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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

UTMB 2011

Its been a while since the Ultra Trail du Mt Blanc and it was an experience that was bittersweet for me. I must start with the declaration that I was not running in any of the four events that took place over the space of a week. In reflection my fondest and most deeply guarded memories are not of strolling around the beautiful town of Chamonix bumping into the worlds greatest athletes, but of the solitude of running/hiking up 6,000 ft towards the glaciers of Mt Blanc. Drinking from streams and watching the minuscule world shuffle along below is the purest form of contentment. I just love to be alone in the mountains, maybe its the protective barrier of remoteness that instills this calm, I don't know and were I to pare it down to the simplest interpretation it's because it's enjoyable to me. Why not then.

(Kilian wins, quelle surprise)
(Nick Clark, 3rd at WS100 and Hardrock--really nice guy)
(with friends, Jenny, Scott and Adam)
(with the Blanc family from Running for MARGO)
(Kilian-the monk)
(with Ryan Sandes--Leadville 2011 winner)
(perfect single track)
(trails by the stream)
(at 3,500 ft on my way up)
(what it's all about, Mt Blanc)
On the other hand as big a running geek, ultra running blog lover and espouse all things trail and outdoors even I will admit that it felt a bit like overkill over the weekend. The village is a mecca for trail heads and sometimes the sheer scale of publicity and sponsorship surrounding the event detracts for the seemingly spiritual nature of being at one with the mountain. I was seeing The North Face logo in my sleep for about a week after. Celebrating this mysterious and powerful mountain and binding oneself to it through exploration seems to be the common goal for most participants from top level to the mid/back of the pack runners. My fear is that there are too many cooks stirring this particular pot, I saw some real rudeness from the youngsters in "staff" t-shirts towards people a generation ahead of them. An almost arrogance or superiority, there have been so many online blogs and reports about the fact the race was delayed and how the organisers insist on sending texts with updates to the runners. Also, how detrimental to the actual mountain is all of this, thousands of people trekking, helicopters flying around, everyone looking to get the best coverage/shot etc. I love to run because I can. I can certainly see myself forgoing races in the future in order to just express myself through the art of movement. Or if it is a race maybe a little trail race starting out with its roots based in celebrating the union of like minded souls. I am not saying that the runners at the UTMB are any different than that, they are after the same thing as I am I hope. But how big can an event become before the negatives outweigh the positives? These are just my impressions and musings. The extravagance just seems to oppose the simple beauty of running and being at one with the surroundings. I would be lying if I said the race doesn't hold an attraction for me but for the foreseeable future it's not on the list of goals I want to accomplish. On a note of admiration I can say with absolute certainty that the undisputed heroes of these races are the people who take time out of their lives and away from families to take part. The people who will never come in first place and who, without sponsors or fanfare, take anywhere between 35-45 hours to make their way around the course. Two guys, Rich and Rich, come to mind that I shared a hostel room with--the start was delayed and they missed their return flights on Sunday such is their determination. It was a real honour to cheer on the likes of these folks, forget your ultra superstars (most of whom dropped out, some legitimately through falls etc, but "I didn't have it today" or "legs felt dead"--it's hundred mile race around a mountain, what did you expect--a Shiatsu?) Will I be back next year, who knows. I think a weekend when its not manic is more up my alley in order to further my appreciation for the epic beauty of the Mt Blanc Massive.


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Running for Pearl

This blog is dedicated to my daughter Pearl who was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in August 2009. My goal is to raise funds and awareness by doing what I love....Running.