I did feel a bit better after my sleep, and my legs still seemed to function, with the knee niggle from my fall seeming better for the rest. I knew I could continue but not whether I actually wanted to.
When Peta and Paul arrived they were sympathetic and supportive. In the end Peta decided we should toss a coin to continue. Heads to continue, tails to pull out. The point of the coin toss is to help decide whether you actually care about the result, but I actually felt almost indifferent. In the end Heads won the day, so I continued. It was that close - I do think I would have pulled out if it had been Tails! We also arranged that I’d next see Paul at Refuge de La Pra in a few hours.
I knew that the first stages of the day were basically an accumulation of 1600m of climbing from Riouperoux to Croix de Chamrousse. The first step was the 1000m to Arselle, which was just a long long slog. Every so often the route was marked with signs from the Vertical Kilometre race, marking the ascent in 100m intervals. It seemed to take a while for each extra 100m. I was having to pause quite regularly to regain my breath but I was not unhappy with my pace. After the long climb, there was a flat section where I even managed to do some running for a bit, some of the only running all day.
I had a quick stop to refill bottles etc. at Arselle before the climb up Croix de Chamrousse. The climb was a lot gentler than the Arselle climb, an average gradient of 10% rather than 25%! This was far more to my taste and I was able to maintain a steadier pace.
Getting to Croix de Chamrousse
And Refuge de la Pra
Stupid Big Arsehole
At the top of Grand Colon, I knew that I had had enough. I would have quite happily stopped, but I had to get down to Freydières either way! When I checked what was next after Freydières, I knew that I couldn’t face yet another 1000m of descent. I let Peta know to expect this, and pack for me finishing. Before my final descent a few of the people I’d met during the day accompanied me for a bit, but in the end outpaced me as I was descending so dismally. During that final descent I discovered that I’d managed less than 3km/h for the entire day, which would definitely be insufficient to finish, and again just helped me accept that I was making the right decision to abandon.
Bon Courage was something I heard so much on the race - it seemed to be most people’s best wish of choice. I like the phrase a lot in that it’s so much more appealing than ‘good luck’ as it focuses on internal strength rather than external factors over which you have no control. Courage to me is also the strength to know when to stop and I hope I took a courageous choice to stop on my own terms rather than destroy myself only to still miss the cut offs.
Thank you so much to my amazing support crew - they stuck by me even when I was questioning my commitment to continue, and also when I decided it was time to abandon. I changed plans on them a number of times (including when I told them I’d like flat coke and then after having some flat coke remembered that caffeine currently seems to give me chest problems). It is a tough job being support crew - basically being out in the sticks just waiting around until I finally deign to arrive, a mad rush of servicing my needs for 5-20 minutes and then back to the waiting around stuff. I’m glad to see Peta and Paul made the best of it with lakeside pizzas and beer/wine.
The race organisation was good for a race of this scale, but it was a very French race and sometimes my lack of fluency in French was a problem (I can usually ask for things but don’t understand very much that is said to me - I can read French far better than I can hear it).
The route markings were absolutely excellent in general, I only went slightly wrong twice the entire time, and quickly realised my mistake because I could always expect to see a marker within the next few footsteps)
My running plans are now fairly low-key. I have zero plans to attempt such a thing again, at least not with the ability to train for it properly, which is very hard to do where we live (bayside Queensland, with the nearest 50m hill 10km away, the nearest 300m hill 30km away and the nearest 1000m hill 100km away). For now I plan on doing some parkruns, and hanging out with my running friends for fun running. I may do some of the local trail run series.
Our house renovations mean that it’s a good time to reduce my running schedule and focus on that priority - I still aim to achieve 30-40km/week but leave the weekends free other than parkrun or one local trail race.
I will be making a UT3M t-shirt. I feel I’ve earned a t-shirt (but definitely not a UT4M finishers top, which I would not allow myself to wear), and something that helps me remember what I can do, and what I currently can’t do, will be nice to have.
We choose to … do … things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard — John F. Kennedy