UTMB

I was looking forward to this race. It had been in my sights for a few years now, and the course seemed like my sort of course. I had been fortunate to have my name pulled out of the hat at the start of the year. In fact, although the idea of moving out was on our minds, we had no actual design to, so to actually be living out here with Mont Blanc on my doorstep is still a little surreal for me. I am still completely blown away by the quality and variety of the trails which are abundant. No need to even jump in a car to access other trails. The main attraction for me has got to be the infinite, shocking beauty that is ever changing with the weather, the seasons or you mood. I am sure that there are better balcony views within the valley, but mine is just perfect looking up towards the Auiguille Vert, up towards the Argentiere glacier and not forgetting directly ahead the Mont Blanc Massif with the Bosson glaciers tongue licking it’s way down towards the valley floor.

I like it here.

My year has been ok running wise. Once my body had recovered from Trans-Europe I slowly began to wind things up and regain my strength and fitness. I raced  few times over here in some amazing alpine races and quickly learnt that my race style needed to be changed. I was going way too fast for the terrain, and I also need to accept that walking was not a bad thing. I even started to use Leki sticks! The Europeans do things quite different to us in the UK, which some of us find rather amusing, but I quickly learnt that Alpine ultras are pretty much a different discipline to what we race in the UK. I now accept that stick are not the work of the devil and that walking on an uphill does not need to be a punishable offence. In fact they can both make you faster. I walk a lot more now, and sticks are not used all the time, but I will often grab them for a run.

As the year progressed, my fitness grew and with it my confidence. My last 100 miler was the Hardmoors last year, so mentally I didn’t feel as good as last year though. Always on my mind was my ankle. Last years injury had been pretty good and the terrain I run on now is mostly ankle snapping stuff but as time went on with no incident my confidence in it grew. I realised that an easy way to be faster was to improve my descending. If I could have a smoother style, it would not only be quicker, but would save my quads and knees from taking such a hammering! Every downhill I hit on my day to day runs I pushed to my limit. Soon I was purposefully selecting routes with the longest and most technical downhills. All was good until I went out one wet, rainy day around three weeks before the race. The perfect opportunity to test out my skills! Needless to say, my skills were a little lacking and I went down quite heavily on my weak ankle. Once home the ankle begun to balloon. Damn it!

I believe in active recovery, so I ran when I believed it was ok. No ice. I just let it do as it needs to do. After a while, the swelling gets annoying so I elevate a little but generally I don’t really do much. My runs were more to keep me mentally in the game than for fitness and of course my descending was reduced to overly cautious stepping, often with my sticks as props.

The swelling had mostly gone by the time race week arrived. I was working on the Tuesday and Wednesday so was busy driving to Geneva airport and back many times which actually wasn’t too bad as I didn’t have too much time to get all excited. Chamonix is an incredible place with many personalities and this week it was the Ultra Trail running capital of the world! We are a funny looking bunch aren’t we! People walking around days before the event with compression socks and sandals on, some people walking around with their race numbers on and around 70% of people looking like they are sponsored by Salomon! A lot of the Brits stick out well with their OMM bags and Inov8 shoes on and often just having a knack of somehow looking British. The French often know I am British before I even open my mouth and I can’t work out exactly why?

I planned on a sub 30 hour time but knew that this was quite ambitious before I had hurt my ankle, but was convinced that I was capable so left it at that. I am very competitive but never seem too disappointed if things don’t go to plan. I would have to be very careful on the downs, simple as that!

We’ve had a great summer in the Alps. On the odd occasions where we have had rain it has generally been a welcome break from the heat. At the start of the week there had been rain. Surely the UTMB wasn’t going to have bad luck again and get hit by some sustained bad weather and get shortened or cancelled? It seemed to be a common occurrence now. Thankfully the rain held off and the weather was good.

I queued up on the Thursday to register outside the sports hall. I was out in the baking sun occasionally shuffling forward for over an hour and a half. I knew I had everything on the obligatory list but still worried a little that things wouldn’t be right. Finally my time came and and elderly French lady was going to check my kit. She asked to see my Jacket, pantalons and phone. Nothing else. Easy! I collected my number and was ready!

