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2019 UTMB CCC – Mountains of Awesome! by Dan

2019 UTMB CCC – Mountains of Awesome! by Dan

In 2018 I followed the UTMB CCC race from a small laptop screen. I tracked Tom Evans through the race and witnessed his awesome performance where he overtook the lead runner in the last few km’s, and come through the finish in 1st place. Experiencing that, even through a tiny screen, was enough to motivate me to enter the ballot for a place in the 2019 race. I had never really wanted to run/hike in the mountains before that. Roll on a few months later and my good friend and I had put in a group ballot entry, and were successful upon our first attempt! Jammy. Very lucky. Awesome! But oh no, wait a second – what have I done? After being successful in the ballot and sorting out holiday dates with the family, it dawned on me what I had gotten myself into. My race calendar for 2019 already had two big races booked (TP100 and GUCR). We decided that this was going to be just a fun experience run rather than a hard race, but even with that in mind, it was obvious I had my work cut out for me. It was apparent that to finish the CCC you had to put in a fair amount of training, especially hill work/hiking. But I live in Portsmouth and it’s very flat. We have a small hill north of the city called Portsdown Hill. At best you could get maybe two minutes of steep climbing. Further north you have the Queen Elizabeth Country Park which has Butser Hill and a trail called the South Downs Way which is undulating and very long. The climbs are plentiful there, but very short. I didn’t even have any way to measure in my head how the Alps would differ from Butser Hill but I knew the difference was huge. It was going to be another challenge itself to train well for this race. I had also agreed to keep training to a ‘minimum’, as my races had eaten into enough family time and finances over the year. I agreed that weekends away racing and running were not going to happen. Trips away to train in bigger mountains and hills were out of the question. I had to make do with what I had and train early morning. This write up is a post about the experience of heading out to the mountains of Mont Blanc and what it’s like to be a part of the most incredible running races I have ever seen. It’s a story of battling against the odds and finishing an extremely tough race after almost throwing in the towel half way. It’s a story of lessons and how amazing friends and complete strangers can be. It also has lots of photos too! Thanks for reading.


Early start and drive to Heathrow

I’ve covered how I entered this years CCC. My friend Colin and I had secured a place together and he was taking his family out there a few days earlier than me. I arrived in Chamonix the Wednesday before the race which gave me a couple of days to cruise around town for a bit and take in all the atmosphere. I’d travelled to Chamonix and the Mont Blanc region as a very young child and my mum tells me that I had actually done a poo on the mountains back in the early 1980’s! TMI? That’s not significant at all and I don’t remember it, but a little nostalgic for some reason…? I arrived in Chamonix by Alpy Bus. The journey started early but was very easy. UTMB fever kicked in early as the security guard at Heathrow clocked my Hoka shirt and shoes and engaged in ultra running talk. He was a runner himself and a keen Centurion racer. It made the airport bit nicer. He told me I’d be blown away by Chamonix and UTMB. He was right. In Chamonix the bus dropped me off right outside where Colin and the family were staying. For ages I could not stop staring at the mountains. Mont Blanc was visible from the front of the cottage. Holy crap – was I actually going to run around these things? I felt like an ant. We had a quick catch up and a bit of food before heading straight into town to see what all this running fuss and UTMB was about. Wow! I was blown away once we got into town. So vibrant, so busy, so full of runners! Plenty of running related shops and brands that you wouldn’t normally see walking down a high street in the UK. Boxes of Hokas and various brands in the general sports shops. We got some photos of the finish which was near the square in town. People were eating and drinking and cheering runners through some of the races that had already begun. There are various races that start during the UTMB week: UTMB , TDS , CCC , and the OCC. There is also a hugely long race called the PTL which is about 300km in length! Each of those races of varying distances goes through the beautiful mountains around Mont Blanc and each requires a certain amount of points you earn through qualifying races, in order to enter.


A most excellent form of entertainment for a travel day – Super Mario Maker 2 !


