Athlete of the Month, November 2016 - Paul Fomalant

Cyclist posing for a photo on a mountain
November 29, 2016

D3 Staff



With a sub three hour Nice, France marathon finish, it’s a pleasure to turn the spotlight on Switzerland based D3 athlete Paul Fomalont! Coach Jim nominated Paul not only for his 2:58 finish, but for his total commitment to his training plan.

Coach Jim recognizes that Paul is naturally talented as an endurance athlete, but when he set his goal to break three hours in a marathon, he knew Paul would have to focus on two aspects of his training. He needed to add intensity training so that he could improve his speed in addition to the volume training which he enjoys. In doing so, Paul had to adapt to some new workouts. Jim said Paul was very focused on the workouts, and he could see the progress Paul was making as he was adapting to the changes.

Paul trusted his coach, followed through with his training and as a result – he met his goal!

Enjoy his Q&A:

1. You set an aggressive time goal for yourself in the Nice, France marathon. What inspired you to want to break 3 hours?

I have tried to do one marathon every year. I have watched my times move down with each attempt. My first marathon I ran was 3:30. A few years later I was at 3:15. Two years ago I did 3:05. I felt that a sub 3 hour marathon was in reach. This spring, in our local race series, I was running faster than I ever had. I remember writing Jim in the spring and telling him that it was time to go for a sub 3 hour marathon in the fall. I also admit that after running Nice in 2014, I wanted to go back this year after the tragedy this summer. I know that running a marathon is a strange gesture but it was meaningful to me to put forth my best effort as a way of honoring the spirit of life.

2. You live in a beautiful part of the world, a place most of us would love to train. Describe your favorite training routes/venues (swim, bike or run).

I really feel guilty telling people about where I live because it is so incredible. I am in a small mountain ski town of 3000 people at 5000 feet in Switzerland called Leysin (pronounced Lay-san.) It is in the French speaking part of Switzerland on the east side of Lake Geneva. Mountains are the name of the game and the bike climbs are amazing. After work I have access to 5 small cols, (4 – 8 km climbs) and do any number of these depending on time and energy. If I go just slightly farther (3 – 8 hour rides) there are several to mega long climbs (10 – 25 km!) which to choose and string together. The incredible luxury is that the Swiss trains are super bike friendly. I will go for a 200 km ride and then just hop on the train and it takes me right back to Leysin. The running is great too, though it is exclusively steep up and down. The most amazing part is, if I tire of the hills, I can go down to the Rhone valley (20 minute train ride) and run and bike on absolutely flat terrain. The Tour de Lac (ride around Lake Geneva) is 210 km and totally flat. We have a swimming pool in town and I mostly swim train there but sometimes I go swim in Lake Geneva. The water is so clear and clean you can drink from it. Leysin is a triathletes dream.

3. In addition to being a marathon finisher, you are an Ironman! What are some takeaways from Ironman training that you adopted for your marathon training. Workouts, fueling, strategy – anything along those lines.

Racing Ironmans has been a very humbling experience. I have always been used to just going as hard as I can to the end of the race. That doesn’t work for an Ironman or a marathon. I have really enjoyed the challenge of having a plan and a strategy and the patience and mental fortitude to implement it. I always knew that I could do an Ironman but I really want to do one fast. While I have been happy with my results, I still am not satisfied and do not think that I have yet run a really good race. The Nice marathon was really a breakthrough of me. It was the first time that I have trained so intentionally and then raced according to the plan. It has taken several years but I finally have listened to Jim’s advice and that is quality over volume. I think that has made the difference but it was really hard of me to let go of a 250 km bike ride in lieu of a 3 hour ride at Ironman pace on the weekend. Decreasing my junk miles and do a lot more intensity training was the key for the success at the marathon. It is one of those things I never really thought it was true, but now that I have tried it and seen the results I am a believer.

4. What was a favorite speed workout Coach Jim had you do?

By far my favorite workout is a 50 minute run with a set of 8 times 30 second uphill sprints. There is a long steep hill up to a big hotel and I warm up by running over there. The road has light posts on it and I always try to get to the fourth post in the 30 seconds. To get to that post requires a super human effort that I practically blackout on each attempt. On a good set I might make it 3 times (my record) but every time I am absolutely obsessed with getting there. It is so silly but it is such a fun workout for me and it leaves me destroyed every time. The skiing photo, while nothing to do with his favorite workout, is a good example of his cross-training.

5. D3 stands for Desire, Determination and Discipline – which is your favorite and why.

I have Desire and Determination in an abundant supply but Discipline is my favorite part of D3 and my weakness. Honestly it is why I started using a coach. As I said before it is not about surviving these races for me, it is about becoming fast. It is incredible the wealth of knowledge about performance that exists. A good coach can really formulate the right program that will get you there. Also the need to be Disciplined in long distance racing by following your heart rate, power, pacing, nutrition, etc… is such a huge key to success and just makes the game that much more fun. I have really appreciated Jim’s help. He is very no non-sense and tells it like it is to me. He has been pivotal in helping me develop the Discipline that I have needed to have had continued improvement in my racing.

Congratulations, Paul. We look forward to seeing your results in 2017.

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