Q – You’ve been out in Chamonix for almost two years now – has it worked out as you anticipated?
Natalie: I’d been visiting the Alps for quite a few years, so Chamonix always felt like a second home.
It’s everything that I could have imagined. The hills are mountains and you can climb for hours and hours without reaching the top…then you have to come all the way back down – it’s awesome!
Robbie: We really do live the lifestyle that we were after. When I came to Chamonix in 2012 it was the first time I felt I belonged. Convincing Natalie to up sticks and come out wasn’t a difficult task though.
We’ve just moved up to Montroc, about 1300-1400m up and with beautiful trails right on our doorstep. We felt a bit like spoilt brats wanting to move from lower down in the valley, but the quality of life improved as soon as we got up there. We can’t wait for summer on the new trails.
Q – How does the extreme weather impact on your training plans?
N: Haha! Checking the mountain forecast each day I was waiting for the snow to arrive and when it did, it snowed heavily for two days solid and we were pretty much snowed in!
Wading through chest height snow to get to the road was pretty surreal. It felt like the village was blocked off to the world. It was like Narnia. I ran to Chamonix and back in nice fluffy snow, then the day after the temperature had risen and the snow had turned to heavy, wet, deep snow.
It’s pretty hard work to plan training. I’ve managed to run on snowy trails, but it’s damn hard work. There’s also XC skiing and ski touring though, both of which get you super fit.
R: Last year I went full tilt into the skiing and absolutely loved it. I picked up the basics pretty quickly and it meant I could use it instead of my run training. I felt fitter and stronger than years before.
The knee surgery last October and the World 24hr Champs in July meant I changed things up a bit this year. I was ready for another full season on skis, training with XC skiing and ski-mountaineering, but decided that getting a head start on the running was wiser.
So as I write this I’m sitting in the sun in Portugal whilst poor Nats is cleaning a metre of snow from the roof of the van. Sorry Nats!
Q – What’s are your main events for 2017?
N: I’ve planned a good year of racing starting with the Penygalosa 62km in Spain in April, the Mont Blanc 80km at end of June and one of the Eiger Ultra trail races in July. That will be followed by an amazing adventure organised by Robbie exploring around 500km of trail across the Balkan mountains in Bulgaria, can’t wait!
I then move on to the 119km TDS – one of the UTMB races – at the end of August, the Cappadocia 110km in Turkey in October and then a 250km stage race in Namibia in November. I’m tired just writing it!
R: 2017 is about the World 24hr Champs for me. There are other goals, but everything will be aimed at the 24hr Champs because I want to be on that podium again.
My love of the mountains means we still have plenty of other races, ranging from 4k vertical to the Cappadocia with Nat. As much as I want to race less and less, it’s too tempting to do so many of the wonderful races out there!
Nats and I are both going to Penyagalosa to do the 62k, as that’s where the World Trail Ultra Champs will be in 2018 and we’d both like to put our name forward.
Other adventures like running across the Balkans on the Kom-Emine Trail in Bulgaria (Nats’ Xmas present), The Beyond the Ultimate Namibia Desert Ultra in November, The Wings for Life World Run with the Profeet team in May and the OCC in Chamonix (as you can’t be in Chamonix and not want to do one of the UTMB races).
Q – We know you like to keep racing: what events have you taken part in recently?
N: I like racing and I could race every weekend. However I need to be sensible and think long term.
My first race this year was a 13km/1500m snow night race in Courmayeur. Wow that was some race! Steep and steeper still on an icy piste and I had a malfunction with my micro spikes. Nevertheless I finished 3rd overall which felt good.
The next day I ran a Canicross race with Rosa in Jura – 7km on snow and undulating. It was fun and a good speed session for us both. The last race was a 10.5km/250m snow night race again run on a XC piste. That was a really fast race, so I was super happy with 2nd in a strong field.
R: Plenty of wee ones, including three great XC races in Switzerland, the Goring 10k and the Faro Nocturnal Half Marathon. I love shorter races and try to do as many as I can fit in with training. One of my aims for the first part of the season is a PB at the Cluses 10k in April. I’m feeling good for it.
Q – What sort of cross-training do you do?
N: Cross-training in the snow! It seems to use every muscle group as you don’t run in a straight line – it’s up, down, left, right. In winter it’s XC ski and ski touring too. In summer it’s mainly running with hiking and also some cycling thrown in.
R: The whole winter is cross training usually, but with the knee injury I’ve been focusing on my strength and balance a few times a week with the help of our friend Sarah Tunstall (physio and GB mountain runner).
We’ve got a bike in the basement for those really snowy days too, when it’s a bit of an avalanche risk to get out on the hill. I’ll be doing a bit of cycling in the summer too.
Q – You often act as the support team to each other in your races – how do you decide who gets to race?
N: I think if we both wanted to run the same races we would. There’s occasions where we choose to run different races as we have different goal races and they may not fit with our training. If we’d have both run the TDG I definitely would have missed Robbie helping me. Both Robbie and Majell got me round the TDG, they were truly amazing.
R: If one of us really wants to do a particular race then I like to think we plan it so we can support each other. As much as I want to do TDG one day, I wouldn’t want Nats to be out there without my support and similarly I love having her at my events too. Even just having Nats and Rosa at the XC races in Switzerland recently has been a great boost.
Q – Rosa is clearly a big part of your life – what’s she like as a training partner?
N: As Robbie would say “She’s sh*t downhill, but great on the climbs”. She’s a pretty strong hound and just likes being outside, running twice as much distance and vert than us. Plus she’s mastered the art of resting, just like Robbie!
R: Rosa rests like a boss. She basically interval trains constantly, but her rest is such high quality she can get away with it.
We wish both Robbie and Natalie all the best for the coming season.
If you’d like to find out more about how the Profeet Run Lab can help improve your running performance, then please contact us on 020 7736 0046.
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