Shona-Stephenson-Ice-Trail-Tarentaise

Skyrunning – Ice Trail Tarentaise

by Shona Stephenson on August 7, 2013

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Photo By Ian Corless

Two days before Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise 65km I realize I had run out of my preventive asthma medication. I started to freak out. I was sent into absolute panic. It was the end of my European Adventure and I had planed out my spending to the last Euro. I also later found out the Hotel Double Charged my credit card by mistake. The Aussie dollar was plummeting whilst I was on holiday’s. The little Aussie battler had lost 13% Shit! I have 2 kids back in Sydney and a Sydney mortgage to go with it. I run my own business’s if I don’t work I don’t get paid and I have almost been away for 3 weeks. Adding a possible overseas doctors bill plus medication could be really expensive. I contacted the Skyrunning Race Director and told them about my problem.

The race Skyrunning Race director Lauri and the Ice Trail Tarentaise Race director Laurent were great, they had me see a doctor at French Patient rates and I was able to pick up my medication for about double I’d pay in Australia. At least I could afford my much needed drugs. Phew. I could now relax and just worry about my taper.
The Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise was located in Val d’Isere which sits 1850m above sea level. As soon as I reached Val d’Isere I realized that this race was going to be way tougher than the Mt Blanc Marathon. It was an extra 800m higher in altitude. Maybe I should have arrived in Val d’Isere a week earlier, I thought to myself. The highest climb will take me over the La Grande Motte at 3653m. The total event has 6 climbs over 2900m. The total elevation gain and loss would be 5000m. This was more than The North Face 100km. I decided to treat this event like a 100km event and I worked out my nutrition and hydration plan to be finished in about 11 hours.
I’d been preparing for this race for the last 6 months. I’d been training in an altitude gym with a mask on taking me up to 3400m. Altitude really effects me. It took me ages to work through the levels on the altitude devise. My asthma kicks in and my trachea narrows from 3.5cm to 2.6cm almost 1cm smaller than “Normal” peoples trachea when I am effected by asthma, this usually kicks in about 6 minutes after I start an event. I’ve been told that I actually get 80% less airflow than a “normal” athlete when my symptoms are bad. Whilst training at altitude I have felt sick and had headaches for a while whilst using the altitude machine.
It’s amazing that I can do what do. I guess that’s why I am an awesome starter and a horrible finisher. I have learnt that I can not thrash my lungs too early in an event. Most runner just have to worry about their legs. I also have to worry about my lung function too. I usually save my lungs for the last 10-20km in an event, knowing that I can sprint for 10km and then my lungs will start to fail. I guess that’s why I’m quick in the 10km Sydney Trail Series and why I can always pull out an awesome finish to defend a place if needed.
If I take ventolin this relieves my asthma symptom. I have to take ventolin 10 minutes before the event and the every 2 hours whilst running an event. I also need to take Serotide before the event and also at the 1/2 way point or every 12 hours on a 24 hour cycle too as a top up.
The Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise was not like any other race that I’d entered before in my life. I was extremely ballsy taking on such a mammoth race. Especially since I am an asthmatic. I love just giving things a go. I’m not expected to win. I am a total under dog. I’m the Aussie who comes from sea level not the European who lives at Altitude. There was no pressure on me at all. I was running Ice Trail Tarentaise to push my boundaries and to have an adventure. If you don’t try you’d never learn. I love punching above my weight and seeing how I go. This is what makes life exciting.
Before arriving in Chamonix 2 weeks earlier I’d never touched the snow let alone run in it. I’d never seen a Glacier, let alone run on one. I’d never used Yaktraks or let alone raced in them. I’d never run at real altitude either other than in a control environment in the gym. It was going to have to tackle all three variables plus the added degree of difficulty of running in a country that I did not speak the language.
I organized my drop bags for my support crew Glen, who was my saviour at the UTMF in which I finished 2nd place. Glen is my trusty, positive brother in law and I had absolute confidence in his ability to look after me through out the Ice Trail Tarentaise.

