The final chapter.
Saved the biggest day till last.
Looking at the stats over the past 6 days, I knew I was at 75.77 miles. 20 odd more than I’d ever run in a week before. Could I push it out to 100?
Speaking to Mike, he recommended I visit Lac Blanc and get transport down the valley, given the running I’d already clocked. I agreed. Deep down I had other plans. I’d run to Flegere before, on my first trip in 2015. On the descent from Flegere, being younger, dumber and full of, why not, I went to get a photo on my GoPro, on a tight, technical switchback. What I achieved, outside of a series of photos, was yelling expletives, as I rolled my left ankle, so much so, I saw the full sole of my running shoe. Crumpling to the ground, I was miles from the campsite and 700-800 meters of vertical to descend. Long story short, I ran back, but when I took the shoe off, couldn’t put wait on my foot. One blown up purple foot and ankle later, the week was a complete right off. And that was day 1.
I had no intentions of catching a lift, I had a distance goal and a trail that needed revenge.
I set off along the river trail, towards Chamonix, a trail that had become something of a daily commute. Early in the morning, the only other runners all seemed to be headed in the opposite direction and with a lot less kit. I opted to take a waterproof and gloves, given the forecast and the cooler conditions on Brevent the previous day. Up past the Brevent lift station, looking up at the switch backs I’d unceremoniously thrown myself face first down, my eyes searched like spot beams for the trail entrance.
Poles out, pace reduced, climb. Of all the trails, this had to be the most technical of the week. Steep and sheer on the downslope side, narrow, littered with rocks and roots, obstacles, it wasn’t one for claiming medals. I took my time, watching the clouds progressively accumulating over Mont Blanc, the Dru, Midi and others on the opposite side of the valley. Temperatures were cooler, winds picking up and whipping with a cold sting. Hmmmm, things weren’t going to stay golden.
Crossing fire roads and streams that had flow, different to the beginning of the week, where flowing water was impossible to find. I’d opted to wear a lightweight Columbia Long Sleeve, which gave me options when things got that little bit cooler, but not enough to warrant a jacket. Pushing up, switch backs started to follow the cable cars up, I was almost there. At the Flegere Refuge and Lift Station, it was heaving with people, compared to where else I’d explored in previous days. The trail said 1hr 45mins to the lakes, thankfully, running would cut that down considerably. It was close to midday, and trail traffic was starting to peak. Weaving in and out of many people and queuing for short scrambles, I’d wished I’d got up that bit earlier. Oh well, at least the legs were working.The climb to Lac Blanc has a mixture of runnable trail and rock hoping. It gradually winds up, after an initial descent, until the mountain unveils two large, clear pools of water (search on Google Images for some stunning photos). As you can see on my photos, they are really popular, despite the weather and to capture them at the their best means an early or late start. After a quick look at each pool, it was time to descend.
And then the rain started.
A few spots became a persistent downpour, as I pushed to get to the protection of the woodlands. Trails became greasy, roots in places like ice rinks. Not enough water to soak, just to wet the surface, breaking traction. To make sure I didn’t break the tradition forged in the previous couple of runs, I washed out once again, when my attention was elsewhere, grazing my knee, somewhat like gravel rash. When would I learn?
Carrying more speed, I utilised the poles to pivot on switchbacks and tighter trail sections, before reaching Brevent station and running with them folded in my hands of the remaining miles. The rain had settled in, I was soaked through, but warm enough to remain in a jersey. It must have got to my head, as I started singing……
On reaching basecamp, I throughly watered the titled floors, almost slipping over several times, such was the volume of water dripping off me.
A hot shower and coffee later, I started to warm up. I’d taken my revenge on the trail.
But what about the numbers? I had;t told Mike about my intentions, given I didn’t know if it would happen. Uploading my run to Garmin Connect, the average 7 day stats appeared. 100.1 miles! My first ever 100 mile week and in the French Alps of all places. I was beaming. And tired. And hungry. Sleepy.
A lazy start, I was flying home, away from Mountains and back to reality. I’ll spare you the stories of delayed flights, bad taxi drivers, some guy smashing car windows in outside my house within minutes of getting home….
I was dropped of by Mike into Chamonix and had a few hours to kill. I’m not a great tourist and I had two gear bags with me, so I headed to the Tourist Information Centre, as shade and some form of seating are always a given. I set up camp and relaxed, watching life walk before me. And then I heard a gasp. I had seen there was a kids climbing wall, but hadn’t spotted the highline. Immediately I pulled out my camera and fired off some shots. Then the guy walking the line spotted me ( I was 20ft to the left of the main crowd between two trees) and looked directly into my 70-200mm lens, showing his full personality. I was stoked. Killing time in the square had really paid off and it made the journey back with it’s delays that much easier.
I really want to thank Mike (Apex Running) for inviting me out and sharing his passion of ultra trail running and the mountains. In fact, it was the 4th time we’d met and it’s proving to be a pretty epic friendship. Without his encouragement, I’d have been sat in the office and none of these 5 parts would have occurred, let alone been dreamed up.
Enjoy what you do, don’t be afraid to take a chance and above all live. I’ve learnt a lot in the past 9 days about myself, my running, my passions and living life. You can too.