The first snow fell in the village yesterday (Fri 9th). There is snow right down to the Arve valley, so it’s looking very wintery at the moment. It’s also pretty cold!hopefully this is an indication of a good winter to come?!
- Off Piste3
- On Trek Reports11
- Piste Condition9
- Trail Running17
- Ultra Running1
Run with pride and with humility. The before is the hardest part. Once you get to the start line it is simple, all you have to do is run. There will be times that are hard, times when you feel you cannot go on, times when you forget everything but getting to the next checkpoint. There will be moments of camaraderie with your supporters and fellow competitors, and moments of feeling entirely alone. Focus and determination; wherever the race ends for you, it will be a special experience. Savour every moment and realize the privilege of journeying through such a wonderful mountain environment with such incredible support and encouragement.
A quote on the North face site about the race that couldn’t be more accurate.
Over a years worth of training was now behind me as I stood in front of the town hall in the centre of Courmayeur with 1600 other runners, and thousands of noisy spectators. The atmosphere was so exciting all the tension of the last few hours drifted away. 12:30 arrived and we were off – the crowd, music, cheers and general commotion so loud that the only way most of us nearer the back knew that we where underway was the surge forward as the front runners shot off!
The noise in the narrow streets of Courmayeur was deafening – cow bells, the noisy crowd shouting and whistling, the echoes of thousands of feet running and the tap of ski poles on the tarmac. It takes a lot of concentration as I weave through runners, some running, some waving ski poles some jogging, but soon the town is left behind and we start the climb into the mountains.
The pack is still thick as we climb but I slowly make my way forward. Above the tree line the course levels out and the runners thin out a little. The view is breathtaking with the southern flank of the Mt Blanc Massif to my left, ahead a thin stream of runners stretching into the distance. A continuously varied trail ensures that the time flies past, in and out of trees, over streams, traversing round the mountainside. I always try to pass slower runners but it is difficult on the narrow and busy trails.
Arnuva checkpoint, at the bottom of the big climb to the Grand Col Ferret soon arrives. We all wear 2 timing chips on our wrists and these are scanned here, and at all the other checkpoints. Times are sent back to the organisers, the web-site, and our followers get a text message to say where we are and at what time. There is a daunting selection of food, enough to always find something you fancy, but the main problem is indecision! I discover the soup is easy to digest, and it’s probably this at each rest stop that keeps me going.
I enjoy the big climb to the highest point of the course, we are really in the high mountains here. It is taken at a fast walking pace, pushing with poles as well as legs. I find that I am working my way past people as I climb. In fact I later discover that I’ve gained 73 places since the first check point.
Passing over the Col Ferret at 2,537 m I cross from Italy into Switzerland, some 21 km and 4¼ hours from the start. I was overjoyed to have got here as I set off on the long 22 km descent that lay ahead of me.
The descent was fast and exhilarating along a good trail, the scenery spectacular when I had the chance to look up! It soon gets steeper and more exciting and I hear someone shout ‘Attention Gazelle’ as I fly past! Now on forest trails and roads, I often run carrying my poles, I hate the ‘tap tap tap’ on the tarmac and it jars my arms! It takes just over an hour to get to Le Fouly refreshment stop, 10 km and 1,000 m lower.
Two hours later just before 8:00 pm, after a 500 m climb I arrive at Champex Lac to the shouts of “Allez Simon!”. Tracey & Joe and our friend Sarah with Leon were waiting for me by the food tent. The choice of food is amazing; Cold meats, cheese, soup, pasta, biscuits, fruit! So much choice, but what can I digest? Can I eat enough to keep me going, or will I get cramps if I eat too much?
Into the night
Changed into leggings and long top I set off into the dusk out of Champex. It was hard turning round and leaving Tracey & Joe to head out into the night with a full mountain marathon still to run.
As the sun set and it got dark head torches came on all around. Little pools of light snaking away into the night. I had one on my head and one on my chest to pick out my feet. I hear what sounds like something flying off and landing on the ground, stop, look back and there is my wrist band with the 2 timing chips lying on the ground. I’m unsure of what to do in my tired state, but I am aware that effectively this could be the end of my run, because technically I’m out of the race if the band is removed. This was to play on my mind the whole way on from this point.
The big climb to Bovine brings new problems. I feel suddenly starving. or is it stomach cramps? I’m slowed down to a plod, following the line of headlamps up the imposing dark mountain. Doubts set in; will I run out of energy; could this be my limit already at 54 km? Reaching the top of the climb I’m feeling better, a beautiful moon rise over Mt Blanc lifting my spirits, as I grab a bowl of soup at the desolate Bovine drink stop – on the top of a mountain.
It’s 10:30 at night and a little chilly now so I put on a light wind proof, a scarf and gloves. From this lofty point the lights of Martigny way below in the valley are visible as I start my long descent. Through the trees it’s really dark and tricky to spot the roots, rocks and little drops, so my speed is not fast but I still pass the odd runner.