A lovely couple I met on the flight who were out supporting their son in his Triathlon in Switzerland that same weekend

We wondered through the town market to where the running stalls were, which were occupied over by all the major running brands. There was everything from Hoka to Coros. So many hiking pole to head torch companies, all showing off their latest gadgets. Of course, I went straight to the Hoka stall (where else?) and then onto the Hoka area which was being set up for the pro athletes who were doing a signing. The Hoka staff were super busy and many spoke different languages, but it was great to chat to a few of them and introduce myself. The fan boy in me got my cap signed by Harry Jones and Kaci Lickteig. I enjoy meeting the pros. These are runners you follow the results of all year and to meet them even for just a quick photo is quite inspiring. Once I’d finished fan-boying hard, we bumped into friends from Portsmouth who were also out there racing and crewing. Our friends David & Heather and Stewart. Great to see other familiar faces and lots of runners from Portsmouth! I then realised that I hadn’t eaten much all day due to the travel. We headed off to a nice bar and restaurant called Big Horn and what a choice that was because it was where Strava HQ were set up for their week of parties and give-aways. The place did some mean craft ales and good food. While in there I saw Zach Miller from the US walking around. Man, we’re at UTMB here I thought! I also found out that if we took our race numbers in the next day after kit check, that we’d be able to claim a free pair of Strava socks. We planned to get those freebies for sure, and that brings me onto the kit checks the next day.


Both successfully got our race numbers after kit check

Colin’s family sadly left for the UK Thursday morning. They were going back early and so Colin and I were there on our own from that point. Party time! Err, no – relax time! After the horrid goodbyes Colin and I bundled up our kit into the packs and headed into town again for the kit check. The race organisers have to get thousands of runners in different races through a fairly detailed process ensuring that all the kit meets the safety standards and criteria. I thought it would be chaotic but the process was really well done and ran so smoothly. You arrive with your ID documents and get given a randomised sheet which has a number of items selected on it to be checked and verified. I think I had to show my foil blanket, waterproof jacket, head torch and base layer. Before you show the items you are then sent to another queue to unpack your bag and get it ready to be checked. Very similar to checking your hand luggage at airport security. Your items are taken out and placed in a tray. This makes a quick in and out at the actual kit check so you don’t spend time unpacking everything for the volunteers. You unpack and pack everything at a bunch of tables to the side and when ready, they call you over one by one. Once done and your sheet is stamped, you go through to get your race number! That makes it all very real. Once done there it’s onto the next section where you get your tags attached to your back pack which contain the electronic device scanned each time you head through a check point during the race. Once done there it’s onto the next quick queue to get your free UTMB technical shirt. It’s a really nice shirt and I normally wouldn’t take a race shirt but this is a really special one so I did. Relief! Nothing left to do apart from wake up the next day and don’t miss the bus. There was time for a few photos after the kit check in a great spot with the mountains in the background. This was it. No turning back. Time to chill – then time to race!


First meal out in Big Horn where the Strava party was happening


Dave and I getting ready to start the race

The next morning we had set the alarms for 5am. Colin cooked a mean pot of oats for us and we got dressed into our ‘not so neatly’ spread pile of race clothes. I went for shorts and one of Centurion shirts as the material is so damn light, cool and comfortable. We headed into town while still dark and managed to quickly find a stream of people heading onto buses. We were being taken to the CCC start which is about a 20 minute trip through the tunnel under Mont Blanc to Courmayeur, Italy. A top tip for future runners is to get the earlier buses if possible. It means you have to wait longer at the start area but you won’t get panicking if the buses are stuck in queues. There were runners everywhere! You could sense the excitement and the nerves and the start of the race was just surreal. I’d seen it the year before and now I was actually there! In Courmayeur, for the CCC! I couldn’t believe it at times. Once in the starting pen which are numbered according to the first digit of your race number, there were a good twenty minutes to go. Time for a few photos as I bumped into another running friend from Portsmouth, and met another Hoka ambassador from Malaysia. People were really friendly and there was much chit chat going on. Then came the countdown…. uno! We were off! Music was playing an epic race tune which sounded like something out of Game of Thrones. The thrill was insane! What was to happen that day hadn’t been written yet but the universe had a plan for us all….


Making new friends before the start. Hoka One One!


