I was hoping to post some nifty video podcasts to cover the pre-race week in Chamonix. Not really happening for a couple of reasons: the bandwidth at my hotel is very limited, there is really not that much going on and I’m spending a fair amount of time resting and getting last details sorted out. I also did a try with my GoPro and I sounded like a total idiot. So here’s more of a journal format. It seems a little more humble… It is a treat to spend time here in Chamonix. During the last three days I’ve established a routine: get up at 8:30, have a huge breakfast at the hotel, go for a one hour run on the nearby trails in the woods (so green) or an hour swim at the magnificent Chamonix Olympic pool looking at the Mont-Blanc. Then lunch in town, shopping for last race essentials, socialize a bit (the town is full of runners so it’s easy to just pick a victim and chat!).
Yesterday I ran into Seb Chaigneau (one of the top french runners) and that was fun and inspiring. Nice guy – I had watched his “Getting Ready for the UTMB” series on YouTube so I thanked him for that. Back to the hotel for a power nap (nap training! 15mn – I’m planning on taking three of those during the race). Reading, writing, last gear preps, stretching or meditation, dinner at the hotel, study (OEC exam will come soon enough), sleep (aiming for 10 hours straight but I’m still waking up in the middle of the night for 30mn – feeling VERY rested though!). I came across a web site launched by people who want to protest “running” – they organize an event called the Ultra-Sieste du Mont-Blanc: http://www.ultrasieste.com – they do have a point. We all need to slow down and take naps – including ultrarunners.
A copious amount of time is also spent checking the weather forecast and/or making my own. It’s the big unstable variable. It changes all the time. Today it’s all good for the race days (with a 3/5 confidence rate) depending on the sources – I always drop by the Office de Tourisme where they post the current forecast. The race organizers post one too (the most pessimist one – odd). It’s looking good so far but I know from experience that things can change really fast here. However the anti-cyclone coming from the West should keep the skies clear and stable. Perhaps the tail end of the race will have some rain. Weather anxiety dissipates as I fatten up on amazing food!
Yesterday I spent two hours analyzing the course topo and aid stations (U1 only – ideally I should do U2, U3 and U4, the alternate courses in the event of bad weather). I’m glad I did because it turns out I have to carry more food than I had originally planned between Courmayeur and the finish line. The UTMB is a semi-autonomous race so we have to carry a lot of our own food. It’s hard to forecast my times. I could go as fast as 28 hours and as slow as not making a cut-off time. For everyone the specter of pulling out of the race is always there. It’s not really a fear – it’s a possibility. There will be pain but beyond simple muscular fatigue and discomfort there are some injuries that no one should run on in order to maintain long term health. It’s only by the time I’ll hit Courmayeur that I will have an idea of my margin in relation to the cut off times. Courmayeur is 77km (50mi) from the start so my best guess is that I’ll be there in about 14 hours (it will be mostly at night so it’s slower) based on recent race and training performance. I’m quite impatient to get started with this! I don’t want to go fast but I want to finish in relative good health.
There are a bunch of friends who are in town too so it’s fun to meet – Chamonix is quite a hub! Last night the PTL started – teams of three cover over 300km around the Mont Blanc too going into more remote areas. I’d like to do that one next year – if I find people crazy enough to come with me! The time limit is 120 hours I think and it’s 100% self-supported… Any takers?
I’m still reading “Courir de Plaisir” by Nathalie Lamoureux… Not a great book (she can sound really annoying) but it’s interesting because I learn about French ultrarunning culture (UTMB is my first ultra in Europe). She does paint the portraits of colorful french runners she has encountered. A different world than everyone I know. I’m aware now that in France there are 3 “mythical” races: the UTMB, the Marathon des Sables and the Grand Raid de la Réunion (never mind only one of them is actually in France!). Never are mentioned the awesome events in the US. OK done with the book! I do like her point that it’s the people who used to party all night who now run all night…
Among gear changes I have made: a pair of warmer socks I will carry with me // finally found my size (XS) for the Salomon EXO shorts (and I lectured the Salomon folks that there aren’t only fat asses in the US!), they will provide better quad compression and support // I bought a lightweight poncho as extra rain cover (having one saved me last December at the TNF50) but I won’t take it with me during the first half depending on forecast // Compeed blister bandaids: I had a start of a blister due to the accumulation of dirt in my sock during my last run in the Sierra, so I need to be covered just in case. I haven’t found this product in the US (it can be bought on Amazon) and it’s the best. It literally places a second skin layer, thus preventing chaffing // Tear liquid – I’m going to have to wear contacts for at least 48 hrs… I have glasses in the Courmayeur bag too // Also debated buying a spare battery for the Petzl Nao but I’ll stick with AAs for back-up power.
That’s all for today! The adventure starts in exactly 72 hours!