There is a well known saying that what goes up, must come down. With most of my outdoor activities (like hiking in the backcountry or being on a road bike) an uphill slog is always rewarded with some downhill motion. It?s often what keeps me going.
This weekend though I took part in a race that went against all of this logic. With this race the reality is, what goes up must continue to go up and up and up and up and up until you finally reach the finish. It was The Mont Blanc Cross Race, a 23km uphill race which was held last weekend with temperatures hovering around the 30 degree mark and not a cloud in the sky.
I?ve know that I?d be running it for sometime now and have been training on and off for the last few months. Luckily for me I?d done a lot of my initial training in Colorado (at a height of 3,000m) which I?m certain helped with the elevation as I experienced no altitude problems during the race. Altitude is one thing but the ascent involved was another thing entirely.
The UK is relatively flat and where I?m based is even flatter. Cheshire has precisely zero hills, a recipe that doesn?t bode well for hill training. The race itself climbed 1,500m in elevation meaning I?d have more vertical gain than the tallest mountain in the UK (Ben Nevis).
The race itself set off at quite a steady pace as we made it into the first refreshment post at 13kms after 75 minutes of running. With the run now heading up and above the treeline and getting progressively steeper the pace slowed and I made it to the second refreshment stop high above the valley floor at 2hr24mins and with only 5kms to go I was feeling ok.
That?s where everything stopped. Everything from 18kms up until the finish became a blur as I started to experience leg cramps in my calves that made every move agony. At one stage we had to descend an iron stair/ladder set that reduced me to tears. Step by step I carried on as more and more people overtook me as the incline became so steep that it was more of a competitive walking race than running.
Finally, approaching the summit of the climb loomed the finish which resembled a mountain stage of the Tour De France with hundreds of people willing you across the line. ?Allez, allez, allez!? It was one of the more surreal moments of this year, that?s for sure.
As for myself, I was greeted with a smile and the words, ?Come on Tim, you?ve only got a hundred metres left! Go, go!? There was no heroic mad dash for the line ? in reality that last 100m probably took me 3 minutes to complete but regardless I was ecstatic to finish after 3hrs 22mins.
If I can figure out dealing with cramps better then I think I could return next year and knock 15 minutes off my time but for now 532 place out of 1400 starters still puts me in a happy place.
And as for the relevance to this blog? Well I actually ran with my camera on me capturing a couple of moments along the way. Yes it was long, yes it was painful but would I do it again? Absolutely.
7.30am warm up around the track in Chamonix
Down in the valley for the 8.30am start
The first 3 or so km’s were pretty stable, close packed running
Things progressively getting tougher and more technical
Up at the 18kms refreshment post. Things were getting hard for me around here
Finished and finally able to stand up again! So much pain