Written by Paul Croke
Put the kettle on if your going to read this i would say.
I woke up shortly after 2 am on a French Wednesday morning and my first thought was i had slept for 2 hours so that's good. Myself and Paul Daly, an ultra runner and friend from a few previous outings in the Wicklow area were starting the TDS. An alpine ultra race in the Mont blanc region of the Alps starting in Courmayeuer in Italy at 6am and finishing hopefully by 3pm on Thursday in Chamonix in France. We were still in France so up we got to try eat some breakfast as we had a bus journey cross country to make the start line. My stomach was in knots, not from Stress mind as i don't get nerves before Races, it's a pointless choice to make and it is a choice, no it was from a Pizza at 10.30 the night before. Paul was the same. Not to worry we ate a small bit of something, gathered up our endless list of kit and half point drop bags and left for the bus. Arriving in Courmayeuer very tired but wanting to begin we sat on the ground of a bus station depot for an hour then made our way to the start line. My only thought was something John Colclough had said to me during a Wicklow Raw recce. Make sure your near the front as the first 3 hours will bottleneck and you will lose 30 mins straight away. We droppped our bags and into the line up. You can't move through the crowd as it's jam packed with 1600 runners from 80 odd different nationalities all eager to begin. I estimated there were only 300 behind us so we would start in about 1300 position. Not to worry. Paul was in great form and had his camera out to record the start. How lucky to be running with a camera man as i prob wouldn't have brought one. After 2k around the town it was out onto trail for a 1200 metre 10k climb to the summit of Areta du Mont Faure and then drop 4k to the first timed checkpoint. The first climb would be higher than climbing the biggest mountain Ireland has and in the context of what was to come would be relatively easy, so i told myself. Not that i knew the names of any of the mountains ahead, any of the checkpoints or anything about this race apart from it is brutal technically and if we get to half way after the massive climb out of Bourg San Maurice we will have a chance. Paul had failed to complete this race on a previous attempt so it was a chance to slay the Dragon for him. I had never used hiking poles before, only buying a cheap pair the previous day. I don't get caught up on gear really, easily spotted by the nike road shoes i was wearing. Im sure there are people have done these things wearing animal skins back in the day so having runners at all is fine with me. I had also thought about attempting this race without poles which i decided against as i hadn't run in almost 4 weeks due to a knee/tendon injury and Paul had basically said you won't do it without them. Im also in the gym doing upper body work all the time so it may aswell be put to good use at some stage. Truth is you are a serious lunatic if you try attempt this without them. I didn't use the poles for the first climb as my thighs were very sore, sore like i had run a fast marathon. My thinking was give them a wake up call they will be fine. We past a water stop 7k up but kept going as we were fine for water. You can't really pass anybody out for the first 3 or so hours. It's a congo line of ants all heading into the Alps together. I hadn't used the poles for the first climb as my thigh muscles were aching and sore to touch, this was worrying me but i put it down to not being used much of late and making them work hard up the first climb would wake them up. When we summeted the views were spectacular and i was interested to see how my knee was so off we ran on the first downhill of the day. It was very rocky, over streams, zig zagging left and right. The first taste of Raceday came when two runners came barging from behind on a tricky section and bumped me. I responded by cutting them off running through the stream to do so. It meant Paul was a few places back but i only did it to piss them off truth be told. So we hit the flat and soon ran into timed checkpoint number one together. My knee was sore, im already on a painkiller and my stomachs in bits.
Check 1 reached. Lac Combal. 16 k done. 1315M climbed. Race time 3:02
42 minutes ahead of cut off time.
