Training in the Pyrenees for Hardrock 100

My June has been absolutely crazy. We went to Pocatello on 31 May for Pocatello 50 the following day. I had a tough race battling stomach issues that prevented me from eating for most of the race. I ended up only taking in ~1200 calories during a 50 mile race so I was literally ‘running on fumes’. We drove home from Pocatello late Saturday as I had a red eye flight to Toronto (via Atlanta) on Sunday. After a busy 2 days of client meetings, I flew back to SLC on a very early flight Wednesday (getting up at 3:30AM MT). I was home 2 nights, then we went to San Diego for Emily’s fantastic SD100 run. Another night of no sleep on Saturday as I paced her the final 50 miles and through the night and the lack of sleep was starting to catch up with me (that was 4 nights with no or less than 4 hours of sleep in 8 days. I was completely exhausted on Sunday after SD100. We had a 1 hour drive from the race finish to our hotel and I had to stop half way through to nap as I could not stay awake. 2 more naps that day and 10 hours of sleep Sunday night and I was feeling good. We had a great day at Tourmaline beach on Monday where I got in a few hours of surfing, then another super early morning to catch a 6AM PT flight back to SLC for work. When I got off the plane on Tuesday morning, I had a voicemail from work saying we needed to be in London for client meetings on Thursday and Friday. I scrambled most of Wednesday to figure out travel plans. Since I already had a flight to London for meetings the 24-27 June, when I did some cost comparison, it would save $4,500 of airfare if I stayed the week. Looking at my training schedule, this was my peak week of training for Hardrock. Staying in London was not an option. I had to either fly home to train, which meant 4+ full days of travel with poor sleep in 18 days or find places to train in Europe. I didn’t have time to figure this out before leaving the US so I packed a bag of work cloths and a bag of running gear and off I sent on a 7:30AM flight on Wednesday morning getting ready for night #5 of little to no sleep in a short period of time. The meetings in London were busy and I could not get out of my head that I had no idea what I was going to do the following week to train while still having to work full time. I had a few minutes on Thursday to send out emails to friends in Andorra, Chamonix, and Gemma in the Pyrenees. Finally after work on Friday, I was able to weed through everything and start looking at transportation options. It looked like flying to Barcelona and renting a car and driving and running through the Pyrenees would be cheapest and logistically the easiest. I left London Saturday afternoon and after trains, planes, and automobiles (order changed to reflect the order I travelled), I arrived in Figueres Spain at around 9:30PM. Having no clue where to run and what was next, I sat down for dinner and started searching for options. My plans were starting to come together. I would run west of Figures in Parc Natural de la Zona Volcanica de la Garrotxa on Sunday. On Monday, I would get up early and drive north and run a route that connects the village to Tapis to a ridging trail separating Spain and France. I didn’t know what was going to happen past that other than I had to be somewhere northwest where Gemma lived on Wednesday.

SUNDAY


Pyrenees-006.jpg

Inside the crater of Volca de Santa Margarida in Parc Natural de la Zona Volcanica de la Garrotxa.

Sunday’s run was brutal. I needed ~25 miles and I wasn’t able to find anything that long to put together so I found 3 separate loops of ~8 miles. The weather was hateful. It was 33C (mid 90s) and very humid (around 80%). By the end of the second run I was a complete wreck. I took about 1 hour rest and hydrated as much as possible, then went back out to suffer through another 8. It was not a fast day, but I got the miles in and it was good adversity training. It is hard to run fast when you don’t know where you are or where you are going so that has been continually frustrating.

Sunday Stats: 23.05m / 3433′ climbing / 4:43

Pyrenees-008.jpg

I returned to Figueres starved and ordered a feast. It was actually an accident. I ordered Duck, Octopus, and Anchovies from the tapas menu. I assumed they would be small, but I cleaned my plates.

MONDAY

After saying up too late catching up with work and planning Monday, I once again didn’t get enough sleep (I had not had 8 hours of sleep in a single night since the prior Sunday). After breaky, I made the beautiful drive up the winding mountain roads to the village of Tapis and set out on a hard run that was steep and technical. This was going to be an out and back hopefully to Refuge de les Salines and back. As usual, I had troubles finding the route (even with the route on my Suunto Ambit), but enjoyed the long, technical climb followed by great ridge running. It was only 19C when I started, but it quickly warmed up and I was out of water 2 miles from the end and cooked.

Pyrenees-014.jpg

Beautiful running along the ridge where I jumped between Spain and France.

Pyrenees-020.jpg

Looking at the snowcapped French Pyrenees peaks

I started and ended the run at Restaurant i Pensio Can Mach and treated myself to a huge platter of roasted wild boar and another platter of french fries when I finished the run. Then it was back to Figueres by 1PM to settle into working the US daytime hours.

Monday Stats: 16m / 4570′ climbing / 4:16

Pyrenees-024.jpg

Another meal of Octopus and Anchovies accompanied with a salad for dinner on Monday.

TUESDAY

It was time to start heading west. I had talked to Gemma on Monday and found out she lived in a small village outside of Puigcerda. Looking at the map, I decided to stay about ½ way between Figueres and Puigcerda. I leave early on Tuesday morning and arrived at an 11th century farmhouse converted to hotel that I had found on booking.com. This place was great (and cheap). I worked the rest of the afternoon, then went for an out and back run on the GR-11 trail which traverses the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean (this would be a great running trip to run this entire trail from 1 village or refuge to the next).

Pyrenees-030.jpg

Great panoramic view from my run

Tuesday was an easy day: 8.25m / 1,900′ climbing / 1:33

WEDNESDAY

I got up early again on Wednesday (with a little bit of a hangover thanks to a British couple staying at the hotel) and had a great run planned going east on GR-11. I was able to run from the hotel and it would be another out and back with lots of climbing. It was a wet morning, but as the sun started burning off the clouds, it was beautiful.

