Into the Mountains…

A Trail Running Team Alpine Adventure Part Two:

Trail Running TeamIf yesterday gave us a taster of running on the flat (1700m of ascent), today was going to be all about the hills… As we left the Gite, not quite as early as yesterday,  we had a simple plan… up and over four little hills to find our mountain refuge and bed for the night. We had everything on our backs that we would need for the next two days, packed in to our new Mammut running packs.

Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0218Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0285The climbing started instantly, straight up and out of Les Houches. With no time to warm lungs, we were soon gasping for breath. But again, with views to die for, we took the opportunity to drink in our surroundings, catch our breath and try and sneak a wee rest from our guide when we could.

Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0228We are joined today by Claire, the editor of Trail Running Magazine, she scribbles as we run, up the mountains. Asking us what the best bit about being here is… I’m lost for words, it’s not a question I can answer… I’m running through Never Never land..!

Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0234 Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0294We twist and turn, climbing up the mountain side. At times its hands and feet, scrambling over rocks in the trail, with drops to our left or right of hundreds of feet. Below, lakes shimmer in the morning heat, helicopters buzz in the sky, ferrying supplies to and from mountain huts, dew dries from the trees, as we climb and climb…

Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0313Eventually the summit is reached, to be welcomed with stunning views of Mont Blanc, micro houses and villages below… Time for a quick TORQ Gel and glug of water and we are off again, skipping rocks, along the narrow singletrack path… As we round a corner we are greeted by Roy, hard at work behind his lens. We run and re-run a few small sections of trail so he and the video team can get the footage they need, before beating a rapid retreat back down the mountain, a true descent we can open up the legs, stretch out and let go.

Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0332 Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0391Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0429The mountain bottom is reached, and as expected the legs are order back uphill, climbing through more alpine meadows, brimming with flowers, we pass under ski lifts, closed for the summer. I’m grateful for my poles, they help keep me upright as we climb, making breathing easier, keeping me in rhythm, keeping us climbing. Despite the blazing sun and balmy 27 degrees we manage to find snow in our path… it’s retreating rapidly, but only a few days ago the whole mountainside was covered.

Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0466 Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0458 Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0475We reached the col, and what goes up, must of course come back down… With the promise of tart and coffee at the bottom we all had a goal to race for… The path here was much looser than yesterday. Winter avalanche debris littered the way, and we had to be careful not to dislodge rocks on people below… In places the path had gone or was hidden under patches of remaining snow…

Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0484 Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0485With water bottles refilled from the raging mountain stream, double espresso shot back and perhaps the best tart in the valley scoffed we set about our third mountain of the day…

Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0494We cross a bridge, which bounces as we take it in turns to run across… It has been here for three days, lifted back in place by a helicopter after a winter retreat. We drink and eat on the ups… but the water in my bladder is hot, so I keep my bottle topped up from streams and drink the mountain nectar.

Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0525 Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0594 Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0597The final climb of the day is long, seemingly never ending, but we can stop and look back at the way we have come… see the mountains we have crossed… Eventually we reach the Mountain Refuge de Tré la Tête sat perched on the mountainside at 1970 metres. We collapse in a heap, happy to be able to finally kick off our shoes, drop our packs to the floor. I mix a TORQ Recovery Shake and wash it down with the best pint I’ve ever tasted. We sit back and admire the views as we wait for dinner.

Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0602 Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0605 Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0607 Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0609 Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0617Unbeknown to us, as we settled down for an early night (10pm) and cursed the French School children who did not want to sleep, it was the celebration of the birth of St. John. The open window was suddenly turned red as flares were lit on every mountain top… The children stampeded for the door, as we watched in bewilderment from the window.

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Cowbells and Alpine Flat…

A Trail Running Team Alpine Adventure Part One:

Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0208 The gentle sound of distant cowbells drifts around the valley as we weave up and down through the trees on this rolling alpine trail. It’s flat we are told by our guide, Julia… Bursting lungs and crying legs suggest otherwise. Alpine Flat, Julia finally informs us, is slightly different to British flat, it’s actually rather steady uphill. And the hills around these parts can go on for miles…

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There are seven of us, plus Julia, running through the Chamonix Valley, following our dreams and the route of the Mont Blanc Marathon Route. We are the Trail Running Team and we are here to test our new Mammut Team Kit and to sample the delights of the Alpine Trails.Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0050

We started early, buzzing alarms waking us at 6am… The trails started out easy, but quickly got steeper, so we are grateful when the village of La Lavancher is reached after only a few miles. We replenish water supplies and meet up with Roy the team Photographer. Any excuse for a wee break. But soon we are running again, passing through Alpine meadows with cows grazing, villages where we stop and fill water bottles from troughs, through woods and over rivers.

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Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0125We move quickly through the mountains, mostly climbing, but at a pace we can talk. Most of the time, at a steady run, but we would drop to a fast walk when flat became uphill and we kick on the downs. The banter flows freely; races done, races planned, views on kit, life, living, reasons for running, training and injuries. The air is clean and crisp and yet despite being at over 1300 metres, it seems easy to breath, it is a joy to run…

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Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0176Another meeting with Roy for some more photographs and then the climbing started for real. As we climbed a stile, Roy asked me to run uphill whilst Julie filmed, I thought I had heard wrong, but kicked out anyway, before quickly pulling my poles from my pack. We climb higher, sweat pouring from us in the increasing midday heat… But the views are on another level as Mont Blanc peeps from behind the clouds and watches over us as we run in her shadow.

Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0184We climb upwards, over what in the winter would be a ski run. Today there is no snow, and  path provides the quickest way to the top. Finally we run along a narrow ridge to the summit of L’Aguillette des Posettes where we stop for much needed lunch. Quiche is washed down with TORQ Energy, fuelling the brain for the descent that is to come.

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© Roy Bel Chambers Photography

© Roy Bel Chambers Photography

What goes up, must come down… An Alpine Dream, a Mountain Runners Paradise… a 1000 metre descent, twisting and turning down the mountain side, dropping over rocks, always losing hight. We regroup often and discuss techniques, ways to make us faster, safer and smoother. We pass Roy and Julie, who repeatedly race ahead to get images of us as we skip down the mountain side.

Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0141Eventually we reach the bottom, and in true Alpine style find a small cafe, serving cake and strong coffee to replenish some of the calories we have just burnt. And then it’s just a matter of a 10km jog back in to Chamonix in time for a beer, French cuisine and a much a needed bed.Reuben_Tabner_Trail_Running_Team_0048

Trail Running Team – Alps day one

The Trail Running Team, sponsored by Mammut, TORQ Fitness, Compress Sport, LED Lenser and Tifosi are out in the alps. Today we have been running the Mont Blanc Marathon route which starts in Chamonix. The race hits town next weekend, but we thought we would have a quick look at the course before heading in to the mountains tomorrow.

Scott Running athlete and our guide Julia introduced us to the concept of Alpine Flat, basically up hill, but not big up hills…

Anyway enough words…

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New kit…

So a large packet arrived a couple of days ago with some exciting new kit in it from our new team clothing sponsors. And with the Alps only a couple of days away I needed to test it before flying to Chamonix on Thursday.

Where better than Hadrian’s Wall in the late evening sun…

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The Road to Fort William

Last week I made the long drive North to Fort William for the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. It’s an event that attracts over 20,000 downhill fans to the sides of Aonach Mòr every year and one that I was again commissioned to photograph for a mountain bike magazine. It’s always one of my favourite events of the year, the crowds, the riding, the location, all add up to a week long buzz!2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Fort William June 9thSpending three days running up and down the sides of the mile long downhill track meant I didn’t get my long runs in. Although that being said, with 25kg of kit on my back and working 14 hour days probably makes for quite good ultra training.

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I took the Monday to recover a little with a short run on the way home and finally a wash fitting for a king!

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A full set of images can be found here… Fort William  Mountain Bike World Cup.

You aren’t sat in traffic, you ARE traffic

I’ve spent the past two days wading through ankle deep mud and getting soaked by the British “summer” whilst working on a photography commission in Staffordshire. And now it’s baking hot, the sun is shining and I’ve spent most of the day sat on the M6 Northbound going nowhere fast…

To quote Simon at Freestak, “You aren’t sat in traffic; you ARE traffic”

Reuben_Tabner_Blisco_3582Finally however I made it to Ambleside and soon after I was blowing my way up the steep sides of Redacre Gill, my heart pounding, threatening to break a rib from the inside as I pushed towards my goal and cleared the traffic from my system.

Reuben_Tabner_Blisco_3584I stopped only briefly to take in the stunning vista of Langdale below me. The sinking evening sun still bathed the hillside with its warm glow as I climbed higher, reaching the summit of Pike of Blisco gasping for breath.

Reuben_Tabner_Blisco_3619I don’t want to head down, I want to stay here and watch the final sun-dance of the day, but a cool breeze blows the heat from my skin and I’m hungry.

Reuben_Tabner_Blisco_3635I race across the plateau to Blake Rigg, from where I can see the van, waiting patiently below. I make my way off trail, down towards Blea Tarn. I’m watching the landscape more than my path, and soon find my way blocked by a steep crag face. I’m forced to down climb, before the path finally opens up and follows the lakeside all the way back to the van and that food…

UTMB – TDS 90 Day’s to Go

It’s just under three months until the UTMB race series gets underway in Chamonix, kicking off with the TDS – Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie. This race starts in the center of Courmayeur in Italy on Wednesday 28th August at 7:00am and runners have a maximum of 33 hours to complete the 119km to Chamonix.

“A race in open country along the ‘Grande Randonnée’ paths crossing though the Mont-Blanc, Beaufort, Tarentaise and Aosta valley countryside.”

Carte-TDS_coureurs-2013An estimated 1500 runners are expected to line up for the start and I will be amongst them.

With the Lakeland 50 coming the month before at the end of July I have had little chance to think about the TDS, however my thoughts are starting to turn to this race and how I can best prepare for the altitude, the logistics and race day.

I’m heading out to France to run the CCC route in a couple of weeks with the TORQ Trail Running Team, which hopefully will give me some idea of the terrain and the geography of the area. Both the Lakeland 50 and the TDS are my A’ races for the year, so I will be speaking to the guys at TORQ Fitness to ensure that I can recover sufficiently  and maintain fitness between the races and head out to Italy best prepared.images