35 people stare at me expectantly. I’m standing in The North Face Store in Chamonix with their professional athletes by my side. I’m about to go running with them and a group of runners from seasoned ultra veterans to newbies like me in the lead up to the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, one of the most famous and toughest ultra races in the world. How did I get here?
I’ll be fine. I don’t need to eat at the moment. I’ll eat in a bit. It’s ok. Then.. it is suddenly not. I crash. I start to slow down first, then my concentration starts to waiver, then I just fall into a crabby and irritable mood. If only I had had eaten when I needed to!
Every year, thousands of runners and tens of thousands of spectators descend on Chamonix for one of the highlights of the trail running calendar – the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. Besides the eponymous 166 km/9,600m ascent mountain race there are a 4 others including the PTL, 300km/28,000m±; CCC, 101 km/6,100m±; TDS, 119 km/7,250m±; and, OCC, 53 km/3,300m±.
These races attract runners from all over the world and all of the major running companies are here supporting their athletes, demo-ing their awesome gear, and meeting their users. I am very excited to be helping The North Face with their events. There are many more, however, so I thought I would put a little summary up here for you!
As Mike left the first aid station, to say I was worried, is an understatement. Here he was, 33km into the 119km of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail and he was suffering from food poisoning – I was unable to even get off the sofa when I had something similar yet here he was, with 86km to go – more than two marathons to run.
This is the story of me supporting Mike Foote at the 2016 Lavaredo Ultra Trail. Part 1 of this awesome event can be read here.
We’re 103km into the enormous 119km of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail and Mike Foote crosses the brow of a hill with Rory Bosio and they jog their way into the last aid station. They both smile. It is clear they are still suffering but somehow they are both still smiling, both still cracking jokes, and both still positive. Mike and Rory are champion ultra runners, tipped to win this incredible race but food poisoning has knocked racing on the head, now they are just fighting to finish at all.
Fighting to fill my lungs, the magnitude of what I had let myself in for started to hit home. We were barely 2.5km into the 20km of the Cortina Skyrace and we were only just reaching the first climb.
How was I suffering so much already?
My last long run is done and the race is just around the corner. My legs feel strong and my mind is psyched to get started now. I’ve wanted to return to Cortina since discovering this beautiful alpine town last year while climbing the classic Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Now I’m heading back on Wednesday to race in a stunning and difficult trail race.
Recently my blogging buddy and running inspiration, Runner Beans, wrote a great piece about her Top 5 Running Moments – she is a prolific marathon runner and her list included the London Marathon twice, Berlin Marathon, New York Marathon, and a beautiful sounding Valentine’s day run with her other half. Inspired by this, Stuart Storr wrote his list, he has been running a little while now and was at the very first London Marathon in 1981!
Now I reckon it’s my turn. What are yours?
I’ve been home nearly a week now but Annapurna, and Nepal, feels like a lifetime ago. Was it really just two weeks ago that I realised the weather gods were conspiring against me and the opportunity to run the circuit would need to be put on hold for now? Making the decision to not carry on was easy, it was obvious, the hard part is coming to terms with what that decision leaves.
I’m lying on a bed in a hotel in Pokhara, sniffling with a cold. Not exactly how I thought day 7 of my Run Annapurna adventure would be. There has been non-stop snow for over a week up high which has completely blocked the Thorong La pass putting any attempt at even walking the Annapurna Circuit, let alone running it, out of the question.
Time for plan B.
On 26th April Challenge Sophie, Alex Ledger, and I set off on our first Ultra marathon, to run London to Brighton through the stunning English trails of the Wandle River, the North Downs Way, Sussex Trail, and finally the South Downs Way. We ran 62 miles over 16 hours, on an incredible adventure that showed us some of the beautiful English countryside, pushed our minds to the limits and tested our bodies beyond what any of us we had tried before.
It’s 8am on a Monday morning, my lungs are burning and my legs feel like lead, but a smile is spreading across my face. I’m running to work and I’m on the home stretch of the 6.5 miles route. I’m going to be sitting down for the rest of the day, there is no need to leave anything in the tank, no need to hold back, now is the time to go all out. I make the last turn and I’m there. I stumble to a halt, bent over double to catch my breath and checked my watch.
44 minutes 23 seconds since I set off from home. My personal best.