Boy, where do I start.
Currently I am sitting at my desk trying to work….rigged up to a caffeine drip and strung up like a sausage in compression kit.
That race was super hard. Dont get me wrong, I knew It was going to be out of my comfort zone but I hadnt really appreciated how tough the second part of the race would be and how broken my body would be at the end.
I was super excited to be part of Team Europe and amongst the best mountain runners from all over the world, to say I was a little intimidated was an understatement. I had no real expectations for the race but had secretly hoped for a top 10 finish.
The race started at 5.15am and after a dramatic start…..(fireworks, flares and music) we hit the only 2k of road like we were running a 10k…the pace was furious. I tried to remain calm but it was difficult to not get carried away….thousands of little head torches flying up the road until we came to the first climb out of Milleu. Gradually the line slowed down and we started our first hike up the climb. This became the order of the day, up down, up down. I soon realised that maybe I should have practiced running in the dark more (well at all!!) as I managed to take a stumble several times which unsettled me some what. As the sun made an appearance, I arrived at the first check point in Peyreleau (22k) in 1hr 50 slightly faster than I had expected and I was relieved to see Martin at the aid station. I threw him my head torch, grabbed some more gels and water and pushed on, I think I was in about 12th at that point.
The course continued to be challenging, lots of sharp climbs but also some super quick flat sections where I was able to push on. The second aid station was 32k into the race Saint Andre de Vezines, I had managed to reel a few girls in and was now in 8th position but the sun was getting really hot and I knew the next aid station was going to be further away and more technical climbs to deal with. I grabbed more gels and water but I was starting to feel a little concerned about my energy levels. I knew how close I was to hitting the dreaded wall at Ultravassen and really didnt want to feel like that again. At 42k we ran through a beautiful village and over the river where we were told we would be able to get water to fill our bottles, I’m not sure what happened but I missed this which turned out to be disastrous. As soon as we left the village we started to climb the most hideous trail, we needed ropes to help pull ourselves up the rocks and the sun was on our backs the whole way. It was after this climb that things started to deteriorate for me, I had ran out of all liquids and only had a few shot blocks left and S caps (no good without water). I spent the next 10k seeing the stars and doing the best I could, at this point I had moved into 5th place but knew that if anyone came up behind me I just couldn’t respond. Sure as day, Aliza Lapierre appeared from nowhere. She was suffering too but gave me some words of encouragement as she pushed on past….i was helpless as I watched her disappear.
By the time I reached the final aid station at 63k I was a frazzled mess. Martin poured water over me and shoved a load of gels in my mouth but I think I had gone to far by then to come back from the bonk. I grabbed some coke which helped a bit. We ran through a beautiful ruined castle, it was such a shame I couldn’t really appreciate it, all I could think about was finishing the thing.
I had been warned about the last 8k but nothing could have prepared me. The climb up to the final summit and cave that we hd to run through was quite frankly brutal. I would have done better if I had done some climbing practice! I was on my hands and knees climbing the rock face……I was now in 5th position and could see Maud Gobert about 100m above me. I couldn’t believe I was catching people the way I was feeling. Finally I got to the top and ran through the cave (luckily there was a small child in there with a flash light as it was pitch black) and popped out the other side. I could see Milleu below me….but I was still very high and the drop was very steep.
I crossed a small road to start the descent….Maud had vanished. The drop was extreme and very technical..there were guide ropes attached to the trees but that really made no difference to my buffalo style descending. The combination of ruined legs and no energy resulted in me being painfully slow and there was nothing I could do but watch helplessly as runners passed me. That last 3k was the worse bit of all. Seeing the finish line and Martin was so emotional, I could hardly stand let alone run over the line. This course had really tested me. I crossed the line in 7th place and had been out there for a lot longer than I had expected. I had absolutely nothing left in the tank.
I have nothing but admiration for all my fellow competitors and the mountain goats who whizzed past me on that final descent but I have to concede that this type of course is not for me. The support along the way was amazing and the whole race is brilliantly organised, I couldn’t fault it.
For now I am totally shattered. Its been a long season for me with lots of ups and only a few downs. I have learnt a lot about what I want and what I don’t want to do, I have travelled to some amazing places and met and made some amazing new friends. The year hasn’t ended yet but I am excited for what 2015 holds.
3,400m vert gain
7th place 8.25.33
Gold – Team Europe