Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc

I finished the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) on Saturday - race # 3 of the Grand Slam of the World is done. It wasn’t an easy race for me. Running three huge mountain races in 4 months has really taken its toll on my legs. Although my training went well in the 6 weeks prior to the race, during my taper it felt like my legs got really “heavy.” At the starting line, it felt like I’d already run 60 miles. Anyway, I gutted it out and crossed the finish line (35:08:49) with my whole family there, which was a very special moment. Yeah, the race hurt pretty bad, but how I do love this sport!

Tiff at the "Troc"
I combined our trip to the French Alps with a bit of a vacation in Paris beforehand. We flew into Charles de Gaulle Airport on Monday morning and stayed at a hotel near Luxembourg Garden. The weather in Paris was great and we did a lot of walking – Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Île de la Cité, the Louvre, Tulleries, Place de la Madeleine. Ellie kept asking when we’d go to the Eiffel Tower and we finally made it there after sunset and it was beautifully lighted. It was all fantastic, but the walking around Paris didn’t help my legs at all.

Ellie at Luxembourg Garden
After two nights in Paris, we flew to Geneva, then drove to Chamonix. The town was already buzzing with excitement for the UTMB and the streets were packed. We stayed at the Richemond Hotel in the center of town. This was the fourth time at the Richemond and we absolutely love it there. The hotel was was built in 1914 and has a storied history, even once serving as Gestapo headquarters during WWII. The hotel has always been owned and operated by the same family and the love they have for the hotel really shows. It may not be the fanciest hotel in the region, but I wouldn’t stay anywhere else.
UTMB Start/Finish

Since this was my 5th time to toe the line at the UTMB and my 3rd 100 miler of the year, I had very little pre-race anxiety. My main goal was to enjoy the experience, then to run decently well and finish without feeling too destroyed. This is mostly how the race played out for me.  One early error I made was playing an iPod. I rarely run with music, but gave it a try this time to stay motivated through the night (the race started at 4:30 PM). My music kept me so well motivated that I’d passed over a hundred other runners through the night. I’d pay for this hard effort later by doing a lot of walking in the final 30 miles of the race.
Trient - mile 86

After the race, we spent another night in Chamonix (celebrating John’s 13th birthday) before flying home by way of Madrid. We got to Madrid in the early evening and headed straight out to the Plaza Mayor area. Camille has been there twice, but for the rest of the family, it was their first time to Spain. We had a great time walking around and eating tapas.

I’ve got one, final race to go this year and it’s going to be the toughest. The Diagonale des Fous (in 6 weeks) has the reputation of merciless climbs and descents and extreme weather variation. Among French ultrarunners, this race is a right of passage and sets the standard for toughness and endurance in the sport of ultrarunning.

Puerta del Sol, Madrid