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Ultra Tour Du Beaufortain – July 17th 2010

Ultra Tour Du Beaufortain – July 17th 2010 

 

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FAQ – “Why this race?” Well, 3 years ago I just happened to be at the campsite in Quiege (start of the race and the “gateway” to the Beaufortain region) when a chap came along and started putting up banners for the race. I mentioned to him that I too did a bit of running and fancied doing a race. But when I enquired further about the actual details of the race I found that it was in fact 103kms over 2 days – not the sort of thing I’d be doing with little warning or after several really long days on the road bike. The race did however appeal and I guess it stayed in the back of my mind until this year.

 

So to 2010 and the idea of finally doing the race once again came to the fore. This year was to be the first year that it’d be done as a single stage - 103km and 5850 metres of climb – starting at 4am with a maximum completion time of 26 hours. In the last few years I’d knocked off the three major UK rounds in respectable times and felt pretty confident that I’d be OK on this sort of thing but there were lots of unknowns. The weather was likely to be pretty hot and although I’d done this sort of distance plenty of times, the actual prospect of lining up with 200 others to race around something like the Bob Graham Round was a little ridiculous. Also, I wasn’t too heartened to stumble across a magazine article for the Tour, which recommended spending 5 days walking the route!

 

The pre-race organisation was great although we endured a 45 minute route briefing which made us think that we’d be navigating for the entire way. The opposite was actually the case as the entire route was marked and marshalled at any decision points. That explained why a Map and Compass was not on the required kit list and why only 2 runners (Me and Tim) appeared to have maps with them at the start of such a huge race! We stood out for other reasons too – no knee length compression socks, golfing visors or hot pants!! Just pale grey- looking and pumping out sweat after only minutes of running up the first hill (maybe the 1 day acclimatisation was not such a great idea after all!)

3:50 and a bit of 80’s music is just what you need before the start at 4am. But, just how fast would people set off on something like this? Surely not too fast ……… Well, Er actually it was Flat out along a forest road and then thank god, the first climb – all 1500 metres of it and a chance to get into a reasonable pace. The first half of the race was alpine running at it’s very best. Some big climbs, single track, rocky stuff and some mighty impressive mountains all at about 2000 – 2500 metres altitude. The route taking us completely around Pierra Menta was simply stunning.

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They clearly do do things differently in French races - The numerous feed stations looked more like large buffet tables. I guess they get used to eating this stuff during a running race but I searched along the table for something my stomach could actually tolerate in the dry heat. I bypassed the Chorizo & Salami, didn’t fancy the plates of cheese either and certainly couldn’t force any dry French bread down either. To top it off one of the marshalls actually offered to fill by waterbottle with strong black coffee!!  Luckily there was some nice chopped fresh fruit – this along with numerous Powergels that I carried formed my diet for the entire race (not forgetting a good quantity of Ibuprofen too).

 

The halfway point was at the Cormet de Roseland – a fantastic road col that I had biked over many times before on trips through the Alps, most recently the day before the race as I tried to force myself to get used to the heat. At this point I had all but caught the 4th runner although he was out of the feed station and away before me. The next stage took on part of the Tour de Mont Blanc route and with this came the crowds. Reasonably Busy on the fantastic Cretes des Gittes ridge but on the descent from the Col du Bonhomme towards Les Contamines I felt like I was back on the Snowdon path on a Saturday afternoon. Glad to get off the TMB superhighway we made a sneaky climb to the Col de Fenetre and then onwards to Col du Joly and Les Saisies before the final long descent back to Quiege. This second half saw me suffer from cramp in the quads to the point that I was struggling to run down any hills – at one point I took my bottle of concentrated sea salt and squirted it straight into my mouth. To my surprise it didn’t taste too bad which was probably a bad sign! I also felt incredibly sick whilst trying to eat or drink.

I felt sluggish and had to give myself a talking to more than once. I slipped back on time which was frustrating and inevitably I guess I lost a couple of places, finally finishing in 6th position (14 hours 15 minutes).

 

 

 

It had been a real learning experience. On finishing, I vowed not to do the race again but 10 days later I could be tempted. I had done enough to get in the prize giving but knew I could have done much better and it was this that would draw me back to do the race again. I would be better prepared next time.

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Best bit ……. Finishing & promptly throwing up.

Worst Bit …. Thought of the final descent with solid cramp in both quads

Best kit ……. Carbon Trekking Poles – unimaginable pain without them.

Worst Kit …. Map – really didn’t need it as the route was so well marked

Best Prize … Local produce – cheese & wine to enjoy for the holiday

Worst Prize . Boule cleaning kit & Beaufortain cheese-making DVD !

 

While the race was tough, for me it did only last for 14 hours (the last runner came back in 25 hours). The real endurance event however was done by the organisers who spent 3 days pretty much non-stop from registration to the enormous prize-giving ceremony and meal after the race. A huge thanks to everyone who made this a great event.

 

Details of the race can be found on the website www.ultratour-beaufortain.fr

By Chris Near.

 

 

 

 


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