Monday, July 25, 2011


 BANG!! the starters gun went off at 8:00 AM and 200 nutters set off up the mountains.I was one of the few oldies in a sea of 30 year olds....and very fit ones too. We began climbing immediately and didn't stop climbing for nearly 3 hours! It is instantly difficult as there are no flat or even tracks. After 15 minutes passed some people  had turned round and were heading back.....obviously they'd had enough... and they looked fit!! It was a long slow trudge but fortunately the weather was cool and sunny which was perfect. I had in my mind several targets and I hit my first hour mark on the trail in 56 minutes which bouyed my spirits a bit. Nobody speaks, they are all locked in their own world and the task in hand. It was stunningly beautiful but I couldn't really appreciate it because I had to make the infamous half way cut off in 3 hours 30 mins or you were out of the race.

         I hit the top of the Col ( mountain pass) in 1hour 55mins ( Target 2 hours). I was mindful of Jamie's words 'you dictate the race' not the other way around. It had been a long 12 kilometres and I had climbed 3000 feet (900 meters) from the start in D'allos. It was an awe inspiring view but with no time to stop  the climb continued. It was really tough and on one bit I was physically on my hands and knees it was so steep! Finally I reached the top of Mount Vescal  8200 feet (2500 metres above sea level)........but instead  of being relieved I was terrfied. It was a  very severe drop and they had attached steel ropes to the rocks to hold on to as you climbed down. It was the bit I had been fearing since they warned us about it in the briefing the day before. 'You have to stop ...and take great care' he said, well, yeh ,obvious......what did he think we were going to do run down it!! It took me about 10 minutes...a very long10 minutes as half way down my knee twisted and I was stuck there..........  I tried to relax, rubbed my leg and kept edging down until suddenly the rope ran out! This was ridiculous as I was now on my bum edging gingerly down the precipice....I was so relieved when I finally got down that I shot off and never once looked back..... extremely glad that it was all over.
        There was one small climb left and I hit my 3 hour mark miraculously at 2 hours and 55mins. I now had to run 6.5 K all the way down to the cut off and I had 35 minutes to do it. The descent was rocky and tricky with lots of switchbacks to the village 2,130 feet (650 metres) below. I have no idea how I didn't fall over and break my neck. Every time I saw the village way down in the valley it seemed to be getting further away!  Finally on reaching the outskirts I could see Sue in the distance shouting 'Come on, come on, go faster, go faster!!' My watch said 11:32AM.       
                           I was 2 mins late.

...........As I arrived at the check point I must have appeared crestfallen...the guy, Pierre, who had done the briefing the day before was there, Sue appeared 'Whats happening? Have you missed it? she asked anxiously.....He looked up from the computer and with total calm said 'Its did 3hrs 26 mins.' I thought I had missed it but I'd forgotten that the race didn't start at 8am, they were late, the actual race started at 8:07am. Sue was delirious and couldn't believe I'd made it. I was exhausted after the effort both mentally and physically. A french woman came in behind me
with 3 others and all she could say was 'Le Stress, the stress!'
        BUT, we were only at the half way stage and there was a possible 3 to 4 hours still to go. I looked at Sue, 'I don't know if I can run all that again, I ve got no energy left' Sue then said what I had asked her days before to say if I made the cut off and was feeling tired 'If you want to be  an endurance athlete and run The Western States 100 in the US then this is can do it'.
          I felt shattered, kissed her and trundled off  and back up the far side of the valley and another mountain........this was ridiculously hard. I felt pretty low after the adrenalin of the 'cut off ' charge had died away. I had read about these feelings that you get in trail running and you have to fight them, thats why they say it 'tests your soul' dig deep and keep going....or as Alexander said 'Don't stop'. It was a long slow climb but I passed a guy going even slower and it made me feel must have made him feel terrible.
      Eventually as I neared the top I calmed down and jogged along before hitting a difficult area strewn with boulders but I liked it because it was unusual and surreal. All I could hear were the birds in the pine trees and I felt a kind of zen moment and found a new lease of energy. After the next two climbs a long slow descent opened up through the forests and I started to enjoy myself and feeling extremely grateful that I was able to do this in such an awesome place. I looked up at the mountains and then bang!.....I fell flat on my back. This was the best fall I have ever had... rocks just lush grass, it was fab. I laughed, got up and carried on.
        I did not once check my watch as I didn't care about the time, I just wanted to finish. The hours passed and I was running quite well now;.... amazing. My preparation had been excellent, Sue had supported me brilliantly  and I was determined to make it.
       To be fair the last mile seemed to take forever but finally I crossed a rickety bridge and could see Sue and the finish up ahead. Lots of people were still there clapping everyone in. As I crossed the finish line I held my arms aloft. I had done, what I later found out to be, was one of the hardest of the Alpine mountain races......and it had taken me 6 hours and 32 minutes. I fell into Sue's arms and just burst into tears........told you I was a wet.


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