Friday, 26 August 2011

1 day left!

View from Aiguille du Midi

Climbers on the ridge
Here we go, nothing for it but to get my head down and do it .. I'm absolutely bricking it, but also excited at the prospect of the UTMB experience. Allez!

The summit .. 3845m

Desert King is here, unable to run due to injury, but a great companion up to Aiguille du Midi this morning to take in the sights at 3845m altitude!

Icebreaker stand at the expo
Testing out some Hoka OneOnes

Caught up with loads of people today, the town's buzzing with nervous energy and the CCC runners are headed off tomorrow morning, then it's our turn at 6.30pm.

Kilian and Scott 
Seow Kong & Gavin

I'm resigned to the fact that it'll be cold and wet to start so this evening will be spent sorting out all my kit and making sure I'm prepared for the worst.

The summit .. 3845m

Doubt I'll be posting anymore till after the race .. stay tuned for a report ... given my track record that'll be a month from now! :) Thanks for all the well wishes and support so far, I'll be doing my best to come through!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

2 days to go ...

My timing chip 
 It's Wednesday today. Rocked up for race bib collection this morning and the queue was already super long. The whole process took nearly 2 hours, but was extremely well organised. I am now the proud owner of a timing chip on my wrist. The runners of the different events have different coloured bands.

Queue for race bib and kit check

Still queuing inside the Centre Sportifs
 I thought the queue was long when I got to teh Centre Sportifs at 10.20am .. bib collection started at 10am. A few minutes later the queue was nearly twice as long! Everyone waited very patiently despite the scorching mid-morning sun. Once inside the Centre Sportifs, it took about 20 minutes to get attended to. There were multi-lingual ushers at every point and they made sure everything went smoothly.
Race number 3256
Well organised bib collection 
First you got verified and handed over 20 Euro for your electronic timing chip. In return, you got an equipment checklist that doubles as your receipt. Then you head over to kit check, where all your obligatory equipment is ticked off the list. Then you get a little red cable tie that shows your kit has been checked and approved.
Time penalty list
It's been lovely weather here apart from a spate of rain on Monday evening .. not the best start for the PTL runners .. but I've just seen the weather report for race start on Friday (6pm)  .. thunderstorms predicted! Not the most promising start especially as it gets dark at 8pm ... but if I can get through till Saturday morning in one piece then that would be great.

Weather forecast for race start
Heavy rain on Monday evening

Will do my best to update over the next couple of days ... I'm getting nervous now and hoping everything will go smoothly .. Safe and in one piece will suffice! :)

Monday, 22 August 2011

4 days and counting ..

Yep, 36 degrees Celsius .. that's at 4pm! 

It's Monday today, another scorcher .. it was 36 deg.C in town yesterday, and the ice-cream queues were crazy. I've been told this isn't normal weather (obviously last year's race is a testament to that) .. but the locals have said that July was a washout so they're glad for a proper bit of sun at last. I'm glad it's hot,  hopefully that means the temperatures at night won't be too severe .. but I have to be prepared anyway .. at an extra 1000m above sea level it could be a different world.

The river's looking a bit rough today ..

The Petit Trotte de Leon starts this evening .. 300km and over 25000m of elevation ... now that's crazy. The town's starting to rev up even more .. I've never seen so many pairs of Salomon S-Lab 4's in one place! The 'salons' are being put up for the sponsors village .. I can feel more spending in store!

Fresh alpine water taps .. just turn the handle at the top

I've seen posters up for L'Ultra Sieste (The Mont-Blanc Ultra Siestas) scheduled for Tuesday and Saturday .. hilarious! It says to take part, just bring your hammock, a chaise lounge, cakes, drinks, music, games, books, etc .. whatever you like .. and don't forget a good sense of humour .. maybe I should do that instead!

I didn't feel too good over the weekend, but after a nice run this morning it feels like things are falling into place at last. I think it was a good idea I arrived early for a little R&R in Chamonix .. today my body feels like everything's finally starting to fall into place. Altitude acclimatised at last! (Took long enough!)

Went to the Chamonix Adventure Film Festival last night .. I think the previous day's program would have been more suited to my tastes, but a good insight to some of the adventures of some extreme free skiers and rock-climbers, and nice to meet them in the flesh as well.

Love his gardening outfit

Well, 4 days to go and I'm starting to get my act together ..

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Le Brevent ... 2525m above sea level

Cable car to the summit, Le Brevent
Meal with a view


Didn't have a great night's sleep due to Friday night shenanigans going on in the street outside. My hotel (Hotel Richemond) is in a great location in the Chamonix town centre, and the price you pay for a room facing Mont Blanc is the street noise. There's been live music every day in different places, all of which have been pretty good. This is the first time in a week that the noise has bothered me.

Elected for a steady run/hike today to Le Brevent (2525m) to try out all my new kit. So with a full pack and new 3/4 tights, I get a lift in the cable car to the top. I know .. I should have run up, but it's amazingly hot .. (late start!) and all the advice I've had so far is not to tire myself out. Who am I to argue?

The views are spectacular, and the initial plan was to run the Lac du Brevent loop and carry on to Planpraz, the intermediate stop on the slopes before the summit. My run didn't quite go as planned. The route to the lake was not runnable ... sloping downward and strewn with loose rock .. it was like trying to run on the moon, and I had to settle for a fast hike instead. I stopped to take pictures along the way, and there was a man swimming across the lake .. you can see how small he is in relation to the lake .. he must have been freezing! It was a very scenic spot though, so I sat down with a Hammer bar to toast my spectacular surroundings.

