This has been a while coming. My legs feel better now so I can write freely. Basically on July 2nd I ran the hardest race I have ever run. I thought Boston was the hardest run I was going to run this year (I know, I know no write up. Still dealing.) but this trumped it. And some.
The day before, was glorious. I mean 28 degrees, maybe more. St Gervais, the nearest town-town to the start line was resplendent. We were staying in a hotel by the town square. We went for a walk to the thermal springs. We found a swimming pool and hung out with Sébastien Chaigneau. Ate loads of baguette and drank Brasserie du Mont-Blanc beer. Delightful.
The next morning there were black clouds on the horizon. Literally. I awoke early enough to get the transfer bus to the start line, where the eager Brewdog was already waiting, twitchy legged for my arrival and the start of the ‘Moins Hard’ 38km mountain race. We’d travelled to Saint-Nicolas de Veroce with out erstwhile AR team-mates James, Claudia and Adrien who one hour earlier had embarked on the 60k race. One distance down from the frankly mental 107k.
That should put things into perspective, ‘wait you only ran 38km of the 107km?’. Weak. Yeh not really when the elevation profile looks like this:
So yeh 10,000ft of climbing. Was I ready, err nope. Me and James were standing on the start line, knees a knocking. Well mine anyhow. Suddenly a moment of realisation as thunder echoed around the valley, ‘Err James, I’m not sure this jacket is waterproof’… Then it pissed it down. Then (luckily) it stopped. And off we went. Poles are ILLEGAL for the first 5k of the race. Everyone used poles. 30 seconds in and the route swerved off the tarmac onto a narrow trail, that went up. Then up some more. We’d started.
And I was going quite well for the first 10k-ish. I went through the first aid station ‘they are all so young’ said a willing volunteer in French. ‘Merci’ j’ai replied and I cantered off. I’d drifted away from James at this point. I felt pretty good. Then I topped out of the second of 5 climbs. All OK other than getting TOTALLY drenched on the way up. Non-waterproof living up to my fears, but actually that was OK as it was pretty muggy and the going already hard.
Anywho, James had caught me up by the second aid station. He was taking the race at a measured pace, wise beyond his years this one. No silly billy (#sorrynotsorry). A mountain goat in the making. Anyway, I insisted he crack on without me as we started the third climb at about Mile 9. It was a complete sod of a hike up that. But, at various moments, beautiful. Even though much of the mountain range around us was clad in cloud and I ended up looking down anyway – it was fairly slippery and technical under foot – the scenery was still breathtaking. So was the incline… Anyway when that peaked out and we scurried across the scree of Le Prairion, that was my favourite part of the race. About 5 hours in by that point, I felt comme-ci comme-ca and it was beautiful along that plateau. Then we ran down and crossed the rope bridge at Bionnassay. Stunning.
Then it got a bit more difficult. I mean f’me the climb up Mt Vorassay was just a lung buster. I was still going and was on for finishing under 7 hours. However. What goes up, must come down. And the descent wrecked me. I mean wrecked me. My quads got trashed. When I got to the bottom and the last aid station, I was like – ‘YES RACE DONE’. Oh mais non mon petit… we still had to run 10k. And climb again. Over 1500ft in about 1.5 miles. That finished me. But then I gritted my teeth for the last hour and I finished it.
Actually throughout I was in pretty good spirits. I wasn’t there to race really. Just enjoy it and take with me as much of the bounty that the alps has on offer. I think I achieved that. James finished about 20 minutes ahead of me and in the top 30 on the day. Massive respect to him, oh and these are his photos:
What a bloody awesomely hard race. No more words. Just memories. Merci St Gervais. See you next year. Maybe for the 60k. 🙈.