Thursday, July 18, 2013

Running vertically: Chamonix' Kilomètre Vertical

While this is trail running, it is a very different type of running, if not crawling. And nothing to see with ultra running: Chamonix' Kilomètre Vertical course is only 3.8 km long (2.4 miles) for an elevation gain of, well, 1,000 meters, or 3,280 feet.
Greg wanted to give it a try, hiking the course with Agnès, and, despite the need to taper before the Tahoe Rim Trail 100-mile next Saturday, I couldn't resist to going up there.
I started near the Balmat monument/statue and did trot all the switchbacks until about 300 meters of elevation gain, when I had to alternate running and hiking to catch my breath. While the trail is not going straight up, literally, the very steep hill under the gondola (téléphérique de Plan-Praz), the switchbacks are very short, and very steep (course picture from the race website).
After about 800 meters of this grueling hiking regimen, you get to a section which includes ladders, cables, metal steps sealed in giant rocks and of course a few roots here and there and slippery sections to make it a real mountainous experience. After all, we are in the Mecca of mountain climbing!

The finish is near the paragliding take-off area. It took me 52 minutes and 20 seconds to cover the distance which I thought was pretty good until I saw this year's race results. The winning time was 34:34 and 52:20 was the 140th time this year! Of course, I wasn't pushing as hard as if I was racing but still, that's a significant gap.

Not pushing too hard, I actually decided to continue and climb up to the top of Le Brévent which I reached in 1:22 (2,525m). For that additional half kilometer of vertical climb, the only difficulty was all the snow on the service road to the summit. I've never seen so much of it that late in the year, this has been a great year for the glaciers, slowing down a bit the effect of global warming. Running in the snow on the way back was really cool and actually much easier than running on lose rocks which this section usually abounds of. I was back to the paragliding take-off area in 1:40. From there, I missed the start of the trail I usually uses and crossed under the take-off, across grass and rocks, making a bad and painful fall on my left side. My elbow and hip hurt and it took me 55 minutes to get back to Chamonix, taking a much longer and less steep trail than the vertical kilometer one. Bummer but nothing broken fortunately, I should be fine for TRT this Saturday. Another reason to taper and not take risk just one week before such a long race...

PS: as of Thursday, my hip is still quite painful, suspense for Saturday...

1 comment:

ZeFreds said...

Bonne chance ce week-end!

Belle photo avec Agnes