Heading towards Lac du Brevent
Spot the swimmer!
My Cascadias covered in trail dust
Like running on the moon

On the way back I lost the trail and ended up going 'off-piste' to get back on it. Before I managed that I had a standoff with a couple of mountain sheep .. not my finest hour! I waved my poles and they went around me after some consideration.

Ewe lookin' at me??

Back at Le Brevent, I'm not feeling great, guessing it's the heat and altitude combination, and I elect to just get the cable car back down.

As I'm writing this I'm still feeling inexplicably wrecked, have a headache despite a camel-load of water, and I'm off to bed. It's 7.30pm here .. hope the extra zz's will sort me out. Shame though .. the Adventure Film Festival is on and tonight Kilian's Quest is showing .. and the man himself is meant to be there, if his Facebook post is to be believed! Oh well, can't win 'em all, I guess! :)

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Rest day

A cloudy start today, the Mont Blanc massif taking on a completely different character this morning .. darker and a slightly menacing .. not very Heidi-like at all!
Flowers in the park
This all changed in the space of a few hours, the sun was out again by lunchtime, baking the cobbled streets. I spent most of the day lazing on a park bench in the shade, having a picnic lunch and doing a very difficult sudoku puzzle (which I failed at!). I did manage to complete The Times crossword, though.  

The handle is an actual HOOF 

Got up to stretch my legs and realised that there was a Friday market round the corner selling weird and wonderful things, none of which I could justify buying .. unlike the 4 Salomon S-Lab packs I've bought so far! All sorts of alpine-related souvenirs, lots and lots of ancient postcards (still trying to figure this one out), and bric-a-brac everywhere.
Confit de canard for dinner! :)
The town's gotten much busier with a marked influx of tourists, climbers, hikers and runners. There's a palpable air of anticipation building, the banana section in the supermarket has been cleaned out, and it's not even the weekend yet. Everyone looks lean, mean, and ready to race, wish I felt the same!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Retail therapy ...

Start gantry is up!

Short run today, only 5 miles. The trouble with being in Chamonix is that the only way is up. Literally. So whatever the distance schedules, I can pretty much expect to run uphill for the first half and then back down to where I started. Today I explored a little more of the Petit Balcon Sud (Small South Balcony), trying to keep upright and not trip over the zillion tree roots and loose rock on the trail. I'm quite sore from my fall yesterday .. think I called more muscles into play to arrest my fall than I realised. Rest day tomorrow!

Another sunny day in the alps and no breeze for respite, but nothing a couple of cold drinks and ice-cream couldn't remedy! :) I spent the rest of the day having a leisurely wander round town.

Cheese and deli shops everywhere ... yum!

Haribo heaven!

L'universe de Bon Bon (World of Sweets) .. one of my fave shops here!
Then I made the fatal mistake of looking in Ravanel, a great little shop run by Thierry that stocks everything you need for UTMB and more ... needless to say, my credit card got a workout today too. Thierry is involved in the UTMB organisation (he's done the route over 130 times now, and certainly sounds like he's knows it well) and answered all my questions with great advice and a good range of product options. (I needed a pair of gloves and a warm hat .. honest! My other warm hat makes me look like a gnome.) The new rules for obligatory equipment this year have included items not in previous years' lists, mainly due to the disastrous weather last year, so everyone's going to end up carrying a lot more than they got away with last year. 

Ravanel was the only store that had these in my size .. yay! (And they're obviously an 'Ultra' glove!)
Anyway, I came away with a great hat (that doesn't make me look like a gnome), a pair of Sealskinz waterproof gloves, a pair of Salomon EXO IV 3/4 tights, and (drumroll ...) the Salomon XT Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 pack! It's exactly like the 5-litre version, just big enough to stash all the extra stuff required for longer races. There are stow pockets and storage compartments everywhere, and I can't wait to try it out! There were only 600 produced for France, and Thierry's now down to his last few .. I'm taking orders if anyone wants one, let me know! They're 165 Euro, but I get 10% off for being a UTMB participant. 

Front & back
Side view and unzipped
There's a detachable divider in the main compartment .. easy access with a zip that goes all the way round .. zipped pocket in the front mesh bit .. small zipped pocket on top .. zipped side pockets and new elasticated side pockets (these are going to be SO handy!) .. and all the usual bits that come with the original version. I know you're not supposed to try anything new for a race, but I've just over a week to trial this so I think it'll be fine. The main thing is that it fits like a glove, much better than my XA 10+3 .. at least I don't have to worry about chafing from my pack now!

While I was upstairs debating which hat was the least gnome-like, one of the sales assistants yelled up to Thierry that "Monsieur Scott" had arrived ... none other than ultra-god Scott Jurek! I was too star-struck to ask for a pic, and managed to squeak hello. Thierry just grinned and said that I should come by more often as most of the elite runners are there regularly during the week, including Krissy Moehl, the 2009 female winner of UTMB. Not that I need an excuse to go back ... I've already got a list of stuff on my wish list .. I'm guessing I'll be spending more time and money there in the near future!
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