Almost a week until race day – UTMB (Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc) & now that I’m tapering I have some time to sit down and reflect on the effort it takes to even get to the start line of a race like UTMB. All my blogs so far have focused on doing the race when, in fact, the bulk of the effort is in training (which usually just gets one paragraph at the start of the report) so seeing as UTMB is the last long race that I plan on doing before taking a break.
Being surrounded by other crazy runners has normalised running massive distances & I suppose I wanted to give some insight into what it has taken to get here. This is not just a 12 week program but the result of 2 years of trying to get into the race and not even being sure if I wanted to do it but FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is usually what makes me end up at the start of an ultra, as well as some curiosity as to how far I can push my body/mind.
About the Race
- The Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc is a single stage mountain ultra marathon that circumnavigates Mont Blanc in the Alps and will pass through France, Italy and Switzerland. The distance is ~171km (~103 miles) with a total elevation gain of around 10,000m.
- There are over two thousand starters for the ultra alone.
- Runners are required to carry mandatory gear for safety reasons. This includes a waterproof jacket, warm clothes, food and water, whistle, survival blanket and head lamp, spare headlamp, portable cup etc etc etc – it’s a lot of stuff!
- There are food and drink points along the route, every 10 to 15 km. In addition, four big “life bases” provide hot meals, beds and massages: Chamonix (France), Les Chapieux (France), Courmayeur (Italy) and Champex (Switzerland).
- The route more or less follows the Tour du Mont Blanc hiking path. This would normally take around 7-9 days.
How do you get into a race like UTMB:
It’s a lottery and to qualify for entry in the lottery you have to do qualifying races beforehand gaining points. In my case I ran a 100mile race & a 100k race. We were entering as a group of 9 which meant if we were successful we would all get in together, if we weren’t successful none of us would get in. So our group went into the lottery for the 2016 race but didn’t get a spot so we had to requalify (another 100mile race & a 100k race) for 2017 & in January we found out we were going to France 🙂
For anyone following me on Strava (running app) they would have seen me racking up the km’s over the last few months.
Every time I decide to do a race I start with creating a training program. The bones of this program are the same as when I first used it when I was running with Meath Running Group & training for my first marathon in 2011. The distances have definitely changed :-). I’m super lucky to have a really great group of training partners who came up with new & exciting routes for the longer runs on the weekend and Rocco who came up with all the Monday Night Trail runs. I did my Wednesday & Thursday runs with NRG and added on extra km’s before the club run. The HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is something new & is part of a plan I am following.
It feels a bit misleading that people see pictures of smiling faces mid-Saturday long runs & I wanted to show that this is not always how these runs go. Our legs hurt, there are mind games to deal with (like figuring out how you’re going to run 50k when you’re hurting & feeling like quitting at 8k), we fall, some more than others (& have the scars to prove it), I have a fear of heights and have to overcome this fear on runs where we’re running along ridges or at the side of cliffs, organising gear every Friday night is a pain in the arse, getting up at 4am!
It’s not all bad though (I’m making it sound terrible ha ha!), we get to go to places that many people would never go/see, we see amazing views, we are surrounded by people with the same passion for adventure, we get that feeling of accomplishment after finishing a run you didn’t think you would be able to do, we see amazing sunrises/sunsets/stars at night.
Here’s an overview of my training:
How I feel about the race now that it’s so close
Terrified but ready for the adventure. James won’t be there to support and there are a lot of factors, that may or may not happen, that I haven’t had to deal with before – jetlag, altitude, language barriers, eating more real food checkpoints but I’ll just have to deal with these if these arise.
I’m excited that Raki will be coming over from San Fran to crew for me & that my cousin Claudia, her husband & new baby will be coming over so that I can get some cuddles off baby Ri.
For now I’m drinking lots of hot whiskeys & taking cold and flu tablets and hoping this flu subsides by Tuesday when I have to hop on the plane!
Follow the race
You should be able to track my progress using this link, I’m number 579! http://utmb.livetrail.net/coureur.php
I was a bit skeptical about posting this in case the race doesn’t got to plan and something happens and I don’t finish but if that happens it happens! I was a person that read books about people doing 100 mile races & never in a million years thinking that I would/could do one. I still remember how terrified I was signing up for my first marathon. So basically what I’m saying is get out there and face your fears..
Keep your fingers crossed for all the guys in our group (Rocco Smit, Tim Lyndon, Robyn Bruins, Geoff Evison, Marty Dawson, Jennie-Sharland Riggs, Bruce Craven, Tanya Carroll, Russell Evans) as well as Brook Martin, Emma Brown, Steven Gibson & Tim Stone. Not forgetting those doing other distances: Richard Bettles, Michael Dalgarno, Sophie Brown – Good luck all!