“ouaiiiiiiis bonne année mec !!!!! Qu’est-ce que je te souhaite pour 2014?”
Difficile de trouver une réponse avec la musique à fond, les gens qui braillent, en dansant le ventre trop plein… alors pourquoi ne pas avancer cette réflexion de quelques jours, afin de trouver une réponse.
Mais au fait, plein de bonheur ça veut dire quoi ?
On passe en revue ce qui s’est passé durant l’année qui vient de s’écouler, on fait le bilan des réussites, des aventures vécues, des exploits accomplis, des rencontres effectuées, mais aussi de ce qu’on n’a pas eut le temps de faire et que l’on souhaite remettre au goût du jour pour 2014.
Personnellement, 2013 fut une année riche en émotions. Pas étonnant vu mon tempérament à mettre mon coeur dans tout ce que j’entreprend. Si je ne devrais retenir qu’une chose, ce sont les rencontres que j’ai pu faire et qui m’ont enrichies et ont influencées ma vie bien au delà de ce que j’aurais pu l’imaginer. Que ce soit sur les compétitions de Skyrunning / ultra que j’ai faîte à travers le monde, dans le boulot avec Goodpeoplerun et Twiinkly, mais aussi au niveau de ma vie personnelle, que pour la première fois depuis de longues années je n’ai pas entièrement négligé.
Quelques souvenirs parmi les nombreux bons moments que j’ai eut la chance de vivre en 2013 :
Il est encore trop tôt pour lever le voile sur mes projets en 2014. Je ne ferais donc pas d’annonce de calendrier de course, ni des projets pros que je vais poursuivre et encore moins de ma vie perso (ça c’est privé!) mais je peux vous assurer deux choses sur ces projets :
1 – Running, boulot et perso seront encore intimement liées.
2 – Ils seront axés sur les dimensions de rencontre, de partage, et d’échange.
J’ai hâte de vous en dire plus et partager tous ces projets avec vous, lecteurs, amis, coureurs, partenaires et famille.
Pour finir, un petit conseil à prendre ou à laisser. Quoi que vous décidiez de changer ou d’accomplir en 2014, faîtes le pour les bonnes raisons. C’est ce que ces projets représentent pour vous et vous seul qui importe.
Ne vous laissez pas convaincre que ce sont la taille ou l’ambition de ces projets qui rendrons leur réalisation plus épanouissante. Une fois que vous aurez déterminé vos objectifs, vos rêves, c’est véritablement en les partageant avec d’autres que vous prendrez le plus de plaisir à les accomplir. Et c’est peut être bien là que commence le bonheur…
Tout de bon pour 2014, et en attendant le jour de l’an je vais parfaire ma recette de terrine de chaton.
La finale du The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miles fût pour moi bien plus qu’une course de clôture de saison.
Pour commencer, il s’agissait de la première course sous l’étendard du Team New Balance . Un premier test de forme après 5 courtes semaines d’entrainement spécifique qui me donneraient une idée du potentiel à exploiter pour 2014.
C’était également de ma dernière chance de jouer des coudes avec sans équivoque le rassemblement le plus dense des meilleurs coureurs mondiaux d’ultra trail, et ce sur un parcours qui n’allait pas m’avantager de par son aspect peu technique et roulant… ça s’annonçait très rapide! Un dernier moyen de jauger mon niveau et surtout un souhait personnel de confirmer ma 8ème place à la finale de la coupe du monde de Skyrunning Ultra lors de UROC 100k dans le Colorado fin septembre.
C’était aussi pour moi l’occasion de lancer un projet personnel sur lequel je travaille avec un ami d’enfance depuis un peu moins d’un mois. Le nom : Twiinkly. Le concept : une frise de photos ordonnée en fonction du temps de la distance sur le parcours qui permet de suivre les coureurs et d’avoir un historique de toutes les photos après la course. Aperçu disponible sur Twiinkly.com.
Enfin, et sans doute la partie la plus importante, l’opportunité de retrouver et partager de bons moments avec un groupe d’ultra runners venant d’à travers le monde et qui sont devenus des amis au fur et à mesure des kilomètres partagés en course.
Rester en contact grâce aux réseaux sociaux est une chose, mais des rires autour d’un café, refaire le monde autour d’une bière ou encore prendre des nouvelles pendant la course (nous sommes de vrai pipelettes!) reste le meilleur moyen d’entretenir une relation avec des amis. Amis qui bien que faisant partie de l’élite mondiale en terme d’ultra running, restent des gens extrêmement simples et au grand coeur.
Voilà donc en quelques lignes ce que j’espérais pouvoir accomplir lorsque j’ai pris l’avion pour San Francisco le 3 décembre depuis l’aéroport de Lyon.
Ce n’est qu’en faisant le bilan à mon retour que je réalise qu’à vouloir tirer partie au mieux de ce trip, j’ai peut être voulu trop en faire… Du GAFFURI tout craché. Idiot. Donc le bilan peut être vu de la façon suivante : je n’ai pas réussi à voir tous les amis que je souhaitais voir et qui m’étaient chers, je n’ai pu lancer Twiinkly juste après la course et je n’ai pas finit dans le top 10 que j’espérait secrètement.
Mais vu d’un angle différent, ces objectifs manqués sont le résultats de m’être fixé de tels objectifs et d’avoir eut la possibilité d’essayer de les atteindre. Prendre le risque de manquer des objectifs ambitieux est précisément ce qui me comble et me permet d’avancer au jour le jour. Car quel que soit le résultat, avec le bon état d’esprit, on en sort toujours gagnant. Atteindre l’objectif est une victoire évidente. Le manquer et on apprend et accumule de l’expérience pour la prochaine fois.
