In August, I have attended the 10th edition of the epics mountain trail, the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc. I have written various articles about UTMB TDS, CCC and preparations as well as a detailed FAQ. This year due to weather conditions, the course re-routed to 106km and 6.000m which only circumnavigates the French part of the Alps.
The race started around 19:00 and for the first time in history, we had the chance to see the UTMB CCC winner coming to the finish line. Me, Caner, Bakiye and Devrim, were the only Turkish runners raced in UTMB as well as other runners represented our country in CCC and TDS.
CCC runners Onur and Turker Bakiye from UTMB had problems which lead them to drop from their races and DNF. Derya finished the toughest TDS in a very pleasant under 30hrs time. We have managed to finish before 26hrs cut-off. Devrim in 22hrs, Emre and Caner again same time in 23hrs.
The course and weather conditions were brutal during the night and was very good after the morning which lead us to a convenient race conditions.
I am not going to conduct a full race report but some useful bullet points for you and list of links that would help you plan and be successful in your race.
- Enter the lottery within a group. This will increase your chance to win.
- Book your hotels even before the draw, you can cancel them if you are not successful in the UTMB draw.
- Book your airport transfer in advance. Team up with your friends to be on the same bus. The journey from Geneva airport will take around 1.5 hrs. to Chamonix.
- Never, ever give your mandatory equipment apart from your gels to the baggage in your flight. Take it with you. Shoes, gear and pack should be with you all the time. If your luggage is lost, you might not have sufficient time to pass the gear control.
- This year UTMB officials controlled only three mandatory gear randomly. Most of the runners asked their crucial equipment like rain pants, headlamp, whistle, food, extra layer, waterproof jacket and emergency blanket. But you should have all your gear except water with you.
- Prefer to do your race kit control and registration quickly. You can enjoy Chamonix, gear fair, seminars better. If this is your first UTMB arrive Chamonix earlier, do some relaxing walks up in the mountains to acclimatize yourself for the high altitude and weather conditions.
Before the race
- Buy gels, magazines or other small items from the UTMB fair which is open on Wed-Fri. Do not try the gels that you have never tested before during the race. Most of the DNF`s happen because of gastro intestinal problems.
- Have a late night before the UTMB as UTMB starts around 16:00-19:00, take ear plugs during your travel as your hotel might be closer to the finish line, on the route of TDS and CCC finishers where they will be greeted with joy by their families. This might distract your sleep. Choose your hotel in a quiet atmosphere but as well as close to Chamonix. Getting to start should not cause a problem for you.
- Plan your speed, stopping points, rest times months before regarding to your performance and edit a week before the race. Have your time table, elevation map and cut off times with you all the time. Tape these notes so they can be waterproof.
- Control your nails and cut them for the last time carefully.
- Tape your feet to avoid blisters due to different weather conditions.
- Use your shoe which is very familiar to you. Do not try to have a new shoe.
- Have a simple poncho and a rain pant that you can throw away just before the start. These will help your water proof jacket, bag and pants to keep dry.
- Go to the start earlier. Have a spot in the middle or front. It is very good to spot elite runners and feel the atmosphere better.
- Starting moment is crucial, take a video, photo and enjoy the music filling the valley.
- Don`t forget to set your GPS watch just before the start, most of the racers forget to turn it on due to excitement.
- Take your country`s flag with you. After the race, you can only spot yourself in the videos because of your flag or different hat or bandana. Else there are 2.500 runners with almost same jackets.
Photo: TNF Press
- If it is rainy hats are the best thing for protecting your view if you are using glasses. Have your gloves, beanie, at least 4-5 gels, electrolytes, mobile, and whistle and emergency blanket in the most convenient pockets of your pack.
- If you are using a bladder, don’t fill your bag so much, so it will be very hard for you to refill and put the bladder back into the pack.
- Always try to be the light as possible. You might have the necessary gear that is extremely light but do not take too much gels as there are plenty of natural food in the check points. The good ratio is lower than 4-4.5kgs.
Photo: TNF Press
- Have at least a 1 or 2 meters o of cello type or duct tape as a spare equipment. This is very useful if you fall and tear down your pants or Goretex Jacket.
