This weekend there was an ultra trail running race in Grenoble (Ut4M = Ultra Tour des 4 Massifs). It crossed four mountain ranges around the town: Vercors, Oisans, Belledonne, and Chartreuse. Runners from over 20 nationalities took part. There were several race categories with different distances and different positive vertical descents from +2500 to +10000, the longer distances obviously having more altitude gain: 160km individual, 160km relay of four, 160km relay of two, 90km individual, and two 40km individuals: Vercors and Chartreuse. We ran Ut4M 40 Chartreuse.
We saw the 160K and 40K Vercors runners off on Friday morning before going to work.
Next morning, when we took the shuttle bus to our start line at Saint-Nazaire-les-Eymes, 160K runners had been on the trail for almost 24 hours. Our race took off at 9am. when it was still a bit cool. We also started the climb in the forest which was pretty well shaded. The next 40 kilometers or so we ran the flat sections and gentle downhills (and some not so gentle), and mostly walked uphills.
Appearing from the woods after our first major climb we had this splendid view.
Chamechaude (2082m). That's where we were heading next.
The first pit stop at Habert de Chamechaude. We found that cheese is actually very good energizer. And some energy we needed for Chamechaude.
The climb to Chamechaude summit. From where the picture was taken we had more than two kilometers to climb to the top, and from the root of the cliffs in the upper left corner we had one kilometer left (this race did not take us all the way to the top, though, but we climbed there on past Sunday in quite different weather conditions --- see our previous blog post).
From Chamechaude (>2000m) we had a long downhill to Le-Sappey-en-Chartreuse (~1000m) for another food and drink stop.
Some (rare) sections of the course had a very pleasant grade.
A glimpse of Chamechaude one more time. That's where we were about three hours ago.
From Sappey we tackled Mont Saint-Eynard (1379m), and then descended the endless switchbacks down to Col-de-Vence (782m). We reached there at about 7pm., and were told that we could not continue since we had no lamps. We still had two more hours to go, and darkness would fall before we could finish, they argued. We knew the rules and regulations, but nevertheless were very disappointed.
This doorhandle is from a wood artist's home/workshop/gallery in La Tronche, the village neighboring Grenoble.
We walked home, about 10 kilometers, but took a different route from the race course. We reached home at 8:35pm., after having run and walked for 11.5 hours. We had planned to finish in 10 hours, but then again we did not really push ourselves, since we wanted, first to finish, and secondly to finish injury free. We were happy to find out that after all it is possible to run 40 kilometers in this very challenging terrain.
Next morning we visited the race village once more to cheer on the last 90K and 160K runners finishing their race. The cut-off time for the longest course was 53 hours.
Overall, this was a excellent experience, but we know what we need to do for next year's race to become better mountain trail runners: train more, train longer, train longer distances, train steeper hills, train. Fortunately, we have many years ahead of us; age does not seem to matter in this sport, since we were outright outperformed by runners 20 years of our senior!