Relais Des Chamois; ski Racing with a difference

5th Jan 2012

Les Relais des Chamois is a ski race with a difference - there is uphill aswell as downhill.  Teams of 2 race against each other over 4 laps on Les Planards ski slope in Chamonix.  It's skins on to start with and the first member of the team races up the 200m to the top of the chairlift.  Then it's a quick transition before racing down through some giant-slalom gates.  Then there is a short skate back round to the 2nd transition zone where the skins go back on.  Finally it's a short skin to join the other team member for a lap together.  The 2nd member of the team then does a lap on their own and then the final lap is done together.  And this is all done at night! A lap for the winners took 9 minutes -we took slightly longer than this...

Sauze and I decided to take part (or perhaps I decided and convinced her that it would be fun).  There are not many sports that I can think of where you can have World Champions such as Ultra-Trail winner Kilian Jornet and pro skiers like Glen Plake and "average folk" like us all on the same start line.  It's an atmosphere worth soaking up - if we could have found time to catch our breath.

Sauze put in an excellent first lap and then we did the 2nd one together.  When Sauze and I run together I think she is the faster one so find myself running faster to keep up with her.  She thinks I am faster so runs faster to keep up with me.  As result we run faster than either of us would want, each thinking we are trying to keep up with the other!  A similar thing happened on our ski descent ... I was in front setting the pace and when I looked over my shoulder Sauze was always right on my heels, so I kept going faster.  I am not sure either of us was enjoying flying down an icy giant-slalom, with ruts like take off ramps and other competitors trying to overtake!

Now for my lap on my own.  It got quite lonely at times with the racers all now quite spread out.  As I was making my way up through the dark stretch in the woods I did wonder if anyone would notice if I just stopped for a few minutes...

It was great to be back with Sauze for the final lap - it's much easier to find the motivation when there is someone alongside you pushing you to keep going.  We didn't know there was another female team so close behind us till they caught us up in the final transition zone.  Thankfully we got our skins on quickly and skinned up to the finished just ahead of them to be the 3rd female team.

It was an excellent event; a wonderful atmosphere, lots of people supporting, vin chaud at the finish, a hot meal afterwards and prizes given to everyone in the raffle.  All sporting events should be like this.

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