Delivery is FREE for all orders over €60

Moving from trail to ultra-trail

Posted by Jean Baptiste on

Moving from trail to ultra-trail

So I left the asphalt to plunge body and soul into the green ocean far from the concert of horns. The chrono becomes anecdotal and the imperative of time gives way to that of contemplation of the permanent spectacle that Nature offers, of the renewed joy of the changing scenery, of the peaks and the valleys.

The trail exercise forces the mind to move away from its other problems and focus only on that of the present moment. Managing effort through careful listening to oneself, one's little ailments and the sensations of the moment requires a permanent inventory in order to adjust the sliders as best as possible: drink a few sips, eat a bar , reduce the amount pace, lengthen your stride, take a break before the upcoming bump... The mind necessarily reconnects with the body and the stress of everyday life fades away.

Running for a long time also provides a feeling of complete freedom, perhaps the pleasure of progress using the sole energy of the legs and the body, under one's own power, autonomous with the food and water that one carries with oneself, can -be the concrete perception of the strength of the mind which makes mountains climb and barriers which seemed insurmountable yesterday, perhaps the assurance of accumulated experience which supports and soothes in more difficult times, perhaps a communion with the environment as a playmate and the acceptance of Nature as it is, not fighting against it but dealing with it.

From the first trails, these emotions have never left me and the desire to experience more of them devours me. Because each race is particular, undecided like a door that we open into a dark room: what will we discover behind it? The weather, the colors of the season and the variety of vegetation, the pitfalls of the terrain, the imagination of the organizers, the shape of the day or the psychological state will combine into an uncertain cocktail that must be faced in the present without know in advance what he has in store for us.

There is a growing trend for trail running that is palpable through the inflation of choices and distances. Every weekend, the trail calendar is filled with new destinations and additional formats, the opportunity to go into the hinterland to meet new organizations, particular atmospheres or different landscapes. Each trail has its own character.

This is perfect, I am spoiled for choice to continue exploring this new world. At the beginning, I favor trails because of their proximity, easy in terms of logistics, and above all the affordable distance, that is to say the 20-40 km format, ideal for starting out, gaining confidence and starting to build up a little experience, and easy to plan training without too many constraints, allowing me to continue to indulge in other sports.

At this moment, testing longer distances seems unthinkable to me. I already have a lot of parameters to assimilate and adjust .

I start by equipping myself more correctly even if I have no idea what suits me best. Reading reports and product tests on the Web, specific opinions from fellow runners as well as personal tastes will guide me.

I then do many local trails: Trail de Mireval, du Salagou, du Caroux, des Ruffes, du Pic St Loup, des Sangliers, des Lucioles, des Calades, du Coutach, du Pont du Gard, de Fontfroide, de l' Aubrac, Gorges du Tarn, Vailhautrail, Hivernatrail, Beavertrail, Duo des Lavagnes, Verticausse, Larzac Dourbies, Trail du Ventoux, Trail du Grand Lubéron, etc…

During the Larzac-Dourbies trail, a 30 km with some respectable bumps, I discover my first enemy with which I will have to deal: cramps. It begins at the bottom of a big descent, and the surprise of smelling popcorn in my calves when restarting. My muscles tingle and turn into a powerhouse and I quickly understand what is happening to me. I try to fend off as best I can the imminence of the sneaky discharge by trotting with my toes raised upwards in my shoes, in a gait approximately between that of the penguin and the Tramp. But I don't stop, a few strides later, my calves freeze like quick-setting cement. Ouch, ouch, ouch, it's so painful and sudden that I scream. Awkwardly, I try to stretch against a tree. I leave again but I feel that with each attempt to accelerate, the bite of the cramp lies in wait for me.

Likewise during the 2019 Hortus Marathon, km 40, in the final descent towards the finish, the cramps arrived without an invitation and pinned me to the spot while the finish held out its arch to me. A supportive runner will take the time to stop for the sake of humanity and will relieve my muscle by straightening my leg and forcefully bending my foot.

