Race: Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) – http://utmbmontblanc.com/en/
Runner: Matt U
Location: Chamonix, France
Results – 83rd overall, 30:32.06
3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most
- Beautiful course
- Exciting race with so much energy from the racers, the volunteers, and everyone else involved
- Super competitive, and just a huge race with over 2000 runners
Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
Nothing. It all went smoothly and I loved this experience.
Weird factor – what’s the weirdest thing about this race
It’s my first 100 miler finish without a belt buckle (I don’t mind, but it felt slightly odd to not walk away with a buckle).
Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular
I managed my effort well. I was moving up in the second half of the race and running all the runnable stuff through the finish. After numerous blow ups in my 100 mile race history, I’m happy to stay in control on this race and finish running.
Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
Chill out early. It’s a long long race and there is so much carnage. It’s easy to say this, and I think most runners know that tons of people die hard in this race, but then it still happens. It’s possible to go out hard and keep it together, but I don’t feel like odds are in your favor. It’s a big risk and I am glad I didn’t risk it this year.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
Running on the course ahead of time is excellent. Prior to us arriving in early July, it would have been difficult for me to fathom 32,000+ feet of gain (and descent) in a course. The climbs and descents are steep and knowing about this ahead of time made me way more realistic with how to game plan for the race. So knowing the course is super helpful.
I feel confident in my strategy and apart from some medical related issues relating to breathing restriction during the night, and getting more efficient on technical terrain, I feel like the steady approach can be very effective next time around (and I really hope to go back for another try!).
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
Climbs (and descents) are long and steep. The last three are killer and while I slowed significantly over the final third of the course, the distance I put on some people during this time was huge (2-6 hours in some cases over less than 30 miles). Managing effort and being trained for hiking and steep descents is crucial.
Aesthetics – is it a pretty course
Ridiculously beautiful. When we arrived in early July and realized exactly where we’d be spending the next two months, we thought, “how in the world have we never been here before?! It’s so nice!”. The course is awesome, the entire area is beautiful, and I’m so happy to have gotten to spend so much time in those mountains.
Difficulty – is it a tough course
For how beautiful the course was, it was equally challenging. The grade of the climbs there is much higher than what I was used to and that makes is it tough.
Organized and well run – did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
This race tops my list in multiple categories and organization is another one of those areas where UTMB takes the top prize. The entire operation was smooth and well run. Check out Julie’s crew report for more on this: Crewing for UTMB
Competition – is there a strong field?
Arguably the best in the world
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
Smooth. Getting from Geneva to Chamonix is one of the only challenges and it’s not a tough one. A shuttle or a rental car seem to be the standard. Getting around the course had its challenges and expenses, I reference Julie’s post again for more on that: Crewing for UTMB
Plentiful and well run. There are three types: liquids only (they actually had some small bits of food), the normal station, and the food stations. Courmayeur for example had a pasta bar. Crew access was only available at 5 spots though. They aimed for a largely self sufficient race so the crew experience was different from many other ultras I’ve run.
Weather and typical race conditions
We had relatively warm weather, maybe low 80s during the day, and sunny. Thunderstorms rolled in around hour 26 or 27 as I was heading out for the last big climb in the dark. Historically, the weather has been all over the place for this race. I had snow flurries on one of my training runs in July.
Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
The obligatory gear list is sizable and took some effort to put together. I wrote up an article about all the planning that went into picking my gear for this race as it was extensive. There was also a gear check station mid-race.
Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends
Yes and no. There were tons of spectators on course. However, to follow a runner around, there aren’t a ton of spots to see them, probably less than 10. It’s one big loop so there will likely be a lot of driving if you’re trying to follow someone. There is a shuttle but our crew didn’t utilize it.
Nada. No money, no buckles (yet it still draws the big crowds!). We got a finisher’s vest from Columbia.
The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it
Highest marks possible. I loved this race and think it’s a bucket list race for those interested in the mountain racing experience.