To start, I do not run the hills – I most definitely walk the hills.
Training for OCC
My training consisted mostly of repeats of Ben Lomond (974 meters), I done this session twice, one in great weather and the other was AWFUL! Also other repeats of Conic Hill, boy that was hard because it’s so short and I think its steep – I would see the same people 3 or 4 times as I was doing repeats and every single person would say “you’re crazy” which made me chuckle and made think back to the times when I wouldn’t even go up it once. I probably said the same to a few people back in the day. There was also lots of training weekends down in the Lake District as Ian was training for Lakeland 100 so we spent almost every weekend of June/July there.
We went to Madeira where I ran the marathon, felt like the longest marathon ever! The ups went on forever, I remember thinking this is good training for OCC. Such a tough but beautiful route and island, I would definitely go back (only for a holiday).
Another race I signed up for was Scafell Pike Trail Marathon, I signed up pretty late to this as I was needing to get more climbing in and time on feet. Great race, it was during the crazy hot summer. I remember absolutely melting at it, then panicking over not having enough water. ALSO Killian was completing his Bob Graham Round and he said well done to me on his way up Scafell, how cool is that?!
I dropped just over a stone since January, it was my challenge to lose weight before OCC as I felt I could only benefit from this come race day. Training was difficult, some days I was too hungry to go out, luckily I had friends who would come for run – lots of them unknowingly coming for me to say “by the way I’m doing hill repeats tonight” – they loved it secretly. Its nice to have a little support group of people who would happily give up their time to help you succeed in your goals.
Packing for OCC
I must have wrote about 12 lists. Packed and repacked.
I had a list for my hand luggage which had all the things I would need for race day, so that if our suitcase was lost I would still be doing the race. My race pack, all the mandatory race kit and the clothes I would be wearing. The only things that weren’t in my hand luggage were my walking poles.
Our trip started on the Monday, we flew from Edinburgh airport so we decided it would be cheaper to park the car at the airport for the week and pay the £40 than get the bus which was £40 also. Our flight was uneventful for a change. 2 hours later we arrived into Geneva greeted by one of Ians work colleagues/friends parents who live out in Passey, they have a beautiful chalet that looks on to Mont Blanc. We’ve stayed with them for the past 3 years and already planning next years trip out there! So the rest of Monday was a shopping trip we went to the super market and bought loads of Haribo that you can’t get in the UK.
Tuesday was a 20min run up towards Plaine Joux, Ian carried on up to the top and I just turned round to go back to the chalet to sit in the sun with factor 50 on and relax. Later in the afternoon we went to Gorges of the Diosaz, a beautiful gorge walk – I would recommend going to see it. Dinner was a BBQ, chicken, burgers and baked potatoes (carbs plz). All in all Tuesday was a great active but relaxing day, when 9pm came around I was off packing our bag and to bed for Chamonix the next day!
Early 8am rise to get dropped off in Chamonix. Ian had planned a run to go up to Plan Platz with Lorna. I hopped on a gondola to meet them up there so that I sit and “acclimatize”. There was me and one other girl up there, I watched her (not creepily) set off on her paraglide, she must have just been in the air for 5 mins before I turned round to see about 20 people coming up to set off on their own paragliding trip, SO BUSY – I don’t know how they do it!!
About an hour later, Ian and Lorna arrived and then they headed back down. We met at the bottom of the VK route and went in search of our Airbnb, it was great! All the furniture was made out of pallets, snowboards and skis. We were pretty impressed and already put our interest in for next year with him. After checking in and dumping our bags, I double, triple checked I had everything in my race pack for kit check and off we went to register – I was SUPER excited and feeling relaxed but the moment I got in line, the nerves started to kick in and I realised that this race was actually happening.
My allotted time was between 12 and 2pm, I was handed a sheet of paper with all the items you should have in your kit – I was asked for my foil blanket, racepack, waterproof jacket and mobile phone – It was funny cause you could see everyone looking at each other’s trays to see what kind of kit others had with them. After my kit was checked I was off to the next station where you get an envelope with your race number and tag for your bag. Went to the next stall where they attach your bag tag and race wristband, the wee man putting my wristband on was giggling away speaking in French and pointing at my tattoos, it was like he had never seen them before. He was gesturing why I have one arm covered and not the other, if only I had the money! Anyway he was a cheery soul and made me smile, so I hopped off to collect my t-shirt, bit disappointing as they no longer had my size of t-shirt, so I’m waiting on one being posted out that is actually the size I asked for.
I HAD to go and get my race number photo, I’ve always seen people getting these photos with their number and this time it was my turn!
After registration we went round the race village looking round the stalls – so busy!
