As I sit here one week post the event it seems so long ago already. I’ve returned to the UK and Autumn is definitely on its way; the Chamonix sunshine has gone; the adrenaline has gone and I am pooped! But I only have to look at this photo and I smile…. a very big smile.
Credit: Pete Aylward www.runphoto.co.uk
Coming into the finish is always a special moment because it means you’ve finished the challenge and can stop running. However, at this finish line I did not stop I did a lap of honour and clapped everyones hands again. The adrenaline was still surging through me 24hrs later- sleep was not possible because of my legs burning up and my feet throbbing so I just kept reliving the race. I had spent 14hrs 9mins and 32seconds running alone but not alone…the voices in my head kept pushing me on. I passed by other runners and they passed me. There were the occasional chats but I did not converse much as I seemed to be permanently out of breathe.
I had used some annual leave from work to travel to Chamonix to do a recce of the race in slow time which helped prepare me for the challenge. I spent one night in a dormitory in La Fouly and the second time under the stars sleeping wild in Trient. It really helped although during the race I remember thinking ‘I’m sure the hills were not this long when I recce’d it….!’
The start was not early (0900hrs) so I had some breakfast and a coffee (thank you Hectic Hamster), I taped my ankles with Rocktape (because I have rolled them so many times I knew I needed the extra feedback to help prevent it happening again in the race) and I got dressed (SCOTT Kinabalu Supertrac RC). I was nervous but ready.
I did not start fast in fact at the first check point I was 98th I think. There were 5 major ascents which I used as goals but I was really focused on getting to Champex- Lac because I knew that was where the run would become a race for definite.
I had slowly travelled up through the field and as I started the climb from Arnouvaz I caught the Spanish lady in second (Raquel Martinez Rodriguez) but I was with another Spanish lady (Teresa Nimes Perez). Mimmi Kotka, the leader and ultimate winner was away…she ran alone unchallenged all day…an incredible performance. Behind her, we (2nd, 3rd and 4th) all stayed roughly together climbing the Grand col Ferret and then on the descent I pulled away. Running into La Fouly….
Credit: Guillem Casanova
I felt good but was soon caught running out along the river by Raquel and then on the climb up in Champex-Lac we were caught by Teresa. I questioned my pacing- had I run the first half too fast?
Credit: Guillem Casanova
Teresa was incredible at climbing – no poles and no hands on thighs just this calm strong power hike. I felt like a small child trying to keep up with their mother as I tried to keep up with her intermittently running a few steps and then walking using all possible aids….poles and hands on thighs! Living in Hampshire in the UK is not conducive to being a great climber but I was determined not to use it as an excuse.
My time at the check point in Champex-Lac was swift thanks to Jon who crewed for me. Water in, more gels in (I used 32Gi gels and chews every 45mins or so and had some Bounce balls in case I needed real food), rubbish out and vaseline under the old armpits and I was off.
However, I left the checkpoint steadily not racing to get away because it was too early for that I felt especially in the heat of the day. I was eventually caught as I started the ascent to La Giete and Bovine by Teresa and I stuck with her but on the ascent up to Trient she got the better of me. All I could do was maintain a rhythm. Poles, feet and a lot of belching (my poor tummy had had enough of being bent over I think). I was shadowed by two guys and near the top they overtook me and said ‘thanks for pulling us up there’ but I had no breath to respond! They, however, did help me because I used them to aim for on my descent which brought me closer back to Teresa.
I needed to catch up with her because any lead she had climbing out of Vallorcine would be too much. Running out of Vallorcine I raced and raced. It was runnable and I maximised it. The day turned to night and just as I started to climb Tete aux Vents the head torch (LED Lenser SEO 7R) went on. I now imagined every head torch gaining on me was hers. I pushed all the time. It was beautifully calm up there and seeing the Chamonix valley below all lit up was an exceptional view. I raced in scared but excited. The descent off Tete aux Vents was a little technical in places so I remain careful but I it seems I’m a better descender at night or perhaps I was just running scared.
I finished 2nd and 23rd overall. I was delighted….the finish was a dream- like moment and I got the share it with Jon who helped make the result possible. BIG SMILE.
Credit: Guillem Casanova