By Coach Stephane Moulin
Weather was un-seasonally hot – over 30 degrees in the valley planned for the day.
Due to late now falls, the highest peaks were too snowed under and an alternate route was put in place – which resulted in confusion as per CP distances and gains and an overall 8 to 9km extra mileage.
Hot weather resulted in a lot of snow melt ie streams of water on the trails everywhere and wet feet for most of the day.
Got to Chamonix on the Thursday lunchtime, gear check, pick up, early bed and ready to go. Had a good few days recovering from flight over, well hydrated and fuelled.
Nutrition based on Perpetuem (paste), Endurolytes (3 per hr), Ultramuscleze (4 times throughout the day – Potassium/Magesium supplement), Isowhey gels (non caff and caff) for the big climbs (6 in total). Also used soup, fruits (banana, oranges) from CPs.
Early start @ 4:00 AM was seasonally warm – 22 deg already – J – taking us up to Brevent towering above Chamonix (1500m of gain – 2475m) on single trail. Made a conscious effort to hold back a little which happened naturally as we were “queuing” up the climb up until the summit pretty much.
Hit snow around the 2000m mark making the last 400m of gain tricky and different.
Decent from Brevent to Flegere was on snow (600m of descent) – slippery, tricky, a bit edgy at times but fun. Can’t go fast on snow as out of control. Also resulted in wet feet for the rest of the day.
Next 10km were undulating on trails opposite Mt Blanc with a great descent to Buet – 900m – technical/rocky. By then sun was hot and biting and being on the South side fully exposed to the heat.
Made sure I kept hydration and fueling on top – progressively working my way up the field.
Climb to Chalet de la Loriaz (600m) was a bit tough as heat was full on and CP was a bit light on top – only water and coke available (issue with logistics….).
Due to the new route, an alternate ascent to Les Emossons was in place and it was by far the hardest climb I ever had to do – 950m of gain on 4 km on a fully exposed trail with sun cooking us slowly. Mt Solitary/Lockley’ type climb but much longer.
People were falling apart looking for shade, dipping in the streams from melting snow. I tried to maintain a cadence but was tough – heart was pounding, kept dipping head in cold water to try cool down. Knowing everyboby else was feeling as crap as I was helped, but that climb tested me and broke me. Getting to the top I took 10 mins off – went inside the chalet, cooled off (they had a shower so just went underneath it for 2 mins). Refuelled, recomposed myself reminding me that this was always going to be the toughest climb. Over half-way now so any km is closer to the finish J.
A vast amount of people pulled out at Les Emossons by all accounts.
Next was a steep technical downhill to Chatelard but in the shade – that was fun and fuelled spirits.
Following Chatelard were 2 cols that were new (due to the alternate route) so hard to know where we were going – but recognised them from UTMB so knew what to expect. Except they were under snow from the last 300m of gain each – so slippery going up and down.
After Les Posettes I was feeling good, my feet were still wet and damp and had some hotspots –which I ignored as had nothing to address them with (dry socks or the likes).
Next 20km are pretty much undulating downhill underneath Mt Blanc which was good to get the legs moving and by northside ie shaded too.
Last big climb to Montenvers was quick – 1200m in 80mins – legs were feeling good.
Getting to Montenvers we all thought there was 3km left – only to find out that there were 10km left due to new course. That was a bit of a kick in the backside. But the positive was only 900m of gain to do in 10km the rest being downhill.
I had to re-adjust my expectations a little as 10km would push my finish time out by a good 90mins.
The Descent from Aiguille Rouge to Chamonix was a technical steep downhill, typical of Chamonix, so doing it by night was fun J
Crossed the line in 19:13 – 270th overall, 100th in AC out of 1600 with 90km ish – 6500m of gain. I did work my way through the field throughout the day from 400 to 270. I was aiming for 16:30 so outside that window but considering the heat I am happy with that.
Altitude varied between 1,100m and 2,500m with most cols above 2100m
It was by far the toughest race I ever had to do- UTMB felt “easier” – pushed me to the edge, broke me and required me to get myself together at Les Emossons. And for that it was a great race – learned from it, pushed the envelope.
But an awesome event for sure.
Recovery has been good – just 2 big blisters underneath the foot that are ok. Was “DOM” free by the Sunday.