The Vibram® Trailrunning Team explain how they will approach The North Face® Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® - one of the most magical and popular international trail running challenges in the world
The world of trail running – a growing sport in every country – is getting ready for the 2012 North Face® Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc®, the cult race that last year saw 2,369 competitors taking part, including 186 women. Only 1,133 participants – less than half – made it to the finish line, highlighting the complexity and the difficulties of a race that is becoming increasingly popular with professionals of this specialist sport.
Nicola Bassi, born in 1987, from Desenzano del Garda. The youngest member of the Vibram® team. He became an outdoors enthusiast while working in a sports shop for three years, and then decided to devote himself to his passion full time. One of his first adventures was cycling the 6,000km of the RN40 road in Argentina, from La Quiaca to Ushuaia.
Francesca Canepa, 1971. The only woman in the Vibram® team. Mother of two children, a former whizz on ice, both skating and snowboarding (winning national and international recognition). In 2010 she decided to put herself to the test again with the encouragement of the maestro Fabio Maragliati. This was followed by the Courmayeur Trailers and her first achievements in this sector.
Giuseppe Marazzi, aka “Beppe”. 37 years old from Di Baiso, Reggio Emilia. A trail running and mountain enthusiast, he says that his former weight led him to running. The “Ecomaratona del Ventasso” was his first sporting adventure, but he has two favourite success stories: first place in the Abbot’s Way in 2010 and silver in the Lavaredo Ultra Trail in 2009. He was a member of the Vibram® 2011 Trailrunning Team, and this year would like to reach the UTMB® finish line holding his son’s hand. He couldn’t do it last year because he ended the race in the middle of the night.
Sébastien Nain, from France, a fire-fighter in the nuclear sector. Married to Sophie, another sports enthusiast, they have a son, Mathis, who is almost 3 years old. Nain, a mountain and sports fanatic, has been an Ironman triathlete for years (3.8 km swimming, 180 km cycling, 42.195 km marathon).
He then took up trail running: he has taken part in the UTMB® three times, with a fair amount of bad luck (in 2008 he injured himself after 30 km; in 2009 he dislocated his pelvis after a fall; in 2010 the race was postponed for bad weather!). He’s very happy to be part of the Vibram® Team and hopes to make his dream come true.
Ronan Moalic, 38 years old. He lives in La Gorge (Ste Agnes, France). He is a surgeon, married and has an 8 year old son. His work doesn’t leave him with much time for trail running: he has to divide this passion between family and job responsibilities. An alpine ski enthusiast, Ronan began trail running in 2004, after watching a race with a friend.
David Gatti, 40 years old. From Grenoble, he has two children, one 10 and one 8 years old. A manager in the professional market for Polartec®, he started trail running in 2009 when he came across the UTMB® through work. He began trail running in 2010 and after a few months of wondering whether it was the right thing to do he joined the CCC. In 2011 he ran with TDS to try out a harder challenge: the UTMB®. This year David became part of the Vibram® Trailrunning Team, which was a dream come true for him.
The Vibram® Trailrunning Team - Nicola Bassi, Francesca Canepa, Giuseppe Marazzi, Sébastien Nain, Ronan Moalic, David Gatti
How do you prepare for it?
Due to both the length and type of trail (166 km, 9,500 m D+, 7% tarmac, 15% dirt road, 78% paths) and for the unpredictable weather conditions like wind, rain and cold, this race really puts participants and their endurance to the test physically.
We wanted to find out more and asked the Vibram® Trailrunning Team some questions to understand how non-professional athletes, ordinary people as the team’s motto says (“Ordinary people being extraordinary”), prepare for the race.
Here are our questions and the team’s answers.
How do you train for the UTMB®?
“For a race like this you need to already be very good at distance running,” says Beppe Marazzi, “which means having already run many, many kilometres in the past. I am training for special “situations”, and my training aims to include them, such as night running, running after eating and running in the rain. I run from between 80 to 130 km a week, keeping quality up to scratch by often running at a fast pace.”
Francesca Canepa takes a different approach: “In terms of long training there are races, which I take part in every two weeks. So I train for about an hour in the morning, except when I’m lucky enough to run with Renato Jorioz, my coach; then we can run for as much as three hours covering 20-25 km.”
“When I came back from Argentina I didn’t have a job,” replies Nicola Bassi, “which made planning my training easier: 15-25 km three times a week, on rolling dirt roads, and sometimes classic uphill mountain running.