The first mile out of Courmayeur was quite flat with a slight hill, which then went off into the trees and trails at the base of the first mountain, and got steep soon after. The first climb was to check point Refuge Bertone which was after the high point of the first mountain. I’d heard so much about this first climb. I’d really built it up in my head so much that I was expecting to be in pieces at the top. That didn’t quite happen and when I got to the top a couple of hours or so later I felt quite good. I was so pleasantly surprised. Perhaps my Butser Hill training reps had been all I needed? Don’t get me wrong, the climb was very hard work but I felt like I could go on quite happily whereas many runners on that first bit were stopping and some were feeling ill towards the top. Colin and I had started in different groups and so he had caught me up by the time we hit the first big check point. This was great news as I then didn’t have to wait there for him. We had agreed to get through this race together. He was moving fast and feeling very strong. The check point had plenty to eat in it, and luckily some stuff I really fancied which was shaved Parmesan slices and a thick salami meat. Absolutely delicious it was. I could have stayed there all day. But time was of the essence and we were soon off again on the first downhill. There had been some technical and steep downhills leading to that check point and I found them already to be a little bit harder than heading up hill. There was some nicer sections here along the route which were completely runable but you couldn’t really get a rhythm going because there were either bottle necks of people, or a sudden steep bit or climb that stopped you from picking up any pace. I think to get some pace on there you need to be in among the front runners to get some space as well. After quite some time we reached Arnouvaz which was another check point, with food and drink. We were quick in and out of this one with some nice photos taken during a drink. I saw someone being very sick here which I thought was quite early on, but the climbing was clearly taking its toll on people. It was taking its toll on me too but my body was able to somehow hide it from me for a bit. It was going to soon spring out and surprise me like it always does….


The views from the top of the first climbs were just spectacular

With what I thought was the worst mountain out the way I think I had incorrectly calculated that the others would be slightly easier. That was the most stupid thing I could have set myself up for. The second climb to Grand Col Ferret was really steep and felt very very long. It was at the top that I then realised just how much the mountains were taking out of my legs and body. Feeling good was not an option anymore! It went on for what felt like hours. Colin took some great photos there and managed to get out his navy flag for an awesome pose in the wind. The downhill section after there was pretty horrendous on my legs. It’s long and drops down to check point La Fouly. Before then however we stopped at a quick water station along the route and there we found our friend Dave looking really ill and in a bad way. He had been really affected by the heat during the day. We did our best to ensure he was ok with our time there, and checked he had everything he needed. I told him to eat, relax for a while and that it would pass eventually. He had plenty of time banked. Colin and I had to press on however so it was a quick hug for Dave and we were off again on the downhill stretch. I wasn’t feeling great myself at this point and did my usual thing which is to go all quiet and trying not to let it get to me. Unfortunately, things got bad for me from then on. Really bad!



Feeling terrible and not wanting to even speak or eat

We had seen Dave later on at La Fouly in fact and he was much better. I however was gradually heading into a very dark place and could feel my race collapsing around me. My legs and body felt ok considering, but my energy levels were low and the nausea was terrible. As always nutrition (and heat) played a part in this, but I am growing to almost accept this now by default and just try to learn to deal with it when it comes. The problem with long races like this is that when you are going through the nausea it is extremely difficult to plan to deal with and I find I cannot make sense out of anything. My body almost shuts down. Even though I’ve thought about it and considered what to do, I just don’t want to do anything at all. Nothing sounds like a good plan. Your brain almost shuts down alongside the body, and everything including talking to people is a nauseating task. When we got into Champex-Lac I collapsed on a bench. I didn’t bother to even fill bottles or do anything. I couldn’t face it. Colin was feeling good still and moving well. I had been slowing him down a bit over the last few miles and I believed that it was game over for me. I could not face the thought of climbing another few yards, let alone three mountains! Just the thought of it was making me feel worse with each passing moment. Colin was worried about me and he really didn’t want to leave me there. We had planned to finish together! This happened to me for the first time earlier this year in the Thames Path where Jason and I had to separate for the first time due to my nausea. It seems I’m due a bout of it in very long races. I was absolutely gutted at this stage but eventually managed to convince Colin that he had to press on otherwise his race would be in trouble too. It was the right thing to do. My main focus at that checkpoint was to get Colin to be comfortable with the idea of focusing on his race and leaving me there. I’d be fine. The race organisers plan for this stuff. It must be a hard thing to do feeling like you are leaving a friend behind who is in a horrid state, however this is the nature of these races and we know what we are getting ourselves into. You can do what you can at the time but there is a point where you need to let go and let the other runner press on. Colin eventually agreed to go on and I felt bad that he felt bad, but it was the correct thing to do. He gave me a banana piece and told me to eat it and then headed out the door and back into the race. He was running like an absolute legend and I was so pleased he was going on. Now, time to focus on me and where to hand my number in…. however first, a sleep. I put my head down on my arms and let everything go. Eventually, no pressure. No more running. No mountains. Man I feel so ill, but at least it’s over. Zzzzzzzzzz.