J’ai donc décidé de retenir que j’avais déjà eut la chance de retrouver beaucoup de mes amis, que le premier retour que j’ai eut à propos de Twiinkly est très encourageant, et que bien qu’ayant loupé le top 10, j’ai été capable de parcourir les 5 derniers kilomètres en 16’18” (certes en descente sur 4km!) pour finir à 3 petites minutes d’un champion du monde de course en montagne, devant un coureur qui vaut 2h25 au marathon et cerise sur le gâteau, premier européen en 6h57’15”. Heureux le Gaffurax !
En “mode avion” pour le sprint final de 5k !
Pour toutes ces expériences de vie, il y a beaucoup de monde que je tiens à remercier. Toute ma famille de coureurs d’à travers le monde avec qui j’ai toujours un plaisir immense de partager même un bref instant, Greg et le gang Salomon et leur générosité et sens de la déconne aussi impressionnant que leur talent, Monica et Dominic de New Balance US qui m’ont respectivement équipé et fait l’assistance pour la course, le magasin San Francisco Running Company pour son accueil et avoir été le point central de rencontre ce weekend – si vous allez à San Francisco et que vous passez le Golden Gate Bridge pour aller dans les Marin Headlands il faut absolument que vous y passiez. Demandez Brett ou Jorge et ils vous expliqueront tout sur les meilleurs endroits où aller courir – mon coach Jack qui m’en a fait chier comme un russe pendant 5 semaines avec un beau résultat à la clef, vivement 2014, et enfin Lisa de chez TNF sans qui rien de tout cela n’aurait été possible.
Je vais désormais faire une coupure bien méritée, au niveau course à pied comme au niveau boulot, pour allouer mon temps à quelque chose que j’ai trop mis de côté cette année, ma propre famille !
Passez tous de bonnes fêtes de fin d’année, allez y à fond, gavez vous, profitez, picolez, faîtes vous plaisir, parce qu’en 2014, va falloir envoyer du lourd !!!
De belles photos vallent mieux qu’un grand discours, donc voici quelques photos de ma course:
Sur l’aller retour en milieu de course, photos par San Francisco Running Company : Je regardais derrière pour reconnaitre le parcours pour le retour 🙂
Quelques photos sur le parcours prises par mon “pacer” Dom:
Et c’est parti pour le sprint final de 5km vers l’arrivée (dans la vallée sur la partie plus claire), avec David Riddle à mes trousses et qui finira par me passer dans les derniers mètres sur la route
Encore 300 mètres sur la route en faux plat montant, partie finale qui aura eut raison de moi…
FINISH (toutes les photos sur: Twiinkly.com)
The TNF Endurance Challenge 50 miles in San Francisco has been much more than the last race of my 2013 season.
To begin with, it was my first race as a New Balance athlete, and thus first fitness test after 5 weeks of specific training with my new coach to have a preview of what 2014 could offer.
It was also my last chance to race against what was arguably the most stacked filed of ultra runners this year, on a course that would be challenging for me (very fast and non technical). I wanted to prove myself that my 8th place at the Ultra Skyrunning World Series (UROC in Colorado) this past september wasn’t an accident.
It was also a field test to launch a new very exciting web service – Twiinkly – on what I have been working on for about a month with a good friend of mine. More on that later.
Last but perhaps the most important part, having a chance to catch up once again with many of my ultra running friends from around the world. Sure I’m in touch with them through Facebook and Twitter but nothing compares a good old chat over coffee or lunch, at a local running store or even during the race itself. I am extremely lucky to call most of these ultra running mutants my friends, who with no exception whatsoever are also men and women with big hearts.
This is pretty much all what I was looking forward to as I left Lyon Airport on December 3rd for a short week in San Francisco. Only after I made it back to the place I call home though, I realized that I had once again created such a busy schedule for myself that I would hardly have any time to chill. Proper Martin GAFFURI style. Stupid.
Looking at this past week, I could say that I didn’t manage to catch up with all the friends I wanted to, didn’t launch the service I wanted to have online by now, didn’t place top 10 in the race as I secretly wanted to, and I feel like I should have spent way more time with my better half.
But that’s how I am, I have never been able to settle for average. I always thrive for exceptional, outstanding, extra ordinary, whether it’s in my personal life, professional life or as a runner, where the lines in between each are getting more and more blurry. I can’t help trying to make the best out of everything I do, or feel bad doing nothing. Problem is, I happen to do a lot of things and only push a few to full completion.
However, looking at these semi failures from a different angle, I see that they are just the consequences of high goals I had set for myself. Risking to miss a goal that was set too high is precisely what really matters to me and makes me happy on a daily basis. Taking the chance to make excellent happen (glad I got that one in!). Whether the outcome is a success or not, it doesn’t matter that much in the end, because with the right attitude, you win every time.
Reach it and it’s an obvious victory. Fail and learn, and you have a life experience.
And for that life experience, I would like to thank all the ultra running peeps I had a good laugh with, Greg and the Salomon boyz for their welcoming attitude, Monica and Dominic from New Balance who respectively geared me up and paced me for the race, San Francisco Running Company for being the central place to be and making it easier to catch up with friends, my coach for the obvious quality of his training plan and pre race psychological support, and finally Lisa without who none of that would have happened.
So I have decided to only look at things the better way. I did catch up with most of the friends I feel more than ever part of that global ultra running family, got to make business contacts about Twiinkly and already got few people on board, I still had a pretty awesome race : felt great the whole time and learned a few more things, and I the very short moments I have spent being in the moment with my girl have been the most meaningful of all and we created new memories that will keep my heart happy for the next few month.
But for now, I will allocate time to take a proper break, from running as well as from work, so I can fully enjoy the company of the ones I have left behind during this busy year, my own crazy family.
Happy holiday, merry Xmas to ya’ll !
Instead of a detailed race report, a few shots will be much more meaningful :
On the Out&Back by San Francisco Running Company
On the course, by Dom:
FINISH (Photos : Twiinkly.com)
The moment most of us have been waiting for has finally arrived. The 2014 Skyrunning race calendar is out for the Ultra series, ladies and gentlemen, there is some pretty effing exciting stuff !!!
