Salomon Advanced Week

Hiding out from the Gripmaster's camera before testing gear.

I have often wondered what professional athletes in other sports feel like. Wondered how they spent their days (training, duh!) and wondered how different my life would be if I only had to run to pay the bills. I also wonder what it would be like to own my own bakery/cafe or write a book, as I tend to be a day dreamer. While the latter may not be something I see come to fruition in the near future, last week I got to have a glimpse into the life as a runner. Just a runner.

Prototype shoe testing. Pictures of new shoes not allowed!

Last week, my amazing sponsor Salomon flew me out to France to be a part of their Advanced Week. There I joined over 30 other Salomon trail running elites from around the world, including 3 other Americans, for a week of product testing, running, interviews, photo shoots and video shoots. I left San Francisco on Saturday the 13th and flew to Marseilles, France by way of Paris. Then I was scooped up and driven to a small town called Bedoin which is less than 30km from the top of Mont Ventoux.  We spent the first few days trying out shoes, clothing and gear. I am "blessed" to have a sample size foot and got to spend a morning doing 10 minute repeats in prototype shoes. You get to know the feel of a shoe very quickly when you are sprinting to keep up with some of the fastest men on trail in the world.

Fast guys. Blinding speed, blinding white clothing.
I tried to keep up.

Our days were spent running multiple times, eating at the hotel restaurant and getting to know our worldwide Salomon teammates. After the first three days of testing, running, photo shoots, etc we were all looking forward to a big group run up to the top of Mont Ventoux. The top of Mont Ventoux, AKA bald mountain AKA the hardest stage in the Tour De France is still covered in snow and apparently has wind speeds of at least 56mph 240 days out of the year. Sounds about right having experienced it.

 Salomon Crew before heading up Mont Ventoux

One of the things I had to be really good about during Salomon Advanced Week was monitoring myself and keeping myself reined in. I am in taper for Lake Sonoma 50 miler this Saturday and American River soon thereafter. I couldn't afford to let my ego take hold and try to keep up. I could have but it wasn't the right decision. I had to eat a good portion of humble pie over the week and watch everyone hammer out their runs and get pretty competitive with one another, in a good way of course. I felt good about my paces for the week and successfully navigated the situation. Our run up Mont Ventoux was an absolute blast. Especially considering the distance we were doing to go so close to Lake Sonoma (10 days out), I went really conservative up the mountain, took lots of pictures and think I managed to be one of the few people without sore legs the next day. After hanging with the main group for the first few miles, Jen Segger, Caitlin Smith and I went the rest of the way up and back together and it truly was an adventure navigating up the mountain. We hit scree, huge steep snow fields and some crazy, crazy wind at the top.

Seriously steep snowy climb
Coats on! The wind made it frigid up there!

The run was a blast. We covered about 40k and did about 6,000 feet of climbing. All in all, Salomon Advanced Week was a true taste of living the life. We ran, we ate, we rested, we talked about products and how to make them better, we tested, we did photoshoots. Sometimes it felt like work, sometimes it felt like play. I was happy to get home, I was happy to have the experience. I think the coolest thing is knowing that Salomon is working really hard to create products that are beneficial for us and meet our needs. They are listening, developing and working on doing great things in the sport and it was really cool to be a part of that.