La Grande Traversee des Alpes 2008 Race Report - Day 5

Thursday September 4
Les Chapieux to Rosuel
40 km, 2250 meters climb

The day began by retracing our steps up to the Tour du Beaufortain trail above us. Philippe ran on ahead and added spray markings to help guide us toward the first climb. The sky vaguely threatened more rain, but for now we were dry except for the occasional brush with a wet plant alongside the trail.

We followed a paved road for about a kilometer, and I ran/walked with Christian, Maria, and Toni. A trail sign pointed us down past a farmhouse and then up through a field, complete with fence crossings and calves.

GTA Photo

GTA Photo

I wasn't familiar with the next climb, as the GTA course had changed in order to accommodate different accommodations the previous night. However, Courir et Decouvrir (the race organization) had used it for a previous stage race. Some of the markings were still visible. Between Philippe's additional marks, the previous race marks, and the regular red/yellow trail marks, it was easy enough to follow.

We climbed up among a bunch of rocks and alongside a creek. I stayed with the lead group, going back and forth as each of us stopped for things like eating, bathroom breaks, etc. Eventually Philippe finished adding spray dots to rocks and wished us good luck on our day's journey. I got in a grove, started pushing the pace, and eventually ended up ahead of everyone for the first time.

GTA Photo

I knew this day was one of the shortest of the 14, with only one huge descent to contend with. The rest of it was contained in two long climbs, so whatever my legs were up for, that's what I would do. For now, the legs were up for "go, go, go," so that's where I went.

Eventually I was all alone, admiring the views, picking my way through rocks, and following dots of various colors. There was some strange and varied topography going up the valley, making it unclear exactly where we were headed. At one point I lost track of the red/yellow trail markings. I was only slightly worried because I still had the orange splashes from the previous race to follow. Apparently they had taken an alternate route.

Which made things interesting when it appeared I had run into a dead-end. Instead, the orange dots kind of went "oops" and led me straight up the side of a steep climb. That was fun. Oh, then the real trail came into view above me, so all was OK again. No one in view behind me when I got higher up, that was strange.

GTA Photo

Ignace and Bram following the trail not much later:

GTA Photo

The trail got rockier and rockier as I approached the col, eventually requiring boulder-hopping. Trying to maintain my footing while keeping up with the markings was a fun challenge. One last push and I reached the Col du Grand Fond to another blast of south wind. Now I needed to maintain my hat and the shades on my head.

More rock scrambling downhill, and I reached a pretty little lake. I looked back once but didn't see anyone coming. Again, strange, but whatever.

GTA Photo

GTA Photo

GTA Photo

I passed below the Refuge de Presset and peeked over the edge into the valley. The trail went off to the right toward the Col du Bresson, but we had been briefed that if we wanted to go straight down off-trail to meet up with the GR5 further down, that was OK. Plus I located an actual little trail leading that way (I'm sure many hikers before us had the same idea), so that was good enough for me.

So I started running downhill, leaning on my poles to help with the bigger step-downs and generally having a good time with the fun terrain. I found the GR5 and continued to hurry downward, thinking that getting out of sight wouldn't be a bad idea. Several marmots whistled "bonjour!" I was fairly pleased with myself for making it this far without anyone passing me.

More downhill, a short water-filling stop at the next refuge, then I found a dirt road to follow. Here is Cyril at the same fountain:

GTA Photo

A hiker greeted me going the other way, saying something to the effect that I might miss the train, so I better hurry... huh? Some donkeys stopped chewing grass and stared at me. Sure is weird "blazing" the trail.

The trail continued onward for a couple kilometers. Last time there had been great confusion at a spot not far ahead, which John and I had discussed at great length since then. When I reached a bridge I started pace-counting and watching very closely. We figured the trail must take off somewhere to the left in here.

Then I saw it! A red/white GR marking. Except it was on a post in the middle of a field with no obvious trail leading to it. Wow, no wonder everyone misses this spot. I ran over to it and continued on the "trail," more like some beaten-down grass.

I was slightly up a hill and in some bushes when I looked back to see Laurent approaching on the road. He had not seen me, and I debating doing my own thing vs. trying to be discrete. He never looked my way, continuing on down the road. Then I lost track of the trail markings myself, what an idiot. Gotta focus, Marcy! After a brief moment I figured it out and continued along in the field.

I watched Laurent from up above, trying to pay attention to my own route at the same time. He reached the Point of Confusion and I saw him take off down the hill. I figured he would end up doing the same thing we had done last time and would eventually get back on track. I, however, was pretty excited to be on the real GR5.

I wasn't quite as excited when the trail became a bit slow and technical. But at least I avoided an additional descent/climb. So the two options are probably a wash.

Running through some fields, suddenly there was John behind me. He had also found the correct side trail, and we discussed whether he might beat Laurent to the intersection up ahead. I wasn't so sure about that. One "good morning" kiss and John was on his way. Go John go!

The long descent continued, now back to roads again. I happened to catch a GR5 marking to the right pointing the way down a trail that cut off some road distance. Road, trail, road, trail, hey, there's John again! He had missed the first trail and was making up for that mistake by running down a steep trail to get back on track. He soon disappeared again.