Here are the 5 races that will host the 5 stages of the Ultra Series (Videos further down the article) :
1. SPAIN: Transvulcania Ultramarathon – 83k, La Palma – May 10
2. FRANCE: Ice Trail Tarentaise – 65k, Val d’Isère – July 11
3. USA: SpeedGoat 50k – Snowbird, Utah – July 19
4. ITALY : Trofeo Kima UltraSkyMarathon®, Valmasino, Sondrio – August 30
5. USA: The Rut 50k – Big Sky, Montana – September 14
Being a Euro, I’m actually glad that three races will be held on my side of the big pond. This will surely make it easier for travels and expenses, but also for potential training on the race course for at least two of them, over a long weekend.
Having races at TransVulcania and Ice Trail Tarentaise in 2013, I can only be excited to see these races part of the series again. I know the course and this hopefully will play in my advantage. But to be totally honest, I’m really intrigued about Kima. A race that requires to climb down cliffs hanging out of metal ropes can’t leave you indifferent… oh wait, did I mentioned that it took Kilian 6:19 hours to win this 48k race?!! Yeah I certainly look forward to being part of this one.
Now, here is the big fat counterpoint of potentially ranking in the series without having to fly to America. The two races that have been picked in the US simply look phenomenal!!! Both races are directed by elite athletes and that alone makes a huge difference. They have been racing all over the world and looked for a truly technical course, at elevation, going up and over high peaks, so we can all grind in awe in front of such immense surroundings, and feel that pain from a damn lack of oxygen!! Breath taking in all sense, surely is what Skyrunning is all about.
Executive director Lauri van Houten and Marino Giacometti – plus all the people pushing behind the International Skyrunning federation – have once again done an amazing job at keeping the races with a true Skyrunning spirit and scouting for few newly born races that need all our attention.
So here is a question for you, what’s the most exciting time of the year ? Christmas season or Skyrunning season?
SKYRUNNING SEASON BABY!!!
Too much excitement, gotta go run up and down my stairs to get used to steep ass races.
’till it starts, keep on rollin’
“The cold had seized up entirely the shaking muscles on my skinny bones, water was dripping from my hair as a light rain was steadily poring on us. My numb feet were stepping in a puddle of mud trying to get the blood back flowing. We were all standing in line, packed against each other, a node in the stomach, waiting for a gun to fire and launch the charge.”
I never went to war, but my first XC race at the age of seven felt everything like it. As the years went by, I got used to such atmosphere, tangible tension and fierce competition. When you’re half bent over an elastic string that you know can slap your quad so hard you could bleed and all people around you are elbows out and geared up with 6 15 millimeters spikes under each foot you better be ready for battle. There was always strong mutual respect for the competition, but no mercy.
It taught me to be over confident in order to perform at my best, challenge my limits, other’s limits and eventually jump on that box for a few seconds of glory. This attitude I have developed while racing shaped up my personality, a lot. I don’t give up, I play hard and can last longer than a honey badger digging out a hive. I am Jack’s endless confidence.
After a focus on the World Skyrunning ultra series and a results beyond what I could have initially expected, such positive moments have been raining on me. First the result itself meant a lot to me. I had trained hard towards that single goal, and I reached higher. This was going to be my ladder for the next challenge.
The New Balance sponsorship. When you’re getting used to hanging out with pro athletes, team managers and this whole elite environment, you could take this for granted as a way to perform better. It’s not. I have been picked to join the French NB team and received their support.
Following friendly twitt-anigans with ultra runners about a race, pacing history and pope issues, Dominic Grossman, NB athlete and hell of a runner, shoots me a message to offer to crew/pace me for the race. This is precisely when I realized I hadn’t only joined the New Balance french team, I had been welcomed into the global New Balance Family. It rocks.
If you read all this and you don’t know me, you must think by now that I’m the most arrogant self indulgent jackass. And you’re probably right about the 24 year old version of me. That’s who I was, bulldozing forward towards my goals with no second thoughts about consequences, collateral damage and whatnot. And when the goal’s reached, move onto the next one without even appreciating what I had worked so hard to get to. It was all about the challenge.
Truth is, I’m 28 now. 4 years of entrepreneurship have shown me times of deep disappointment, faced countless NOs, taught that not everything works according to plan even when you give it all. So I have learned to step back and put down my game face every once in a while. Be able to let the guard down and appreciate, be grateful for the things I have. I have learned humility the hard way… the best way.
I acknowledged I was extremely privileged to be in the place I am now, because regardless how hard one shall work, great things only come from mutual efforts and support. Friends, family, my girl and now New Balance, I couldn’t wish for better support.
And for that reason I’m more than ever looking forward to catching up with good friends and make new ones at this low key race you might have heard of : The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miles in San Francisco 🙂
I’m ready to give it all, to go to war as I’ll toe the start line one more time, but I’ll keep in mind that piece of humility that makes us the Good People of the ultra running scene.
4 weeks to go…
Une saison bien remplie et à la clef un résultat inespéré auquel j’ai toujours du mal à croire.
4ème de la coupe du monde de Skyrunning Ultra. Certes il y a eu des absents, certains coureurs ont eut une mauvaise course sur une des étapes mais j’ai fait mes 3 courses, j’ai suivit les règles en organisant ma saison autour de ces 3 objectifs et ce classement est bien le mien.
Une fois redescendu sur terre, la question se pose. Que vais-je faire de ce résultat ? Comment transformer ce premier essai dans le monde du trail de haut niveau où je fais office de petit nouveau ? Comment me battre avec les mêmes armes que ces coureurs aux avants postes qui continuent à me faire rêver ?
