Tuesday, May 31, 2016

WiBoLT 2016

On 25 May 2016 I found myself in Wiesbaden at Schloss Biebrich getting ready to take part in the 2016 WiBoLT, Germany’s longest non-stop foot race.  Sitting here three days later having only completed 231KM of the 320KM necessary to qualify as a WiBoLT finisher my thoughts are all over the map about the WiBoLT experience.  Yep, I DNFed and while in my personal “Pain Cave” on the course I decided not to attempt this event ever again, I am resting my tired bones and waiting a day or two before actually sending in my application for 2017.
Before we progress much further let me provide you with a bit of an introduction to the WiBoLT.  The WiBoLT or Wiesbaden Bonn Long Trail is a 320KM or 200 Mile foot race that courses over 11,700 meters or 38,385 feet of elevation change. The start occurs at Schloss Biebrich in Wiesbaden with the finish in Bonn.  The race course follows the renowned Rheinsteig hiking trail.  The Rheinsteig itself is made up of about 45 percent forest paths and trails, 35 percent graveled paths and 20 percent asphalt surfaced country lanes.  Michael Esser and a team of incredible volunteers host and manage a race event that spans the distance over almost four days of non-stop running.

Going into the 2016 WiBoLT I did not consider myself trained or ready to start.  Work and other responsibilities took priority over investing time in quality training.  My general thoughts on starting were that I had had good experiences at the Brocken-Challenge and Hexentanz and if worse came to worse I could gut through the tough parts and complete the gargantuan distance of 320KM.  In my thinking I failed to take into consideration the immense elevation change that plays itself out over the Rheinsteig.  More on that later…

On Wednesday afternoon I joined some 55 other WiBoLT starters at Schloss Biebrich.  The start area was simple, check in was easy and it was good to see some familiar faces.  After getting checked in I repacked my drop bag into the WiBoLT provided bag and turned it in.  From there we walked to a nearby hotel where a meal was served as part of pre-race events.  Many of the runners that were new to the WiBoLT asked about a race briefing with no real responses.  Not normal for a race of this nature, but I figured I ride with it and see what happened.

Shortly before 1800 Michael asked us to cross over to some steps that are located on a promenade adjacent to the Rhine River.  I believe that many of us thought that the race brief would occur at this point, which you could say did happen.  Michael welcomed us, told us that there were several new and important aid stations and indicated that it was important to stop at the aid stations – to get aid.  If you didn’t find or stop at the aid stations you couldn’t get any aid.  Logical…  At about 1805 he wished us luck and sent us on our way.  That was the brief, simple and to the point.  I like it!

So at 1800ish we took off way too quickly along the Rheinsteig.  Initally we remained in a relatively large group, but the first ten kilometers of the course stretch through portions of Wiesbaden and we slowly, but surely got split up by traffic lights and the different tempos runners were using early on.  From Wiesbaden we headed into the surrounding vineyards.  The weather was pleasant with mild temperatures and no rain.  At Schlangenbad we rolled into the first of many aid stations (VPs).  The fare was simple but adequate and the volunteers were exceptional as they were over the course of the entire event. From Schlangenbad we moved back into the hills that make up the Rheinsteig.  Over the course of an event like this I tend to seek out or develop a rhythm for the event.  Doing so helps me adjust mentally and physically.  The WiBoLT’s flow enabled a similar rhythmic approach.  We would transition through VPs at every 20 kilometers or so.  Our drop bags would be available at the Loreley and Feldkirchen with the opportunity to sleep at these two large VPs as well as at Oberkestert and Braubach.

