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A tough day out on the trails for Natalie White

by natsmountain
Thursday 6th July 2017
Tags  Mont Blanc 80k   |   Natalie White   |   Train As One
I sat on a rock in the shade on the climb to Montenvers, my heart pounding, body empty, mind blurry. I was having a bad day.
Rewind many hours to 4am when the Mont Blanc 80km had begun. Preparation during the months before had been spot on, feeling fit and strong, but that's not always enough on the day.
Maybe (Robbie: Maybe?!) I had set off a little too hard on the first 1500m climb to Brevent. If I'd worn a heart rate monitor I would more than likely know that answer. From about an hour into the race I felt tired, I didn't have anything to give, emptiness. I knew things were going to be hard, harder than planned. I wanted to stop, give up, but deep down knew that was too early to stop. 
The run down to Le Buet was actually good fun, trotting down the steep descent from Tete aux Vent. Maybe I would be ok, I thought, maybe.
Having met Robbie we had a chat and he persuaded me to carry on (well, he wouldn't let me stop). The climb to Loriaz was hard going, I just couldn't get into a rhythm. There was another tough climb up to Emosson Dam where I knew Mike Jones was waiting with an ice cream. I couldn't give up just yet. I phoned Robbie and chatted to him whilst ascending to the Dam, I was in a bad place.
After a sit down at Emosson and eating a French version of a Twister I trotted down to Chatelard, the rocky gnarly path was tough going, but actually started to feel good. Then the wheels fell off again on the climb to Tete aux Balme. I could see a pattern emerging.
Bent over my poles I felt dizzy and tired, just wanting to curl up on the trail for the rest of the day. It felt like I crawled all the way to Le Tour. So close to home, certain it was the end of my race, I'd given it my all.
At Le Tour I saw Robbie and my parents. I was in a bad way mentally, crying, angry, defeated. I simply couldn't carry on.
I'm not quite sure how I managed to get up and leave that aid station. Maybe it was my friend Mitch putting things in perspective or Robbie's harsh, but true words. I had no reason to actually stop, just excuses for calling it a day.

Nats MB
Nats and her waggy tailed running buddy Rosa

The next section gradually got hotter as we descended lower in the valley to Les Bois, where smiling faces and wagging tails had come to cheer me on. I could smell the finish. Just one climb to go, but what a climb!
Stiflingly hot, tired, but determined, I hauled myself up to Montenvers. The Grand Balcon Nord is a beautiful place to be, even on the worst of days. For the first time I felt great, I bounded along looking at the view, feeling happy. 
Then came the descent and my legs disappeared. I was knackered. What is usually my strongest skill had become a weakness, but was it my body or my mind? Did the fact I felt I should have been moving quicker have a multiplying effect? 
Hitting the town as it was getting dark was such a relief (and it's probably the best time to finish, with everyone a few drinks down). The crowds didn't know I'd had a bad day, just the fact I was finishing is what mattered. I was still one of only 20 women to finish so far & head torches littered the hills behind me.
Robbie and my parents were proud that I had overcome adversity and still made it before Poco Locos had closed. Robbie assured me this was a massive learning experience in my still young ultra runner career, a right of passage. Rosa just wanted to lick my legs clean.
So the Mont Blanc 80km didn't go to plan. It was, for the most part, a miserable experience on some of my favourite trails and in some ways tougher than the Tor des Géants. 
Personally my targets had been set high and the mental struggle of underachieving hit me so hard. The 119km of the UTMB TDS looms on the horizon but will I be afraid to aim high? No, although Robbie wants me to start a little slower! 

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