Following the Montefrio trail race, it was straight back into training and onto the hills to start to try to get some ascent (and more importantly descent) into my legs ready for Ultra Sierra Nevada.
Have I done enough? Well, I’ve been tackling quadruple the ascent per week than I’ve notched up the whole year in Qatar…but then again it’s one pancake flat country… so probably not. I’ve also been conscious not to crash and burn by hitting the hills too hard.
Ups have been going okay – I’m strict about keeping up my strength work in the gym back in Qatar – but downs – well there’s no way to mimic those other than getting out and running downhill and trying not to trash your quads. The problem is that I just haven’t found the perfect trail shoe which is response enough on the descents. I’ve had an on/off relationship with Brooks Cascadias for a couple of years. Brooks Ghosts are my shoe of choice for road, but well the Cascadias just don’t quite do it for me. They got me round Montefrio but I had to butterfly lace them so tightly they caught the tendons in my ankles and I have the scars to prove it.
I’d previously invested in a pair of La Sportiva Ultra Raptors and they do stick fast on mountain trails, but are a solid shoe and come at a pretty heavy weight tag. I just cannot imagine clumping round 100km in them.
Luckily, part of my Montefrio prize was a 50% discount voucher for a running shop. Bonus! Not being a shop we’d frequented before, Steve and I undertook a bit of magical mystery tour to find it (thanks sat-nav for taking us via the centre of Granada!). Als.sport is in the foothills of the Sierras – so a chance for me also to poop my pants at the size of the mountains I’ll be tackling – while picking up a new pair of shoes.
The staff in the shop, bless them, had a challenging time finding the ideal shoe for a non-Spanish speaker with orthotics. Anyone know the correct Spanish for ‘deep sole’? In a way the linguistic challenges were a bonus because out of politeness I tried on shoe brands I would usually shun. I stuck my feet in Scotts, Asics, and Saucony’s… and weirdly the Saucony Grid Excursion’s, a good 4mm less than the drop of my road shoes and half size down from my usual fit, felt good. I’m not going to lie, the Scotts felt pretty good too but were just too sloshy around my heels.
Deal done I’d bagged a pair of cut-price Saucony’s – who would have thought it? Of course the litmus test is not possible until you head out onto the trails. I wasn’t going to mess around, and once back home I laced up for a decent 25km trail run. Okay, my achilles could feel the minimal drop (to me) but the shoes ran well and most importantly, I could grip!
With some gradual acclimatization, I reckon my achilles will give.
Scarily the shoes have no rock-plate but I reckon these are the ones to get me the first 60km around the Ultra Sierra Nevada, which I’m hoping won’t be totally rock strewn.