I covered my legs in Freeze Spray as they were sore everywhere. I was feeling quite down as i felt sore and achy like this during the RAW 100k in Wicklow which was a disaster, but i shouldn't have entered that race as i was fecked going into it from over training. I didn't mind as i was taking 3 weeks off after it. But i pulled out half way through that race 50k and 10 hours in. I should feel great now. No time to overthink. I had 2 bottles with me. One for coke, other for water. Bowl of noodle soup which is basically hot water and salt and on we go. Next timed stop is 20k away starting with a climb to Col Chevannes at 2584 metres. Paul had said his stomach was in bits from the pizza the night before. Full agreement here, if i get off this alive im not eating there again. We chatted a good bit going up this rocky, steep climb. We were both comfortable and although im surrounded by 3000m peaks the heat even now has me sweating a lot. What i noticed after an hour or so is nobody apart from myself and Paul were talking to one another. Nothing but game faces, ah cheer up lads. The first voice i heard in ages came from straight up the cliff face screaming something. Then a rock came tumbling down on the trail up ahead, Its like shouting 4 in golf albeit there are more targets here. . After 1hr 30 mins we had climbed 615 metres and were atop Col Chevannes and wow. What a view. We could see miles off down into the valley where we would be running next, and looking back down where we had come from was amazing. Jagged alpine mountain ridges in a 360* panorama and opposite us Devils tooth, one of a line of high jagged peaks like massive teeth reaching into the far off sky. I had remembered a story of a climber who went on to almost summit Everest with Tenzing wearing childrens shoes as he had lost all his toes caught in a storm over by Devils tooth somewhere ( I think ). There was a constant reminder throughout of “your not in Wicklow anymore”. The Comeragh mountains in Waterford are now speedbumps. On a beautiful sunny day the best sight of all down a different trail. A stone shed that i could use to go toilet. With my poop bag in hand i dissappeared and returned with it still empty. I had managed to go somewhere that wouldn't affect the Ecosystem. Hopefully the end of the stomach issue's. Few quick pics and off. So we ran the next 10 k or so on what may be the most runnable section of the entire route, although it had rocky sections and things to look out for it was most enjoyable. We chatted the entire way down into the Valley, the sweating was crazy at this point and any flowing water we passed we would dip our headwear and try fill a bottle. Another lesson learned today would be fill your bottle whenever you can. Down into the Valley and onto a very steep grass/rock section marked with the first Danger sign of the day. Danger to walk but we would be running it. Im now getting used to using the poles as an air brake and its really the only way you could run this part. I am and have been fully using my upper body to take all the weight off my legs by utilising the poles and was more than happy too as it saves the legs some. We briefly entered a forrest and passed some people who were not in the race but out enjoying the nature, and a smile and clap is nice at any stage of any race. Some more up and down and a few k across open landscape until we came to a beautiful lake sitting under a very steep hill opposite. No doubt we were going up there. Paul kept saying look can you not see the people. I couldn't, i can't see a whole lot that far away without my glasses but i don't wear them running either they are too annoying. Paul was similar. Needs glasses but doesn't wear them running. There's more staring at the ground and concentrating on not falling than anything else. We have been chatting and running a while now and in great form knowing up over the 400m climb ahead was the timed checkpoint at Col Du Petit St Bernard. The steepness of the hills is actually quite crazy and i was putting my poles into the ground and using all my strength pulling myself up to secure another position to repeat the process. The mind wanders a lot and comparisons always ensue, early on it's fine to deliberate these things. Into the checkpoint we came and got in the Queue for water. The checkpoints were like a cattlemart. I got myself and Paul soup and bread. Water bottle one was filled with water, one solpadeine and one electrolyte tablet. Bottle two was coke. Coke was the fuel for this entire race. Suited me as i had dropped lucozade as a fuel source in races months before. Coke is better, easier on the belly. We sat for 5 mins, ate a little and moved out.
Timed Check 2 reached. 36K done. 2188 metres climbed. Race time 7:17
1:12 ahead of the cut off.
Next we had a 15k section of downhill starting gradually into a medium grade downhill finishing with a nightmarish knee grinding few k where i would end up wishing it would stop. The knee pain was always coming and going. We ran well for the next good few kilometres, laughed and joked a lot. Paul and i get on great and we had said we would run together the entire way. My only goal was to complete the race in the 33 hours allowed, making the cut offs along the way and i was confident Paul could complete it having run two 120k races well this year already. Knowing this would be a lot more difficult than both i just hoped i had it in me. I had trained very well but this would prove to be a mind over matter experience late on so one way or another your training only goes so far. I see a lot of people be very competitive toward one another and ive never been this way. Id rather compete against my own times and Paul was happy to run with me and in such a gruelling race you can't emphasize enough how much of a crutch it is to have company sometimes. As we would both find out. On for 13 k of downhill in burning sunshine, the latter being very steep, very technical twisting turning but always with scenery i had never experienced. We bottomed out at the town of Bourg Saint Maurice. This would be the lowest point of the route at 837 metres above sea level. I hadn't given a second thought to the effects of altitude and only arrived 36 hours pre race. We would have 6 peaks over 7800 feet. Most of the time be at about 5000 feet. Just reading after the science was ..
