UTMB 2013 Wrap-up
Recently I joined a press trip for the 2013 edition of UTMB around Mont Blanc. Since I didn’t have the necessary point to qualify for participating as a runner I watched the race from the side. Having finished the UTMB race twice (2005 and 2009) this felt somewhat akward. But to be realistic: I haven’t been able to do any ultra races in recent years due to knee injuries. The UTMB is quite an undertaking and you’d better be prepared. After the race I met a friend who dropped out early into the race, since his body didn’t respond the way he had hoped. He admitted he hadn’t done the necessary preparations.
In St Gervais at km 21 I saw a very tired Seb Chaigneau, one of the pre race favorites. That was surprising, I thought. Swedish runner Jonas Buud looked fresh in fourth place at this point. But my thought was: he’s running too fast, knowing he never did a long race like this before and that he use to pace himself well.
Somewhat later came Anton Krupicka’s tanned torso propelled by short, light strides. He seemed very popular, especially with the ladies:-) I believe a lot of runners can learn from his very personal and natural minimalist approach. He too was expected to perform well in the race, and things were looking good also when I saw him in the lead group at the hut before Courmayeur (Maison Vielle km 73,3) but eventually he pulled out in Trient km 139 due to pain in hamstring and achilles. Jonas Buud, unexperienced with long races like this, started losing time to the leading pack just before Courmayeur. But it was after the climb up to Refuge Bertone he really started to slow down. “I didn’t have power or energy. I actuelly felt dizzy and weak” he said after the race. He struggled to Champex where he decided to withdraw. At this point he was on 10th position, approx 90 minutes behind Asics teammate, young frenchman Xavier Thevenard in the lead.
Thevenard, 25, a national team cross country skier, probably used his treeking poles well and held the lead all the way to Chamonix, setting a new course record: 20:34:57 (almost 2 minutes faster than Kilian Jornet’s old record).
Many seemed surprised of this relatively unknown runner beating the world class field, but Thevenard has proved strong in prior races: In 2012 he won the CCC at the age of 22, In 2011 he came 2nd in La6000D, and he came 3rd in the new 80K Du Mont-Blanc the past summer, just to mention a few of his top ultra-trail results in recent years. Spaniards Miguel Heras (+20 min) and Javier Dominguez (+43 min) took 2nd and 3rd.
US runner Rory Bosio (The North Face Team) was fastest woman and finished 7th overall, which was the first time for a woman to place in the top-10. The 29 year old also has the new course record: 22:37:26 and beat much more experienced runners, like spaniards Nuria Picas (24:32) and Emma Roca (24:38).
All in all it was a very successful event, much thanks to the perfect weather. After three years of thunderstorms the runners finally was allowed to do the whole course around Mont-Blanc. After the race I stayed in the area and did some daily fast packing trips. In order to prepare well for a race like this you better get your quads used to the long descents. Doing the course in segments will also allow you to scout were to find natural water sources along the route, so you don’t have to carry water around Mont-Blanc… You can also test the gear, shoes etc. I will probably post more stories about this in the future. And many thanks to The North Face for bringing me along!