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A Hard Day's Running for the Fab Four

This year, four of our colleagues ran the OCC as part of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc series. The race is 56km (35 miles) long and takes in 3,500m (11,500 feet) of ascent.

Crossing the finish line in Chamonix were Maud, a product development manager; Stéphane and Sophie, both sales reps, and designer Flavien. Flavien is used to these kind of events as he's run in the UTMB before (the OCC in 2015 and the CCC in 2017), but for the others it was a first.



We found them limping and slumped on sofas shortly after the race. They told us all about it over coffee.



A Hard Day's Running for  the Fab Four

 

Hello, you four. We want to hear all about your big day. How did it go?


Stéphane : Benjamin (Julbo's marketing director) took us to Orsières where the race started. We had our very own chauffeur!
Sophie : The atmosphere at the start point was electric; it was like being at happy hour. People had put tables out and made coffee. Even the village schoolchildren were lined up to greet us!


You all seemed to set off pretty quicky.


Flavien : I set off quickly to avoid the bottlenecks on the first ascents.
Stéphane : It did seem quick to me, but there was a huge group of us running so we weren't going all that fast. I stupidly drank too much before the start. I must have stopped at least 10 times in 15km to wee. (laughter)
Maud : Stéphane, Sophie and I stayed together up until Champex. Flavien was already way out in front!

 


What happened after Champex? Did you manage to stay together?


Maud : Stéphane and I were pretty much together, we kept overtaking each other then catching each other up. We waited for each other at the checkpoints.
Flavien : I went at my own pace. I had a pretty straightforward race, apart from a case of hypoglycaemia on the Flégère hill. I felt terrible. I made myself stop and have something to eat …
Sophie : I'm happy with how I paced myself. I didn't want to finish the race on my knees.
Stéphane : Ah… talking of knees,… mine started hurting at Champex. I ran down some of the hills but soon realised I was a bit shaky on those parts. I tried to keep some energy back for the ascents.

 

At about the same time the rest of the team were busy on the Julbo stand in the exhibitors' village.


How did the weather affect your energy levels and your morale?


Flavien : Ah well… we were soaked before we even set off, so…
Sophie : I don't mind being wet. But the wind, that was a different story.
Maud : I was so focused on my goal that … the conditions didn't make much of a difference to me.

 

Flavien's finish (we'll do the champagne better next time, we promise…)

 


Talking of being focused, what was going through your head during the race?


Stéphane : It's an opportunity for self-reflection. You think about yourself quite a bit. I also spent quite a lot of time trying to listen to my knee which was sending me signals.
Maud : I was muttering to myself most of the time « For the past year I've been going on about this race to everyone – family, friends and colleagues.… » … So I was really focused on keeping moving. I wasn't on autopilot exactly, but I was doing little sums in my head to work stuff out. I wasn't really able to relax and make the most of being there, which is a bit of a shame.
Sophie : Same here, I was concentrating on the race; pacing myself and being able to reach the finish line… Although I did allow myself to have some calmer moments, especially to look at mushrooms on the side of the path. I love mushrooms! (they all laugh)
Flavien : You see, you've got one poet and three athletes here! At times I cursed myself and I wondered what on earth I was doing there.


Did anybody consider giving up?


All together : No way!
Stéphane : You know, when I thought about how enthusiastic our colleagues at Julbo had been, and everything they'd done for us and this race, it wouldn't have been right to give up. I'd have felt awful doing that.
Maud : That's very true. We've been talking about doing the OCC for so long!
Sophie : Also there are so many people cheering you on all along the race. And the volunteers at the refreshment stands are so nice. Honestly, in Vallorcine there was one holding my poles, another filling up my flasks and a third one bringing me food. I've never been so well looked after.
Flavien : In Giète we had to run through a hut. I don't know what happened but somehow I managed to hit my head on a beam.… It gave me a real shock. I had to wait a while before setting off again. Otherwise, no, I knew what to expect from this race and I knew what I was capable of.

 

While they were all struggling on in the rain, the rest of the Julbo team were getting ready for the "Thank God I'm Not Racing" party.


So how was the end of the race?


Flavien : I had planned to do it in eight hours. I did it in eight hours 22 minutes, which is a huge win for me. I'm so happy with that. Just to give you an idea, two years ago it took me another two hours and 40 minutes to complete the same race… ! I finished at 4pm. There were loads of people in the street to welcome us. It was incredible. My colleagues and boss gave me champagne… !
Maud : the last descent from Flégère felt really long. It was starting to get dark. There were only eight kilometres left but it felt like a lot longer at that point… ! But the route was really gorgeous. I arrived in Chamonix with Stéphane. His knee was really hurting him but we wanted to finish together.
Stéphane : The finish was really emotional. … All our colleagues were waiting for us and our boss was there to run the last few metres with us… We were allowed champagne and everything. I cried. It was beautiful. All these people who were just really happy for us.

 

Maud and Stéphane's finish (note the big improvement on the champagne!)

 

 


As your colleagues we were all delighted for you. Do you think other sports trigger such deep emotions?


Stéphane : I think we can all identify easily with trail… running. It's easy to picture the distance and it's something everyone can imagine doing, because we've all put on a pair of running shoes at one point or other. … So I think people realise what it means. If you climb a mountain with just a couple of people, … then go back down and say « "I climbed that" » people can't relate to it.
Sophie : I think it's easier to experience sports activities together when the « rules » are straightforward.


Yes, indeed – we can relate to what you've done and that makes us all very proud. Again, well done on behalf of all the team. Will you be doing it again next year?


Stéphane (dozing off): Hmmm…
Maud : Nope, I've ticked that one off now. Time to move on to something else.
Sophie : Let me recover first, then I'll think about it.
Flavien : Yes, but not the OCC…. Maybe the TDS? Who knows?

 

 

The team then celebrated together at the "Thank God I'm Not Racing" party, because here at Julbo we're just as passionate about partying as we are about sport!


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