Really, truly the most amazing experience.
From the moment I got to Chamonix I was in awe of the mountains.
It was breathtaking and not only a little intimidating. It was the first time I really became concerned about meeting the cut-offs and finishing the race.
However, as the week went on my concern didn’t actually subside as much as was replaced with feeling honoured just to be invited to the party & vowed to enjoy the experience for as long as I could. Even managed to get a good luck kiss from the Icebreaker Mascot.
The atmosphere was the most exciting and heart warming I had ever been apart of. I imagine that this is what it feels like to be at the Olympics. The energy. The excitement. The nationalities. It was palpable. Even a little tear jerking.
Race day came soon enough & I was lucky to get on one of the later shuttle buses so I didn’t need to get up outrageously early.
Good chats on the bus with some other runners & after some wondering found the rest of the Canadians.
I started in the second wave with ‘bent, while Tiny & Mrs. Gally (a.k.a. Sensible Caty) started in the first wave.
I knew I would be alone soon enough as ‘bent would surge ahead to catch up to Mrs. Gally.
We started in Courmayer, Italy.
The anthems of the 3 countries we would be passing through played at the start. Italy, Switzerland and France. Adding to the Olympic feeling and wells of tears in my eyes. A Slovak flag was waving in the crowd too. A good sign I thought.
In between waves we grooved to the music at the start line & then the chariots of fire theme would begin to indicate the start of the next wave & Boom! Off we went.
Meg-eh, Mrs. Gally friend shouted as I passed through the village.
Cowbells rang. Some so big, people held them with two hands.
Cheers. It was amazing.
But once, out of town the climbing began.
The more you climbed, the more climbing there was.
Needless to say the poles came out. Less then 10% of racers didn’t have poles. I don’t know how it could be done without them. They would prove to be my constant companion throughout the race.
At times the trail was very sketchy, single track. With big drops on one side or sliding skree.
Looking up hoping to see the top was near would only be greeted by a never ending snake of people, winding, higher and higher up the switchbacks to the top.
At one point, in a very sketchy, single track section our snake was severed by a slower racer 3 racers ahead of me. We all knew we could go faster and just couldn’t take the slow pace. I probably was the most vocal in my pleads to “passe”. Finally, I passed and heard the others pass by too while the lady yelled angrily at as all and I ran up ahead trying to catch up the “le serpant”. After a few minutes of hard running on rolling single track I caught up to “le serpant” on the next big up as did the rest behind me, minus the women we passed.
Once in our marching pack again a lady behind me said “Thank you for getting us to “le serpant”.”
Anyway, no need to bore you with details of climbing, running straights and rolling and climbing slowly and laboriously making sure to look up, back & side to side to soak up every amazing view and take the odd picture.
It was incredible.
Aid stations were just as packed as the trail & were chaotic to manuver.
A lot of time was wasted just checking in and out & filling up water.
But everyone was so helpful and pleasant it didn’t seem to mind.
Going to La Fouly for some reason was extremely emotional. I was so overwhelmed by the pouring of support that I was sure if I saw someone I knew I’d burst into tears.
Instead when I got to the checkpoint the announcer began to interview me about how the race was going, where I was from, how I trained. So cool!
Then I got to Champex (56km) the first place you would get support & saw Myka waving the Canadian Flag. So good to see a familiar face.
Nothing hurt. Calves and hips were doing well. I was just tired. Really. really tired.
Myka filled my hydration pack while I got some soup & pasta in me.
I had intended to take the second garmin at this point, as well as my extra caffeine drink, chips (since the aid stations had none, not even potatoes).
However, Myka promised she would wait for me at the next aid station even if it meant 1a.m.
I had gotten to this aid station on schedule, but spent a lot of time here and new that with night coming I would slow down considerably.
So I left everything with Myka, put on a warm shirt & headlamp & headed out into the night.
The first big climbs were done and now there were 3 more “mini” climbs to do. Two at night.
Up, up, up. Passing HUGE cows on the trails to the aptly named Bovine Check point.
Down, down, down to the Trient aid station.
Sadly, I didn’t see Myka. I wasted a good 10min looking for her, wondering what happened. I checked my phone, but no text saying she wasn’t going to make it. Wasted a little more time texting. Myka, responded the shuttles busses were a mess full of DNFers and no room for supporters to get on. Oh well, would have to live on soup & no garmin.
Since the phone was out I read a text from Dee telling me I as on track. I sent her a text telling her not anymore the wheels are off. I didn’t expect her to text back right away but she did & gave me a peptalk. Ahhh. 🙂
I decided to change into long tights for the rest of the night. As I did so, Spencer an english guy came up to me and asked if I was the Canadian. I said yes & then he said he would wait for me to change as we wanted to climb with me. Okay, sure. Maybe he heard my interview from the previous aid station. haha.
That was nice I thought, but wasn’t sure how long it would last.
My climbing was slower than his at first, but then he needed to take a lot of breaks. So we kind of leap frogged each other.
The 3k down to Vallorcine was the longest of the race by far for me. I was falling asleep on my feet. Plus I stupidly decided to just put the 6hr battery in my ayups and they were fading. But instead of stopping to change the battery I kept going with the belief that 3k was only a few minutes away. Having a garmin I think would have helped to let me know really how slow I was going. (Maybe I should have kept the Suunto)
Spencer chatted to me a bit, helping me stay awake, but eventually he must have passed me.
I was slipping all over the place. At one point right on my ass and while down a guy just walked over me.
In my tired sleepy state I just blurted out “Thanks. Leave me here, like road kill. Nice. Very gentlemanly.” 😀 Guy didn’t even flinch.
Made it down. Had a way too long transition.
But was feeling good. I only had one more up & down & I would actually finish this thing.
Spencer found me again and we began to climb. As the sun started to rise so did my energy. Spencer unfortunately was suffering. I cheered him on a bit, but eventually he needed a longer break and I began to really run for the first time since the start of the race.
I had it in my head that a cut off was close. But it was actually at 10:20a.m. and I got to it at 8:30a.m. This was at La Flegere, the last check point before the finish.
Now just 8km down. Would my hips and quads hold out I wondered as I pushed forward to the finish.
Well they did, I did those last 8km in an hour and 12min passing almost 60 people.
At one point a volunteer said “Tranquil, beaucoup de temp.” “Relax, you have lots of time.” As I bounded down the mountain using my poles like pogo sticks. It was exhilarating.
The one thing I didn’t want was to come into Chamonix struggling. I wanted to finish strong and enjoy the cheering crowds and I did.
Until now I would never admit to the label of ultrarunner. I didn’t feel like I was worthy to call myself that. I am just a girl that tried to run near ultrarunners, but wasn’t really one of them. However, after finishing this race I will except the label if given to me.
I hope everyone that races can experience a race like this. It was phenomenal.
Made even more special to be able to share it with so many APers and new friends.
Bash, ‘bent, Mrs. Gally, Tiny, Storm, Browner, Myka, Meg, Mike.