Joseph – the dude who saved my race. Hoka One One ambassador from Singapore


A spoon and bag??? These items became significant to me

I don’t know exactly how much time passed by but when I lifted my head later on I saw a man in a blue jacket sitting next to me. The aid station was really really busy. Lots of noise. Hoka One One was printed all over his jacket. He was kitted up in Hoka gear but not in running kit. He was crewing for a number of runners that weekend. We spoke for a bit about Hoka and he mentioned he was an ambassador in Malaysia. His name was Joseph. I told him my race was over. I was handing my number in. And that’s when everything changed and things turned around. Joseph had other plans for me and told me I was not quitting. No need. He sprung into action and headed to the busy food tables to get me soup, cutlery and a few packets of his own food that he had prepared in bags. Rice, sausages and vitamins. I had not wanted to eat earlier on but enough time had gone for the nausea to ease a bit which was enough for me to shovel some down. Like a sick child, I did what I was told there and had some plain rice, salty soup and a sausage in a special sauce. It went down ok and there was no feeling like it was coming back up. Great. Joseph also let me keep those packets of food to take away with me for the next check point. I emotionally got my long sleeve base layer on and head torch on my head. I couldn’t believe I was considering walking out back onto the path, but after the help and kindness shown – I really had to try. I think that was Josephs plan all along! Surely I’d not make it to the next peak. I couldn’t imagine running any slight incline, let alone the next three mountains. Against the thoughts in my head and the way my body was feeling, I left the station and got back onto the trail with a few other runners. I had some concerns initially as I felt like I was going to get stuck half way up this next climb and be in between check points. It was a risk, but a risk that ended up being VERY worth my while. Thank you Joseph and Wei for the company and extreme kindness shown to me, a complete stranger. I was going to make this worth it!!! (I only really thought that positively on the final descent, but things improved slowly). My lesson here was the amount of food Joseph got me to eat. Soup with noodles, rice, a whole sausage and some vitamins. Perhaps this is a new weapon in my experiences that I can draw from in the future. When ill – rest, eat and continue!


Photo taken before the race in the best photo spot in Chamonix (or at least I think so)


One of the check point signs and details

The climb and descent to Trient, the next big check point was hard and long and strangely very silent. Runners were just breathing and sweating hard and there were pockets of single file queues going up and up. You could see tails of people in the black distance by their head torches and looking up seemed a mistake as it acted as a reminder about how much more climbing you had to do. I met another runner, Rebecca who I got chatting to. One strange thing about the CCC which is quite funny looking back, is that because you are single file you never really get to see the faces of other runners. Even more so at night. You see the tag on the race packs with that runners country flag and their name. Rebecca and I chatted for ages about all sorts of topics. Talking really helped pass the time in a much more enjoyable way rather than step counting on a steep climb or seeing people in the high distance knowing you were so far down still. When I  finally arrived at Trient I had my first real thoughts about possibly making it up the next mountain!? What the heck? Two more mountains to go. Trient is another low point, but not the lowest on the route. There were still two mountains to climb. I could not find a free table at Trient. It was rammed. I made my way to the soup counter and got myself a cup filled with noodles and soup. I then made my way outside and very slowly sat/fell to the ground and took my race pack off. I fiddled around with the pockets trying to remember where I had put the food Joseph had donated to me. My movements were sloth like. Slow. Feeling sorry for myself but feeling a tad better than a few hours previously I forced down the soup, noodles and rice and consumed the last sausage. I packed everything up while watching numerous runners making their way in and out of the check point. I carefully stood up, put my pack back on and then filled up one bottle with fizzy coke and one water. I used this combination since Champex-Lac. With fizzy drinks you just need to sometimes release the pressure out of the top of the bottle by squeezing the top. A few times I forgot to do that and I ended up getting a whole throat full of gas which made my eyes water and burnt my nose! I was soon back out on the course and would continue to use the Coke and water combination until the very end of the race. One of the things I remember about Trient before I continue on was the music, the DJ and the fact that there was a section the runners couldn’t enter into which had a bar for the support crews who had been transported there by the race organisers. It was quite odd seeing a bar right next to the carnage that is the benches of an aid station. As I disappeared into the darkness ahead the voices and noise grew to a familiar silence which was the sound of feet and poles on the trail. All I had in my head was keep moving and drinking and eating. I felt like I was in a much better routine now. In a few hours I’d be able to say that there was one mountain left to go!


