Far from here, many years ago, my high school music teacher had a tatty ponytail (although I have nothing against ponytails), a pale face (nor against pale faces, I might add) and obsessive doggedness about perfect rhythm on the recorder (but here, I draw the line…). But that was far away… and a long time ago.
In short, a far cry from what the high school pupils in Bourg Saint Maurice (Savoie) see when their music teacher, Rémi Berchet, enters the classroom.
Rémi is a solo mountaineer, who lives for his passions: skiing in winter, running in summer. Last August, Rémi was on the starting line of the magnificent TDS (Traces des Ducs de Savoie) race, which covers 119km of GR hike paths in the Mont Blanc region. This year, he completed the 7,250m positive height gain in just 15 hours, 13 minutes and 40 seconds, finishing just outside the top three!
But now that winter is here again, Rémi can rest his feet in his ski boots, before, without a doubt, climbing the last few centimetres to reach the podium of his favourite race. Roll on August 2016!
To follow, video, photos and special interviews for We – Van and Active Azur!
Post-race interview / TDS, Chamonix, August 2015.
How are you feeling?
RB: Tired, relieved and happy.
How was the race for you? Were you pleased with your performance ?
The race went very well, I planned for a time of 3h20 at best, and I came in at 3h13. So it’s a positive result! I am both pleased and disappointed because I missed out on the podium by just 13 minutes. I was in the running until kilometre 90 when I broke a pole. I was then missing a little juice to catch up with the leaders.
What was the highlight of the race ?
The start of the race with so many people in the streets of Courmayeur at 6:00 am. Refuelling in Bourg-Saint-Maurice and seeing a lot of people I know (including my family). Arrival in Chamonix, and feeling like a hero!
What are your plans tonight? What is your favourite post-race indulgence ?
I’ll relax, have fun and eat anything I want! I’m going to head to McDonalds with my brother, and drink a nice bottle of red wine. In fact, I’ll do everything I’ve been forbidden from doing over the past few weeks! I love it when the race is over!
Rémi Berchet – the lowdown on a Mountain Runner
Do you do any other sports or training ?
Yes, absolutely ! Sport is a huge part of my life. When it comes to mountain sports, I try to do a little bit of everything. Paragliding, climbing, mountain biking, road cycling, skiing… I also really like team sports like handball and rugby…
How many years have you been competing ?
My first race was the Trail des Crêtes in Bellevaux (Haute Savoie) in 2010. A bad memory, with cramps, sore muscles, aching knees… But I must have enjoyed it anyway as I’ve been running more and more ever since!
What’s your preferred race distance?
I would say I have a penchant for medium distances (50 km or more). But this year I took part in a 10 km mountain running race and I really liked it; although the effort is much more violent, it’s completely different.
Favourite training area?
The Beaufortain and Vanoise. They are endless playgrounds, and they’re located right next to my home.
What’s your weekly training mileage during season?
It is quite variable. Generally from April (because I do almost no winter training) I do about 80 to 100 km per week. Sometimes more, sometimes less! I’d always choose to run fewer kilometers but cover more vertical drop!
What inspires you to train harder?
The pleasure of being alone in the mountains! That’s my definition of happiness. I don’t really have a workout plan, so I train according to how I feel on the day, even if it means that sometimes I’ll force myself to do a session on the flat.
Favourite race you have run?
For the landscape I would definitely say the Trail de Combe Bénite (Granier-Savoie) which is right next door to me. Otherwise, the TDS (Traces des Ducs de Savoie) is also very beautiful, because the terrain is so wild. The fact is, I like getting away from civilization!
Top event on your bucket list yet to complete?
There are so many new races each year… I’d like to take part in legendary races like the UTMB, a crazy vertical drop. But I don’t want to go as a tourist – the day I find myself on the start line is the day I’m ready, both mentally and physically. I think I’m still a bit tight in the legs and a bit young for “100 miles”.
Do you use gadgets?
Besides my Polar watch, so I don’t come home too late, and my phone for photos, I don’t carry anything special.
What’s your worst habit?
Eating anything I want after a race. I know this isn’t good, but I can’t resist!
Did you have a hero growing up?
I did not really have a role model in the world of running. When I was younger, I was passionate about basketball and freeride skiing. So I inevitably grew up with posters of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson… And then it was Hugo Harrison for skiing. In trail running, there are many athletes who impress me – Kilian Jornet, François D’Haene, Xavier Thevenard… But all those amateur athletes who take twice as long as the leaders to complete a race… They are really strong mentally – I don’t think I would have the courage to spend as much time out in the mountains!
What goals can you share with us? Are there races, course records, or performance-based goals that you have set for the next couple of years?
Many I hope! I would love to take part in a mountain range crossing, or achieve a great time in a circuit around a big mountain… As long as there’s adventure, a campervan has its place!
Rémi Berchet, to Drive Your Adventure, November 20, 2015
Are you travelling at the moment?
At the moment, unfortunately not. I’m just travelling between home and work!
What form of transport do you usually take?
The bike whenever possible!
What appeals to you about a campervan adventure?
The freedom to stay wherever I want, meet the locals and discover different hidden gems. I also like the fact you can leave at the last minute and sometimes you don’t have to travel far from home to have a great adventure.
Have you ever done a trip in a converted campervan?
Yes, I owned a camper few years ago that regrettably I sold! With We-Van I’m lucky enough to be able to once more enjoy all the benefits of owning campervan!
What will be your next adventure in the van?
I dream of exploring the back roads of the west coast of Ireland, in search of breathtaking scenery and waves left behind by the summer crowds! Corsica and Montenegro are also destinations that I’d love to take the van!