Evergreen Endurance 118 Altitude triathlon – 10 September 2016
by Alexandre Léger
Last weekend, I took part with a friend in the second edition of the Evergreen 118 triathlon, a half-ironman format triathlon in the Chamonix valley.
As with other famous races which star in Chamonix, you can expect the course to not be perfectly flat. In fact, along the 118km route, participants have to surmount a positive height gain of nearly 3500m which compared to the main race organized on the same week-end – the Evergreen 228 with a total of 228km and 7000m– seemed much more accessible…
Both races start at dawn at a very nice lake in the north of Morzine, the lac de Montriond. A good old classic mannish start – I am not a big fan of the new dull rolling start system recently introduced by Ironman – in quiet lake barely lighted. Not so happy with my swim which didn’t feel very efficient. I run out of the water after 37 minutes and a group of circa 30 people. I quickly got rid of my wetsuit to jump on my bike. As a lot of participants decided to take the time to suit up with their bike gear, to my big surprise, I was the seventh participant to leave T1.
After a quick descent into the Morzine valley, serious business starts with the ascent of the Col de la Joux Plane. I had decided to race with my TT bike and at this moment, it did not seem to have been the best choice. On the way up, the extra weight was definitely not helping and several participants overtook me. On the descents, the road was unsecure and full of holes and narrow bends, making it difficult to make the best out of my supposed aero advantage…
I reached the col at approximately 8am. There was a gentle light shining over a beautiful Alps panorama, really magnificent.
Going down from the col, I lost my two water bottles going over a small bump. In the moment, I didn’t expect it to be that much of a problem but when I discovered that as a supposedly “eco-friendly” race, no water bottle was provided at the aid stations – just cups – I started to wonder how my body would react with an untested low-water hydration plan… In the end, I was very lucky to have a car passing by handing me a salutary bottle of water.
After some kilometres after the second aid station, I was a bit surprised to find myself riding on an express road. In fact, with my mind focused on my hydration issue, I must have missed a turn. Here again, the gods, in their kindness, send me a yellow service vehicle which drove behind me to protect me from the speedy traffic. In the end, my inattention just cost me 4 extra km and I was able to get back on the route just at the level of the third aid station. Before reaching T2, the road had been cut by some mudslides – which we had been told about during the briefing – and all participants had to jump off their bike at the 86km and imitate Chris Froom at the Ventoux (i.e., running on clips…) – silly but funny.
After putting on a proper running short, a pair of trail shoes and a water-full camel bag on T2, I started the half-marathon trail. After 3k, the path starts to climb seriously. After 10k and 1000m D+, I reached the ridge of the Aiguille with a beautiful belvedere on the “mer de glace”. The path then turns west and run on a balcony to the Plan de l’Aiguille with breath-taking views after every curves on the Chamonix valley.
In the end, the climb went okay. I tried to have an efficient stride (small steps, no jump, only running when it was almost flat) and religiously followed my fuelling plan (a gel every 30’, and water every 5’). And it worked.
After going back down, I was nicely surprised to cross the finish line 8th (overall and 1st in his age category -. Editor). I was even amazed and very satisfied with my ranking. Just a few minutes after though, a participant in the 228 race passed by fully equipped and already wearing his headlight. This forced me to relativize seriously my achievement as I knew this guy had already 180k/4500m bike ride in his legs and was to face a trial twice as long, under the night and probable rain…
For anyone fan of mountain views and triathlon, this race is a must do. Now, would I be tempted to go for the real deal – the 228 – for now, I am not so sure… maybe in a few days…;-)