I was thinking about how to start the blog and my first post and I figured why not start with this? The Skyrunning world championships in Chamonix earlier this year. Running in the same race as Kilian Jornet in one of the most beautiful places on earth. It doesn’t get much better than this, right? Surely a highlight of my running career?
The course is a brute. It starts in the town centre of Chamonix and heads out of town then goes straight uphill under the cable car until you have gained a kilometre in height. The course is around 3.4K long. It is rather steep.
My preparation wasn’t ideal. Two weeks before I had paced my friend Alan Bennett for the last 46 miles of the South Downs Way 100. Amazing experience, but probably not the best preparation for running up a mountain. Oh well.
The race is a time trial. Runners start every 20 seconds. I was a bit concerned I had overestimated my abilities and underestimated my finishing time. My concerns proved to be correct.
I got into the starting tent. The starter counted me down. The light went off. I was away. I headed out of town towards the bottom cable car station. In hindsight I got a bit carried away because even this bit is bloody steep. I got to the bottom station and headed up the trail on to the switchbacks. Unfortunately I was knackered already and I had just done the easy bit.
Rather than distance markers on the course they had altitude gain markers every 100 metres. I didn’t realise this until I saw the first one. Oh crap (or words to that effect) was my first thought when I saw it. I am dying on my arse and I have just completed one tenth of the course.
Somehow I kept going. I am still not sure how. It was bloody painful and I was struggling to breathe. I was getting passed by a lot of people. My illusions of skipping up the mountain like a mountain goat were being stomped on, shattered then stomped on again – harder.
I dragged myself up this mountain, cursing and grumbling (when I could draw breath). I got through the via ferrata section in one piece without falling off the mountain. I went through the top cable car station. I just about managed a shuffle / run thing up the last section. I had finished! For the first time in my life I needed a lay down after a race, so I had one.
When I started to breathe again, for some reason I started thinking that I had enjoyed it. It’s amazing how quickly we forget the pain but only hold on to the good bits when you have finished a race. I suppose otherwise we wouldn’t do this stupid stuff ever again.
So that was my first vertical K. I have a horrible feeling it won’t be my last.