Shona Stephenson Val-d'Isere

Shona Stephenson Val-d’Isere

My Nutrition Plan was going to be a Hammer Gel every 30 min, Perpetuem every 15 min, a mouthful spuds at the top of each climb. Drinking 500ml of water every hour of the Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise with Endurolyte every 30 min. I’m lucky enough to be sponsored by Hammer Nutrition.

Shona Stephenson Race Kit

inov8 X-Talon 190
Injinji Trail Socks 2.0 Range
Yaktraks (Not Sponsored)
Leki Poles (Not Sponsored)
Zenzah Compression Socks
Zenzah Gloves
Skirt Sports Fitness Shorts with inov8 Logo on them
Hammer Nutrition Singlet
Spi Belt
inov8 Race Hydration Vest
Hammer Visor
inov8 Elite Raceshell
inov8 Race Elite Base Layer 130Z
inov8 Race Elite Wind-stopper 60
Spare Compression Tights
Spare injinji Socks

Shona Stephenson – Ice Trail Tarentaise

I woke at 2am for the Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise, ate my liquid breaky, some spuds, got dressed, taped my ankles, covered my toes, feet, quads and hamstrings in Amolin cream hoping that the extra layer of fat and oil will help protect it from the snow. I then headed to the start line. Picked up a French runner on the way hoping that the trail running gods would be on my side if I helped him out. I then proceeded to the start line and had the usual French Race Marshall “Pat Down” bag check at the entry gates then proceeded to warm up. Racing in France is totally different to racing in Australia.
About 5 minutes before the race was to start I was informed my an extremely concerned Glen that there was no support crew entry until 40km. Are they serious? (The website was ambiguous about where exactly support crews could meet runners on the course, trust me other runners were making full use of all the earlier aid stations with their support crews ). A race of this degree of difficulty not being able to refuel with your own personal fuel until almost the equivalently of 60km and 3500m elevation gain and loss into an event was just insane. Or are us Aussies just really well cared for by our race directors?
I did not let this bother me. I only had enough fuel on me for about 20km of running. Glen then said that he would park his car about 2km after the start of the race and I’d pick up extra fuel to get me to 40km. In my mind I had already decided that I would have to ration this fuel and take on banana’s and coke to help top up the calories that I was missing.I’m gluten intolerant and I am also allergic to dairy. I need to have my own fuel to help my runners gut and asthma. I remained calm, lined up with the other runners and I was ready to go. I was experienced enough to know how to fuel my body to get me through 40km of tough terrain.
At 4am the Count down for the Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise went off, 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 and we were off and running. Emilie took off with the boys in a group. I decided to take it really slow and look after myself. The climbs that were coming were massive and numerous. If I felt like I was puffing I was going to walk. My aim was to conserve my energy for later in the event.
I took off and rolled down the hill mindful that I was looking out for Glen somewhere in the first 2km of the Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise or so. After cruising through the streets of Val d I’sere for about 2km I spotted Glen and loaded up with about 8 more gels making my total gel count 13, plus 2 scoops of Perpetuem. I was going to have to take on banana’s and possible coke at the aid stations too to get me to 40km or 8 hours of running. Another girl past me but it was more important to get fueled up than to worry about places at this stage of the event. Cool I will see Glen at 40km or so to get topped up with supplies and my asthma drugs.
After this quick pit stop I chilled out and settled into my Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise race. I’d started the event with poles in my hand after spotting Emilie Fromberg start with them in her hands. This was an epic course with 60% of the trail covered in snow and 6 passes over 2900m. I decided that I’d use poles. I have good upper body strength from all my PT work, elite gymnastics back ground and all my time on crutches. I’d never “raced” competitively with them before, but I used them when I was injured with 2 broken feet whilst completing my 1st 100km event Oxfam 2010. Before long I was climbing from 1850m to 2300m and the poles were being used by almost everyone.
I was also running with my Wrag over my airways too. I had to protect my lungs. The mountain air was cold and dry. If I was going to make it though 65km of above 2000m of running I was going to have to manage my asthma too.
After about 4km of solid climbing on single track through pine forrest I was caught by Anna Frost and another female runner. I decided to pull off to the side and take my inov8 Race Elite wind stopper off. I was stupid to start with it on and I was starting to burn up and sweat. I chilled out and returned the congo line where I just followed the runner ahead of me I folded up my poles and rolled down the hill taking places from the guys the longer the descent went. I relaxed out and enjoyed the few kilometers of flats and readied myself for the biggest climb of the day. All I cared about was in this race was finishing, not my place. I had to manage myself and not be pushed by anyone.
The climb was 8km long with an elevation gain of over 1500m bring the total height of the climb to 3653m. About 1/2 way up the climb I had to stop and fit my yaktraks to my inov8 X-Talons, drink some fluid, eat some food and then start running on the La Grande Motte Glacier.
The climb up the glacier was awesome. I could not believe that I was running on a glacier. What a magical experience. I was loving it. I relished the totally new frontier and I looked as this race as an awesome opportunity to go to a place that I would normally be too scared to attempt on my own.
