Let me take a minute to hop off my cloud and tell you about the time I wore a smile for 40km straight.
Those who follow this blog will know that I was running one of my two “A” races of the season on Sunday, the 39km Trail des Passerelles du Monteynard. My race was part of a five-day trail running fiesta that takes place between the Trièves and Matheysine mountains, about 30km from Grenoble. The race leaves from the Lac de Monteynard, which is also home to the only two Himalayan footbridges in Europe, and they are incredible! The suspended Drac footbridge is 220m long and sways between 45 and 85m above the turquoise water of Monteynard Lake, whereas the Ebron footbridge is 180m long and is also perched 45 to 85m above the water. The bridges connect the Trièves mountain range and the Matheysine range.
There were about 1300 participants registered for my race, which left in two waves at 8am and 8:15am. I left in the second wave which was good seeing as at 7:35 I was stuck in a traffic jam about 2km from the start line. I made it just in time to pick up my bib at 8:05, make a quick pit stop, leave a drop bag and it was time to fly.
I ran the 23km Trail de Côte Rousse at last year’s TPM event and this year the first five kilometres leading to the Ebron footbridge followed the same course. It was nice to know what to expect as I got myself warmed up and into a good rhythm. Right from the start, I sensed that it was going to be a good day. The sun was shining and the surrounding mountains were
resplendent. Supporters lined the first kilometres and cheered the runners on, which was very encouraging.
Before I knew it, we were at the first (5km), then second footbridge, 9.2km into the race, and about to hit the first big climb. The race profile showed 2185m of vertical (although my GPS said 2450m at the end), so I opted to bring along my folding and ultra-lightweight Leki trail poles, a decision I certainly did not regret as I started passing people on the long climb up Sénépy mountain (1769m).
The view from the top of Sénépy (km 16) was just incredible and then, after taking a short moment to reflect on how lucky I was to be there, began 10km of downhill as we headed back down towards the Himalayan footbridges. After crossing the bridges and briefly admiring the landscape once again, I was into the final leg of the race already, with about seven kilometres to go and a couple of last steep upward climbs.
I was running about 20 minutes ahead of my anticipated time throughout the race and was quite excited at the prospect of beating the time I had set for myself. There was a bit of a traffic jam on one of the final single-track uphill sections, but I eventually managed to get ahead of the pack, although I think I probably lost a good five to ten minutes on the first part of that last slow ascent. Again, I think my poles really helped keep my legs fresh and let me have the energy needed to keep going up-hill towards the end of the race.
This is perhaps the first race in which I never had a doubtful moment. I truly think I wore a big grin for the entire duration of the course. It was a very hot day and I drank 3.5-4 litres of water during the race, a combination of sports drink (1.5L) in a camel bag and plain water (2L) in a soft flask, plus glasses of sparkling water at each of the aid stations, where I also enjoyed banana and watermelon (there were many other options available for those craving salty foods, like crackers, cheese and meat, or sugary things like Coke, mint cordial, dried fruit and chocolate). Food wise, I started with a nougat bar about 50 minutes into the race, and then carried on with my favourite fruit jellies every 45 minutes or so thereafter. I also remained faithful to my light blue ultra-lightweight Uglow running skirt and tank top.
And then suddenly I could hear the speaker at the finish line. There we were into the final stretch as the race wound down the mountain and then along the beachfront to the finish line. The crowds were out and cheering warmly and I kept that silly grin all the way to the finish line!
I was extremely happy to finish in 5 hours 54 minutes, well under my anticipated publicly announced time of 6 hours 30 minutes (privately announced time of 6 hours 15 minutes and even under my secret “wouldn’t-it-be-amazing-if” time of 6 hours). I came in 371st overall (out of about 1200 race starters) and 51st female (out of 288), which means I’m still making progress and getting faster – hurray!
This race had all the ingredients for a great day of trail running: perfect weather, gorgeous scenery, a well-marked course, wonderful volunteers and hundreds of smiling runners – plus the race photos were free this time! We’ll see what happens, but there’s a good chance I’ll be back next year – maybe even to test out the longest event of the weekend, the 65km “Grande Course”!