UTMB - a week in Chamonix and supporting racers

Last week I went to Chamonix to support some friends running UTMB (Matias and Joel), to watch the race and to do some running in the mountains. The week was even better than I could have ever imagined!

I did two great runs. The first was from Planplaz (after taking the cable car up) to La Flégère and then down to Chamonix (the last section of the UTMB route). The second was from Chamonix, up the vertical kilometer route to Planplaz, then to La Flégère and back down to Chamonix. The views were spectacular, the routes perfect and everyone was excited to see runners out there. Chamonix really is trail running heaven.

The mountains peaking out after a rainy day.

There were paragliders everywhere above Chamonix.

Glacier de Bossons.
There are almost unlimited trails available right from town.

On the trail from Planplaz to La Flégère.
There were plenty of blueberries to eat along the way.
A different run - this time up the VK course.

On the weekend I worked with a great crew of Lucy, Joe and Jules to support Joel and Matias as well as Gab and Natalia in the race. They all had different goals which meant that they would be spread out a long way towards the end of the race making it difficult to be at all the aid stations for everyone. Lucy had a car which we took to the first two aid stations (Les Contamines in France, and Courmayeur in Italy) and from there we split up using the car and the UTMB crew buses to get to the final support points (Champex Lac and Trient in Switzerland and Vallorcine in France). The logistics and organization of the race were incredible with buses and well set up aid stations through three different countries that ran smoothly and perfectly throughout the day.

My job was to help restock packs when the runners stopped, make decisions on the go about what food and gear would be needed for the next leg and to offer moral support. It was a pleasure to be intimately involved in my friends' races and to contribute in a small way to their result. Joel had a good race running a few minutes over 30hrs. He was calm and focused in all the aid stations and I took away a lot of lessons from his race approach. Matias ran his own race the whole way and looked after himself well to finish in 36hrs35min. He was patient, ran within his abilities and finished well - a great way to take on a first 100 mile race. Gab threw all caution to the wind and went out hard. He was paying at the end, but it was impressive to see his resolve to keep fighting and finish well. Natalia ran methodically and carefully. She was always smiling, took her time in the aid stations and finished many hours ahead of her time from the previous year.

The start of UTMB.

The mens podium.
The week in Chamonix was an amazing experience and one that I hope to repeat many times in training and hopefully as a racer next year.


Gabba said...

Dan - appreciate all your help out on the course!!!

Daniel Rowland said...

An absolute pleasure Gab! It was great to meet you and Jules and to be a part of your race. I hope you're recovering well.