In fact it got longer and longer until it was virtually 170km and had just over 11,000m of climb - so even better value for money! I bet Jon Steele had been helping them, to plan. Bob entered the Challenge which does the whole route but over four days. He thought this would be easier but now knows different.
|Looks quite small on the map!|
We built our holiday around the event and arrived in Grenoble early. We did the Via Feratta again, explored by bike and found the free parking out at the university, sussed out the start and the tram links, had my bike stolen and then left to recee various pieces of the route and get used to the heat. We found Bob's first start in Vif and moved on to Laffrey. We explored back towards Vif and found what would be his first big climb but took a few wrong turns on the descent to Laffrey. We also explored beyond Laffery and found a fair bit of the route would be partially shaded as the drops from each massif and the links tend to be on lower ground.
|Straight down and back up the other side|
|Croix de Chamrouse into the Belledonne|
|Nice idea- all the entrants|
|Arriving at Chalets de Barriere|
It was hot but good to suss out the path and nice to welcome him.
|Wires on the tricky steep rocky bits|
I registered on Thursday and used the free tram rides to go back and pack my drop bags (we had 3) and then return to deliver them and to enjoy a pasta meal. The forecast was hot and sunny for Friday but a big storm on Saturday so people were studying the bad weather routes. These were published on huge maps at the event centre and although it meant potentially missing out some of the higher peaks and surroundings at least we knew the event would still continue. The event centre was in the velodrome next to the main stadium and set in a park. The whole of France was still on terror alert and security was high. Race day dawned warm even in in the dark. We rode the tram together and after several toilet visits moved to the start pens.
|Excited and nervous|
The first 5km was flat and inevitably faster than many of us really wanted. It was a relief to reach the edge of the city and start the climb up onto the Vercors. We settled into a more sensible pace and got chatting.
|Up to the Vercors|
|The Vercors scarp|
|Above La Morte|
|Spot the zig zags|
The rocky ridge and lake Brouffier was a favourite section for me and the hillside after the lake even reminded me of the fells at home - until we dropped into dense shoulder high scrub and then forest.
It was dusk and as we ran through more trees to Poursollet we had to stop and find torches. By the feed station it was properly dark.
|One of my favourite bits|
Still no sign of Alex and although we didn't know it at the time we had a 2 1/2 hour lead. It was still warm but soup made it easier to swallow real food. The CP volunteers were brilliant and really encouraging.
|Lake Brouffier- on our walk down from the Via Feratta|
|The night is here|
|but it was dark in my race|
This was disappointing as although it was a climb to the lake and then up onto the high pistes and Croix Chamrouse I knew this part and it was beautiful and reasonable running/ stomping. Instead we treked across overgrown lower pistes and paths that seemed to drop for ever and then climb with no real reason. One was more like a stream bed. It was my low point mentally, Joao was hallucinating and M said she felt she was falling asleep as she walked. At the northern edge of the ski area we found the next CP. We got rather too comfy and chatty- I wished I had a working watch and could keep a better check on myself. I bet the other two got fed up with me asking what time it was. We tried to eat and again soup helped a little. The next section is a blur of little rocky paths, forest and wider tracks. I need to find a way to overcome these low moody bits and make myself eat more and run more. Near Freydieres I was aware we were going rather slowly and as the dawn arrived I upped my pace. Better paths and short sections of lane were leading us down to the valley floor. Joao pulled ahead a little and M dropped behind. We arrived at the valley floor as the rain clouds burst. It was torrential and I stopped to put my cag on for a while. I could see Joao up ahead and pushed hard to catch him. After a very winding route through the village we arrived at the St Nazaire CP. Three sections down and 126km done. Joao was running his first 100 miler and keen to have a decent stop which we also hoped would allow M time to catch us up. I changed my socks and then my shoes. No, worried about mud so changed the shoes back again. Tried to eat but swallowing a sandwich was now really tough going. More soup. I should have just bolted the soup, grabbed some mint cake, gels and taken the sandwich with me. No watch was seriously messing me up. Luckily M did arrive but she then also took ages trying to eat. I now know we spent 40 minutes in the CP!! Seriously bad. I also should have asked the staff if they knew where Alex was - if we had known she was closing the gap would we have tried harder? I like to think so.
One section to go now. The Chartreuse.
|From the park and tram ride- The Chartreuse|
The Team had done it. Joao completed his first 100 miler. M and I crossed the line together as planned.
Alex was about 20 minutes ahead of us (having been spotted by Bob being paced at one section- which is not allowed).
Sebastian made a big fuss of us in the finish funnel and Bob had just finished his race and so was there ready and waiting with his camera after a warning we were close from Sebastian who was watching our trackers.
The rest was a blur- an interview, food, collect T shirt and gillet, collect drop bags and more photos.
Back to the van by tram, a strip wash and a lie down.
We met up again at Prize giving on Sunday and swapped emails etc. It was nice to podium.
They announced M 3rd and me 2nd but we shared my podium spot. Not a bad weekend run- 1st V50, 2nd lady, 24th overall 283/547 finished.
It is hard to believe that I gave away such an enormous lead and I won't get many chances to win a race outright at 55 but do I regret making our team pact? No. My watch failing was probably a bigger factor and I made two wonderful friends. Joao plans to come to England to do a long ultra- maybe the Fellsman? Marjolein and I will try to meet up at an ultra somewhere I am sure.
Lots of lessons learned:
what went well- chocolate milk, running with friends, Scott shoes, comfy clothes, poles for second half, change of socks, calf guards, taping my big toes days earlier, drinking plenty, having energy left to run at end.
But- I was too slow in some feed stations, having no watch was a serious issue, I need a better plan on entry to CPs re what food I want straight away, should have stuffed some food when my mood was low, should have asked about any ladies catching us and maybe will only make a pact near the very end or " yes, if we are still together later".
Comparted to the UTMB and GRP? Tougher in terms of climbs and drops, more single track than UTMB, prefer scenery of GRP but pleased to only be out one night unlike UTMB.
One of the best final meals ever- great food, lots of it and wonderful atmosphere.
So now I just need to plan next year! Monte Rosa? UTMB (as I have double chance)? Echappe Belle? L'Entenard?......