A photo I took earlier in the week. A father running with his son through the finish – amazing

Vallorcine was the next check point but only after another very long and steep climb and downhill. This is where things really changed for me. Clearly the rest earlier on, the food and drink I’d consumed and the fact that I had kept moving and made a bit of progress were all building a much more positive outlook in my head. I climbed the next section really well and ended up taking over a few people. I seemed to be using my poles well still although my shoulders and particularly my elbows were in pain as well. Manageable pain. I spoke with a few more runners having brief conversations that lasted for a few minutes at a time. The Coke was going down well and I seemed to be having a good time taking a few sips of Coke and then water later on and just alternating like that. The food over the past hours had certainly kicked in and energy levels were restoring. At the time it doesn’t feel like restoration is happening in the body as everything hurts, but the fact that I could talk and move and eat and drink is proof that it was. I grabbed soup, noodles and finished off the rice I had. I filled up my bottles and was probably out of there in about twenty minutes. One more climb to go! The end was feeling real now. I couldn’t believe I had just climbed and descended two mountains after being in the state I was in. Surely the finish is now going to happen. A runner earlier had said to me after I left half way post my wobble, that leaving Champex-Lac means statistically you have a very good chance to finish. Something worth bearing in mind for any future runner fancying a go at this race. 

The sun came up and I still couldn’t believe I was at the final mountain top

The final climb was amazing. It was a long trail next to a river for quite some time before getting to the steep stuff. I met up with a Belgian runner and we got chatting. It was his third time if I remember correctly. It was lovely chatting to him as he was quite complimentary about how fast we were moving uphill! Really? Then he shattered my soul by telling me that we were about to hit the steepest climbing of the race. Excellent. Fortunately my soul had been armoured by a few hours of noodles, rice and soup. Oh and Coke. I kept up with him for most of the climb to the top and we were over taking runners like mad. We climbed much faster than anyone else who was ahead of us until we got the to the top. We were then separated and I didn’t see him again because I took a photo of the sunrise over the mountain. Hello if you are reading this! In fact hello to anyone I ran and chatted with that day and night (Yeah right!). The sunrise was now happening behind the mountains of Mont Blanc. It was spectacular to see and as well documented by ultra runners, REALLY lifts the spirit. I felt very awake now and full of excitement. My phone reception was doing some weird things over the past hours and I hadn’t had a chance to tell Colin that I was back on course. I’d been wanting to do this for ages and at the top of the final climb I got to do just that. I sent him a message with a photo of me at the top. I was so happy I got to break that news to him. From then on it was a very technical downhill with a few short climbs to the final check point called La Flegere. From the profile of the race I had somehow remembered as it being downhill to La Flegere but I was mistaken. There were a few more hills put in there including one last little steep bit up a track to the aid station. Uncalled for really. Who did that? 