You’ll be slowed considerably at moderate altitudes of 3,000-4,000 feet above sea level. Unfortunately, as an endurance athlete, the performance-hampering effects of moderate altitude are more sharply-felt when compared to sedentary people. Finally, if you are traveling to very high altitudes (above 8,000 feet), you should take a few days to rest before you ease into running, also note that altitude sickness becomes a risk at this elevation as well. Your V02 max drops 2% for every 1000 ft above 1000ft .
Why would i want all this stuff in my head. We ran down some steps and entered the town to some music and cheering and we had a police officer stop traffic for us. We ran through a park area and seen many people relaxing and enjoying the weather. Lying out on the grass is a world away now but i was in good form. Tired now and in need of a quick sit down maybe. The checkpoint was crazy, in the middle of town hundreds of runners and outside the barriers hundreds of townsfolk out to snatch a look at the runners and perhaps cheer on family members. Paul was a bit Dehydrated and the sun had been shining strongly on us a lot of hours already. Two bowls of noodle soup, 4 bites of meat, 2 dark choc squares. Eat, Drink run repeat.
Timed Check 3 reached. 51K done. 2570 metres climbed. Race time 10:09
0:50 ahead of the cut off.
Every runner had to show 5 items of mandatory kit check here before being allowed to leave. Considering we had to do all this pre race shows the seriousness of these races. Oh, they also have rescue helicopter, lots of buses to take drop outs away as best they can. I was ready to go before Paul so started stretching out everything. Hips, calves, It bands, arms, back. In the middle of my dance routine i noticed people lined up looking at me like i was a circus freak. You really are in a world of your own in these races.
We walked up a street away from the main square and for me this was the beginning of it all.. We had the longest continuous accent in the UTMB block of races ahead of us. What would be almost 2000 metres up followed by the toughest technical downhill on ropes to the halfway point. Good grief its becoming all to real now. But i feel great and the first part we have is a 5 k straight up to a check at Fort De La Platte. Paul informed me this climb is torture and it's also where his race began to unravel the last year. Its the hottest it's been all day now and just before we dissapeared from the town forever, a good samariton was hosing down runners head to toe in cold water as we stepped onto the winding jungle like accent. I love these parts of the race as it's the part i had singled out as the bit i needed to be tip top so i had said to myself about 200 metres up you'll have to do this for the next 3 hours and its gunna get much worse. A big part of ultra racing for me is being able to control your mind from the point of what it needs to relay to the body. Sub conscious messaging is continually taking place unknows to us and being able to relax and focus during the times you feel down and out is as important as calming down and not over pushing during times you feel like you could run forever. Somehow take the positives from the pit of negatives when it seems its game over and sometimes cover the positives with stern warnings when its all going your way. Try remain level, try remain unstressed in a stressful environment. Both these ideas were about to be seen first hand. Paul had been feeling shite since leaving the town. Brief rest and food had used up the last of his bodys ability to hydrate and the stuffy confines of the relentless jungle like accent was breaking him down slowly. We took regular breaks and one look at Paul was enough to see a man approaching and entering time out time. I was feeling the best i had all day. Like i hadn't run at all. Another interesting unevaluated point of note is upon seeing someone suffer when you are not makes you feel on top of the world. This is not to say in any way shape or form it's enjoyable to see but more that one of us needs to sort this somehow. After watching Paul suffer for abt 30 – 40 mins i decided the worst must be close to being over so engaged him in some chat, told him its all cool we were still ahead of schedule and just keep moving no matter how slowly once he moved. He told me to leave him that he would catch me up later, what this meant is i might not come back form this shit you go ahead. Again i said we are perfectly fine you should be coming out of it anytime and if my race is jeapardised i'll go. And maybe a “now cmon to fuck and we get up to this fort”. We stopped for about 10 mins. Paul went around a corner off the trail to try go toilet. While sitting down i counted 18 lads looking busted slowly trudge up the trail past me, all looking at me as i smiled and winked back. They must have thought what the hell is he so happy about. My buttys having a shite and he'l prob be okay is the answer. Paul showed great determination here to keep pushing and 30 mins later he was chatting and drinking again, we were now at the centurys old fort and out of the stuffy trail somewhat. We were after Summeting again and more the complete height of Carrauntoohill Irelands biggest peak most of which Paul had done in a busted state. Tough out. But we had more to climb.
