Written by Fabricio Bastian - http://fabriciobastian.com/
I’ve been long waiting for this race. I had been in Chamonix before and I knew how beautiful the city and surroundings were, so I was really looking forward to run in those mountains.
I’ve traveled to Chamonix with two good friends from Denmark: Mads Blume and Christoffer Friman. Both would be running the 80km du Mont Blanc as well. We arrived there the Wednesday before the race, so we could have some time to relax before the race. We were a group of five that would be running the 80km: the three aforementioned; Peter Jensen, which is also a good friend from Denmark; and Peter Gøtze, which I’ve met for the first time there.
We got our start numbers on Thursday, ate a whole lot and went to bed early, since the race would start Friday at 4AM.
Friday 4AM we were ready at the start line. Mads Blume and I wanted to start in the front to avoid bottlenecks in the first ascent, which was a quite long one with aprox. 1400 hm. As soon as the race started we speed up a bit in order to get a good position, we ran straight to a steep uphill so the pulse got high in the start. We managed to get a decent position and we could hike up the hill at a good speed.
Already around 5-5:15 there was light enough so it was not necessary to use the headlamps anymore. We came over the first top in good time and started the first downhill. A little snow at the start but we ran mainly at broad ski slopes at this descent. It was an easy downhill run and we found a very good flow.
I took around 20 gels and 3 bars with me. My plan was to eat a gel every 30-45 min to as long as I could. So in the first aid station I ate a gel, we quickly filled our bottles and continued the race.
After there was a little up and down in non-technical trails and an uphill to Lac des Chéserys, a bit technical but nothing very hard. I don’t remember exactly what happened, if my trekking pole got stuck in a rock or if somebody hit me from behind, but I fell down and hit my knee and my head against the rocks. I fortunately managed to break the fall with my hands so I didn’t hit my head hard. It hurt, but I’ve just thrown some water at my knee and was ready to go again. There was no pain into my knee and no restriction of movement. I certainly got a bit chocked and started being much more careful from that point. That was around 20km in the race.
The downhill that followed as quite steep and technical and we had to slow down a little. We then reached the second aid station. We filled our bottles, ate a bit of fruits and continued. We started the next uphill running beside a waterfall, it was really beautiful. We knew from the profile that this should be the hardest ascent and when it started very easy, we were sure that it would get very steep in not so long. And it did. Steep and hard ascent, we death-marched uphill. At 1880hm we reached Vallon de trés les eaux, which was a stunning valley, with a stream of water in the middle. I had drank a half litter in this ascent and was afraid that I would run out of water, since we still had to go up to 2643 meters high and again down to 1970 in 10km before we would reach the next aid station. I tanked water in a water stream, since the water was incredibly clean and we saw that many of the other runners were doing the same. My knee was ok, but I could feel it at every step. Not a sharp pain, but that pain that is always there, like when you have a blister that you keep stepping over. My nutrition was going really well and I was eating after plan. I was feeling fresh but being extra careful. I had that thinking in my mind: “If you fall again you are done”.
We started going up again and then we met a lot of snow. I would estimate that we have run/walked around 2.5-3km in the snow at this section. It was also a very very warm and sunny day and since I didn’t take any sunglasses with me, my eyes got quite tired because of the amount of light due to the reflection in the snow. The snow was ankle-deep with many holes, so it was not a very easy progress. When we finally reached the downhill it was so steep and full of snow that we had to slide down on our asses. It was super fun and both Mads and I were laughing and screaming loud! It was for me THE moment of this run. It was so much fun J. The rest of the downhill was also very technical and required a lot of attention.
When we reached the Col du Passet, we filled our bottles and stopped to eat an energy bar. The next section was super technical. There were some exposed sections with chains and metal steps that we had to go through. I could not follow with Mads anymore, since I was being extra careful and my knee was bothering me a bit. At this point all my mental focus went on to finishing the race. I had no muscular pain and I was not feeling tired, but my knee and that feeling that I could not afford to make another mistake were taking all my energy. I didn’t really have the energy to take the camera out for filming anymore.
The way down to Vallorcine was very beautiful but also technical and steep. But there were some places where it was possible to run and so I did. Vallorcine looked like such a cozy area. Many mountain cabins with some small restaurants, and lots of people sitting outside and cheering. I arrived at the aid station, took some time to cool down (it was really warm at this point), filled up with energy drink and went further.
The next uphill to Aiguillette des Posettes started really steep and hard. But after some time the trail got very broad and it was easier to walk. This mountain was really dry and it was incredibly warm. There was no place to cool down and I saw several runners searching the shadows for a small pause. The top of this mountain was very beautiful. It was an amazing panorama of the surroundings, a lot of green areas and beautiful trails. The downhill was again technical and steep and I had to be very careful.
