Trail Verbier St Bernard was one of my focus races for 2021. I have done many races in this region and I train there regularly so it was almost a "home" race for me. I selected the X-Traversée race as the distance of 73km and 4900m D+ fit perfectly into my calendar and in the progression of race distances over the 2021 season.
I started the race with a strong pace to ensure that I wasn't too conservative in my effort in the way that I had been during my first race of the season (Swiss Canyon Trail). I was feeling strong on the first climb and settled into a good position around 15th or 16th place. After the first aid station I was running well and held a steady pace into the long descent down to Bourg St Pierre. However, towards the aid station at Bourg St Pierre I started to feel a little flat and low on energy. Fortunately at the aid station I managed to regroup, pick up enough nutrition for the next long section, I saw Vanessa in the aid station which always lifts my spirits, and I left with another runner and we set a good pace out of the aid station.
On the initial part of the ascent towards Cabane Mille I was climbing at a good speed and I could see a few runners ahead who I was beginning to catch. Unfortunately about halfway up I started to slow and struggled to eat my race nutrition. I had been eating and drinking exactly to plan up to that point and my energy was ok, but as I missed a couple eating intervals I could feel my pace slowing. (Perhaps it was the second ascent to altitude that impacted my appetite?). I had a relatively low section over Cabane Mille and down to Brunet, but at these two aid stations I started to drink Coca-Cola and that helped me to pick up again.
In the next section I settled into my own pace as we went up to the highest points of the race at Panossière. A number of different race distance had come together at Cabane Mille and we all shared the same route from that point. I was passing runners from the shorter distances and that gave me a small boost along with a bit more energy from drinking coke. Gradually over this section I realised that I was also passing a number of runners from my race. This was just what I needed and with a long descent and one more big climb to come I thought I could still catch and pass a few more people.
In the descent down to Lourtier I passed two more runners in my race and I was flying down the hill. My legs felt good and handled the 1200m of descent very well. I ran into Lourtier feeling strong and ready for the last push up "the wall" to La Chaux. On the last climb I was holding a constant pace, but it wasn't fast. At this point all of the different races were doing the same final section of the route and there was a lot of traffic on the trail. I was passing runners every 20m to 30m which started to become frustrating, compounded by my fatigue, and the speeding up and slowing down became quite tiring. I was happy to arrive at La Chaux and know that the last descent wouldn't be too busy and that I was almost done.
I ran a strong descent and I knew I was on pace to run under 10hrs (my race plan was to run between 9hrs30 and 10hrs) so I held the best pace that I could. The final section into Verbier was a fast and enjoyable trail and then a gentle downhill on the road. I ran fast and strong all the way to finish giving it everything I had to finish off the day. I was very pleased with my whole race and it was fantastic to finish in the top 10 and within my time goal. I thoroughly enjoyed the Verbier St Bernard race and I will definitely run one of the races again in the future.
|At the top of the first climb of the day: Fenêtre de Ferret.|
|A brief few kilometres in Italy on the way down to Col St Bernard.|
|Leaving Cabane Mille at about halfway through the race.|
|Starting a hige descent from the highest point in the race: Panossière.|
Race result:3 July 2021