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Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc - CCC recce


Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc - CCC recce

Back in January this year I found out that I was successful in securing a place in arguably the most prestigious trail running race series on the planet - Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). Throughout the last week in August, members of the trail running community worldwide descend upon Chamonix for a week of races of various distance and elevation. All of them require participants to qualify by earning points at designated races. The UTMB race series is considered the Mecca of trail running and the top of its game in terms of the experience, fitness and skill required to attempt it, let alone complete the course.

The race I entered via the ballot is called the CCC.. each ‘C’ is representative of the three main towns in the three different countries the route goes through; starting in Courmayeur, Italy then passing through Champex, Switzerland before finishing in Chamonix, France. The course totals a little over 62 miles, 6100m of elevation and five mountain summits - participants are given 26.5 hours to complete it.


After the initial giddiness of excitement, nerves and genuine fear, I devised a plan which involved a coach and regular physio appointments as I’d been carrying a hip injury for a while. Self care in general is something I fall down so I knew I had to step this up with immediate effect. Training would involve as many hills as I could find (not easy when we live in a flat-ish country!) and a whole lot of stair climbing at the gym.

The day that the ballot results were released I decided that a recce weekend in Chamonix was a given. So the weekend just gone I flew out there with a friend, Jonathan Zincke, who has aspirations to complete CCC himself next year but also happened to be training for his own mountain race in a couple of weeks. He was definitely the right person!

I have to admit that beyond the initial discussion to agree a weekend we were both available, I left it up to Jon to manage and plan logistics - this isn’t my strong point and he seemed quite happy to plot routes, book transport etc..

The Warm Up Run

We arrived in Chamonix on Friday lunchtime and after a bit of a chill (we were up since 2:30am to catch our flight!) we headed out to explore the local trails heading up to the Merlet Animal Parque - a 7 mile loop with a 670m climb. It was a beautiful evening and I enjoyed the vertical challenge. The trails were all single track and very easy to follow. A few technicals here and there which added to the thrill of it all. A great leg loosener ahead of Saturday’s long run.

The Long Run

I was a little apprehensive about this one and now that I’d experienced what a mountain mile actually looked and felt like, my apprehension had grown overnight. The route was mostly the first 36km of the actual CCC route itself and I knew that the first climb was around 8 miles long and 1400m up. We caught the 8:30am bus from Chamonix, through the Mont Blanc tunnel, to Courmayeur in Italy where the race starts.

The climb to the top of Tête de la tronche is around 1400m and once you clear the tree line the air becomes a little thinner so breathing was laboured and both Jon and I found ourselves having to stop more regularly. It’s also quite exposed up there and just a gentle gust of wind made me shiver.

The ascent was a real eye opener for me and whilst my fitness and endurance is pretty good at the moment, it didn’t take me long to realise that I need to get some hiking practice into my training.

The descent, on the other hand, I was pleased with. Apart from the obvious that down hill running carries less cardio loading, I handed the technicals fairly well and without compromising my pace too much.

Furthermore, I’d heard people say that the downhills are so steep that it’s quite common for the quad (thigh) muscles to ‘blow up’ (not literally, I hope). Whilst I could feel them having to work hard, I had good control and stability and other than a bit of heaviness the next day, I felt good!

Jon and myself both underestimated just how long the original plan of 36km/23 miles would take us, and with the last bus back to Chamonix to catch, we made a decision to skip the second ascent. It was the right thing to do at the time but when the bus was two hours late, we were more than a little bit miffed that we could have stuck to the plan after all. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

Still, we managed 22 miles, 1750m total ascent and 8 hours on our feet. Feeling very pleased with ourselves, we celebrated with several drinks and ice cream whilst waiting for the bus.

The Morning After Run

After a restless night of fast breathing and raging thirst which I later realised was the onset of altitude sickness, I was pleasantly surprised to wake up feeling hardly any achiness or stiffness in my legs. Due to missing out on the second mountain the day before I was keen to get back out for a bit more elevation training before flying back to England. Jon was happy to give it a miss so instead he took the cable car up to Plan Praz whilst I ran/hiked the footpath up to the same point. I knew we didn’t have enough time for me to make it all the way to the top but I was happy to gain another 600m of elevation under my belt. It was a strong and satisfying finish to an extremely tough weekend of training.


The Countdown

So with 8 weeks to go I have my work cut out. My endurance is in a strong place for the distance but my strength endurance for elevation still needs some work. So my plan is to spend even more time on the stair climber, increase muscle strength endurance and get some hiking practice in.

I’ve also felt the effects of altitude sickness upon my return, not a great feeling but I’ll have more time to acclimatise during the week leading up to the big day on 30th August.

To recce that first mountain and get used to the changing terrain as well as get some technical down hill practice is as much as I wanted from the weekend. However I’ve come away with so much more; a new friend, new mountain trail experience and the utmost respect for the mountains themselves and anyone who even considers running in them!

Whilst I’m more apprehensive than ever, I know what I need to do now and that in itself gives me much better clarity. I’m excited and nervous but can’t wait to get back and run amongst those majestic giants that are Les Alps.


Endure24, Reading


Endure24, Reading

Endure24 - billed as epic, brutal and relentless, is a 24 hour endurance event whereby participants attempt as many 5 mile laps as they can within the time frame. You can enter as solo, pairs or in a team of 3-8 people.

Last year I was part of a team of 6 at the Leeds event but this year I tried my hand as a solo runner.