While on the WiBoLT course Wednesday night was probably the hardest night for me.  Going into the evening the weather was mild with the moon rising very late.  In the every early morning hours on Thursday it began to ran and I was further challenged by the shift in my sleep schedule.  I was surprised to experience a couple of hallucinations this early in the race and link them to the darkness, lack of visibility because of the rain and my off kilter sleep schedule.  Shortly before dawn we were awash in a torrential downpour that soaked me to the bone.  Based on the weather forecast I had decided to stage my Gore-Tex jacket and trousers in my drop bag and pick them up a the Loreley for the rain that was forecast for Saturday.  Fortunately, the temperatures were mild and it was still early in the race so that I was able to maintain a good pace and remain pleasantly warm.  At this juncture I simply accepted the weather and embraced these early hallucinations and looked forward to sunrise.
Thursday morning arrived cool and foggy, but with the promise that the day was actually going to turn out to be pretty amazing.  As the profile suggests I spent much of the day climbing and descending over the course of the Rheinsteig.  Going long and hard like we were the up and down rhythm almost becomes a routine.  You learn to recognize that you are going to ascend and descend once or twice before passing by a Rhine riverside village to once again ascend back into the hills.  Because we were not trailing in the Alps those 11,700 meters of elevation change had to come form somewhere.  Instead of going HIGH we went MORE, much MORE…  
(Photo Courtesy of Lutz Kalitzsch)
The Loreley VP was phenomenal with our first opportunity to eat a full meal, shower and sleep.  I bunked with Lutz and Torsten and got two hours of sleep.  Getting back in gear to head back out on the course was a bit of challenge, but at this juncture we were well ahead of the cutoff timeline and eased back into the WiBoLT rhythm.  Our next significant stop was at Uschi’s Wanderstation where I had a bit of noodles and meat sauce and shut down for another hour of sleep.
(Photo Courtesy of Eva Gracka)

(Photo Courtesy of Eva Gracka)
After being on the course for more than thirty hours it seemed that my body and sleep rhythm had adjusted somewhat to the stress it was under.  Faced with light rain and only three hours of sleep so far I was surprised that I held things together much better than the first night.  Yes, I was tired, but I didn’t have to fight as hard as I did the first evening.  I didn’t go into the Pain Cave.

Friday morning found us in Braubach.  Weather conditions were relatively stable and I was holding things together for the most part.  Back on Wednesday evening I began to experience a knot or cramp in my left calf.  I tried stretching this tightness or cramp out to little or no avail.  Friday morning at the Rathaus VP in Braubach I rolled my leg on a bottle to massage it and try to loosen it up.  This condition would continue to worsen over the next day or so and was a big part of my decision to withdraw at Feldkirchen.

From Braubach we coursed to Lahnstein and the Ruppertsklamm.  Trailing into the Ruppertsklamm was incredible.  The pictures below simply don’t do this gorge justice.  It is worth a visit in and of itself.
 (Photo Courtesy of Lutz Kalitzsch)
The VP at the Lahnstein Hiking Shelter was great.  When I first saw it I didn’t think that it was for us as it appeared that a group of families were having a grill party.  They actually were and the party was for us.  It was nice to sit down next to fire and warm my tired bones and dry some of my stuff.

From Lanhstein we set out via Koblenz to the VP at Vallendar.  Our trip into town was one of two that we actually experienced over the course of the Rheinsteig.  The afternoon sun was incredible compared to the cold rain we’d been under for the last day or so.  Between the Shelter at Lahnstein and the VP at Vallendar I got in another 26 minute sleep period on a bench beside the Rheinsteig trail.  Heaven!  Sometimes it’s pretty amazing what a quick nap like this will give back to you.  I put my head down on my race pack was out and 26 minutes later awoke and was ready to go.  The rest and strength that I drew from this stop were critical to the next leg as it was to prove to be the most challenging.

Seeking to trek from Sayn to Rengsdorf was just down right hard.  This leg pushed me to the boundaries of my perceived mental and physical limits.  Terrain wise the move was not more difficult than any of the other legs of this course.  Course markings were present, but perhaps not always accurate.  The GPS track that I was using could be considered OK.  Somehow given the lay of the land, location of Rengsdorf and my quickly running out of water I got very mis-oriented and spent way too much time seeking the VP.  Rengsdorf rests at the top of a hill that parallels the Rheinsteig to the left.  As you move along the Rheinsteig you can see the lights of Rengsdorf above you. The course track does however take you away from Rengsdorf and you lose sight of the town’s lights leading you to think that you were lost.  The search for Rengsdorf and the VP would see us blow arriving at the VP before it closed which led to further issues…

As we finally arrived in Rengsdorf we followed the painted arrows that indicated VP and the specific location of the aid station.  This had been the case in many of the other towns and villages we had visited previously.  When we arrived at the “VP” we found the letters “V P” Xed out with follow on arrows leading across the street.  The term “VP” had been changed to read “VW” (Apparently a play on words considering the car manufacturer.).  In bad need of water and something to eat I called the Race Director.  He told me that the VP had closed at mid-night, but the VP team had left us enough drinks and food all should be good.  He was however unable to accurately explain where this cache was located.  Fortunately, another racer passed by with his wife.  After greeting them she indicated that she knew where the cache was and would take us there.

