What started out as a spontaneous idea in October 2018, turned in to an amazing experience with lots of challenges way before the big race, 42km at Marathon Du Mont-Blanc.
Leading up to MMB I had been dealing with many minor injuries on and off since January (at least that’s how it feels). For those who know me well, I think it’s fair to say I have been quite emotional about this race and determined to do it, even at times were I couldn’t run.
In February when I couldn’t run due to issues with my knee, I knew I had to change my focus in my strength training to focus on building stronger legs that’s could help me get through this.
There’s no doubt in my mind that all those hours spent in SATS doing rehab exercises and other rather boring non-Instagram worthy exercises have helped me get through the race.
Waiting in line to pick up my bib Friday before the race, I started talking to some of the other runners; well that was stupid, that freaked me out!😲 I don’t think I ever honestly realised what kind of race I signed up for🙈 I knew it was 42km, I knew there were 2780 vertical meters, but in my mind that was doable. I had a 20 km training session a while back with 1000 vertical meters, during this session I kept running, I was not allowed to walk. MMB would mean it was this session x 2, plus an extra few kilometres and 700 extra vertical meters, plus I was allowed to walk, so that seemed possible in my mind. But from talking to the others runners at the bib pick up, I could hear this was a tough event! I started to get really nervous, and sweaty since it was 35 degrees and sunny, and probably closer to 40 degrees in the line in the tent! What had I gotten myself in to this time?😳
I guess not feeling prepared is a classic feeling before a big race. Feeling like you haven’t trained enough, or haven’t logged the kilometres you think you need. I had so many things I had wanted to train, but due to injuries and constant setbacks, I just hadn’t had the chance to do it, and I was out of time.
I knew I had prepared the best I could, in regards to all things that wasn’t training specific. I had a plan for my nutrition intake, and a course map with an overview of refreshment stations. I had looked at the elevation plot of the course a million times, and I could draw it in my sleep by now. I knew if I could just get to 23km which was on top of the first climb, then I would be able to do the rest as well!
My plan was to lap my watch every 20km as my favourite runs are my slow 20km Sunday runs, I figured I just had to do 2 of them, plus a little extra. What I was concerned about was the 35 degrees heat wave.
Saturday evening the organisers pushed up the starting time from 7am to 6am, due to potential thunderstorms in the afternoon. That meant my alarm had to be set for 4am so I had time to have breakfast. I didn’t have a good nights sleep, it was warm and I just couldn’t seem to fall asleep. Though, in the end the 6am start was perfect, as that gave us an hour more before the sun and heat set in.
I got to the start area 10-15 minutes before start, then I realised I was actually in the first start wave, since my bib number was 546. The starting box was full, so I just wait outside the start box as we were sent off in waves. The first wave starts and I’m on my GoPro trying to film everything, it’s my turn to go in the start box and I think we will be waiting in there before we’re being send off, so I’m trying to take videos when I suddenly realise they want me to start my race! I quickly put my GoPro away and start my Garmin! Off I go all alone as the only one who crossed the start line at that moment. I set off for what would hopefully be my longest run ever!😊
It was so so cool running down the streets of Chamonix, even though it was 6am people had come out to cheer. I just went slow and enjoyed every minute of it.
I was so busy looking every where, taking videos and just enjoying myself, when I suddenly realised I had run 16,75km and I felt strong and ready to keep going. We got near the first refreshment station, and I swear I felt like being in Tour de France. Kids where standing with their arms out giving high 5’s, every one cheered you on by name (it was on the bib including your flag), people were making so much noise with cow bells and horns, it was impossible not to smile!🤩
I got through the first refreshment station, and I realise I was already a little behind on my hydration plan. The volunteers where so sweet and helpful, filled up my water bottles and off I went for the 7km vertical climb. Up until now I had been running, but that was about to change. Everyone were walking in one long line, some people tried to pass each other, and there were poles everywhere. Part of this climb were in the forest on some really cool trails.
The vertical climb continued, I caught up on my fluid intake, and just put one foot in front of the other, and I enjoyed every step of it and still felt strong. I knew I could do this! I reached the next refreshment station which meant I was almost at the top of the climb, and it was absolutely beautiful up there! There were mountains everywhere you looked, flowers, and technical trail, you couldn’t wish for better surroundings. The downhill from the top was steep, as in very steep, high jumps, rocky and technical. I took it controlled, one misstep and the race would be over with a broken ankle. I almost tripped a few times but managed to get down in one piece. I still felt strong, but that was about to change.