La réponse était évidente, il me fallait un partenaire qui puisse m’accompagner et me soutenir. En prospectant auprès de quelques marques, c’est New Balance qui est apparu comme le partenaire idéal. Après avoir travaillé main dans la main pendant un an a travers Goodpeoplerun.com pour organiser des sorties course à pied en groupe partout en France, je connaissais et appréciais la marque et les produits.
Donc après quelques échanges avec le Team Manager Jack Peyrard, il a misé sur moi et j’ai le plaisir d’intégrer le Team New Balance France à partir de 2014. De nouveaux co-équipiers avec qui échanger et de qui apprendre, un team manager qui sera également mon coach et avec qui j’espère encore beaucoup progresser, bref comme Winnie L’Ourson, j’ai plein de nouvelles aventures à venir !
Comme à mon habitude, je ne tiens pas en place, et je n’ai donc pas attendu la saison prochaine pour porter les couleurs NB de la tête aux pieds. Je serais effectivement début Décembre au départ du TNF Endurance Challenge 50 miles à San Francisco, dernier grand rendez-vous international de la saison. A suivre donc…
Beyond their personal acknowledgement and continuous explanations on how fascinated by nature and mountains they are, the Ultra runners may just be more deeply connected to mother earth than they think they are.
A phenomenon recently observed within this one of a kind population, their body mutates and like flora follow seasons. For the fall season, it turned out that toes is the part of the body that gets affected by this mutation.
The season is almost over and many training and racing miles have been covered, introducing the mutation. Just like tree leaves, Ultra runner’s toenails change colour and end up falling as we can witness on the picture below… Eww gross!
We can’t wait to find out what kind of effects winter shall have on them ^^
Until then, jogg on!
2014 Skyrunning World Championship will take place in Chamonix France, hosted by the Chamonix Marathon.
There will be an 80k for the Ultra
The marathon will be the Sky distance
The Vertical K will be the Vertical.
And sorry for those who wanted to race the Marathon, it’s been sold out after few hours of chaos 😦
ça fait mal mais ça ne fait pas de mal !
Après une saison consacrée à l’ultra il est temps de reprendre les bases, c’est-à-dire du travail de VMA (courte et longue) et donc retour sur ce bon vieux tartan qui, je dois l’admettre en tant qu’ancien pistard, me manquait un peu.
Pour un retour en douceur, une séance de 15x200m en 33″ avec 35″ de récup trottée sur place. Très bien passé et sans avoir à me mettre dans le rouge, donc mission accomplie. Les mollets un peu dur certes, mais on ne peut pas avoir le beurre, l’argent du beurre et tringler la crémière !
Si vous me cherchez, je serais en train de bosser. Et oui, faut bien payer toutes ces pâtes que je m’enfile…
Hier, je suis allé dans le Semnoz avec Guitax pour ma seconde sortie après UROC 100k. L’objectif était de voir comment les jambes réagissaient à un terrain accidenté et s’il me restait un peu de jus pour être capable de refaire des sorties un peu plus longues.
On a fait 18km en deux heures, mais comme on a trouvé des champignons ça ne compte pas comme un entrainement… C’est Florentin qui l’a dit!
I can’t tell if this hunger or if I’m getting sick, but I found myself woken up in the middle of the night by a sharp stomach ache. I open my eyes and my back hurts. I get off the bed to make my way to the bathroom to get some water. I fell right back on the bed. My feet are beat up and my IT band and quads can not carry me. I’m thinking about going back to bed but I fear that thirst won’t let me fall back asleep, or crawling to the bathroom. This will be option number two… How the hell did I get there?
The snow was slowly covering Vail Village, CO. The conference room was still empty as only a few of us were asked to be there early for the interviews with Gill, RD of the race. The job done, I joined the Flag crew with Carlie and we all made our way down the pedestrian streets to a coffee shop. We were cracking jokes and catching up with each other’s lives and accomplishments since we hadn’t had the chance to see for a while. Only Rob, or should I say Famous Rob was getting nervous about debating the serious things of ultrarunning in an interview with Allison Nily Pattillo.
About 200 runners and crew are now packed in the conference room. For the first time, I’m sitting on the other side of the Elite athlete table. I guess my current 7th of the Skyrunning world Championship Ultra, owned me that sit. I have to get used to this status and race up to it. The chat goes on and the room is filled with smiles and hugs. It’s catch up time in the Ultra world and it’s good to be part of this passionate and enthusiast crowd.
Roberto Mandje, a good friend and Olympian runner on 1500m in 2004 from Boulder had agreed to crew me for the race. He had just made it to Vail through the snow storm that only was auguring an even more exciting journey for the race the next day. After the conference we quickly made our way to the car and drove back to Frisco. The organisation rented a massive house for athlete but it sounded like not many athletes were aware of it. Only Mike Wardian, who I had a very cool chat with during the ride he kindly offered me from Boulder up to Breckenridge – say “Breck” if you want to sound cool or local – and outdoor Photographer Matt Trappe were there with us.
When I say massive, I mean the kind of house that has 10 rooms, each with private bathroom, two separate apartments and two living rooms, that to be honest were alone bigger than my flat back home! Last gear check and briefing for Rob’s tomorrow long mission to crew me through 5 aid stations, and off to bed.
6.20am, Saturday morning. It took few minutes for Rob and I to get off the car parked on main street in Breckenridge Colorado. Outside, it was dark and “pinky-size cold”!
Though, I am calm, relaxed, and looking forward to the long journey that will unleash myriad of surprises, good for some and bad for other. Cruel but beautiful fate of ultra running. Anything can happen, to anyone.
“Some of the best ultra runners are here today, but you have owned your spot at the front row, so act as such. You’re trained, you’re healthy and you’re damn ready to hurt.” I remember saying to myself as standing at the starting line.
Off we are, going straight up a hill only about a mile in. I set into a comfortable pace behind my partner in crime, Emelie Forsberg, who I had planned to stay with for the first half of the race. And so the race was on.