I am going to meet Stimium who will offer me MC3 , with citrulline malate and magnesium in a sugar-free gel (and that changes my life), nitric oxide booster and increases protein synthesis to make muscles stronger and more resistant and reduce fatigue

If it were just the cramps… but no! A second, even more hostile enemy sometimes arises: extreme heat. On the other hand, cold and rain don't scare me that much: I've actually been able to run in showers and snow without too much inconvenience, well sheltered in my jacket, protected by gloves, long, second-skin tights. But the heat, my God, makes all efforts more costly and painful. You need to hydrate a lot more without saturating yourself with water. Each shadow then becomes an oasis. As a result, the heatwave is invariably synonymous with poor performance and suffering for me. Verticausse 2015, km 33: it is 30° in the shade but there is no shade on the final ascent on the Larzac. I painfully alternate 50 meters of walking, 1 minute of stopping with my head in the boxwood to look for freshness which I cannot find. Under the blazing sun, each step is an exhausting struggle against gravity. All the runners around me are in the red in a scene worthy of Walking Dead. Hydration is not enough, I am exhausted and exhausted, overcome by a strong desire to end it there and give up. Finally, after countless stops and starts, I reach the top and finish this race.

To date, I have not found any solution to effectively defend myself against excessive temperatures.

Despite these two enemies, the jubilation of crossing the line is permanent and the beautiful images of the scenery crossed persist.

Month after month, year after year, I have covered quite a few “small” trails. Each race was an opportunity to learn, to adjust my diet, to refine my equipment and to know myself better, and in short, to have more fun. But running beyond 50 km is not not for me, you have to be masochistic or crazy, no, no, it’s really not for me…

The appetite also comes running, although….

Throughout the outings, I come across runners in their Finisher t-shirts who talk enthusiastically about more demanding trails. Videos viewed on YouTube like those of Zinzin Reporter reveal new playing fields and inspire desire, just as we look at travel brochures for dream destinations. The repetition of efforts has strengthened the mind as well as the legs and little by little, the accumulated confidence erases the psychological brakes faced with the difference in altitude and the distance. The barriers of kilometers fall one after the other. I dare to look further, like a draft of air.

Finally, the emulation between racing friends leads to crazy bets. In a mixture of desire and fear, a colleague and I set off on a 75 km, the magnificent and authentic Trail des Hospitaliers. It's quite a challenge and the ingredients are there to feel a scent of adventure: survival blanket, whistle and cell phone obligatory, departure at night, crossings of remote Causses in Gard and Aveyron, fight against the race of sunshine to arrive before nightfall... We don't have a lot to say but by stimulating each other, we tell ourselves that if there is a misunderstanding, it can work out.

Discovering trails is also discovering oneself, it is probing one's limits and one's resources in the ups and downs inevitably experienced in difficulties, it is understanding the intimate links woven between the mental and the physical. And it is surely over long distances that this exploration is most advanced.

The long distance creates a break from everyday life and routine, a bubble outside of time where nothing else matters other than the race and its management, a unique experience whose outcome cannot be predicted in advance.

Likewise, emotions are increased tenfold, in proportion to the efforts made, the small victories over ourselves, the beauty of the landscapes we cross and probably because psychological exhaustion leads us into states of heightened sensitivity.

The last 10 kilometers of this very first 75 km will mark a paroxysm of enchantment, despite the insidious fatigue. As I begin the last difficulty of the test, I am haunted for no clear reason by the solid certainty in my ability to finish. Nothing can happen to me anymore and the euphoria gradually builds until I cross the finish line. Taking full advantage of each stride that brings me closer, I am pushed behind my back by the joyful energy of finishing. I need to shout my joy, thank the whole world and raise my arms to the sky, it's my own World Cup, I explode in an intense mixture of pride and serenity, it's just incredible . Some 12 hours earlier, I was in doubt tinged with excitement and now, I am Finisher of the Hospitallers in absolute happiness which magically erases all the suffering endured.

So I realize that I am capable of much more than I thought, my confidence is boosted, I have reached a new status, that of Finisher and new horizons are opening up.

The lengthening of the distances, however, makes me discover my 3rd and final adversary: ​​stomach ache. Indeed, beyond 40 km, I start to have difficulty eating anything. Systematically, the stomach shows the white flag and refuses any new intruder. Swallowing food or drinking is terribly difficult when, on the contrary, it is imperative to put fuel back into the tank otherwise you will run out of fuel. If I am fortunately spared from vomiting, I do not escape digestion and absorption disorders. It is the greatest evil of trail runners and the number 1 cause of abandonment during a race. So what to do?

