Balancing the hours

Having a young family brings huge joy to my life, alongside bouts of sleep deprivation and tests of patience. A bit like ultra endurance events then! Finding the time to get the miles in can be a significant challenge alongside the demands of work and family life, however there are some tried and tested methods that can help keep all needs balanced. Here is my 5 point guide that follows a few years of trying to have my cake and eat it:

1.  Be efficient- this is blindingly obvious but perhaps it’s worth pointing out some little things:

a) Have kit ready to go and try to multi-task with warm-ups/stretching etc. My 4 year-old loves doing active stretches with me and I count this as teaching her good habits.

b) Make each workout count.  You’ll find lots out there on this, and it’s something that I learned from having a coach and training with power on the bike- avoid junk miles. Every minute of training should count; a power meter on the bike and pace/HR running help to focus in and get the most out of a workout. Add in a coached training plan and you’ll be squeezing every last drop from your precious training time. Don’t think this means hammering every session, recovery runs and rides are just as important as the hard stuff.

c) Time on your feet. Perhaps like me, you have a garden to look after in the summer and snow to clear in the winter, all of which can extend a workout beyond the allotted time. This summer we are DIY landscaping our garden, so I’ve cut back the running hours and count the time digging as training- it’s all time on your feet after all.

d) The good old “Meet you there.” This involves using the lost time spent travelling (usually during the kids nap time) to either run or bike, the goal being to meet ones partner/family at the other end. I can’t believe that any endurance athlete with a family is not already doing this. Once a week my family and I usually head to the Rhone Valley to the bigger towns for some shopping, and it almost always involves me or my wife running one way or the other. It helps that this involves 900m of vertical ascent on the way home!

2.  Take them with you. On the bike this might mean a trailer, something I never really got on with; although I can see it’s perfectly good training pulling the kids along, I can’t help but miss the feeling of speed and flow that normally accompanies riding bikes. Running is harder, although my wife often takes our 4 year old to the local jogging loop trying to do intervals around her. The downside to this is the unpredictable tantrum that can bring the session to a rapid end!

One of the few times I have been caught training with a bike trailer. Works for some, less so for me.


3.  Early doors. Get up and out before everyone else, ready to spend the day at work or with family. Sometimes this is the only way to meet training goals- just be prepared to want to go to bed by 9pm every night.

4.  The evening or night run. Good to practise running with a head torch, and no lost hours with the kids. Except the next day when you pass out in front of the TV.

5.  Adopt a holiday ‘training camp’ mentality, pushing fitness on in time off whilst looking to maintain/not lose too much when work gets intense. Sounds good? Don’t forget to invest in family time as well, the goal here is balance after all!

I am incredibly lucky to have a supportive family, and a job that has great blocks of holiday as well as a philosophy of embracing challenge. By no means do I take this for granted, and therefore try to repay my wife the same space and time for her own goals, a simple equation of fairness. I also try to use my own endurance adventures to inspire those I teach, using personal experiences to educate about goal-setting, challenge and what is possible if you are willing to put some effort in.

The bottom line is: it’s all possible, providing you are willing to make it work and do your best to give back any time you take. If you want those around you to support your hours of training, it can only come through supporting them in every way you can.

Postscript: For a great read on obsession and relationships, check out Andy Kirkpatrick’s superb post that rams home the need for getting this right.

Ultra recovery

After the learning curve of preparing for and racing my first ultra, the last week has been learning about ultra recovery. After a fair bit of reading, I chose to stick to ‘the rules’ laid out in the post on the topic, going for 1 day off running for every 10km raced given that this was a big vertical ultra. The first 24 hours after the X-Alpine were pretty stiff, with swollen feet and ankles and obvious dehydration, but I was surprised at just how good I felt after just one day. “Respect the recovery” was high in my mind, so it was feet up and short dog walks at the start and end of the day to stretch out.

By Friday, 5 days after the X-Alpine I could not resist the sun coming out, so took the MTB out for a whirl on the new flow trail that was opened this year in Gryon, the next village along from where we live. The Villars-Gryon ski resort is about a decade behind the times when it comes to lift served mountain biking in the summer, so this trail is most welcome and offers fun for all the family (Our 3 year old has even had a crack at sections of it on a balance bike). I was surprised at how much 3 laps took out of me, and in hindsight the whole body nature of fast DH mountain biking was probably a bit too much too soon.

Subsequently, one week on from the race I was now feeling worse than 48 hours after, with the quote: “Trail ultra recovery is an inch deep but a mile wide” stuck in my mind. A few cold beers and some family payback time after hours alone in the mountains soon sorted me out, and this week it’s been more MTB fun, culminating in a day of celebrating cycling.

Ice cream break in the velodrome
Road closed below, trails definitely open above

Today saw stage 17 of the Tour de France pass through our neck of the woods, and after much deliberation about where to go, we decided to focus on the kids and not have them out on the baking hot roadside for too long. I dug out the knee pads and MTB and headed down to the Rhone Valley via my favourite forest trails, met my wife Cat in Ollon and then just caught the caravan coming through as the kids woke up from their nap. Rather than sit around, we then zoomed through the back roads to grab an ice cream at the UCI HQ in Aigle, where they are currently hosting the junior world track championships. After a couple of qualification rounds of the team pursuit (exhilarating to watch trackside) off we went back to Ollon, our 1 year old’s lolly still dripping everywhere, to see the break, and then the peloton roll through. Having been to many bike races in the past I know the best place to watch is usually the TV, so we legged it back up the mountain to catch the finishing climbs.

Stannard peeling off after a turn in the Rhone Valley

Tomorrow will be a run; 11 days out of trainers has hopefully left me well recovered, the next step is a gradual rebuild to full mileage over 2 weeks. The rest has certainly left me itching for more, and with the weight now dropping off I’m hoping to go better in the Ultratrail du Barlatay.

Kit Review:

Canfield Brothers ‘The One’ MTB.

She’s the one

I built this bike in the Autumn of 2014, as the ‘last of the 26″ chargers’. In a way, I was 6 months ahead of my time in trying to build a bike that could handle burly alpine DH yet still pedal back up- the current crop of enduro bikes will handle the downs and destroy this bike on the ups in terms of weight. That said, this bike sports 203mm of coil sprung rear travel, with a single crown 180mm FOX Float fork up front allowing it to suck up the big hits and rocky sections. It really is a dream to ride, long and slack, and with a bit of a diet and a oneup 42 tooth cog on the rear it climbs pretty well for a 15kg monster truck. Canfield Brothers have a sterling reputation and they were amazing to deal with in terms of the purchase and shipping. Their current Riot 29er looks like a great bike and one I would consider if looking to buy now. Overall ‘The One’ has been a cracking project and inspires me to ride bigger and jump higher (still not that far), but in reality it’s just too much bike for long alpine climbs where I find myself wishing for a carbon enduro rig!


I love riding bikes. I love the speed of travelling and the freedom it brings; on the road bike I feel like I was born to turn over pedals, on the mountain bike I find my flow.

Nevertheless, there is a beautiful simplicity to running, and doing so solo in big mountains is a unique feeling; embracing the climb, the loneliness and becoming self-reliant once again.

This autumn I rediscovered a lost feeling, and now it’s time to keep the momentum going.