Monday 27 August 2012

UTMB - Prelim

This time next week, I will hopefully be recovering having spent my weekend running around the Mont Blanc mountains in France/Italy/Switzerland. The Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc (UTMB to those in the know) is possibly the most well known ultra event in the entire world (with the possible exception of the Marathon des Sables) despite only being in its tenth year, and even occasionally gets some TV coverage on Eurosport.

The route itself is a 168 Km (104.4 miles in real money) jaunt around the highest mountain range in the Alps, with a crazy elevation profile giving us 9,600 m (31,500 ft - bloody Europeans...) over the entire route and hitting a maximum altitude of 2,500 m (8,200 ft) above sea level. So there's a few hills to worry about. Can't wait!

Start of the 2009 UTMB - that's a whole lot of people! (From
This is my 'A' race for the year, and may well be the only chance I'll have of ever running it, so I had better make it count! Following on from my finishing time of 17 hours at the SDW100, and the fact that the small portion of the Lakeland 100 that I did felt pretty good hill-wise (until I went over on my ankle - let's not do that this time), I tried to predict a finishing time. I figured that 24 hours was a good shout, giving me an extra 7 hours to deal with the extra 20,000 feet of ascent. However, a quick check of the previous years' results suggests that this would put me in the top 10 - highly unlikely! Hmm. So I have been doing more research, following the blogs of others who have run it and have tried to come up with a more realistic finishing time. My aims are (in decreasing order of importance to me):

  1. Don't die (let's just assume this is always my top priority for future races, eh?)
  2. Finish the race
  3. Finish the race in the top 100
  4. Finish the race in under 30 hours
I think that all of these should be doable if I have a good run, but it's difficult to judge so we will just have to wait and see. Either way, I am just looking forward to being part of it!

I have now finished packing my kit and thought that I would make a note of what equipment I will be using:

Kit check

All of this has been well tested and should work well for me along the way. I am feeling pretty good about this race and I am really looking forward to getting out there and getting on the course. I am going to have to be careful not to push myself too hard too early, as I don't want to blow up and screw things up. However, I am determined to finish this race whatever happens (unless it would risk my health of course). I figure that there are several reasons to push to the end even if it becomes a slog:
  1. I'm in Chamonix until Monday whatever happens. Why not spend my time out in the mountains?!
  2. I'll have to find my own way back to Chamonix if I pull out, which will probably be more effort than just running there!
  3. If I pull out, I'll have to sort myself out for food. If I stay in the race I can feast on checkpoint food. Noms!
  4. I may never get another chance to do this...
So - bring it on! I fly out early Thursday morning, then the race kicks off at 6:30pm on Friday evening. All being well, I should be done late Saturday night and enjoying the post-race atmosphere in Chamonix. I have set up my Twitter and Facebook accounts to constantly annoy everybody with my checkpoint splits, so you can see the exact point that I inevitably blow up. Full race report to follow next week!


  1. Hi Sam,
    I think reason #1 not to pull out is THE one. Just enjoy yourself, the scenery and atmosphere are amazing, whether you're fast or slow!
    They do have shuttle buses from all "low" checkpoints (and it would be easy to get a lift anyway) in the unlikely event you got injured.
    All the best!

  2. Absolutely! I may even take the time to actually snap some photos this time as well. Roll on Thursday!


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