Chris, Julien and myself headed down to Lyon on the train Saturday evening. Plenty of time to get ready for a race that started Saturday evening at 23h30 right?
“We’re amongst the pros here!”
We headed straight to collect our bibs at the “Halle Tony Garnier” arena. The finish line happened to be situated inside the arena! We would have to run 72K throughout the night in sub zero temperatures to get back here… Oh hell fire! To make ourselves feel better we all decided to head to the local supermarket to buy a team Mascot which happened to be a fluffy banana!
On came the evening where we all jumped onto the coaches to get to Saint Etienne. The journey seemed long… this is when I started realising what I had got myself in for… gees do I really have to run all this distance back? We got out of the coach and headed into what seemed to be a hanger full of sleeping people on the floor to wait for the race to start…. I was amazed at how well prepared people were, they had sleeping bags, blow up beds and stashes of food beside them… We’re amongst the pro’s here!
We all headed outside about 30 minutes before the race started (23h30). It was chilly and the cold certainly came through the layers. So on came the départ of this ultra marathon throughout the night, we switched on our headlamps and embraced the start, wave by wave.
Tom, Julien and Chris, the Banana Dream Team
We started by running on roads to get out of Lyon and then headed on to Sorbiers where we joined a narrow country field lane in which we had to run single file. This is when the terrain changed, the start of the real trail! Running around the twisty lanes gave an outstanding effect whilst looking back at the thousands of dazzling headlamps behind us… the curvy line of luminosity behind us was certainly something not to miss.
Mr Banana sure supplied much needed support!
After the first part of the race there were aid stations every 12km which fortunately supplied us all exactly with what we needed, chocolate, soup, cheese / saucisson (we’re in France after all) & Coke (caffeine was a necessity!) – the hard part was simply not staying in the aid stations too long as I’m a big fan of French produce. I had to put myself in sport mode, at least to make it to the end!
On we plodded as the temperature continued to drop (to -5 degrees) with the cold wind picking up. There were quite a few climbs leading up to the highest point of 934m (Signal de Saint André), mostly covered in snow. This is where the fun began! What goes up must come down as they say. I can say that I came down but not how i’d of liked. The descent was so slippy that I fell on my arse at least a dozen times. This was pure ice at it’s finest.. where were my ski’s!?? If it wasn’t me that was falling down it was the people around me, so it became a big shoulder holding group effort to get down to the bottom.
As we continued to descend further, the daylight started appearing and the icy surfaces had somewhat turned into a memory. Once passing Soucieu-en-Jarrest, and well over marathon distance we well on the way for getting back into Lyon. At this stage the legs started filing for their retirement, however managed to plod on to the next aid station to pick up my well deserved saucisson!
As my watch told me i’d done 71K I saw a sign saying there is 1KM left… Until when I got to the 72KM mark there was in-fact another kilometre at least to run… Is it really that hard to get it wrong? Running back into the Halle Tony Garnier arena where I had been 12 hours before was certainly satisfying. I crossed the line in the total time of 9 hours 55 minutes.
I would recommend this race, however next time I hope for everyone’s sake that there is less ice!