Things weren’t going to be happening now till the start at 1630 the next day. Time to relax. That evening Drew and Claire came to Argentiere and we went out for dinner and a glass of wine. I didn’t sleep to great that night as I was getting excited, but this doesn’t really bother me. I had two decisions to make. Should I take my Leki sticks? and what shoes? As it was looking to be dry I sided with my now trusty Salomon Mantras, but I just wasn’t sure about poles? I currently only use them on the ups so generally carry them a lot. I knew they would be advantageous on the ups but would this make it worth taking them? I decided to leave them at home when we left for Chamonix on the Friday.

The start was manic to say the least. True Euro style! Claire and I kept away from the madness of trying to get a decent start place by sitting on the grass next to the church. I was not interested in fighting my way to a place near the front and getting caught up in the madness of the start sprint. This was a race where the patient get rewarded and the impatient get punished. With 10 minutes to go, Claire and I got into the back end of the mass of runners bouncing around nervously half in time with the music that was really being blasted out loud. They sure know how to drum up an atmosphere of excitement! I was sweating a lot already as I stood on the line (well about 100m away from the line!). I was glad that we would be running into the night in a few hours.

The music changed to some emotional, stirring tune which I didn’t recognise. This was exciting and emotional. The countdown began and we all joined in… Trois, deux, une…. and that was it. I crossed the line shuffling about 90 seconds later. The crowds lining the streets were amazing as we slowly shuffled through the narrow streets. It took just over ten minutes before I was running fairly freely down the road. No bother. Once on to the footpath that would take us to the first cp at Les Houches, the clogging started up again as we hit small inclines and the path narrowed in places. This was fine. I knew that once past Les Houches things went straight up on a fairly wide trail so this would string things out more.

In Les Houches the crowds were thick and noisy. There was a stage set up near the drinks tables with a band playing. I had a couple drinks before continuing. We were immediately guided up the hill. I settled into a strong walk and continued overtaking lots of people. I had no idea where I was in the field as it was so large. I liked this as it reduced  the pressure. I was here to do my best. Other peoples performances should have no affect on my effort. I was happy to be on a decent climb now. All the initial flat and fast madness had mostly calmed down as everyone attempted to find their magic pace that would see them through to the end. I felt reasonably happy that my pacing was ok in the mountains now. My short time in the Alps had taught me just how quick you could destroy yourself if you over did things. These were some big hills and this was a long race. My aim was to be fairly consistent throughout.

I soon caught up with my Recce buddy, Paul. We worked our way up the trail together chatting. It was good to see Paul and it was such a contrast to six weeks previous when we made our way up here almost completely alone. I soon started to pull away from Paul, so I wished him luck before pushing on. I was still sweating an awful lot so was regularly sipping water. I knew the first real descent was coming up which would take us into St. Gervais

The descent starts off on trail before diving off to the left down a steep grassy section which was thankfully dry, but just a bit to steep to let gravity take the reins. Each footfall is heavy as I controlled my speed. This is of course tough on the quads and knees but better to be doing it at this early stage than at the end! The descent eases after a while and soon my sole focus is on my footing as I am so paranoid of my weak ankle. I am fully aware that all it would take is one little twist and it would be game over.

As I got closer to the town, I could hear the crowds and Tannoy system echoing up to me. Once on the tarmac again, I knew I was close. I turned a corner and suddenly I was surrounded by hundreds of cheering people. The atmosphere was electric! I was quick at the cp taking plenty of sausage and cheese with me. Although I was quickly in and out of the cp I tried to take in as much of the positive party atmosphere as I could as I knew that this would fuel me for a short while.

My speed in cp’s is generally quite quick except in the latter stages of a big race. This used to annoy me. I saw it as wasting time, but now I am more relaxed about it and feel that if I have been running for 15-20 hours and I spend an extra 5 minutes at a cp, as long as I am using that 5 minutes by eating, drinking etc, then it won’t really hurt my performance. In fact it could well be helping me to push that little harder when I leave. I have been too quick at cp’s before and have not looked after myself properly which I have paid for later. I don’t use a crew to look after me so I need a little more time.

