Of course when running in the mountains it is beautiful and spectacular ... and always challenging. (which means tough). The other thing I always forget when running in the Alps is ... its in the Alps! ... which means huge climbs and descents. In this race it was straight up immediately, and I was thinking couldn't we have just a few nice easy miles along the river first to get warmed up but unfortunately no, just a vertical 2000 feet ascent through the pine trees. Eventually we hit a ridge and ran along that arriving at the aid station one and a half hours later.
This being a French aid station it was a just few pieces of banana, orange and cake plus water and coke. I filled my water bottle and was out in 30 seconds.
The weather was fabulous, about 67 degrees which was perfect plus in the first half of the race its in the trees so it was shady and cool. Next followed a perilous switchback descent of about 2 kilometres ending up at a raging torrent.
The only way across was to get wet and wade through, it was freezing but refreshing.
The French are very good trail runners, very fast and quite fearless whilst descending at speed however they never stop talking, even when running down the side of a mountain, its hilarious.
Next began the exhausting run/hike to the top of L'Encombrette at 8,500 feet. This was about 9 kilometres
and took another 2 hours and it was straight up all the way with no respite. I knew it was going to be hard and was one of the reasons why I chose this race because of my Grand Canyon preparation. After an hour I was very tired but its relentless and you just keep going, it takes a lot of of both mental and physical discipline. When I looked up at what was to come ahead of me it was a daunting site, stunningly beautiful but daunting nevertheless. Half way up, a super fit young guy overtook me, put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and said 'Courage'. This show of mutual respect drove me on and 4 hours into the race I arrived at the summit.
What a site! It was just simply awesome, beautiful and stunning all in one. I stayed a few minutes just to take it all in, got myself together and then began a super fast descent to the Lac d'alloss. It was 14 kilometres to the finish. I was amazed that after all that climbing I could run so fast, I was quite
pleased with myself. I really enjoyed this part, descending easily and at speed surrounded by the best of nature in its rawest form, it was fabulous and made all the hard parts worthwhile. I hit the aid station near the lake 40 minutes later and was in and out even quicker that the other one. I know from experience to take all your own stuff, I had so much food in my bag I could have survived a week up there!
The trail softened as we hit the tree line and ran through meadows and forests bursting with smells and aromas from all the mountain fauna.
The last few miles I began to feel a little tired , I kept asking anyone I met, 'How far to the finish?' and the reply was always the same, 'about 3k'. Bloody long 3k I thought to myself.
I arrived in the village of Val d'alloss a bit ragged but I put in a 200 metre sprint finish and crossed the line in 6 hours and 10 minutes, which was just about what I had anticipated. It was only 30k (a 3/4 marathon) but we climbed over 6,000 feet of vertical ascent so it was quite a test of stamina and endurance. Sue had spent all day in cafes and restaurants having had a lovely restful day in the Sun. I know some of you will agree that she made the right choice but each to their own and mine had been a memorable journey of both hardship and joy and I am grateful for that. It was just another step towards my ultimate goal, October the 9th in Arizona is coming up fast, I will be ready.
PS (I made a short video of my run which you might enjoy, so just click on the link -