1. What is it that you love about trail running?
I love that it is a tough sport and the challenge of running a difficult trail, plus the variability of it; you can be climbing steep inclines or running fast flat trails. I also enjoy being able to run across some of the most amazing landscapes in the world. The competition is great, as I get to compete against some of the best trail runners on the planet and difficult races give me the opportunity to push myself and challenge my endurance levels.
2. What is your average training day like – how far and how high do you go?
It all depends on the day and my training schedule. On Sundays I can go on a 4 hour run covering more than 40km and climbing 2000m+. I also include shorter, faster sessions which are around an hour, where I cover approximately 15km. I like to vary my training so I improve all aspects of my fitness; endurance, speed and climbing. I cycle to improve my muscular strength which is very important in trail running, and have one recovery day a week. In 2011, I ran on average 100km a week, but this year I am looking to increase to around 120km as I want to make sure I continue to progress.
3. Which terrain do you feel is the most demanding – on your body and on your kit?
I find long flat trails difficult to run, but mountains are obviously very hard. When you are climbing, you are pushing your body to its limit and when you descend your muscles are incredibly tired. When you are running mountains you use many different skills – being mentally prepared is very important as when you hit the incline you are running hard and uphill for long periods of time. It is even harder when there are difficult weather conditions, which is why I choose the best equipment. Technical shirts and practical clothes for bad weather, along with very good trail shoes are very important, along with my signature trail tube on my head.
4. What are the key differences between road and trail shoes?
The main difference is the outsole; this needs to be suitable for all types of trail. You can be running in mud or across rocks but you need to be sure that your shoe provides good grip on all surfaces. Comfort and protection are also important, especially when you are going on long runs where you will come across difficult sections that will hurt your feet if you do not have the correct shoes. I know ASICS shoes well and
find them very comfortable. The best way to be as efficient as possible is to look ahead to your future race – the ground, the challenges – and choose the best shoe for this.
5. How did you get into trail running?
It is a very long story. I was a very fast runner when I was younger, but had a serious accident which put me out of running for 2 years. Doctors told me I had to stop running because my legs had been damaged so badly, but I love sport and love competing so I turned to cycling for the next 6 years. I then began running again, little by little, and started running cross country and road races up until 4 years ago, when a friend who was passionate about trail running, and knew the required skills persuaded me to give it a go. As soon as I started, I found everything that I look for in a sport and decided that I was going to train seriously to reach the highest level possible. I always look to the next day and aim to improve on the last.
6. What is your recommendation for anyone who is starting out on the trails (kit and training)?
It is important to choose the correct equipment, especially your shoes. Your shoes are essentially your running partner, so you should think carefully about footwear and choose a shoe that is suitable for your feet, gait, your objectives and personal preferences. Training must be progressive. You need to train hard for trail running, but you must remember to respect your body and increase the length and difficulty bit by
bit. As you progress you will enjoy running longer trails and in some amazing landscapes. It can be a long journey but the enjoyment will be huge.
7. What is the highest incline and steepest descent you have ever run?
The ‘Col de la Forclaz’ climb in the 2011 CCC race. It was 3km long but climbed over 1100m and is one I remember being very tough. In that race I reached an altitude of 2500m three times. The descent after the ‘Grand col Ferret’ is around 2000m and it really breaks your legs by the time you arrive at the bottom of the deep valley which is in Switzerland. I also remember races where I have had to use my hands to climb, as there have been incredible walls to get over, however I much prefer to use my legs.
8. Have you had any memorable encounters while out running the trails (funny/scary/breathtaking moments)?
I have had many of these moments, another reason why I love this sport. If I had to choose a couple then I think the top of ‘Tete aux Vents’ during the 2010 CCC would be my nightmare moment. The weather was like an apocalypse and I had to climb to an altitude of 2000m through water. The CCC 2011 race was a dream moment for me. I felt as if I flew the whole race and the arrival at the end was phenomenal. My son ran into my arms and was crying he was so happy. When I train with ASICS Team Trail France there are many funny moments and I have great memories from training. One session during the winter ended with a big snow fight.
9. How much do you eat when you are training? Do you take any snacks when out on trails? How many calories do you think you burn?
When I go out training, I take lots of energy bars, gels, energy drinks and water because I need a lot of energy to run as fast as possible over long periods of time. I usually take one bar, one gel and 500ml of energy drink per hour. I can burn over 1000kcals per hour in an intensive session and after fast or long sessions I eat like an ogre for 24 hours to restore my energy levels as fast as possible.
10. What is the longest or most demanding trail you have run?
The 2011 CCC race around Mont Blanc – nearly 100km climbing over 5600m. However, I felt really good on that day so I didn’t really realise how far it was.
11. How do you combine your job as a school director with being a professional runner?
I try to be very organised with my time; during the week I train during my lunch breaks and sometimes late after work with my headlamp. It can be hard to train after a hard day and I find it a fight to constantly push my body in the evenings, but I am always looking to improve and reach my goals so I never ask myself any questions; if I have to go training I go, and if I have to run until midnight I do. I love my sport and I love my work, so I aim to be the best trail runner and the best teacher I can possibly be. The key is never to forget your goals, the rest is organisation.
12. Have you enjoyed working on the development of the new FUJI collection – what are the features that you suggested?
I am passionate about running and am always trying to learn more, so working on the development of the new ASICS FUJI collection has been fantastic. It was great to share my experiences and knowledge of trail running with the ASICS development team. Today, you not only need to be comfortable but you need to run fast and be able to feel the sensations on all different types of trails. The profile of the outsole was also an important area to focus on and the ASICS developer was close to perfection in his first prototypes.
13. How do the features differ from the previous models and how do they benefit your running?
I think ASICS had really good trail shoes before the FUJI range, but we worked to improve the new collection and create a range that had a model to suit all kinds of runners. We thought about all the characteristics of the trail for the FUJI collection and I think it offers a shoe for everyone with some very technical models. It was a long process but we are really happy with the results.
14. What shoe do you run in and why?
I love the GEL-FUJIRacer because I run very fast in it. It is a very lightweight shoe and has the perfect outsole which is comfortable, has good grip and allows me to feel the ground. When I wear it, I really feel that my shoe is a continuation of my body and spirit.
15. What is your favourite trail and why?
It is one where I can go fast, but which is very long and difficult. It is one that makes me push my body, strength and willpower to the limits. In 2011 it was the CCC and this year I think it will be the UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) race, which is 166km long and climbs over 9000m. This is my next very important goal…