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Endurance excitement in the height of the Pyrenees!

A common misconception might be that every day on training camp looks the same. This is certainly true for some things up here in Font Romeu, but who wouldn’t want to incorporate a daily trip to the bakery into their routine?

Each day starts with morning monitoring- this is a chance for the coaches to check in with us and ensure that we are coping with the additional demands that altitude can place on the body. This means that small issues are picked up early so that training can be adapted rather than abandoned. Monitoring is an hour before we meet, so there is time to ease into the day and fuel up for training with a good breakfast.

The group meets at 9 or 9:30 most mornings to head to some of the most beautiful training locations on the planet (photos seriously do not do this place justice!). The training locations and intensities vary, and we aim to build momentum across the camp. The previous day's easy run on the trails might prepare you for the next day's hard track session, and the day after that you may find yourself appreciating that social recovery run just a little bit more.

We have been lucky to have a great coaching team (led by Jethro McGraw, and supported by Sally Straw and Dean Miller) and physiology support (Dave Sheldon) up here. Paces have to be adjusted for the altitude so we do a lot of running based on feel and heart rate. For relevant sessions (such as tempo/threshold) we utilise lactate testing to ensure that we are running at the correct intensity.

Some favourite training locations include Le Lac de Matemale (a lakeside loop with multiple options to detour onto forest trails and head up into the hills for stunning views across the lake) and the Pyrenees 2000 trails (a large forested area with varying terrain and more incredible views). The peace and quiet of the trails is contrasted by the excitement and bustle of the track. Font Romeu is frequented by various high-level athletes (aside from BUAC) and it is always exciting to be sharing the track with an Olympian or two).

After running it is imperative that you head straight to the bakery to refuel with pastries and buy your daily baguette. Getting enough carbohydrates is important up here and the bakeries will always provide.

After morning training, we head back to the apartments for lunch and to recover. This means something different for everyone. There are a few quiet hours during which people nap, get on with some work or watch TV. There are cafes in the town- although in France taking a ‘sieste’ is not just for athletes and some establishments will close for a few hours in the afternoon. On lighter training days or rest days, there is the opportunity to explore- going on a hike, or to the hot springs.

Late afternoon and early evening S+C coach Simon Eustace will lead a supplementary session, such as core, S+C or mobility. If Simon is living the dream when he is in Birmingham, imagine how excited he is to be in Font Romeu! The gym is a five-minute walk from the apartments and is very popular with runners (so you won’t feel self-conscious doing those strange band exercises the physio gave you, and may even have company doing them). We were lucky to have physio support from Mike Gosling (Physiokinetic), who worked his magic on various aches and pains and even got to do a bit of his own running.

Following supplementary work, there is an optional second run or cross-train. Evenings are generally very relaxed- most people alternate between cooking by themselves and in small groups, and checking out the restaurants in the town. Eating takeaway pizza al fresco and watching the sunset over the mountains is a lovely way to wind down. Getting a good night's sleep is the best way to prepare for the next day's adventures. It also provides you with lots of interesting stories to tell your flatmates the next morning as dreams can be particularly strange and vivid at altitude!

The only downside to Font Romeu will be returning home to reality! Edgbaston reservoir just isn’t Le Lac de Matemale, and nowhere in the UK can you get a croissant, a coffee, and a baguette for £3.

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