Sunday, September 02, 2012

UTMB

I apologize to friends and family for neglecting to post a pre-race update with links. Friday quickly became overwhelmed with concern and then angst as I woke up to a full winter storm and scattered rumors that the race organization was going to reroute the course and change the start time. I spent the rest of the day bouncing between Internet cafes and race headquarters, trying to figure out what the new course entailed, learning the disappointing truth, spending two hours convinced that I wouldn't start the revised race, finally deciding to "just do it," and then scrambling to learn as much as I could about the new course and repacking my backpack before the 7 p.m. start.

The short explanation is that nearly a foot of new snow on the higher passes, compounded by spectacularly wet conditions at lower elevations, presented too much of a risk for a race organization who would have to deal with the fallout in a field of 2,500 runners. The passes dividing France, Italy, and Switzerland were determined to be impassable, so they rerouted the whole course to lower elevation trails in France. We ran the first forty kilometers of the Trail du Mont Blanc, followed by a loop on secondary trails above the Chamonix Valley. The official stats for the new course were 103 kilometers (so quite a bit shorter than 168K) and 6,000 meters of climbing. I carried a Garmin eTrex and recorded 69.8 miles and 19,600 feet of climbing (so it was still a long and stout 100K.)

I admit I was fairly devastated by the reality of the reroute. I understand why it had to happen, but like the other 2,500 UTMB runners, I really wanted to run the full circuit. I had little interest in racing for the sake of racing. I felt like I had to trade my grand personal adventure for a hard workout — still a tough challenge, and still an amazing run in the beautiful Alps. The race organization handled the last-minute massive changes really well — I'm really impressed with the whole event. And I don't fault them at all; I didn't necessarily want to go up to those high passes with 2,500 other people, many who were likely unprepared. And of course I know I can plan my own run of the course someday. I'm not complaining; just stating my disappointment, which lingers despite the fact I did enjoy the experience. I finished the revised UTMB 2012 in 22 hours and 57 minutes.

Of course I'll write a full report soon. I just wanted to make a quick post to let said friends and family know that I survived. I really appreciate all of the messages and e-mails of support. Thank you.