Training for the TDG – quick summary of first core training trip

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I am back. In Israel. It will only be a few intense days of laundry, logistic adjustments, equipment re-supply, and some important quality time with friends and family. In between, some recovery, a few bits of taper, a bit of inspiration-gathering, and … this report.

Cadore, FatManRunning, Running Dolomites

A little picture to get us started. Cadore.

The last month of a half (or in terms of my training plans – the last 6 weeks of “core training”, as I tend to call this capability \ capacity buildup), has been quite a ride. Pretty intense, packed with training, races and fun, ups and downs (both literally and figuratively). Much as expected, going into this final period of real buildup towards what will happen in the TDG.

I thought at this point, I might as well do a quick and short (we shall see?) recap of what happened, current status, and maybe a little bit about what’s coming next for the next core training trip that is to start in just a few days.

So a quick reminder, for those of you who do not live day in and day out “the Tor”.
TDG stands for Tor Des Geants, also known by some of the fanatic groupies as “the Tor”. It is a race that starts in Courmayeur and does a round of the Val d’Aosta, all the way back to Courmayeur, going through a big number of mountains, valleys, Rifugios, towns, villages, …
It sums up to 330 km, with 24,000m of elevation gain, 24,000m of elevation loss, and a 150 hours cut-off time to complete (around 6.5 days).
Just a big-picture overview, to give some context to my training’s objectives. 48 vertical km and 330 move km in less than a week is what I need to prepare for. Never mind doing it at 2500~3500m elevation mostly, with very unpredictable mountain weather conditions (last year, they had to stop the race due to some serious storms).

TorDesGeants TDG UltraTrail Runwithme

“The Tor” – a quick view of the elevation profile

And to our little recap of this last little training trip:

First off, straight from Israel, I was heading to Lisbon. As I was planning to come back later on from the west Dolomites, I made Milan my hub, so had a change of planes there on the way, just to make sure I get properly tiered. The next day I was to have my first ever 100-miler.

Yep, so “week 1”, opening the trip was the “Oh Meu Deus” 100-mile race in Portugal. A great race, with some parts that were super technical (and scary when you are going on a long technical downhill at night, knowing that you are the last runner way behind everybody).

Oh Meu Deus, PortugalThis race will get at some point its own long post (or possibly a few of them), but I will just mention that one of the main objectives for me was to practice sleeping and then continuing during a race.

I tried sleeping during this race 3 times (which helped me with using most of its allocated 44 hours), but I failed each time, so this is yet a skill I am to learn 🙁

Still, I did finish my first 100-miler attempt, and learned that my body is able to hold this long without sleeping. So not all was lost.

This was followed by a couple of great weeks in the Dolomites Cadore area (After a short visit to Venice including some quality time at the Opera).

First week was building up workload quickly, and the following week (Core training 3) was riding this out to become a peak week with over 13k of vertical gain.

I had a wonderful time there under hosted by Yoga master Tite Togni at her Yoga hut, and with Mario de March and Vincenzo Menetti that I just met there becoming my defacto hosts and guides to all the mountains there. Amazing views, different peaks each day – wow!

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From there, at the end of week 3, I moved with Tite, Mira Rai and Richard Ball to another part of the Dolomites – the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Park, and the Dolomites’ Alta Via.

We had a couple of great days there, where we were joined by Anna Pedevilla and a bunch of her friends. This is Anna’s back yard and main training grounds, so she took the group for a tour around some of her favorite trails. She was on a taper anyway, as the Lavaredo race was just around the corner.

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Going into week 4, the gang all left, while Tite and myself headed back up to the Rifugio, where we joined the Holimites Alta Via tour. With a great group of Irish, Swiss, German, French and US trail runners, this was to be my “semi taper”. Without any single day of break from week 3, we continued moving on the trails from one Rifugio to the next, but in a more relaxed fashion, and many picture and coffee breaks.

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This led all the way to the weekend and the Lavaredo Ultra Trail.
On race day (!) Friday, we came down from the mountain, and around lunch time, Tite drove me and my luggage to Cortina, where the race was happening. Registered, got my Bib, and the found Roy Zinman, who was so gracious as to have me crash into his hotel room with my luggage.

A few hours later, Friday night – we were off for the 119 km, 5,850m elevation gain race.

This went amazingly well – I had a soft target of other than finishing – trying to cut 26 hour if I could, just because this would give me the option to register for the Western States 100 race the next year (qualifyig race). I started strong, with the thought of later giving myself some slack during the hot hours. Pain came soon enough, and I started slowing down as planned, but then I figured this was the wrong training, as there was an excellent opportunity in front of me to practice for real what I call “Embrace the Pain” (part of my Gold rules).

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And so I did, I upgraded my target to what seemed to be just about possible to reach, and finished the race just a few minutes under my new 24h target. Yay.

On to the last 2 training weeks. I moved on to the Orobie area. Placed myself in the Fuimenero village (population: 120, churches: 2 that ring noisily in parallel every 30 minutes day and night).

Great spot for just what I needed to practice – the starting point of a 1500m super technical climb to the Brunone Rifugio.

A day after I arrived, I made my first tour up, and a bit beyond the Rifugio to explore. I got back down that evening with sore knees and sore ankles – joints were in a state of shock.

I decided to take off a couple more days to give the joints a chance to recover, and then had just enough time for 2 weekly sequences. Some great views and spots during these last 2 weeks, but mostly – this was hard core training, pushing it to get my ever increasing vertical quotas (which I set for myself), and just about hitting them: 67% (of TDG’s 24k) on week 5 – 16.2k, and then 80% on week 6 – 19.2k.

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I left a few pictures separated – for those of you thinking of hitting the Orobie trails at some point – here are a few pictures of what some of the “trails” look like:

Overall, during this period? 2 mega races (Oh Meu Deus, and Lavaredo), 1,164 km of training covered, including 68 km of vertical gain, 68 km of vertical descents (or 138 km of vertical change).

Not bad. Almost ready?

Before we look at what’s next, here are a few pictures of what was left of some of my cloths at the end of this period:

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What is next?

After this very short visit to Israel, quite focused on logistics – locking in some support, re-equipping myself with food, cloths, shoes and other equipment for the next period, I am heading back to Italy.

In the plan:

  • Orobie Ultra Trail race – 140 km, 9,500m of elevation gain/ drop, a very technical knee-splitting, ankle-twisting terrain, and unexpected weather. Last year, 41 of the 250 starters got to finish it.
  • Then my ultimate peak-training week, hopefully with the highest load so far and up until the TDG itself. To be done in the Val d’Aosta / Alps of course.
  • Getting into some active taper, which will be spent somewhere around the Alps/ Val d’Aosta, mixing some lower-intensity training with familiarizing myself with the technicality and altitude.
  • Finally, my “taper” period will come to its “peak” with the CCC race. Part of the Ultra-Trail-Mont-Blanc series of races at the end of August, this is a race from Courmayeur in Italy to Chamonix in France, over 101 km, and 6,100m of elevation gain/ loss.

And now, let’s go do it!

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