Timed Check 4 reached. 56K done. 3718 metres climbed. Race time 12:55
1:05 ahead of the cut off.
We only got water at this checkpoint and we had to queue for 10 minutes to use a hose. Truth be told i wasn't happy about the wait for water or lack of a munch but in good form we kept moving well and chatted about the upcoming night ahead and how the halfway point would be great to see. Next check was 11k away of another serious climb and the hardest slowest decent possibly. All this good information provided by Paul . The views were breathtaking and its a tradeoff between hardship and feeling gratitude to have your health and be lucky enough to be able to be here at all. The TDS is a mad race in the sense you go from going up crazy inclines for hours then have to run downhill for hours and repeat. Not much flat in fact about 15 of the 119 is all. We ran tricky trail and across various small lakes and pools with all sorts of wildlife i had never seen. After 2 hours of moving well it was head torch time, an extra layer of clothes also and i was really feeling it all now. We summited Passeur de prolognan in the dark and were 2550 metres up. The next checkpoint was “ The restaurant” as i had heard Paul say. Only 4k away. 4K of the most ridiculous stuff i will ever see during a race i would think. When your using climbing ropes and it gets to the point where you just don't give a shit if you fall or not anymore its kind of okay because at least you haven't got pissed off about it, just accepted again that this isn't Ireland and i wondered what would happen if you took a Sunday road runner and planted him in this position now. Was trail running so different to road running ? As Billy Holden rightly pointed out in his Kerry Way report. Yes it's now non comparable anymore.. We made it down onto flat quite a while later after fighting the trail for long periods and it was Eerily quiet looking at distant lights,wondering is that where the pasta is. We were having a laugh and joke approaching the Check as Paul suddenly goes down onto his hands and knees and unleashes 2 full volleys of whatever was in his stomach onto the trail. My first reaction was oh No, until he tells me to take a picture of him. Haha not a bother so. Up to his feet and running again in no time.
Timed Check 5 reached. 66K done. 4485 metres climbed. Race time 16:46
1:14 ahead of the cut off.
We were both nackered from the previous 5 hrs of full on braindrain but very happy to get our drop bags. Runners off socks off.. Re-apply half a tub of vaseline and 2 pairs of socks. I've never bought a pair of running socks, whatever i use daily i use running and i rarely get feet trouble. Makes it handy when i pull odd ones out of the dropbag. I doubt i'll be docked points for odd socks up here. I opened up the pouch in my bottle bag and emptied out 6 empty gels, 1 power bar, about 6 solpadeine wrappers and re-filled with whatever i had and took 2 or 3 gels on Paul. He had brought more than enough in spares, smarter than me anyways. Changed my soaked base layer and we went into collect our pasta meal and sat down at a table. Place was bustling with bodies and family members were allowed at this point. Half way into the food i had craved the previous 5 hours i just stopped. I would be going nowhere i thought if i finish this. As i looked to Paul he was already looking at me with the same look i had. Lets get out of here, quick. Necked a bowl of salty soup which was never causing too much of an issue, I filled up on Coke and water and moved out. We stood outside the Tent and what was cosy and warm and comfortable 15 mins ago, was now pretty much biting cold. I had a fair idea what had happened. Blood pressure had taken a drop. Body had decided it was out of the harship, fed and warm and tried to tell me it was done. Not yet your not done, only 16 more hours to go. And this thought was binned imediately as we headed out for 8k to reach the next check. 3K steeply up and 5 k steeply down. I had zero energy and we were both feeling it now. I had been up front thus far with Paul close behind but after going slighly off trail twice i was thinking we may swop, but it wasn't so much lost as ending up going the correct way just on a secondary trail offset from the easier one. The easier one i thought and tried to laugh. There was nothing easy now. I felt complete shit although i was lucky i could stomach a gel. Double espresso Choc Gels never tasted so shit. I pinched my nose and just ate it. Grand job i would get a boost but it would only last 10-15 minutes. I needed to stop trying to take on energy and leave my body burn fat and just see this out. It was a very slow grind uphill just keeping moving and having the occasional chat but in general just staying in the game. Keep moving and we were soon heading onto the downhill. We took a 5 minute break at the top of the pass here and Paul ran off behind a rock to use the toilet. He had 2 unsuccessful attemps previous. Hopefully lucky number 3. I sat staring at the stars in wonder and just distanced myself from what was ahead, enjoy the moment. I noticed the plough looking down at a sinister angle, reminder of my wearabouts again as if the cow bells in the distance werent a giveaway. I didn't need reminding anymore but was nice to watch some shooting stars zipping about. I looked at my phone. I wasn't really sending any messages but i responded to Maria, she had been sending messages of support all day and keeping me updated with everyone elses messages on facebook. Team Butty was anxious to hear. 2 month old nephew Paddy was following the progress from across the pond. I hadn't realised how good the Livetracker was until after the race. We started off downhill and passed another Danger sign this one had a cow on it which made some sense as i had almost ran straight into one a while back. The legs were ok but knee was in agony as its half falling downhill picking what rock you want to land on hour after hour. I could hear the Rush of what was no doubt a huge river flowing nearby now and it was very muddy, slippy and shitty underfoot running through stream after stream. Paul slipped and escaped injury albeit caked in shite but he laughed it off as he would. I was seriously Thirsty now and had no water left. I could see a bright light far down and aways in the distance. We were stopped by two marshalls in the middle of this darkness and told stay left don't fall off the cliff. What? Yes. A sheer drop. Not that we could see the bottom but i had fun leaning over shining my torch into the abyss. You have to laugh and we did. We came into the next timed check and to my dissapointment it was more like a graveyard than anything that would inspire.
