Jan 2011

2011: UTMB or not UTMB


2011: UTMB or not UTMB? That is the question that will be answered for me when the draw is made on January 18th...

I first heard about UTMB in Autumn 2007. The elation of finishing Ironman UK far faster than my wildest dreams (and over taking lots of fit looking blokes on the run) had faded. And I was looking for a bigger, properly hard, challenge.

I’d discovered ultra-running way back in the mid-90s (in the early days of the internet). I was fascinated, and devoured race reports for the US 100s, the Grand Slam and the infamous Barkley marathon. But as a penniless PhD student I was struggling (and to this day failing) to run a sub 4 hour marathon, and ultras never made it beyond ‘maybe one day’.

I can’t really remember how I heard about UTMB (maybe via the tritalk triathlon forums). But I decided that I was going to start running ultras and do UTMB. At this point I clearly had absolutely no clue how hard UTMB is...

I set about racking up the required qualifying points in 2008.
Wuthering Hike was my first ultra, followed by three 50s (Lakeland 50, Bullock Smith Hike and Round Rotherham).
I took 5 hours off my 50 mile PB (largely thanks to the Round Rotherham being far flatter and faster than the Lakeland 50). Won my first sporting prize since placing 3rd (and last...) in the 800 metres at school when I was 11: 2nd woman (out of 3...) in the Lakeland 50. And learnt some important lessons about navigation and kit.

Come 2009 I had enough points to enter UTMB, but with a better idea of what I was getting myself into, decided to run another, easier 100 first. I chose the Peninne Challenge. When this was cancelled due to the demise of Ambition Events I was lucky to grab one of the last few entries for CCC (the fun run version of UTMB).

CCC was the best, and hardest, thing I’d ever done.
Apart from a bad patch on the last climb I never really doubted I’d finish, but I was only ever about an hour inside the cut-offs. Nonetheless from nearly last at the first checkpoint, I worked my way up to 1060th out of ~1250 finishers (out of 1800+ starters). And ‘running’ through the cheering crowds in Chamonix was fantastic.

CCC taught me that I definitely needed an easier 100 under my belt before attempting UTMB. So I entered the 2010 Devon 100. Which was cancelled. (Am I a jinx on 100 milers?). But again I was lucky and got one of the last places in the LDWA Heart of Scotland 100. Which I finished (albeit much slower than I’d hoped/planed).

So on to 2011. After several years of reading blogs and race reports I think I now know what I’m getting myself into. And it’s right at the edges of what I’m physically capable of. But waiting any longer isn’t going to make it any easier. So I’ve placed my entry and am waiting for the draw.

B plan is the Lakeland 100. Another very tough race.