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By: MARK COHEN • run • 13.06.2022
The ODLO High Trail Vanoise is one of a select group of European trail runs that truly happens at high altitude. To complete it, classic and longer course participants need to carry micro spikes for the glacier sections. A unique feature. At a certain point, the parcours also takes runners over 3000m in altitude. Another unique feature.
Last year, Yann Gobert – age 45 and an art director at a creative agency who runs about 2,500km per year – started the 72-kilometre course but did not finish it. He came into the event a little undercooked, having then just moved to the mountains three hours from Val D’Isere where the ODLO High Trail Vanoise starts and finishes.
He does most of his training in the mountains, runs on the road only a little and mostly tries not to take amateur events too seriously. He’ll be back at the ODLO High Trail Vanoise in 2022. Leading up to an event, here’s how he gets prepared for a run that will last, well, a really long time.
GOBERT AT A GLANCE
YEARS TRAIL RUNNING: 18
TYPICAL WEEKLY MILLEAGE: 50-90 kilometres
SPECIAL DIET: None
FAVOURITE RUN: 12km, 900m outside Annecy
How easy is it to underestimate a course like the ODLO High Trail Vanoise?
“It’s not the distance trail runners need to be mindful of at an event like this, it’s the altitude. At the ODLO High Trail Vanoise race briefing, for example, the race director describes it as one of the most difficult runs in Europe, and people laugh. But it’s hard, and you have to be mentally ready for it.”
“It’s been 18 years that I’ve done trail events, and this is definitely one of the most difficult.”
How many kilometres per week should you train for longer distance trail events?
“Depending on the event and the distance, it’s important to log about 50 to 110 kilometres per week. You can break this down either by time or mileage and then train in blocks. But the aim is really to train endurance.”
“Sometimes I structure blocks of four consecutive days and let a little fatigue accumulate in the legs. This helps.”
Two or three months before a big event, what do you focus on?
“I’m not a professional, and I run for pleasure, not to podium, so I try to keep a good balance in my life. Leading up to an event, I’ll try and add in plenty of elevation during my runs, lots of fast hiking, and one 5–6-hour fast hike a week. Sometimes a couple of tempo efforts, too. But most important I like to focus on elevation.”
Is it more important to focus on long runs or just lots of time doing endurance training?
“I do a lot of sustained efforts, but not just running. Lots of time on the bike, lots of time on gravel and lots of time running – and then sometimes combining different sports to make it feel longer. In the mountains it’s very easy to get injured if all you’re doing is running, so I find it’s easiest mentally and physically to mix it up.”
How do you fuel during a long trail run?
“I tend to eat every thirty minutes and always have some food with me to snack on between stations. Stuff that I like, and I know I can digest easily. I never fuel with gels, always with solid foods like nut butters. Two months or so before an event, I go easy on sugar and alcohol, within reason.”
Poles or no poles?
“A lot of trail events don’t require poles. But at an event like the ODLO High Trail Vanoise, there’s so much uphill that you need them. You can save your legs by engaging your upper body. On the ODLO High Trail Vanoise, maybe you have 4km at the start where you can run quickly and then the rest is uphill, so poles can make a huge difference.”
How important is muscular training for trail events?
“The hardest part of trail running are the descents. So, I try to incorporate some strength training beforehand, focusing a lot on having a strong core and strong legs to absorb impact before hitting the start line. Split squats make a big difference. Even just 10 minutes a day a few times a week.”
“Long trail events will be hard, and there will be moments when you’ll wonder what you’re doing and why you’re not sitting in your garden. It’s important to have a little mantra before you start – to remind yourself why you’re there and what you’re doing. I find that helps. A little chatter with others on course can also do wonders.”
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Here, ODLO drops the next in our series of videos with Annecy-based Team TSL that examine the beauty of running in high places.