What a race the Ice Trail Tarentaise is. It is so foreign to the Aussie that had never seen snow before. The race officials had graded the glacier like Bondi Beach. It was perfectly graded ice to run on. Wow, this is an epic race. The chance to run on a glacier was just wild and only something I could dream about. I made sure I enjoyed every minute of running in the Ice Trail Tarentaise.
I soon approached a Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise Aid Station and stocked up on Banana’s and Coke, mindful that I had to use my Hammer Gels and Perpetuem sparingly to make it to 40km. I then pushed off towards the final ascent. After about 1km of climbing on the glacier became slippery ice and I had to manage my ascent with the yaktraks and hiking poles by pushing my poles behind me on the ascent and prevent myself from sliding back wards. My quads, calves and glutes were starting to burn and my asthma was kicking in. I was breathing heavily just trying to power hike up this humongous climb.
My sprits lifted when I spotted the legendary Kilian Jornet and the other front runners manage their descent down the slippery glacial ice. Even they looked a bit frightened of this gnarly descent. I took note of their technique and gave them a “whoop whoop” and and cheer. I was loving watching the living legends run past me on the out and back.
The trail looped behind the La Grande Motte and leveled out a bit. I enjoyed the respite on my legs but my lungs were screaming at me. I was feeling faint, slightly dizzy and out of it. The altitude at 3653m was kicking in and I needed to get up, over and down this mountains fast. The route turned to the left and I was greeted by a marshall and I was handed some ropes. Ahhhhh, it is not a race without ropes these days for me.
I put my poles in one hand and used my other arm to pull myself up the rocky outcrop. I was feeling weak and dizzy with the lack of oxygen and I was just trying to do my best not to fall off the top of this mountain or take out the guy behind me. Before long I was at the top and running along a narrow 1 meter wide ridge line of snow. I was told to be careful and not to fall as it was a 100M drop off on either side. This race was nuts.
I used the guide ropes to help balance myself and I scooted along this majestic ridge and I was soon catching the blokes in front. At the end of the ridge line I was greeted with a steep descent off the face of the mountain. I decided it was best to put my poles in my right hand, hold the rope in my left hand and almost front ab-sail down the rock face, releasing my grip at every rope junction. I must have been moving well, because I was again catching the blokes and they all pulled off to the side and left me free fall my way off the front of the rocks and soft snow on the edge of this mountain ridge.
At the bottom of the cliff, I pulled out my poles and started to run down the hard glacier, but decided that I had better balance and co-ordination with the poles folded up and held in my hands.
Far out man. This icy descent was hairy. Running on ice in yaktraks that I had never fully trailed on a glacier at this gradient before was mental. I put absolute trust in my gear and my inov8 X-Talons 190 to provide enough traction and cushioning for this dangerous descent. I also put absolute trust in the training that I’d received by my inov8 Team members the week before the Ice Trail Tarentaise too. I put at most faith in my body too. I’d trained for descents like this. My body was conditioned.
I cruised down the glacier reaching speeds of over 14km per hour, I started to worry when I felt sharp stabbing pain in my ribs with every step. I did not like this pain kicking in so soon into an event. My lungs must have been working over time on the ascent and my thoracic was starting to tighten. This usually happens after 40km of running not 20km because of my asthma.
I quickly stopped into the Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise check point and again restocked on banana’s and coke, topped up on my Endurolyte’s and headed out of there. There was now a French Female on my tail, making use of her local knowledge and receiving help from her support crew. She had caught me on the La Grande Motte, but I was a better descender than her so I was able to fly away.
I took off and cruised out of the check point and rolled through the snow fields loving the slipping and sliding in the snow for the next 4km. Snow running is so much fun. If you slip and fall over it’s a nice soft landing. Sometimes its faster to slide down the snow fields on your butt the snow was so steep in places.
I picked my line and hoped for the best. I did my best to try and figure out the most efficient path to take by trying to stay in line with the yellow flag markers but also seek out fresh snow to run through. I was playing a dicy game by wanting to run on fresh harden snow, yet avoid hidden crevasses or rocks that could possibly be hiding just belief the snowy surface.
After a 200m climb I took off my Yaktraks and decided that the surface was no longer icy so my inov8 X-Talon 190 would provide enough grip in the snow, gravel, scree and mud. I then checked into an aid station at 26km and noticed that this was probably the hardest 26km I’d ever experienced in my life. I was now feeling really sick and exhausted. The altitude was catching up with me. I was running at over 2500m for the past 4.5 hours and I was weak. I pulled my Wrag off my face and tried to run breathing freely for the next few kilometers.
I was working so bloody hard. I could hear my blood pumping in my ears. The wind direction changed and I was gain climbing through snow fields with the wind ripping into my lungs. I felt sick and lethargic. I put the Wrag back over my face, had some ventolin and decided to cool off a bit and take it easy and walk. I was then caught by the French Canadian runner.

