Time Mégève 2012

One month spent working flat out on my apartment meant that practically no training was possible. The Time Mégève race served as a target to get the job completed and out of the UK by a set date. Unfortunately this meant going into the race seriously under-trained. Feeling recovered from the marathon drive from the North of Scotland to the Alps via Dover, I actually enjoyed the start of the race. Going into a race with the body well rested feels good – but it also means that this won’t last for long.  You are not going to do well in such a demanding race if you don’t train almost daily for it. The weather forecast was bad for the whole of France but there was a window of good weather for the race – not that bad weather would have stopped me as this race had been my target for the last month. I was prepared to dress accordingly – but still managed to misjudge things because you feel the cold a lot more when you are exhausted and disoriented. Mégève Mégève is an overrated resort compared to modern ones and it appeals to people more interested in shopping than anything else. The name Mégève is claimed to come from two Celtic words “mag” meaning “habitation” and “eva” meaning “water”. Early in the 20th century Baroness Rothschild had her ski instructor search for a suitable place to build a ski resort as a French alternative to Saint Moritz and they settled on Mégève – eventually becoming one of the most popular ski resorts by the 1950s. The popularity was no doubt aided by the easy accessibility from Geneva. The town is a confusion of small streets and as such we couldn’t even find the cafe we used last year until we got the bikes out and cycled around. Finding the race start entrance was just as bad – they had us cycling about a kilometre around the village just to get to a start that was 50m away to begin with. That sort of town planning nonsense bugs me. I’m starting to wonder if war is nature’s solution to bureaucracy, over-regulation and political correctness and all of their silly consequences. It’s like all of the stupidity needs to be cleaned out catastrophically otherwise it keeps building on top of itself. The Race The race start was a bit slow with over 1500 entrants  – but with timing chips there’s not a lot to worry about – except that those chips strangely never seem to be 100% accurate. As usual I stayed with Chris until Flumet and the start of the climb up the Col des Aravis. The climb was fine and from the start of the race and through this first climb I was overtaking a lot of people. You can’t tell what course the other riders are on though because there is nothing to show this. You could be fighting to stay with a group and then find that you are on the longest course and they all peel off on the shortest one – so you really have to ride your own course. for the first 1hr 40mins my heart rate was hovering around the 170 mark – which was only possible due to being fresh – but was clearly going to bring dire consequences. Descending from the Col des Aravis to Thonon is a long fast passage but there were very few marshals controlling traffic. I went through one village and some cars nipped out in front when they saw a gap and we all closed in on a roundabout together. I was on their outside and they were both signalling to turn across in front of me as I needed to go straight on.  Knowing the cars would have to break I just kept up speed and went straight across the roundabout. They didn’t appreciate that by the sound of the horns behind me – but the fact is that proper road marshalling prevents all of those problems. There was even one point where the road narrowed to a single one-way channel with traffic lights and there was no control on it at all. The cars were totally blocked and there were hundreds of cyclists carrying their bikes in all directions around the stationary cars and climbing over barriers. This is the only negative point for the race organisation – but it’s a big one. Route indications were really minimal and I’m sure a few people felt a bit lost on the day. At the top of the second big climb – the “Hors Categorie” Col de la Croix Fry I was still holding my own but had not managed to drink much or eat anything. Heart rate was still high and the race was still enjoyable. After this we descended for a bit, where I managed to eat a gel and drink something – but on the return back up to the Col des Aravis my head started to become disoriented and fuzzy as lactic acid accumulation started to take it’s toll. Arrival at the top of this climb was a struggle as the legs followed the head and started to malfunction. Descending back to Flumet brought horrible deep aches to the thighs and the start of a chill to accompany the exhaustion. It was clear that the sensible decision would be to return from Flumet to Mégève taking the short 88km route and ending it there. The aches would disappear when the legs were made to work again and the more moderate climb back to Mégève would see me improve and so I’d end up with a relatively respectable result. Taking the other option and heading straight up the Category 1 climb to Les Saises ski station would mean not only a great deal of suffering but also a poor result. Keeping in mind the need to train for the much more demanding Etape du Tour in July there was no choice really – so it was off up to Les Saises. This climb is steeper and longer than the Col de la Croix fry so I don’t understand how it has a lower category rating. All the way up this climb there was a constant depressing line of people overtaking me. I knew it was coming so that didn’t bother me too much – but it is always frustrating. The last kilometre of the climb had me worried that I might not make it – not because of physical difficulty but because my head was becoming so disoriented that I was worried about falling off the bike. I’d tried to eat another gel some time back but gave up because it was just too difficult in this state to coordinate getting it out of the packet and into the mouth while trying to breathe. Any drinking was forced and 5 hours of hard effort had only seen me drink about half a litre. Descending from Les Saises was just pure discomfort with the legs aching badly and no energy for moving along the plateaux between steep descents. It was cold now with cloud cover and altitude but I’d kept arm covers on and that helped a lot. I realised that the cold was mainly due to being exhausted and had a windproof layer in a pocket if things got too bad. Pain and disorientation were much bigger concerns though – especially when descending when lack of lucidity can be dangerous. Finish and Results Arriving back down in the valley the cold was immediately dispelled but now I was worried that the long hike along the gently climbing valley back to Mégève might turn into an interminable crawl with legs and head not functioning. Within a few minutes however and to my great surprise everything recovered and started to work again. The descent had allowed the body to recover enough to bring it back to a reasonable level of effort. Riding back into Mégève was no problem. This was about the only positive thing that had happened in the previous three hours. I just got straight off the bike at the end and didn’t feel very much at all – just generally horrible. One thing that surprised me towards the end was that when anyone overtook me they looked pretty athletic – so it seemed that even though this was a disastrous event for me perhaps it wasn’t really all that bad. Ultimately I placed 363 out of 585 finishers and 89 out of 158 in age category. Going over the Col de la Croix Fry I’d been in 246th position overall and it’s interesting to see in the results that nobody near me in the final placing was close to this – they had all maintained a steady level. I was the only one to explode in this way by burning up too early. After the race the meal was good quality – with hot chicken being served and a tasty desert. It’s hard to eat after an extreme effort like this so you really appreciate when food is appetising. All I wanted was to find Chris and get out of there. Even sitting in the car on the way home I was too exhausted to be good company. The rest of the day just passed in a blur of general discomfort and headache – but sleep came easily at night and there were no leg pains to deal with. Hopefully this will kick start serious preparation for the Etape – which is almost double the climbing over the same distance!!!!!! Technique During the race I used chi-cycling technique – that is pulling the hip back during the push. This seemed to protect me from any back or foot pain – which is another positive outcome of this experience. When really exhausted I tried to reverse the hip action to use the “power mode” of pushing down with the whole side of the body and following though with the hip. I knew that could lead to back trouble but interestingly I felt no advantage from it and so each time automatically reverted to aligning correctly with chi-cycling and using my core muscles as much as possible. The heart rate recording shows something weird between hours 2 and 3 when it drops right down. Normally I’d blame my equipment and it probably was – despite having a new battery – but the pattern doesn’t look like equipment malfunction as it is progressive and regular – plus at 39bpm this actually corresponds with my resting heart rate.Very odd.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *