I ran UTMB – CCC 2019 and finished in 24:28:35! Here’s a little about pre-race, the race, training, gear, and nutrition. This race is 63 miles and 20k feet of gain and loss.
Pre-race, arrival/packet pick up
We arrived to Chamonix, France on Thursday morning, the day before the race. We were already in Europe for our honeymoon, but we had flown into the Geneva airport then grabbed a bus from Geneva. Super easy/cheap to do.
When we got there we had tickets to do the Aiguille du Midi – really recommend! It was awesome. After that I went and gathered all my required gear and headed to packet pickup (you have to pre-sign up for a time slot to go, I picked 2pm-4pm). The line was not long, the whole process took less than 20 min…honestly my husband spent more time waiting in the supporter’s bus line to get his wristband to be able to access the aid station busses.
When you get to packet pickup you show them your passport, they print out a sheet of all of your required gear, you put it in an airport security bin, then you bring it up to a person to check to make sure you have it. You sign a paper agreeing you’ll carry it all for the whole race, then they issue your bib and tag your hydration vest with a tracker. Easy peasy.
I had also registered for the Dot Vision GPS tracker beforehand – I do not recommend doing this. It was an extra 30E and since the race tracking itself is so good, my husband didn’t end up using it at all to track me. Plus you have to keep it upright, at the top of your pack to work correctly, not worth it.
There are busses to drive you to Courmayeur from Chamonix the morning of the race, you need to register for a bus time beforehand. I think I picked 7am? I tried to pick one of the later ones, no need to get there super early. Ian rode with me on the bus. When we got there we just hung out inside the ice rink lobby where it was warm. No lines for the women’s restroom cause this race is only 15% women; very long lines for the men’s restroom. One perk of being a girl. Finally we walked out to the start, there are 2 corrals based on your bib number, which is based on your ITRA ranking. Bibs 3000-3999 in corral 1 and 4000+ in corral 2. Corral 1 goes at 9:00am (the elites are in the front, roped off), and corral 2 goes off at 9:15am. I was in corral 1.
The race started! It was a gorgeous cool morning, most folks were in shorts/t shirts but some were bundled up. I was happy I was in shorts/a t shirt because it warmed up quickly. The first climb up to Tête de la Tronche was the longest continuous climb in the race, but it wasn’t bad at all. It’s still cool out, you feel fresh, spirits are high, it flew by. Then you come down to Refuge Bertone, there were snacks and water refills here. I refilled my flask and realized it was water with gas! Just remember they have both at the aid stations. I kept going to Refuge Bonatti. It’s pretty flat and uneventful between these two. Very runnable. At Refuge Bonatti they were instructing runners to refill bottles at one of the mountain run-off fountains, causing a bit of a bottleneck to fill up but it was fine.
Then we made our way to Arnouvaz. There were a ton of people there cheering, because the spectator busses go here, however this is not a support/crew stop. Ian was there and I said hi to him, quickly went through the aid tent, and headed back out and started up the mountain number two. By now it was hot outside, it was around lunchtime, and we were headed up the second major climb of the day. This climb was rough for me. I don’t know if it was altitude or heat or a mixture, but I started feeling a bit lightheaded and just not into it, but I did not stop. Lots of people were stopping to take breaks on the side; you can take a break when you’re at the top and start going downhill. Finally I made it to the top at Grand Col Ferret, it was cool, windy, and cloudy at the top. This is also where you cross from Italy into Switzerland! I started down and realized that running, especially downhill, did not feel good anymore. It was at this point that I pretty much started walking it in, more or less, around 32k in. Oof. I made it to La Peule, they had water here. I’m pretty sure this is where they were refilling water with a hose! I was glad to have it though, it was so hot and I was going through my entire 2L bladder and 16oz flask in-between almost every aid station. We went through La Fouly which is a cute little town. The cheer busses go here too but Ian wasn’t here because he was focused on getting to Champex-Lac. It also took 3 hours for him to get from Arnouvaz to there because the tunnel under Mont Blanc was so backed up.
