For the past almost a year I have been avoiding writing this blog entry. I have the 2012 finishers gilet. I am a finisher. It was, though, rather anti-climatic. I don’t wish to take anything away from the glory of all the participants and especially the finishers.
However, when I look back, I wonder whether I would have trained as hard and long for a 106km and 6000m event as I did.
During the last three years the weather has been an issue for UTMB (and the other races during the same week).
In 2010, the event was cancelled shortly after the start, 2011 it was delayed by 5 hours and ran in horrible conditions and in 2012 the course was altered due to the weather.
In 2012, we ran 106km with 6,000 altitude gain and loss and only in France. The weather was too severe to cross the high p
asses of Croix du Bonhommes, Col de la Seigne and Grand Col Ferret. Even at La Balme which is 800m lower than Col du Bonhomme it was -10C.
The race was at least as challenging as ever. It was long, cold, true trail, muddy and ran by amazing people but it was not the real UTMB.
Time has passed and I don’t want to dwell too much on the details of the race.
I have discovered that to be an ultra distance runner requires the ability to suspe
nd belief and restrict memory at will. The best quality you can have as an ultra runner is to be able to prevent yourself from thinking about what lays ahead and certainly not recalling what has just happened.
If you have the mental discipline to abide by these then you are on your way to becoming an ultra distance runner.
I am used to writing my blog at the heat of it of the moment. During desert runs once you finish a stage, you refuel, rehydrate, stretch, have something to eat and run to the cyber-tent to blog. This time, however it has taken me this long to write my blog. I did not have the usual euphoria at the finish line or after.
I had assumed until recently that this was due to the lack of sense of achievement. Then in time I have come to realise that it was not….
I had a DNF at UMTB 2011. I was not technically prepared for downhill trail running. Therefore, this year at the start, I was tense even though I was better prepared and quite boisterous about the downhills, after-all I had gone slowly up and sprinted down the Beşparmak Mountains in Cyprus several times only a few weeks before (1,000m drop in under 10km) without any problems. However, I was still worried.
The concern shuts you down mentally and once the race starts your focus is honed in on the moment and nothing else. You know the terrain you are on, the weather at that instant, only the people you can see, the amount you have left to eat and drink and nothing else.
You do have the flashbacks from the previous year, like you recognise the Asian lady at the climb from Les Houchet to Délevret holding a large tray of Harribou, the congestion at the stairs coming out of Les Houchet before that and so on.
By the time you are finished, you hardly remember any of these memories. You feel like Guy Pearce in Momento. You know you have had an experience and there should be memories of these somewhere but you just can’t access them. Fortunately, you are too preoccupied with the environment to even consider tattoos.
Then slowly the flashbacks start (with pain), then spinets of flashbacks start forming a chain and eventually you have a recollection of what transpired.
The process is almost a akin to post production editing, you keep trying to put pieces of recording in an order that makes sense. You are constantly comparing them with friends to make sure that you have them in the right order, like “how horrible was that traverse from La Balme to Signal, or wasn’t that climb up from La Vilette a killer.
Then food and water stations help to mark concrete points in the memory. They are bright, feel warm, one of the few times you got close to other runners but extremely hard to push off from.
The later climbs were a true test of will, often when you felt like you have just conquered a hill another slope appeared around the corner.
The most amazing memory of all were the locals. You are true heroes, to come out of your warm chalets at 2am, to walk down the slopes to come to our trail to hold candles to cheer us all, you are amazing, thank you all!
The final route for 2012