Pyrenees-031.jpg

GR-11 Trail in the morning sun

Pyrenees-032.jpg

After cooking on Sunday, I cut the sleeves off my shirt and was much more comfortable

I finished my run, then drove to Puigcerda to work from a cafe for the day until I would meet Gemma that evening. The drive to Puigcerda was amazing. A true mountain road with hundreds of switchbacks in the 40 km drive. I felt like I was in another world and loving every minute of it. After that drive, I vowed that at some point in my life, Emily and I will live in the Pyrenees for a period of time.

Gemma and I met around 6, then picked up groceries and off to her house where I would stay with her family for a few days. At the grocery store we immediately ran into Alfons Gason. Alfons raced the Powder Keg back when it was a World Cup event and knows several friends in Park City and Colorado. He immediately agreed to take us both on run on Thursday morning. He promised it would be great. We had a typical Spainish dinner that got over around 11pm and soon it was after 12 and we had to be up at 7.

Wednesday stats: 10m / 3,000′ climbing / 2:22

THURSDAY

The route Alfons had planned would be a loop to the top of Masella ski resort and back by trails that are not normally taken. Alfons set a fast climbing pace and Gemma and I set in behind him to do the best we could to keep up.

Pyrenees-047.jpg  

Gemma, Alfons, and myself at the first Pass

Before reaching the top, the weather turned and we found ourselves in a snow storm. It was hard to believe that after getting cooked on Sunday and Monday, I was not freezing cold in the snow.

Pyrenees-051.jpg

The approaching snow storm on awesome trails. Our destination is the peak in the background.

Pyrenees-058.jpg

Awesome cross country running – this is Hardrock training!

I was working by noon and when I was done working at 8, Gemma and I met a couple people for a beer followed by another typical Spanish dinner at 10:30 PM. Dinner was amazing, Gemma’s grandma collects wild mushrooms from the mountains so we had sautéed mushrooms made into an omlette with salad, pasta, bread, and a type of wild celery that her mom collects from the mountains and is AMAZING. Before we knew it, it was 11:45 and we had to be up again at 7:15.

Thursday stats: 8.4m / 4,375′ climbing / 2:26

FRIDAY

Morning came early. Both Gemma and I were tired. After breakfast and a couple cups of coffee, we were out the door to drive to the village of Martinet where Gemma used to teach. We had a great loop planned from Martinet to Biexec to Estana to Estana to Bastanist and back to Martinet. It would be about 12.5 miles with just over 3,000′ climbing. Gemma would do 1 loop with me, then I would do another one reverse while she did some work. The run was once again amazing with a climb to Estana, descent to Biexec, then another long climb out.

Pyrenees-063-blog.jpg

On the pass after Biexec

Pyrenees-069-blog.jpg

Gemma running down into Bastanist

Pyrenees-073-blog.jpg

Chad running down to Martinet

The run went great with only getting off track a few times. We were lucky to avoid any bad weather.

Friday Stats: 26.5m / 6,250′ climbing / 5:50

SATURDAY

We were up at 5AM and on the road to Andorra to catch the Wasatch crew (I am including Ty as an extended Wasatch person) at the 130KM aid station at Ronda del Cims race. Ronda del Cims is probably the hardest 100m/170km race in the world. Due to snow and weather changes, the race turned into 179KM and 12,000M ascent (39,400′). It would be great to see Jared Campbell, Ben Lewis, Ty Draney, and Roch Horton as they conquered this race.

Pyrenees-088-blog.jpg

Ty, Jared, and Ben leaving Pas de les Casa

The 3 of them had been running together and were finding power in numbers on this tough course. We saw them at here, then again 8 miles later. They were looking better the second time having presumably gained some energy from the sun of the new day.

We went on our own run on a section of the course enjoying the, once again, epic views.

Pyrenees-093-blog.jpg

After our first run, Roch still had not come through so I decided to run back on the trail and catch up with him. I ran a ways past Portello Blanca and decided it was well past time to turn around and headed back to meet Gemma (I was very late at this point). The views were great, the course was super difficult, but it was fun to see. I was sorry to have missed Roch.

Pyrenees-100-blog.jpg

The descent into Pas de les Casa. They dug out the trail in the snow and roped it. There were many sections like this

Pyrenees-102-blog.jpg

The trail coming past Portello Blanca

2 Run combined stats: 11.24/ 3,470 / 3:11

Full Week Stats:

  • Miles Run: 103.45
  • Vertical Climbed: 26,993′
  • Total Training Time: 24:22

After an exhausting day (and week), took a short afternoon siesta in order to have some energy for going out on my last night in Spain. Gemma had arranged us to meet some friends (Mireia Miró – the super fast skimo racer, Arnau Anguera – one of the Spanish Skimo Team coaches, and Txiqui Solano a cycling friend). We had drinks, the typical 11PM dinner, then off to a pub for another drink after dinner. From my standpoint it was a late night – leaving the bar at 1PM, but for Spanish standards, it was an early night.

I can’t thank Gemma and her family enough for their amazing hospitality in letting me stay at their house and putting up with a crazy American who showed up and would run all morning, work all afternoon, and then get up and do it again the next day.

I fly back to London on Sunday noon and we start working Sunday evening to get ready for client meetings next week. It has been a great week of training while still being able to get my work done. I could not have asked for anything better for a Hardrock preparation week.

One thought on “Training in the Pyrenees for Hardrock 100”

Leave a Reply to Jenny Cancel reply