On Sat 30th July we took part in the Trail des 2 Lacs in la Plagne. Being part of the mammoth 6000D Tour de Geants (Tour of Giants) event, the Trail des 2 Lacs was a smaller version with 22km and 1100m of ascent.
This was my first proper race in over a year (the previous being the Classic Quarter ultra in Cornwall) and I knew I’d lost a lot of fitness and gained a bit of weight over the past 12 months. It was also the first race I’d taken part in since transitioning to a forefoot striking running style, so I was keen to see how I’d get on over such tough terrain with this running style.
Thankfully the problems I had earlier in the year with my IT Band seem to be behind me, so the first, steep drag out of Plagne Bellecote after the starting gun didn’t have an adverse effect. I was forced to walk at times due to the volume of people on such a tight path full of switchbacks.
After the tough start the terrain became undulating for a few kilometres before it started heading up again. This time, though, it would take over an hour of solid uphill before anything that could be classed as running was attempted – we later checked the results page and found that even the winner took 55mins on this section.
There was a healthy crowd offering encouragement at the Roche de Mio col as we crested then began to drop down just as steeply as we’d come up. Here I was able to gain quite a few places over my European peers.
When I hit the feed station I was feeling okay, so I didn’t stop for long. Had I known the extent (distance and gradient) of the descent that followed I’d have taken this section a bit more conservatively, instead I focussed on speed and technique. By the time I’d reached the valley bottom I realised just how much the descent had taken out of me. Very quickly I started to be overtaken as I had no option but to slow right down to conserve what energy I could to tackle the climb that was looming large right I front of my eyes.
A quick water stop at the bottom and up I went knowing I was nearly a spent force. Walking up towards the Arpette lift station was a challenge in itself as the sun was, by now, beating ferociously down on to my head. I wished I’d taken it more steadily on the descent.
On reaching the summit of the Arpette lift the small crowd cheered, but my legs would not start running again. The ground started to fall away more steadily this time, but, by now, my legs were gone. I was still a fair old way from the finish and although there was only downhill to go, I was officially running on empty, experiencing the bitter realisation that descending well requires just as much energy as ascending well.
Between the Arpette and Belle Plagne I must have been passed by over 10 people, but I had nothing left to give any more. My pace had slowed to little more than a jog. As I came through Belle Plagne the crowds were an enormous help, but I must have looked a sorry sight.
About half a kilometre from the line I thought I might have enough for a sprint finish, so tried to up the pace slightly. This lasted for about 10 seconds before I quickly realised I couldn’t do it.
I trundled in over the line; the first race I’ve done where I’ve not managed a sprint finish, and the extent to which alpine racing and UK trail running differ fully hit home.
Out of a field of over 380 I finished in 149th place with Jo 14 seconds behind me in 150th (another kilometre and she’d have had me!). Considering where I am in terms of fitness since last June, I was quite pleased with my position and, as it was my first experience of an alpine trail race, I can safely say I learned the hard way what these events are all about: alpine racing basically means straight up, then straight down with very little level or undulating ground in between. It certainly was a steep learning curve (I couldn’t resist!).
Total ascent: 1100metres