Distance: 70 km
Route: 3 days stage
The great Pierra Menta ski race is going on as I am finally getting around to this race report (in March). As so much time has passed, I'm afraid I will not give proper attention to this event and the challenges of this awesome weekend of racing, but better late than never, I suppose.
The heat wave stands out as one of the biggest challenges of the race, increasing dehydration and exhaustion among the runners, earlier start times to avoid the hottest hours of the days, and even an advisory to avoid exposure to high temperatures. Because of the heat, we also had snowball fights, shoveled snow into our clothing, and sat in the water fountains to cool down after each race- so not all complaints. Many teams struggled or quit due to problems related to the heat. I struggled to eat anything more than cantaloupe, popsicles, and eventually some peanuts for the three days, and felt a lack of energy. I have no idea how my legs managed to keep moving...must have been the fantastic massage after day two.
Besides the heat, this was a unique racing experience as my first stage race, most vertical, and all spent with a partner. Each of these presented new perspective, excitement, and learning. I was nervous about racing three consecutive days, and the second day, I did struggle, but when it was all over, I wished there were more days of racing still ahead. For the vertical gain, this was a new category, not just trail running, but something a little bit more, and that was exciting. Derek and I competed as a mixed team, staying together through every step of the race. With a partner, you share highs and lows, and also encounter each other's highs and lows. Fortunately, we make a good team, knowing when we can push one another and how far we can push ourselves.
On Thursday evening, we arrived in Arêches-Beaufort, grabbed our bibs, stood through the briefing, and settled in with nervous energy for all the unknowns ahead. All the racers share accommodation, meals, and camaraderie just a short walk from the starting line.
Day 1: Grand Journée, 27km 2600M+
A great way to start the weekend! We were fortunate for some brief clouds and amazing views.
Day 2: Grand Mont, 25km 2400M+
Today, I knew I needed to take it easy if I wanted to finish all three days, so we started towards the back, and plodded through the course, even steeper and more technical than the day before, and also- snow slides.
Day 3: La Roche Parstire, 20km 1700M+
Today's course was fast. Good climbs and long descents, but a crazy pace. My partner was feeling a competitive burst while I was still just hoping to survive. Eventually, I decided I could power through, and so we sped our way to a victory in this final stage.
photo: Pascal Andries
Truly and unforgettable race, amazing mountains, and fantastic atmosphere. A huge thank you to the many volunteers and organizers who made this an incredible experience and congratulations to each team. It was wonderful to be a part of the first Pierra Menta Été!
All these beautiful photos by photossports.com (unless otherwise credited).
And a great race video: