The UTMB running festival is almost upon us. For those running TDS, here are some last minute tips from the one and only Majell Backhausen, who monstered a sixth position in 16:05 at last year's race. Added to his 22nd at UTMB 2015, this guy knows how to run Chamonix!
TDS really is a different beast, but a beast which can be tamed. Don't let it intimidate you, be friends with it and work the course to your advantage.
This course has some steep continuous, seemingly endless climbs but also long sustained descents and really good runnable sections. Yes, runnable! The trick is to be disciplined and work each section correctly.
For the climbs, be efficient, find your rhythm and work through them consistently, step by step. Make sure you hydrate and eat and simply don't rush them, just hike through them with purpose. Poles are a good asset if it's something you use.
The descents are long and they need to be taken conservatively. Don't get sucked in early and run full pelt down them. They have the tendency to lure you in and make you run effortlessly down them for the first 1km. Be resistant to this and save your legs. I say this because the back end of the race requires you to have legs for running, shuffling and generally just moving forward.
For the runnable sections, a lot of time can be lost and gained on the large amount of runnable flat terrain on this course. It's not too obvious from the course profile but they are on this course and they need to be worked to your advantage.
It's an early start and chances are you are done in the dark so carry a light head torch for most of it, and change this out for a better one at either Bourg Saint Maurice, Cormet de Rosalind or Les Contamines, depending on your timings.
On a hot day you are exposed to the sun and heat in a big way! Hat and sunglasses are highly recommended. There are a lot of streams, fountains on the way to use, SO USE ALL OF THEM!!
On the contrary, if the weather is going to be rainy and wind, you will be exposed to that too, so be prepared for it and don't skimp on heavier kit, if this will be the case.
It has really remote sections and feels a lot 'wilder' then UTMB and that element is pretty cool. It's an easy race to break down in terms of aid stations, specific climbs and descents and the aid stations provided. There's a good spread of food.
As for crew, I had a two seperate people helping me out, but if someone was to drive to each location, that is a decent mission for the crew, but doable. As mentioned, you need legs at the finish, with 8km flat along the river to finish, so it's an opportunity to gain positions and finish strong. Keep that in mind when you think you may be bombing downhills.
I think this race comes down to it comes down moving smoothly, relaxed, efficiently and consistently in between the major uphill hikes and downhills - and not wrecking your legs on the downhill! I got told a lot before that it is really 'technical' but honestly it's not that much worst than UTMB.
There are a few rocky steep sections, but they are relatively short. From Passeur de Pralognan to La Gittaz, there are some technical sections to take easy and be relaxed when traversing them. And from Col de Tricol to Bellevue there are a few technical sections too. Good chance this will be dark too.
EAT, DRINK, MOVE EFFICIENTLY AND BE MINDFUL OF KM 110 WHEN YOU ARE RUNNING KM 10. FAR AND AWAY THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS BE POSITIVE AND ENJOY IT.
And a bonus tip from Mark Green who ran TDS in 2016 - "The main thing to remember is how quickly it changes once you're in the sun! I had numb hands for the first 40kms but the temperature rises super fast once you leave Bourg St Maurice and you leave the shadows of the mountains. My coldest reading was 12C at 19km and I topped out at 34C at 65km. Be careful with the weather."
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