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Mudlarking in the Alps


the Vallorcine check point rather quicker than I wanted to get there! I arrived at Vallorcine at 5.30 am really delighted with progress. Having been on the go for 19 hours 30 minutes, I had 6 hours 30 minutes to get back to Chamonix over a section that I had walked in 3 hours 15 minutes. Planning to down more soup at Vallorcine, I would soon be on my way again. However, having monitored the conditions and with reports of mud slides and rock avalanches on the course, the organisers took the decision to halt the race sometime around 3.00 am whilst I was in transit between Trient and Vallorcine and this news was made known to us on arrival in Vallorcine. So with only a few hours of running left, over 1,300 of us still out in the mountains had to face the fact of an early end to our race, in my case with 82 kms covered in some highly trying conditions and with just 18 kms to go. 10 minutes later I was on board a bus bound for Chamonix.


he main race, the UTMB, over 166 kms, which started from Chamonix late Friday afternoon was halted after just 20 miles and 2,300 runners had to be returned to their starting points. A third race, the TDS, scheduled to start at midnight on Friday didn’t start at all. There was much comment and counter- comment about these decisions, including in the local and national French press, because these races are a major sporting highlight.


T


It is easy to be critical, but the organisers were responsible for the safety of over 5,000 runners of varying abilities out on 3 separate high mountain race routes and I have no issue with them making the call


22


they did. I was disappointed at the time, but I understood their reasons. One report of events I read used the French word “dantesque” to describe the conditions; the best English translation is “infernal”. For me though, the weather was not the real problem; it was the effect the weather has having on the terrain, which was truly horrific.


isappointed now in any way? No, not at all. I feel I met the challenge in full. It would be nice to jog through that huge finish arch in Chamonix to the strains of Conquest of Paradise, but that’s just my ego talking. And I can’t run if the organisers say “no”. I know that if I had been allowed to continue that I would have finished the full 100 kms course; the shocking weather and underfoot conditions were not deflecting me from my task (they were perhaps having the opposite effect) and all food and drink systems were in full working order.


D


My legs felt fantastic all race (indicating that I have finally learnt how to ultra-run downhill without trashing my quads; it’s only taken 26 years) and I had no soreness at all in the hours and days after the race; my feet were another matter. Long hours of exposure to water, mud and grit took their toll and they weren’t a pretty sight when the shoes and socks came off once back at the hotel. They recovered fast though; I was running again by Thursday of the following week.


These long mountain challenges take


great preparation and require great physical and mental strength on the day. They also need a decent slice of good luck, which was markedly absent on this occasion. It is always wise to remember that nature has


ILKLEY HARRIERS NEWSLETTER • SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2010


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