Sunday, 6 September 2015

Dreams do come true - UTMB

After nearly 10 years of dreaming about competing at one of the most prestigious ultra races in the world, this year I finally got to toe the start line of the world famous 'Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc'. 5 years ago I started collecting qualifying points to enter the UTMB by doing races around the world but had missed out on the lottery to gain a place each time till this year.
Dreams do come true!

The UTMB is basically a 170km race with 10,000 meters of vertical climb what circles around the Mont Blanc mountain range whilst crossing from France - Italy - Switzerland and back to France.

The adventure all started for me whilst still in the UK! Good old public transport delays made me arrive at the airport to be told my flight had closed and if I had any chance of making it onto the plane was to chat to customer service who gave me the chance to run through the airport with the aim of getting to the gate before the plane left. Lucky we made it and off to Chamonix we flew.

In the couple of days building up to the event I spent exploring Chamonix and collecting my number which generally started to get me excited to race with Gem and my old man as support crew..
And were off..!

Friday 28th of August at 18:00pm finally saw me starting my dream of racing in the UTMB. As I raced out of Chamonix the energy inside was building higher and higher but I controlled the speed and came into check point one right on scheduled time. The first section of the route was a great mixture of open trails and single tracks with a few warm up climbs for later on in the course. Gem and my old man was acting as support crew for me and was catching the organised transport the race had put on to get to the allow check points with food and nutrition for me to top up on the way. In my pre race plans I had decided to use each check point to take 10 minutes and recover/rest before taking on the next stage. The guys over at Mountain Fuel UK had kindly helped me with my fluid nutrition and I topped up my bottles at each station. I was using the Mountain Fuel Xtreme tropical flavour what was a great easy on the stomach drink to keep me moving forward.

Pleased to be going down for a change.
Supporters trying to keep the runners warm..

As I continued my run into the night we started running on a lot more single technical tracks winding up and down through the mountains of France towards Italy. For no reason at all I started to feel really tired and legs felt extremely heavy whilst trying to navigate my way over the rocky trails towards the next check point. I ran through the sub check points and slowly made my way towards the second check point where my support team was to help me re-fuel. On reaching 'Les Chapieux' check point I had lost a bit of time on my original schedule but I was starting to feel a little better and sun started to rise over the mountains in the distance what was making a stunning view to run into.. Again after a bit a food from Gem and some new bottles full of Mountain Fuel I was off again up the next climb towards Italy and the Courmayeur check point.

Refuelled and good to go again!

From here onwards my race was getting harder and harder by the step as the sun was now high in the sky with no cloud cover and temperatures reaching upto 35 degrees. Coming from Wales we defiantly don't get the chance to train in such heat and I was suffering every minute of the way.. At this time everything in my head was telling me stop and try cool down as I was going to over heat very quickly but I decided to carry to push on knowing that it was going to be down hill towards Courmayeur where dad was waiting to give me a good kicking and get me on my way again. On leaving Courmayeur the heat was getting worse and I started to lose more and more places as I moved towards the summit of Grand Col Ferret (the highest part of the course) which i started to climb in the hottest part of the day, lucky the organisers had put extra water out at the bottom for us to try and cool off. After a very long slog I reached the summit in a mess, I was extremely hot and as I stopped running to take a breath I just starting vomiting violently all over the side.. so much for the medic to keep me sat down for around 20 minutes till I had stopped being sick and they were happy for me to push on. As I descended down towards Champex-Lac aid station it had started to go a little cooler and I managed to pick the pace up again a bit and start picking people off. Each step I started to gain a bit more confidence and mentally I was over the worse of the race, or so I was hoping at the time! By this time I was over the taste of coke and water and really craved apple juice at this point.

Amazing mountains all around..
As it was night time again it wasn't an easy task for Gem and Dad to find me some apple juice but they managed to find me some and get it to me at the Vallorcine checkpoint, which is the last checkpoint they can assist before the finish ,  I was really grateful and it didn't disappoint . After another night of running and a the last of 3 big climbs I reached La Flegere check point just as the sun was rising up over the mountains in the distance what made the whole experience ever more special!! I knew from here it was all down hill and I was feeling strong and driving off the excitement inside my stomach to race hard (or as fast I could) down to the finish in Chamonix where Gem and Dad was waiting for me. I picked off a couple more runners on the run in down town to finally cross the line in 37 hours and 1 minute. Way off my original predicted time  but I was so ecstatic to finish, with over 900 of the starting 2600+ runners not completing the course due to this years tough conditions.
37 hours later....

The support I have received before, during and after the race has been amazing! I am so thankful to everyone who took the time to text me, fb and twitter message me. I even received good luck cards before the off from 2 good friends Em & Lar! Thank you to everybody.. It truly was one of the more amazing experiences I have had in my life and a huge running high to cross that finish line.
My run in numbers..

After dreaming for 10 years and trying to get into this race for the last 5 year, the big question is: What's next??? Any one got any ideas... And most importantly follow your dreams!

Paul xx

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