When we finally arrived at what was the VP in Rengsdorf we were treated to a limited supply of water, cola and some snacks.  Thankfully the wife of the runner mentioned above had enjoyed pizza earlier that evening.  She and her kids offered us their leftovers – an entire pizza.  Delicious! 

So after cramming down the treat of a left over cold pizza and refilling my water supplies we headed out into the night with about thirteen kilometers to go until the major VP at Feldkirchen and the 0600 cutoff time.

Travel over this leg of the course was nothing new.  We trekked up and down, across fields, and into the forest.  Initially no big deal, but like all good things, this too had to come to an end.  The guy I was running with found and could not get out of his dark place.  We had to stop repeatedly either to allow him to catch up or to let him set down and sleep for a few minutes.  After a short period a light approached us from behind.  This was the runner whose wife had provided us Pizza in Rengsdorf.  I was very surprised to see him as he had left well before me at Rengsdorf.  He told me that he too had decided to sit down for a “few minutes”, but was awoken much later by the cold. 

My thoughts were…  OK – three are better than one and we have until 0800 to get to Rengsdorf.  I was quickly corrected on this later point – we had to arrive at Feldkirchen for a 0600 cut off time and to add an additional challenge, a dense fog rolled in and one of the runner’s headlamp’s failed with no replacement batteries.  No mistakes could be made now if we were going to make the 0600 cutoff time.

The three of us pushed hard to cover the last five or so kilometers in order to come in before the cutoff time of 0600.  In the end – we made it at 0555.  The Feldkirchen Volunteer Team kicked into action and asked what they could provide us.  I told them that I wanted to get a shower, get dressed to go back, get a quick two hour nap eat and then head out.

I took a shower and headed into the quite space to get some sleep.  I set my alarm for an hour later, laid down and was immediately awoken by my alarm.  I don’t recall the last time I so easily turned off from being awake and going to sleep.  After waking up a bit I noticed that my left leg, my knee in particular, had swollen to about twice its normal size.  After a couple of quick sms exchanges with a couple of friends I decided to withdraw.  Doing so was pretty straightforward – really no doubt in my mind given the worsening condition of my leg.  I’m not certain what caused this injury, but decided that going on was not worth taking the risk of ruining the rest of my 2016 running season.  My leg remains painful and swollen.  I’ll probably pay the doctor a visit tomorrow.  More than anything I’m curious about what’s going on and the cause of this injury to avoid it in the future.  Run on another day…

My WiBoLT take-aways:

- 320KM is a damn long way. 
- 11,700 meters of elevation change are a whole butt load of elevation gain and loss.
- Combine the two and the WiBoLT is an ass kicker.  No kidding.
- Distance is what you make of it.  The earlier you acknowledge and appreciate that you are going to hurt and enter your personal dark space the earlier you can accept and work through it.
- Self-awareness; Patience; and the Ability to Embrace the Moment.

I DNFed the 2016 WiBoLT.  Are there questions about my DNF that remain?  Sure.  But not like previous DNFs.  I’m not sitting here doubting myself.  I know where I stand with this race and am good with that.  I had a great time at the WiBoLT.  Michael and his team put on an extraordinary event.  I’ll be back.  In fact, I think I mentioned above that I’m resting and waiting on applying.  I changed my mind...  This report is finished.  I’m switching over to work on my application for 2017!

You know that this report would not be complete without a quote from some obscure song.  Let me take you back the early morning hours of Thursday.  Ozzy joined me as I was in my pain cave and shared some inspiration…  

Howling in shadows
Living in a lunar spell
He finds his heaven
Spewing from the mouth of hell
Those that the beast is looking for
Listen in awe and you’ll hear him

Bark at the moon…

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Dancing with Witches - Hexentanz 2016

April 2016 found me running another event in the Hexenstieg series of ultra/endurance events.  After completing the 216KM Hexenstieg after a number of previous runnings in 2015 I decided to give the Hexenstieg’s little brother, the Hexentanz or Witch’s Dance a go this year.  A 100KM distance is a good building block as you into the running season – you would think.

