After one of my most consistent spells of training ever, I’m now well and truly into my taper for the UTMB race which is less than two weeks away. With hundreds (probably thousands, best not to count) of tough mountain miles completed over the course of the last couple of months, all the hard work is done and there’s little that can really be done to influence performance on the day other than mental preparation, trying to freshen up the legs as far as possible and sorting out kit. The latter is quite a job in itself but a good avenue in which to channel surplus energy!
Out of all the races I’ve done the UTMB is undoubtedly the most daunting. It looms on the horizon like a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. But at the same time it’s definitely the most exciting. In my opinion it simply can’t be beaten for organisation, support, atmosphere, the route and overall race experience. It sits firmly at the top of the world stage of trail based ultra distance races.
I’ve run UTMB three times before but never really put in a performance to be proud of - albeit I have always finished - so there is plenty of unfinished business to address this year. There are various reasons for my below par performances in the previous races which I won’t bore you with, but preparation has played a big part, and if I'm honest I've probably suffered from over racing. This time I’m confident it will be different. I’m dead excited about the race. I've specifically focused on it for several months now. I can hand on heart say I’ve trained as hard as I could have done for it, and now it’s time for the exciting bit – putting it all into action and enjoying the whole experience.
The great thing about this race is that the best form of preparation involves time in the mountains. As if I needed an excuse. I’ve written about some of the trips already, but my final few weeks of training included more memorable outings, not least another full loop of the UTMB course at the end of July, this time as part of The North Face Team’s training weekend. With a support vehicle in tow to carry surplus kit, and decent group of guys out on the trail, there was the opportunity to run some fast splits which provided a great confident boost for the race. Sebastian Chaigneau, last year’s second place finisher, was part of the group. His sense of humour was great, as was his enthusiasm for capturing our training experiences on film for his Get Ready For series which seems to be getting plenty of well deserved coverage.
The second Tour du Mont Blanc training loop was probably my peak week, but my final pre-race session was in Snowdonia knocking out Snowdon reps in the wind and rain. Lovely. Even the sheep were huddling behind the stone walls. Summer in Wales – great huh.
Kit-wise there is plenty to prepare. I fully support this year’s more stringent rules to help ensure there is no opportunity for interpretation when it comes to the compulsory stuff, a factor which can clearly significantly influence at the front end. The 2kg minimum pack weight will play an important role there.
Poles? In short, no. I have carried them before and they just get in the way. Drinking, eating, adjusting kit etc all take a back seat role with poles in hand(s) and for me they simply don’t carry enough advantage to justify using them. I appreciate I’m in the big minority here but I’ve done the tests and taken the decision.
So the final countdown begins. Keep an eye out for all the top runners from The North Face Team at this year’s race who will all be pushing hard for the podium spots. It's going to be a great one to watch, well worth signing up for the various online tracking faclities being run by The North Face and the UTMB organisers. I'll try and post some links in next couple of days.
Best get back to the packing......
- Jez Bragg
- Welcome to my blog which I hope to develop with some interesting material on ultra running both on the trails and road including reports on races and interesting training runs, views on kit and equipment as well as anything else I find of interest. I love running for adventure, opportunity and well being. Enjoy!