As the lead pack spreads out, I’m feeling good so I decide to crank up the pace and carry on climbing on my own.
I ran through the first aid station and everything worked out perfectly. This was the first time I had someone crewing for me and this really makes a difference. Beside the option to have exactly what you need at each aid station where crew is allowed, you have a second brain that works for you and tells you precisely what to eat, drink and take exactly how you had planned to do.
After they caught up with me at the aid station, I cruised for a while with Gary Gellin and Brian Tinder just enough time to hear Tinder step on ice and crash. Damn that was loud. I stopped and turned around to see him upside down. I shouted “You’re all right??” He stood back up, snowed himself off and started running again, “I’m all right, but damn that hurt!”. After a while I let these two and Michael Versteeg take off as I felt the pace was slightly too fast for me at this early stage of the race.
I got to the second aid station, 22k in and didn’t feel 100%. The road portion took a toll on me but I looked forward to the first real climb of the race. Again I’m in and out of the aid station, perhaps a bit too fast but I was only going to realise that a wee bit too late…
2/3 up that first climb, I quickly did the math and concluded worried that at the pace I was going through my food and water supplies I wouldn’t have enough to make it to the next aid station properly fuelled. I had clearly underestimated this portion that the snow fall from the whole day and night before had made even slower. Despite rationing my food, my pace and strengths were declining. I had a hard time following Brian, and was passed by two guys who were shouting out long and loud “yeeeeheaaaaw”. I just don’t get that. Is that joy, expression of being amazed by the surrounding mountains, show off ? I can only see loss of focus and energy and it kind of grinds my wheels to be honest. I whispered through my teeth “Oh for crying out loud, can’t you leave people run in the beautiful silence of the mountains?!!” Maybe I was becoming more irritable at this point as I started bonking. This is where Stephanie HOWE caught up with our little group.
Up the pass, we dropped on the other side after running along the ridge for a while. Strong wind was blowing and the temperature was later announced as to have reached -14°C with wind chill. Glad I had my lightweight GoodPeopleRun Jacket , 80 grams were never put to such good use! Going downhill through mid calf deep snow was kinda fun and almost made me forget about my bonking. I was going back and forth with Gary on that section, but he was clearly faster and soon was disappearing on the snowy/muddy single track we had caught off the snow fields.
I had started eating a handful of snow each time I had a chance. Stephanie passed me as while in a desperate move to keep myself together, I had stopped to get few mouthfuls of water off a stream to make it down to the Copper Mountain aid station in the least poor possible form.
I ran behind her all the way down to the creek thinking, holly crap she is fast! She was then leading the women’s field and clearly had wheels on the flat sections. Down to the creek, we had another 2 miles on a winding single track before we could hit the aid station. It felt like forever.
So when I finally made it, I stopped. Screw Formula 1-like transitions! I had clear intention to make a killing at this aid station big time. I went onto the food at the aid station like the cookie monster on cookies! After I fuelled up, I got some cheering from Rob and I was off again. I left the aid station walking, waiting for the food to sink in and my strengths to come back, and desperately trying to forget that I was only 43k into the race…
Water had never tasted so good / The death march leaving the aid station. Photos Greg Vollet / Rob Mandje
In the distance, I could see Emelie. She had had a much faster transition and was now ahead of me. I couldn’t help thinking “I wonder what would have happened if I had stuck to the plan and stayed with her?”. But I had taken my chances and I was accepting its consequences.
On paper, the upcoming section of the race was a 18k stretch over Vail Pass on a cycle path, which pretty much sucks for a goat like me with very little raw speed in its legs. Yet, it had one advantage that was going to put me back on track. Road means boring – oops that came out wrong… – Road means you don’t have to think about where you put your feet or where you turn, that’s what I meant!
So I actually managed to keep it together for the first part up to Vail pass, running brain dead and repeating thoughts to keep me up. (See the end, mind tricks).
There Rob was ready to cheer me on and put more gas in my engine. Joe Grant was also there and told me I looked good. All I could think of though was “you’re nice buddy, but I know this trick and at this point I’m not sure it will change anything”, yet it did.
Seeing me doubtful about his words, he added “yeah you’re still 18th” with a very sincere look on his face. If I was still top 20 while having one of the worst bonking I had experienced in a race, then it was time to get my shit together and start trucking.
My good friend Timmy Olson truly inspired me once again as I crewed along with his wife Krista and parents in law to witness him take 4th at UTMB a month before. He had lived up to what he had told me after TransVulcania earlier this year: “In an ultra you must be able to come back from a low patch. Whether you have pushed a climb too hard or if you’re bonking, nothing’s ever over, unless you let it.” He was right and I wasn’t going to let go.
The 53k mark is where things went downside up (not sure I can say that but that’s how it felt!) and where I was able to truly take advantage of all the training I had built up for that race.
I couldn’t quite leave behind my stiff legs at the aid station, but I sure was back on the horse and ready to push. I adjusted my stride to a faster pace on the now downhill bike path to the next aid station; 8ks down the other side of Vail Pass. I was followed by a runner, but I never looked back. Basic XC running rule, if you look back, you make the guy behind feel stronger and that’s enough to help him pass you. So head down I reached the next aid station, filled up my water bottles with water, took the time to eat and drink (you make a mistake once, call it an accident, make it twice you’re an idiot!) and started the second big climb of the day with Stephanie right in my new bull’s eye.
I felt strong all the way up. I passed Stephanie along with another guy. I eventually caught up with Emelie who had taken the lead in the women’s race. She was moving quite quick so we had time for a brief chat. I gave her the status on the women’s happenings in the race, she gave me words of encouragement. I was off grunting away and power hiking the last steep section before the opening on the ski slopes at the back of Vail mountain. I was on a mission and I could not let anything take my focus off of it.