Still feeling good back then and admiring the views


On track earlier on in the race with lots of time in the bank

This was my shortest stop and all I did was refill my bottles with Coke and water. I did not want to find myself going down the next mountain without a drink and underestimating it because it was the last climb. Always leave the stations fully prepared on this race and do that until the finish! It was now really warm with the sun peaking over the mountain tops. I didn’t want to waste time getting my long sleeve base layer off and so it was in and out. On the way out I got the call from Colin that I’d been waiting for. It was so awesome to hear from him and he’d just finished. I knew that I had a couple of hours to go to get in under 24 hours which had been my race goal originally. Colin wished me luck and from then on it it was head down and RUN! I wanted that sub 24 hour! I engaged beast mode. With legs and body in pain I kicked my ass into gear and began to run as hard as I could. Feeling like a 6 minute mile, which was likely a 9 – 10 minute mile. It wasn’t really fast at all but the trail is still very technical. There are more things to fall over than not, and rocks and roots are vicious. I nearly took a couple of tumbles but managed to stay on my feet – just about. One runner shouted as I passed by that I might be able to make it under 24 hours if I continued to move like I was. Another passer by who was hiking up the hill told me to carry on as the path got very runable soon. What a load of bollocks that turned out to be, but it served a purpose to keep me going so fair play. The trail did not get easier underfoot until the very bottom getting into Chamonix. It was so nice at that point however as I started to pass so many runners and seeing more and more hikers and general runners who were likely just out on general weekend activities. This meant I was so close. As I came onto a road I knew I could make it. There was fifteen minutes left to sneak in under 24 hours. Annoyingly, but so funny looking back, we all had to walk up a scaffolding bridge to cross over something. I can’t recall if it was a railway or river? My brain was tired and focused. All I could focus on at the time – was the time! I ran the next stretch along a familiar path and I knew I was in town then. All the way along past the registration centre that we’d been in the day before for kit check, along the river and down to where the Expo had been that week. Marshals, walkers, holiday makers all cheering us on. It was my turn to finish like I’d seen so many doing during the week. Along the streets of Chamonix I heard and saw a friend Jason scream my name and take some photos of me. I smiled and I jumped for a joyous pose (ouch!) and looked happy. Ok, I was really happy actually. The smile was huge. The relief was about to come.


Heading into the finish funnel

Around the final bend and still over taking runners  just because I was moving well. High fiving spectators and enjoying the moment. I had considered what I’d do finishing over the line but those plans all went out of the window. I did my “Time to Fly” arms, and high-fived as many people as I could. It felt amazing! That step crossing the line was unreal. Thinking back, I had no idea how I managed to make it there. So much to remember and look back on. Lots to process. From the impossible, to the possible and everything in between. The race was done. I saw runners I’d spoken to at the aid station when I was feeling my worst and they were pleased to see me, and me them. Joy and hugs all around. Then I saw Colin and Dave and there were even more hugs. A bit wobbly on my feet, I managed to get to the side of the finish area and have a chat to everyone. The relief takes ages to sink in. Contemplating everything that has happened doesn’t really start to happen then. All I wanted was a seat, but couldn’t get one of those until we were back in the house later. Unfortunately before then we had to make our way to the kit check area again which was opposite direction to home. This was to collect our bags with the tops we’d worn at the start to keep warm. Dave and a few others were heading for drinks but we made our way to the house and began peeling the clothing off of our feet and bodies. It’s like removing a layer of skin that’s been rotting. Yummy. Feels great when done though. How can sitting on a sofa feel so good? I always go on about the contrasts running develop in life. Contrast is goodness. It develops healthy borders in the mind between discomfort and comfort, which makes me realise just how lucky we are in life. Even to have a sofa! Just a seat. It makes me so mindful of everything. The silence, the smell of a cup of coffee, the temperature …. so much xxx.


Both pleased to have finished and collected our medal – the gillet!



Bumping into friends in Chamonix – Laura and Matthew

I remember sitting on that sofa soon after we got back and Colin was talking to me. The next thing I remember was waking up an hour later disorientated, and for a few seconds not realising where I was. That’s exhaustion for you. Once I came around however, I was awake. Sore, but awake. Colin had obviously put his head down for a bit after that and so I decided to have another coffee and take a shower. Getting in and out of the shower was emotional but being clean and washing away the grime felt good. Disgusting details are free in this write up – haha! I had a nose full of dirt from breathing in the dust that had been kicked up over the day on the trails, and both my legs were so caked in the dust that it took a lot of scrubbing to get them clean. No blisters, no cuts – nothing. Just a VERY sore foot arch which is an injuring I’ve been dealing with since Thames Path! After an hour we were both awake and headed back into town for some lunch and drinks. We spent most of that day chilling in Big Horn. There I managed to get some more Strava goodies like a t-shirt and cup. Love the freebies. I had a beer , but then soft drinks for the rest of the day. Also managed to spot a running friend of mine walking past the bar, Alan. Alan is now an Asics Frontrunner and has done a lot of great running events over the year. Got a quick photo and hobbled back to the table to sit and chill some more. Grand plans of partying and staying up late did not materialise. We were both a bit fragile and actually ended up having an early night.


