So here I am lined up in the village of Morzine, mountains towering either side, with Europes best Spartan racers. We’d been told the total elevation would be over 1800m+and the distance was to be over 20km. So let’s just put that into perspective shall we… The race would be the equivalent of running to the top of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK, plus an additional 500m gain, with obstacles and heavy carries thrown in! This race was not going to be for the faint of heart…
The start of the race had us running through the picturesque town of Morzine and hurdling over local car barriers made of wood, before hooking up a local trail by the mountain river. The first obstacle lay ahead, a simple Z wall with block holds which you had to get around. Unfortunately for me, even though I usually have no issues with this obstacle, I landed myself 30 burpees and a face palm of altitude!
After a quick river crossing and some technical trail we were greeted with a waterfall, which included a cargo net some 20 feet high hanging from it. We had to jump into the pool and swim across to get onto the net and climb for the initial ascent of Ponte De Nyon. At this point it was pretty much a power-hike up a seriously steep ski slope which included a barb wire crawl as well as another obstacle, Olympus, at the half way point. No matter how slow you moved, this mountain made sure your lungs and legs felt it!
It took me around one hour and a half to summit Ponte De Nyon (2019m) which was a total of 1100m climb from the village of Morzine. I was greeted with an incredible 360 degree vista of the French alps. Spartan also nicely placed a cargo net A-frame over the peak of the mountain, which was a cool touch. After this point it was a large downhill section, now I thought I was pretty good at running downhill. It turns out that may not be the case as I witnessed some of these mountain goat runners quite literally throw them selves down that mountain at what felt like whatever cost necessary. I’ve never seen downhill running like it and I commemorate those guys for having the guts to do so at such speeds and recklessness.
After the initial descent, Spartan gave us a log to carry over to a lake, where we had to swim with it to the other side. This was a nice relief on a baking hot day of over 25 degrees celsius, and to be fair felt like a spa treatment after that ascent. We then ran up and down another small incline before hitting an obstacle which had you pulling two sandbags on a sled across a field, inducing some nice lactate in those quads, just what you need after summitting a mountain…
We were then thrown further down the mountain, with a few obstacles thrown in, Bender, Tyre drag and pull, Twister before we were yet again starting to ascend. At first the trail was tough but zig zagged through a forest so it was cool. But then we were yet again thrown up a Ski slope style hill, straight up, probably another 300m of elevation in total. My legs were broken and the heat was baring down at this point. So in true Spartan fashion, as you could just start to see the top closing in, they decided you needed a big chain to carry the rest of the way… At this point my legs were ruined, energy levels were low and I was dreaming of the end and that finish line.
At this point even the descents were starting to hurt, with the quads begging for some mercy. Another rope climb, another technical descent… At this point we’d run around 20kms and homing into town with over 1600m of elevation. That’s when I thought to myself… This was advertised as 1800m? Maybe my Garmin Is not clocking 100%… Well it turns out that just as you thought you were coming home, Spartan decided to throw you on the most hellish of a sandbag carries to date. One mile long with a 50lb bag, up another 200m of steep ski slope elevation and back down in the searing heat. I’ve never seen so many grown men laying on the floor, beaten and broken, sweat pouring off of them, some even close to tears. Not to mention so many strong women powering through such an ordeal. Even the racers with the strongest minds and bodies were contemplating waving that white flag!
Spartan had placed a water station after the carry, but by this point everyone was staving off dehydration, with some throwing water over themselves to keep cool including myself! The mountain had been beaten, it had taken blood sweat and nearly some tears, but now I had the final couple of Km into the village.
The village had some big obstacles, including a spear throw, a multi-rig and a slack line. Not to mention the deviously placed hurdles which after 20km+ of mountain terrain, felt like mountains themselves.
The race was a total mental and physical exhaustion. Your mind wanted you to stop and your body wasn’t far behind… So to hit that finish line, with both intact was a great feeling. My body wanted to rest, and so did my mind!
All in all, the race was a fantastic experience. Afterwards I said I would never want to do a race like that again, It took me back to my first ever OCR, where the challenge was not the competition but in fact, just completing it! I knew coming into this race that it was not going to be my strongest, due to the mountainous elevation and distance, it definitely showed, with me just about placing in the top 100!
Regardless of my placing, I’m sitting here a week later writing this wishing I was back on that start line again!