Yes, you would think…  What’s 100KM?  It’s 61 miles.  Comparing it to other 100KMs events that I’ve participated in one would think that, although certainly not a give away or a speed event, it would be one that “would be a good training event along the way”.  Surprise!  We should have known better.  Michael Frenz (RD) always has something up his sleeve during each of the fantastic events he hosts throughout the year, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

On 22 April I traveled to Osterode am Harz.  With a quick stop in Goettingen at the Anstalt for a coffee and surprise starter bag the trip was fun and easy.  I got into Osterode in the early evening and joined my roommate and running partner Lutz.  As in past years, the headquarters for the Hexen Events was located at the Hotel Harzer Hof.  The Hotel Harzer Hof is rated as a simple three star location.  In my mind, Stephan, the owner/operator and his team merit five stars.  The entire Harzer Hof team bent over backwards to cater to this series of events and their guests.  Top notch! 

Race check in was well organized, quick and easy.  After getting checked in I spent some time catching up with Lutz and organized my kit for the race the following morning.  That evening Stephan served a delicious buffet meal catering to vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike. 

Saturday morning arrived overcast and slightly cooler compared to the previous beautiful spring day on Friday.  At about eight we boarded a bus to make the trip to the Sport Center in Thale from where we were to start.  When we arrived in Thale thirty-six of us lined up, had a quick photo made and then headed off for our adventure into the Harz.

Lutz and I had decided to “go easy” at this ultra and to use it as a training event.  Like in so many races the herd is nervous and racers shot past us.  No real worries there from my side as we’d see many of them again over the course of the next twenty or so hours.

The first leg of the Hexentanz took us up and over the Hexenztanzplatz.  From here we coursed back down into the Bode Gorge and our first aid station (VP) in Treseburg at 11KM.

Lutz grabbed an apple and we were on our way again to the town of Hasselfelde.  Over the last couple of years we have made a bakery in a grocery store our VP.  Saturday morning we stopped and had a sandwich and coffee.  Our race was largely uneventful from Hasselfelde to Koenigshuette.  It was not until slightly after Koenigshuette that I made our first orienteering error.  Oh, have I not mentioned that the races courses of the Hexen series are not marked?  You are required to make your way using either a map and compass or GPS.  By and large the course is relatively easy to follow as 80 – 90% of it follows the Hexenstieg Hiking Trail which is very well marked.

It’s the other 10-20% that is challenging and you had better be paying attention.  My trouble on Saturday was that I was following an old track from the previous year’s event on my GPS.  The trail split in three directions at one point and without really looking I put us on the wrong route headed into the Sachshau.  Lutz and I remained comfortable as we’d run here on three previous occasions.  It wasn’t long though that he got concerned.  Following the old track I was convinced that we were traveling in the right direction.  Lutz was less certain, but was somehow certain that his GPS was in error to the point that he stopped and started it a couple of times and even changed the batteries.  After a kilometer or so we decided to double back and retrace our route to the intersection where fortunately I found my error and we got back onto the right track.  After coursing for about 46KM we arrived at the Hotel Grüne Tanne VP where we both re-stocked our water supply and had a plate of pasta.

A curious thing occurred at the Hotel Grüne Tanne VP.  We arrived to find a large group of runners that were not in front of us previously.  I certainly don’t want to accuse anyone of cheating, but we were not misoriented to the point that we were actually in the last position of the racing field.  All I’ll say is that there are opportunities to cut the course short particularly between Koenigshuette and the Hotel Grüne Tanne.  There are signs that direct you in that direction…  This would not be the last time that we’d experience some apparent short cuts taken by multiple other runners.