GTA Photo

I was closing in on the valley below. So far, so good as far as the knees were concerned. Even the steep cobblestone down through the village of Valezan didn't hurt too much. I kept it reined in and tried to stay smooth.

I took a wrong turn above Bellentre. I found myself in a large field, looking over to a steeple where I was pretty sure I needed to go. A large barking dog got me to veer a bit, then I was on the road, into town, and back on the markings. The pink GTA marks started there - they did some nice work keeping us on track through most of the towns.

Under the highway, over the Isere river, and along a long road toward Landry. I was certain that someone would pass me anytime now, but I didn't see a soul. I even looked back a couple times while run/walking up the road.

About this time, I realized it was raining. Actually, it had been drizzling for quite some time, it just took a while for me to realize I was wet. Oh well, only one climb to go, albeit a long one (more in distance than in elevation gain).

A covered ravito was set up in Landry. I was entertaining them with my SPIZ baggie routine when Sylvain (a SOMFY runner from Grenoble) popped in. Hi Sylvain! He took some time to change shirts and put on a jacket, while I stuffed a bit of food in my mouth and took off. I was wet but not cold, and I figured the climb would generate some heat so I didn't bother with my jacket even though the rain was now coming down in earnest.

I decided that today was the day to bring forth the iPod Nano. Originally I thought I might listen to podcasts each morning and then music in the afternoons. But I had been so focused on the trail finding, the other runners, my knees and my pace, that up until today I never got the urge to break it out.

Today, however, was short, fast, rainy, and finished with a long shallow uphill that I was ready to hit with gusto. Bring it on! I scrolled down to my Anastacia album and immediately starting rocking to "Seasons Change": "You can feel the air start to change, When you're walkin' out in the rain..."

Oh my gosh, what a blast. Rain sometimes brings out the most enthusiastic, aggressive, fun running in me, and that PLUS my favorite music was really something else.

It helped tremendously in the first section, with several steep sections through the trees. I got into the rhythm and did a bit of dancing (and unfortunately for any wildlife around me, probably some singing).

Sylvain caught up to me and suggested that we run in together. As much as I appreciated the offer and probably would have accepted the company on any other day, I was just getting started with the whole music thing and had to respectfully decline. In any case, Sylvain was still faster than me and I might have pushed too hard to keep up. He went on ahead while I stopped to drink a serving of SPIZ.

Properly fueled and motivated, I continued speeding on upwards, across the creek at Le Moulin, and along the dirt road on the other side. Further up I saw some guys doing maintenance work on the road. By then I was jamming to Pow Wow's version of "You may run on for a long time - run on for a long time!" Tell me about it!

One last little climb, a fast run across a bridge with water pouring along below, wet running on a wet road, then the Rosuel refuge came into view. Thank goodness, because I was starting to get just a teensy bit cold as I climbed back toward 1500 meters elevation, and the rain continued to come down. My last song, which I played twice heading toward the finish line, was the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' "The Impression that I Get" - thank you John, for finding that awesome song.

Holy cannoli, what a day...

John cheered wildly from the porch when he saw me coming. I didn't know where the finish line was exactly, so I ran on up toward the building. Heading inside toward the showers, I was greeted by a huge group of hikers, all clapping and cheering for me. Too funny! One guy was particularly interested, and I talked with him for a bit, making sure to mention that it wasn't certain yet who had won the women's race for the day.

John ushered me to our bunkroom and I hurriedly headed for the showers. Ahh, it was good to be warm and dry. While hanging out my pack contents to dry, I heard more runners coming in. Congrats to everyone for finishing in not-so-nice weather!

Photos of Rosuel taken later after the rain stopped (I just love this place):

GTA Photo

GTA Photo

Trying to get clothes to dry next to the fire:

GTA Photo

I did end up beating Sylvie that day, along with a bunch of other people. I actually gained an hour back on Sylvie, amazing, although she and Gilles had made a wrong turn toward the end. I also gained a bunch of time on Maria who had gotten very lost (along with Toni and Christian) going over the wrong col. I sneaked a quick peak at the overall stands and found myself 34 minutes behind Sylvie. Of course, as we all know, this was for curiosity's sake only, as I'm not racing and all that. Nine more days was SO much time for SO many things to go wrong, and John and I were both very well aware of that.

John chased Laurent the whole morning, coming really close to catching him right at the end. He saw Laurent finish, in fact, and came in less than 2 minutes later. Nothing really changed in the overall standings except Laurent and John were making time over Manu in third and over everyone else quite a bit behind that.

The big news of the day was that Helene had slipped and broken her ankle! Apparently Cyril was able to somehow carry her to a refuge and talk someone into giving her a ride out on a 4X4. Helene made it to a hospital and ended up being fine. Cyril was given a well-deserved hero's welcome when he walked in the door at Rosuel later that evening.

John = 4:30:19 / 2nd among full-course runners (overall placing = 2nd)
Marcy = 6:12:13 / 7th among full-course runners (overall placing = 16th)