28th June 2013
Chamonix Mont Blanc 80km
6044 metres ascent
It’s Sunday and I’m still struggling to recover from what was an incredible and tough race. Each year, on the last weekend in June, Chamonix is filled to the brim with trail runners from all over the world. This year the organisers added an 80km ultra to the already packed line up of Mini Cross, 10km, KM vertical and the Mont Blanc Marathon – both part of the Skyrunning World Series. Having run the marathon last year, I thought I had an idea of how the 80km might play out but it turned out to be much harder than I thought. Due to bad weather late into June, part of the route was altered and a fifth peak was added to ensure the +6000 metre ascent remained.
The race kicked off at 4am from the centre of Chamonix before climbing immediately up to Brevent 2462m. We then ran down the last part of the marathon route, through Planpraz and Flegere and up to Tete au Vent. A steep descent took us to Vallorcine checkpoint for the first time. This was the largest checkpoint on the route as it was used twice. There was a great atmosphere and a fairly good selection of supplies for most runners (although as a vegan I’m used to carrying my own food, see below for a low down on my kit and food). After a brief stop, we were sent in a loop up to Loriaz 2020m. I had been feeling pretty good until this point and had a steady but reasonable pace on. However the last part of this climb was really steep and was followed by a technical section along a sort of ridge which really knackered me out. By the time I got back to Vallorcine, the 40km point, I had been out for nine hours and tiredness was kicking in. I’d also caught a bad cough and flu bug from Amy and as I started the climb up to Col des Possettes that decided to kick in too.
Half way up I decided I’d have to drop at the next aid station. I was genuinely concerned I wouldn’t be able to make it down to Le Tour as my legs just seemed to give up and my head was throbbing. Luckily a friend who was running passed me in the descent and gave me such much needed ibuprofen which saw me down, albeit slowly, in one piece.
As I sullenly came into the valley at Le Tour, a French runner came past me and checked if I was ok. I said I was dropping. He said I’d regret it forever, but pain was only temporary. It’s true I guess but my first thought was, ‘what an a**, can’t he see I’m in pain?!’ Feeling even worse than before, I slowly ran the wet but fairly flat 3ish km to the next aid station at Argentiere. As I started thinking about whether to call myself a taxi or wait for the organisers to drop me back to the start I saw Thierry (said Frenchmen). He called me over and said, “Kelly (our names are on the race numbers), we are walking, you are coming with us”. Having been hellbent on quitting for the last couple of hours, I didn’t think I would change my mind so easily but for some inexplicable reason I just said yes and a few minutes later, we were off. There were two of them and Michael walked slowly in front, I took the middle spot and Thierry stayed behind me. They spoke very little English but literally marched me up to Plan Joran 1914m and back down to the final checkpoint in the valley before starting the final ascent to Blaitiere 2116m.
It was a bit of a blur but as it started to get dark I realised I was actually going to finish. The final descent to Chamonix, steep, rocky switchbacks, with what i now realise is a wholly inadequate head torch, was horrible. The lights in the town centre never seemed to get closer. Then finally, we were at the bottom. The three of us ran slowly into town and crossed the finish line together, 20 hours 11 minutes after we started. I was shocked, happy, exhausted. Thierry and Michael were incredible, showing so much camaraderie and kindness in sticking with me to the end.
As always, a big congratulations to everyone who took part in races this weekend, particularly to Kris who ran an incredible 15 hours whilst taking all of these photos – see his blog for more.
The low down-
6044 metres ascent
700 registered runners including 79 women
471 finishers including 45 women
Four food and water aid stations, three more minimal aid stations. Water, coke, isotonic drink, bananas, oranges, bread, crackers, ham, cheese, tea, soup and sometimes coffee and more were on offer.
Montrail Bajada’s – brilliant grip in the snow and light enough to navigate the rocky descents. I didn’t trip once and my feet felt ok but I still haven’t worked out how to stop blisters forming on the end of my toes!
Compress sport calf guards – I think these prevent my legs getting prematurely tired. They did seem to be worn by the majority of runners
Under armour compression shorts – they’re just comfy
Two merino layers
Salomon wind and waterproof jacket
Thin gloves – I probably could of done with something a littler warmer at night
Petzl Tikka 2 headtorch – not sufficient for technical mountain trails in my opinion
Julbo Race glasses
Raidlight Olmo 5 pack
2 litre Camelbak
NO poles. I was definitely in a tiny minority here. A lot of people commented that I would of been better with them but the jury is still out.
1.5 litres of water, sometimes with a High 5 powder, at each stop, plus coke from the aid stations
2 x cliff bars
2 packs of sesame seed snacks
2 x packets of vegan choc covered raisons
1 bag of chewy sweets
Handfuls of banana and oranges pieces at each aid station
1 much needed coffee at Argentiere aid station