A couple of weekends back I popped down to the Lakes to run the Lakeland Trails Ultra, at a distance of 55k with around 1,900m ascent. Setting out at 7am meant that it didn’t really warm up until later in the race though which was good. My biggest concern was dehydration and sunburn, so I tried to make the most of the cool start, and thankfully made it back before either set in! And luckily, this time, I also made it back in a time that meant they still had a fishers shirt available in my size – bonus! My previous 2 Lakeland trails races had left me with shirts a size too large, which can be disproportionately annoying when you have just crossed the finish line, exhausted…
The race itself was great. Registration was relaxed and I was both surprised, and impressed to see that no kit checks were taking place. Crampons were still mandatory, but no checks to make sure you were taking them. And with all the other kit (2 head torches and 2 sets of spare batteries included) my rucsack felt uncharacteristically weighty. I am assuming that everyone else felt the same…
Setting off in the cool of the morning was nice, out through the town and then a gentle descent alongside the river to about 1,000m was followed by a rather taxing 1,800m ascent to the main summit up at 2,800m. Above 2,200m I really started to suffer and wondered if I had gone out too fast or if it was down to acclimatisation. It made no difference, I still had a job to do….so I plodded on, taking breaks and people passing me. It’s not that great a place to be, but I was given encouraging words from fellow participants which was nice.
Inevitably, I finally reached the top, and having been dreaming of a cable car at the summit that I could take straight back down to the finish I was, unsurprisingly, disappointed. Or maybe it was a good thing. There was food and drink though, so I took some time out to rest and eat, and admire the views, and mustered up some energy to head on to the next checkpoint. They had cut out around 2k due to snow, so in the end the crampons weren’t used and I think a chunk of the ascent was missing, but I had survived the ‘killer’ climb. There were still sections of snow though, and then the rain came down with a biting wind and it was cold. I got cold, even with my jacket on, and finally arriving at the checkpoint I couldn’t really move my hands so struggled to get some gloves on, top up my water, eat a couple of things and then set off to try and warm up. It wasn’t ideal, but as we descended the temperature rose and I warmed through.
Next was another climb though, and that was equally tough as my legs felt ‘dead’ again. Willing the summit to appear I became queasy, and for only the 2nd time ever, I had to pull over and was sick. And I felt better…. I finally reached the top and with a bit of a spring in my step got on with the undulating descent to the last checkpoint, catching and overtaking a few people. At this stage, in my head it was all downhill to the finish, so I took on a couple of cups of coke and set off. Then we headed uphill again and my legs died again. I really didn’t want that! It was a rocky, scrambling climb, but eventually it started to descend and turned into a dusty track. As I reached a cable car station and saw the sign saying it was 1:30 walk back to Courmayeur, I guessed I had about 45 minutes to go. And I did. It was a great descent, not that technical, but many people seemed to struggle and I made up a number of places. Back in the town, there was more climb, but it is always good to hit civilisation in these races and get the encouragement as you run through to the finish from locals or those who finished before you and who are already on their way back to get a much needed shower.
And so, I finally popped out on the ‘high street’ as the locals were taking their evening passagiata which was interesting, and as is always the case, suddenly it was over. I could barely stand at that point, so I lay down and sipped some Fanta and licked an ice cream…..and eventually I could muster the energy to sort myself out.
Running alongside my 55k were a 30k and a 105k, with 105k runners still coming in the next day as the prize giving took place. After that it was off to the ‘runners bbq’ which was awesome! Not a bbq in sight, but they are forgiven!! The food was spot on!
It’s a great event, and at around 300 runners per race, not too big. Plus, contrary to the much larger UTMB events on the other side of the Alps, no qualifying races need to be done. The 30k in particular would make for a great introduction to racing in the Alps and those punishing alpine ascents! They filled up all available spaces this year, so if you are interested, keep an eye on http://www.gtcourmayeur.com/en
On the downside, my recent history of not getting finishers gear in my size continued as I was given an overly-snug fitting women’s size hoodie. Ah well… maybe they are trying to tell me something…