In a few hours I will be setting off on a bus from Chamonix where I am staying to travel through the tunnel under the Mont Blanc to Courmayer, Italy. From there I and Mrs. F. will run back to Chamonix via Champex Lac in one of the races making up the UTMB race series. It is 100km, with around 6km of vertical ascent. It is going to be fun, tough, inspiring and challenging. I can’t wait!
This week in Chamonix
The trail running world – or at least the European part of it – seems to arrive in Chamonix for the UTMB week. Everywhere you look there are man and women sporting amazing looking running kit and very little body fat, parading through the town and generally consuming enough calories to power an army for a year.
For someone relatively new to the ultra trail running scene like me, this is an astonishing and inspiring place to be at this time. And one of the amazing aspects of trail running – and perhaps running in general – is the way that the best in the world seem happy to rub shoulders with those starting out and simply trying to finish the races. So it has been an increadible few days of meeting running royalty for me this week…
First up it was Anton Krupicka, who wandered into the restaurant where I was having lunch. He seemed only too happy to pose for a photo and chat about what will be his first UTMB this week.
The following day I decided to run to the summit of the Brevant with a friend Rob Gabbie. It was a tough climb that took us a couple of hours, but despite the clouds which obscured the view across the valley, for me it was well worth it when I arrived at the summit and there, sitting on a rock, was Sebastian Chaigneau.
He too was happy to pose for a photo and talk about the UTMB. What I didn’t expect was his answer when I asked if he thought he might win:
I don’t care. I am here to run in the mountains and be humble and enjoy myself
Great advice that I am going to adopt for my race tomorrow.
On the way down from the Brevant, I bumped into Shona Stephenson, from the inov-8 team, running uphill. I stopped to say hello and whilst Shona didn’t remember me and made no attempt to hide it (!) despite meeting me only a few weeks ago, she seemed to be pleased to have been recognised. For her, the UTMB is an exciting race: it’s her first attempt at it and it falls on the day of her 35th birthday. She has spoken to the inov-8 people about the race and you can see what she thinks here.
After that, I had the running-celebrity equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel when Mrs. F. won an invitation to a breakfast at the Northface store in Chamonix and knowing what a running geek I am, offered her place to me. Within moments of arriving I was talking to Jez Bragg, who I have met before and Lizzy Hawker (who I have been corresponding with recently and it was great to finally meet her in person). We were talking about Lizzy’s injury woes and how Jez would approach the race after his epic New Zealand escapade, when we were interrupted by someone wanting to say hello (to Jez and Lizzy I hasten to add, not me!) – Timmy Olsen!
So there I was in a group of four talking to Jez Bragg, Lizzy Hawker and Timmy Olsen. Surreal!
Chamonix is ready – am I?
So after immersing myself in the ultra trail world for the past few weeks, it is now time to get down to business. I have felt better prepared for races. But then again, I think that something magical happens when you get on the start line of a huge challenge like this. I am really excited about what is going to happen and the fact that I will be running with Mrs. F. The weather is set fair and I have had enough inspiration and positivity to fly me to the moon. I’ll let you know how I get on…