Jez Bragg UTMB 2011. Photo by The North Face
Name: Jez Bragg
Residence: Dorset – south coast of England
Occupation: Construction Project Manager and member of The North Face Global Athlete Team.
The West Highland Way in Scotland.
Trail or race you want to run?
Race: Western States 100 in California. This year will be my third time. It lures me back each year….
Trail: This summer I hope to run the Tour de Monte Rosa through Switzerland and Italy as part of my race training for UTMB. I love exploring new long distance trails in the Alps.
Can you describe an ordinary training week?
I typically run 100-120 miles per week during peak training in preparation for a race like UTMB or Western States. I will run twice a day most days with long runs at the weekends, quite often on back to back days. Nearly all my training is off road, either along the spectacular Jurassic Coastline in Dorset, or in the mountains of Scotland or Wales. My training will be very specific to the race I’m preparing for – trying to replicate the trail conditions I will face.
What are your goals for 2012?
My long term goal is to continue to improve as runner. So far, in my 8 year career, I have got faster every year! Clearly I hope to maintain this in 2012. I will be focusing on the Western States 100 and UTMB races, both of which I will really be aiming to perform well at. The podium is a target for both.
For hard mountain races like UTMB, what are your tactics?
My approach to the really long races is to set off at a sensible, sustainable pace, and maintain it throughout. It’s how I’ve run my best races, and it’s the way I can bring out the best in myself as a runner. The UTMB’s field of elite runners is so deep that many of the top runners are racing hard from the start, which in most cases is not sustainable. The smart runner is the one who is most likely to succeed at UTMB.
For us living in the lowland, it is quite hard to achieve good mountain running techniques. It is possible to get strong for the uphills but the downhill part is hard. When reading about this topic you can see that there are two different approaches; either you do some long and hard quad burning downhills now and then to let the legs get used to it or you can develop a smooth technique with a fast turn over and short strides.
What is your opinion on this? How do you train for good uphill/downhill technique?
Efficient down hill running is obviously extremely important for UTMB. It is difficult to recreate the conditions without training on mountains with 1,000+ of vertical ascent/ descent. I personally don’t have those sorts of climbs close to where I live, so I travel to places to find the right terrain. My UTMB training will often just involve repetitions of 1,000m+ mountains in Wales or Scotland. Maybe four or five repetitions in a day. Quick footwork with short, fast strides, is very important for downhill running. You are likely to damage your leg muscles by prolonged overstriding. Weighted lunges from a raised step is a good core strength exercise to help prepare your body for the rigours of long, technical, down hill running.
What can you improve?
I am always trying to improve as a runner. This winter I’ve been focusing on core strength training and cross training to help build strength for the season ahead. I have taken around 6 weeks off running completely to help my legs recover from last season, and to recharge my body and mind. Ultra distance trail running is very tough on the body so it’s a way of helping to stay healthy and prolong my career.
What was your feeling before you got sick during last UTMB, were you heading for the podium?
I was in 12th place and was starting to move through the field. My legs felt great but I couldn’t breather properly due to a chest infection. I had trained really well for the race but it was something completely out of my control. It was very disappointing, but it has helped to re-motivate me and I can’t wait to get back to the big races this year.
Is it your turn to win UTMB this year?
I hope so – I’m due good year!
Thank you Jez and good luck!