Shona Stephenson in the Swiss Alps

Shona Stephenson in the Swiss Alps

We chatted for a little and I offered to let her pass me. She then decided to stop and have a break. I walked on just wanting and willing myself to feel better. Come on Shona, it’s meant to be tough. This is what it is all about. Finishing is the only option. You’ve felt like shit before and come back from it. You’ve done UTMF. You always feel crap up to 30km then you feel better at about 50km and power on home.
I powered hiked up the snow field using my poles to help keep body, moving forward and not sink into the soft melting snow. I followed the already hardened footprints in front of me. The French canadian girl soon past me on this climb. After a few hundred meters of climbing I got angry, not at her but the climb and took great pleasure at swearing “FUCK, COME ON”, up the climb, It made me feel much better. I let her go knowing that I just need to keep her in sight and I could run her down on all the descents.
I reached 32km and another climb was completed and I started to feel much better. I had been running for about 5.5 hours and I was now well and truly into my fat burning zone. I was on a constant rotation of Hammer Gels, Perpetuem, Endurolyte’s and Banana’s. This mix was really working for me. Come on only 8 more ks and then you will be toped up with fresh Hammer Products, asthma drugs, potatoes and see Glen your support crew.
I rolled down the snowy descent for 2km and then started the 5th major climb for the day. The Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise route had changed direction and I was no longer running into a cold head wind. My asthma was feeling better, and my energy levels were on a high. I powered up the climb, rotating positions with the French canadian runner, chit chatting on any flat and having an absolute ball. I was loving the whole experience and I was making the most of the Ice Trail Tarentaise being run on Bastille Day, the Celebration of the French Revolution. I wished all the volunteers “Happy Bastille Day and Via La France”. As I past them by. Running on such a special day lifted my sprits and I made the most of the positive energy I was receiving from everyone I encountered. I ran the UTMF the day after ANZAC Day too. The importance of running events like this on these significant days are never lost on me.
The French Canadian Runner got ahead of me on the final push up the climb but I did not let this bother me. I’d reached the top of the 2950m climb and I was on the homeward stretch.
38km had been completed and I was again rolling down a narrow snow ledge with 100m drop off’s before the trail opened into knee deep snow fields, scree fields, mud and then gravel single track. This was technical running heaven. I rolled on down the snow using my agility to leap, bound, maneuver, jump, slip, slide, rotate. I actually don’t understand how I have two working knees after running on the chartered snow. I was having to change directions so fast that my knees were twisting into angles that they’d never been before. I’m bloody lucky I’m flexible. Shit, fuck! If I make it out of here in one piece it will be amazing.
I followed the single track feeling fresh and recovered, I rolled on down conserving my energy and trying to recover, knowing I had 2 more major climbs ahead of me. I felt fresh.
I arrived at the Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise 40km check point and I looked for Glen. I could not see him around. The 40km was a check point that was in the middle of no where in the depths of the mountains. Due to the remoteness of the Check Point I then kind of did not expect to see him here. It looked like it was a check point that you’d have to hike a fair way to get too. I did not let this bother me. He must not be coming to this check point. I still had a few Hammer Gels on me. I stocked up on Coke and Banana’s, as I am gluten intolerant and I can’t eat the cakes on offer. I’d also never tried chocolate whilst training or racing either so I avoided them also.