Then we continued on to Champex-Lac. On the elevation map this bump looks like no big deal but it feels significant when you’re doing it, but knowing that I’d get to see Ian and get hot food and water refills kept me moving. I made it to Champex-Lac before dark, so got to see the gorgeous sunset reflected on the lake. That was amazing. This is a fully stocked aid station, hot food, all the things. It’s really nice, but don’t get too comfortable! Keep moving!
I kept moving on and the sun set quickly. It got cool out but not cool enough to put on my jacket or anything. This next section felt very achievable because the mountains are not as high as in the beginning of the race, and you get to see your crew in between each mountain, luxurious almost! I made it to La Giéte then down to Trient, this was not too bad. I can’t remember if it was exactly here but there are tons of sleeping cows all over the mountains during the next two mountains. Then up to Les Tseppes and down to Vallorcine. I felt pretty miserable at this point, but there’s only one more mountain!!!! So I geared up and kept moving.
I should say at this point, because I’ve been walking the race since 32k, that I was still moving pretty well and quickly, this is because I did not sit down at any aid station. I was at each one for less than 10 minutes, and usually less than 5 minutes. Get your stuff and keep moving, you can eat and walk and make up a few miles while you’re regrouping. One woman even said something like “how are you walking and I’m running and you keep overtaking me at every aid station?!” Just get out of the aid stations as fast as possible, they are TIME TRAPS. Thanks so much to expert crew Ian who knows how these things work and can get me in and out of them quickly.
So then I started the (last!) climb to Tête aux Vents. This climb was really difficult, it was so steep that there were stairs built into the mountain at some points. Also I know that on the elevation chart it looks about the same as the two you just did, but it really does feel longer. So I made it up. I did put my jacket on at this point because it was pretty chilly just because it was nighttime and on the mountain. The sun started coming up and there were amazing views of Mont Blanc. It was also a nice point just to remember how far you came around Mont Blanc and now you’re almost nearing the end!
I made it to La Flégère and just wanted to burst into tears. So close now! Now there’s just a giant decent to Chamonix left. The downhills REALLY hurt. My quads were long gone and my toes were all squished in the front of my shoes, but almost there. I kept going and going and finally left the trail for the town, we went over that rickety bridge over the street, then started the jog into the city. The finish is the best part of all of these races, they run through at least a quarter mile of the town so everyone who’s outside, or eating at a cafe, stops what they’re doing and claps and cheers for you. It’s amazing. I crossed the line in 24:28:35. It was amazing.
HA! I had been coming off injury and I was in a walking boot with a severe bone bruise until the middle of June. I hadn’t run at all in two months, swimming only. So I started from scratch.. 10 mile weeks, 20 mile weeks, 30 mile weeks. I made it up to a 47 mile week as my biggest week and an 18.5 mile run as my longest run. Not adequate at all, but it got the job done. You can walk this thing if something goes terribly wrong and your only goal is to finish. It is possible.
From the bottom up: Saucony Peregrines, Injinji socks, Dirty Girl gaiters, 2XU calf sleeves, Patagonia running skirt, Patagonia t shirt, Zensah sports bra, Squirrels nut butter chafing cream, Arc Teryx waterproof jacket, Buff, Hat, Photocromatic sunglasses, Garmin Forerunner 935 (died at mile 55), Nathan VaporHowe, Black diamond carbon trekking poles (essential), a belt with food in it. My pack was so loaded with all of the required gear (seriously it started ripping and I had to use the hotel sewing kit to sew it the night before), that I liked having my food in a separate belt. I changed bras/shirts once when it got to be nighttime, I’m glad I did because I was super sweaty from the day and I probably would have gotten colder faster if I hadn’t.
I tried to eat every 20-30min. I ate shot blocks, cliff bars, I had tailwind in my flask for the first half of the race, then I ate tons of stuff at aid stations.. Bars, pasta, cheese, bread, everything.
Any questions? Let me know! Instagram @brimil