At this point I had a buff on my wrist, that I drenched in water whenever I got the chance, it was such a good way to cool down, I poured it down my neck, my hair, and wiped my face. Kudos to me for thinking of bringing that with me😛
The 32km mark
If anyone has ever climbed a mountain in 30 degrees and sun, you know it‘s not fun. I was running low on water, felt nauseous and dizzy whenever I was in the sun and going uphil. As soon I got in the shade and I was going downhill I felt better. But I was not on top of my game, but then I saw something ahead that made my day! It was a waterfall, and not a pretty waterfall in the distance, it was RIGHT by the trail, runners were gathered around it trying to cool down. I drenched my buff and cap in the ice cold water, it felt so good! That cheered me up big time and helped me continue.
Just before the last refreshment station, we got to the mandatory equipment control. You needed to prove you still had your mandatory equipment with you, which was:A phone
500ml water bottle
Wind proof jacket
At the refreshment station I ate more bananas and oranges, downed half a liter of water, filled up both of my 500ml soft bottles and went back out. There was a sign in the refreshment tent saying 5km to the finish line and about 300 meters vertical climb. I was on 18km on my second lap (so 38km), and I’ll admit I was excited about seeing the finish line☺️
I felt good on the first few kilometres, I passed 40km on my Garmin so at point I was on the bonus part of the course (everything over 2x20km). I passed two more waterfalls basically threw myself in them trying to cool down, I was soaked in fresh cold water and kept pushing, passed other runners, and was feeling great!
The finish line
I knew there was a little incline up to the finish line, and I could start to hear all the noise from the area, but the “worst” part was that I couldn’t see it visually. I wanted to push my pace, but the path was just rocks, I tried and I twisted my right ankle, I was so close to the finish line, and besides from feeling dizzy and nauseous my body felt good (as I’m running painfree at this point), besides the fact that my feet were hurting especially my toes on the downhills. I had gotten this far injury free, I was not about to push hard (for no reason other than cutting a few minutes of my time) and risk getting injured.
What is tricky about the mountains is that the paths twist and turn, so I had no idea where the finish line was, I could see people higher up, so made some pointers to myself, “you run that stretch, then walk up around the corner” and so forth. I got to what seemed to be the top of the incline, I saw snow! I rushed to the snow, put it down the back of my shirt and in my hair, it was sooo cold, but refreshing. I threw the rest of my snow ball away.
As I got closer to the finish line, it seemed like I was the only runner there. Everyone were cheering for ME, holding out their hands for high 5’s, and shouting my name. All the noise made me sprint to the finish line with one big smiley on my face, and with one thought in my head, I FREAKING DID IT!!!🏅🤩
So what now?
For one thing I can’t wait to get back to training, I want more of this! It was honestly so much fun! And imagine how much more fun it is if you can train properly leading up to it, so you’re even better prepared for those vertical meters! That thought makes me very excited!
But I also learned a few things along what ended up being 44km on my watch.
For one I learned 3 french words: Bravoure, Superbe, and Allé, three words I like very much!😁
And more important I learned a few things I can use in the future:
1 That you should know what lids go to what soft bottles, as I thought one of my bottles had ripped, so after the first refreshment station I didn’t use it because it was leaking (luckily I had 3x 500ml to begin with). Good thing I had a back up soft bottle with me. However , it turned out the gray Salomon lid only works with the new soft bottles not the old🤦♀️
2 Don’t put your foldable cup somewhere in your running pack, that requires a tiny bit of effort to get to, as you get too lazy and can’t be bothered to get it, which means you’re more likely not to drink enough at the refreshment stations🙄
3 Training with all of your mandatory equipment and in the outfit you want to run in, is really smart (and that I did)!💪
4 Stick to your nutrition plan during the race, even if that means you have to force yourself to drink more than (you think) you need to to begin with.
5 A race like this is not only about how many kilometres you have logged in your running shoes, it’s just as much about having a strong body, a willingness to keep going, and accepting it’s totally okay to walk, that’s doesn’t make you a bad runner, just enjoy every minute of it🏔
Overall it’s safe to say, I’m ready for more trail adventures and especially these longer ones, me LIKE😍
But before I’m tying my running shoes again, it’s time to recover!
Ps I apologise for weird layout and picture sizes, blogging in a Google app on an iPhone is not an easy task🙄