I haven't blogged for ages now. I've been meaning to, but with one thing or another it hasn't happened. You may read something into this, especially remaining quiet after all the excitement of Western States, but there's genuinely nothing to read at all, just plain slackness. You know that scenario when you put something off for a while, then it grows and grows and starts to nag you and eventually turns into a chore – well that’s probably the case here. Anyway, I’m back now and perhaps I’ll make it a post-UTMB resolution of mine to post here more regularly……
Maybe I’m being a little unfair on myself - I did actually write a piece about my Western States experience for British magazine Running Fitness, however it was specifically written for the general running community and therefore probably contains less of the nitty gritty stuff which blog readers are probably interested in. Anyway, once the magazine article is published I shall post it here and you can decide for yourself.
What about the detail then? Well I may consign that to the murky depths of history in the back of my head because I’m not sure I’ve got the will to dig it out right now. Alternatively, buy me a beer after the UTMB race.
I guess the least I can do is muster up a few summary thoughts……
Firstly, as with my 2009 experience, I absolutely loved every moment of Western States this year. Hats off to the WS team for putting on such a brilliant race, perfectly tuned to deliver the best possible experience for the runners. It's slick, it's exciting, it's professional and its got to be cream of the crop in the US.
My race strategy was fairly plain to see; run steadily throughout, at my pace, on my own if necessary, then try to do some damage in the latter stages. None of that is much of a secret, it’s how I bring out the best in myself and it’s the way I have run my best races. It was all perfectly to plan until mile 80/ the Green Gate aid station, at which point I couldn't maintain the pace to enjoy battling it out with the three other guys to the finish. That was a real frustration because I was running completely within myself up to that point and there was just a couple of minutes separating the four of us at the front (Jornet, Wolfe, Clarke & Bragg). A couple of months of reflection has allowed me to pin point the reasons for that blip (I think). I won't bore you with all the detail but needless to say I've made some changes to bring about improvements.
Reading this you've probably gathered I wasn't all that pleased with the 4th place. I was pleased with the time (albeit the revised course was a fast one), but I was targeting better (as I am sure many other guys were). The annoying thing is I'll probably have to go back next year now. Oh, what a shame....
So, what have I been up to since? Heaps of UTMB specific training which has been a lot of fun. Any excuse to get into the mountains hey. I was in the UK to start with, spending a few days running round the Bob Graham Round route in the Lake District, north west England. The BG is classic British long distance challenge, a big loop of around 72 miles taking in 42 of the highest peaks in the Lakes, with a total elevation change of c. 27,000feet. Being only a week after Western States, and the first time I’m been round any of the route before, I split it into three days and stayed overnight at a couple of hostels. The opportunity to get out in the stunningly beautiful Lakes and check out the route for the first time was magical. Definitely one to come back to for a non-stop effort in the future.....
Shortly afterwards I headed out to the Alps for two weeks of bigger stuff which involved a fast pack of the Walkers' Haute Route - Chamonix to Zermatt (c.185km, 14,000m+/-), a three day loop over the full UTMB course (166km, 9,400+/-) with the rest of The North Face team and a load of other single day outings. Back on UK soil I also did my annual Snowdon reps session (4x) in lashing rain (which obviously falls sideways being in Wales) and a night run on the coast path from Shell Bay, Poole to Weymouth. Basically, lots of good stuff in the bag, but more importantly a load of nicely varied and very enjoyable trail running. All I would say looking back on all those outtings is that the rain seemed to follow me wherever I went. I recon around 50% of my training this summer has been on wet days. Sorry in advance to fellow UTMBers if I’ve brought it with me to Chamonix….
So then, I hear there is a little race on this weekend?! I can't quite believe it's that time again. It is of course the big dance in Chamonix, The North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. From a quick scan of the entrants list it looks like we've got the deepest ever field lining up (yawn, yes I know, said many times before, but by some margin in my mind). Predictions? No way - impossible. The safest bet is there will be a big battle from the off and probably quite a few big name casualties based on the last few races here.
This is now my 5th time at UTMB, and I've yet to pull, so number one priority has got to be getting to the finish line for 5 out of 5. Whilst I've never run a fast time on the full route, my experience from previous races, at least the same number of training loops and the fact I've improved quite a bit as a runner over the last couple of years, will (hopefully) stand me in good stead.
Whilst there is probably more hype than I like before a race with UTMB (we runners just like to run….), the excitement and general build-up all contribute towards making this the truly great race it is. Chamonix, the mountain haven for so many different sports, is an incredible place to hang out, particularly with all the international runners in town.
Whether you're at home following on the internet, out on the course supporting with your cowbell or running one the races yourself – I hope you ENJOY this weekend’s races.
- 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!