After a few days of being home with Juniper and the crazy dogs, I have had some time to reflect on the Pierra Menta. It was a bit of a rough week going in with some sort of stomach thing rendering me unable to eat or train. After a difficult drop of Juniper with her grandparents in Washington, Ian and I were off to France for our first night alone since Juniper was born. We met up with Mona, Pete, Cary, Brad and Jason in Frankfurt and then joined Brandon, Katie and Jared in Geneva. As Americans living in mountain towns most of us don’t get to take public transportation very often, so we loaded up all our gear and hopped a few trains to Albertville, home of the 1992 Winter Olympics. We managed to squeeze ourselves and our luggage into two cabs the next morning for the short trip into Areches-Beaufort.
As Ian reported earlier, we enjoyed the ski into town for registration and coffee and then skinned back up to our hotel for the final preparations for day 1. The groomed ski trails throughout and linking the towns were awesome and proved to be a great alternative to hitching rides to and from town. It was a relief that I actually had some energy to skin back to the hotel since I had been completely sedentary for a week and a half at this point.
Day 1 was rough for me and therefore Monique as well. My stomach was in knots by the second big ascent preventing me from moving very quickly so Mona pulled some extra weight and hooked up the tow line to help minimize our losses. Even though we didn’t pass any teams for the rest of the stage, we managed to prevent losing tons of time to most of the women. The top four womens’ teams are so far out of our league that pretty much no matter what we did, we would be at least a half hour back from them every stage. Monique and I finished the day in 11th which was definitely not where we wanted to be but relieved to be done with the first day and hoping I would start to get better as the race moved forward.
After a very rough afternoon of stomach issues (that’s all the detail I’ll go into as you get the idea), Mona and I started Day 2 hoping to finish the stage. The first two ascents (of seven total) were very slow with Monique carrying all my gear including my water but as time wore on we started to move a little faster and we were able to pass quite a few teams. We enjoyed having our friend Sebastian Sxay of France out on the course cheering us on and motivating us to pass a few more womens teams. Despite a rough start, we finished the day in 7th place and moved into 8th overall.
Another beautiful morning greeted us for Day 3 which was the ‘big’ day. I had actually been able to eat a little dinner the night before and therefore had a little more energy for the start. It was the first day that the first climb actaully gained some elevation (versus just trying to spread out the pack) and Mona and I fared well from from the steep climb up the ski trail. After a short descent, we started the the longest ascent of the race which included almost 100 kickturns and two bootpack sections with ropes. Although we got slowed by the bunch on the switchbacks, we maintained a good pace and made it to the first rope section in good position. If you’ve ever stood in line for a chairlift in Europe you’ll have a good idea of what the lineup was like at the first rope section. After about 10 minutes of getting pushed around, Mona and I finally got moving up the rocks and eventually made it to the Le Grand Mont where there were hundreds of people cheering us on. It was an amazing feeling to have that many people out there cheering us on especially knowing they had all skinned or hiked up first thing in the morning. Monique and I rallied back from some slow descents on the first few days and finished the day in 6th place.
I was very relieved and anxious to start Day 4 as I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get this far after the first day. Mona and I had a strong start to get a good position in the pack when the course quickly dropped into two skin tracks. It was a relief to see where we may have been in the pack if I had been feeling well the rest of the race. With just a little more to go in the last descent, Mona caught site of the fifth place women’s team and we pushed hard to pass them and finish the day in 5th place.
With two stronger finishes the last two days, we were able to move into 7th place overall. Although we would have liked to finish higher up in the field, it was a relief to have moved up from our first day’s placing. Monique was a true teammate throughout the race – towing me, carrying my pack and helping get me to the finish line every day all the while being understanding that I had no power. I hope some day I can return the support for her or another teammate.
I also want to thank Ian for all his support as well as Katie French for making the super early morning skins every day to cheer on all of Team America.