All the same…  After enjoying a bit of pasta Lutz and I headed back out onto the course and a track that we had not run in previous years.  From the Hotel Grüne Tanne the course bears down on Elend.  Oh Elend…  Like so many words “Elend” means so many things.  On the surface it’s a village in Saxon-Anhalt.  On the other side it actually means misery and that was just where we were headed.
From Elend we began our trek up.  First up and over the mysterious Mauseklippe.  And then gradually towards the Wurmberg.  My hat’s off to Michael and this new leg of the course.  It was as Tim Scott would say, “very runnable”.
I had seen the Wurmberg from the Brocken on a number of occasions, but did not really have a view to how impressive it really is.  Coursing out from the woods we arrived at the base of the Wurmberg and stopped in our tracks.  That damn Michael!  This is the treat he had waiting for us.
From the Wurmberg we made our way to Braunlage.  Trekking this portion of the route was relatively straight forward as we moved over ski runs and forest trails.  At Sankt Andreasberg it began to ever so slightly snow on us.  Evening was setting in and the Harz was certain not to disappoint.
From Sankt Andreasberg we made our way to one of my favorite places along this course, the Oderteiche.  This year the lakes had been drained as one of the dams had a gap in it and this hole had been recently replaced.  From the Oderteiche we coursed back up again to the Wolfswarte.  The Wolfswarte holds a special place in my spirit. First, it is such a badass name for a place and second, it’s actually a badass place at 918m.  Here your mind wanders and leads you down dark paths to things old and pagan.  Given it’s environs you can feel a deep draw to something darker.  A perfect place to celebrate Walpurgisnacht.   

On the Wolfswarte we met up with Wolfgang who was curiously climbing around in the dark on the very top of the Wolfswarte.  Although there is no VP here, racers must find and use the Hexenstieg Hiking Trail stamp to confirm that you were actually here.

Wolfgang’s battery had died on his GPS and he did not have a compass or map and was slightly misoriented.  He asked if he could tag along with us over the remainder of the course and with no objections from Lutz or I our racing party grew to three.

On the backside of the Wolfswarte we were able to pick up our pace on the trail that runs like an autobahn and gained almost an hour ahead of our estimated time of arrival in Altenau Bergstadt.  In Altenau we stopped at the VP to re-supply drinks and pleasantly surprised to find some open faced sandwiches and other delicious goodies.

If you’ve followed my previous reports on the Hexenstieg you know what comes after Altenau and that’s the long (7 KM) VERY straight and very mentally challenging ghost rail line to Claustal-Zellerfeld.  I was glad to travel along this route with Lutz and Wolfgang as our conversations kept my mind awake and active.

We paused only briefly in Claustal-Zellerfeld and Jens’ VP.  Long enough to have a cup of coffee and then to head back out into the cold of a early Sunday morning.  We were able to again gain some time by running between Claustal-Zellerfeld and Kuckholzklippe.  After coming off of the Kuckholzklippe we again got very misoriented, first by running down a couple of hundred meters of elevation while following the hiking trail and then by going back up past where we should have made a left hand turn.  Damn GPS!  We made this time back up again running along the ridgeline of the Langenberg.  At about kilometer 105 (the Hexentanz is actually measured at 109KM for a 100KM event) we knew that we had this dance in the bag.  From here it was easy going through Freiheit into Osterode and the finish line.  At the finish a quick check of my GPS revealed that instead of 100KM Lutz and I actually covered 112KM.  What’s a few additional kilometers?

My 2016 Hexentanz take-aways…  Michael – I’ll be back.  Michael Frenz puts on superb events.  The starting field for the Hexenstieg and Hexentanz was made up of 28 and 36 starters.  A small, friendly group.  Of the 36 Hexentanz runners that started 31 finished.  A pretty darn good finishing average.  Key factors for a finish for an event like this are patience, hydration, nutrition and being able to orient over the long-haul.  Unlike previous years I feel like my nutrition was dialed in.  My choice of equipment and kit was spot on this year as well.  The weather was forecasted to be cold with rain.  Instead it was very cold with snow.  As I’ve said before, weather happens – it is neither good nor bad, it just is.  Waste no time and energy on lamenting about this and instead focus your energy on the aspects you can control like your clothes and gear.  The Harz is an amazing place filled with beautiful forests, mystery and folklore.  I’ll be back.

My race reports are not complete without a word about the volunteers and supporters.  As I mentioned above Stephan and his team at the Hotel Harzerhof are fantastic.  The volunteers that started and in some cases moved to a different/later VP were great.  Running an event like this would be much more difficult without you.  And, certainly, last but not least, a big thanks to my running partner Lutz.  You kept me moving forward.  I look forward to our next adventure.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Brocken-Challenge 2016 - VIII

“No!  No!  The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”  - Lewis Carroll

Oh, the dread of writing the race report…  I’d rather be out running the Brocken-Challenge (BC).  Since we’ve got to wait until 11 February 2017 to even consider that a possibility I’ll spend a moment and share my experiences with my eighth running of the BC.

