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UTMB

An American in Paris (well, Chamonix): USA triumph at UTMB

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc

Photo Credit: © UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

The slogan for this year’s legendary UTMB race should have been, “The Americans are coming…”
The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) has mythic status. Its extreme difficulty coupled with its extreme beauty make it irresistible to ultra runners, and the draw is always heavily oversubscribed. It was first held in 2003 and the route takes you around the stunning scenery of Mont Blanc and the encircling peaks. The festival includes five races between 22nd and 28th August. The race center is in Chamonix in the French Alps.

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc

© UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

The five races are:

  • UTMB: Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (170 km +10,000 m)
  • CCC: Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix (101 km +6,100 m)
  • TDS: Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (119 km +7,250 m)
  • OCC: Orsières – Champex – Chamonix (55 km +3,300 m)
  • PTL: La Petite Trotte à Léon (approx. 290 km +26,500 m)

UTMB is a single-stage race and passes through three different countries as it follows the route of the Tour du Mont Blanc across France, Italy and Switzerland. The race varies very slightly in different years and in this edition, it was 170km with 10,000m of ascent. 2500 starters set off but there was a heavy drop out rate.
This year a couple of the big names dropped early including two of the favorites – Rory Bosio of the USA and  Luis Hernando of Spain.  
Before the race, Anton Krupicka had picked Hernando as a favorite.

“It is hard to bet against Luis Hernando and Zach Miller has the fire for it. For the women, Caroline Chaverot has had a great season and also Magdalena Boulet”

Jason Schlarb, who is one of our IRUN4ULTRA  ambassadors was also a casualty. On his Facebook page, he posted this moving note about how it felt to have to DNF (did not finish) and what it meant for his son, Felix.

It was a real disappointment to drop today. I felt really good training in August but the body was a wreck today. The hardest part was the massive disappointment Felix had from my drop. He was crushed. He cried and told me he wanted me to do UTMB. We have been in Europe for 6 weeks getting ready for UTMB, he has a UTMB t-shirt, he did the kids race, UTMB was his world this month. I am Felix’s hero. We run together on trails every day together. My drop was almost like having Christmas canceled. My heart is broken.”

RACE LEADERS

Photo Credit: © UTMB® - photo : Pascal Tournaire

Photo Credit: © UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

But for those who stayed the course, it was to be a magnificent race. Zach Miller of the USA was in the lead for a large part of the race, proving that he did have that fire. In the end, though he was unable to hold onto first place and Ludovic Pommeret of France chased him, passed him and took the win with 25 minutes to spare. Gediminas Grinius from Lithuania put in a very impressive performance to come in second. Then there was a late contender. Tim Tollefson from the USA had been behind but clawed his way up, clicking past the other competitors to come in at third, to his own, and everyone else’s delight.
Speaking after the race, he told us what it felt like.


There was not long to wait until there was more great news for America. Tim was followed in by David Laney (third last year) who had also run an astounding race. He crossed the finishing line and had clearly given it all he had, as he collapsed, showing just how much these athletes sacrifice of themselves to be the best.

Zach Miller, who was given the accolade   “most aggressive runner” by the UTMB TV crew, completed the trio, making it in 6th place.

After the race, one of his sponsors, Brent Hollowell, Vice President of Marketing for NATHAN said:
“ The first 85 miles were nothing short of amazing and the last twenty miles were heroic. You can’t watch that kid and not been inspired by the way he goes out at 100% and let’s what happens happen.”
The USA may not have taken first or second place, but the men’s gutsy performances and sheer charm won over the Chamonix crowd. 
The women’s race went to Caroline Chaverot, giving France the one/two. The French flags were out in force in town this evening and deservedly so.  

Photo Credit: © UTMB® - photo : Pascal Tournaire

Photo Credit: © UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

But don’t forget for the main body of the field, they still have a long night and day ahead of them and a thunderstorm has just broken over the mountains. The cut off time is 46 hours which will bring us to 4pm tomorrow evening local time.

FINAL RANKINGS

  1. Ludovic POMMERET, France 22:00:02
  2. Gediminas GRINIUS, Lithuania 22:26.05
  3. Tim TOLLEFSON, USA, 22:30.38

WOMEN’S RANKINGS

  1. Caroline CHAVEROT, France, 25:15:40
  2. Andrea HUSER, Switzerland, 25:22:56
  3. Uxue FRAILE AZPEITIA, Spain, 26:15:18

Keep across our Twitter feed for live updates, our Facebook page for new videos and our Instagram feed for the best pictures from the course @IRUN4ULTRA
Read more inspiration from the stars of UTMB past and present https://irun4ultra.com/2016/08/26/thoughts-on-utmb/

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UTMB

CCC: Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix

CCC set off at 9am this morning from Courmayeur in Italy. This race, which is in its 11th year, is limited to 1900 runners. The maximum time allowed is 26 hrs and 45 mins but the winners came in considerably earlier. The distance is 101km and there is 6100m of ascent.
Once again for this edition, it was a hot day out in the mountains.  The first few kilometers were on a different route to that of UTMB and the runners were treated to fantastic views of Mont-Blanc and the Grandes Jorasses. The passage of the Grand col Ferret (2537m) marked the entrance of the race into Switzerland, where the competitors went through La Fouly, Champex and Trient. It was Vallorcine next,  and the big ascent of the Vallons des Chezerys. Then a speedy run to reach the arrival arch in the heart of Chamonix.

