One week ago today I woke up to prepare myself for the adventure of UTMB. For me it was not a race. It was something I have spent the last year and a half planning and preparing for. I felt ready and nervous. I arrived in Chamonix on August 23. I am so glad I did because there were some things I needed to change.
The mountains were not like anything I have ever seen. I headed out each day to climb one using my poles and wearing my pack. The mountains went on forever and those two poles became my best friends! I love to run downhill so I was very excited after hours of going up I got to turn around and go down. I quickly learned that going down was much harder than going up. My shoes slid everywhere, on sand, on gravel, on rocks. I was hesitant and scared to run downhill. This really concerned me because I would never finish if I had to climb up and walk down. I love to run downhill, it is like snow skiing and it gave me such a thrill. it is one my favorite things ever. I have worn the Hoka ATR Challenger for years, they fit well and work here just fine. They are a trail shoe but I often wear them on the roads. They are light and nice. In Chamonix they were not enough. No grip at all. I had to do something or I would never finish the race. I went to the Hoka booth and explained my issue. I tried on the Speedgoat 2 and they felt just the same on my feet. I knew it was risky to get new shoes before the race but I had to. The Speedgoat was awesome. I ran, jumped, slid, on rocks and did not fall. It gave me back my confidence to go downhill.
The next issue I had to address was the pack. I had a pack I trained in and loved but I could not always get everything in in. Seemed like sometimes everything fit then the next day I could find the room. I tried everything. Finally I went to see someone and ended up with a Soloman 8liter pack x-small. Still took some work but this pack was stretchy so I got it all to fit. I rolled everything up small and put hairbands around it then placed them in sandwhich bags. this seemed to work well. I could even use the bags later as needed! I used them for food and even on my hands. So with these two main issues taken care of I felt ready for the race.
The race starts at 6pm and due to weather there was a delay to 6:30 pm this year. It was cold and there was snow! The half hour did not matter. Having a night start is tricky though, you wake up in the am ready for the day…know that you need to take a nap or something and it is hard to do. By the time the race stars most have already been awake like it was a day. For me, I got up as normal, went for breakfast, then tried to sleep noon to three. Got up, ready, took the bus to the prerace meeting. There were so many people! After the race started I just ran with the crowd. It seemed there like the first 12 miles were runnable although I could only go a speed that those around me were. You really just stayed where you started for quite awhile. I thought this was ok because it holds you back and keeps you from going to fast in the beginning. I knew the second half was harder than the first and mile 50 is not half way. Better to hold back in the beginning.
It was not until about mile 30 people began to spread out. Prior to that I could weave in and out of people downhill which I did. I loved it. I wanted to go faster down the mountains. The aid stations were varied in distance apart but all had about the same offering of food. Chicken broth with noodles, cheese, salami, bars, water, tea, coke, sprite, crackers, and cookies. There were so many volunteers and all were happy to help. People lined the streets yelling “Bravo” and ringing cow bells. It was amazing. Children of all ages out all night long! And all the runners I met. They were from all over the world. I loved talking with so many people! I was happy!
Then before mile 50 I began to fill off. My stomach was nauseous. By this point it is Saturday night. The weather was terrible all day Saturday. Cloudy, cold, freezing, snow, rain, hard winds, hail. All day. And each climb it was just colder. I understood the mandatory gear. I put on every layer! All at once! And I was so thankful to have it. I had my shorts, winter tights, and waterproof pants on, t-shirt, long sleeve warm hoodie, wind jacket, and rain jacket, hat, gloves, buff. I had it all. I moved like a polar bear but my pack was light. When I arrived at that aid station I new I needed to take a nap. I thought it may help with the dizziness and nausea. They had beds so I laid down. I woke up and had projectile vomiting. It was only water but I felt terrible. I went to see the doctor. They checked my blood sugar, blood pressure, 02, heart rate, all was fine. I had urinated, so that was good. She gave me something for nausea and told me I had to sleep 30 minutes. ok by me…this tent was warm and dry. My friends, Stacy and Christina showed up here and it was a pleasant surprise. I got up drank some broth per Doctors orders, got myself together and went on my way. Thankfully, Christina gave me her gloves. I lost a glove and my hat somewhere, hers were much warmer anyway! I felt much better I thought but as I ran downhill towards the trail I felt terrible. I finally turned my headlamp off and laid down on someone’s porch. I did not want anyone to see me. I drifted in and out of sleep. I finally got up and started moving again. I had to hold back on running down hill hard because it caused me to feel so nauseated.
By 6am many were struggling. I ended up at an aid station where I knew I had to close my eyes. It was not that I was so tired I was just so dizzy. I assume I was dehydrated. I continued to sip on water. Had tried broth, ect. I never vomited just did not feel well. Anyway,, after that nap I knew time was tight. I had a long way to go and still several climbs. I knew it may not be possible if I did not run the down hills. I drank some coke and took off. I was determined. After that aid station the people told Stacy and Christina I would not make it. They did not tell me and went back to their room. They thought I would just show up because I had been cut.
That is not what happened. I climbed a mountain by Mont Blanc and saw the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. Wow! It made tears come to my eyes by the grandeur and beauty. All covered in snow and the warmth of the sun coming through. I felt close to God and my heart filled with joy. From that point on I ran as hard as I could and passed people down hills. I only stopped at the aid stations to fill water bottles and drink coke. I did not feel my best but it did not matter. I was so happy inside! Sunday I finished with three and half hours to spare!
It was a wonderful experience! Thank you to all that cheered me on, ran with me, listened to me, loved me. I know how greatly blessed I am. I will remember this trip for the rest of my days.