The route now wound it’s way up the valley following the river. This was easy running and to make things even easier for me, the sun had now disappeared out of sight behind the mountains that dominated your field of view no matter where you looked. My shorts and top began to dry out a bit as I was sweating less and I began to feel livelier. The heat makes me feel lazy. I was looking forward to the darkness. I hadn’t done a full night for over a year now and I always find it an exhilarating experience. I will have to be extra vigilant with my ankle though. I was very happy to have done the recce so that I knew exactly what was coming. What I hadn’t experienced during the recce was the thousands of people out cheering us on which was almost overwhelming. I would keep grinning as the children would hold their hands out in front of you hoping for a high five. I would usually play along enjoying the happiness this simple act would bring them, but sometimes I was in my own little world and just focused on the race and being in the moment.

A small wooded climb popped me out into the cp at Les Contamines. The spectators are all behind a barrier and just stare and cheer as you wander up and down the tables of food and drink looking for something that looks appealing. I felt like I was in a cage and people were waiting for me to perform. I found it all surreal but I was so focused on the race I was not bothered by it, in fact it was still a real boost. This was certainly not a race where I will feel all alone at any point!

I quickly exited the cp with both hands full of more sausage and cheese. I walked and ate for about 5 minutes, high fiving as I went. As I left the town I again picked up the path that followed the river. I knew that soon the trail would get a little wilder and would start heading upwards for a long way. I guessed that by this time it would be pitch black and my Petzl would be on. I entered a more heavily wooded area and the tree cover suddenly made it a lot darker. Not quite enough to warrant the headtorch though.

I passed small groups of people cheering me on in the ever darkening woodland. Soon it was time to mount the headtorch and so begun the night! I swung around to the left and there where a lot of people around at what I knew was the proper start of the ascent of the Bonhomme. The atmosphere at the base of this great climb was amazing with the trail lined with small (ish) fires blazing away lighting up everyones faces that were cheering like I was in the lead. The climb calls for you to start walking immediately and I was blinded as photographers that were peppered up the climb were snapping away. I then had someone beside me say my name. It was Annie Dawson from Alpine Oasis. It was good to see a familiar face. I also knew that Phil would be ahead with his camera. Sure enough I got a face full of flash and heard Phil saying I was going well and looking good. I thanked them and continued my march up the hill.

I was at the point where I was still sweating but it had cooled down a fair amount and my damp arms and hands were feeling the cold so I dug out my arm warmers and thin woolly gloves and soon felt just right though I was conscious that I was heading up for a long time now and the temperature would be dropping with each metre gained. It is very easy when running through the night using a headtorch and being extra vigilant about your footing to never stop and look up at the sky. I don’t always remember to but I did a number of times over this night as the level of light pollution was low and the number of stars visible to the naked eye was spell binding. This beauty can truly motivate and inspire when things are tough and energy is lacking. The energy is all around us, we just need to learn to see it and utilise it.

Roughly mid way up the climb is a cp. This cp could be heard from a fair distance. When I arrived I learnt that the racket was from three girls who were manning the piles of food on the tables. They were hitting the table with spoons and ladles roughly in rhythm and chanting the name of the runner that was stood in front of them. It made me laugh and kept me smiling as I marched into the darkness. I was stopped and asked to put my tights on. I said I would and continued. I would only put them on if I felt the need and I certainly didn’t at that point.

I had found some sort of rhythm and was just patiently walking up the hill trying to keep my pacing at a sensible and sustainable level, but was starting to think that maybe I should have bought my Leki poles after all. Never mind, there was no point in stressing about such things. I knew I didn’t need them, but I had felt a distinct advantage on the uphills.

I was soon on the Col and without stopping I continued left along a flatter though more technical section. I was really enjoying this and knew that in around 20 mins the long descent to les Chapieux.  I couldn’t believe how much snow there had been 6 weeks previously on the recce and that there was none now. It was difficult to run on and you could not see a trail, but now the trails were visible and more runnable and fun.