Got to the top of Vail Mountain, after passing another guy and Gary who I initially thought I wouldn’t see any more. That was a good sign. I was feeling strong mentally but my legs were still stiff and my quads were starting to seriously hurt.
To take my mind off that pain, I sucked up positive energy from this part of the course I knew very well. I had run this single track along the ridge for the past 6 years during the annual TransRockies Run stage race. The sun was up and the snow was melting, turning the single tracks into a succession of puddles of mud and water, which I wasn’t even bothered trying to avoid anymore.
I perceived an aid station in the distance and was trying to scout other runners I could catch. I really was on hunting mode, which helped take away my attention from my hurting quads and hamstrings. Sadly, no soul in sight.
I got to there looking for food and I found my good friend Luke Nelson! Another runner I wasn’t quite expecting to see again. His words were : “Get out of here man!” as he faked punching me in the stomach. This guy can have the best as well as the worst time on the trail, he always show positive attitude and a big smile.
“I’m not feeling to good he said, do you want to walk for a bit?”.
I responded with my mouth full of watermelon that I wasn’t feeling great but I surely wasn’t walking, and off I was again. Damn I must sound like an ass sometimes, but when racing mode is on, it’s on like King Kong!!
The trail down to the last aid station in Minturn was a long winding downhill section that I ran rather fast, hoping to close on more runners. I didn’t, and covered the whole section on my own.
Right before I left the trail to make it to the road that lead to the Aid Station, Meghan M. Hicks who was killing it at covering the race on IrunFar shouted at me I was 11th and two more runners were down at the aid station. Talk about a motivation boost! Top 10 was suddenly POSSIBLE…
I first saw Rickey Gates, who looked strong and gave me a high 5. A couple of hundred meters further down the road, I found Michael Versteeg with Andrew Bock on his tail. I had then put a face on my two new targets. I rushed down to the aid station to trade my jacket for a lighter and dry New Balance singlet and GPR Visor. Took water, watermelon, cliff shots at the aid station and I trotted out of the aid station with Rob chased me down to give me the last couple of salt pills of the day.
NO WALKING ! This is what I kept in mind as I was running up the road to the trail back up to Vail Mountain. “As soon as you hit the trail, you keep running.” I eventually had walk sections but I ran most of the first half of the climb. I had the feeling I was moving rather fast but I couldn’t catch a glimpse of any runner, and started to loose confidence in catching them. “Run with your heart” I remembered, the words of my better half. And off I was again, running. Good think I didn’t wonder what my mind wanted, because I’d probably have turned around and said f…k it!
And there they were. I could finally see them in the distance, right when the trail was getting steeper. Perfect. I was now powering through like a honey badger, I didn’t care. In no time I was behind them. I remember thinking “Should I stay behind for a while, rest and pass them hard when I feel fresher?” Nah… I was feeling strong and wasn’t about to break this streak. I just bulldozed froward until we approached the last aid station. I stated running again and even picked up the pace to leave it before they could make it there. Two cups of water and I was down to the last section of the race.
A horrible 6.5k down hard packed dirt road making it the longest and most frustrating switchbacks. I was surprised to see Rickey there. He looked like he was taking a stroll, enjoying a fine late afternoon in the mountain. But for knowing Rickey, he’s not a walker so clearly something was wrong. I slowed down and asked if he was OK or if there was anything I could do. He nodded, “nope, I just don’t have anything left. See you at the finish”. Never fun to leave a buddy behind, especially in such shape, but I had two guys on my tail and the finish line down that hill. So I let my legs loose, opened my stride and took off. I was flying down and I was impressed to still be able to move at this pace after 95k. And there it was, the finish line. I rolled on the last two switchbacks and I was home.
11h32’32” placing 8th overall and owning myself the 4th spot at the Skyrunning Ultra World Series. A day that ended rather well for someone who had only run his first 50 miler earlier this year and just finished his first 100k. Overachievement. Überjoyed!
Thanks a ton to those without who none of this would have been possible. Starting with my supporting girl whose advice and words helped me greatly to make it to the finish, Lauri van Houten and Marino Giacometti executive directors of the international Skyrunning federation who supported me to make it to Vail as part of the Elite athletes, the Race directors and all the volunteers who have worked hard to make this race happen, my sponsors New Balance, Isostar and Compressport, and last but not least Roberto who has done an amazing job at crewing me all day and with no doubt played a key role in this unforgettable journey through my first 100k.
Thank you all of you out there, friends and family, runners and members of Goodpeoplerun.com who have sent support, cheering and congrats, I really appreciate it. This is also part of what motivates me to train even harder and keep inspiring people to run and seek for their limits, wherever they might be.
I personally had a motivation tank that was overflowing coming into this race so that helped a lot. I used :
– the article written by fellow runner Rickey Gates in Trail Runner Magazine about DNFs and how you think you’ll feel better after to drop out because your body’s screaming pain shall stop, only to let your brain and ego take over.
– I had also bagged up two running quotes “to give anything than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” by Pre and “Think easy, light, smooth and fast” by Caballo Bianco.
– Last one was from my girl “Run with your heart”. The very rational person I am, would in normal times find this slightly lame. But looking back at the race, this was with absolutely no doubt the one that kept me moving till the end.
– I also repeated to myself POPC, POPC, POPC ! Some of you probably know what I mean 🙂
– My NB 1010 V2 hadn’t arrived on time before I left to the US, I took a pair of Salomon Sense for the first half of the race and switched to my lucky shoes NB Leadville 1210 which had already successfully taken me to the finish line of my first 50 miler earlier this year.
– New Balance split shorts
– Salomon fuel belt with 2 soft flasks 200ml
– Amphibian hand held bottles. I love the shape, but damn the lids never close correctly and it spills all over…
– New Balance singlet
– Lightweight jacket by Goodpeoplerun.com
– Rudy’s Project shades
My fuel :
– 10 Salt Stick Salt pills
– at least half of a watermelon !