For my part, I proceeded by successive trial and error by adopting various dietary strategies with more or less success. If at the beginning, I only included sweet foods, I quickly mixed them with salty foods in order to limit the sugar sickness over time. I carry portions of a famous soft cheese coated in red wax and I sometimes snack on Tucs or small pieces of cold meats at the refreshment points. Trail des Terrasses du Lodévois 2017, km 40, Lauroux, last refreshment before the final and formidable climb to the Grézac plateau. I had already run it the year before and my thighs still remembered it. The volunteers grilled and offered wood-fired sausages in a friendly atmosphere. I take a few pieces which I savor with relish. The salty chases away the sweet in my palate and, with this simple pleasure, I leave refreshed to attack the Grézac. Of course, the climb is still steep but my morale is well anchored in me. Power sausage !

I significantly reduced the amount of food I took with me, because I had a tendency to overeat, for fear of cravings, and take too much when I always had some left over at the end. In addition, I take several types of bars, gummies or gels in order to avoid getting tired of a single taste and alternate flavors. Finally, the star of my shopping cart is the banana, whether quartered at the aid stations or compote in my bag as a regressive playground pleasure! Drink-wise, I discovered that lemon juice gave me a refreshing feeling and was perfectly tolerated by my stomach. Mixed in half tap water and half shaken sparkling mineral water, it's the best combination I've found so far.

Over time, I especially understood that we must not forget to treat ourselves and that eating is also good for the soul. Endurance Trail des Templiers 2017, km 55: I'm starting to get tough while there's still a marathon to run, fatigue sets in permanently in every part of my body and, to make matters worse, an icy drizzle hits us. I haven't been able to eat properly for about ten kilometers, sweet and salty foods disgust me, I can barely absorb a few sips of water. In short, it is typically a difficult passage where you will have to be strong. The St André-De-Vézines resupply arrives and there is chaos: some runners are haggard, devastated, on the verge of abandonment, others vomiting in the trash cans. My morale, already damaged, loses a few life points. I sit and look around me, looking for positive images. A volunteer promotes her pancakes prepared just now, still steaming. I let myself be tempted: in these conditions of cold and relative distress, a good pancake seems to me to be a royal feast. They are really delicious! One, then two, three and four pancakes devoured in a few minutes, it's not very serious for the future but it makes me feel really good and that's the only thing that matters at this moment. Find strength and pleasure. The vegetable soup also catches my eye: the volunteer hands me a glass which she has filled with generous ladles. And I taste the most wonderful soup with its little pieces that warm my whole body and restore my faith in the future. I leave the refreshment shop with a stomach full of this 3-star meal, carefully to facilitate digestion with a sharp rise in morale. Even the sun is showing the end of its rays. I will devour the following kilometers like pancakes, with gusto!

Where will the arms race end?

Long distance running remains exceptional for me. I finished the Hérault Trail, a new 75 km between the Vallée de la Buège and the Pic St Loup on very mineral terrain surrounded by beautiful small mountains, but continued to engage regularly on the more modest trails with as much pleasure as ever. and discoveries: Trail de l'Aigoual, du Somail, des Banuts, du Berger, des Terrasses du Lodévois, Vinotrail, Sauta Roc, etc... Life-size training sessions, I swallow kilometers, I test the food, equipment (new shoes, new glasses...), I discover France, lost trails in the middle of nowhere, my body is shaped by its ever more different experiences.

However, I can't help but think about the next rung on the ladder, the 100km.

This round number has a symbolic character : “I ran 100 miles”, like a marathon on the road. Moreover, the small world of trail running cultivates its own mythology. If triathletes have their IronMan, trail runners have their Ultra, a term which designates formats beyond 80 km: ultra-trail, that sounds good, right? Just like the use of acronyms which stick to prestigious competitions such as the UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc), the TDS (Traces des Ducs de Savoie), the CCC (Courmayeur Champex Chamonix), the GRP (Grand Raid des Pyrénées ) or the UT4M (Ultra Tour des 4 Massifs). “I am a multiple finisher of the TTL”, This is class!

