She has been following the Skyrunner® World Series for three years, podiuming at almost every race and has already taken home the first champion bib of the 2023 season. Here, Vert.Run athlete, Iris Pessey, tells us what it takes to win a World Series race and provides some useful training tips and advice ahead of the next race of the series. She’s also given us in an insight into the training plan she’s created this year with Vert.run to help skyrunners improve their skill on technical terrain.
How did you prepare in the off season to be able to win Calamorro? What did you believe made a difference on race day?
“Funny enough, I didn’t prepare too much for Calamorro, it was more a race to see where I was, kick off the season and then reassess. I agreed with my coach that it was okay to go there with low expectations. I spent the last five and a half months at work, in the snow as a biathlon coach so I didn’t do any high volume or proper running on trails and three weeks ago I was racing… in Greenland, and on skis ! The temperatures were -20° during the race and I was sleeping in a tent above the arctic circle by -30° at night. So I was very worried about the heat and not having enough miles of running in my legs. I think this fear of suffering from the heat is what saved me in the end… I knew I needed to really look after myself if I wanted to cross the finish line.
The goal was simple: Not to focus on the result, take my time during the feed zones and just finish thinking ”ok, I gave my best, no regrets”. So I took more water that I needed, had a clear plan on how I wanted to manage the aid stations and tried to keep my body as cool as possible. I started the race with ice cubes in my pockets, my bra, and made an ice cube necklace with a bandana around my neck. I fully submerged myself under a fountain before the start and poured water on my body during every aid station and with my flasks in between. It really saved me from overheating because at times I was really borderline and feeling dizzy from the heat, yet it was enough to keep a solid pace. I believe I wasn’t necessarily the fittest girl this weekend, but simply the one who managed the conditions the best and suffered less from the heat. Unfortunately my phone didn’t survive all these showers. So my two tips would be : Keep your body wet and cool, but make sure your phone is in a waterproof bag ! 😉 “
As last year’s runner up, what piece of advice can you share on how to best manage Skyrace des Matheysins? Any learning you will apply to your own race this year?
“Matheysins is a tricky race, because the start is really fast and runnable but there is also some steep sections where you need a lot of power, some ropes and snow and the downhill is very steep and technical at first, then more fast and gradual by the end. So you need to be polyvalent and good at everything. Last year I started a lot harder than the previous year and I think it worked well, because it is quite short so you need to be in a good group right from the start. Yet there is not a lot of recovery from the bottom to the top of the race so it’s about finding the balance between going out hard and making sure you’re not going to blow up. Feeding is important too. Because there are no ”easy sections” it’s easy to get excited and carried away and forget to fuel, so make sure you eat and drink enough, even if the temperatures will be much cooler than last weekend in spain. Another advice would be wearing gloves for the ropes sections, as it can cut and chaffe your hands and to stay calm in the snow, focusing on doing little steps rather than big ones which will only make you sink and slip more.”
You are part of the Vert.run athletes and have designed the training plan for Matterhorn Ultraks already available on the Vert.run app. Can you explain what sort of content people will receive when signing up to your plan?
“Indeed, I’ve been working on this training plan for a few months now. I designed a plan for people who are already active but need to get better on technical terrain and more resistant to the ”up/down” variations. The first weeks of the plan , I work on building solid bases and then it gets more and more specific for the Ultrak’s race.
I often compare training to making an ice cream: To be able to enjoy a good ice cream, you need to first bake a solid cone (the foundations of training and the unglamorous long slow hours), then you do the ice cream itself (stride workouts, threshold, resistance training), and only at the end you can do the little fancy extra toppings (hard intervals, technical work, plyo…etc). I think a common mistake is to overthink the training and only focus on the ”little extra” and we forget the basics. Also you will find tips on recovery and mental preparation for a race, but just like training, there is a time for everything and I believe there is no point focusing on the smaller details if the main aspects of recovery aren’t on point: eat, sleep, hydration.
The plan is based on my own technique: pretty straight forward, cutting the bullshit, and always trying to have some fun on the side, yet be focused and serious when I need to be.”
Good luck to Iris and to all athletes racing this weekend at Skyrace des Matheysins.
You can find Iris’s training plan along with all Vert.run training plans for the season on the Vert.run website.