Wow, what a journey …. here I am trying to find the words to express what it was like having got to the top of the Gstaad Glacier at 3000m!
It was certainly a very proud emotional moment, which I will forever hold on to ….. I was surrounded by strangers in my own little bubble, and had spent the last 5 hours putting one foot in front of the other, I had never once looked back, I walked over to the edge of the cable car station with tears in my eyes …… it was only then I looked back to see how far I’d come ………… I realised I’d done it!
‘Team Gstaad’ Carol, Sandy and myself had arrived in the Swiss Alps 4 days previously to acclimatize and prepare ourselves for this epic race. We all had different goals, and for me it was the 3rd and final race in my 6oth Birthday #Beat Challenge, raising awareness for Eating Disorders, inspired by 3 special friends.
On the Wednesday we had decided to run a small race in the village of Leysan, where we were staying just 11.2 km with about 500m of climbing … a nice little warm up we thought! It was a great atmosphere, clear blue skies, 28 degrees and after the obligatory selfie we were off, I was supposed to be taking it easy but once the blood started pumping around my body I did get into race mode….. and then the first accent started! That certainly slowed me down and I soon found my correct pace and realized just how testing these Swiss mountains were!
It was a tough 7km up, but I just kept ‘tap’in it out’ (Ashley’s words) which echoed in my head many times whilst moving onwards and upwards! The 4km down was a lovely long blue ski run, I felt like I was flying, I had time to look at the stunning views and I could here the music from the finish line getting closer, the last 500m was lined with supporters, smiling faces and ringing cow bells … it had been a great run and a taste of what was to come! I came 11/51 ladies, 5th Vet over 40 and 1st Vet 60 …. so chuffed with my performance, though my Quads weren’t quite so happy!
I had 2 days to recover … and I pleased to say by Saturday ‘Gstaad Glacier Race day’ I was well and truly ready!
Race Day: a few nervous moments but once we arrived in Gstaad the excitement kicked in … I wrote the words ‘Believe’ up my arm and I knew there was only one way forwards and that was UP! The first 15km was really hot 30 degrees, no wind a blue skies, and a lovely trail heading up the valley, you could see the glacier way off in the distance, but I soon got side tracked by the supporters, cowbells, and lots of children wanting high fives. I remember smiling as much as I could to thank them, though at times through gritted teeth as it got hotter and hotter!
I was safely through the first cut of point in 1hr 50mins, and the serious up hill was about to start. Fed and watered as I ran towards the first major climb, the run turned to a jog and the jog into a walk … I looked up and soon realised that there probably wouldn’t be much more running, but knew I had to push hard as the cut off times were very tight! The next 2 hours were hot and hard, I only looked up and focused on the athletes in front of me, at first the terrain was rocky/shale tracks and then it changed to narrow mountain rocky paths … I just kept moving forwards ‘tapin it out, and believing my mind and body would get me to the top.
A young girl who I’d been following for ages sat down in front of me tears, so I gave her a drink from my camel back, several of my jelly babies and a pat on the back, she smiled thanked me and gave me a thumbs up. I pushed on and I could see the next check station, when I arrived at the cable car there was a steel band playing. I decided it was time for a slug of flat coke, it went down really well so a grabbed another and danced across in front of the band singing ‘Brown Girl in the Ring! (I did think ‘if my girls Kate & Lucy could see me now?) I felt great and knew by that time I was going to make the cut off time. I’d made it to the next station in 2hrs 4 mins, I’d just got 4km to go … a very steep 4km!
I tucked in behind another lady and concentrated really hard as we climbed up the zig zags, as it got steeper there was a rope to help us up the big steps, I also noticed plenty of first aiders encouraging us up the last steep bits, it got cooler too … then it suddenly got flatter and yes I’d finally got to the edge of the glacier! I could feel a huge smile and gave an enormous ‘Whoop’ 2km left!
Running across the glacier felt surreal, I got so excited as I could see skiers to my right and athletes ahead. I started to run again and just seemed to bound across the snow and ice ( I can thank my wonderful ‘La Sportiva’ shoes for that!) I could see the last climb ahead, it was full of supporters and athletes that had already finished …. by this time I had what looked like a ‘Cheshire Cat Grin’ but I can assure you it was a grin through gritted teeth, tears started to role down my cheeks as I climbed up the final 26 steps … each one was numbered! I’d made it to the top in 4hrs 54 mins!
I’d made it …. I remember at first feeling lonely … no Dave, Kate or Lucy …. I didn’t know anybody, I looked around then walked to the edge of the station … the view was amazing, had I really come all that way? I stared to get all emotional and then suddenly someone came over and gave me a huge hug …. I turned around and it was the girl I’d given the Jelly Babies we both laughed and she thanked me again, I was so pleased she’d made it too.
I came 8th/16 in my Age group, which I was pleased about … as most of the ladies looked like mountain goats, very lean and long legged! 20 GB athletes did the race, 10 men and 10 women, with only 8 finishing … 7 men and me!! (I did the 4th fastest time (of the Brits) so was really chuffed with that, all my trips into Snowdonia and up my favorite mountain ‘Cadair Idris’ had certainly made a difference!
The cut offs were so tight and many didn’t make it. My buddies Carol and Sandy fought hard all the way and sadly got stopped at 23km just 3km short of the top, I was gutted for them but it was still a tremendous achievement considering the height of the mountain! I certainly had to dig deep many times, and I’d thought about all those inspirational quotes my friends had sent me. I had a smile and a quiet moment for ‘Katie’ who was the reason I had chosen this race, I knew it would be tough, but nothing compared to the challenges she had overcome, along with other other friends suffering with eating disorders #Beat
So that’s the last of my 3 challenges …. I’m not sure what to say …. ? Its certainly been an Epic journey, I feel a bit numb and quite sad they are all over – well at least for a little while.
I have so may thank-yous to give, but this blog is long enough, give me a day or two to take it all in and for my emotions to calm down! I have still got to reach my #Beat target of £2000, so my mission isn’t accomplished just yet.