There is always a nice mix of confidence and training that need to raise up to the right level in order to succeed. Not only in running. For UTMB, however, you add the pressure of the event (“the biggest, the most famous, the most epic….”) and as well the fact that this would have been my 6th start in a 100 miler, without notable success…UTMB was on my bucket list for a long time, without having the courage to sign up for it. I am not sure yet how I signed up for it and what pushed me into doing it….
Coming from Amsterdam, each little hill makes your heart pound harder and you remain breathless if you try to jog it, let alone run it. It was an obviously lucky thing that I was able to book my month of July in the Chamonix valley and the next good sign was to have there Dani as well. Unbelievably rewarding to have someone to chase in the training runs. I will always have our small village-stadium interval sessions (where I murdered Dani) or the uphill fartlek from Notre Dame de la Gorge where Dani smoked me constantly. But also the infamous Vertical kilometer tempo followed by 10 km @tempo pace which I never thought I would be able to do until I did it.
Did someone say Team Run? I feel this was the most effective training block I have ever gone through; the sessions created by Radu touched everything and towards the end of the block I was able to single out and put together all the small pieces of the puzzle.
These small things gave me energy, confidence and by the end of the 3rd week in the valley my mind was in the area. 4 weeks with around 150 km and 7000 m+ gave my legs the endurance needed. Not really the speed but endurance. It is truly so cool to be able to walk outside the door and just hit the trails; even cooler to bump into the professional athletes or having a nice stroll in the evening trying out all the possible ice creams…
The UTMB week was a blast and every single day built excitement. Including the day a stupid dog decided to make the week insanely interesting and bit me (nothing too serious, though). Topping it off was the OCC day where I got totally hyped up by Dani and Raluca. Seeing their focus and their mindset rounded up my mental preparation for the race and, with the latest piece of advice from Mihai, I was toeing the start line with confidence and excitement.
The race was nothing less than I expected: I felt strong for most of the race; I was tough on the uphills and very cautious on the downhills, I ate a lot in the check points and I had a couple of low points which I have tackled efficiently ( F#%k you, Grand Col Ferret!). The Amacx gels did wonders and I managed to eat/drink around 30 of them. Matei and Dana did their morale boosting part and made Courmayeur and Champex two key points in my physical revitalization.
Also realized that the lack of sleep can be your biggest enemy; the mild hallucinations and the foggy brains are a silent and slow killer of your pace and of your determination; luckily, the La Flegere CP appeared as salvation and the Team Run gang cheered me up upon entering Chamonix.
The finish line felt like a cycle closing in. It made sense, it felt natural but surreal and it took me a few days to soak in the 38 + hours of circumnavigating the Mt Blanc.
Onwards and upwards, Festival des Templiers is warming up!