> 2012 race reports
28/07/12 The 6000D Alpine Mountain Race - from Will Horsley

The 6000D Alpine Mountain Race, France, 28th July 2012
Will Horsley & Steph Scott, Northumberland Fell Runners

La 6000D is an established alpine mountain race starting in the town of Aime in the French Alps, familiar to many Brits as the town below the Plagne ski resorts. The 28th July saw the 23rd running of the race. The race is so named because it was believed to have about 3000m of climb and therefore 3000m of descent but they now promote it as having 4000m of climb which must mean 4000m of descent too. The route has changed a little in those 23 years and now comes in at about 60k (38 miles). The race starts in Aime (about 670m) at 6am (ouch) and heads out for a flat 5k before turning uphill for about 15k of continuous climbing taking you through a couple of the Plagne ski resorts to the Roche de Mio (about 2650m). From here you descend to the Col du Chaupe (2400m) and then head up to the Belvedere glacier (3050m) via some steep and loose scree ..... except a storm hit the race at about 8am when Steph and I were just heading into the first of the ski centres. I guess the leaders will have been approaching the glacier at this point. This was a proper storm with heavy rain, a cold wind and very loud thunder, and I guess if you had been high enough to see it some lightning too. The organisers made the sensible decision to take out the glacier loop taking about 4 miles and 500m ascent out of the race. It was a shame as by the time we arrived ready to hit the glacier, at about 10:30am, it was a nice sunny day again. It also rained right on cue just before the start of the race and the afternoon before and this meant the tracks had a certain greasiness to them but the weather did help to keep temperatures down on race day. Overall the race was on very good tracks and marked throughout. After the Col du Chaupe there was a nice green descent reminiscent of something Lakeland, perhaps, before a savage climb up to the Col d'Arpette (2550m). After this it was downhill all the way ... or so I thought. It was certainly downhill all the way to Belle Plagne ski village (2000m) through the concrete accommodation blocks with crowds cheering and cow bells ringing. This was the best bit for me and I duly started show-boating for the crowds. After Belle Plagne it was into the woods towards Montchavin and Les Coches. Imagine my horror when the expected gentle descent all the way back to the Isere river immediately began uphill - I felt cheated. There was about 20k to go with 1300m of descent. My feet were starting to fall apart at this point and the sun was getting fierce. Even in the trees the heat was noticeable. Montchavin and soon after Les Coches, finally emerged from the forest and it was nice to see crowds and hear cheers again. 9k to go with just over an hour for a sub-7 hour finish, and mostly downhill, right? Well, frustratingly the path still seemed to be undulating with every little uphill drag slowing me down. Occasionally it felt like I was descending properly but it all came in short steep bursts. I hit the river and followed this for what seemed like the longest mile of my life. The time was going to be close. Into Aime, uphill onto the main street, small detour round the back of town (that was cruel) and finally the line. Just missed the 7h mark so time for a bit more show-boating (poles in the air, victory signs, waving, smiling (just)). So exhausted - my preparation in the months, weeks, days and hours before this race could not have been worse – I was just very happy to have finished and in what I guessed was a respectable time even allowing for the shortened course. I finally mustered the strength to get to the car and saw Steph finishing only 30 mins behind me going so strong you'd think she’d only just started. She did the final 9k in 36m compared to 1h05 for me - if the race had been much longer she would have overtaken me and many others. My official result was 7h03 and 228th out of more than 1000, so I just squeezed into the top 25% - I'll take that! Steph was comfortably in the top half of the field, 22nd female overall and 8th in her category. The whole trip was really good, leaving Weds afternoon from Newcastle we travelled to Geneva via Brussels and stayed in a Swiss 'Travelodge' before making an early start for Chamonix on Thursday. Once in Chamonix we undertook our altitude training by going to the Aguille du Midi (3800m) via cable car for lunch. On the way back down we got off at Plan d'Aguille (2350m) and walked to Montenvers (1900m) via Signal (2200m). With Steph and Doug dawdling we didn't have enough time to complete the hike so took the train back down to Chamonix before speeding off for dinner in Landry, near Aime, via the Mont Blanc tunnel into Italy and back to France via the Col du Petit St Bernard (2200m). On Friday we registered for the event, picked up our freebies, checked out the course with a trip to Plagne and the Roche de Mio via cable car. Friday afternoon we went white water rafting (Steph's idea) and then had a big dinner before race day. Saturday was taken up with the race and Sunday was the return route to Geneva with lunch in Chamonix looking out onto the glacier des Bossons. The weather was hot and sunny when we wanted it to be and rainy and downright stormy at other times. A great trip but probably my last 'ultra' - yes, I can do them, but not very well and at considerable physical cost. We were seven in total with four of the group doing the 22k Trail des deux Lacs and one opting to sit in her hotel reading a book. Photos of the trip will be on my Flickr page soon.

Will Horsley

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