A few words of introduction about the Brocken-Challenge...  The BC is first and foremost a charity event.  The costs associated with the race entry fee and various race goodies like the event tee-shirt are collected to benefit several specific organizations and functions.  The BC has been characterized as an “experience”, “the hardest run in northern Germany” (Norddeutscher Rundfunk), and last but not least as an adventure.  My experiences and adventures over the past eight years have been defined by weather extremes, somewhat different course routes, course distances, different means of returning to Göttingen (GOX) and so many other unpredictable factors.  You may have also read how I’ve described the BC as a “Family Affair”, and “Friendship Reunion”.  In the end it is all of this and much more.  It is simply a wonderful event that I look forward to over the course of my entire running year.

In 2016 we were graced with phenomenal weather conditions with temperatures just below or right at freezing, and blue skies and sunshine throughout most of the day.  The starting field was split right down the middle with fifty-percent veterans and fifty-percent “newbies”.  This split provided an opportunity to run with and see old friends and to meet new ones.  I spent the day running with an old friend, Lutz who was a newbie to the BC.
Photo Courtesy of Martin Woitynek
Much like the 2015 BC, I spent much of my winter not training.  Going in I knew that the rumbling going on in my gut was not pre-race butterflies – I was not mentally or physically prepared to run the 2016 BC.  Like many of you, I often struggle to find a balance between family, work and running.  This event is special and is not one you would want to DNS if there’s any chance of physically starting.  With these thoughts in mind I headed to GOX on Friday afternoon.  Still with a bit of trepidation that would last until we lined up at the starting gate, but also with much anticipation of what the day would bring.

My 2016 key take-aways:

- Enter the lottery for the 2017 Brocken-Challenge.
- Running an ultra is always funner when you run with a friend.  Lutz and I have been running a couple of years together and I attribute much of the great experience I had on Saturday to him.
- Distance is what you make of it.  This goes back to what I’ve mentioned here before and that is, “Never attempt an ultra as a whole.”  The right amount of motivation and training were absent for me going into the 2016 BC.  In order to accomplish the whole I broke the BC down into it its distinctive parts split up by aid stations.  Doing so allowed me to manage the whole without being overcome by the WHOLE.
- The Brocken-Challenge is less a race and more an event shared by friends that like to take part in this great event.
- There is significant truth in the Brocken-Challenge motto:  “The man who masters himself is delivered from the force that binds all creatures.” – Goethe  That quote captures the essence of adventure.

For the uninitiated and curious…

The Brocken-Challenge route travels from GOX to the summit of the Brocken Mountain over forest and farm roads, hiking and cross-country ski trails.  The route can vary each year based on the amount of snow in the Harz National Park.  The course is extremely well resourced with seven major aid stations and one water point.  Aid stations are found within the villages of Landolfshausen (10.9KM), Rollshausen (21.8KM), Rhumequelle (30.7KM) and Barbis (Dreymanns Muehle) (42.5KM).  From the half-way point at Barbis the course transitions into the ULTRA portion of the event with a water point at Jagdkopf (53.8KM) and aid stations at  Lausebuche (63.1KM), Koenigskrug (68.5KM), Oderbrueck (72.4KM) before proceeding to the finish line on the summit of the Brocken.  The leg between Barbis – Jagkopf – Lausebuche is best characterized as a Gut Check  as the Jagdkopf is only accessable by foot with no opportunity to drop at this water point if you were to become so inclined.

The Brocken, 1142 meters or 3747 feet, is the easternmost mountain in Northern Germany and is surrounded by the Harz National Park.  The mountain provides a unique terrain feature that is completely exposed to the North German Plain and the weather patterns that transition over it.  This exposure contributes to a microclimate that resembles that of mountains of 2,000 meters or higher.  The summit above the tree line tends to have snow cover from September to May and fog enshrods it for up to 300 days a year.  The mean annual temperature is only 2.9C with the highest recorded temperature measured at 29C on 20 AUG 2012 and the lowest recorded on 1 FEB 1956 at -28.4C.  In 1973 the summit was covered in snow for 205 days of the year.    The Brocken was ensrowded in fog for 330 days in 1958.  The highest wind speed across the summit was measured at 263 km/h on 24 November 1984.  Traveling along a straight line east, the next prominent geographic terrain feature of any signifcance are the Ural Mountains in Russia!