I alternate all this with bike rides of around a hundred kilometres and sometimes a few night runs.”
For Sébastien Nain it means, “a great July in terms of kilometres and elevation gain, both on foot and by bike, with four days of training at Chamonix: 170km/+11,000, as well as a great performance in the Sky Race Les Ecrins (48km/+3,100, 19th place) just to keep my breathing on top form.” And in August? Sébastien is training in the Aixoise, an hour from the Ecrins, from Champsaur and from Ventoux, taking one or two days to do little chunks of mountain training: 5-6 hours a day.
“At the moment I’m on holiday,” admits Ronan Moalic, “so I’m trying to do simple runs. I’m attempting to improve my speed and my cycling. Of course I’ll be doing some longer, heavier training, in the mountains, rando running, in part to check my performance in given situations.”
David Gatti injured himself at the beginning of May and couldn’t train until June, “I therefore risked not being adequately prepared. My runs in July were between 10 and 15 km a week, with 3000/5000 metres of elevation gain; not that much really.”
DO YOU TRAIN ALONE OR WITH SOMEONE ELSE?
All the athletes train alone and the reasons are obvious: each person’s commitments, their schedule, but most of all the different aims of their training. No one likes having to restrict or put stress on their running pace depending on who they’re running with that day.
The only relative exceptions are Francesca Canepa who sometimes runs with her coach, Renato Jorioz, and Ronan Moalic who does not exclude runs with occasional running companions, shepherds, mountaineers and mountain refuge keepers.
WHEN DO YOU TRAIN?
Beppe Marazzi tries to find acceptable compromises and his lunch break is a chance to do around half an hour at a fast pace. He also does an evening run a couple of times a week and races at the weekend. If there are no races, he goes for long mountain runs of four to five hours.
Francesca Canepa is a mother, so she prefers to train in the morning, “That way I can balance it with managing the children.” This means she’s never too far from home and goes on short runs.
Not having found a job yet, Nicola Bassi has it the easiest of the members of the Vibram® Trailrunning Team. He has lots of time available for deciding on and managing his running and cycling.
Sébastien Nain is a fireman in a nuclear department and works shifts of 24 hours on guard and 48 off. “I try to space out my training during the week, doing less at the weekend so I can spend time with my children and wife and leaving her some time for her triathlon training.”
For Ronan Moalic, a surgeon, it’s difficult to train more than three or four times in a typical week, which is why he prefers two runs of an hour to an hour and a half rather than one of three to four hours. Of course August will be a very busy month in terms of training.
Early in the morning or late in the evening is when David Gatti, manager for the professional market for Polartec®, finds the time to train. Besides before and after work, he also trains at the weekend.
WHAT DO YOU EAT DURING THE UTMB®?
“I’ll be adding sugars in a more calculated way, as well as consuming gels and bars,” predicts Beppe Marazzi, “but I’ve found they’re not enough and they make me nauseous. So at the main refreshment stops I’ll eat hot savoury food, like pasta and soups.”
“I will basically run as much as possible on liquid sugars, gels and drinks,” envisages Francesca Canepa, “then with the help of my coach at the refreshment stops I’ll decide whether to add yoghurt or pizza or something else. I think it’s important when you’re really tired to be able to fall back on some “comfort food” that you really want to eat.”
“Dried fruit: walnuts, apricots, sultanas, some banana and some gels.” This is Nicola Bassi’s menu, which he tried out in part on the Lavaredo. “Of course the UTMB® is longer and more challenging, but it shouldn’t be a big problem if I eat more of these things properly.”
“It’s top secret,” jokes Sébastien Nain, “but this year thanks to Vibram® I predict that I’ll be able to bring what I really want to eat: a piece of cheese, some St Yorre water and more besides. The fact there are people taking care of you at the refreshment stops is a big change and will make it easier for us.”
“This is my first UTMB® and I am not a professional,” emphasises Ronan Moalic, “but I now know that you need to vary a lot and include both sweet and savoury things. I just hope that I don’t get that feeling of nausea that can happen a few hours into the race.” We’ll see, this is another chance to find out more about himself and the mountains.
David Gatti thinks he has a lot still to learn and he considers himself the least proficient member: “I trust the advice of the whole team, I still haven’t got a clear idea and I haven’t decided how to approach it yet. But I’m sure I’ll get some good advice.”
Click here to find out more about the team