Monday, June 30, 2014

Marathon du MONT-BLANC 2014 - Skyrunning World Championships

This weekend saw the running of:

I wasn't in the SA tream on the start-line, that hounor went to Landie Greyling and
Lucky Miya!!!

This isn't their story but my story from when I was lucky enough to stand on the starting line. Now back in 2008 we had great weather, but these guys no so, in fact the route was changed at the end and the last +_6km instead of climbing up into the bad weather they dropped back down to town. (I don't know if there were any other changes.)

2008 a French Odyssey ‘The Mont-Blanc Marathon’

Not every race is just sign up and run, for some it is a journey getting to the start. My French Odyssey started in October 2007 when I teamed up with Will in a 211km stage race over the mountains of the Western Cape. After 5 days we were crowned the champs and our trip to France had began… (Linda had won the ladies race and was joining us, her partner had other plans!)

That was a long time ago...
After running up to the Mast in Tokai, Platterklip Gorge, Nursery Ravine, and the Bridle Path the Cape Mountains were no longer a challenge… So we packed our bags and started the 25hour trip to our hotel in the mountain village of Chamonix. After 3 flights, 4 airports and a car trip via the Salomon Head Office in Annecy is all it took. From my bed I could see the 4000m peaks of the Mont-Blanc, but after all that travelling I needed to stretch my legs, so we walked into the center of town to have a look around. Friday was also spent looking around the valley (mainly for chocolate for Dawn). With the race on Sunday we took Saturday easy and spent the morning watching the ‘Cross’ (The half, which is 23ish km)

Not wanting to be too keen I lined up in the 3rd row with Will, while Linda was further back in the field. As the gun set us off I took to the streets of the town like a finely tuned running machine!!! OK I didn’t really start that well, but I wasn’t swamped by the other 1400 runners in the race.
I saw Will take off and weave his way through the field on the left. I was running at close to max (not in speed but in effort) and it wasn’t till I could see Will up in 3rd place that my old body started to work! By 1.5km I was up with Will tucked in behind 2nd place. Caught up in the moment of a big International Marathon I thought the pace was a little slow, so I allowed myself to pass Will and move into 2nd place. Running freely I soon closed the gap on the leader. After thinking about going straight past, I opted for the sensible thing and tucked in behind him to let him do the work. I planned on destroying him on the hills… That plan didn’t last long as after a couple of km’s I decided that I was working to hard for a race like this, and eased up just a touch. That felt a whole better… but it did mean that Will and the 3rd placed guy soon past. In fact about another 7 guys came past, but they didn’t seem to power on. They formed a group 50-100m ahead of Will who was only 10-20m ahead of me.
At 10.3km we hit the 1st water table. I had put in a little effort and caught Will, well closed the gap to a couple of meters. This water table came at us all to fast; we had just dropped out of the forest on the lower slopes of the mountain and into a small village. I had to slow to take water and was dropped again. The climb out of the town was a little taste of what was to come, and I was able to get back into our little group. I know it was early in the race, but I was already thinking about just trying to stick with Will, and as in Odyssey finish together. It wasn’t long after that as we climbed to the next town, Montroc, I moved up into what was 9th place. A friend Stuart called out our positions as we past 9, 10, 11. After climbing 644m in the 1st 14.7km the next couple of km’s taking us to 18.3km was easy down hill and I was starting to really enjoy the race. By the 2nd Water, Fruit, Cheese, Coke, Cheese, and who knows what else table, we had dropped to 1280m (Altitude) and things were about to get scary!!! Over the next 6.1km we would climb to the highest point of the day 2200m. I can’t work out what my splits were as there where no km markings, but I wasn’t flying. As we zig-zagged up the side of a very big mountain I was on the hunt… Turn after turn I closed the gap, and as we left the mountain bike downhill track and headed for the ski lift on a gravel road I past him and made a move to catch the next guy. The ski lift wasn’t the top; we still had over 200m of single track over snow to climb to the summit. With 24.4km behind us it was down hill time. We started down a rocky knife edge then zig-zag through the forest and back to the town of Montroc. I had lost a couple of places taking it easy as we dropped 720m in 3.7km!!! It was good to see Stuart and Charlotte counting positions as I came past, 12th

Yes it was a long way up...

At the bottom of the hill
At the next water table I stopped to take a drink and gather my strength/energy for the last 12km. With 3hr of ‘running’ already behind us I thought the last leg of the race would be easy… Boy was I wrong!!! It took just 20 more minutes to turn my running into walking and my walking into just standing there and waiting for the Earth to turn…

Always time for a smile
The last water table was at 36.8km it had taken an hour to cover the last 6km, and with another 6 to go it was going to be a long day at the office. After sitting down to admire the snow peaked mountains around us it was time to hit the track for the last time… It felt as if I was in the Death Zone of Everest edging to the summit one step at a time.
After fighting off cramp as I tackled the last descent I could see the finish banner 2km away. Like all marathons you need a dramatic finish, and with 200m still to climb there was going to be no sprint for the line…
I finished with 4h44.52 in 25th place. In the last 10km I had lost 15-20min and 12 places, at times I thought I would never finish I was walking so slowly… But step by step I pushed through. It was a fantastic race and I now long to head back to the Alps to tackle more of their great mountains. 

At the end of our race

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure that a race like that would be harder than usual. That scenery is enough to take your breath away and you can't run without breathing.