2017 CCC

Courmayer - Champex- Chamonix (12th Year)
1st September 2017.
101km - 6100metres D+ /20013.12 feet

CCC Profile

Focus for the CCC probably seriously started in about March 2017. Having completed the race last year, I was better armed with the knowledge of what it was going to take to compete in the race again this year. I had several goals starting with the very simplest 'to complete the course' to more lofty ideas. For sure, I was determined to take some time out of last years finish time. I recently read a fitting John Wooden quote;

"Never make excuses. Your friends don't need them and your foes won't believe them". So I'll not make them here for last years race for me. 

When considering how to approach the race this year, essentially, it seems, I loosely broke it down into thirds and so, I'll attempt to give an overview of how this worked out on race day.
The aim was to go easy for the first 5 hours. Standing on the start line, in the middle of a mass of people, I was entertaining some mantra's about how I wanted to perform and importantly, quietly pondering if I was going to be able to get to the first climb without having to wait to get on the trail. The excitement, anticipation and eagerness could be felt all around me, it was like a fever growing and I felt removed as I watched from the imaginary sideline at that moment. I observed smiles, faffing, nervous chatter, adjusting sunglasses, taking of jackets, putting on jackets. Racers, consumed in their worlds, preparing for what would be an amazing journey for everyone in their own right.

Last year I ran/walked the road section, there was going to be none of that this year, I intended to get a good start and focus on getting going on that first climb up to Tete de la Tronche. This year, the altitude seemed less relentless and I seemed to cope well with the climbs all day to be fair. The weather, which was supposed to be thunderstorms and rain, was mild sun/cloud, perfect for racing for most of the morning and afternoon. Up up and up to reach the top. I was up the first climb with relative ease compared to previous attempts and so my mood  was set and with little effort, remained positive all day. Bertone (and Bonatti) came after some great, flat (ish) running. I continued to keep the pace easy, there were no expectations other than to keep moving. I was in and out of the watering stations with a quick top up however, at Bonatti I grabbed a fist full of fuel (flapjack, rice squares, fruit bar) and practically ate and drank it all within minutes. Mistake, as I certainly felt it moving out of the CP.  I couldn't find my pace again. I was full and bloated which led to walking for the next 20-30 minutes  towards Arnuva. I kept my calm, and knew I'd just have to wait now for my body to do it's digesting before I could get going again. Slowly the sluggishness subsided, my legs got a little lighter and just in time as I headed up to Grand col Ferret (2537m) and into Switzerland.

Reaching the top of Tete de la Tronche, it was bedlam up there 
The descent from Grand col Ferret was amazing, the terrain is challenging and throws a mixture of paths and rocks. Having forgot my plan somewhat to take it easy, I found I was going with the flow and enjoyed every minute. Slipping, sliding, jumping, twisting and turning off that mountain until I passed through La Fouly and a long long road section. The contrast made the race interesting. I enjoy roads (occasionally) and given that it was all down hill, I took full advantage of my second third of the race -  to go steady now.

2nd 5 hours
The aim here was to go steady and keep a reasonable pace going. I had no idea what pace I was travelling as I didn't have the gps monitoring. I knew the time of day and the rest was ran through feel at what seemed like a 'reasonably steady pace'. There was a chap that had been running close by/ in front/ sometimes behind for a couple of hours. He was still around as we headed towards Champex Lac. Those moments when I heard someone behind, I knew when it was him. How come? He smelt amazing. Now, I have a big nose, I also appreciate the natural smells when I am out on the trail. Usually, I am averse to the smell of synthetic scents. The hazardous and likely toxic, petrochemicals can be smelt for what they really are and I'm more likely to try and protect myself from them rather than inhale them. However ,A subtle gentle smell of what I though was maybe, figs! I amused myself for an hour thinking of how to ask this (probably) Italian guy Francesco what his aftershave was without appearing like I was some loon or weirdo. Regret, I never asked, my Italian needs polishing, but I still recall the unassuming, warm, earthy if not slightly sweet aroma.

Champex Lac and the Check Point was a turning point. Last year, I spend nearly an hour in the joint. Last year, I was taking off my pumps and calling it a day. Last year, it took a lot of persuasion from my great supporters to get me out again. This year, there was going to be none of that. This year, the weather was no excuse. This year I was more focused. This year, wild horses would not have stopped me. The support from Team Raidlight's Ant Bethell was slick, we've been running together long enough that he understand how I roll, and generally knows enough to anticipate what will keep a runner ticking over out there. I am grateful for that support, thanks Raidlight. Onwards to Trient and I was looking forward to seeing the Pink Church, a pleasant distracting thought of course, to keep me moving steady and I was moving well still.

The rain was in full swing and presented another distraction or battle that I guess so many folk have when racing, 'do I put my waterproof on'. I pondered it, all the time getting wetter, yet, I was happy, I didn't feel a need to don the jacket and, It didn't have a bearing upon me or my racing, I just focused on running, the rain was refreshing, another angle, another distraction and I enjoyed every minute of it. Anyone who races in Europe will understand the wonderful enthusiasm that is provided by the supporters. It's one of the reason's that I adore running in Europe and wider afield. For the UTMB group of races, the support along the routes is so motivating. Coming into the CP at Trient strangers were shouting my name, 'well done Tracy', 'you're doing so well', 'allez, allez'. These strangers, without wanting to sounds 'cheesy or cliche I felt them on a level, like friends and I felt ashamed that I didn't know them or have the time to get to know them as they took the time to address me. Again another quick re-fueling and back out to the trail, the way I came in, towards the third and final section of my race.