I then took 4 puffs of ventolin, as I was really starting to hack and cough my lungs out when ever I stopped. It must have look hilarious. I was bent over and coughing my guts out. I’m use to this though. This is how I run. this is what I have to endure to do what I love. No one else with asthma was attempting what I was doing up the front of the field. No one else was hacking their lungs out at the check points. I was getting a few funny looks from other runners and the aid station volunteers. I must have sounded like crap. In my head, I only had two more climbs, two more climbs where I had to manage my asthma then I will be rolling down the mountain to the finish line.
As soon as I arrived I was out of there. I moved out of the check point in front of the French canadian runner. She quickly got up and started to chase me down with another guy. I let them both catch me and pass me. I wanted to move up this 2900m altitude climb at my own pace. The guy wanted to chat to me but I had to explain to him that I can’t talk running up climb because of my asthma and I really have to manage it.
This climb was monstrous. I followed steps in the snow using my hiking poles with every step. I just tried to keep my cadence high. Again yelling “FUCK . COME ON”. Swearing and getting angry made me feel much better. I yelled up the climb and felt totally refreshed at the top and ready to run. I jumped ahead of the French Canadian Runner. I’m sure she thought I was crazy and enjoyed the cool cut snow narrow ridge line descent. I almost felt like turning to the French Canadian runner and saying that if we are close near the finish line we will run together hand in hand across the finish line. I felt like we had been battling for some time now and I enjoyed her company. I felt like we were partners in crime. I did not care what place I was going to finish in. I was just enjoying the race.
I rolled down the snow fields, gain in sections they were knee deep, again I had to pick the best line to conserve energy. I rolled along for the next 5km chilling out and relaxing, hydrating and looking after myself. I was totally out of food. Come on Shona you know how to run on nothing. You’ve run on nothing before you can do it again. I filled up my drink bottle a few times in the streams and snow. I was even putting my Hammer Visor in creeks as I past trying now to keep my core temperature down as the air temperature started to rise.
At 45km I was at about 2500m and I had the final climb of the day waiting for me. The French Canadian runner jumped ahead of me on the road and received help from her support crew outside of the aid stations. This did not bother me. It just lifted my sprits knowing that Glen would be able to access this check point because it was on a road.
The altitude stared to kick in and I felt sick, really sick. I knew that I just needed to get over one last big climb and I would be rolling down the last descent.
I powered walked up the 3km of road that felt more like 6km of road. And the French Canadian gained about 800m in that time. Again I was not bothered. I just wanted to finish that’s all. I came up to the check point expecting to see Glen. I’d been without any food for about 5km now and it was starting to bite at this altitude and the extra energy I was using.
I arrived at the Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise check point and my heart sunk. I could not see Glen’s smiling face. I could not stock up on my Hammer Gels, Perpetuem and trusty potatoes. Bugger. I hung at the aid station and surveyed my fuel options. The choice was grim. I filled with Coke yet again, but I was getting concerned that it would not be dehydrating me. As I had not been to the toilet for about 9.5 hours. I drank some water at the check point, grabbed and ate some banana baby food, and took another baby food squeeze for the road. I then checked out the gels on offer. I read the back of the gel wrapper and noticed that they had amino acids in them. I poured the powered contents into my water bottle and took a swig, and tipped the remainder out of my water bottle. It was foul. Instantly I felt sicker.