We met up with Sarah who was her usual smiley self with the Quilla, again Sarah reassured me I had this and could do it. I know I’ve done longer races but this was a total different kettle of fish… I had my doubts. Ian and myself found a nice coffee shop by the river to relax. I had made plans to meet up with Rowena who was also doing the OCC – we had followed each other on Instagram but had never met before. When we met Rowena we went for pizza for dinner before our race (carbs bbz) and met Lorna and friends. I was getting a bit annoyed as the waiter was taking the piss, it was about 20 minutes before he even came over to take our order and I just wanted my dinner and to get back to the apartment and get my Pj’s on and relax in my bed. Once we actually got our dinner it was about 8pm and then headed off to get to our beds for a 4am rise to get the bus to start in Orsières, Switzerland.
I think I slept well before the race, I did see every hour after I woke up at 1am worrying I had missed my alarm. For breakfast I had a couple of breakfast bars and packed some in the bag for when we got off the bus. The bus took about an hour to get there from Chamonix which wasn’t too bad, I was happy to just get to close my eyes again. The bus was silent, I think everyone was doing the same. I got Ian a bus ticket so he could come to the start with me and go to some of the checkpoints it was only about £16. Orsières was such a pretty little village, I would like to see it again without all the people hanging about.
Rowena and I sniffed out where they were serving tea and coffee before the race start, I LOVE TEA. 1 cup of tea and 2 bathroom trips later, we were huddled up waiting to leave Orsières, we were excited and chatting away and before we knew it we were off – We even missed hearing the epic song that’s played at the start!
Orsières to Champex-Lac
Everyone was running at this point and we must have ran for about 2km before we hit the start of a hill to get walking. Out came the poles and click click click click up the hill we went, that first hill went quickly and we were off running again. My plan was to run everything that wasn’t an uphill, this first section from Orsières to Champex-Lac had lots of runnable points. On the climb up in to Champex-Lac I got split up from Rowena as there was a bottle neck, we waved to each other on the switchbacks and met up again at the checkpoint.
Champex-Lac to Trient
I filled my water bottles and got a couple of cups of coke here, made sure I ate some of my squashies that I had for the race. I left the checkpoint with Rowena, we ran along the lake and chatted about our everyday lives and races we would like to do in the future. We enjoyed the scenery and the miles/km ticked by really quickly. The next climb was tough, I just kept thinking put one foot in front of the other and get yourself up this – We had one stop on the way up just to give the legs a wee rest. Both of us agreed that it was helpful to have the 2 minutes rest. There was a small checkpoint at the top of this mountain La Giete for water, Rowena was panicking that we wouldn’t make it in time for the next checkpoint which was Trient so we were running hard down from here which had me panicking, all I had to do was check out my print out of the times and I would have seen that we were fine.
On our way into Trient we saw Fabrizio who was shouting “Ian is waiting for you down there” so we carried on down into Trient where we met a very giddy Ian screaming at the top of his lungs my name and whooping – He was trying to embarrass me, everyone was looking! Ian reminded us that there was the cameras that took videos of you walking into check points so we all had a little jump for the camera. We got into the checkpoint and looked at the board which tells you how far the next check point is, elevation and when the checkpoint closes.
This is where we realised we were fine for time and we didn’t have to panic. I ate about half a watermelon here because I just didn’t fancy anything else at the checkpoint, I wish I had taken something salty because just after this checkpoint I started getting pains in my stomach. Rowena and I left the checkpoint together saying bye to Ian.
Trient to Vallorcine
The next climb was about 2km after the checkpoint, so up we went. People around us were starting to look tired. We had been around the same group of people for most of the day now. Some looking better than other. This is where I started to find it tough, I felt like I was breathing really heavy and my stomach was sore probably because I hadn’t eaten very much. I just couldn’t think why my stomach was sore at the time.
This was the biggest climb of the day, I said to Rowena to head on without me as I wanted a rest. I had a small rest and then headed up again, I done this multiple times. There was so many of us doing the same just walking for a few switchbacks and then stopping for a rest. Once I got to the top I ran down as fast as I could to the next check point at Vallorcine where I would see Ian again and maybe catch up to Rowena. Running to the checkpoint I could hear Ian before I could see him, again he was barking my name.
As I was going into the checkpoint Rowena was just leaving, we waved and wished each other good luck and would see each other at the finish. I was telling Ian my stomach was really sore but we both couldn’t come up with a solution. I grabbed more watermelon, it was SO good and refreshing! I picked up a random breakfast bar and a snickers with the intention of eating those on the way to Argentiere. Sarah said she would be there so I was excited to see a new familiar face, Ian also said he would see me there too! Ian had made friends with a guy from Malaysia whos fiancé was also doing the race and we were within minutes of each other.
Vallorcine to Argentiere
Shuffling slowly along I spotted Ian again at a layby, they had decided to stop along the way and see us both again. I got a hug off of Ian cause I just wanted one, I was getting emotional. I pressed on to Argentiere, the quicker I went the quicker I would get there right? By this point I had worked my way through 2 packets of Strawberry Shot Bloks, BOAK!!! I tried to eat that breakfast bar that I had picked up at the checkpoint, YUCK! There was some more hills along this section, nothing major. People would pass me on the up hills and I would pass them on the downs. I was just dying to get to Argentiere.
