Saturday, 27 June 2015

The morning after the night before

When entering the Mont Blanc 80k it was done so on a whim, well, kind of. If truth be known, I simply wanted to get some uninterrupted miles in my legs to help bring me back up to fitness. No doubt many will sniff at my method and mutter a few unpleasantries about my stupidity under their breath, 'What, get fit, run yourself into the ground more like'. Maybe so, yet I can't separate my running quite so easily. I use it as a catalyst for how i'm feeling, who I am is so intrinsically expressed through running. I guess that's why I can't settle into a set formula, a proven program, or sensible routine and consistency, all the things that make the great, great.

The aim then was simply, to finish the race. Yeah, I'd like to have done so in a specific time. Of course I wasn't going to race this little gem, as already alluded, I lost so much fitness getting over a stress fracture and for me I still had Annecy, a half marathon and a park run in  my legs all within the last four weeks (see previous comment about getting some strength and fitness back again). In fact I enjoy entering races with different agenda's. Again see previous comments about 'who I am intrinsically expressed through running'. It would be so much easier to have that mentality that is enter race and race to win (or thereabouts). Of course then, I'd not feel a need to explain poor performances etc.

Regardless, Mont Blanc 80k ticked the finish a tough 80k race with no pressure to do well. It is described as an 82k race with 6000 meters of vertical. It has been recognised as one of the most technical trail races in France, it is difficult, but it is also one of the most beautiful.

I'm not going to argue with those comments. There are four major climbs, each one very different in the ground underfoot and the profile of the mountain, the nature of the vertical and how it is to be climbed. I haven't entered many European races and whilst I'd been told of mass starts that result in grid lock, nothing prepared me for the total of about 30 mins waiting around once the race had started. The first climb and I was stuck, mid pack, waiting for near on 1500 people to form an orderly single file onto the trail. I had an aim to keep my heart rate within a 10bpm frame. I couldn't move fast enough in the mass of folk to get it to the minimum that I wanted. Not until half way up Brevent that it. 

We can't replicate these mountains in the UK, and the enormity of them has my jaw dropping. I am blown away by their beauty. How can these crumpled results of the earths crust caused by the meeting of tectonic plates leave us with such wonderful landscapes?

Ok so this is the morning after the night before (or day before). And I can barely sit down. Why? Well, let me tell you. Climb number two up to Col de la Terrasse, a brutal vertical, and the highest on the course. Helped me discover that in fact, I am useless at altitude, anything above about 1500 and I am reduced to forced breathing and fighting for life (or so it seems). Anyhow, back to the point, the descent. The top of the Moontan was covered with snow and the easiest and fastest way off the top was to sit in one of the toboggan grooves that had been made by those that had past before, and literally slide down on your butt. Fifteen mins of wonderful childish excitement. It was amazing, I was wooping and screeching like there was no one around. And yet, so were the other runners around me too. I felt no pain, until this morning. I have no skin on either butt cheek. Raw and weeping, but worth every ouch.



I'll fast forward to the last climb, the realisation had hit  the closer that Montenvers became. This was not going to be a quick final surge of energy that had been held back. Hell no, it turned out to be a never ending ending. I had been suffering from nausea, from about ten hours in with moments of respite from it, however from Les Bois, the nausea was there to stay. And so, no more fuel, the thought of eating anything made me heave. Not a good position to be in, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. The summit never came, or so it seemed. Maybe the mountain was growing. A great climb up, for me, it was the most forgiving, had it not come so late in the race. Up and up and up, it was incessant, exacerbated by my nausea and desire to fall into a heep, curl up and go to sleep for ten mins. I didn't, I simply continued with this one foot in front of the other business. Then a light, yes it was dusk alright, am I ashamed, not at all! I had not given up, I was putting up with those nausea demons. "The top, is this the top" "oui, oui" the marshal ushered me to my senses and pointed me into the direction of the descent. The final descent, the one that I had been waiting for, I was going to blast it, I love descending. Head torch was on, head torch was on, wasn't it, I can't tell, damn you head torch, you piece of ****. It was old, I'd not changed the batteries in it since it was brought. Three years ago. There was a warm glow from it, just enough to make out some uneven terrain underfoot. Coupled with lack of fuel and robot legs... pahahaha, blast the descent, jeez Tracy, you and your lofty ideas.

Walking and plodding down the hill side was my last effort. "Ca va" "Oui ca va", the conversation with every single person (of which there were many) that bounded past, flying down that hill. If only I knew how to say in French, "no, no not at all as I have robot legs and can't see a freaking thing" probably just as well, "Oui Ca va" (again). Every now and then, I tried to stick with a brilliant head torch attached to a runner's head, but robot legs wouldn't hold out, besides, they had morphed into dangly numb things attatched to my hips. And so it goes. Importantly however, to end, was the strangeness of Chamonix moving itself. Yes, Chamonix town center (or the lights at least) kept moving further away from the hill side I was descending, it kept getting further and further away. "surely it was meant to be getting closer" Yet it was drifting away. When would this descent end? In one very surreal moment, I stopped, to check out if I had started to ascend back the way I had come. "no no you crazy horse, you are going down the hill, it's not you, it's someone moving the town center". 

Needless to say, the lights did eventually show up in front of me and that run to the finish was the most welcome run that I have every undertaken. A great, long day out. Now, I'll rest (I promise). 


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