Timed Check 6 reached. 75K done. 4861 metres climbed. Race time 20:00
0:30 ahead of the cut off.
The checkpoint we arrived into banged of despair. Two picnic benches ,a shed with first aid personnel and a queue of zombies waiting treatment. I seen some runners eating food and said we might get some soup here but no, there was another trough of water and a queue to fill up with a hose. It's 21k to the next timed checkpoint and we have the longest gap in time in the race ahead of us 6.5 hours to get there. The way this route had been thus far to me meant a ballbreaker was ahead. But there was a checkpoint 11k away untimed, which would have soup and bits of food etc. If we make it there it would be getting bright soon after. We didn't hang about and we had a big climb ahead so on we went. Im not exactly sure how Paul felt here but i was not great, just keep on trucking we can at least make morning. Steep accent with dotted headlamps coming in and out of focus up on the mountain ahead of us. It was shitbox trail as usual for an hour and i passed at least 10 runners either dead, asleep, puking or all the above. It was very dark the moon had been hidden briefly but finally we stumble out onto what looked like fireroad. It was still up and up but nice to feel under the feet. Myself and Paul chatted a bit and every few hundred metres we would have to sit down for 5 minutes. Bolloxed now. Struggling now. At one point i woke up. Yes you can hike quite well while asleep. I found this interesting and my mind wandered aimlessly trying to see light in the dark tunnel of thoughts that was trying to screw with it. I remembered something Justin had said weeks before. Im fit to sit down and have a cry now, my god like man the fuck up. I looked back Paul was head down foot after foot slowly. He was going through the same best we not speak of anything at all. I had said listen im not sure if we will make the end in 33 hours but if we don't will you finish it with me anyways. He told me we would be grand keep moving but yes he would. Into the ditch again onto my back, the stars were so beautiful against the towering mountain shadow. Message on the phone. Brief smile, message back im not sure if we will make the 6am cut off. Goodnight. I was defo on a go slow as there was no 6am cut off. Niall corrigan had said no negative thoughts. Exactly correct, i won't make a fool of that man i thought. There was smoke billowing over the next hill or maybe i was seeing things. A bunch of medics and people out to spot the loons. Coke, im saved. Water. Bar of something. Smiles even, cracked a few jokes and kept moving. We toppped out what seemed like ages later and a vast open plain opened up in front. Ok are you good to run? Eh ? On i went across the trail, it was rocky and it was winding and technical but i didn't care. I turned my lamp from full to half as i didn't want to see the trail properly as it was making me too cautious. If i could see less i would run faster. Sounds stupid, worked brilliant. We moved well for quite a few k and could see lights miles off and up the mountain so again we would be moving uphill after quite a good patch on the down. Paul was running well too, all good. My knee was banging and at this stage i was almost enjoying it. This next section was madness again. Climbing with my hands up a small wall of rocks at one point, no end to it i thought. We had been persued by two lights for ages so we sat down to rest. Sorry i said will we make the cut off ?? Yes was a reply I think it is ok. Get to the checkpoint and its 10k downhill to make it to the next timed one, and on the two French guys went. After more climbing and more ropes, ropes like ? Why didn't i go mountaineering before this. We arrive into what we thought was the check as bright lights are always good. False alarm, Its 5am and its a Cow milking station. Jesus. Finally we get there, Col du Joly. Music banging, Woman on the microphone calling us in just give me food please and in we went two very relieved and tired chaps. There was early morning light breaking through, we had 10k of downhill ahead and i was drinking soup. This place had a touch of “Stay” to it. But again, we can't stay. Took off one layer as we discussed the tacttics ahead.
