7/9/17 – The Race Update

Going in to the Grand Traversée, M and I expected a tough race and still we got a little more than we bargained for.

As usual I lost contact with M within the first 5 minutes. As it turned out, a lot of people lost contact with M. At one point she was 87th overall and in the top 5 women. There were 570 people in the race. I was doing well and wishing the crowds would thin out a bit so I could make a steady rhythm instead of having to use so much energy passing people.

Some beautiful alphorn music at about mile 3
Almost at the top of the first climb

We got a big surprise after completing the first two climbs when we got to what was expected to be a runnable downhill. Instead of being runnable it was the most difficult and technical downhill of the day. Technical downhills would be a theme throughout the day.

From about mile 13-16, I slowed considerably and was the closest I’ve ever been to dropping from a race. I felt horrible and had to hike those three miles of downhill which should have been an opportunity to gain some easy time.

I made it to the next aid station and refueled and somehow got myself going again. By mile 18 I was feeling quite a bit better. I knew that I only had two climbs left till the finish. One from mile 17-24 and the other from mile 32-35. They were both huge climbs but as I had been feeling well on the climbs all day I thought I could make it.

I made it to the mile 24 aid station and again refilled my hydration bladder and other food supplies. As I was on my way down another technical downhill I got an update from M who was at the aid station at Lourtier, at the bottom of the last climb about 5 miles ahead of me. Her time was incredible and was looking to be well ahead of where we thought she’d finish.

I was feeling good and running quite well for most of the section down to the Lourtier aid station, but by the time I got there I was ready for some uphill. The downhill is so hard on your toes! Of course the last uphill was the biggest of the day with 4,000 feet of gain in 3.5 miles! I don’t have any pictures of it because it was getting dark and I was tired.

But here is a picture M took on the last climb

I had a communication from M to take the last climb really slowly because it was so hard, so that is what I set out to do. Most of the climb was so steep you could put your arm straight out in front of you and be touching the section of trail you were going to next.

After cruising relatively quickly (if you can consider 38 minutes per mile quick) up the first 3/4 of the climb I was beset by cramps in my legs. I had to slow considerably but slowing down enabled me to manage the cramps well.

I finally made it to the last aid station at La Chaux thinking M was already finished with the race. As it turned out she had had stomach problems and had only left about 40 minutes before I arrived. I refueled again and set out with my headlight on as it was almost 10 pm.

The last descent in to Verbier was yet another steep technical descent only this time with the added bonus of darkness! M and I had planned to do some night runs before this race in order to practice running with our headlamps, but it didn’t work out so we were in uncharted territory.

The course is well marked with reflective red and white markers so it wasn’t all that difficult to follow. Just not falling off the edge of the trail or tripping over a rock or root was the hard part. Not to mention that by this time our legs were destroyed.

M made her way down and finished in an incredible 11:58! She was the 24th woman overall and 86th overall for men and women combined.

I trudged down to finish in 12:44. I was 228 overall out of 570.

As it turned out, one of the best Ultra runners in the world, a Frenchman by the name of Francois De’Haene, won our race in just over 7 hours.

The race turned out to be about 39 miles with 13,700 feet of gain.

It was even harder than we thought it would be and also more picturesque than we’d imagined.

We are now looking forward to a few days of no running and letting our bodies heal from the beating we took!