11:30 pm and there is still a warm welcome at Trient. I refill my water pack and try to eat as much as I can before heading out for the last big climb. My spirits are raised getting a text from Tracey – ‘Congratulations on getting to Trient in 304th place’! A few minutes later I’m feeling very down again as the stomach problems return with vengeance. I’m reduced to a slow plod, many people are passing me now, and I even have to stop to force down an energy gel and bar.
The trail soon starts cutting back across the hillside and it’s much less steep. I start to feel a bit better and pick up the pace, sometimes running, others walking as the trail traversed around the mountain side. To my right, way below the lights of the Vallorcine valley.
The trail starts to drop down hill. I’m picking my way along this track as fast as I can, zigzagging down the hairpins, running all alone now. At times I stop to check I’m still on course. I’m in a strange emotional state. Exhilarated running through deserted mountains alone in a small bubble of light. Waves of emotion well up and almost bring me to tears. It’s the combination of the total concentration and exertion for over 12 hours at almost maximum effort, relief to have managed the last big climb and the joy of the run.
The Last Painful Km’s
At Vallorcine I patch up a big heel blister, and more on my hands and take more soup before setting off for the last 16 km at 2:45 am. I’m feeling stronger and make good progress up the gentle hill to the Col des Montets. The downhill to follow starts to get hard – my legs are finding it difficult resisting gravity, and my heel blister hurts as I step down.
Argentière passes and it’s the final push, through the woods above the south of the valley, running, walking at a good pace following a small group. I foolishly pick up the pace to follow a pair overtaking us and am soon left alone, struggling in the darkness. Down from Lavencher it’s pitch black – there are no lights from the valley and the steep hill is hard going. Alone with my own thoughts the pain of my feet creeps in, the pain in my shoulder from carrying the rucksack gets worse, I notice the ache in my hip joints. The hill seems to go on for ever.
Eventually the hill does end, the bright lights of Chamonix are just ahead. I feel like I’m barely moving, almost hobbling, people keep passing me. Into the main streets of Chamonix – running now between gates set up to keep a clear passage through town. At 5:30 in the morning they are not needed! I’m running, I’m determined to cross the line running as I turn into Place Balmat the last 50 meters to the line – the huge arch, bright lights plenty of people, the finish. I cross 17 hours, 8 minutes and 4 seconds after leaving Courmayeur.
The tension is not over though as I hand in my broken bracelet and timing chips. They shouldn’t be off your wrist! What happened? ‘Je cours, il tombe’ is all I can manage. He looks suspiciously, asks questions to other organisers, ‘Ill n’est pas coupé’. It’s not been cut, Ok, I’m given my finisher top and let through, my time stands!
I get to Tracey and Joe and I just can’t speak. I’m so emotional, so exhausted, so happy to have finished and so glad to have my time officially accepted. It’s been over a year of training, of self doubt, of dreaming and now it was done.
A Mountain Ultra Marathon. 86.5 km with 4,537 m Ascent, 4,722 m descent. 1,603 starters
Finished in 17 Hours, 8 Minutes and 4 Seconds, at 5:38 am Saturday 25 August 2007
361 st Position
123 rd in Class (V1-H: Veteran 1, Male – 40 – 49 Years)
For more information visit the Ultra Trail Web-Site: http://www.ultratrailmb.com
More photo’s from my run here:
|Ultra Trail CCC 2007|
So all the training is done it now just remains to run the race!I added up all the running I’ve done in the last year in preperation for this event (I’ve included the 2 events I’ve done as well).In Total I’ve,* Run 966 km (600 Miles)* Ascented 51,675 m (169,537 Feet) (Thats 5.8 times the height of Everest)* And Taken 6 Day 10 Hours 54 Mins to Do it (Not sure I’ve worked that last one out correct?)
I was undecided about running with ski poles for the ultra-trail until fairly recently, but with all the hills to climb – mostly at a fast walking pace I decided that it would make life a lot easier.I started training with them a few weeks ago, and it isn’t as easy as it may at first appear!Walking up the hills is fine. The pole plants naturally fall in the correct place to assist with each step. You are taking some of the weight of each step with your arms, so relieving your leg muscles. Great! But what about running down – where relieving the leg muscles would be very useful. And for the flats, what do you do with the poles ?The first thing I realised is that as soon as you are beyond walking speed, planting the pole for each step is not practical. First, the extra weight of the poles means that you don’t naturally swing your arms in the right rhythm. I tended to plant every other step, but always on the same foot. This isn’t good as it’s asymmetric. In other words only one leg is relieved – so you have to make a deliberate change of pattern every so often to even things up.I soon discovered the correct pattern for me. Every other pace I pole plant for both legs. Hard to describe but you count foot falls, 1 2 3 4, and plant on 3 & 4 (It’s a quick 1-2). This works for down hills, where you aim to plant ahead of your foot fall, and flats where you aim to plant behind your foot fall to propel yourself forward (Ski Touring wise).For flat roads I tend to carry the poles – either one in each hand or both in one.It’s very effective once you get used to it, and I’m sure it will help save the legs a lot, but you do need practice to get it right!