Once over the top, it was downwards for quite a while. Firstly the going is very runnable, but then it steepens and the footing becomes a lot more technical. This is the section where Paul slipped and cut his hand open on our recce. Needless to say with my ankle, darkness and the fact that there was still a long way to go, my pace was very restrained and cautious. I was very happy to notice that although some runners went hurtling past me, I was passing possibly more runners who were descending slower that me! This of course added a little to my confidence leaving me to continue descending at the same restrained speed and not feel like I was losing tonnes of time over everyone else.

I was starting to feel a bit of the strain now but my experience told me to not worry as I had been going for a few hours now so this is expected. Soon I saw lights that was the bottom and more importantly the next cp. As I got closer still I started to hear cow bells and cheering. Once I was over the chip mat and into the tented area I scanned the tables for something that appealed but it was all starting to get very samey. My stomach was feeling a little uneasy but I had to get something down, so I started with a bowl of soup. As I was pouring it down I saw Tobias Mews and Danny Kendall. I said hi, and we had a little chat, and then I continued alone. I felt as though I would see them again. I had done my usual and walked out with a handful of food that I would eat as I walked. I knew that there was a fairly long section of road now that slowly climbed so it was an ideal point to walk and eat without losing any real time.

As I made my way up the road, breaking into a jog occasionally as the gradient eased, I soon heard some English voices behind, quickly gaining on me. Soon Tobias and Danny caught me and we stayed together chatting for a while. The company was good and really broke up the monotony of the road. Once we were done with the road the climb up towards the col de la seigne started in earnest. The three of us were then joined by Terry Conway. We all knew each other but I had never met Terry so it was good to finally say hello. After a little while Terry and I had a gap over Tobias and Danny so we continued.

We were going well together for a short time before I realised that Terry was stronger than me. I said he should go on but he wanted to stay with me for the chat. Once over the top in a bit of a state, I timidly begun the downhill. I couldn’t afford to get caught up going faster than I intended with my ankle. I wasn’t interested in taking risks. Terry pulled away slowly into the darkness. Just near the bottom there was a very technical and really awkward section. I came down here at little over walking speed. Not my finest moment, but I reached the cp at the bottom safely. There was Terry stocking up. He said he would wait again, so I hurried and soon we were off again. There is a flat section for a little while before the next climb, Arete du Mont-Favre. Once on the climb I realised that I was not going well. I needed to be careful and not blow. Terry was powering away so I eased off and let him go. I wouldn’t last long at his pace. Back to doing my pace.

I struggled up this climb. I was starting to remember what a struggle these things are. Mentally things are hard when you feel as exhausted as I did then when you are not even half way yet, but there was a little part of me that was revelling in this torturous state. It was good to be back doing what I love. I knew that I would be successful barring some incident or injury. When things are hard and energy is lacking it is time to ease back a little and stock up on food and water. Once I had reached the next cp just before the long drop into Courmayeur I stopped and forced myself to hang around a minute or two longer to eat more. They had some fruit salad here which went down really well. Also some really nice creamy yogurts which went down equally well. The Italien crew thought I was odd for not mixing my yogurt in with my fruit salad. They also had sliced lemons with the sliced oranges. I was feeling tired and my mouth didn’t exactly feel fresh so I tried one. I probably screwed my face up but the refreshing sensation was amazing. I hope they had them at the next cp!

After  a slightly longer cp stop, I was off on what I knew was a long and fairly steep descent with lots of hair pins. It was still dark so I still had my headtorch on. The trail was very dry. So dry in fact that a super fine flour-like dust was providing a slippery but cushioned ride down. I have never run in anything like it, being around a cm deep in places. My shoes, socks and legs were damp with sweat and were soon covered in a layer of dust that stuck to the moisture. I enjoyed the dusty trail even if it was quite sketchy in places as my feet slid around in it. Variety really breaks these things up. I was aware of my suffering and the joy of running in a new terrain was stimulating my mind to steer it away from the pain.

