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The second major marathon of my recent trip to Europe was the famous Tranjurasienne, a 76 or 54 km point to point skating race in the Jura region of France which normally attracts about 7000 participants. It also has the distinction of having served as a World Cup race in 2000. This year it was a FIS Marathon Cup race and the elite women did the 54km version. We had a separate start time which was nice because it meant that we didn't have to battle through a huge number of men and could actually see where the other women competitors were!
We started the race about 20km
along the trail from where the men started and about 45 minutes after
their start. This meant that the fastest men were catching us
throughout our race. I started on the front line next to big name
loppet skiers such as Anna Santer and Lara Peyrot of Italy as well as
Sofia Lind of Sweden. They started hard and I stayed with them
for the first few kilometers before dropping back with another group
of women. Before long, we were pretty spread out and I skied with
one other woman through the first fairly flat section until the “big
hill”. This came at about 13km. At this point the men
were catching me and I climbed this hill with the chase pack of women.
There were spectators lined all the way up the steepest section about
three deep, all with cow bells and lots of cheering. It was definitely
a motivating atmosphere! Once this hill ended I found myself alone
for a while (with a group of men passing me every so often), struggling
with slighty slow skis in the fresh cold snow. Finally we came
down a long hill with more switchbacks than I can remember that brought
us out of the forest back to the flatter terrain.
The last 20 km went through
many small towns with hundreds of enthusiastic spectators. In one of
the towns somebody had actually rigged up a gigantic bell above the
trails which was made to ring via a giant rope that was continuously
pulled. Each town had a loudspeaker set up with a commentator
letting everyone know each racer's name and country (a big job given
the 7000 participants!). It's hard not to feel pretty good in
that situation and it was certainly the most memorable aspect of the
By the 60km mark I was certainly
starting to feel some fatigue. On the other hand, thanks to alot of
rest and good nutrition including regular sips of E LOAD I was very
slowly catching the woman in front of me. Finally by 3 km to go
I caught her and managed to leave her behind me on the downhill that
followed. I stayed ahead for about 1 km and then she passed me
back! I caught her again at 1 km to go, then she caught me with
200m to go and beat me to the line! At least we kept each other
moving fast right to the end! I finished in 19th place
among the women. It was a good skating race for me and I was happy
with that after having struggled a bit since having knee surgery last
year. In contrast to other skate marathons I have done in the
past I didn't drastically run out of energy with 5 km to go, which again
I think had something to do with a good nutrition strategy including
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