Race Report - 23km de Mont Blanc - Denise Day - 2015
It is not essential but I do quite like to have what me and my husband like to call our 'gourmet dinner' the night before a big race, which is fish fingers, chips and baked beans! and a glass of red wine always goes down well - Don't laugh, its cheap, comforting, non-spicy, and has loads of carbs & protein, and I'm going to eat all of it!
Unfortunately, as we were in France they don't do fish fingers, and I can't remember what we had in the end, but I think there were potatoes involved at least.
In the morning - Porridge, always before a race, Dorset Cereals raspberry porridge for preference but any will do, with honey not sugar. plus at least 2 cups of strong coffee, just to 'get things moving' and over with before i start if you get what I mean (don't really want to cope with that during a big race).
I also have to make sure I eat at least 2 hours before, 3 if possible, as I am better starting out feeling slightly empty rather than slightly full. Nothing just before the race as i would feel it sitting there and might end up either feeling sluggish, sick or get a stitch. Although I sometimes have a few sips of isotonic type drink that is OK. Weirdly I find that Dioralyte is the best thing rather than any of the sports drinks as it is not very strong flavoured and not very sweet.
For this race we had compulsory kit to take which among other things included 500ml of water/drink, snacks, and a personal cup (there are no disposable cups used in the Mont Blanc Races, you have to bring your own).
The previous years finish times gave me an idea of how long I was likely to be out there, and when the hardened mountain runner fast guys like Robbie Britton are finishing a 23 km race in 2:20 (my normal half time) and there is a cut off time of 5 hours, you get the idea you'd better treat it like a Marathon!
Most of what I needed I fitted into a Salomon waist pack, which has one of their soft bottles which I quite like as there is no sloshing. A lot of people were all kitted out with those vests with water bladders in, but having tested my full kit over 2 very hilly half and a hilly marathon of over 5 hours, I hoped that they might just be over prepared rather than me being under prepared!
There were two aid stations en route, one at the first cut off at about 12km and elevation 1400m which had to be reached within 2.5 hours, and one at the second cut off at about 18km and elevation 1800m which had to be reached within 4 hours, both of which were going to be stocking cola, orange juice, salty crackers, cake, banana and orange slices. Plus water to refill water bottles.
After trial and error on other races I planned to carry 6 gels, thinking roughly 1 per hour and a spare one just in case I needed the extra boost towards the end, my preference is the SiS isotonic gels as you don't need to take water with them and I find they digest very easily. I also planned to take some dried fruit mixed with salty cashews which I found I could eat on training runs and is a favourite from hill walking. My water bottle was full strength Dioralyte and I had another sachet as a top up if I refilled.
Once upon a time I wouldn't have been able to eat any 'real food' on a long run/race but now I find it OK to eat very small amounts of banana or cake, dried fruit, nuts or crisps. I think it's a matter of your body getting used to digesting while moving. I hoped to have at least a bite of banana or cake and some cola at both aid stations.
On reflection, I should have tried to consume a little more at the aid stations especially the second one as by the time I got there, I was quite tired and couldn't face much, even the dried fruit I had carried was no longer appealing. I only ate 5 of the gels.
I was more thirsty than I expected, something to do with the altitude I believe, plus I got a craving for fizzy cola that wouldn't go away, I don't know why although it has happened to me before. Neither sugar or salt will shift it and drinking other stuff wont work for long, the only thing that works is actually drinking fizzy cola! It's a little frustrating at times especially when you are on a trail race in the middle of nowhere and halfway up a mountain!
Usually I can't eat anything solid immediately post race, it normally takes a few hours, but it depends on the pace I've run at (and so how happy my digestive system is) as to whether I can or not. I have found that a bottle of thick milkshake type drink goes down well, vanilla being favourite. I have eaten ice cream before post race which also works. However, immediately after getting your Mont Blanc medal you get a glass of local beer given to you - it went down a treat I must say! Interesting as a post race drink, might try that again!
For this race, some sort of research is very important. If you have time, try to at least walk some of the actual course before the race, a lot of it is technical, and caught some people out. The year before, while on holiday in the area we walked the whole course to check it out.
We arrived for the race a week beforehand, and so I had time to actually run the first half, with all my kit, to give myself a good idea of how long it might take me, and so how much spare time I had for the second half which would be more difficult.
If you have not run at altitude before, you wont know if it will affect you and how much. At the very least, try to arrive a few days early and do a couple of short runs around the area to test it out. I had to make sure I ran slower than normal, made sure I was using all of my lung capacity and give myself longer to warm up.
Double check the compulsory kit list and what the aid stations might have.
If you are not sure what kit to pack in your suitcase, take more than you need for every eventuality just in case. You can make the final decisions when you are there. Better to have too much kit and not use it than not have something you might need. It's a mountain race, the weather can change often and quickly. Yes, it may be June, but it could be hot sunshine or maybe it's been raining for a week and all the trails are mud.
As I found out, altitude can make you quite thirsty. Refill your water bladder or bottle at each aid station. You may be glad of it towards the end.
Read blogs about the races, I got some advice from people who have run this sort of thing before.
Expect it to take almost double the normal flat 23 km time. And with that in mind, do some hilly marathons as part of the training. Expect to walk a fair bit.