Another one that I never got round to writing up, but it’s a highly recommended event. If 78km doesn’t float your boat, they have a number of different distances from 10km and up, all finishing in the same stadium at Davos in the afternoon. Complete with the usual Swiss efficiency (transport to Davos is included in the race entry), good checkpoints, and opportunities for the more intrepid spectators to see you – another one for my ‘do again’ list.
My photos can be found here
I was stopped on a hairpin about half way up the Col du Tricot. Maybe a bit more, maybe less. It was 1am, I’d been racing for 18 hours and 100km. ‘That last hill on the profile,’ Elisabet had commented two days ago, ‘it’s harder than it looks. It’s not just a little hill. Make sure you keep something for it.’ A random Icelander with whom I had queued to collect the start number giving her two cents worth, based on her own previous experience. But I hadn’t kept anything for it. I was stopped, my last energy gel had been slurped up, and I thought I was running low on water.
If that wasn’t funny then, to quote Yossarian of Catch-22, there were a lot of things that weren’t even funnier. The coming descent to Les Houches for a start, a drop of 1,200 toe-destroying metres over 9km into the Chamonix Valley. Someone passed where I stood and I tucked in behind him to see if I could get pulled up the mountain. Or her, as it turned out. What was it about the Col du bleedin’ Tricot and fast running women?
Rewind 18 hours to the pre-dawn, getting ready for the start. The bus to Courmayeur, hanging around in the sports hall, the short walk to the start, dropping off the bags. Everything working as it should. I found a spot
reasonably near the front as part of my tactic to have a good couple of kilometres through town prior to picking up the trail somewhere in the top 200 or so, to hopefully minimize queueing in the first narrow sections and more importantly, at the first couple of checkpoints until the field spread out. This would happen quite naturally over the first section and sooner or later I would find myself among those going more or less the same speed as me.
See my full report here
And more pictures here
Jumping a bit…maybe I will fill in the gaps between the Diagonale des Fous and this one at some point, maybe I won’t.
The UTSW nearly didn’t happen at all for me. To get to the muster point, Newquay, I would fly from Copenhagen to Gatwick on Easyjet, and from Gatwick to Newquay on FlyBe. Almost 2 hours to connect at Gatwick, together with handluggage only (provided EasyJet let me carry it) – I would be fine.
Arriving at the low cost arm of Copenhagen airport, we were advised of a short delay. The aircraft itself appeared to be there, but bad weather at Gatwick was causing long delays. It sounded ominous. Minutes became quarter hours, quarter hours became half hours, an hour…
Eventually we were on, but warned we would probably have to wait some time before the plane was cleared to go. Finally, an hour and 45 minutes late, we were off. If the flight took its scheduled time, I would have 10 minutes to connect at Gatwick – and the reported bad weather made it likely we would be delayed further. I tried not to think about it.
Approaching London, the bad weather was visible. We descended through clouds and sheets of rain, but at least had not lost further time. The doors were open exactly 15 minutes before my next flight was due to depart. I legged it down the back steps and into the terminal, wearing my trainers anyway as I had reasoned that if EasyJet had made me check my bag in, these were the things I did not want to have to replace on the day if the luggage got lost. Through the terminal to immigration – luckily the auto-gates had no queue and my new passport has a chip in it. Through customs, trying to look as though I wasn’t a dodgy bloke legging it. Up to the departurers level; another miracle, no queue at security. An elderly couple wished me luck as I sprinted off, just in time to see the status of my flight turning to ‘closed’ on the overhead boards. Nothing to do but keep running, straight through the waiting area, over a line of chairs and down a never-ending passage towards the gates.
‘What flight are you looking for?’ enquired the girl at the beginning of the FlyBe gates.
‘Newquay,’ I replied, ‘but i think I’m too late.’
‘Just down there on the left,’ she smiled.
I could have kissed her but I would have missed the flight. The door closed behind me and I was on the way to Newquay, bang on time, having run what was probably my fastest mile of the entire weekend already.
See the rest of the race report here
And some more pictures here
The Diagonal of Fools
At 11pm on 23rd October 2008, I lay flat on my back on the gravel at ‘Cap Mechant’ at the south eastern corner of Reunion island. Bruno was to blame – for weeks I had had hundreds of questions – ‘are you ready for it?,’ ‘how do you think you will do?,’ ‘surely you will sleep?’ and so on. My answer to all three and more was ‘I have no idea’ – and I did not. How was I to know if I was in a fit state to race across a volcano, mostly in the dark, on a course 4 times longer than any race I had done and with the equivalent of more than an ascent and descent of Mount Everest, starting from sea level, along the way? I had no idea. I’d barely seen a mountain in training – my highest peak is all of 40 metres above sea level. I would finish, that was not in doubt in my mind – typically 40% of entrants do not – but I had 64 hours to do it and would be happy to walk the whole thing and be done in 63 and a bit.
Bruno had done it before, when the course was a little shorter, in 32 hours. I asked him if he had slept on the way – ‘no, but the last 21km took 7 hours – downhill.’ How could 21km downhill take 7 hours? I can knock off that distance – a half marathon – in an hour and twenty even with a hangover. Like the other questions, I had no idea. I’d done my training over the months – 350km in September alone; over a 3 week period in September and early October I had run the equivalent of 3 marathons each week, getting out of bed, running 20km to work, running home again, laps of the airport island at weekends and so on – though admittedly my longest run had been ‘only’ 53km, and Denmark is not famous for its mountains to practice on.
My full (illustrated) race report is here
And the rest of the photos are here
One day I’ll do it again.
I got a place in this one 3 or 4 weeks before the start - entry had closed but I entered a draw to get one of 10 extra places in August. 3 weeks later, not sure what I was letting myself in for, I arrived in Interlaken for my first mountain marathon. As I had entered my first really long run the next month, I figured this would at least give me a taste of what to expect when heading into the mountains.
Technically speaking for the purists it’s a road run of 26km followed by a mountain rising some 1800m over the last 16km. Whatever – it’s a stunning course. I ended up in 4 hours 13 minutes, though reckon under 4 would have been possible. Placed 228th out of 5000 or so isn’t bad, especially when most of the runners are Swiss whereas I have to practice in mountain-freee Denmark. Being my first Alpine run I held back a little, and despite having registered twice since, have never made it back for another go.
One day I will – it has a fantastic atmosphere, with bands all over the place (one of which we ended up with in a bar in town in the evening; a small pub with a 20 piece brass band is quite something). Great Swiss mountain trains transport your supporters along the course, with text messages to let them know where they can catch you next. They even get you back dowen to Interlaken at the end! It’s also superbly organised, with rail vouchers included in the entry fee so you can get from any Swiss airport to Interlaken.
I never got round to writing it up properly, but there are a few pictures here