In January I (Sam writing) signed up for a fell running race on July 30th called the 6000D – 60km long with 4000m of climbing and descending. It seemed like a good idea because the riding gets a bit dificult over the alpine winter whereas my studded fell shoes mean it’s easy enough to get out, break an icy sweat and stay much warmer than you do descending on a bike at -15 degrees.
Then something beautiful happened – the sun came out, all winter! It was the best winter of biking we’ve ever had, with trails snow free up to 1800m. Needless to say running went on the back burner to such an extent that by the start of July I’d been on exactly three runs all year. Not ideal preperation for 1.5 marathons with the same height gain as doing Ben Nevis 4 times.
Cue the film montage sequence where the tune from Rocky plays as I try to get good at running in three weeks. I opted to let biking fitness take care of the ups and instead focus on preparing for the punishing downs. This involved getting on chairlifts dressed in my porno shorts (why are running shorts so short?) and wife beater for some uplifted running – I guess the bike industry would have a glib marketing name for it in milliseconds. Freerunning? I liked ‘shoe-core’ best.
Fast forward to last Saturday and there I was with nearly 1000 other weirdly dressed people in Aime town centre at 6.30am. Things started off a bit too fast for me but we soon hit the first steep climb and, since it went on for 30km and rose to 3050m up on the glacier on the south face of the Bellecote, everyone slowed down a bit!
The next 8hrs20mins went roughly as follows: Hours 0-5 – sweaty, pretty sore but generally manageable. Hours 5-6.5 – trying to pace the descent. Legs hurt a lot but nothing to stop you dead. Hours 6.5-8 – misery! every single step hurts and there’s a half-marathon of them before the finish. Why oh why is there no freewheel on human legs? Crap design!
The last twenty minutes were just a very slow count down to the finish. If I sped up then my left knee and right IT band got ridiculous so the pace was less than sprightly. I crossed the finish line in 8hrs and 20mins, 183rd out of 850 finishers. All I could do was lie down on a field stretcher until the red cross started looking a bit too interested in me. I then managed to shuffle to the shade of the big church in Aime where I had to lie on the grass in a foetal position for about an hour until I could face moving again.
Would I do it again? Probably, yes. What would I do differently? Run a lot more over the months preceeding the event!