Running into Argentiere Ian had managed to persuade Sarah to also shout as loud as they could together for me coming in. I was so happy to see them both it was no longer embarrassing the shouting, it was really nice! I got some more watermelon, water and coke. I didn’t want to spend so long in there as I wanted to see Ian and Sarah and just get to the next checkpoint so I was closer to the finish. Sarah and Ian were saying loads of encouraging things and off I went again, I knew this was the last climb before the finish – OMG I WAS GOING TO FINISH!
Argentiere to La Flegere
I forgot to look at the board for how far the next check point was, I had my little print out though that Ian had made me looked at it and it said 4.4km to La Flegere, thought great not too far.
No no no no I saw a sign saying La Flegere 1hr40min walking and I thought WHAT?! I had already been climbing up for 40mins! Then I got to 4.4km and I was still going up, WTF?! I stopped a couple of times cause I couldn’t be arsed, I ate some squashies, sat on a rock and I talked to myself some more about how I should probably keep going. Some runners even asked if I was okay, I was fine just wanted to get to the next checkpoint. Carried on up behind some people that were going at a nice pace, didn’t look up just looked at their feet.
I could see the ski lift chairs, woohoo I was there! The trees parted and there was MORE (I wish I took a photo), I muttered to myself “for fuck sake” – I laugh now but I was really annoyed 4.4km was so long ago. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and never stopped moving up this (slowly) till I got to La Flegere, checked my watch when I got there 5.5km. Was not amused so text Ian and said I was there and I would be finished soon. It was getting cold and dark up there, I got some noodle soup which was really nice and just what I needed.
La Flegere to Chamonix
Left the check point and headed down, it was so steep I had to walk, I thought I was going to fall if I ran, there was no way I was falling at this point in the race! I noticed people around me were getting their headtorches out even though it wasn’t that dark yet?! I thought that’s a great excuse to walk down this steep hill while I get the headtorch out.
Once we got in to the trees it was dark and I did need it so I was glad I copied the other people. I thought to myself “this is the finish, get a move on”. Ian loves a good fast finish, I would like to say it was a fast finish but it probably wasn’t. I made a deal with myself to try and make myself run it all, I would try and overtake all the people who had over taken me, they were like small little mile stones. So off I went on my merry way through the trees in the dark, I felt really good running down?! I thought it was probably cause I already had my full of going up.
I could see the lights of Chamonix but it took ages to get there. I came out from the trees and crossed the footbridge over a road and then another over the river, I knew I was almost there when you run along the river and the sports complex where you register. People were walking along there shouting which was a huge boost. The crowds were getting bigger so it was pulling me along because I knew I would see friends and Ian. Crossed another footbridge over the road, which totally kills your rhythm.
Running in and down the main street in Chamonix everyone’s sat outside the bars and restaurants shouting, it was so loud. I could hear my name getting shouted – it was Lynne and Lachlan, they had the Scottish flag and handed me it to run in with! It was all such a blur at this point. Ian was there shouting, I saw him and I could hear my name being called again from another direction! Running up the finishers chute was so cool, everyone banging and shouting and then finally over the line. Wooof, I sat down on a wall at the side waiting for Ian to come and meet me. I was just blubbering, so overwhelmed and proud of myself that I had completed for me a huge achievement, I didn’t think I would finish. I genuinely thought I would get timed out somewhere. I got some pictures at the finish with the flag, the family we were staying with had all come out to see me finish (crying again) it was just so overwhelming. I found Rowena again, we congratulated each other and we all went to collect my gilet. I was SO hungry! Rowena and myself went to go get our finishers meal? It was all the same stuff from the checkpoint, oh no! I got some tea and a beer and we sat and chatted about it. Both of us were tired, Rowena headed off to her hostel and me and Ian went in search of food, sushi!
The next day I was a bit stiff, we left the Airbnb and headed to a boulangère, Ian bought me a chocolate UTMB medal – it lasted a week. Met the family we were staying with and we headed to St Bernard Pass, we were dying to see the dogs and the views up there. The weather was terrible, couldn’t see any views but we did see some doggos. We got some Toblerone and got back to the car, our next port of call was Aosta Valley, so we could see where Tor De Geants goes around. Lots of walking kept my legs from stiffening up. So my legs were fine by the next day! Result! Never had a quicker recovery. I also had a week off running, which was great but not knowing what to do with myself!
Overall I loved the race, the organisation of everything, the volunteers were true gems who done anything they could for you. Upon reflection I would have maybe followed my training plan a bit more as I missed some sessions after Madeira with the running blues. I would probably try different foods on training runs and not just squashies because clearly they don’t help. Now I will probably never touch another ShotBlok again so I’ll need some new gels!
Definitely putting my name in the ballot again for next years OCC.