What a race! Short, intense, humid. Here's the breakdown.
Leading up to this race, nerves kicked in due to the potential size of the race (inscriptions open up to max 1500 runners) and the weather. I don't need to remind you how hot and muggy most of Europe was last week. Considering working, shopping, and generally moving, were proving to be an incredibly humid affair, training was not going to be a breeze.
Needless to say, the heat made training a lot tougher, and I was praying it would cool down a bit to take the sting out of the impending intense uphill race.
The Mont Blanc 23km is a race that begins in Chamonix, and ends up at Planpraz below Brévent (approx 2000m altitude). It is a course that undulates from Chamonix, through Lavancher towards Montroc, before hopping about the trails on the other side of the valley until the climb to the first lift at Flégère. After this checkpoint you need to maintain focus for the final marginally vertical zig-zagging action to Planpraz (thankfully finishers are then able to take the lift down).
Quite a lot going on for just 23km.
The beginning of the race was tough. The sun wasn't out in full force, but you could tell we were certainly at midsummer. This initially undulating course began on very familiar old ground, but I felt a little jaded. As my friend and yoga teacher Alistair pointed out when chatting at class this week, a race transforms well trodden paths with tension and swift moving numbers, creating a place very different.
I knew this area, but I couldn't take it all in my stride (so to speak). The first bit of a race for me often feels like waking up in the morning on a weekday. The alarm buzzes, you know you need to move and you absolutely do, but it's going to take a few minutes to adjust to it all.
I knew I had familiar faces waiting to greet me at Montroc, a roughly half-way point, and I was there faster than I expected.Let's be real, I was basically feeling a bit grumpy at this point, so when my friend Alice shouted 'eighteen!' I became motivated by the prospect of being in the top 20 women (we had a deal that if this were the case, she would darn well make sure I knew it).
Knowing the best of this trail was yet to come, I moved more strategically during the second half.
When your own inner voice is hard to hear under pressure, let others shout it for you. Never underestimate the power of a 'keep going' bellowed at you. Thank you so much to Alison, Meg, Andrea, Alice, Kaz, Nikki R, Irne and Luca for pushing me on at the sidelines (as well as Filippo who wished me well via WhatsApp. Filippo, I didn't read your message to 'get a move on' until after the race, but somehow I think I knew you had said it).
Special thanks goes to Matt, for listening to nothing but race chat leading up to the event and for knowing that even though I truly appreciated every kind word of congratulation, we both knew that I ultimately really needed that Coke and salt & vinegar crisps you brought.
In terms of kit, despite trying other great Salomon options, I decided to stick with a recent pair of Salomon Speedcross 4's. Oh, I just love them. They were beast-like on the more technical downhill section before the Flégère climb, and they were comfy on the uphills and rockier bits. Still my top choice.
I finished 10th Senior Female, 17th woman overall. A lot of heat, a lot of runners. Well that was fun! Now for the next.