Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc – 170K Of Big Free and Maybe Pain?

“Running is like getting up every morning and shooting yourself. You know that you are going to put yourself through something really painful, but you also know how much strength and speed are going to come with it. The passion of a runner is to force forgetfulness on that pain and embrace the benefits that will without fail make you a better person.” -Mark Wetmore, coach of University of Colorado XC team

They say Everything’s Bigger in Texas.  Well it turns out everything is bigger in Chamonix as well.  (except the food sizes, I’m convinced the French have stomachs the size of grapes) When I arrived at my Air B&B two weeks ago I was greeted by the biggest Newfoundland I’ve ever seen, a 130 pound pup that looked more like a bear than a dog. Her name was Guaya and judging by her smell, she avoids baths like…well like a dog, who hates baths.  Within an hour of my arrival in Chamonix, my teammate Ryan Ghelfi and I were headed out to run the Vertical Kilometer from town up to the top of Brevent (A Vertical Kilometer is a trail that has 1000 meters of ascent in a distance under 5k, the Brevent VK climbes the 1000 vertical meters in 3.8k) Over the course of the week we climbed a ton of vertical, saw massive glaciers and huge, jagged peaks of the Mont Blanc Massif.  We got to experience a taste of the suffering we would without a doubt swim in during the following weeks race. photo 1 (25) photo 2 (23)

Two days before the race I wrote in my training log, “BATTLE READY. Race of attrition. Hammer last 50k”.  When race evening came I didn’t have the usual pre race jitters.  I was really calm, relaxed and ready to run a really relaxed 50 miles, followed by a really hard 50 miles.  I felt very prepared for the tough climbs as well as the technical descents as I had spent the entire summer training on similar terrain in Mammoth Lakes, The Wallowas, The North Cascades and various other ranges and volcanoes in the American West.

The first 50 miles were really chill, treating it like a training run I was able to relax, enjoy the mountains and stars and preserve my energy for the later stages.  The moon was huge, stars were bright and crowds were ecstatic.

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At Grand Col Ferret I started rolling a bit, and by Champex-Lac (122 Kilometers in) it was hammertime.  With a conservative strategy early, this was the time to take a BIG Texas sized risk.  I was focused, hungry and attacking every step. Every climb I was able to hike and run strong, the flats and descents smooth.  My summer focus on technical downhill was paying off in a big way.  For the first time running steep technical downhill was fun, rather than stressful. I was jumping off rocks and roots, sprinting the smooth sections and charging through rollers.  The experience felt more like skiing than running.

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Every runner I passed gave me a huge surge of energy.  On the final climb up Tete aux Vents I was finally in 4th and both hunting and running scared.  I knew I was redlining and it wouldn’t take much to blow up and spend an hour in an aid station.  Every time I came to what I thought was the top of the climb it would continue another few 100 meters up.  My mind was totally focused on grinding up to the top, and then hammering back down.

At La Flegere I was finally done with the 10,000 meters of climbing, and I started blitzing down the final descent.

When I finally hit the pavement of Chamonix with under a mile to go I saw teammate Zach Miller (Previous days CCC 100k Champ) he had fire in his eyes and was yelling that I needed to sprint to the finish.  Finishing any race is hard, but kicking from a kilometer out in a 105 mile mountain race is…Well, I honestly don’t remember.  I imagine that it was painful because such an act usually is painful, and it has been 4 days since the race and I’m still sore.  So I have to imagine the finish was pretty hard, but I think my brain could only process so much information and I believe it decided to remember the screaming fans rather than the pain. Thanks brain!

Coming down the final stretch was surreal.  The crowds, hands outstretched waved us home into the finish line.  Huge mountains, dirt, hills, rocks, cows, mud, sweat, sunrises, sunsets, chaffing, blood, coke-cola, and 105 miles make a trail race, but the fans are what make this trail race an experience truly unique and memorable.

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Mountains and emotions are bigger here.

Thanks Chamonix. I’ll be back; soon.

Thanks                                                                                                                                Huge thanks to the amazing fans, volunteers and organizers! You all made it an awesome experience. Thanks to Bighorn Bistro (THE place to eat in Cham) for keeping us well fed all week. Thanks to the Ghelfi Family for coming out and supporting the team, Thanks to everyone back home cheering, and Bryon and Megan of IRunFar.com for being all over the course and providing great coverage of the event! Thanks also to Like The Wind Magazine for hosting two great social events before and after the race.   Thanks to all the Nike Running crew who came out to shred the trails and cheer us on! Thanks to Billy Yang Films for documenting the weeks adventures. Finally, huge thanks to Trail Boss Pat Werhane for regulating like Warren G, keeping food in our stomachs and shoes on our feet.

UTMB Gear List                                                                                                                 Nike Zoom Wildhorse 3                                                                                                     Nike Kiger Jacket                                                                                                               Gu, Sport Beans and UGO Bars                                                                                        Simple Hydration Bottles (email me at davidlaney12@gmail.com for a 35% Off Promo Code)  Check them out at SimpleHydration.com

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10 thoughts on “Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc – 170K Of Big Free and Maybe Pain?

  1. I can’t remember a more exciting, suspenseful, prayerful, thrilling and joyful 22 hours of watching David race! Thanks to IRunFar for such great coverage of the UTMB.

  2. David, once again, CONGRATULATIONS on such a great race! I prayed for you all day long and cheered for you! This is so exciting to watch you run the race!

  3. Congratulations, David!! Spectacular race and even more spectacular finish. What incredible pictures.

    I’ll never get my head around the distance: 4 marathons; 17, 10Ks; 34, 5Ks; or 8,500 trips from my TV to the refrigerator. Totally impossible!

    Congratulations!! Awesome race. Really proud of you and happy for you!

  4. We saw you in Chamonix 400m from the finish line, David, and you were hauling a** like someone at the end of a 5k. It was crazy to watch. And inspiring. Congratulations on a great race!

  5. Congrats again David, as Simon said when we saw you at La Flegere, you had the look of a man on a mission and it was a joy to witness you sprinting down the hill to run to the podium. Great to meet you and we hope to see you again, same time, same place next year 🙂 Julie & Simon and the Like the Wind team

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