– 3 high energy bars Isostar
– 10 gels Energy Isostar
– 18 shot blocks from Cliff Bar (available at the aid stations)
The morning of the race:
– two bananas with Justin’s maple almond butter
– a full water bottle with chia seeds mixed with water and FRS drink.
The night before:
Timmy’s special : Mashed sweat potatoes, then fried slowly in coconut butter. Chicken breasts fried in coconut butter.
I am sitting at the Madrid airport with Timothée Nalet, waiting for the third flight of the day on the way back to France from what was one of the most exciting week in a long time at La Palma.
The TransVulcania Race is one unique event that takes place in the Canaries Island. 83km long for 4 100m elevation gain and loss, up and down the volcanic spine of the island called La Palma. One hell of a race going through landscapes as breathtaking as diverse, and supported by the Inernational Skyrunning Federation as the second race of the Wold Skyrunning “Ultra” series. A must for any ultra runner looking to get a life experience out of a race.
OFF TO A GOOD START
After traveling for the past 5 years to races around the world, I feel extremely lucky to know a few of the current world’s top athletes in ultra running. This is how Tim (Nalet who’s part of the Goodpeoplerun.com co-founders) and I had the chance to come few days earlier to explore the Island and share a flat with no other than Kilian Jornet, Emilie Forsberg (this year’s men and women winners), Timothy Olson (WS100 2012 champion and course record holder) and Anna Frost, last year’s TransVulcania winner and course record holder.
Needless to say, it’s very humbling to find myself in presence of such accomplished runners. Yet, the atmosphere was friendly, laid back and aside from all running shoes laying around, a total stranger to our sport wouldn’t have seen more than a bunch of friends on vacation.
First morning and first run to shake the legs to see the last part of the course: gnarly switchbacks hanging off the side of a cliff and dropping town to the beach of El Porto de Tazacorte. Those would be the last strides downhill of a 2 500m descent over 18k.
I was running stride to stride with Tony Krupicka, Joe Grant and Timothy Olson. People surely will have a hard time figuring out who was that 4th musketeer – and only one with a shirt on – on all the pictures they took of us during that run!! I am nowhere near the level of those guys, so it was inspiring to be part of this smiling group trotting up to the ridge overlooking the bay, on a sunny morning in La Palma.
Social media plays a key role in helping us stay up to date with race coverage thanks to great resources like TalkUltra (Iain Coreless) and Mud Sweat and Tears (Matt Ward) in the UK and Irunfar (Bryon Powell) for the US, as well as reading our friends’ race reports and simply staying in touch.
Yet, there is nothing like a global event every now and again to meet up with this ever smiling and enthusiastic crowd, and that we did. Consistently.
What is this last product? Have you heard of this race? What do you think this runner will do on race day with such a deep field? Interviews and live twitter updates were on like Donkey Kong at the main hotel where most elite athletes and media were staying. We are a long way from the low key trail races we part take on weekends in the neck of out woods, but this is the result of a growing sport that draws more and more attention. To me this is a good thing. Plus, let’s be honest, we are running geeks and we love every bit of gossip we can read & watch! Here is an example, ITW of Kilian before the race by Iain Coreless.
The alarm goes off in the tent. It’s pitch black, 4 o’clock, and I’m feeling good. The Tims (Timothée Nalet and Timothy Olson) are already moving as I pull myself out my sleeping bag. I get out and the already warm breeze augurs nothing but a hot day coming up.
The waves are still asleep after their furious crushing dance last night. Meanwhile, massive traffic action is taking place behind us. Buses and cars are crossing on the narrow and windy road that goes down to the start.
Anna, who’s not racing, drives away to get on the course at the aid station at 34k, as we walk down to the busy start area. Depa is already full on at the mic, getting runners more excited than they already are. Few handshakes and best wishes to fellow runners. It’s pretty quiet though, top runners are starting to get in their zone.
Meanwhile, I took on my 20 years old pre race routine routine. Warm up, take a shit, last gear adjustment, take a shit, head to the starting line, do I want to take a shit again? No I think I’m good… oh shit I’m not! Few minutes packed under the arch and 3,2,1, we’re off.
I remain extremely calm while what felt like a herd of thousands of zebras chased by lions carried me for the first flat section. People pushing, yelling “venga venga”, breathing dust, way to kick start full swing a day on the trails!
First climbs and the pace of the pack is set. I know I need to move up, so I crank it up, quick words with Timothée, and I’m off on a mission to find Emilie F.
Anna told me she’d be running it around 8h, so she would be great pacer for the start of the race. With no experience in this distance, it would be great help, not to mention she’s very good company. There she is with Nuria. I ease up and stick with them until we reach the first aid station, at kilometer 7. It felt like Le Tour de France at a mountain pass. Ecstasic! You can hear it as many times as you want, you don’t know what it’s like until you experienced it. It gave me goose bump, seriously I was so excited I almost forgot to fill up my water bottles!
Emilie and I carried on together for a while, and witnessed what was for me the most magical and surreal sunrise ever. Running on a single track across a pine forest, with horizontal light yellow, orange and red stripes covering the dark blue ocean. We were in awe for a while, and charged up the final first climb.
Few kilometers before the aid station at km 28, I stopped to pee and noticed it was also going from yellow, to orange and then to red. I was much less amused by that!!! But I didn’t feel any sort of pain and was actually still feeling pretty fresh, so I decided to carry on. Meanwhile, Emily and Nuria had dropped me and were never to be seen again.
I flew by the aid station, gave hi fives on the way filled up my water bottles, ate watermelon I was really pleased to find there, and was out again.
I was cruising on the he flat 4wd road that followed as I saw a familiar stride. No doublt I was feeling good but I couldn’t be feeling that good to catch up with my good friend Luke Nelson.
I asked him if he was all right, and he just replied with his big smile “Yep, happy as a clown! Now I got over the shame of having a bad day, I’ll try to enjoy this run” he joked. “It’s still a long way to the finish”.