The-Ice-Trail-Tarentaise-Shona-Stephenson

The-Ice-Trail-Tarentaise-Shona-Stephenson

I grabbed another baby food squeeze and decided that the baby food and the coke will have to do. This was not ideal. Far from it. I was use to Hammer Gels, Perpetuem and potatoes. In hind site I should have grabbed the chocolate on offer, but again I had not raced on chocolate before. I took some more ventolin and hoped I would be okay. I was now exhausted. I was so tired. Completely knackered. I was low on glucose, low on glycogen. Low on fuel. I was also missing my preventive asthma drug that I was due to take them about 8km ago. I tried to push this all out of my mind and just get up the final climb. All you have to do is make it to the top and you will be okay. That’s all.
I power hiked up the climb totally exhausted. Utterly spent. I took 10 steps then stopped and looked around and had a breather. I took another 10 steps, then a breather. My asthma was starting to kick in again. I was breathing heavily, gasping, just trying to get in enough oxygen from the oxygen depleted air. I started to panic.
What ever bloody gel I had at the last check point bloated my stomach. I decided to try and pee. Trust me its bloody tough trying to find a discrete place to pee on the side of a barren ridge line. I hoped that peeing would give my diaphragm more room to suck in more oxygen. After I peed I took 100 steps and then laid down on the rocky ridge. I just wanted a little rest.
A guy came and checked on me. I was hyperventilating. My ribs and diaphragm were working overtime to get in oxygen into my airways. I got up and took 10 steps then had a rest. I took another 10 steps and sat down on a rock. After a few minutes I was caught and past by a female runner.
“It’s hard”. She said acknowledging my suffering.
“Well done and good luck”. I called after her.
I got up again and took another 10 steps and rested, and another and another. Come on Shona just put one foot in front of the other that’s all you have to do. I then collapsed in the snow. I just wanted a little lie down. I realized that lying in the snow was not smart. I got up and took another 10 steps. I felt like vomiting. I started to cry. I hung bent over resting on my poles. I fell into the snow again.
“Get up, are you okay? Get Up.” Was said to me in broken English by a nice Spanish runner.
He put my arm over his shoulder and helped me up.
“Come on your strong you can do it”. He encouraged.
I took 20 fast steps, then fell to the ground and cried.
“Get up, come on your strong”. Again he picked me up.
I again took 20 fast steps and fell over my poles and wanted to vomit. I was completely spent. Hyperventilating, fighting to get enough air into my lungs.
“Get up you just have to make it to that hut, then it’s all down hill, breathe slower”. He again picked me up.
“I just have to make it to the hut?”. I asked “This is the last climb?”
“Yes just 100m to the hut then it is the top of the climb and it is down hill”. He encouraged.
I focused on the hut. That was my goal. At the hut I will have a lie down and rest and then go on to the finish, it’s all down hill.
After a few more bent over and dry reaches and crying episodes I made it to the hut and fell into the medic’s arms (sorry ladies it was an middle aged female medic, dam!). They put one of my arms over their shoulders and helped e into the hut. I took off my pack and decided to lay down on the vinyl window seats.
My lungs were working over time. I was at 3000m. I was gasping for air. After about a minute of lying down I had the urge to really vomit. I got up and stumbled out the door and fell to my hands and knees and hurled my guts up. I heaved and spewed. All the water I’d drunk in the last few hours came up, all the food that had not been absorbed form last nights dinner came up too. I spotted the unabsorbed mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes. The sports nutritionist in me had to inspect what was not absorbed into my blood stream so I knew not to eat it again for a pre race dinner. I noted that all the potatoes, banana’s had been absorbed. Even the bananas that had been consumed in the last hour was absorbed into my blood stream. Thumbs up from me I thought to myself. I was bummed that I’d lost 500ml of water though.
There I was on all fours with vomit on my inov8 wrag that was on my arm, and I tried to get any vomit out of my hair. Foul. I felt revolting and dirty. On the up side my stomach and head I felt much better. I was then joined my a nice French Runner who heard my hurling form the trail about 10m away and came to see how I was. I’d given him a lift to the start in the morning before the race. I always pick up runners and give them a lift in my car on the way to an event. It’s kind of good for my Karma.
