It’s all in the name

Posted on July 15, 2012


I write this from our fab hotel in Val d’Isere, the coolest place with animal print galore, pink chandeliers and super kitsch accessories.  I am utterly exhausted yet pretty euphoric … you see today was the Ice Trail, a race I fancied for a bit of a jolly combined with a girlie weekend but one that turned out to be astronomically brutal.

This year was only the second event so we could find little info about it.  The website is in French and the team have pretty poor English, but hey,  that’s all part of the fun.  Isn’t it?!?

We arrived on Friday and drove up from Geneva. The briefing was on Saturday but despite my having been once fluent in French, technical jargon combined with being far too rusty these days, meant we left knowing little more that we started with.

This morning, we rose at 2.30am and got to the race start in time for the 4am gun. Then began what we anticipated would be a nine-hour race.  How little did we know! The first big ascent took us from Val all the way to the top of the Grand Motte, the highest point for skiers in the area. It was tough from the start so needless to say, we were drenched in sweat and when we then hit the glacier … everything froze, as did we … water, snacks, our clothing, every bone in our shivering bodies … just putting on my Yak Traks took nearly half an hour as I had no sensation in my fingers. The snow was knee-deep in sections, the visibility was less than a metre, temperature -18c and the snow-storms relentless. Unfortunately, Ronnie was taken off the course with onset hypothermia.

Perhaps in hindsight, we should have taken a hint from the very name of the race?!? 

There followed hours and hours of mammoth mountains and possibly the most technical terrain I have ever encountered.  My adidas cushion response trail shoes were wonderful and my feet would have been a mess without them.

250 started the full distance and less than 140 finished.  My predicted time turned out to be five hours short … I took 14 hours in the end yet I still got the third spot on the podium.

We’ve been chatting this evening about our takeaways from this race … I guess our biggest is that it’s really important to do your research.  With this being a new race and very French, we were unable to find much info but I shall remain forever diligent with the emails I receive from others asking me for advice about races I’ve done in the past. Had we known just how tough the conditions would have been and how technical the terrain, we would have made very different kit choices.

As for me, running is always my time to take stock on what’s going on in my life and 14 hours on the hills solo gave me ample time to plot and plan about the remainder of 2012 … where I want to be, what I want to be doing and who I want to spend it with … so tomorrow, although I suspect I may be walking with great difficulty, my mind is intact and I leave with crystal clear clarity about the months to come.

The adventure doesn’t end here. I fly to Bordeaux tomorrow for a week of fun in the sun at a chateau with my family to celebrate my big brothers birthday.  Training will be given a wide berth and in its place, beaucoup du vin and long lie ins … well, for a day or two anyway … I shall be itching I know to get out to explore old haunts and discover new ones in bijou French villages, windy streets that stand the test of time and fields full of sunflowers.

There are few better ways to discover and reminisce than on foot after all …

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