Now that I’m starting to mentally recover from this race I feel like I can start to put the experience into words. Had I tried to write this two days ago, my blog would have consisted of only profanities!!
The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) race is thought by many to be the hardest footrace in Europe. Crossing three countries (France, Italy, Switzerland), it covers 166 km with positive altitude change of 9500 m, which is over twice the altitude change of Everest from base camp. Yikes. Luckily for me, by the time I signed up for the race, the UTMB was full and so I registered for a new event as part of the Mont Blanc races: Sur Les Traces Des Ducs de Savoie (TDS). At only 106 km with 6700 m of altitude change, it seemed like I was taking the easy route….
…Or so I thought. Post-race accounts have been reporting that although the UTMB is the longest run in the series of races, “TDS has been designed to be the most technical”. It has also been described as one of the hardest. I’d like to think that were the case (y’know, to make me look more hard core), but I have a hard time believing that’s true. I did talk to one guy, however, who did both and said that the TDS was harder…but anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Here’s how the race was described by North Face:
The Deux Savoie and the Val d’Aoste provinces have always been part of the Savoie States. Runners will discover these three beautiful regions around the Mont-Blanc. After a 5am start at the centre of Chamonix, running first through Les Houches and then Saint Nicolas de Veroce during the hours of darkness, competitors will leave the peaceful villages of the Savoie to reach a wild and magnificent mountain trail. After an ascent of Mont-Joly (2525m), the route follows some of the most beautiful trails and crosses some of the most awesome passes of the Beaufortain and Tarentaise region; the Aiguille Croche, the Col du Joly, the Col du Bonhomme, the Cormet de Roseland, and le passeur de Pralognan. Only on descent to Bourg Saint Maurice will the runners return to civilization. After a warm welcome from the volunteers in Bourg Saint Maurice and neighbouring Seez, a long ascent along the Roman Road will lead to the Col du Petit Saint-Bernard. Entering the Val d’Aoste runners will pass through the villages of La Thuile and Pre Saint-Didier before finally arriving triumphant in Courmayeur!
The description certainly SOUNDED lovely….
I knew this wasn’t going to be a performance race because of my leg, but I desperately wanted it to be a non-embarrassment race. The only race I have DNF’d in was the one in which I broke my pelvis. I did not want to contemplate having to quit this one.
Once I got to Chamonix, I started to relax a bit. The town was absolutely gorgeous…although those mountains sure looked intimidating! I made my way through the race registration and got my gear checked in. My race chip was practically surgically attached to my wrist (seriously – metal clamps and all) and an unremovable tag was put onto my backpack. After picking up my race pack, I moved onto my favourite part of any race: the EXPO!!! A close second to the Boston Marathon race expo. I was in heaven….
There were booths set up advertising ultramarathons all around the world, people promoting various race nutrition products (complete with free samples, of course), and tons of gear. It was hard to resist buying everything in site, especially the Salomon paclite gear. I did succumb to one vendor in particular…Vibram Five Fingers! More on that in a later post 🙂
I stopped and had a long chat with Zac Addorisio from Racing the Planet. Man, was it ever nice to see an old friend! RTP has really become like an extended family to me (awwww…). Zac had even brought a present for me all the way from Hong Kong. What a fantastic boost before the race!
Next I headed off to watch the start of the full 166 km UTMB. In less than 12 hours, it would be me on that start line…..
Stay tuned for part 2!