- In UTMB you can give a drop bag where you can have it back in Courmayeur which is 72kms. Have additional food, shoes, clothes and batteries. Put a piece of paper inside reminding step by step what you should replace and not to forget. Take this paper first outside your bag and follow your own instructions. Because of the race excitement, you can forget some stuff.
Photo: Bryon Powell (irunfar.com)
- Have a sponge with you. UTMB is never hot but sometimes during the day it gets very warm. Sponge is very light and if you use it by putting it back of your head, will cool you down easily in seconds.
- Have some pills with you. I always carry Buskopan in case of any intestinal and dehydration problems. Minoset, Parol are good if you have a heat due to wind and cold especially after the tough night. I do not recommend Advil and Ibufren as these are very strong and slows down your kidney functionalities which is crucial in these races. For a 100mile race you can take Advil after finishing 80% of the race with plenty of water.
- Always put your passport, spare 20 € and batteries in a water proof bag, they should not get soaked.
- Use a race bib holder as you might need to put your race bib on top of your jacket. This will help your photos to be recognizable easily and you can also find them after the ace. No bib, less opportunity for a great photo during the race for your memories.
- Have your loved ones pictures taped on your bottles or cup. You can see them all the time and this will give you more morale and power to finish.
During the race
- The first two check points will be crowded. To save time move quickly. Queues of runners on steep hills might make you lose time if you are not a fast runner. Grabbing few food and putting it on your pocket to eat it on the road is a great idea. If there is a soup in the check point add salt and drink at least one cup. This is the best fuel for your body which is the best machine in the world.
- During the race do not forget to dream the finish. This is crucial for motivation. Never stop dreaming reaching the finish line.
- Some of the runners are extremely fit and have incredible amount of experience. Do not think that you are weaker than them. On the course you might see those runners quitting for various reasons as you might too. This is a demanding race and is very tough. Everything can happen during the race. Don`t forget that.
- Don`t forget to eat very 20min, even a very small bite. Drink every 5in a small sip. Do not get dehydrated. Take your electrolytes and gels in every 45 min.
- Check points are a bit of a war zone. Don`t be rude but also don`t be very naïve as well. Go to the convenient desk, grab food, drink and be very very quick.
- Don’t lose your focus on downhill. Your eye and foot control is very important. Twisting and ankle might cause you a DNF or a very painful race.
- UTMB marked very professionally. It is impossible to get lost. It is also a very crowded race. If you are not 100% sure in any condition, just wait and decide with a runner. But this kind of a situation would be very unlikely.
- Be careful while using your poles. During the start have them on your hand rather than on your pack as you can hit someone especially on the face. Your pole`s ground touching points should always be facing the ground, not the sky.
- Practice using poles before this race. 75% runners use poles in UTMB. Learn how to use it properly especially downhill. Adjust them on up hills.
- Always keep your hands and head warm. You cannot keep your feet warm in the UTMB due to terrain and weather. Do not try to avoid getting wet. You will! Just enjoy the race and continue as fast as possible if you face cold. Do not try to stop and change clothes but reach the check point first. Do not try to do it in windy higher altitudes. If you are feeling cold, do it before the elevation gets steeper.
- Never try to change your headlamp batteries in the dark. If you have to first get your second spare torch on, that change it. You might have hard time to notice the + and – sides of the headlamp. Know your headlamp very well.
After the race
- After finishing, get in to the queue to get your 20 Euro bib insurance back, your finisher vest. Don’t throw away your bracelet as this is a very good memorable gear. If you are a late finisher, you might not get a vest, don`t worry they will post it in a months’ time. UTMB is the most professional organisation, nothing happens so relax.
- Immediately drink and electrolyte drink and have a hot soup or drink. Or get a gel. Your body will be devastated after this challenge.
- I know that it will be the toughest decision, but have cold shower or ice bath for recuperation.
- After the bath eat well and go to sleep.
Photo: Bakiye Duran
Useful Ultra Marathon Reports
Photo: Caner Odabasoglu (www.uzunpatika.com)
Other important reading articles for UTMB
· Our Video Documentary of UTMB TDS (10 Episodes) (English Turkish)
Photo: Bakiye Duran
Some Important Gear Reviews
· SealSkinz Waterproof Gloves