UTMB

© UTMB® – photo : Michel Cottin

UTMB

The crowds were out in force at the finish line as they had stayed on after waving off the starters for the BIG race of the week, the “Queen” of the races in Chamonix, Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, which set off at 6 pm local time.
They had an extra treat as the first of the PTL teams came through after an incredible race which covers 290km with 26500m of ascent. The winning team was Abrico (the apricots) with a time of 107:39:37.

Male Rankings

Back to CCC and first through the famous arch for the men was Michel Lanne of France who ran through the archway carrying his baby daughter in his arms to the cheers of the crowd. The final men’s rankings were

MEN

  1. Michel LANNE, France,12:10:04
  2. Ruy UEDA, Japan, 12:15:20
  3. Giuliano CAVALLO, Italy, 12: 19:21

WOMEN

At the time of publishing the women’s results were not yet in but the standings were:

  1. Mimmi KOTKA, Sweden
  2. Jo MEEK, UK
  3. Raquel MARTINEZ RODRIGUEZ, Spain

We will update those women’s results on Facebook.
Congratulations to all the runners and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook @Irun4Ultra for live updates of the big event, UTMB 2016, the iconic, Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc

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UTMB Champion

Thoughts on UTMB

UTMB, the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc is the biggest mountain ultra in the world. It is a dream for most mountain ultra runners to take part and winning catapults any runner to trail stardom.
The race kicks off tonight at 6.00pm local time. It is 170km with 10000m of ascent – Everest is 8848 meters to put that in context. There are 2300 runners and a cutoff time of 46.30 to complete the course. The leaders should take approximately 21 hours to finish.
So, what are the thoughts of the international champions who have taken part (past or present) as UTMB 2016 gets underway? We look at their motivation and inspirations, reflections and even share some of their training tips.

Zach Miller –  2015 CCC Champion

image1

Photo Credit: Zack Miller’s Mom

“I’ve received many messages, emails, and words of encouragement from all sorts of people in the lead-up to UTMB, but this picture of a bulletin board from the school where my Mom teaches really hit home today. Thanks Mom!”

Rory Bosio, 2 x UTMB Champion

Photo Credit: North Face

Photo Credit: North Face

“I do not have the fortitude to run just for the sake of running. I like to use running as a way to escape from everyday life or to see a new place. Fitness is a great by-product. I choose races based on location rather than competition. If I’m running somewhere that inspires me, or I find beautiful, I usually have a better race anyway.“ https://www.theguardian.com/

Kilian Jornet, 3 x winner UTMB

Photo Credit: UTMB

“A great athlete is one who takes advantage of the ability that genetics have brought him in order to secure great achievements, but an exceptional athlete is one who can swim in the waters of complexity and chaos, making what seems difficult easy, creating order from chaos. Creative individuals search for chaos in order to explore all the places they can imagine beyond the frontiers of consciousness, following the irrational forces that come from within themselves and from their environment.” https://www.amazon.com/Run-Die-Kilian-Jornet

Marco Olmo – twice winner of UTMB and Ambassador for IRUN4ULTRA

Marco Olmo

“It is very emotional to be back here because ten years has passed since I first won UTMB. I realise that the years have passed and that you have to be happy with what you have done before.”

Xavier Thevenard  2 x UTMB Champion

Photo Credit: © UTMB® - photo : Pascal Tournaire

Photo Credit: © UTMB® – photo: Pascal Tournaire

“UTMB is mythical because of its relationship to Mont Blanc. It is a place known all over the world and everyone wants to get closer to see what it looks like. And then there is the route itself that is very tough and physical. For purists, it’s something to do. Chamonix is the capital of mountaineering and all these make this race unique. I think this is how it will continue for a long time.” https://www.meltyxtrem.fr/

David Laney, UTMB 2015 3rd place

Mont Blanc

Photo Credit:David Laney

“Run the most technical trails you can find.  Find steep rocky mountain ridges and steep rugged canyons that mirror the course you plan to race on.  Get to a place where you can roll through really rooty, rocky or steep downhill sections.  Find those trails that allow you to practice the more technical aspects of running. Do them again and again and again.The mountains are big and free and wild and powerful.  Use those emotions to inspire your next race.” https://davidlaneyrunning.com/

