Friday 29 June, i.e. only a few days after the Grand Duc de Chartreuse and its 90 km, here I am in Chamonix for a vertical kilometre (as a warm up before the marathon Sunday).
Garmin trace of my race.
Results on the race website.
The day started with lunch in a restaurant in Chamonix where I ordered lasagnas (we're supposed to have pastas, right?) but didn't expect them to come with so much cheese... fatal error... Then the afternoon was used to pick up bibs and T-shirts for my 2 races, finally buying my new Salomon 12litre-pack, setting up my tent at the campsite, and stressing out seeing the huge slope towering above us, with the poles of the Planpraz cable car materialising the course of the vertical kilometre just under them...
At about 4pm I am lined up on the town square where we are due to start, under scorching sun, in a first wave of slower runners (the fastest ones start last after a safety buffer of time with no starters so they won't bump into anyone who would slow them down). Only guys ahead of me, mainly guys around actually, but 2 girls just behind. I end up starting earlier than planned because some people are missing. There is a TV camera on the line and a TV helicopter circling above.
So here I go. At first we go through town, with KV arrows painted on the ground, and marshalls directing us. It starts out flat enough, then starts climbing on the concrete, there are people everywhere around, so I can't really stop running. When I hit a more isolated part of the track I pull off my shirt and try speed walking instead, but I quickly pass another patch of supporters. And then after the fist 100m ascent through town, we hit the trail. There is a huge line of people who are completely blocking the road so we wouldn't miss the turn off. From that point I only walk, but fast enough. I count the signs every 100m+ and hit the lap button every time. I also start passing people who started before me, while no one is passing me yet :-O
I am so thirsty I ask two tourists watching us if they could spare some water: score! feel better after that.
There are less people cheering now, as we make our way under the cable cars on short steep laces. No poles allowed so it's all in your legs. At about 400m+, still pushing hard, I am thinking this is really hard work and I am not doing it again, ever, not my type of effort. It is really hot and I am regretting to not have any water with me (decided to go light). Shortly after my stomach starts hurting, making me progressively slow down, and taking all the fun out of the race... That's when runners (walkers) start passing me from behind, starting with the girl who had started just behind me. The nice lacing trail ends too, and we end up in a sort of construction site, with unstable ground, piles of sand and earth rolling under foot.
At 800m+ we get to the climbing (with hands and cables and steps and metal bars stuck into the rock to help) part, which should have been awesome fun, but I am forced to stop for a few minutes to stop my stomach from hurting. There is a gendarme ensuring safety I guess. Lots of wind here, getting cold so I put on my shirt again. Lots of guys arrive from behind and start climbing before me.
Finally I pull myself together and start slowly climbing up. I can see why poles are forbidden, they would have been big trouble in that section. Then there is a short downhill but I can't really run, and we arrive at the cable car station, lots of people again, Mickael was waiting here, gives me water, and then tells me there is still 100m climb after that. I thought the cable car was the finish, disappointed... Climb some stairs out of this balcony, and I have missed the 900m+ sign so I'm not sure how far the finish still is. I start running again, more to get rid of my support crew who keeps running along, but I can't really speed up enough.
And suddenly here it is, the finish arch around a corner, could only see it at the last moment. So no way I would stop running now, I pass the line running.
On the line a TV guy asks me for some comments but I am too out of breath and hurting to answer, so after a while he tells me I can make the "kaput" sign, which I do with relief. And go crash in the grass for a second before immediately heading for the bathrooms down at the cable cars again. Then get some drinks, and getting cold so we decide to head down. Being in the cable car above the course I've just run is awesome, I can see how hard it was now. There are still runners on it (there was 400 of us so with a start every 30 seconds it takes a while to send everyone off) and I take loads of photos through the dirty windows.
Only when reaching the square where we started, do I realise that Kilian was signed up on this race and is due to finish soon...! So frustrated I didn't wait for him at the top! There is some competition but he secures the first place, and dedicates his victory to Stephane :-(
Conclusion: I am pretty disappointed with my time and mainly with it being due to stomach problems, and with the fact I couldn't enjoy the race so much, so I have to do a vertical kilometre again! :)