I was soon enough running through a quiet and sleepy Courmayeur. No masive crowds here at this late/early hour. It would soon be getting light which would be a mental relief. This was a major cp where people could access their drop bags if they had one and as I ran in to the sports hall I saw them all hanging in an amazingly organised fashion. I ran right past them to find the food as I had decided on no drop bags. I got a plate of pasta and sat at a table to shovel it down. It was good to get of my feet for a little while. As I speed ate, I looked around at the other runners seeing if there was anyone I recognised. No-one. I also checked peoples numbers to see which nation they were to see if there any Brits around but again drew a blank. I hurried my food down and topped up my bladder and finished off with a refreshing slice of lemon before running out the door. Once through town I knew there was a vicious climb facing me so went nice and steadily. I was still feeling pretty worn out so this could be a messy climb for me.

Sure enough, the climb was quite a death march but I knew that patience would win. Just stay calm and some strength would come back. During the climb my headtorch came off as the new day was coming. I had a few runners pass me up here which never feels great, but I knew that I would be passing them again soon. Once I had dragged my self painfully to the top I stopped at the cp there and stocked up again. There was a bit of a morning chill here and I sat near the soup urn to steal some of it’s warmth. I say chill, but all night I had worn just shorts, t-shirt, arm warmers and intermittently my thin gloves, so not that cold at all really. In fact I would say pretty much perfect conditions.

The next 7km section was the most beautiful of the entire course. It is a very runnable undulating single track where I managed to find plenty more energy and started to pass quite a few runners that looked in the same state I was in 30 minutes earlier. To add to the thrill of getting a second wind, the view to my left of the Mont Blanc or Monte Bianco massif from the Italian side is truly staggering for the dramatic views on offer. This coupled with the perfectly clear skies and then to just make me want to stop in my tracks, I watched the sun first hit the highest peaks and slowly creep down the steep cliffs and glaciers. I smiled a lot on this section. The greatest show on Earth!

As I approached Bonatti up a short incline, two ladies were cheering all runners in and one I instantly recognised as Lizzy Hawker who would have been racing a long way ahead of me had she not suffered an injury. I stopped very briefly here as I felt a chill once still, so I remarked to Lizzy that it was good to see her out here cheering us on and marched up the hill eating a rather foul energy bar. Seeing Lizzy had given me a little lift as she really didn’t have to be standing there for hours on this chilly morning when her non-start had been such a negative, but she had flipped it into this positive action. This was appreciated by many runners that recognised her. I have bumped into her twice in races now and both times she has been injured. I guess that is the only way I will bump into her!

There was a little more nice steady running before a drop down to the cp at Arnuva. I again was pretty quick through here drinking a luke warm bowl of soup and rushing out to get stuck into the next superb climb up to the highest point of the race, the Grand Col Ferret. It was a bit of a battle to get up but I was nowhere near as bad as when I fought the climb out of Courmayeur. The greatest show on Earth was still providing inspiration that helped drive me up to the top. Once there I again was shocked that there was no snow at all! This was completely white six weeks ago.

Ahead of me was a great deal of descending which I was looking forward to. It wasn’t too technical or steep so a decent pace could be sustained. It is always good to tick off some fast km’s far into a race like this. Really positive. Next up was the cp at La Fouly. By the time I arrived there I was beginning to feel the effects of the sun again. It wasn’t too powerful but I had been running for quite a few hours now and the strain was certainly being felt. I remembered the trails really well which helped me to mentally tick off each section. Once on the road at the bottom I knew the next cp was close.

I pulled in and headed towards the taps so that I could rinse all the salt off of my head and to freshen up. I then topped up my bladder and looked over the food which I was tired of now. There was nothing new here so I had some soup and some fruit, finished off with a slice of lemon. My stomach had eased off and although it wasn’t fantastic, I could eat most stuff now, it was just that most food was just unappealing. As usual, I looked around at the other runners and saw a chap that had just come in who was British. I didn’t recognise him but went up and said hi. His name was Ed Melbourne. He left about a minute before me but I soon caught him up. We started to chat and I noticed that we had an Aussie runner just behind. His name was Adam. There were now was three of us. We stuck together and chatted lots. They both were cool and our pacing seemed quite even so we seemed to work quite well as a team.

The climb into Champex which was the next and final major cp was a struggle now, but to be honest I was suffering quite badly at all times now. My climbing speed was incredibly slow to the point that I didn’t feel I could move any slower. The only positive thing about this was that barely anyone overtook us, in fact we probably overtook more people. As is common, at this stage in a hard race, no matter how rough you feel, others will be feeling the same and some worse.