Check reached. 85K done. 5701 metres climbed. Race time 23:47
Paul knew this next part when it gets down near the town, defo a help. He had been here years ago. We have 2 hours to do the next 10k but the last 11k had taken almost 4 hours. This is the nature of the TDS. This is how it fucks with your head. We were in good form leaving and so happy to see the light creeping slowly up changing the color palette of everything around. Serious views again and it reminded me of the opening sequence to the Movie Donnie Darko. A good omen i said and we ran off down the trail. It was extremely steep and full of trees and roots and then huge rocks then more tree roots and a runner ahead slipped 4 times in the space of 2 minutes. There's one thing i had learned a long time ago you don't do, especially early morning. Never land, stand, and try not to even push off a wet tree root as they are deadly. Maybe i should have used trail shoes. Nah i haven't slipped once yet. We made it into town and onto flat road an hour and half later. The worst part is we were running it all but its constant jumping around left right using the poles to stop you killing yourself so by the time we were 2 kilometre from the second last checkpoint it had taken a while. We got in as we said in the 2 hours and had taken on a Croatian girl to boot. There are 2 more big climbs on the map. The 2 inch by 6 inch profile map we had used the entire way still said 24 kilometres left. We both had to use the toilet and the field had sparsed out so much now the two mens toilets, actual stone built toilets were ours to use. Hoorah. I open the toilet door and laugh myself silly. The hole in the ground toilets ? Yeah because i want to hold a squat now after 25 hours of bashing trail. I went to get more soup. Some bread. I was shook with fatigue and walked into the back area and sat on a chair i could see. Put my hands in my head and told myself to wake up. I was rubbing out my calves and as i looked up a girl was asking nicely would i like a massage. I pretty much had a panic attack and ran outside. Outside the 3 amigos met up. Did you here the one about the two Irishmen and the Croatian girl ?
Check reached. 95K done. 5774 metres climbed. Race time 25:58
0:31 ahead of the cut off.
We walked outside up a lot of steps and if your ever wondering what way you go in these races pick the road that goes the steepest uphill and that's always it. We were not even a kilometre up this nasty hill when my eyeballs were closing, rolling then going blurry, we were now moving backwards or so it felt but any other runners we met from here on in were either the same or worse. I said to myself strike up a conversation with the Croatian and ask how her race had went but i just had not got the energy. If your handbrake was brand new in the car you wouldn't park on a hill like this. We turned right and off the road up onto a forrest trail. We were headed up to Chalets De Truc. There was more than 1400 metres left to climb and i just couldn't see where the energy was going to come from. Altho the forrest was blocking some sun it was climbing over trees and boulders again and it took ages to come out of it but when we did it opened out and the Sun hit me. Wow. I went to drink some water and realised i had about half a bottle left. What ? I hadn't filled them up properly. This is seriously amateur hour and serious trouble. Paul said there may be a few Farms we pass and there may be hoses or a trough about. We had made a 600 metre climb and had some tricky descent and out across more open pasture when we walked for a break. Up in the distance there were two mountains meeting in the corner and it was towering into the sky. Paul said we are going up over that it's the last climb. My heart actually broke as i was in bits now. Had no fluids left and hadn't felt this bad before. The funny thing about the Profile map was this part of it is just a 600 metre climb and never once flagged as what would become the toughest climb of my life. I'll fast forward to half ways up. The sun is hammering down meaning the sweat is rolling off me. The climb up is the steepest on the entire route. They are sadistic fuckers i thought, put the hardest climb last ? I am taking 30 big steps up and having to sit for 2 minutes. Im now thinking about the guys on Everest who would walk 6 steps in the Death zone and take an hour to do it. Your hardly in the Death zone you fool i told myself. Maybe a short man made one. The top looks at least 40 mins away still. Im dehydrating and dizzy because of it. I thought back over the last 25 hours and got seriously pissed off that i may fail on the last climb because i was too stupid to remember to fill up my bottles. Paul had given me a few salt tablets over the day and he knew well i was seriously fucked as i was vocalising a lot how pissed off i was. Paul never once said anything much apart from we will be up soon and not long left keep it up. Right fuck it. Head down stop being a bitch and get up to the top of this mountain. Like it's not that hard if 1600 people will complete it. I wasn't aware 600 would drop out. I had only seen about 10 dead bodies. This thought cheered me up no end. After about 30 mins we Summit and there is a first Aid station. I open my bottle and hold it in front of the crew. The reply was give me your 50cl cup. “ Im about to collapse and you want to give me a mouthful of water ? “ My bottle was filled and i drank the entire lot down. It was the best water ever. There's a lot to be said for the bang of energy you can get from just water. Was like i drank a litre of red bull. I looked back down where we had come from. That was the last climb apart from about 200m more.
