Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ultra Trail Mont Blanc 2008

A second go at the UTMB, 103 miles, 29,000 feet, 28 hours 30 mins

After  the painful experience of 2007, I was determined to get more out of the UTMB, this time not injured before I'd even started.  I warmed up in good style by walking the Walkers Haute Route with my (then) 7 year old son, Ben.  We added half a dozen little peaks and with me carrying all the gear for 13 days and ascending to 3600m, it proved to be very good preparation.  After a day hanging around in Chamonix I was ready.

A future contender?

This time I was careful not to get jammed in right at the back but didn't get caught up in the rush either.  Running felt strange after two weeks walking and I was undoubtedly a bit slower than in 2007.  However, once I'd made it to Les Contamines I'd settled in to a nice pace and enjoyed the warm evening.  I felt much better than before ascending the Bonhomme Pass and was surprised to bump into Jez Bragg at the rest staion.  He was having stomach problems so was happy to jog alongside me through the night.  It was good to be able to chat on the long climb up to the next pass and beyond.  I left Jez descending into Courmayeur, but he turned up not long after and left well before me.  I had a massage and plenty to eat, but in retrospect spent far too long here (about 25 minutes) as I don't think it really benefited me.  Still, I made good time up to the hut and from there on kept overtaking runners.  A guy passed me going up to the Grand Col Ferret and from there on I really struggled to run, feeling pretty wretched and having a sore knee.  I was therefore amazed to pass a few people and to catch up with the Spaniard who'd zoomed ahead of me.  This gave me hope and for the next 20 miles or so I more or less kept with the Spaniard.

I'd anticipated meeting my wife and son before Champex, but they struggled to get there in time on the bus, so I just carried on and met them at Champex.  They told me that I wasn't far behind Jez and the place was pretty empty which was a good sign.  I made good time over Bovine, passing more runners and was 43rd coming into Trient.  I managed okay on the next ascent but then really struggled with my knee again descending and fell behind.  I left Vallorcine with a guy from Hong Kong, but just couldn't keep it going on the long ascent up the Aiguilles Rouges.  I felt terrible and had to keep stopping.  It was so disappointing as I'd kept up the pace so well up until that point.  Some runners caught up with me that I'd thought I'd left way behind and hadn't seen for a long, long time, but once up I shuffled along as best I could.  I just about managed to keep in touch with the third woman, and although she got away from em, I passed her right at the end.  Gary came out to run with me as I reached the fringes of Chamonix and before I knew it I was running up the finish line, Alison in one hand, Ben in the other.  It was an emotional moment as the crowds cheered and the lights flashed.  I'd lost about an hour and perhaps 18 places at the end, but overall I was pleased.  The finish was a real spectacle at 11pm - nothing like the anticlimax of crawling to the line at 7am with no-one around.  This time the crowds were in full voice and at last I could stop.


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