Training and Kit Advice from an Obstacle Race World Champion - Jon Albon
As a 5 X OCR World Champion and the current World Trail Running and Ultra Skyrunning World Champion, Jonathan Albon knows how to prepare for an event! Tom Wheatley from Get Sweat Go spoke to dryrobe ambassador Jon about his training routine and kit bag essentials as part of their Checklist series.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a 30-year-old runner and dryrobe brand ambassador, originally from Essex in the UK, but now living in Bergen, Norway. I say runner because I am known to take part in any events ranging from your muddiest obstacle race, to road marathons, to knife edge ridge mountain races.
I have been running since I was 20 and have been professionally competing in obstacle course racing and skyrunning for the past 5 years.
Do you work with any brands?
I'm currently supported by VJ Sport, Gore Wear, Clif Bar and dryrobe.
What projects are you currently working on?
At present I am in a mid-season training period preparing for the final races of the year. Until these are done, I try to think less about personal projects, simply trying to get myself in the best racing shape possible.
What was the last thing you trained for?
This season I won the ITRA Trail Running World Championships, completed my four required races for the Skyrunning World Series - finishing 3rd in Japan, 4th in the Gran Canarias, 2nd in the Pyrenees and winning in Norway.
I have also competed in two obstacle course races: the OCR Series World Final and the Spartan European Championships, both of which I won.
What kind of schedule/program do you follow?
My summer and winter training are vastly different. In the winter I mainly ski, accumulating up to 15,000m of elevation gain a week. In the summer I mainly run and cycle accumulating an average of 4,000m elevation gain each week.
I don’t have a strict training plan but have a training philosophy which determines the sessions I do week by week, normally amounting to two or three key sessions a week and the rest being easy mid zone one heartrate training.
Year-round I like to go bouldering and climbing which is great strength training for obstacle course racing and results in a more rounded fitness.
In the three weeks before a big race I will start to tailor my training to that race, mimicking the intensity and terrain I am likely to encounter.
How do you evaluate your performance of a training session?
This would vary drastically between the different types of sessions and what I'm training for. If it is a long slow session, I can look at my speed in comparison to how low I can keep my heartrate. In faster sessions I can do the same and compare my times to previous sessions to see if I am getting faster. I log all my cardio on Strava, so can use all the available data to evaluate what fitness I have.
At present I am preparing for two big obstacle races, the Spartan World Championships in the USA and the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships in the UK. In addition to these I am training for the Skyrunning World Series Final in Italy and the Mountain Running World Championships in Argentina.
What do you think will be the next big movements in health and fitness?
On a health side I would like to see people concentrate on training towards both fitness and health as opposed to just getting very good at one specific sport. Most sports these days require specialization which, although amazing to see, doesn’t always result in a healthy overall profile; I’d like to see people develop fitness that truly reflects human evolution.
I would also hope that the era of fad diets and drastic approaches to lifestyle ends. If we are to make changes to the world, I don’t think going cold turkey is the way, because it isn’t sustainable. For example, instead of cutting meat out totally, people should just try to reduce their consumption. The same with processed foods; try to reduce the amount you have but don’t cut them out completely only to fall off the wagon a few weeks down the line.
In training I can see that a wearable lactate measuring device could change how we train. Using power or heartrate gives a good indication but has many flaws. To be able to accurately see your lactate levels second by second will make training far easier to control, with clearer indications if you should be pushing harder, doing more or backing off. Lactic acid is one of the biggest limiters to performance so monitoring it accurately could result in big steps.
What are the key items in your kit bag?
A waterproof and windproof changing robe that allows you to change clothes and dry off the second you’re done training. Post exercise it’s invaluable; the sooner you are warm and fed the sooner you recover. It’s innovative lining draws water away from the skin into the pile of the fabric, to preserve your energy and help regulate core body temperature.
It’s incredibly versatile with a two-way inner/outer zip mechanism and the fleece lined pockets certainly keep you feeling snug!
Garmin Forerunner 945
This is one of Garmin’s latest GPS watches. Developments for GPS watches have been trickling, but this watch finally offers topographic maps for navigation on a small lightweight device that also records and shows all the usual data.
My philosophy with food is to eat less processed food. On long training trips it can be a nuisance to bring actual food with you. Clif bar offer one of the best solutions where they have stuck the food I need into a bar shape to make it easier to eat, with less chemicals and processing as compared to other energy bars.
Moonlight make easy to use, simple headlamps which are amazingly powerful for their weight. I have found that many headlamps stop delivering the advertised number of lumens after just a few seconds of being on. Moonlight guarantee every lumen for the entire battery cycle and have lamps ranging from 700 lumens to over 10,000.
Gore Shakedry Jacket
A nice light waterproof jacket option. With the Gore-Tex membrane being on the outside of the jacket, water beads off indefinitely. So, after every run you simply shake the jacket and the water falls off; kind of seems like magic the first time you see it!
VJ Sport Shoes
Maxx for long, XTRM for technical and Irock for muddy conditions. VJ make the best off (and on) trail trainers for many reasons but my favourite is how grippy their rubber is… especially on wet rock. When on a knife edge ridge, at times it is this rubber that is keeping me alive.
What apparel do you use?
I like Gore clothing because the designers think about quality, simplicity and function first. So, all the apparel works perfectly, doesn’t have extra bells and whistles which add weight and fits really well.
What one item of your gear would you implore someone else to use?
I pride myself on only working with sponsors that make equipment I myself would buy or would recommend to my closest friends to buy. If the companies that produce the best gear (like dryrobe and Garmin) don’t want to sponsor me then instead of using inferior equipment I purchase their products myself. This means I have total faith that any equipment I am seen to use I would recommend others use…because it is the best.
Where’s the best place you’ve trained or competed?
Where I am based currently, in Bergen, is an amazing place to train. It has the perks of a big city (great gyms, bouldering centers, coffee shops and an airport) as well as mountains that offer 600m of climb just 3km from the city centre. In addition to this there are some world class athletes that live here who inspire me to get better.
What’s the exercise you hate doing the most?
Hate is a strong word but I am not a fan of swimming. For one I am not very good at it; swimming in dark lakes alone I find scary and swimming in the pool is frustrating and boring. Quite often if I head for a swim it is because I can reward myself with a sauna afterwards.
What’s your ultimate workout song?
I never listen to music when I train…so the sound of nature I guess…
How many push-ups can you do in one go?
I haven’t done a push up in a long time, I used to be able to do all of bring sally up with push-ups pretty easily though.
If you could compete/train anywhere in the world where would it be?
The West coast of Norway
Who’s your fitness/sporting hero?
I’ve never had one. This way I won’t be disappointed when they are caught doping, or limit my ability comparing myself to their achievements. In the past years though, I can’t help but be in awe of Kilian Jornet.
Is there any sport you’re really bad at?
Swimming…bad being I can crawl but not faster than a 30-minute 1,500m.
What’s your favourite post-competition/challenge meal?
Wagamamas. This is one of the things I miss most about living in the UK.
Check out Jon’s top 5 tips for improving your running
Facebook: Jonathan Albon
This article originally appeared on Get Sweat Go, September 20, 2019.