Sunday, 4 September 2016

UTMB 2016

UTMB 2016 - a magical unique race.. The biggest Challenge.

UTMB from Andy Humphrey on Vimeo.

Race day dragged with us waking early to wish good luck to Claus in the CCC race and then having to check out of hotel and wait in the lobby resting up. I had that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that i was not 100%. A sore throat and headache - was this nerves or the start of a cold that seems to follow me on race days.
We huddled at the start-line with reportable 2555 UTMB runners. 6pm came and we all funneled through the inflatable start and into the streets of Chamonix with 1000's of supporters wishing us Bon Chance.
Here we go.
It's hard to describe the feelings after the event but the apprehension, the excitement, the unknown. Was I really here running the UTMB, a 105mile race around the toughest terrain in the alps. Something so un-achievable only a few years back. Yes I was and it felt exhilarating.
This first section was nice and steady with runners jostling about but I was happy to take it as easy as possible.
We had a long way to go.
Then it was up Les Houches ski area and down into St Gervais. Then a continuing up Les Contamines Valley all through-out the night.
Day broke high up crossing the border from France into Italy. A memorable sight up, Mt Blanc over one shoulder and looking down into the cloud inverted valley.
The next climb I started to struggle, unsure why but i felt lethargic and had nothing in the tank all i could do is step forward taking it steady hoping it would pass. Pass it would but it took another 5 hours. I can only put this low moment down to a combination of factors. An onset of a cold, staying up high for many hours as my body fought this infection and any effort on the uphills brought instant breathlessness.
With luck after this hill it was a long steep down all the way to Courmeyer. The dust did not help but a I took a well deserved break and changed a few things (good and bad). I should not off changed my socks or put compeeds on my blisters/hotspots.
After some food and an hour and a half!!! How did that time pass. I set off wishing for a better second half of the race. Passing a chemist I nipped in and bought some throat sweets, these were a saviour for the rest of the race.
A routine slog uphill in the mid day sun. Temperatures were over 30'C and it was affecting us all. I had to stop and rest several times and was totally deflated especially watching tons of people just easily walk past me.
My mind kept contemplating quitting. If i had no energy, no motivation then how could i run for another whole day?
On one of my rests here I opened up my Bill-tong and ate. Now this did not taste of dried meat but pure salt!! Which got me thinking that I was lacking in a few minerals. From here i regimently took a salt tablet every hour and each Aid Station put a load of tailwind in one of my water bottles. This seemed to do the trick for heading up the valley I started to perk up and enjoyed the environment and stopped thinking about quitting.
With the day still hot I crawled up the Col Ferret with the knowledge that a long descent awaited and once in Switzerland there was only 3 more mountains to climb.
You sort one thing out something else will bug you. This is what happens in long races.
The long descent highlighted that my toes were not in the best condition. Socks may have been partly to blame but I'd put my money on the constant rock kicking. Try as I can it was only a matter of time before I slammed my foot into another low outcropping rock. These were painful (at least I never broke a toe or fell over) and slowly damaged away at my tender feet.
Another hour spent at La Fouly, time sure goes quick when you should be rushing. Although on the way out of town I stopped at the medical tent just to borrow some tape and they insisted on looking at my foot (I only told them one hurt). A few screams later the Dr gave up trying to remove my small toe nail and taped it up. Hobbling out I contemplated a long 60km to go. But within 5 minutes the pain subsided and I had a rush of energy and ran and ran down the valley into the night and an amazing thunderstorm.
I had a good night, felt great and never too tired, although my headphones packed up and so I had no music for company. My feet were now starting to hurt constantly. A shame as I really wanted to push on the parts that were runable but I could only tread lightly.
Another long pit stop at Trient. Again i went to the medical area, they were too busy and so i started to walk out only for a Dr to stop me and insist she take a look at my foot (the other one). I had compeeded my big toe (run out of tape) and this had to come off, slowly and very very painfully. After I thought I had gone through enough pain another more intense pain ran through my body. She had only injected my blister/bruise with iodine. Ouch! that is something I do not recommend.
Limping out of the tent I hoped that the pain would subside like last time and I would have bundles of energy for this last section.
It didn't materialise.
I enjoyed moving but was frustrated with my lack of pace. In and out of the last main aid station I witnessed my second day break and final hill to climb. This went in no time with a pleasant chat with an Australian woman. On top of the Aiguilles with breathtaking views across to the Mt Blanc massif the finish was in sight and after doing a quick interview with a TV camera crew I stumbled through Flegere and down into Chamonix. It descends a long way but you cannot help yourself in putting in a strong finish especially arriving into town and the crowds cheering you and high fiving the kids.
The finish line was a joy to cross. Elation and happiness all the doubts and worry put aside for no matter how well prepared and ready you are you always have a significant self doubt hanging over you that's its not possible to finish.
Finish I did and I enjoyed it with friends and a beer.

UTMB in 41hrs47mins. 170km/105miles over 10000m going up and again going down (and don't my feet know it).