After the celebrations had ended and the muscles had recovered, MRC crew member Valentin Vuarnet tooks us through a blow by blow account of the team’s experience at the inaugural Run Mate Lac Léman – an epic ultra relay on the stunning shores of Lake Geneva.
Valentin, Congrats on an epic achievement at Run Mate. Let’s start from the very beginning. How were you feeling before the race?
We have a weekly club run in Paris but we also integrate targeted training and preparations for races and we worked on a program for the Run Mate relay.
We were mentally ready because we knew the region well, its cities, its villages, its landscapes. We arrived in Thonon-Les-Bains the day before the race and our time was scheduled as follows: eat, stretch, meditate, sleep, repeat.
What we actually didn’t expect was how much off-road and trail running the race entailed. We knew the track around the entire lake because we had cycled it this summer as part of the preparation. But the organizers decided to add several relay legs that went ‘off-the-grid’ and into the woods or through vineyards. That made us a little nervous right before the start.
Did you have a strategy for the race?
We made sure to spread out all kilometers evenly, taking into account elevation and other challenges. Our sole objective was to finish the race altogether, with smiles on our faces and our heads filled with unforgettable memories. We each ran 4 to 5 legs throughout the race; that’s roughly equivalent to 37 kilometers each. We ran individually every two hours which was very challenging over 20 hours.
How did you decide who runs when?
We took that decision a few weeks prior to the race according to individual fitness levels and also mental strength. We knew what to expect in terms distances and elevation on all 29 legs. And we actually finalized that plan according to who’s family and friends were going to be present to support us. We were all born and raised in the region and our families are still there. It came down to who’s family was going to cheer us on at 7 p.m., at 10 p.m., at 12 a.m. and even at 2 a.m. according to the town we were running through. Everything actually fell into place smoothly as we ran.
When did it start to get tough?
Without a doubt, when the sun went down. It became cold and fatigue gradually started to take over. It gets really tough on your third relay segment when it’s the middle of the night, everyone is sleeping in the van, there’s barely any noise around and it’s pitch black.
But then you start running, the crisp air hits your face and your whole soul slowly wakes up. That’s when you stop overthinking and you just go.
What were the biggest challenges along the way?
There were quite a few actually, and we had to handle them simultaneously. There are 29 sections of around 8 or 9 km (around 5 miles) so we had to run four to five times each. Once you’d finished a leg, you had to mentally prep to go back out again two hours later.
You had to change clothes every time. You had to stretch in between and warm up again. You had nutrition stops which were obviously vital, but you also couldn’t overeat because you wouldn’t digest your food in time for your next relay. But we experienced all of these challenges all together, throughout the 215k, and we were there for one another when it got really hard.