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It would be tempting to write a blister by blister account, or an "I took off, I got a thermal etc." type of account about the X-Alps, but in the interests of not being as long and monotonous as the road between Sion and Martigny the length of which we walked, much of it in the pitch dark, I've kept the para bollocks / hot air, like in the comp, to a minimum .
I think I had envisaged the X-Alps to be like something out of the Sound of Music, wandering through flower covered meadows whilst Ulric thermalled to base above my head, NOT trudging over the Gross Glockner pass in driving sleet on my fortieth birthday (day 2). On the walking parts of the race I walked with Ulric, taking the car on ahead, walking back to him, walking to the car, going on ahead to find foot paths and short cuts. During the part of the race around the Dolomites, it began to sink in just how far we still had to go. I just have memories of being beyond tired, of days that would look so good then end in disappointment with Ulric radioing to say it had been little more than a top to bottom, once more hour after hour of walking along busy main roads lay ahead of us late into the night.
As for Switzerland, well that country just went on and on, to the point where the BBC documentary was renamed, "Are we still in *&^%$)& Switzerland".
We had both invisaged long flights along alpine chains. That seemed a far away dream as we trudged from Meringen along the side of Lake Brienzersee to Interlaken then on to Kandersteg clad in waterproofs, the online tracking showing Ulric to be actually walking in the lake at one point - given how sodden we were, that felt a lot nearer reality than an xc flight. To compound the soggyness, whilst trying to chivy Ulric on after spending the night in a carpark at Iseltwald I pulled the awning (made from an old windsurfing sail), off the car and inadvertently tipped gallons of rain water onto our bed and duvet - who said women could multi task.
We definitely discovered places we would never otherwise have found – like the park and ride where we set up camp on the first night, thus causing a lot of problems when irate commuters couldn’t park there the next morning. Kandersteg was one of our best discoveries, a beautiful village in a stunning valley, from there, we walked together most of the way up to the Gemmi Pass, I then had to turn back to take the car on the train under the mountains and into the Rhone valley. The problems caused by the airspace around Sion airport (infingements of which had led to three other pilots being given 36 hour time penalties), meant that once again despite so much effort walking all the way up to take off at 2314m, the flight was little more than a top to bottom.
The best bits were undoubtedly seeing Ulric arriving second at the top of the Dachstein grinning from ear to ear, arriving in Andermatt in the dead of night to a stunning firework display, Shaun Potts arriving on his trial bike to show Ulric the way up Les Houches, for a flight that ended to the second at land by time. Many thanks too to our friends the Solleys for letting me sneak a bath, (well it took two actually, to scrub off the dirt) in their hotel in St Gervais.
When the BBC put a web cam in my car, Aidan Toase chuckled "it’ll be like the series driving school." Fortunately, I only had 3 near misses, one of which was filmed in all its glory by the BBC and will no doubt be part of the documentary.
The last few days were the final push, very little sleep - two hours in a road tunnel on the south side of the Col d'Izeran pass, a short flight off the Col de Finestre put Ulric in a fantastic 8th place, beating all the alpine nations except the Swiss (and lets face it, they don't really count!), the Americans, Canadians, South Americans, Australians....
A big thanks too to all our sponsors, in particular Ozone, Elemental Developments, Flying Fever, 1066, High Five, Kenwood Radios, Inov-8, Thule, Lyon Equipment, Leki and Nivea, information about whom can be found on www.pottyplace.com/xalps. Shortly before the competition our bank manager was providing more thermal activity than the weather. Ed Ewing came up with some fund raising ideas, so a big thank you to Ed for his help and to all those who contributed, it was the best motivation anyone could have had, just knowing that so many people were watching and supporting us, thank you all so much.
Lessons I learnt from it? Never let Ulric kid me into believing that he has booked us onto a romantic holiday to celebrate my birthday ever again.