Catalan athlete Kilian Jornet has long since been regarded as the worlds greatest endurance athlete. A while back he ran up Mount Everest, twice in a week, which opened the eyes of world to his amazing life. Over the years I've worked with Kilian several times, and here he chats about his preparation and training.
Simply and accurately put Kilian Jornet is the man who put the “cool” into trail running. Growing up on the slopes of the Spanish Pyrenees he has been at one with the rugged mountains ever since he could walk, and by the age of 3 he had already summited his first 3,000-meter peak.
When it comes to mountain sports this man has talent to burn, and he has achieved more success in the wilds than almost any other athlete. From Skyrunning world titles to epic multi day trans mountain rage and summit record setting and a string of ski mountaineering titles, he’s done the lot.
To see him dancing with the rocks is a site to behold, he is a man born to run, or at least to run wild.
We catch up with this super powered mountain goat of a man to learn more about his powers and approach to those epic trail runs,
ST; How do you plan your training ? Is it based around natural feel and methods or do you take a more scientific approach ? And when do you decide to that you need to rest?
KJ; I don’t really plan my training at all. I do itin a natural way, doing what I feel and have learned works best for me, and what suits my overall goals.
I rest when my body demands it as well. Over the years I’ve learned to base everything on my feelings and klnowledge of myself, it’s all done this way for me.
ST; What kind of training and volume do you do in an average mid-season training week?
KJ; It does vary, depending on how I feel. But on average I do between 20-35 hours of volume of high volume (high intenseity) in training each week.
I usually do this in two daily sessions, which can be anywhere from 2-7 hours each. During the running season of this 80% is running off road, and 20% is done by road cycling.
ST; How do you asses and decide on what shoes and equipment to use for the differng terrain?
KJ; I rely on my sponsors (Salomon), who help to provide me with the equipment I need for the job. We work together on the build up process, so that they can create shoes that are well adapted to my needs. I may have 2-3 pairs of shoes with me at each event, and will chose which to use based on the weather and trail conditions on the day. Overall I like to go with very lightweight shoes, carrying less makes a big differnece over hilly terrain and long distances.
ST; When it comes to nutrition - what are your basic theories and approach ? Do you eat a lot in the build up to a race and during heavy training - and what about keeping fueled out on the trail?
KJ; No not really, I don’t tend to stock up on carbos or even think about diet too much. I’m not a good example when it comes to nutrition, as I eat what I feel like and when I want to. However, it’s true that I train a lot and therefore everything is burnt very fast, so I can get away with it more than most!
On long runs or in events I usually carry a couple of gels, and drink from water stations, or from clean streams in the mountains when I am training – then I do not need to carry much with me.
After a long run or race I do take a Compex protein drink to help speed up my recovery.
ST; Climbing - I see you use your hands when climbing steeply (like in the Kinabalu Climbathon). What other aspects do you focus on for your climbing?
KJ; Unfortunately I’m not a very good climber, but I do try to train this side, as it’s very helpful in some races - like Kinabalu!
Using the hands to push down on my knees does help. It utilises the upper body as well when it’s very steep, and it also stops your arms swinging around, it harnesses more full body power.
ST ; When it comes to descending, especially on trick ground you’re hard to match. How would you describe your descending style, you are very fast, and free flowing?
KJ ; Yes the descents are always the strongest point for me, I think it comes from having spent so much time running on this kind of terrain – which you cannot replicate in a city.
To imporve your descending you do need to head to the mountains and just run and learn, staying relaxed, keeping steps quite short, and your boiodyweight forward a little – not too far back (even if it feels more natural), as it can cause you to fall, and not too far forward as it can speed you up too much,
I look at it as if it were a game, a dance with the rocks, keeping it light and focussed on a smooth overall line..
ST; On rocks and roots how do you handle these trail obstacles, stay safe but also fast?
KJ ; You have to watch your feet. But also it’s always good if you were there before and you did a good review of the terrain so that it’s easier to recognize difficult spots.
These conditions can easilly cause injuries, so always stay light and safe.
Probably because I’ve been used to this since I was a kid this technical terraing feels natural to me.
ST; How do you manage to avoid injury?
KJI’ve been competing for a long time now, and before that I used to be in the mountains all of the time, so I know well my body and I know when I don’t have to push harder and risk injury of stress.
At the end of the day what’s important is to know yourself and know when to stop, and not to push beyond that limit too much.
ST : Unlike a track athlete you tend to encounter extreme diversity in both trail and climatic conditions, everything from 5,000 meter snow covered peaks to graded rock climbs, to deserts, and to the stepped jungle trials of Mount Kinabalu – how do you handle such diversity ?
KJ; I like versatility and the fact to be able to run different races in different places. I work better with cold and wet conditions, but in warm conditions I try to get hydrated as much as possible and try to measure my efforts more.
Once again it’s about self-knowledge, which can only be gained through experience and trial and error, and learning from these experiences.