At this point I was mainly drinking and eating fruits at the add stations. I still ate a couple of gels, but I was tired of them already. During the run I also tried to stop at water streams and use the cold water (or sometimes snow) to cool down, since it was quite warm.
After Argentière the trails got wider and soft again and it was possible to move a bit faster. Once I have reached Les Bois, the last complete aid station, I’ve got a doctor to look at my knee and disinfect it. It was a bit big and of course hurting a bit as before, but I could feel that it was from the hit and I decided to continue. There was just one mountain left and I was feeling closer to the goal.
The last hill was a bit technical in the end, and it felt endless. My watch was complaining about low battery (after only 16h – disappointing) and it finally turned off (I would later find out that I’ve also lost all the data – disapointing2). There was a small surprise depot in the middle of this ascent, which was very nice. It was starting to get cold and they had some nice warm tea. Continuing up and up and up and I arrived at Gare du Montenvers, which is possible to reach by lift from Chamonix. From there I could see the city already and there was another aid station where I filled up my bottles. To reach Refuge du plan de l’aiguille there was a relative flat traverse from Signal and when I finally reached the last aid station I ‘only’ had 1000 high meters down to Chamonix in around 5km. I stopped a little, had a bit of soup and went further. I tried to run as much as possible but my knee was bothering me in this long downhill and I didn’t dare running anywhere close to fast. It was also getting dark again, so I had my headlamp on once more.
Finally, the downhill ends up in Chamonix and there were around 1-2km to goal through the streets of Chamonix. Even though it was relatively late, there were many people on the streets and I got cheered all the way. It was a really nice feeling. I crossed the goal in 19:03 and I am happy with the result. My knee slowed me down a lot (a posed me a huge mental challenge) and the run was much harder that I had anticipated. But I didn’t get either mentally or physically exhausted in this race and my nutrition plan worked really well (no stomach problems at all). The distance ended up being close to 90km and 7000+ hm.
Mads and Peter Jensen (who unfortunately dropped out because of a knee injury) were waiting for me in the finish line. It was really good to meet some known faces after a hard day in the mountains.
The day after I had no muscular pain, but my knee was not happy with me. It got quite big and I am still recovering. But who knows, maybe it would have just been the same if I had dropped out in the start…
It was an amazing race which I would love to do again. The weather was perfect (a bit too warm actually) and the course was gorgeous and well marked. Thanks Mads, Christoffer, Peter and Peter for a great weekend in Chamonix!
Gear and Nutrition
- Salomon S-Lab Exo Short Tight: which worked quite well, but I think that the internal underwear is a bit annoying and can cause wounds from chafing if you do not use some kind of anti-chafing cream. I would recommend clipping them out.
- Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin Hydro 12 Set: I am not a big fan of this vest because I think that it is too warm. But it sits so well and is so practical that it ended up being my choice. I just used a lighter tank under it instead of a regular t-shirt.
- 2 Salomon Soft Bottles 500ml: I think that 1L was perfect. More would have been unnecessary weight. The flasks did explode in my face 2 times, which was not that nice… The top valve just got out while I was pulling the flask.
- The North Face Kilowatt Tank: This is an amazing peace of running gear in my opinion. Super lightweight, dries fast and is comfortable.
- Features! Wool Socks: Really good quality and comfortable socks
- Brooks arm sleeves: regular arm sleeves, nothing special. Warm and comfortable
- Black Diamond Distance FL Trekking Poles: Super good aluminum Z-poles with adjustable height. Easy to fold in and out.
- Bonatti WP Jacket and Pants: the jacket as part of the mandatory equipment and the pants I took with me just in case since they are quite light. The Bonatti is an amazing and comfortable rain jacket with a reasonable compromise in weight.
- CompressSport Quad Compression: Upper leg compression sleeves, which I think work amazingly well.
- Petz NAO headlamp: Not the best and stronger for the price, but works quite well for my taste. I really like the reactive system, which spares the battery a lot. But I would not buy it for full price…
- La Sportiva Bushido trail running shoes: the best trail running shoes I’ve tried to date. Super comfortable pass form, very good protection (toe box and rock plate) and AMAZING grip. Definitely the best piece of gear I have chosen to this race.
- 20 gels + 2 energy bars: GU (Vanilla Bean, Raspberry Chocolate and Salt Caramel) and Winforce (Coconut) as gels, and RawBite (Cashew) as energy bar. All taste good. For a race this long I need more taste variants…
- Regular Buff: I mainly used it to deep into the cold water and put it around my neck to cool down.
- GO Pro Hero3 camera: Amazing and lightweight camera.
- Rest of the required equipment such as space blanket, extra batteries for the headlamp, etc.
- I haven’t used calf compression in this race and I have never had so fresh legs after a race…