In search of performance, our R&D team headed to the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) race course with On athletes and long-time brand ambassadors to test out our latest breakthrough innovations. Using the Alps as the ultimate playground, the team geared up and set out with one goal in mind: to put the tech to the test.
“We work with athletes on product development. The goal is to develop customized shoes for them if needed and discuss their feedback, ultimately improving our trail running shoes in the process. By using athlete feedback, we gain valuable, on-the-ground insights into the different ways that we can optimze our products.”
– On Sports Science Lead, Kevin Dellion
The UTMB might not have taken place this summer with the recent restrictions, but that didn’t stop our team from doing their own, solo, mixed-relay version. The 168km course with 10,000m of elevation gain circles the picturesque Mont Blanc.
The team included long-time brand ambassadors, Marine Chalaye and Emmanuel Gault, and two new On athletes, Marion Delespierre and Antoine Charvolin. The group split the race course into four sections and set off on the first ever On Tour Mont Blanc (TMB) Challenge.
The relay took 20 hours and 55 minutes, meaning our trail athletes and gear were working overtime to get the job done. So what did our R&D team uncover?
“We collect the lab data beforehand, but then we need to go out and have athletes run in the shoe to really test the behavior. When it comes to long distance trail running, there is the change in forefoot volume to consider with lots of time spent in the shoe at different altitudes.
"The cushioning and absorption are also important elements to test. We’re always working on ways to maximize comfort over long distances by enhancing and re-engineering the Cloud element sole. CloudTec® absorbs the shock of the heel strike, ensuring full impact protection.”
We spend lots of time in the lab conceptualizing new ways to improve athlete and product performance, so it’s great when we can get out in the mountains for the real test.
Recently, two new trail athletes have joined team On…
We caught up with Marion and Antoine to find out how the test-race weekend in the Alps went.
On: How did you prepare for the TMB Challenge?
Marion: I do a lot of my training in the mountains to work on different heights. I run, of course, but also bike for extra cross-training. Using the equipment and testing foods that work well with your body prior to a race is also a good way to prepare. After that, you need a great logistics team.
Antoine: From a physical point of view, you have to be able to run that long first. So, when I’m training it’s at similar length and on a similar terrain. You have to become accustomed to the repetitive shocks. But a lot of it comes down to the logistics: preparing the route, refreshment points, having a team behind you.
What factor does nutrition play for you in completing a long-distance race like this?
M: Eating foods that compliment and fuel your body before hand is a huge advantage on race day. I also try to eat regular, small amounts during the race that give me energy but are easy to digest.
A: Running for such a long time, it’s super important to not get hungry. Personally, I eat every 40 minutes and hydrate each hour with 500ml of water plus added mineral salts.
How did the relay go for you?
M: I was super excited to start this adventure! I got lost twice during the night, which made me a bit nervous because I wanted to do the best for the team. I had a lot of fun during my section – it was great to be cheered on by friends.
A: I really enjoyed having team mates at the pitstops through the night. I didn’t get much sleep, but once I started I had a great time. The beautiful landscapes and running these trails – there really is nothing quite like it.
With so many races canceled, what does it mean to you to be able to do the TMB this year?
M: Doing the TMB this year kept my motivation on track – I hope to do this race alone one day. Sharing it with the team this year will give me wonderful memories and strength to look back on when I’m able to do it alone.
A: We completed a route that would normally take ten days in less than 24 hours. It was a very busy and exhausting day, but one to remember.
How does it feel to be included in the process of helping On develop new products?
M: I love working with a team who I’m able to give real-time feedback to. Because of my work as a doctor, I take injury prevention very seriously, so I really like to have a protective and high-comfort shoe to run in.
A: For me the product development is one of the most interesting aspects of being an On athlete. I am also an engineering student and want to work in the design of a sports equipment, so putting the gear to the test, thinking of how to improve and seeing a big impact with small changes is what I love.
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