“Damn right, so I’ll see you when you’ll catch me” I replied moving on.
I saw Anna and Bryon Powell at the next aid station. They mentioned Emily and Nuria only had 90 seconds on me. By then though, I had no plans to catch up with them. I was in my own space and felt good about it. So I carried on, on what was to me the most beautiful part of the race. Single track winding around the crests, under pine trees, and over cliffs, it somehow reminded me of Corsica.
I passed few aid stations, where I always filled up my water bottles, kept taking down gels and bars, and started passing runners. Another of them was Joe Grant, who like Luke I clearly wasn’t expecting to see there. We chatted for a bit, and he mentioned he might have caught Tony’s bug. What a shame, but that’s the way it is and he was still very positive. I carried on.
On the final climb before El rocque de Los Muchachos, I caught up with Adam Campbell. Another good friend I was saddened to see there, obvious sign of racing issues. When I saw his face, I realized it was an understatement. He sounded like he had nothing left in him, which apparently was true as he had been sick for the past 20ks and not able to take anything down. I was a bit worried, but he mentioned he’d drop out at the aid Station at El Rocque de Los Muchachos. He wasn’t too far away and there were people on the course, so I figured he’d make it safe and sound. (He happened to get there, pass out, get up and finish the damn race in over 12 hours. This man is a beast, and I genuinely hope that he’ll get back on his feet and have a good race sometime soon, without getting sick, without getting lost. Because when he does, he’s going to do serious damage!).
Final climb to the aid station, where I’m chasing a group of three runners who won’t let me catch up with them. I’m still feeling good and haven’t been in the red zone yet, so I figure I might push it to pass them before the climb and that’s what I do.
The 18kms descent starts and I feel strong. For the first time of the race, I start pushing the pace, and run faster on the flat sections. I feel that I’m moving as I’m now quickly catching up runners here and there. I caught up with a fellow French New Balance runner, Sebastien Couchaud. But no time to chat, I’m on a mission to that damn finish line.
On the second half of the descent, a funny thing happened. A runner who I had passed, comes back on me and overtakes me, and vanishes ahead.
It took one good minute for my tired mind to react, “wait a minute, being passed wasn’t quite in my plans, how did that happen?”
Pride and competitiveness were still here so I charged down the hill, forgetting about the pain in my quads and trying to keep drinking and eating well. 5 or 6 minutes later I caught up with The North Face athlete Zigor ITURRIETA RUIZ. I was on his heels for a few hundred meters until he realized I was going faster. He moved to the side, and off I was.
Yet I paid the price of a surge to drop him, and I lost focus long enough to let one of those lava rock catch my toes… 1”, 2”, 3” [this is me counting the seconds while flying fists ahead in the air]. With a steeper grade this might have taken me all the way to the bottom of the hill. It didn’t.
I crashed hard laying on my water bottle and left knee. I got up straight away, it took me few steps to be able to breathe again. “You’ll hurt another day buddy, because right now, this guy could come back to you any minute” I said to myself. I’m back at it, and as I try to evaluate the damage on my hand and dust off my water bottles, WHAM! I’m on the ground again! I let out a loud “PUTAIN!!!”, and it’s now anger that covers the pain of my bleeding knee.
I try to keep it together, stay focused and soon enough I find myself on the final switchbacks down to El Porto de Tazacorte. A place I know well, since I ran it earlier in the week with Joe G. Tony K. and Timothy O. I’m over heated, bleeding and tired, but never been that close to the finish. I quickly get to the aid station, where the people were as efficient as F1 crew. They filled up my water bottles, watered down the dust and blood off my knee, tapp on the butt and I was off right when other runners were coming in.
Here it is, the final climb, 2kms on a 5% road before to hit the steep switchbacks. I had to run this first part, no questions asked. I unplugged my brain, took a deep breath, opened my stride and got it done. I did grunt out loud as I hiked those switchbacks one after the other to reach out the top of that hill.
The last stretch was pure bliss. A long 1,5k straight road at the end of which I could see the arch, 400m away from the finish line. I sucked in every bit of it, giving hi fives to all people cheering on the side of the road, passed the first arch, more people cheering, I turn right, and then left to finally see that finish line. The intensity peaked there as I saw the time on the clock.
Because what I forgot to mention is that at the 35th km, the wristband of my watch broke, and I had to store it in my belt, where I left it for good. Which means I literally had no idea of what my time could be, nor what my ranking was. What an extra burst of joy on top of all the cheering, 8h24 and counting !
Depa was here to welcome me home, as well as François, Cameron, Emily and Anna. It did make a difference, because those moments are so much more intense when shared with good friends. 8h24’59” official time and 21st overall. Objective reached. Overjoyed.
RED WINE IS GOOD, EXCEPT WHEN YOU PEE IT
After I got a massage and iced my legs for a bit, I went to the medic, as I had peed red two more times during the race and I felt like I needed to get it checked. Impossible to get me an IV to flush it all down, my veins are so compressed by the effort that they can’t put a needle in it. They tried three times, in vain.
So after I peed in some kind of jar 300ml of what looked like red wine, I was taken to the hospital… pretty fast !
A lady from the race organization came and picked me up to bring me back to our flat, where all the fast folks were gathered, celebrating with well deserved drinks. And let me tell you those weren’t energy drinks!
This was probably the most humbling part of the whole trip. They all had an amazing race, Emily and Kilian had won, Timothy took 4th, François was 6th, Cameron 7th, Philipp 12th and yet they all cheered to my much unexpected “fast” time. Only ultra running has such champions.
Beyond a solid race for my first 50 miler, I’ll remember all the good times with a global trail running family. Those world class events attract some of the best ultra runners in the world and are the opportunity for some catch up, laughing, training runs and tough racing in what remains an extremely humble and friendly atmosphere.