How often do we say, ‘That was the hardest race I have ever done.’? Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve said it a few times, and now I’ll say the CCC was actually the hardest race I have ever done! Really. Truly. Until the next race I do that feels like the hardest.
It felt like the hardest race for many reasons. Some of them of my own making, some of them because of the course.
I entered the CCC because I did not have enough points to do the UTMB. At first I was disappointed about this, but then I came to accept it as it would mean I would have more energy for my whirlwind European trip to follow!
My training leading into this event was not the best. My health has not been great for a variety of reasons (a blog on this will follow, as I think it might be relevant to many people). I also was very busy with work, and organising the logistics of a cross-Europe trip for my daughter and I. Anyway, enough of the excuses!
I went into this race deciding that, because I had not had the best lead up, I would view it as a race for fun, to complete. This led me to being a bit lazy on my due diligence. I did not do much research on the course or aid stations. I just rocked up to the start line. Dumb mistake.
The first problem I encountered was when I sucked on my Nathan hydration pack….which had been sealed up in my case for about 2 weeks. Yes, not the best thing to realise on the start line with the forecast for temperatures in the mid-30s. And someone told me the first aid station was at the top of the first big hill, which could take a couple of hours!
Anyway, I sucked it up, literally, drinking my mouldy water up for the first 15kms or so. Luckily, I had brought a small flexible drink bottle that was stuffed into my pack as a back up, just in case. Thank god for that!!! So I used this for the rest of the course, filling it at every aid station and at the water points in every village. Still, I was basically dehydrated for the whole race as a 500ml bottle is not enough to hydrate for a 100km race in such temperatures.
My next rookie error was in regards to nutrition. I basically under-fed myself for the whole course, which led to severe lack of energy. The reason for this was again the heat. The bars I had were okay at first, but went soft and unpalatable (to me) in the heat, and I did not have enough gels to compensate. The food at the aid stations were not what I was used to (obviously!). I just couldn’t eat cheese and salami with the temperatures in the mid-30s and 50ks into a race! There were salty biscuits available and they were my main form of sustenance. It was great to get a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise at Champex-Lac. That went down a treat!
Next on my list of errors was completely and utterly underestimating the course. I thought; ‘I’ve done big hills!’ (think Buffalo Stampede); ‘I’ve done long races’ (think Alpine Challenge), but boy oh boy, this was different. The big hills just went on forever! Nothing in Australia can possibly compare to the climbs simply because we just don’t have the mountains. I was eternally grateful for my poles, I just I couldn’t have done the race without them. The worst climb for me was the last to Tete aux Vents. I did this in the dark, and my lights just lit up the reflective tape that seemed to be vertically above me…and seemed to go on forever. I felt like crying! In fact, in some parts of the race I did. I was so spent and exhausted the only thing I could do was cry. I just wanted the pain to end. But that’s what ultra running is about; getting through the tough times.
Speaking of lights earlier, I have to say that I think mine were one of the best sets around. I use Ay-Up lights and because of the two torches on the head set, the beam is spread. I saw many people with torches that gave them a circle of light at their feet. I seriously don’t know how they managed!
The course itself was not overly technical. Testament to that is that I only fell over twice (whilst going downhill, in the dark, and talking). Normally I trip much more! Some of the forest sections reminded me a lot of the pine plantations actions of the Buffalo Stampede and the alpine sections reminded me of the Victorian high country. In all, it was a beautiful course, but I was suffering too much to really enjoy it.
I had hoped to complete the course in about 18 hours….it actually took me 21 hours and 52 minutes. Which equated to about 20 hours of suffering. Normally when I finish a race and think ‘never again will I do that race’, it takes a few hours and I’m already thinking about doing it again, as I’m sure many of you will find is a familiar scenario. It took me about a week to think maybe I could do it again.
It is tough…but to me that is what ultra running is about. So many times I wanted to pull out, but I don’t DNF just because I am suffering and not achieving what I wanted. I will only DNF if I’m injured, not because it hurts. We wouldn’t do this if it was easy, and suffering is what we sign up for. Otherwise, what’s the point? Where would the challenge be if it was easy?
In the CCC there were 2130 entrants
1386 finished with 744 DNFs (35%)
13 Aussies entered, only 4 finished, myself being the only Australian female to finsh (from 4 Australian female starters). One Australian male finished before me, 2 after me.
Shoes: La Sportiva helios
Far End Gear ear buds
Ryders Eyewear sunglasses
CW-X compression tights
Oofos recovery thongs