Check reached. 102k done. 6937 metres climbed. Race time 28:52
We have about 17k to go. The last tough technical downhill of 9k gets us to the last timed checkpoint. All good and all positive. Not sure how the legs were but Paul was smelling a finish now and he flew off down the trail and i was in behind happy to take a break from the front, just keep up. Found my legs soon after and we made amazing progress for the next hour. Flying past runners . There was a huge flowing river and gorges all around. Small bridges and gates, some little rock climbs and we had been moving very well. Bellevue was the target now and I was just thinking how the thoughts of running a fast 20k to finish was not even an issue once there was Water and the odd bite of a powerbar or coke available. We were walking up into Bellevue to cheers and clapping and a small gathering of people high fiving the lucky souls who made it this far. They even had coke here, ah its done. Just don't faint on the last 12k. The last downhill was flogged. We were passing out people that had went ahead of us hours before, i said to Paul will you slow down for a second. As i spoke to Paul i felt drunk and couldn't hear myself speak properly. I had the most surreal feelings the previous half hour. I felt like i was a bystander watching myself run. No pain anywhere, i was purposely making effort draining leaps, jumping from rock to rock because i still could, and it would be gone soon. Both this feeling and the race. I wasn't completely in control of my body i thought so to be sure i kept drinking loads of water and coke. Filling bottles and drinking out of the river even. “We will have 2 hours to complete the last 8k Paul just don't get injured by going too fast”. Like talking to the wall, Paul Daly was in the zone. Into Les Houches and the last checkpoint. The up and the down was over. The mountains were left behind yet they were in front of me now. You are cheered and high fived and patted on the back coming down into town here even though there is 8k left. Is that soup i see ? Sure would be rude not too.
Check reached. 111k done. 7072 metres climbed. Race time 30:53
2:07 ahead of the cut off.
2:07 ahead of the cut off i thought. We had been 70 mins best and 30 mins ahead of the last few checkpoints and now at the very end have breathing space. We had a brief high 5 and trotted on slowly. You go through a wooded area on the approach to Chamonix centre and we walked a lot of it and chatted. Apart from the 2 hour sleep pre race i was up 60 hours it's ok to feel nackered. My dizziness was still there a little and the heat and stuffiness was stifling. I kept having to sit in the shadows for a minute to get my act together. I didn't care i could walk it home. Paul bent down to give me a hand up but ended up on all fours dry reaching onto into the dirt. Haha we are both breaking down knowing it's just over. 3 runners stop and basically say. Not here lads, not now. They see us laughing and move on. We entered Chamonix and were greeted by Pol O Murchu. He had completed the TDS before so knows how we felt im sure. A few hundred metres from the Town centre and a finish we were greeted by Niall Corrigan camera in hand. We forever have the finish documented thanks to Niall and so on we ran to cheers and support. Crossed the line two happy tired men. Hugs. Well done from Pat and Tina and Niall. Done. Get me into the chalet i need to be on my own now. . “Cmon we have to collect our finishers tops”. Our what ? I wasn't aware we got anything. Maybe i would have tried harder lol.
Finish reached. 119k done. 7223 metres climbed. Race time 32:22
0:38 ahead of the cut off.
It was a great week with great people in the chalet, always a crack and lots to be learned and taken home. We had 5 races entered in our group and 5 completions, Two OCC, Two TDS and one UTMB . Thanks to all our fellow runners out supporting at the end. Massive thanks to everyone at home the messages were relayed and taken onboard. Lastly thanks to P. Diddy Daly your a legend of a man and although this report is way too long and smacks of endless hardship it was 100% fun throughout. Here's to the next one