There was a lot of discussion at the England Athletics Endurance Coaching get together last Sunday about the benefits of training at altitude. After a much experimentation, EA coaches came to a consensus that around 1400 metres is the Goldilocks height for endurance runners.
Our ski holiday was at a place in France called Isola 2000, which conveniently advertises its height in its name.
An altitude of 2000 metres and sufficient snow made for a great weeks skiing. From my previous experience of ski resorts, I knew that they are usually inconvenient for run training – never flat and often covered in snow and ice. I’ve never bothered to even attempt running at a ski resort before.
However, the clement early spring weather had left the long access road to Isola clear of snow.
After skiing most days we improvised a three mile run which comprised a mile back down the mountain road, a mile made up of laps around an over-spill carpark dodging bemused French skiers and boarders reloading their Citroën Berlingos; and then a lung-bursting slog back up the mountain road to the resort.
In the thin air, the final mile was extremely tough, even with a hard effort it took me over nine minutes each time.
I hoped that running at altitude would enhance my fitness, though I suspect that my nutritional refueling strategy probably had the opposite effect.
The French are World-renown for the excellence of their cuisine, though nobody appears to have told that to the chefs who work in the alpine areas of France.
Their pantries appear to be stocked exclusively with cheese, butter, potatoes, bacon, cream, garlic and oh a few more car tyre sized wheels of cheese for good measure.
One evening, I felt obliged to sample one of the Savoyard delicacies – Tartiflette Classique, basically a bowl of boiled potatoes and smoky bacon cooked in cream and cheese in an oven hotter than a thousand suns. Once I had peeled several molten pieces of cheese from the roof of my mouth, some flavour did emerge and I quite enjoyed it. I doubt that Tartiflette Classique features on the diet sheets of many elite athletes.
The weather was perfect, the skiing first class and I didn’t think about work much at all…for me the perfect holiday.
We returned late on Saturday in an Orange EasyJet aircraft crammed with Scousers.
I hoped that the week at altitude had put wings on my feet so I could zoom around my Sunday long run feeling amazing.
Unfortunately, this was not the case. The beer and Tartiflette had nullified any benefit gained from the altitude and I felt extremely sluggish during my 20 mile drudge around three laps of the reservoirs. I couldn’t even maintain 8 minute miling, but at least I knuckled down and saw it through.
Eight weeks remain until the London marathon. Time to step it up a notch or three!
LM -8 weeks
11 stone 2.0 lbs
29 miles, longest run 20 miles
Parkrun : None
Aerobic efficiency on long run 1,025 beats per mile
RunBritain Ranking 2.7 (unchanged) (MV50 rank 209)