Thursday, 21 August 2014

My journey to Chamonix

I’ve had an eye on one of those finisher’s gillets since 2010! Our first encounter with the UTMB. Both Thomas and I had a place in the CCC, holidays were booked but we then unexpectedly moved house 6 weeks before the race and training didn't go well. In fact I had hardly done anything but we went and decided to savour the atmosphere and see how far we’d get! We had no idea what to expect and after a short walk uphill to a hut a few days before the race and downhill, my legs were like jelly! We still joined the start line and were soaked to the skin before the race set off! The forecast was awful, we hadn't even brought our goretex jackets with hats and I got a text from Thomas after 4-5M into the race that we were stopping! I didn’t argue and we were the first “abandonnes”! Back in Chamonix we got a lot of stick for it from our lovely friends (you know who you are! :-)) but come nightfall it was clear that the conditions were horrendous. And the race was stopped in the middle of the night. I was quite proud of my weather-man!

So 4 years later I have a place at the start line again and my eyes are firmly set on the gillet (Finisher-jacket)!

Timing again wasn’t optimal as I didn’t train much until April due to work. Once I had cut down my hours to 75% I was going to kick-start my serious training only to sprain my ankle! I had another blip in July when I lost quite a few days due to a chest infection. My 6-week pre-race plan was hampered by colleagues wanting to take 3 weeks of leave at short notice meaning I had to cover them. The Commonwealth Games were my own in-built difficulty but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity.

So time was precious and I left it all for Thomas to work out! When I should do which run, what distance, how much descent and ascent, back-to-backs or really long runs, efforts, hills, recovery runs. 

I have had great solo runs during my training, beautiful sunshine on Arran with an overnight stay, double Ben Lomond and I was fortunate to have friends join me for other training runs. Thank you all! I have discovered a whole new world of trails over in Dunoon, expertly guided by one of my new colleagues (recently completed her 1st ultra and aiming for the Devil next year). My favourite run, the Loch Eck loop, 21M, was done on a few occasions, Ben More and the Volcano trail and Chinese Lakes. 

Thomas and I had a fantastic week in Courmayeur reccing the route where possible. I know exactly what I am going to do for the first ascent (Ben Nevis height gain) and I have done the last stages from Vallorcine. I know what’s coming and I know I can do it!
I even succumbed to the Hoka craze! And yes I will be running the race in my Hoka Stinsons!

My preparation has been as good as it could have been. I WILL be prepared for bad weather and invested in a pair of Sealkins soft gloves. I couldn’t believe how cold I was the other week getting caught in heavy rain on Ben Lomond, I could hardly open my food. So the gloves might be a race saviour! I will take my proper Goretex jacket unless the forecast is very good. And I will be standing on the start with a rain poncho if required to keep me dry until countdown!

All credit once again must go to my coach! Thomas has been fantastic. With him not being able to run I have felt bad at times coming home from great runs. I tried not to talk about them too much. But the guy he is, he was happy for me and didn’t tire laying out my training plan and adjusting it day by day. He had food ready when I got home and cleaned my shoes. He knew when to put pressure on me when I didn’t feel like going out for a run. “I would if I only could!” and I immediately felt bad and put my shoes on.
He also thought 3 days without running (Mo-Wed my longest days at work) would be too much and if I didn't feel like running after work I should go out BEFORE. At 5am precisely. For a recovery run. Well I did it while he turned round in bed to sleep for a further 3 hours!

He has kept me calm when I thought I might have bitten off something too big. And he’s got a lot more of that to do until next week! We have invested in a 30Euro bus ticket for him to accompany me to Courmayeur to keep me company until the start. And it will allow him to maybe see me en route. Though this will be in the last 3rd of the race as it is very impractible to reach the half way point. Otherwise I will rely on myself and the aid stations. I will miss my WHW Race support crew who did such a great job in getting me to the finish in 2012. I know I can be on my feet for 29 and a half hours so surely 26 and a half should be a doddle?! 

The CCC is going to be a great adventure and challenge to see if I am able to cope in the mountains over that terrain and distance on my own. I hope the weather will be good enough to enjoy the beautiful scenery. 

I am already visualising my arrival in Chamonix but I also know that anything can happen on the way. My 2 concerns are the first time barrier in Arnuva. Which Thomas thinks is no problem! And my right knee. Its been giving me some discomfort on steep downhills and we know there will be many of those! I hope it will hold up and allow me to keep going. I will be using poles and in fact have got the Audi of poles, Diamond Z-poles recommended by Bob Allison. They are superb!

My plan is to set off a bit faster at the beginning to avoid the queues on the narrow paths, I am looking forward to getting up onto the Tete de la Tronche, what a beautiful ridge, then I will pass Bertone hut and Bonatti hut, a trail I have been on. 
Thomas best pieces of advice in the last few days: 1) rest is good training.
2) Don’t you befriend anyone during the race so you're not feeling obliged to stick with them! Run your own race! :-) He means well!