Alan and I outside the Strava party bar. Alan had finished TDS the day before


Three friends from Portsmouth

Chamonix was more amazing than I ever imagined it would be. Up until 2018 I had never really wanted to go out there. Mountain running isn’t my thing as I normally like to take part in more ‘runable’ trail terrain, which doesn’t require so much hiking and specialised training weekends away. That isn’t me saying that more hiking races are too easy – VERY far from it. These races are runable in parts too. It’s just a completely different thing in some respects and where I live and train does not really cater for these races much. However it really gripped me and I now realise what is so special about heading out there for the races. Meeting other Hoka One One racers and pro athletes, getting to speak to my favourite brands about their gadgets and equipment. Being a part of those epic race starts and music. The mountains. The people and nationalities. It was just something special. The organisation of the UTMB week is second to none. Every little detail is covered and made as easy as it could be considering the logistics and numbers that they have to deal with. Right from the entry process and on, everything was so easy and straight forward. The only things I found a bit of a stress were the doctors certificate that had to be signed, because no-one at my surgery would sign it. And having to pack and take all that mandatory equipment overseas to a race in a country you’ve never run in before was a new experience but it all turned out well. So long as you write lists, check and recheck the mandatory kit lists and be prepared, you’ll be fine. Chamonix is so full of shops too that you would always be able to find what you were looking for anyhow. At a cost that is….


Both happy and excited to be a part of this years UTMB week


What an amazing atmosphere throughout the week

One other thing I’d like to expand on a bit is the different nationalities. I think I only saw a few other British runners during the race. So many lovely runners from all over the world. I met runners from the middle east, to the far east. Americans, Canadians, Irish, Mexican and Australian. The whole world is represented in that race and everyone is super friendly. A lot of runners I spoke with were there doing their first CCC and only a handful I chatted to were back for more. Lots of people had travelled with their families and were planning to run through the finish with their children and partners. I really hope everyone got to do that. I finished the race in 23:49 (Strava trace here) to scrape through my goal of going under 24 hours. The pleasure will be long lasting for this one. It’s given me confidence going into future 24 hour races and dealing with nausea and getting ill. I’ve learned something new – when you have time in the bank, use it. Sitting down and putting your head down at an aid station for half an hour isn’t the end of the world or your race. Don’t just hand your number in, no matter how bad you feel. Sleep, eat and recover, and then start moving slowly again. In other races there is sometimes added pressure about aid station cut off times and the amount of time you can spend in them but use whatever time you can. It can still work out and ultimately ensure your race ends the way you planned. Thank you to my new friends who helped make me see that. Training although difficult living in a flat area, can be done using the hills you have. You need to get creative and sometimes perform some very tedious routines with hill reps however it can work. I managed to finish this using small hills for training.


Chamonix is smokin’


Last but not least, some shout outs firstly to Hoka One One for the Speedgoat 3’s. These shoes were instrumental in keeping me stuck to those technical trails. Also thank you for the Clifton 6’s for keeping my body comfortable and in good shape. Now I just need to get some more Hoka clothing suitable for these ultras. It’s a privilege to be part of your Hoka Racer program and run for a shoe company that I’ve grown so fond of over the years.  I also want to thank Coros for the most excellent Apex running watch which means I can leave all my charging cables at home and not worry about getting a complete trace over these distances. Fantastic running watch! Thank you to the friends who supported in Chamonix (Colin especially for putting up with my moaning on route, and the Portsmouth runners who were there supporting and running). And lastly a huge thanks to my family who I love so much. Kids, I know I’m not there a lot on those early mornings when you wake up, but I hope these will motivate you and inspire you to achieve your goals one day. My wife has been great in supporting me over these mornings too when I haven’t been there to get the kids ready for their activities. Big big love and thanks! xxx

So, Chamonix …. perhaps see you again in a few years time for UTMB? Oh yes…..! Happy miles everyone!!!!!!!!!


Wow - what a read of a fantastic experience for Dan out in the Alps!

You can follow Dan and his running escapades over at his blog - and we look forward to seeing your UTMB training ;-)

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Happy running

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