We planned to not take too long at Champex, but I also didn’t want to rush things too quickly and not stock up enough. There were lots of people here creating a great atmosphere. I grabbed a good plate of food and sat down to eat it with Ed. Adam had his parents and girlfriend following him around supporting him so he was stood with them. Ed started complaining of feeling dizzy and wanted to get going. I said he should just lay down and let it pass. It would only take a few minutes. He laid back on the bench and closed his eyes. I carried on eating as fast as I could. I then made use of the Portaloos and felt much better for it. We all decided to push on. Next up was Bovine which is an impressive climb which I really enjoyed on the recce. Would I still have love for it now?

Bovine was as predicted, a tough grind, but I found something that could loosely be described as rhythm and kept it there. Once over the top we had the fun downhill to Col de la Forclaz commenced. I remembered this as a fast and fun descent but it certainly wasn’t quite as fast as I would have liked due to my very sore feet and generally battered body. It was definitely fun though and I was starting to feel like the end was almost in reach. I was starting to get excited about it. I had set a target of 30 hours and at the moment that looked possible but it would mean the rest would have to be pretty swift. I was doubtful to be honest, but not bothered. I was living in the moment and at that moment things were good, in fact I was really happy to be out there no matter what the pain threw at me.

Once we passed the col, the descent steepens a little as we dropped down rather painfully to Trient. Thankfully the descent was not too technical for my fragile body so the pace was ok. Once in Trient we again planned to be rapid in the cp. I ate some dried fruit and lots of orange slices, before we rushed out. I took a quick diversion to one of the spring water troughs and dunked my head in it to hopefully revitalise me a little before the next stiff climb. The coldness of the water took my breath away and felt amazing. I again washed away the thick layer of salt and grime my face had collected. I pushed the fantasy of just climbing in and just laying there. No time for such luxuries.

The next climb was very no worse than previously, but still very hard and slow. Adam and I were slowly dropping Ed now which was a shame as we had been a good team for a while, but the end was getting closer and closer and slowing down was not feasible. We would only stay together if we felt quite evenly matched. I was still pretty much convinced that the sub 30 hours was just not on the cards anymore, but wasn’t willing to ease off. I suppose a small part of me still believed. Once over the top, I knew that there was only one monster climb left and this one may well be on of the worst! I wasn’t concerned though as we were as good as done then.

The descent was long and if there was no pain it would have been lots of fun. Vallorcine was waiting for Adam and I and we were keen to get there. We kept looking back hopefully to see if Ed had pulled out of his dark spot and was catching us up but unfortunately we would not see him again. I think I knew this really but it would have been so good to all finish together. Once into Vallorcine we checked the time and did some estimates and realised that the sub 30 was on. I was really excited about this and I now was going over the final section in my mind as I now knew it pretty well being close to home. There is a climb out of Vallorcine to the col that is very steady and easy before it kicks up for the real climb. We used this steady section to regain some energy before the last climb. Just before the top, Lou ran up to us and wished us well. We asked what sort of position we were in guessing that we maybe in the top 200. Apparently we were just in the top 100! What a surprise and a boost! I couldn’t believe it. I said good bye and that next time I would see here was in Chamonix.

The climb was as brutal as I suspected it would be but we silently pushed and tapped out a rhythm that progressed us over the top. The trail from the top of the steep section across to La Tete aux Vents is technical and therefore was very painful on my feet. As we neared La Tete aux Vents we noticed that there were a few photographers there that seemed interested in something. We then noticed about four or five chamois or something similar that was very close to the path and unusually didn’t seem phased by the human activity. I would like to have stopped to watch these beautiful creatures but time didn’t allow such luxuries and even as Adam and I ran past, they barely stirred before lowering their heads again to continue grazing.