I so want to hate this race and write it off as a bad run, yet now that I’ve had time to reflect I can’t help but look back on those 24 hours with fondness. I’m smiling in most of the race pics so perhaps it wasn’t all as dreadful as I remember it! 😂

Firstly, let’s talk laps. When it comes to endurance running, there aren’t many things that aren’t ‘my thing’ but laps are definitely NOT MY THING! So going into this event, I already had concerns with boredom but also knew that I now have a good arsenal of mental tricks and hacks so it wasn’t too much of an issue. 

Not being this years ‘A race’, my only plan was to practice night running and nutrition in preparation for UTMB CCC later this summer. All very good and obviously valuable to my end game but the problem with this is that I need a goal and without one I’m like a lost lamb! 

The conditions were at best ‘okay’ for the first couple of hours but a huge downpour of rain churned up the 5 mile course pretty quickly and it was a mud fest for the duration. I’d taken a handful of trail shoes to choose from but wore the Salomon Speedcross 5 throughout the race and they really came into their own in those conditions. 

This was mentally one of the toughest races I’ve done. Running lap after lap was monotonous but to add to this, the course soon became a mud fest after a downpour of rain just 2 hours into the 24 hour race. Then my glutes tightened up at just 15 miles in and by 25 miles, running was agony! They later eased off and caused no further issues so no idea what happened there. 

Next, the toes on my left foot blistered up (I have an ongoing issue on this side so this has become the norm for me) and after 50 miles I went to the medic tent where they told me there was an infection and they couldn’t believe I was walking, let alone running. They strongly advised that I took the weight off my feet for a few hours and re-assess in the morning. Admittedly the hobble back to my tent was reasonably excruciating so I had to admit defeat.. for the time being. My plan to run through the night was out of the window for which I was truly gutted about. Still, I had hope for another shot at it after a few hours of rest. 

So all in all, up to the first 50 miles, I hadn’t had a great time out there but I wasn’t ready to quit. I knew the rest of me was strong and so after some rest,  I pulled up my big girl pants and got back out there for another three laps. It was only after talking to another solo runner in the morning and he said he was aiming for 100km so I decided that’s what I was going to do too. 

Finally! .. for the first time in 20 hours I had a specific goal and with something solid to focus on, I knew I could get the job done. 

Amongst the blur of fatigue, mud and sore feet, there is one thing I can recall with such clarity and that’s the camaraderie among every single runner out there. The solo runners are shown so much respect from fellow competitors. I ran with so many people and had so many lovely chats with perfect strangers as well as my friends. Ultimately, everyone out there was trying to achieve the same thing - running for 24 hours! 

Total distance was 65 miles / 104km .. not even close to what I know I’m capable of in that time frame but still something to be proud of given the circumstances. 

Epic, brutal, relentless indeed. Well played Endure24! 


Polka Dot video production


Polka Dot video production

Back in March ‘18 I had the opportunity to be part of a short film produced by Worcester videographers Polka Dot Production .

Jo and Duncan Cox are a husband and wife team who direct and produce some of, if not THE finest wedding videography I’ve seen - seriously check out their work, it’ll make you want to get married just so that you can have them make a film about it. 


Fortunately for those who are already married or those who just don’t fancy it, Jo and Duncan also make promotional videos and this is where I came into it. Polka Dot Production wanted to expand their portfolio by adding a short film to their arsenal of high end video production and they had very clear ideas about how they wanted to do that. 


So in short, I spent a few hours running around the South Warwickshire countryside while Jo and Duncan filmed me both from the ground and using a high spec drone. I’ll let the film do the rest of the talking but let me just wrap this up by saying that these guys were a pleasure to work with. They were professional, creative and made me feel very relaxed. 


Letter to my younger self


Letter to my younger self

Dear young Lauren 

I know things are tough for you now, being an adolescent is definately one of the more challenging life phases we’ll go through, but I  can absolutely 100% guarantee that we’re going to be ok. Here are some little nuggets of hope for you..

When we were in our mid teens, our PE teacher kept entering us into the inter schools cross country trials even though we hated every single step because she saw great potential, not because she had it in for us. This will scar is for years but we come good in the end.


The sporty girl teasing and laughing at us about our running style (you know exactly who I mean).. in about 20 years we’re going to bump into her at the gym and she’ll be unhealthy, depressed and hugely overweight. We won’t laugh back at her though, because we’re better than that.

It’s ok to be at the back.. and no, this is not how we’re going to die today. One day we’ll become an ultra marathon runner where the race is nothing to do with pace but going the distance... and that we can do! Hang out at the back, it’s going to be fine.

Tell Mum about our unhealthy relationship with food now! She’ll save us sooner. Binging and purging now is going to shape the way we look at food for the decades to come. It’s not ok to starve ourselves and use lunch money for cigarettes to surpress our appetite. But please know that it won’t always be like this, we win in the end!

One day in the future we’re going to start up a women’s running group and it’ll fast become one of the biggest groups in the country and win awards - that seems so crazy right? We hate running!! So don’t worry too much that we’re not doing so great in school. There’s more to life than algebra!

So hang in there little Loz, life gets really good as you get older, I promise you that. What I can also tell you is that there are more difficult times to come, but don’t worry, as we grow older we also grow stronger, both mentally and physically. We will learn to surround ourselves with a strong and positive support network by way of family and friends. We’ll never be alone.

I’m signing off now, I can’t give it all away because we like surprises, right? Furthermore, I can only tell you what I know for the first 39 years of our life, there’s more to come which I don’t know about yet!

Be kind to yourself little Lauren, trust your instinct and don’t get too drawn in by the wrong crowds. 

Take it easy

Older Lauren

What would you tell your younger self if you had the chance?