In the same way, it happens that the organizers choose anthems to mark the countdown of certain meetings and "put the hair on" to the runners gathered under the starting arch in the unbearable wait of an imminent release : thus, music-loving trail runners will appreciate the song Conquest of Paradise by Vangelis at UTMB, Ameno by Era at Les Templiers and even Thunderstruck by AC/DC at UltraDraille!

While this was not even in the realm of hypothesis, I feel the aspiration to be part of this community too. I'm responding to the ultra sirens by signing up for the Endurance Trail des Templiers, 100 km. Sure I'll sweat a little more but no one ever drowned in sweat after all.

A new problem presents itself: to run with poles or not? I have never felt the need to use it even though it is very common because it seems unnatural to me: it is trail running and not skiing! It's especially bulky and weighs a little (weight, another enemy of the trail runner). However, on the steep slopes, I enjoy hanging on to the branches and pulling on my arms, this clearly relieves the legs so on very long stretches, there must be a benefit. After many questions and advice, I decided to acquire some and trained before the big day: it went quite well on the uphill while on the downhill, it was a disaster.

The Endurance Trail des Templiers remains an exceptional memory: the crazy atmosphere at the start and on the course, the perfect organization, the crossing of picturesque villages, the immersion in the extraordinary panoramas of the Grands Causses, their cliffs and forests, the viaduct of Millau on the horizon which never seems to get closer, the last refueling in the Ferme de Cade by the fireplace and to the sound of the accordion, the terrible night dive from the Puncho d'Agast on Millau and the last meters in a state of grace… to the sticks!

I don't want to stop there, so the arms race continues with the 120 km of the Ultra Draille on limestone trails that I know by heart. This experience will be more delicate for me because of the fatigue accumulated over the previous days, a too rapid departure, capricious weather, storm and heat, a feast of stones sometimes turning into indigestion and a nocturnal finale which siphons the little bit from me. of morale that remains with me then. I go through periods of doubt, seeking far away the strength to continue, seeking comfort in the starry sky, the rustling of branches and the cries of animals responding to each other in the darkness. At the very last refreshment point, the volunteers ask me what I want: “A bowl of punch and a large glass of energy” I say smartly. To which one of them responds , “With a straw?” ". I chat at length with partners in trouble during endless climbs to give each other courage and overcome difficulties together. Only the long term allows such exchanges and sharing. In the end, I finished this ultra open hood, much more tired than at the Templars but nevertheless satisfied and reassured because it is the springboard towards another much greater challenge, somewhere in the Indian Ocean...

At the time of writing these lines, I am finishing my preparation for the Diagonale des Fous, 170 km and 10,000m D+. What seemed unthinkable, even crazy, just a year ago is now right in front of me. 50 km of distance and 4000m of altitude difference more than the maximum that I have been able to cover to date: despite the growing apprehension, I am hungry to open the door wide and see what is behind, to confront the unknown with a capital “I”. Will I be up to the challenge? How will I psychologically cope with this race? Will my legs, my thighs and especially my head withstand the shock? Will the weather spare us? Will sleep knock me out? Will the belly leave me alone? Only the truth of the day will answer.

My preparation with Stimium products:

  • Stimium GABA , which allows me to increase my cardiac output,
  • Stimium GINGKO , which helps me on my heavy legs
  • Stimium KG , which protects me from infections and boosts my NO
  • Stimium Pwr Creatine to increase my ATP and strength
  • Stimium® Pro-Nrj Caps , which gives me a crazy boost every 2/3 hours (it must be beta alanine)
  • Stimium® Mc3 that I eat directly without mixing in water to fight against my eternal enemy: cramps!
  • Stimium® PreWorkOut Max for my muscle strengthening
  • and my little beloved Stimium® Boost and Stimium® Pro-Nrj Gums, which I try to chew well, without thinking about the tens of km that I still have to swallow.
  • Stimium ProBar , because they are good, and this is rare for proteins, and they are sugar-free, so they do not add carbohydrates which could trigger gastrointestinal problems.

Yes, I confess...I have become addicted to ultra trail running!

Product related to this post

So I left the asphalt to plunge body and soul into the green ocean far from the concert of horns. The chrono becomes anecdotal and the imperative of time gives way to that of contemplation...

Liquid error (snippets/product-form-bottom line 13): product form must be given a product
See the product

On the same subject...

← Older Post Newer Post →


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.