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Jonathan Albon, the new trail runner on the block!

Jonathan Albon, the new trail runner on the block!  Photo: Blog Fabiomen

 

"Running in a skyrace and an obstacle race are very similar in my opinion: it's a full on battle from start to finish and afterwards you feel as if you have been dragged through a bush backwards"  Jonathan Albon.
Who's Jonathan Albon?  That's the question that the trail running community was asking, after the Brit came in first at the last weekend's Skyrunner World Series event, the Tromsø Skyrace. A big suprise to many perhaps that a relatively unknown trail runner could clock up a 17' advantage over the Ultra-trail World Champion, Spaniard, Luis Alberto Hernando to take the win! 
 
05.08.15 Jonathan 10
 
To others, it came as no big suprise! After all, we're not talking about your average runner here, but the 2014 OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) World Champion & Spartan Race World Champion.  
 
We've taken the opportunity at Corredordemontaña to ask Jonathan about his race experience & how he manages to combine two different sports which, as he sees it, have more in common than meets the eye.


Corredordemontaña: Your race impressions at Tromsø Skyrace 45km:  It seems that on the descent, after Hamperokken ridge, you moved ahead and went in pursuit of Luis Alberto Hernando. “I was running with the group and I thought, I can go quicker than this, so I did”    Tell us about how you experienced the race & when you decided to chase down LAH.

05.08.15 Jonathan 2

Jonathan Albon: It wasn't until the descent became less technical, about half way down, that I started to pull ahead. We were going through some large boulder fields and found the grip of my shoes gave me the confidence to push on faster than the others. From there I wasn't thinking about catching LAH in first; I was simply enjoying running a bit fast after the long climb up...
 
05.08.15 Jonathan 4
 
Did you feel confident you had the race under control, once you caught up with LAH? ?  You took out a 17' difference in the end, that's a lot of time! Any idea how fast you were running?
 
I had no idea how I would feel once I started climbing again. As it happened, I managed to remain strong and grind out the last climb well. There was no point when I felt 'safe' though and found myself looking over my shoulder up to the last 100m thinking I was being chased down. 

 
Tell us a bit about your kit. What type of trail shoes were you wearing?
 
For the race I used the VJ Sport Irocks. I couldn't have wished for a better companion on the mountains and would credit every minute I won by to them. The rubber used is amazingly grippy on wet rock giving me confidence in the boulder fields and climbing sections. The lug configuration gives the best traction on any terrain and performed amazing on the downhills especially in the snow and mud. Where they came into there own though was when we had to hike back up the snowfields; without this added grip I would have floundered and would hardly have built half the lead I did. 
In fact I was very happy with my choice of kit/clothes altogether. At no point during the race did I carry anymore than 250ml of water as there were so many streams to fill up from. This coupled with an energy gel every half an hour fueled me around perfectly. I also had the required jacket and two buffs, one to wrap around each hand to protect my flesh when using them in the snow to either brake when I slipped or as snow axes when ascending. 
 
05.08.15 Jonathan 3 
 
Did you feel the organizers/other runners/spectators were suprised by your win? Were you suprised yourself?

I guess people were surprised, but I didn't know who other people were either so it didn't bother me really. I was surprised with how the win was relatively straight forward though, no death sprint for the line or anything which was nice. I knew this race would suit me a lot more than the other more single climb single descent skyraces I have done in the past. I was therefore hoping for a top 10 finish - I would never guess I could pull away by 17 minutes though!
 
 
Looking at your previous skyracing results, there's nothing to indicate thay you would do quite so well at the Tromsø race: 2014 Limone Extreme Sky Race (14th), 2015 Dolomites Sky Race (22nd). How do you explain this amazing progression? After all, 45k with 4600m elevation is pretty mountainous!
 
I struggle with pushing hard uphill straight from the go and much prefer to relax into a race. This meant Tromsø suited me a lot more as I could simply enjoy running for half the time before the real race began. I have done mountain races before but not anything with the scale of climbs and technicality of Tromsø skyrace. Dolomites elevation above sea level and a heavy week orienteering beforehand may have impacted my performance a little but still think I am suited to longer races.
 
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Coming from an Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) background, did you find the Tromsø course suited you particularly? 
 
I think Tromsø suited me because of many things: the weather, the Norwegian terrain (which I am now used too), the distance and epicness of the challenge which I thrive on.
 
 
From what I've read, you've been doing competitive OCR for around 5 years now. Is that right? How did you get started?

Something like that. I did the original obstacle race, Tough Guy, before any others were around. I loved the fitness required which I liken to that of how we evolved (or were created) to be - to be both fast, strong and adaptable. Since then I've done many more races, enjoying doing different types of races to test my fitness and limits.
 
05.08.15 Jonathan 12
 
Would you say your performance/results have really improved over the last year? I believe you're unbeaten in OCR during 2014, right? What are the main reasons for this? 
 
I think I have improved because I am slowly taking training and racing more seriously but also because I have an open mind as to what my limits may be.  I try not to get overwhelmed when I do well simply thinking I can do better and this is just another step up. 
 
 
Tell us a little about yourself, Jonathan: times in half marathon & marathon.  Heart beat resting pulse/max heart beat
 
I haven't done a timed half marathon since my first running event several years ago. I did a marathon last year but it wasn't an official time as I didn't technically have an official entry - I clocked in at 2hr 33min though. My max heart rate is something around 189 and I'm unsure as to my resting pulse, something around 50.  
 
05.08.15 Jonathan 9

How do you combine/schedule your training to accommodate preparation for both OCR & Skyrunning events?

I train for an all round fitness trying to be the fittest human I can be. This means if I am racing fit for an OCR I should also be for a skyrace, or many different types of races for that matter. I run hill and mountains as part of my everyday training anyway so there isn't really anything to change. 
 
 
Are there many similarities between the two types of sports?

Running in a skyrace and an obstacle race are very similar in my opinion: it's a full on battle from start to finish and afterwards you feel as if you have been dragged through a bush backwards.  What I prefer about skyracing is that the challenge is a lot more natural and epic, less human built - some obstacle races can get a bit gimmicky which can hide the fact it is a great sport. The time cutoffs in skyraces also make just finishing a massive achievement which I like. 

05.08.15 Jonathan 5
 
The future: Will this amazing result in the Tromsø have any effect on your training schedule? At present you have no more sky/trail racing events planned for this year! 
Will you be changing any plans?

At the moment I have no idea. I would love to do at least one more this year but it all depends on how things pan out. Skyracing is a lot of fun and it would be a shame if I have to wait till next season to do another. I do think that there wouldn't be too much point me targeting a shorter race though, as I feel I am much more suited to longer events and enjoy them more. I will have to have a look at my calendar as well as the skyracing ultra calendar.

 
I enjoyed reading about your Dolomites SkyRace experience: What did you learn from this race? Can you account for your result at the Tromsø Skyrace by getting things right this time, or was it just that the conditions (race circuit, climate, technical side) suited your style more?

I certainly learnt an important lesson about fuel when I did Dolomites. I was super strict on gel consumption and water intake during Tromsø which was key - I really screwed that up in Dolomites. The conditions and type  of terrain also suited me more in Tromsø. We were practically racing at sea level so elevation wasn't an issue and not having to deal with heat or the sun was nice - living in Bergen (Norway) running in rain and clouds is second nature. Dolomites also kick started my need to practice hiking in races. I neglect pushing myself to hike in training which is a necessary skill in this type of racing. 

You can read Jonathan's personal race report here