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The ultimate training week for the UTMB

by kirsty
Friday 11th July 2014
Tags  Kirsty Reade   |   Trail Team 2014   |   Berghaus   |   Torq running   |   Ledlenser   |   Philippe Gatta   |   Anna Gatta

Run247 columnist and Berghaus Trail Running Team member Kirsty Reade reports from a team training camp in Chamonix

Run247 columnist and Berghaus Trail Running Team member Kirsty Reade reports from a team training camp in Chamonix

A few weeks ago I found out that I was one of the very lucky six to be picked for the Trail Running Team, a non-elite team sponsored by Berghaus, LED Lenser and TORQ nutrition. Part of the prize was to go on a team training camp in Chamonix and to say that I was looking forward to this would be a bit of an understatement. I was looking forward to it like my dog would look forward to a 10 mile walk with an all-you-can-eat cheese and sausage buffet at the end of it. I was as full of anticipation as a small child on Christmas Eve, as Jeremy Clarkson when he sees an opportunity to offend people, as Run247’s own Paul Shanley at Endure24 (HERE). You get the picture. I was excited.

I arrived in Chamonix at lunchtime on the Monday, loaded up with Berghaus clothing, trainers and backpack, LED Lenser head torch and TORQ gels and bars, to see me through the week. This was my fourth visit to Chamonix and it never fails to take my breath away. I think that no matter how many times I visit in my lifetime, the first glimpse of Mont Blanc as you drive towards Chamonix is always going to be pretty special. After a cheese heavy lunch (this was to be a theme), I had a few hours to kill before we were due to meet, so I was wandering around and I bumped into Martin Indge, fellow Trail Team member! About five minutes later we were both in our shorts about to tackle the Vertical Kilometre. I think this pretty much sums up the trip for me. Like-minded running-obsessed people hang out together, egg each other on and do lots of running.

Having bagged 1000m of climbing, somewhat slower than Kilian Jornet did a few days earlier (HERE), on what was supposed to be my rest day, we were off to find the apartment to meet the rest of the team - Kirstie Smith, Danny Wood, James Young and Graham Kelly (who were all absolutely awesome) - and have some dinner.

Day one proper was a run around the Mont Blanc Cross route. We were joined by Berghaus athletes Philippe and Anna Gatta, who have achieved some absolutely astounding feats in mountaineering, climbing and ultra running. I probably wasn’t alone in being slightly apprehensive about how somebody used to running the dizzy peaks of Berkshire was going to keep up with these mountain goats, but I needn’t have worried. They were utterly down-to-earth, friendly and non-elitist; they were absolutely lovely to run with. We also had a fantastic running guide in Julia Tregaskis-Allen from Tracks and Trails (HERE) and between the three of them it was like a masterclass in downhill and uphill running, using poles, kit, nutrition, map-reading, safety and everything else! As we all chatted away in the sunshine, stopping regularly to take in the incredible scenery, it all seemed like a bit of a dream. In fact the whole four days felt like this. I’m pretty sure it did happen though. It’s on Strava.

Run247 columnist and Berghaus Trail Running Team member Kirsty Reade reports from a team training camp in Chamonix

Days two and three were a bit more of an adventure. We left Chamonix early on the Wednesday on a bus through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Courmayeur. This is where the CCC and TDS races in the UTMB set off from (HERE) and we were going to follow the CCC route. We set off in the drizzle on a big climb up to Refuge Bertone. This was a bit of a monster and I think we were all feeling it first thing in the morning. Despite the drizzle there were still absolutely breath-taking views everywhere you looked and before too long we reached our lunch stop: Refuge Bonatti. Here Julia advised us to try the hot chocolate, so we all duly ordered it with no real expectations. I mean, how exciting can hot chocolate be? As it turned out, our previous understanding of hot chocolate was shattered. This is what hot chocolate really is. Like melted chocolate in a cup, a slightly more liquid chocolate mousse. The perfect energy drink for a day in the mountains.

After leaving Refuge Bonatti there were some lovely runnable sections (‘Alpine flat’, as Julia describes them, which roughly translates as ‘quite hilly’), before a huge climb to Col de Forret, a 2,525m monster which I remember from the CCC without any fondness at all. I don’t know if it was the good company or the hot chocolate, but it really didn’t seem so bad this time (I hope that bodes well for the UTMB). Once at the top we had some good patches of snow and Julia gave us all lessons in running and glissading on snow which brought out the inner five year old in all of us. Then it was a huge 500m downhill run down to La Peule, where we were staying the night in a mountain hut.

Run247 columnist and Berghaus Trail Running Team member Kirsty Reade reports from a team training camp in Chamonix

After a fairly restless night for all of us in the dormitory, caused partly by loud walkers also staying there and partly by the enormous amount of cheese we all ingested for dinner, we were woken at 4.30am to do some running with our head torches. This felt a bit brutal at the time, but was actually a lot of fun once we got over the initial shock. We were joined by the farm dog from the mountain hut, a bonkers collie who loved chasing the shadows caused by our head torches. Then, once the sun was up, we had a bit of breakfast and headed off on our final day of running.

We had lovely weather again on the last day and the route was stunning. We were in Switzerland now and we initially followed a mercifully flat few miles along the river and passed through some beautiful villages, stopping for coffee along the way. Our lunch destination was Champex, an incredibly pretty village with a very inviting looking lake. From here we had a few big climbs, another stop at a lovely mountain hut for refreshments, and an eventual downhill to Col de la Forclaz.

It was an unforgettable trip for many reasons. It’s just a runner’s paradise out there, the trails are incredible and I don’t think you can find a more spectacular backdrop. The running was quite hard, but that was really good as we all wanted to push ourselves (and for me it was the ultimate training week for the UTMB at the end of August). More than anything though, it was just a great experience to be part of a team. We all gelled really well, we ran as a team and we supported each other when we all went through patches when we didn’t feel so good. We’re part of the team for a year and we’ve made lots of plans to do events and challenges together, which you’ll read about.

But the Trail Team isn’t all about us, it’s about building a community of trail runners, encouraging each other to go further, faster, higher.

Run247 columnist and Berghaus Trail Running Team member Kirsty Reade reports from a team training camp in Chamonix

You can get involved by following on Facebook (Facebook.com/trailrunningteam) and Twitter (@trailrunteam) or go to www.trailrunningteam.com and start thinking about putting your application in next year


About The Author

Kirsty Reade

I’d describe myself as borderline obsessed with running, racing, reading about running, and watching others run so hopefully I’m fairly typical of Run247’s visitors. I tend to do longer races, particularly off-road marathons and ultras, but am pretty much a fan of any distance. I'm passionate about helping runners of all levels to improve through running communities I'm involved in, such as Underground Ultra and Free Range Runners. 


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