Luis Alberto Hernando Alzago, Skyrunning Champion

Photo Credit: correrxmuntanya.com

Photo Credit: correrxmuntanya.com

“Everything is prepared and we are convinced that the third time is a charm!“ https://www.luisalbertohernando.com/utmb/

Lizzy Hawker, 2 x winner UTMB

Photo Credit: Lizzy Hawker

Photo Credit: Lizzy Hawker

“As a child I preferred to walk rather than take the bus and I just found moving under my own effort more appealing. By the time I came to run that first UTMB I was used to long days on my feet – mountaineering, hiking as well as running – and for a long mountain ultra like the UTMB ‘time on feet’ is good preparation.” https://www.independent.co.uk/

Jason Schlarb, 4th place UTMB 2015 and IRUN4ULTRA Ambassador

image9

“I want to improve on my 4th place. I want to get on to that podium which is a very high ambition for a USA runner.One of our difficulties (in the USA)  is that our mountains just aren’t as steep. We have the Rockies, but they are more characterized by switchbacks and there are trails there for mountain bikers and hikers whereas the Dolomites and the Alps are really sheer. I really attribute my fourth place to the fact that I went to Europe for three months to train. It made all the difference.” https://www.runultra.co.uk

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Racing OCC: The Small Swiss Cousin

By Alice Hunter Morrison

Moroccan-based journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, a writer for RunUltra, author of “Dodging Elephants: 8000 Miles Across Africa by Bike” and Special Correspondent for IRUN4ULTRA.

August 25, 2016

Photo: © UTMB® - photo : Pascal Tournaire

Photo: © UTMB® – photo: Pascal Tournaire

Blazing sunshine bounced off the white peaks of the glaciers in the Swiss and French Alps today as 1200 runners took on OCC (Orsieres-Champex-Chamonix) “The Small Swiss Cousin.” The course is 55 kilometers (km) long and is the shortest one in this week-long series of races at
UTMB in Chamonix. It is a fast course but has plenty of climbing with 3300 meters of ascent.
The start time was 8:15 a.m. in the Swiss town of Orsieres. The runners took off through the winding narrow streets of a typical Alpine village. They were soon out in the mountains with a steady climb towards the first major peak of  La Glete.
The favorite from the start was the young Frenchman, Xavier Thevenard, who has already won all the other UTMB races: TDS, CCC and UTMB (twice). He needed to win this one to make it a full house.
He led from the beginning in a tight band with Moroccan, Rachid El Morabity right behind him. The course winds through stunning scenery – high glaciers, thick pine forests, lush green pastures – but the runners had no time to savor the views.

Xavier Thevenard

Photo: © UTMB® – photo: Pascal Tournaire

By the time, they reached Vallorcine at 36.5 Km, Thevenard was leading El Morabity by nearly five minutes. In his element, the Frenchman stretched out and doubled that lead as he pounded down into Chamonix and the waiting crowd.
He took first place with 5:38:37. El Morabity was second with 5:43:23 and Thibaut Thevenard, another Frenchman, was third with 5:43:48.
The women’s race was dominated by the super-strong Spaniard, Mercedes Arcos Zafra who won with 6:54:13. The real drama of the race unfolded behind her, however, with second and third place separated by only a few seconds. Lara Crivelli came in at 7:34:06 and Sonia Locatelli took third with 7:34:19
IRUN4ULTRA will be following all the action tomorrow as the last two races of this festival set off: CCC and the big one, UTMB. Follow our

Photo: © UTMB® - photo : Pascal Tournaire

Photo: © UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

updates on Twitter @IRUN4ULTRA and Facebook. We will also be bringing you more interviews from the world-class runners here at UTMB.

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IRUN4ULTRA in Chamonix for UTMB: TDS – The Wild Alternative

August 24, 2016

I Run4Ultra Race

By Alice Hunter Morrison

Moroccan-based journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, a writer for RunUltra, author of “Dodging Elephants: 8000 Miles Across Africa by Bike” and Special Correspondent for IRUN4ULTRA.

It is quite possibly the most important mountain ultra on the planet UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc). It takes place annually in Chamonix in the French Alps and is a week-long fest for ultra runners from around the world.
IRUN4ULTRA is based here all week, following the action, and raising awareness about Autism and
ADD/ADHD from our base in the Competitors’ Village at Booth 99.
An estimated 50,000 runners and supporters will be in this tiny Alpine town during the week to enjoy and participate in the five races that take place from July 22 – 28.
The five races are:

  •         UTMB: Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (166 km + 9,600 m)
  •         CCC: Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix (101 km + 6,100 m)
  •         TDS: Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (119 km + 7,250 m)
  •         OCC: Orsières – Champex – Chamonix (53 km + 3,300 m)
  •         PTL: La Petite Trotte à Léon (approx. 300 km + 28,000 m)

There are also mini events for children and the YCC (Youth Chamonix Courmayeur), which is open to 16-22 year olds.