3rd 5 hours

The last 5 hours and it was when I intended to put all that I had left into the race. With my new determination, I looked at the faces who were encouraging me through Trient, I was smiling, I felt great, I was moving well and everything felt, well, it just felt .. right. Ant Bethell had shouted after me as I was making my way out, 'Only two more climbs'. Two, two I thought there was three! The race just got a whole mountain easier. I'd lost some sense of where I was on the race route and to learn that Catogne and Tete aux Vents were the only climbs left lifted my none too deflated spirits, right back up there again. I pushed on, and yes, by now I was giving all I had left. I had been going for 9hrs 30 (ish) and yet, I felt great. I soldiered on up to Catogne, chanting my mantra to keep me moving with a determined effort. I was still passing runners, which, this late in the race always feels like an achievement.

Down into Vallorcine and the final CP with support allowed by the race organisation. Chips, I was met with a tray of Chips and ketchup, if I could describe that moment when you feel like you have found the meaning of life, it was whilst I was gobbling a hand full of chips, as I moved through the marquee. Much to the amusement to many faces inside, I became self aware and realised I probably had a face of ketchup and greasy, salty fingers shoving the potatoes into my mouth, it would not have been a pretty sight. My ketchup smile, made them smile, made me move with a lightness, I was on my way to the finish line and I felt strong.

I learnt as I approached, that the race route had been changed to La Flegere. I ran up the trail, passing a secluded area near to the train line, a bridge and a small river, where, days before i'd been camping.

The sun had been glorious those days before and i'd spent easy runs on the trails around there, stretching and flexing, washing clothes in streams and well, right then as I moved in the dark, with the relentless rain and in my now beginnings of tiredness, It just all felt right. I continued with the run up to the road in solitary and then, I became disorientated. Most of the race had been ran alone, the field of runners was spread out. I had not sense of where I was in relationship to others albeit i'd been informed that 11th female, throughout the race, in spite of passing at least 4 women at some point or another, so I was in the understanding that I could get a top ten finish all being well. I was expecting to cross the road and meeting a short sharp final climb. Nonetheless, the race was re directed to stay lower initially on the climb up as the weather was shocking, cold and with the driving rain, it was safer to do so. The alternative route was less exposed through woodlands. I was now feeling the 13 or so hours in my legs and whilst I was giving what I had, I was aware that i'd slowed more than i'd have liked. Nonetheless, I pushed on, up and up, the last climb 'you're on your way home Deano'. Determinedly, I ploughed on, digging the poles hard to get me up that hillside. I was slipping on rocks and started for the first time in the race, to become tentative with my footing. As I reached the final CP, I was tired, I'd worked hard to get there. I walked through, and started the descent. The tentativeness was more than evident as now, I was slow, sliding in the mud, on the rocks, the paths, and what could have been a flying descent ended up being a gingerly ran final descent. I practically walked it.

During the final hour and half, I had no sense of time or where I was in terms of other racers. Looking at the time seemed too much hard work. I could only focus on getting to Chamonix without falling, breaking, hurting. And then, a glow, a street lamp, the orange embers like a shrine. I turned off my headlamp. 'Deano, you've done it'. At that moment, the road run to the finish around the town centre was one of the finest and most satisfying road runs I'd ever ran. It was quiet, it was unremarkable on the face of it, and yet, I was the happiest runner out there for a moment. I saw the finish line, and heard the cheers, I smiled and crossed the line. I was met by a man who asked if I wanted to try his wears, I agreed and we smiled.

Ayurvedic for sport

14hours 26 mins
8th Female

Prize giving, was an uneventful event for the vets as it was pouring, no, there were buckets, of rain and it was relentless. So as names were called out to the podium we were handed umbrellas as we scurried onto the stage.

1st VF AVENIER Delphine 14.03.16, , 2nd VF Holly Rush ASICS 14.10.53 , 3rd VF Tracy Dean Raidlight/Mountain Fuel 14.26.22
There was an incomprehensible speech from the presenter, then we were ushered onto the stage where we were handing trinkets and prizes. There were half a dozen people sharing an umbrella spectating and to be honest they were probably the friends/family of those on stage. Yet, in spite of sparse show I was the proudest women on earth for that moment, and nothing could have wiped the smile from my face, no matter how cheesy and drowned it was.

Lastly; In the first instance however, I am grateful for the support of Team Raidlight UK who was supportive of all of the Raidlight athletes and offered encouragement to the dream team athletes who had entered the events including Nathalie Mauclair,  Kim Collinson, Beth Pascel,   Rachid El Morabity , Wataru Lino and Antonie Guillon.

In addition, thank your Mountain Fuel for your encouragement and for providing a fueling system that works well for me.