Friday, August 17, 2007

Rickey's Report.

Hello all, Alex Jodidio, the incedental American ex-pat running on our junior men's team, and his kind mum and dad, were kind enough to bring us to the trophy course in Ovronnaz (1450m)earlier today. As I am only an hour's drive away and my curiosity about the course is on the same level as (I imagine) everyone else's the opportunity to preview the course was quickly taken. The following is an attempt to describe the course so that you might be able to get in a couple more specific workouts before your tapering begins. The pictures, taken by Alex, should help out with the visualization. The race looks as though it will begin on the infield of a track (or possibly a parking lot, still not entirely clear) then quickly (within 150m) taper down to an eight foot wide, gravel bike path for a short, quick up-hill. After fifty meters, you will begin a 200m down-hill on a paved road before the course turns left, into the trees and onto a dirt, jeep road. For the next kilometer, the course climbs gradually (by gradually, I mean 5-10 percent... like the "managable sections of both Steamboat and Cranmore - let me know if you need further explanation), through the trees. Passing might be a problem through the first section of the first lap, but patience will certainly pay off, because the final climb is to follow.... The final climb, although not very long, is very steep (equivalent to the steepest downhill sections at Cranmore and the steepest uphill section at Steamboat). At about 80% effort, it took five minutes to ascend. It will take four during the race. It will be this section that either destroys people or lets them carry on. The course then plateaus for a couple hundred meters before you meet the beginning of the down-hill section at km3. The course descends gradually at first, off the trail, through trees and grass, then, as it finds the trail again it descends much steeper (like the steepest down-hill sections of Steamboat or the final downhill section at Cranmore). Then... there is about 250 meters of very steep downhill. This section is a wood-chipped single-track and switch-backs through the trees very abruptly. The switchbacks are abrupt and tight enough that it is possible to cut straight down the center (recklessly), which people will certainly do if the race organizers don't rope-off the course. It is unclear at the moment whether or not they will do this, but certainly something to prepare for. At the bottom of this steep downhill (150m from the finish/next lap), you veer right, curving around the track from above before dropping back down into the infield. 3k up, 1k down. That's it. The course isn't all that rocky. If the weather is bad (which is possible, if not probable this time of year), you'll want every bit of traction you can get. In fact, if it weren't for the downhill, I'd recommend spikes for the course. The ability to transition will prove the most key. Here are my impressions. Take them or leave them. Although the following has been written for the senior men, it applies just as much to the juniors and senior women. This is a very fast race. The winner of the senior men race that was held here recently (Swiss National Championships?) won in 53mins, which means that the trophy race is going to be won in around 51 minutes (weather dependent), or 17minutes/lap. The course is going to suit the faster runners (Clint and Payton) over the more powerful runners (Simon, Paul and myself). Everybody trains differently, but having seen the course, the two workouts that I can suggest are a. 3 reps of 14 minutes on with a 3 minute recovery and b. run steep downhill singletrack (for Boulder... running the steepest singletrack trails that come down Flagstaff are as close as you're going to get). This is mostly a matter of opinion, of course. For those coming early to Switzerland, I can only recommend the two places that I have visited. Zinal - located an hours drive from Ovronnaz at an altitude of 1700m; and Anzere (1500m) - also an hour away and home to the second greatest mountain runner of modern times, Billy Burns (says Martin Cox who helped me write this). Zinal is relatively easy to get to (get a train from Zurich or Geneva, get off at Sierre, catch a bus to Zinal). Anzere is much more difficult to get to, but much more picturesque. As far as previewing the course before our arrival on wed or thurs, that could prove difficult, but not impossible. Using public transportation, it would be a full day excursion from either of these towns. Renting a car is a possibility... if you're up for paying the high gas prices, dealing with maps, etc.

Hope you find this useful, Best, Rickey

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