“It is not a pristine mountain experience, but rather, it’s a spectacle of the sport of mountain ultra running. I happen to like this aspect of the race. For a sport that is often niche and very grassroots and an activity that I spent a vast majority of my time doing alone, almost everything about the race is an over-the top, at times kitschy, experience; a true celebratory event.” — Adam Campbell
While it’s always fun and beneficial to write a report after every event I run, doing so for the UTMB seems just as daunting as finishing the course. It’s definitely the hardest ultra marathon I ever ran – 105 miles (168 km) in high mountains, 31000 feet of steep climbing and descending, semi-autonomous mode – it took me over 42 hours, having to stop for 15 to 45 minutes at aid stations to fuel, rest and occasionally take a 15 minutes power nap. It was hard but it was an adventure like no other and also a dream come true: running around the Mont-Blanc!
I finished 1039 out of 2469 participants (only 223 Women). 1686 runners finished (68% of participants).
I got to the start line very rested and well nourished after almost a week in a super cozy hotel near Chamonix and daily visits to the center. If you go run the UTMB and have a tight budget I highly recommend the Hotel Beau Soleil in Le Lavancher. It’s operated by Mr and Mme Bossonney and they were so caring and happy to have a UTMB runner that they treated me like their son, cooking simple and delicious dinners that contributed to being well fed at the start. I also slept extremely well, between 8 and 10 hours a night before the race.
One week from today the race will be on and there are a couple more points I would like to address before going to Chamonix! First, I never had to prepare for such an adventure. In the week leading to taking my flight I must have spent at least two hours a day packing, unpacking repacking, weighing items, labeling, re-reading the runner’s guide, preparing the drop bag and getting ready to get there with all I need on the start line.
One thing that is certain about the UTMB is the uncertainty about the course! In the previous years the weather was so bad that they had to shorten the course.
If you have missed the previous posts about UTMB preparation here are the links: part 1 – training volume and intensity / part 2 – nutrition. This week I want to explain and clarify the issues that relate to the gear that is needed for participating in the UTMB. For US based ultra runners this is subject to much torture because in the US I have yet to see an event that has a mandatory gear list. It stems probably from the fact that in the US no one cares if you die on the mountain in severe weather and also reflects cultural attitudes: in the US you’re on your own! In contrast the UTMB organizers provide a list of clothing and safety items that participants have to carry – the bags are checked when bibs are handed out (a couple of hours before the race) and random checks can occur on the course. It’s a lot of gear to carry for a ‘running’ race – this sounds more like a fastpacking list. And it took quite some time and research to assemble most of the items. Please note that the list doesn’t include a backpack! I’ve had a great experience with the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Set so I got a Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 to fit all the gear that I need to take with me. On long runs carrying the UTMB gear the pack weights about 8 to 9lbs.
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