious, but nice and cool and shady in places

By this point I'd lost the path again

By this point I’d lost the path again

Made it to the top of Pointe Feuillette - mostly downhill from here

Made it to the top of Pointe Feuillette – mostly downhill from here

The locals, eyeing me suspiciously

The locals, eyeing me suspiciously

A great bird’s eye view of my usual running trails down in the valley

A great bird’s eye view of my usual running trails down in the valley

Back down in the valley – the dark groove in the rocks at the top of the hill was the trail I too earlier.

Back down in the valley – the dark groove in the rocks at the top of the hill was the trail I too earlier.

 

 

 

 

Sunny Southern Spain

This week I was lucky enough to be in the beautiful Spanish city of Seville for work. It was a busy programme and we spent most of our days in doors, but we got to see the sights at night and enjoy Spanish food and drink.

On the first morning I managed to sneak in a run along the Guadalquivir river which was a great way of getting my bearings, and seeing the city before it got too hot and croweded. I hoped to get out again but I was just unable to get up early enough in the mornings!

The palace in the Plaza Espana – amazing at dawn.

More of the amazing gardens in the Plaza Espana

View from the river

The World in 360°

I went out for a 10 mile run this morning in beautiful weather – not too hot, and the ferocious storms that have been battering the southeast of France for the past few days had finally cleared.

I took a couple of 360° panoramas using Photosynth on my iPhone. I’ve usually had questionable results with it but they weren’t too bad today – probably because it was warm enough to stand around for long enough to check that I’d captured the whole image.

Mougious Waterfall

And here’s how the waterfall looks in 2D.

Mougious Waterfall

The Mougious waterfall in the La Jarjatte Valley

Ravin du Fleyrard

Just across the river on the other bank from the waterfall.

Here’s the run data from Strava.

Warm Weather Running

I was in Budapest this week on business and the weather was fantastic – sunny and dry and in the high twenties.

The Hungarian parliament on the banks of the Danube
I took the opportunity of flat tarmac, warm weather and daylight at 6am to get a few runs in around the river. A loop of the Margaret Island running track, then back along the Buda side and across the Chain Bridge was a great way to start the day.
Margaret Island running track

Long Run – Then Tapering

With just a few weeks to go until the Paris Marathon, I needed to do my ‘long run’, the traditional 20 miler that is the bedrock of all marathon training plans.

I considered running it in Milan, where I was on business and the terrain was flat, as I also had a few hours spare one morning before meetings. However I thought that after 20 miles I might not be in much of a state to work for the rest of the day, so I left it until the Sunday when I was back home.

Sticking to the roads – but still a stunning view

This meant that I was rewarded with a beautiful, crisp sunny day in the mountains in which to run. I stuck to the roads to minimise the hills, and ran round the local villages and hamlets, but several long climbs meant that my time was slow, and the going was tough. I kept the pace slow, but the effort was still high because of the gradient.

Hilly

I took the opportunity to try out a new pair of running shoes – Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13 – I’ve been road running in various models of these for the last few years so ordered them online without trying any on. They seem fine, and it was great to have that spring ‘new shoe’ feel which I hope will still be there by the time I get to do the marathon. Apart from a blister after 17km, which I hope is just a case of wearing them in, the were fine.

Now its time to taper down, drop the mileage but keep the pace.

Desperately Seeking Tarmac – A Few Thoughts on City Running

Now we’re getting into the end of February, the trails around me have been under a thick blanket of snow for a good three months now and as such my weekly distances have dropped off dramatically. I’m putting in some lung-busting efforts running along the snowshoe hiking trails, often in deep powder, but the pace is slow and its not perfect training for my next goal, which is the Paris Marathon just over 6 weeks away.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel on business to a few cities lately though and take the opportunity to run on flat, sea-level pavement to put some quality KMs under my belt. I thought I’d share a few experiences.

London
I lived here for a decade so know it well. There are huge numbers of green spaces to run in, including the Royal Parks, Hampstead Heath etc, but nothing beats an early morning run along the river. There are few pedestrians and not much traffic around before 7.30am, and you get some stunning views as the sun comes up.

The London skyline from Waterloo bridge. The London Eye on the left, Big Ben in the middle.

My hotel was somewhere in Kensington and I got a little lost heading towards the river, but once on the Thames its great to run along the embankment to the north, and then along the southern pedestrianised Thames Path.

This was supposed to be a rest week but I had such fun running in the (relative) warmth, and it felt so quick that I ran a bit further than needed.

Budapest
I’ve been to this beautiful city a few times this winter, and although its desperately cold at times, its a great place to run. On Margaret Island, an island sitting in the Danube, there is a 5.5km springy purpose-built running track that circles the entire island. Its great to run on, doesn’t get (very) iced up, and is easy on the knees because there is some shock absorption built in.

One of the many beautiful views of Budapest, from Margaret Island in the Danube.

 This place seems to be the Central Park of Budapest, and it wasn’t clear if there was a ‘direction etiquette’ but anti-clockwise worked for me! Despite the cold there were still quite a few runners out there, although my Hungarian colleagues tell me it is absolutely heaving in the summer.