By now the sun had gone and I was thinking that the torches would have to be coming out towards the end once we were in the darkness of the trees again. I was very famiiar with this trail but Adam wasn’t and I knew what was probably going through his head as we turned every corner and looked for something that might signify the end. We just wanted to be done now. I checked my watch and realised that we would break 30 hours which would be just incredible. Once we had passed La Flegere we begun the final descent that would take us into Chamonix and the end. Our headtorches were now on, but Adams was set brighter than mine plus he was descending on the technical trail much stronger than me so I waved him through knowing that he would go quicker. This, I knew would mean me speeding up and hanging on and for the first time during the race throwing caution to the wind and praying my ankle would hold up. The descent is fairly long, quite technical and after running 100 miles, simply brutal, but by this stage who cares! My good ankle flipped a bit which stung but was ok. A few minutes later my bad ankle twisted over and hurt some more. I didn’t say anything to Adam as I wanted him to keep pushing. He was running really strongly.

Finally the trail widens and then you are spat out onto the tarmac of Chamonix. We were now running quite fast, as we were guided around a rather scenic route towards the finish in the centre. I initially wasn’t too happy about this scenic route, but then realised that it just meant we would be passing lots more cheering spectators which as we got closer to the end just grew and grew. It was simply amazing and very emotional. The pain slid away and as Adam and I turned the final corner, the 10pm finish guaranteed a very busy and enthusiastic, beer fuelled finish. It will probably rate as my most amazing finish yet. I was met at the finish by Lou and  quite a few friends who really made the moment that much more special. We had crossed the line in 29:25 claiming places 97 for Adam and 98 for me. I needed some proper food now, so we headed down to the Midnight Express burger bar and got the biggest one they sell and made little work of seemingly inhaling it.

Recovery has been short with me running happily for an hour in the mountains one week later. This is pretty much the end of the season for me, but I just feel as though I am beginning to regain some of the strength after Trans-Europe last year.

So, what do I make of the UTMB? I really like a low key race with no razzmatazz and to be honest UTMB is exactly the opposite of that. I knew I would probably enjoy it just because the course is so stunning and tough but would the razzmatazz put a damper on the whole experience for me? Because I have experienced a few races over here now over the year and seen just how different the Euro racing culture is to ours, I have to say that I loved it. I would still prefer a low key event but that is just not how they seem to do things out here. The whole community gets involved with a view on each race being a positive tourist attraction so the facilities are amazing. I did a ridiculous vertical km yesterday at Montriond that was 20 Euros to enter and once you were finished you had a good quality three course meal in an incredible events venue included in the deal. Quite incredible for a race that took less than an hour to run. I do miss the low key events a little though. Maybe I will have to pop back to the UK to race one day.

Anyway, this is getting a bit close to 7000 words now so I think the end is due!

Happy running, people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “UTMB

  1. Hi Neil, just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your UTMB race report. Adam, that you did the last few stages with, is my son and I know how valuable your course knowledge and companionship during the race was to Adam. So thanks again for a great read and keep enjoying your running adventures. Cheers…. Judy Stokes.

  2. Neil, just a note to say well done in UTMB top 100 is Amazing! Just read the report really great and look forward to the next years race reports best regards Mike Cooke.

  3. Hi Neil

    One of my athletes that I coach (Yes, officially doing coaching now http://ultrastu.blogspot.co.uk/p/on-line-coaching-personalised.html ) recommended that I read your UTMB race report, and he was correct an excellent report. I particularly liked the following quotes:

    “This beauty can truly motivate and inspire when things are tough and energy is lacking. The energy is all around us, we just need to learn to see it and utilise it.”

    “The greatest show on Earth was still providing inspiration that helped drive me up to the top. ”

    “I had set a target of 30 hours and at the moment that looked possible but it would mean the rest would have to be pretty swift. I was doubtful to be honest, but not bothered. I was living in the moment and at that moment things were good, in fact I was really happy to be out there no matter what the pain threw at me.”

    So if you see any of these on my UltraStu blog as I sign off, don’t be surprised!

    I didn’t realise that you had moved to France. Great stuff. I love it when people simply follow their passion, and just go for it! Living in the alps seems to have been beneficial for your running. A finish time of 29:25 for UTMB is very impressive. From reading your race report the fact that you focused on the enjoyment whilst you were experiencing the amazing journey around the mountain I think it the key to your excellent finishing time.

    All the best with your running and with living in France.

    Stuart

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