Training over the last few months has gone quite well, but I wondered if I was a bit lacking in hill training. Last year I had the advantage of the Mount Fuji race about 4 weeks before the Matterhorn, this year I had Snowdon... Still, on Friday morning I was on my way to the Alps! After a 4am start, automobiles, planes and trains with incredible views, by the evening my little tent was set up next to Lee Walker's and it was time for some food. We met Chris and Paula Shelton and headed out for Pizza. Lee was also running the 46k, and Chris the 30k.
|Relaxation and hydration on Swiss trains|
The 46k race started at 7:30am on Saturday morning, so I was up at 6ish. I then decided to break all the rules I have told other people about this sort of race...
1. Have a decent breakfast.
I had a 9 bar (but had eaten enough over the last few days to fuel a small country).
2. Don't try anything on race day you wouldn't normally.
I decided not to run with a pack, and only with three gels, two of which I'd never used before.
3, Carry enough water.
I was going to run with a 250ml soft flask.
|On the startline|
Before we've left Zermatt I realise that I might've started a bit too far back so make an effort to pass a few people. Just like last year the sun is shining and the support of the spectators is amazing! Running down the side of the road meant that I even saw Martin from Scott for a quick high five, but then I saw a Pennine fell runners vest in front of me. Time to get racing!
The climb to Sunegga was hot and my little squishy bottle of water was running out quickly. I was running in a group just behind Mr. Pennine. I wasn't sure whether I was running well or not, but I knew my split to Sunegga last year was about 45 minutes. This year I was at the top in 45:49. I drank some Coke and refilled my bottle, then dropped off down the little descent before the big climb to the Gornergrat. A little way into the descent Mr Pennine stopped to cool his feet in a puddle and I nipped past him. Now all I had to do was stay ahead of him for 5 hours or so!
|Climbing to Sunegga last year|
|Monte Rosa and Kleine Matterhorn from Gornergrat|
With the Gornergrat done that's about half the total 3600m, though only about 14km or so. For those of us who don't train on big mountains every day the race probably starts here! It's mostly downhill to Riffelalp then Furi at about half way. I was running pretty well, my Riffelalp split this year was 2:30, a minute up on last year, and I had made up another couple of places to 20th in my category. I still came crashing down the tricky descent into Furi more like a Mountain Gorilla than a Mountain Goat but there was fortunately no camera to capture the moment this year!
At Furi there's still half the race left to run, and still two major climbs, but it feels like the end is getting close and I decided it was time to try and make up a few more places. On the way to Schwarzersee I passed another English chap who had been running with Mr Pennine earlier (I think he was the guy from Ambleside whose daughter won the kids' race outright - well done!). The next section is the longest without any checkpoints - about 12km from Schwarzesee at 2600 down a bit to 2200, then up to 2700, then the only flattish bit in the race, and finally a descent to Trift. From Trift it's either 6 or 8 km to the finish, depending if you believe the race title or the route map!
|Trift Hutte - an amazing location!|
|The final descent - switchbacks anyone?|
|Du-du du-du dudu-dudu... Boooong!|
After the race...
I was 13th in my category (which is now M30!), and 20th overall. The winner was Martin Antamatten in 4:45, exactly the same time as last year's winner. I did beat Mr Pennine, but didn't make first GB runner as Tom Owens turned up and ran a great race to finish 5th in 5:02.
I am a bit disappointed not to have beaten my time, but as Kim Collison said, "3 minutes is nowt". He's right, 3 minutes over 5:49 is about 0.85%, and after my little Achilles niggle maybe it's not a bad result. My heart rate was almost identical to last year, with a slightly lower average and apparently not quite as much excitement as I approached the finish line:
|Heart rate (2014 right: average 159, 2015 left: average 156)|
Finally, massive thanks to Scott (especially Martin!) and Accelerate for your support and help, and to the Ultraks organisers for putting on another awesome race. This time next year I will hopefully be living in the mountains, so perhaps we'll see whether that makes a difference...
I made a video.