This year I was focusing on three events (Transgrancanaria, Gran Trail Courmayeur, and CCC). The last of those, CCC, didn't go as planned as I got a cold and had to stop half way through the race. As soon as I recovered from my cold I was looking for another race to run. I was fit, I had done a good training camp up in Chandolin, and I wanted to run a good race at the end of the summer. There were a few options, but the best of these was the LG Trail as it met a whole lot of criteria that suited me.
LG Trail and training in the Jura
The LG Trail route goes from Lausanne up into the Jura and then back down to Geneva. Many of the trails included in the race are trails that I ran on frequently when I lived in Aubonne (the race actually passes through Aubonne) and they're trails that I love. It's a great mix of rolling terrain, some technical, rocky trail up near La Dole, and incredible views over the lake and towards the Alps. The race was only three weeks after CCC and although the characteristics were a little different to CCC, a longer race with less climbing, I thought it would be a great race to channel my efforts towards. I re-focused on the LG Trail race and it helped me to bounce back from my CCC disappointment.
With only three weeks between CCC and LG Trail, and one of those taken up by recovering from a cold, I didn't have much time to get ready. I did some hard sessions to sharpen up, I ran some flatter routes to get ready for the fast sections out of Lausanne and into Geneva, and I ran most of the route over three days the weekend before the race. It was a fun and quick turnaround and it helped me to have a new focus. At this time of year the Jura and forests are so beautiful and the light seems to be a little softer which gives all the trees an autumnal glow. It's beautiful and fun place to run.
The race started at 02h00 in Lausanne at the Stade Pierre-de-Coubertin. It was a fun atmosphere and the lights on the track made it easy to get organised and the music and race organiser did a great job to motivate all the runners. The race started with a loud cheer from all the supporters standing at the track. There were three 120km races starting at the same time: a race for individuals, for teams of two and for teams of four. So even though it was 02h00 there were plenty of people there who were supporters and team members of the starting runners to cheer us on our way.
The route went along the lake from Lausanne all the way to Morges and then a little further beyond Morges before turning north towards the Jura. It was warm morning and the first section was mostly flat and easy running along cycle paths and gentle trails. I enjoyed the start and settled into my own rhythm. Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in a fast start with all the other runners going out too hard, but this time I didn't do that. The fact that there were other runners in relays meant that I didn't know who was in my race so I could just pace myself and not worry about anyone else (they did have different colour bibs, but these were not visible at night). The early miles ticked by quickly and easily and I enjoyed running in the night.
At the first large aid station at Signal de Bougy (27km) I was feeling great and happy with how the race had started. V was there and she helped me with some more nutrition and hydration to take with me. It was early in the race yet I still rushed through the aid station and worked hard to keep the momentum. The field of runners had spread out significantly by then and I was mosty on my own for the next section as the race took us upwards into the Jura. It was a pleasure to be running in the night without anyone around, runners or any other users of the trails, and it seemed as if I had the trails and landscapes all to myself.
After the little village of Longirod the race started it's climb upwards to Crete de la Neuve. The route I had run in my reconnaissance the weekend before was not exactly right as there are so many similar and parallel trails up there that it's easy to get lost. The actual route was much more direct and much steeper. I held a good pace and enjoyed the change in motion from running fast on the flats to a power-hike and slow jog up the incline. When I met V at the aid station just below Cret de la Neuve at 43km I was ready for some more food, a new battery for my headlamp, and a change of shoes. I was moving well and about to start the best part of the course.
I loved the next section of the race as it was all trail and some of the best trails in the Jura. The route went through the forests winding up and down over hills and through farms and pastures. I passed about four runners right after the aid station and then held steady in a position with three other runners around me. We switched positions constantly and in contrast to feeling alone during the night I now felt like I was in a race. I was a little low on energy and they would pull ahead on some of the climbs, but on the long descent into St Cergue I was flying and pushed ahead of the three others.
St Cergue was about half way and the sun was up and there were plenty of people out to see us. V was as ready as ever in the aid station and helped me to change from my night set-up of headlamp and long sleeves into gear for the day. In the aid station I was tired and starting to feel overwhelmed at how far there still was to go. A pep talk and some perspective helped me get into the right mindset and I headed out of the aid station right into a steep climb straight up a ski slope! I was expecting some of the other runners I was duelling with before to catch up to me, but the motivation and food from the aid station must have helped because I was catching people (some were from the shorter race that started in St Cergue) and it felt very positive and motivating.
La Dole was the highest point on the course and also the best view point. Even though I was lethargic on some of the climbs before St Cergue, on the the way up to La Dole I was strong again and I knew that my training over the summer favored steep climbs. This climb and the following descent were the places I should be the strongest on the day. I made it up to La Dole with a much more positive attitude and I threw myself into the descent. Most of the people around were from the shorter race, yet the feeling of flying passed them on the descent was invigorating and helped me to push hard all the way down to La Rippe.
At La Rippe I changed shoes (to less lugged shoes more appropriate for the last part of the course), I ate some rice, and V sprayed my legs with a cold spray. V was excited about how well I was doing and that motivated me to push hard and I left the aid station full of beans! Like every other ultra-marathon I've run, there was plenty of time for that attitude and pace to fade and as I climbed slowly over a small and lumpy climb I slowed. It seemed more like I was just trying to get through the race rather than actually racing. Yet when I arrived at the next point in Vesancy V was even more excited and told me I was very close to a few people in front of me. It was a good reminder that when I'm feeling bad then probably everyone out there is feeling bad too.
I hurried through the aid station and attacked the last part of the course. I was passing loads of runners, again lots from the other races, although I was pretty sure that I passed a couple of people in my race too. About 3km from Chavannes des Bois I caught Francois Gervaix and we settled into a good pace together. We each knew that we were close to the front of the race and it was true racing. I loved it. I was trying to race and also trying to make sure I didn't overdo it as there was still 17km to go. I could tell that Francois was pushing hard too. He left the aid station at Chavannes a few strides in front of me and although I tried to hold the distance to him, he slowly opened a gap.
Soon after that checkpoint I started to struggle. It was already 100km into the race and my legs were feeling wooden and heavy. I couldn't run any of the climbs, even the gentle runnable ones, and it was like a death march towards the finish. At some points I felt like I might not make it to the final checkpoint yet occassionally I could still see Francois so I knew I wasn't the only one slowing down. The only good news was that a large part of this final section was beautiful trail next to a river that was winding its way down to Lake Geneva. It was a good distraction and reminded me of why I love to run trails even when it gets tough.
I managed to hold an ok effort over the last part of the course and finished in 4th place. I was pleased with this result and my performance on the day. I would have liked to be much stronger in those last 17km, but I had given everything I had to get to the finish and there wasn't anything in reserve on the day. At the finish I met Francois who kindly said that he was also suffering in the last part and that on any other day I may have beaten him and taken that podium spot. I appreciated that, but there was no doubt in my mind that he finished more strongly and more quickly than I did and he was just better on that day.
The LG Trail was a wonderful race and I enjoyed it almost the whole day. The last 17km were tough although that was because I was tired and not because it wasn't a great course! I know I will be running on many of those trails again and I can definitely see myself returning to the race to try and improve on my time.