He tried to pick me up and encourage me to run on with him. The medics were having none of it.
“No she is staying here”. They informed him.
He tried to argue his case in French to them. I could not understand a word he was saying. I guess he thought that if he just got me down the hill I’d be okay. I said goodbye to my friend and I looked at the medics. I tried to tell them that I felt better and that I was a good runner. I checked my pockets for food, but I had consumed it all. I was totally out of all resources and the thought of going on to possibly another 15km of no aid seemed stupid. I had blown up. My ears were throbbing. I had low glycogen stores, asthma, and altitude sickness. I was flat lined. If I had my fuel on me I would have kicked it. But because that I was in such bad shape, seemed like absolute stupidity to push on. I did not want to become a liability for the race director.
“We think you should not go on”. The medics informed me in broken English.
I did not want to agree with him. I wanted to go on but I knew deep down it was the correct decision.
They urged me back inside the hut. I got up and stumbled back into the hut. My stubble confirmed my inability to move safely. I lay on the vinyl bench. My legs started to twitch. I wanted to race. My lungs heaved. I stated to cough, and cough, and cough. I sounded like crap. I got up and ran out side again and lay with my body on the stone patio and hung my head off the edge of the step and coughed my lungs out. I coughed and spat for about 5 minutes.
Again the medics urged me back into the hut. This time they manned the door and the window preventing me from escaping again. I think they could tell that I was trying to figure out a way to continue on with the Ice Trail Tarentaise. I lay down for a little while and said that I felt better. But when I sat up and my head was pounding, but I did not have a headache.
“You are not going on. We need to get you off the mountain. You are sick with altitude sickness and asthma. You can not finish the race.” The medic said.
I may be gutsy, but I am not an idiot. I took his concerned advise and I decided to take a ride with him off the mountain in on the Skidoo. I was totally guttered. My race was over.
I was helped to the Skidoo, I really could not walk un assisted. I jumped on and enjoyed the ride off the mountains down a glacier. This was epic. The medic kept stopping the Skidoo expecting me to vomit again. But I had nothing left in my guts. I was having a ball on the back of the Skidoo. What a cool way to be taken off the course.
At the last Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise 48km aid station I was let off the Skidoo. I then looked at the other runners making their way up the same ridge line I had just completed. I wanted to rejoin the race. The medic took one look at me and said “No your not going back up there”.
Fair enough I thought. It would be so embarrassing to be Skidooed twice off the mountain. I then spotted an ambulance.
“Who’s that for? That’s not for me is it?” I asked.
“This is for you”. The medic informed me with a smile.
Okay now I was embarrassed. Far out man this was too much. I did not need an ambulance. Bloody hell. The shame.
I got in the ambulance and I was put on the Oxgyen saturation reader. My sats were at 80% with my resting heart rate at 80-90 beats per minute. I was working even though I was sitting around doing nothing. Cool, sats at 80% that was more than fine especially since I was at 2700m now. They won’t send me to hospital. Phew.
I then got the ambulance ride back to Val d’Isere. I was dreading arriving back at the registration area. I thanked the paramedics who looked after me and I then had to do the walk of shame in front of about 6 extremely attractive immaculately dressed French Policemen before I was taken to the race doctors office.
I saw the same doctor I’d seen a few days earlier for the Serotide. She gave me some more great tips to help me manage my asthma, and suggested that I take Serotide 3x 2 puffs the day before the event and of course during the event like I’d planned. Running with a Wrag on my face was a great preventive for my asthma too. I just had three things stacked against me, low fuel, asthma and altitude sickness. Next year when I come back I need to spend more time in Val d’Isere to acclimatize to the higher altitude than Chamonix too. With all this advise taken in I was off to look for Glen.

So What Happened to Glen?
I really felt for him. My brother-in-law had driven 7 hours the day before to get to Val d’Isere to be my support crew (long story about why it took him 7 hours). He had only been in Europe in Geneva a week earlier. He did not know the area at all.
We were not given maps with check points indicated on it my the race directors. We were looking at the maps on the website, but they did not expand on the internet to give us detail of street names.
We were not given a map with the route of the course on it by the race directors. There was 3 events running my the race race director in Val d’Isere on that weekend.
The night before the race Glen and were trying to locate the check points on Google Maps, but the names of the check points were not showing up on Google maps.
Glen on the morning of the event checked with the race organizers which check points he could attend and for some crazy reason they suggested that he tried the 40km checkpoint that he’d have to hike in for 1.5 hours to get to the aid station instead of the 48km check point that he could drive too.
Glen hiked 1.5 hours into the check point at 40km and watched the 32km racers pass him. He forgot that there was other events running that weekend and when he did not see me run pass him. He got concerned that I’d fallen and injured myself especially since I was going to have to leave the race straight away to drive back to Geneva and catch a 9am plane the next morning.
There was no telephone communication at the aid stations at 40km so he could not call the organizers to see where I was.
Glen then hiked 1.5 hours out of the 40km check point and headed back to the Val d’Isere registration area and checked on my whereabouts. He realized that I was still racing. Due to the language barrier, Glen was again given misleading information about the checkpoints and was told that the next check point was 55km to attend. He was not aware that he could attend the 48km check point or even that you could drive to the 48km check point. It was the easiest check point to get to.
Poor Glen then waited until the last runner came through the Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise 55km check point and then decided that there was something wrong and that I was not going to show up at 55km and that something was wrong.
I really felt for Glen. It was not until 7pm that he arrived at the athlete registration area. I’d arrived there at 2pm. For 5 hours I tried to get in contact with him through the race officials. The poor bugger had been waiting for me to arrive all day long and he never had the chance to see me race or help me out. I felt really guilty. He’d come all this way to help me out and he received none of the satisfaction of it.

After a shower and dinner we jumped in a car and I drank some Champagne to celebrate the end of my French Alps Adventures. We arrived back in Geneva at 12pm that night because Glen refused to listen to me about directions. Hmmmmmmmmm. I swear Geneva is only 3 hours from Val d’Isere?
I was then awake at 4:45am the next morning so I could catch 2 trains, 3 planes and a taxi to arrive back in Sydney at 8pm at night.
I was back at work 6am the next morning at my Outdoor Personal Trainer Sydney Camperdown Bootcamps.

Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise
By Shona Stephenson

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