I trust you all understand my delay in writing my final blog post on my epic adventure to Beat The Sun but I have been other wise engaged. Running around Mont Blanc takes its time and then I had some serious partying to do, which took me a while to recover from and then I returned home to a laptop full of work, a fridge full of nothing and a laundry basket about to erupt. I am pretty much back to normal now and can reflect on what was an exhausting but special weekend in magical Chamonix.
So things started well for Team Northern Europe at 5.44am, Lukas started the challenge head on sprinting hard from the gun and finished strongly ahead of the sun by some margin, things continued to go well, although we were not leading the challenge we were beating the sun and we all knew there was plenty of time to take down the others teams as many of them had played their strongest runners early in the race. I was last to start my leg from Notre Damn so I knew how far ahead the boys had started before me……..however this made absolutely no difference as they disappeared up the mountain. Leg four was always going to be tough, with 1,300ms of elevation gain within the first 8k and topping out at 2,700ms it literally takes your breath away. I knew within the first k I was not remotely mountain fit. Since pulling from the World Mountain Trail Champs a month ago due to injury I had hadnt set foot near an incline only favouring flat trails or the towpath. I began to recognise that familiar taste of acid in my throat……this was going to hurt. I ran/hiked as quickly as I could until i reached the snowy top of Col Du Bonnhomme, I looked at my watch, I couldnt believe i had reached the top 2 mins quicker than last year…..but why did i feel ten times worse than last year?
From here there was a few k of very technical rocky trail covered in icy snow to the refuge. Its such a shame I have only ever been to the refuge when i have been racing, it really is magnificent and the views are to die for, but no time to stop for a crepe as there was a long descent to Les Chapaux.
This seemed to take longer than last year, lots of zig zagging and my lower back was screaming at me at every foot step. I reached the cattle field like last year, ran through the electric fence….TWICE…..like last year (you would think i would learn??) got a little confused as the finish was slightly different. Luckily the boys were waving at me so i didnt decide to run in the wrong direction….for once. I handed over to Christian my Austrian team mate and watched him disappear up the valley. Little did I know what would follow.
I had been running for 1hr 50, longer than I had wanted with a HR much higher than I had wanted but I knew I had to recover as quickly as possible for the next stage in Ferret. This was probably the hardest bit of the whole day, the bus transfer of over 4 hours. Being squished up in a van on twisty roads resulted in us all having motion sickness and unable to eat properly. We also had no real idea of what time out next stage would start as GPS signal wasnt great. It took us 4 1/2hrs to get to Ferret, through Italy and then Mont Blanc Tunnel and then Switzerland but it was totally worth it, the views were epic. The last stage was 14k of fast trails along the river finishing with a brutal 4k of 600m climb to Lac Champax. We got to Ferret in plenty of time before Southern Europe turned up for the first change over, mean while I had been warming up but feeling terrible. My stomach was in knots and i felt really queezy. I had changed into my racing flats in the hope i could smash out some faster miles…i knew we were in last place and wanted to claw back some time.
I was starting to get super worried as Benji still hadnt come in an hour after Genis had started and we had had no feedback since leg 4. The clock was ticking and by the time I saw his blue shirt appear through the trees we were 35 mins behind the sun. Im not sure what happened but as soon as i swapped the tracker on to my arm I legged it up the road as hard as I could. I pretty much flat lined the course to the bottom of the final climb, I can honestly say I couldnt have pushed any harder, I was starting to feel really dizzy and sick but with only 4k to go and ran/hiked hard up the switch backs. I reached the lake ready to blow big time but there was a camera man on a bike waiting for me shouting i had 800ms to go. I cant imagine the footage will ever see the light of day…..my language was pretty appalling. I kicked hard and finishished in a big sweaty heap in 1hr 30. The boys were great, helping me to a seat and pouring coke down my throat. At this point I was told we were 30 mins behind the sun. What i didnt realise was that Christian had got lost on the mountain on leg 5, hence the delay, I really felt for him as its usually me who gets lost and its a horrible feeling.
We all climbed into the van and drove the 2hrs back to Chamonix. By the time we got back, had a shower etc we barely had time before the first 2 teams came in. Team Americas came in first just seconds infront of Southern Europe both beating the sun…..what an epic performance. Third was Asia Pacific but beaten by the sun, followed by Africa (who like us had had a few problems). At around 10.30pm our last runner, Finn came into the finish straight. We all waited for him a the fountain with cow bells and big smiles. Finn was running with a bike and pacer with head lamps, he was super tired with massive blisters all over his feet, he could hardly lift his feet. We all ran in together as a team. I was super proud of us all, we had done it, as a team, no one had complained or given up and each one of us gave 100%.
Thank you Charlotte, Benji, Finn, Lukas and Christian. Each one of you is an inspiration to me and I loved hanging out with you all, but next time we SHALL beat the sun.
Big thanks to ASICS for putting on an amazing event and supporting all the athletes so well. And last but not least thank you to all the new running friends I made this weekend….hope to see you all next year or on a mountain top soon!