TDS Depart

TDS Start © UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

TDS
The big race for today began at 6:00 a.m. local time from Courmayeur in Italy. It is the TDS (Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie) and comprises 119 km with 7,250 m of climbing.
1600 runners lined up this morning on the start line on a cool but clear dawn. The weather conditions were perfect with 100% visibility. The runners set off in great spirit.
It was a hotly-contested race from the get-go with the leaders changing constantly. The course starts off with a sharp climb and the pressure never lets up. At the four hour mark, Jessed Hernandez Gispert was leading the men and Meredith Edwards from the USA led the women.
Meredith Edwards hung tenaciously on to that lead, running strong over the peaks and for the main body of the race. As we publish this, however, she was in second place, having been overtaken by the strong Frenchwoman, Delphine Avenier, who had an eleven-minute lead.
 

Pau Capell

Montée de Bourg saint Maurice – Pau CAPELL © UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

Pau Capell
As the men’s race progressed, Pau Capell, the young Spaniard who won the Ultra-Trail of Australia in May went into the lead for the men and stayed there, pulling further and further ahead.
He came through in a final time of 14.45.44 to an ecstatic reception and spent time celebrating with the crowd and enjoying his tremendous victory.
In his post-race interview, he said that one of the hardest things about the course was the heat. It was the hottest race he had ever run. And he said that whether he was 5th, 10th or 1st, it was absolutely extraordinary to see the public in Chamonix coming to welcome the runners across the finish line.
In second place was Yeray Duran Lopez with 15.14.07.
Congratulations to all the runners, many of whom will be out there for many hours to come. Don’t forget we will be covering all the action on Twitter @irun4ultra and will be regularly updating on Facebook.  Also, check out our Instagram @irun4ultra as well!

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The UTMB Course: An Expert Preview

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UTMB

Arête du Mont Favre © UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

August 24, 2016
By Alice Hunter Morrison
Moroccan-based journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, a writer for IRun4Ultra, author of “Dodging Elephants: 8000 Miles Across Africa by Bike” and Special Correspondent for IRUN4ULTRA.
Ester Sofia Alves is a Top 10 female UTMB finisher. She is in Chamonix for her third Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc race and is running for Salomon Portugal. This year she is hoping to break her personal record and finish the 170-kilometer course in 28 hours. We caught up with her just after she had collected her race bib and asked her to talk us through the course.

UTMB

Arête du Mont Favre © UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

The Facts
Start date: Friday, August 26 at 18:00
Start and finish: Chamonix, French Alps
Distance: 170 kilometers
Elevation: 10,000 meters
Number of Runners: 1900
UTMB in the words of Ester Sofia Alves
 

Mont Blanc

PTL © UTMB® – photo : Pascal Tournaire

“UTMB is like the Mecca of trails. Everyone wants to run around Mont Blanc. It is SO hard. It has nine tough climbs and you get cold at the top of the passes and hot while in the lowest valleys. The heat this year is going to make it a hard race. We have the best runners in the world gathered here, so although it is beautiful – gorgeous in fact – it is also very competitive.
In my experience, everyone wants to try and win this race before the 10-kilometer mark, so they set off quickly and then the real crunch point comes at Champex-Lac. That is the point where many elites blew up last year. It is also the point where you can tell who is going to win.
So, the course starts off with a fast, flat 8 kilometer to the first climb, Le Delevret, to which you can also power up. Then the next climb up, the Croix du Bonhomme, is more technical, as are the next three climbs. They tire you out.
The front of the pack will pass through Courmayeur (78 kilometers) while it is still dark. But, for most racers, they get to that stage as day breaks or during full daylight. That is when you get a new battery. It is a great vibe. Some people start passing and the race goes on.
Then, you need to get into your rhythm for the next section. It brings you up the Grand col Ferret, which is the highest part of the course at 2525 meters. Then, it is down to the lake…
For the last three climbs after the lake, you don’t use your legs, you use your soul. You have to put your trust in your ambition.”
The UTMB Dream
For many runners, UTMB is the dream race and the buzz in Chamonix during race week is palpable. The fastest runners are expected to complete the course in approximately 21 hours. The cut-off point is 46 hours 30 minutes.
The sheer size of the organization is astounding with over 2000 volunteers working the five races and competitions for young people and children that comprise the entire event. UTMB is the jewel in the crown and is part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour.
We wish Ester and all the other runners the best of luck as they take on the ultimate mountain race. We will be following live with updates on Facebook and Twitter, so please join us!
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