Mile 40: I open my eyes, then close them, then open them then close them for a few more seconds. Finally, I take my headlamp off and shine it directly into my eyes, hoping that somehow the bright light will shake the unquenchable desire to lay down in the trail. It takes every ounce of focus to keep my eyes open, I take my bottle out of my pack and spray my face and chest with ice cold water hoping that it might wake me up. Immediately I start shivering in the cold, alpine air. That wakes me up a bit. Knowing I won’t be able to sleep if I’m shivering is comforting. I spray more water on myself. I put my headlamp back on and look back at the glowing line of headlights snaking through the quiet town below. I’m envious of the people in those houses, in bed sleeping. Maybe I should drop out, I’ll just leave the race, I won’t regret it. I need sleep, its not a big deal. As I climb higher the doubts get louder. Last year was a fluke. You got lucky. Go to sleep. Finish the race in the morning. It will be prettier then anyway. Before drifting off into a land of doubt I remind myself, be patient, stick to the plan.
Mile 43: The sound of footsteps brings me back, I glance back and see a half dozen headlamps bouncing down the trail behind me. The doubts in my head multiply like rabbits. Within a few minutes the headlamps have all passed and are out of sight. I put my hands back on my knees, head down, and start the grinding climb up Arete du Mont Favre. Be patient. Stick to the plan
Mile 50: The Italian town of Courmayeur sits 80 kilometers in to the race. When I roll through everyone keeps telling me not to worry, there is still a lot of race left… I must be farther back than I thought. I keep telling myself to be patient and wait. I’ll Hit the NOS at Refuge Bonatti, that’s the plan, that’s smart, maybe by then I’ll be awake.
Mile 53: A large moth flutters in and out of my headlamp beam. A bat swoops down and devours it. I wonder If today I will be the moth or the bat.
Mile 62: Sun is slowly rising as I descent Grand Col Ferret. Feels good to be warm again, feels good to roll.
Mile 77: Time to attack. Champex-Lac, Trient, Vallorcine. I start using the discomfort as fuel, every little ache and pain is like a stick of dynamite thrown into the fire, and the fire just keeps getting hotter. My quads are shredded so I just take the brakes off and start bombing down every descent. This is pure freedom, if only it didn’t take 77 miles for me to get here.
Mile 82: Well that’s not the color urine is supposed to be…
Mile 93: One more climb. I start to weave, trip on a rock and stumble. Keep it together. After sweating profusely all morning I realize my skin is totally dry. All I want to do is take off my shirt and lay down in the shade. I can feel everything falling apart, my temperature is out of control and my heart is pounding. I bend over and give myself 10 seconds against a boulder. I’m sure that I’m not going to make it off the mountain, The fire got out of control, now I’m burning up. Finally I hear the roar of water, I jump in the blue melt rolling off the snowfield, face down, drinking, trying to get every inch of skin in the cool stream.
Mile 100: Once more descent. The cold water and breeze bring me back to life. The fire is back under control. Just 8 kilometers to Chamonix and the finish line. The pain feels like heaven.
Mile 104: Streets of Chamonix.
Mile 105: Finish Line. Finished.
Nike Trail Team at the finish.
Massive thank you to Run The Alps for allowing me to stay in their guide house during my UTMB preparation. I had the chance to meet a few of the great guides, and hang out with one of the groups the night before they set off to run the TMB and the night after they returned from their unforgettable adventure. Their smiles and enthusiasm around the dinner table told a story. Don’t wait till spring to plan your Alps adventures, start doing it now. It will be the experience and adventure of a lifetime. Check out Run The Alps
, they will take good care of you. Thanks to Trail Butter for connecting me with Doug Mayer, founder of Run The Alps. (Trail Butter
provides fuel for the runners on Run the Alps guided trips)
Huge thanks to Kim, Danielle and Erik at Nike for building the best jacket I’ve ever worn, specifically for UTMB. I can’t thank you guys enough for your dedication and passion for this project.
Thanks to GU for creating the stroopwaffle
!! (seriously if you aren’t strooping you aren’t living) These waffles have totally changed my ability to fuel with more solid foods.
Thanks to the UTMB organization, all the volunteers and spectators for giving us an unforgettable experience, and whether you finished or not congrats to everyone who ran. Can’t wait to come back to Chamonix.