 

Paris
The City of Light is where I’ll be running a proper marathon in April, my first road marathon for about 4 years and I’m keen to see if I can turn in a decent time. Since I’d done a fairly hard run the day before in London, I took it easy here. Bitterly cold winds and snow flurries put a dent in the view, but it was still quite an experience running under the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower on a bitterly cold, snowy morning.

As beautiful as Paris is, I was actually quite disappointed with the run along the Seine. I started at Issy-les-Moulineux, in the south-west and ran up towards the Eiffel Tower. However, most of the run seemed to consist of picking my way through a cement factory, bus depots passing nightclub boats moored up. The run on the other side was an exercise in dodging traffic.

Since I only had chance to do 10km, I had to keep the route simple. Next time I’ll look for somewhere a bit more inspiring to pass through.

Strava 100 Mile Trail Challenge

I’ve been using Strava to log my runs for about a month now, after having previously used a combination of Fetch Everyone and Garmin Connect for a number of years. About 4 years ago when I first got into running, I bought a Garmin Forerunner 405, which despite its downfalls (dodgy bezel, poor batter life, quirks picking up satellites) has probably been the most motivational piece of running hardware I’ve ever used.

The Garmin allows me to just stick on a pair of shoes and run out the door, recording where I go and then when I get back I can download all the data and store online, building up a profile over time and allowing me to see how well I’m doing.

But all that data is no good unless you can analyse it in a meaningful way. Being a bit of a geek, I love to see how far and fast I’ve run, and how much effort it has taken. Garmin Connect always allowed me to do this, but the interface was clunky and it was often very slow.

Facebook for Atheletes?

Strava does most of what Garmin Connect and Fetch Everyone does, but has more of a focus on the social and competition side of things. Its quite easy to find friends and link it via Facebook to build a profile and follow like-minded athletes.

Where it really comes into its own though, is its ability to crunch your run (or bike) data into segments, and allow you to name these so that when you run the same portion of the run again (or somebody else does) you can compare times.

My run mapped out, including elevation profile, split into named segments.

The app is pretty good at determining segments from geographical data, but you’re also free to crop and change them yourself, which is quite handy as in some of the places I run there is not much on the Google map to really help Strava work out what is useful or not.

This is especially useful for me, since almost all of my running is on hilly trails, and I rarely run the exact same route twice. However I regularly do route segments, such as the hill sprint back into the village, or a particularly fast riverside forest run, and it adds a bit of extra motivation to know that I can go for a record or at least a good time on that section.

The athlete profile page on Strava gives you a running total of your activities, and flags any achievements you’ve earned by beating previous times on course segments.

Strava Challenges

I run alone (well, with my border collie) and there aren’t many other people in my area so I tend to have the trails to myself. Its easy to get into a routine and not push yourself too much, but this is where the Strava challenges come in.

For the first 16 days of September, Trail Runner magazine hosted the Strava 100 Mile Trail Challenge, where they invited as many people as possible to log 100 miles of trail running between September 1st-16th.

I entered this, and managed to log 102 miles before the challenge ended, and it turned out to be a great motivational tool. So far I’ve logged over 200km and we still have 9 days of the month left – by having the motivation to go out and run decent mileage every day I think I’ve managed to push myself that little bit further and discover that I’m actually OK with that level of effort – I’m definitely looking forward to the next challenge.

 Conclusion

I love Strava, and have now stopped using my other sites as I think on balance this is the way to go. Although not perfect, Strava seems to have the right balance right now – what especially appeals is that unlike the hardware manufacturers (Garmin etc) who really are only interested in selling you a device, Strava is device-neutral, and they seem to be continuously driving development and rolling out new features.

Positives

  • Clean and quick user interface
  • Social element and challenges
  • Phone apps

 Negatives

  • Because it started as a bike-app, there are far few runners on there
  • Difficult to see monthly subtotals in tabular form

Home Made Energy Bars

Energy bars are expensive, and generally not full of anything special. I also live miles from anywhere so its useful to be able to rustle some up out of store cupboard ingredients. You need:

240grams of  peanut butter
240 grams of clear honey
175 grams of sugar-free mueseli
200 grams dried fruit (I use 50 grams each of pineapple, apricot, raisins & sultanas)
100 grams of seed mix, chopped nuts etc

Put the honey and peanut butter into a saucepan and slowly melt it together over a low heat. Simply chuck in the muesli and stir, and then stir in the other ingredients until fully mixed.

Grease a baking tin, and pour the mix into it, flattening it down. Put in the oven on 200ºC for about 12 minutes. They should go golden brown but still be fairly soft.

When you bring them about, score with a spatula and allow to cool, when it will harden. Then you can take it out the tin, and break it into pieces along the score lines.

 

Pic de l’Aigle Morning Run

I was feeling like a more challenging outing so I ran Pic de l’Aigle this morning and got a few nice pictures since the weather was fine.

Down in the valley at the start of the climb, crossing the river Büech
Eric, the border collie, waiting for me as the gradient gets steeper
The view back down into the La Jarjatte valley, with the ski pistes in the background
The summit of Montagne de Claret – now its all downhill
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