French Trail Running Champs – Trail de la Cité des Piérres

An ultra is nothing like any other race. Due to environmental conditions, nutrition, hydration, gear, terrain, temperature, altitude and a multitude of other factors, the variability in race results can be gigantesque. This time I have prepared vigorously to this 68km race with 2400m of elevations gain.

Luckily, I got everything very right in case of training, however that is just simply not enough. This is a blog and not necessarily a race review. It is to be able to look back and read what have happened, to be able to learn and keep on learning from it.

I started the training with a 5 week up brining block, where I ran a couple of very high intensity training runs and a couple of long runs, averaging around 110km a week. This goal race did not have much elevation gain, so “I did not focus” on that aspect. My regular weekly trail runs and long runs contain harder terrain, so that part of the training is basically done in advance and constantly.
Than a block of a 3 weeks of 150km, with over 3000m of elevation and 2 races of 1x XC and 1x 10km race. I included a couple of double threshold workouts including one brutal day of 2 x 16km where I pushed long uphill threshold intervals followed by hard downhill tempo runs to prepare the quads.
In block 3, I learnt that I should not go for a 4 week blocks. 3 is enough. I did 4 weeks of 150km with, a 10km race included and 1 XC race too. I also completed two non race specific long runs of 32km D+1500m and 52km D+1000m.

Then wanted to include 2 weeks of taper. First error. I really dialled in properly all my efforts with heart rate. After all my long runs and hard efforts, I recovered superbly fast and had zero residue in case of muscle, cardio or general fatigue. 7 to 9 days of recovery should have been enough. Than on day 3 of my rso called recovery, I felt sick and had a sore throat. You know, that kind of sickness, when you feel okay, but not 100%, it is lingering and doesn’t want to go away. You don’t know that it is going to explode or disappear. Anyways, I was kind of disturbed. Instead of the planned 120km down week, I had only done 69km. I feel, that it was too understimulating and resulted in some sort of detraining. I had a bit of an increased workload, but still kept it under control. However, sleep was disturbed. Actually it was me who managed it incorrectly. I wanted to catch up week two and actually Monday and Tuesday went quite well. Then from Wednesday on I had less and less sleep and was actually degraded as well. Friday due to the ear crystals of my wife, it was me who had to drive to 4h route to Millau. Then next day, twice the mountain route to get the bibs. Then Sunday to arrive to race start, then back. Then also had to drive home. I understand that fro some it is non sense. I am a good wheelman, but I do not particularly like to drive. I am not stressed or too concentrated. However, I very much feel the aftereffects. I hate driving from this angle. It just sneakily tires me out. The worst is when I drive the L2H2 trucks at work. I am smoked the day after or even for 2 days. The non moving aspect is also something that.


Compromised sleep is okay for some weekdays when wanted to get in double efforts or to have a goal oriented volume maintenance. However, no more than twice a week should be less than 7 hours. 8 to 10 hours is ideal.
Sleeping properly will also enhance endurance and decrease the need for intra workout fuelling.

MAF and double threshold training work extremely well if dialled in ! Extremely well !

Max 3 week blocks of high mileage followed by low mileage week. Can appear as a racing mini taper. In this case the short race counts as a high end threshold effort, so no more than 1 hard session should be done that week. No issues ! It worked fine during the 3 full blocks with great results and quality races, no undue fatigue, no soreness, no risk to injury.

2 weeks of taper is too long. 9 days to 1 week is enough.

A special type of training should be added, that I did not do yet. That is a big mixture of flat running and trail running. In case of interval training or long runs too.
For instance:
(Flat 5km @MAF-10) + D+400m + (Flat 5km @ MAF) + D+400m + (Flat 5Km @ MAF +5/10)
The focus is not necessarily only on the efforts. More likely constant nature of the flat movement after the technical climbs and descents and the multiplication of that. Doing 30km on varying terrain is easy for me, including long downhills, douche grade ups, technical ridges and so on. However, we had at least 30km totally flat during this weekend’s race and I assure you I was not moving faster than 6:30/km pace. I should be easily clocking 4:45s ! So when added in the above mentioned training session, focus should be on quality striding and efficient fast running.
It could be even more disturbing with a great learning curve to do this with a multitude of 200m hills, where some of those hills are ran, some speedhiked and some mixed, with technical descents and/or medium grade quad bangers.

Nutrition and hydration, salt etc etc: I did not have a coffee in the morning. I drank half a pack of Maurten 320 white with 6dl of water, 10g of EAA, 5g of creatine, 3g of L-Carnitine and 10g of glutamine. I also did fill up my bottle with the other half. That is around 50mg caffein in the morning, instead of coffee. Then 50mg during the first part of the race. I then took a gel in every 30min. Black maurten. My 6th was a white one with 50mg caffeine and the last one too, 10min before the final 400m ascent. I also mixed powder 160 Maurten with each bottle I drank. There were 4 aid stations. On the 3rd aid station I also drank 600ml extra, pure water. All together I consumed 5 bottles of Maurten and 1 bottle pure water. That is around 3L of fluids. I emptied out my bottle, that I did not finish only twice. I ate 10 gels. I had a little gap during the flat section, as I was focusing on form and foot plant, also breathing. I did not feel like needing a gel for an hour.
My breakfast was 1 banana and 2 organic applesauce pouches. I had nothing else during the race. I had no energy lows, no mental fog, no stomach issues, no nothing. I went to piss 4 times during the event.
10 100 gels + 5 160 sachets during the race. 1000+800 = 1800kcals total

I did some light carbo loading the 2 days prior. Porridge for breakfast. I used a maize and rice flour pasta for launch and boiled potatoes for dinner. Same for the final day, just a full meal of rice in addition with 2 eggs. I ate some olives and a 2 cans of sardines. No fruits and no vegetables for 2 days. Low fibre. No gluten, no coffee, no extra sugar, no honey, no meat, no milk products, no sparkling drinks, nor sparkling water, no rice cakes, no chocolate. I was eating only clean burning carbs. I think, the next time, before an ultra, I will go on the boiled potato dinner wagon for 4 days. I had 2 great ultras a decade ago, I clearly remember, that the night before I ate boiled potatoes. Works for me way better than anything else. I don’t have a giant sweet tooth, so from sweet potatoes I cannot get down enough quantity.

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