The Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie ….. the TDS race of the UTMB mountain running Event.
“Wilder and more technical than the UTMB® and the CCC® it is a race in exposed country along the ‘Grande Randonnée’ paths crossing though the high Mont-Blanc, Beaufort, Tarentaise and Aosta.
A mountain event, including numerous sections at high altitude (>2,500m), in weather conditions which can be very difficult (night, wind, cold, rain or snow), requiring a very high level of fitness, the appropriate equipment and a real capacity for personal autonomy”
What now seems like forever ago I entered the UTMB race but failed in the ballot to get a place, therefore I was offered a place in the TDS race which runs alongside the CCC and PTL races to form the The North Face® Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® mountain running festival based in Chamonix….. now I’ve got that mouthful of abbreviational mumbo jumbo out the way lets talk English.
The North Face UTMB festival is a magnet for mountain runners worldwide and boasts the highest number of entries in any event of its kind. It will be amazing for me to be part of it and I fully expect Chamonix to be buzzing with top runners from all over the world including some of the worlds top mountain athletes ,hopefully I will spy a few of my favorite “celebs” during the week 🙂 Even if I don’t I am heading out with an illustrious bunch of extremely fit compadre’s including Johnny Millen the Geordie hill cruncher , Paul Giblin the “floating” Scotsman and the one and only Sir Davie Bell of Bathgate , need I say more !. Whatever happens in Chamonix I’m in for a good time !
If I’m honest this is a race that has me a little worried, it is a very serious undertaking for anyone, it is over remote high mountain terrain with an unrelentingly tough course from beginning to end. I’ve run up Scottish hills, baked in hot deserts and ground my way up Himalayan mountain trails but never have I undertook something as long and as unrelentingly tough as this race. It is 112 kilometers long and has 7150 meters of technical ascent and descent . that’s 23,454 feet or 8 Munros from sea level to summit , it’s all to be done in one single stage and my calves and quads will be screaming for mercy if I can keep going to the end. And that is the burning question in my head right now, it is what I keep asking myself over and over , will my legs keep going and will my knee hold up ?
This year has been exceptionally tough for me, my shoulder which was wrenched violently from its socket while kayaking a spot of Alpine white-water gnarl during my last visit to the french alps has now deteriorated to the point where it dislocates for apparently no reason other than twisting it the wrong way , making anything but running near impossible, and even running has recently started to give me a gnawing pain deep within the socket. It has also been another big year of change in my life. Working out-of-town at the University made my early seasons training very tough to keep consistent and I let my mileage slip badly,thankfully I was welcomed into the “screaming calf society” of the local hill runners who beasted me twice weekly with hill reps and intervals after work . My weekends have and still are chaotic , having left self employment behind means finding time to spend with my daughter is a lot tougher, I took on a freelance programming contract to help pay the bills on-top of my new full-time job thinking I could “sqeeze” it all in, then at the same time I was asked by a local charity Anthony Mundell Memorial Fund to help train their charity runners in the 10 weeks leading up to the Edinburgh Rock and Roll half marathon. This I enjoyed immensely but all the juggling of my spare time meant that again I dropped back my training even further, still I was happy enough, running has to take a back seat to both my daughter and making a living. I felt I still had loads of time before the light nights and the start of the summer where I could run to my heart’s content ….. well think again Marko !! My first ultra-race of the year, the 55 mile Cateran55 came quickly in May and I should have been better prepared. It saw me run well until shortly after 40 miles a rapidly stiffening groin and quads slowed me down before a sharp pain in my knee at mile 50 saw the last 5 miles take me nearly 2 hours. It was an amazing race and I seemed to be better by mid-week so stupidly I went on to run the Edinburgh marathon with Rhalou only 7 days later , pain set in early and I kept running despite knowing better, this knocked another nail into my ultra running coffin for 2012 !! I had an enforced rest for a few weeks before running the Lairig Ghru mountain race which saw me stiffen up at 9 miles before my knee went half way up the pass !! fuck me!! only another 19 miles to go !! 🙂 I was having no luck at all , I soldiered on to the end and still enjoyed the race despite everything. I then had a full months lay off, hoping for a miracle recovery that has never came. In the end having to cancel both the Lakeland50 and The Devil ‘o’ the Highlands in the hope of being fit for Chamonix. Since then I’ve juggled rest and light running in an attempt to keep some CV in me yet let my knee heal at the same time. My shoulder operation is due soon after the race in October, this will see me on several months downtime . So at least when I get to the race I can give it my all and not have to worry too much about injuring my knee as I’ll be recuperating anyway . Errrr did I really give that as an option .. haha 🙂 The past two weeks have finally seen me out and about running on my local trails trying hard to get mileage into my legs. It’s not been pretty either, I’m nowhere near as fit as I was last season, not even close! My brain tells me to pull out yet my heart says try your best , so I’m left hoping that I can run,walk,limp and hopefully crawl over that Chamonix finish line before the cut off time ……….. have I got enough in the tank?, can I keep moving when my body tells me to stop? …. keep your fingers crossed , I’ll be crossing mine 😉
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