For the statisticians out there…

In November at the time of registration there were 448 lottery applications.  On 13 February there were 177 starters including starter number 4x4, Clarkson (Runner in the middle below).  Eighteen percent of these starters were women.  Of these starters 162 finished (91.5%).

Photo Courtesy of Silke Reinecke  

The top finishers included Nicole Friedrich in 8:38 and Florian Reichert in 6:52!

2016 donations set a new record totaling more than 25,000 Euro.  These funds will benefit Hospiz an der Lutter in Göttingen, Göttingen Hilft, From Brocken to Everest – Wir helfen Nepal!, Jugendhilfe Sued-Niedersachsen, and Jedes Training Zaehlt.

At the last aid station at Oderbruck (72.4KM) one of the volunteers thanked me for running the BC.  I turned her compliment on her and thanked her for supporting us.  BC aid stations and so much more are managed and accomplished by volunteers that not only give up their Saturday to stand around in often extremely uncomfortable weather, but go to extremes to wait on finicky runners.  This is a unique group of people that make this a superior event.  My personal thanks to each and every member of the BC team in front of and behind the scenes.  This would not be such a special event without you.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 2015

It has been a week since I finished the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB).  My body is quickly recovering and the realization of my finish is slowly settling in.  Over the course of the past week I’ve wondered how to share my UTMB experience.  I probably won’t get this right in the first go, but will come back to update and correct this as necessary.

Life has quickly picked up where I left it about two weeks ago.  Work is busy as ever and being home compares very little with being in sunny Chamonix, France or coursing over a 170KM/105Mile 10,000 HM mountain trail.

Visual and physical images still fleet through my mind of running past jagged peaks and tumbling glaciers.  The feel of climbing, climbing, climbing and climbing some more, particularly up that fucking mountain near Bovine in the dark over jumbled boulders, tree roots and mountain streams haunts my thoughts during the day and enters my conscience each night.  The down, down, down of the seemingly never ending, narrow twisting trail to Trient, Vallorcine and ultimately Chamonix – no apparent ending.  I am condemned…

Just shy of 45 hours of heaven and hell.  Two full nights.  105 miles.  10,000 meters or 33,000 feet of elevation change.  More height gain and loss than Mount Everest from sea level.  2500 starters, 1632 finishers.  What an event!  This is my attempt to relay the experience…

I started running trail and ultras in 2008.  Much like my experience running marathons, I stumbled upon the ultra scene by accident.  Following my first 58KM ultra in 2008 I absolutely hated the experience, but much like my first marathon I found a pull to go further, to explore the edge of the possible, the edge of endurance.  Late in 2008 I came across the UTMB on the Internet and was intrigued…  Words like “Chamonix”, “Night Trail” and “Mont Blanc” fell like seed corn on the fertile ground of my ultra running fantasies.  In February 2009 I committed myself to pursuing the UTMB.  I started that year with my first Brocken-Challenge and a series of other ultras in order to train and assemble enough points to register for the 2010 event.  Five years later I’m grateful that the 2010 UTMB ended the way it did.  My attempts in 2013 and 2015 would show that I was woefully physically and mentally unprepared to take on this Olympic Class ultra endurance event.

My UTMB experience in 2013 left a chapter open; a page unturned.  2013 was a DNF that I could not come to terms with.  Had I withdrawn; had I quit; could I have gone on?  The years and comfort of being physically removed from the decision to quit nagged me.  No, those thoughts haunted me and would do so until I got across the finish line in Chamonix in 2015.  I entered the UTMB registration lottery for the 2014 event, but did not gain a spot.  On a fluke I entered again in December 2014 for a spot in 2015 and was honestly surprised when I gained a spot.  By early 2015 I was not excited about my confirmed registration; in fact I was nonchalant to the point of being worried that I would again DNF.  I did look back on my 2014 running year with some confidence as I had finished three separate hundred milers and a mix of other shorter ultras.  Given 2014’s training and racing successes I settled on a similar approach for 2015.  The Hexenstieg in April and back-to-back 100KMs in June/July were critical to my training plan.  Looking back over the months prior to August I could have definitely increased my up and down hill training, but the weekly and monthly long training runs I did were critical to my approach for getting ready for the UTMB.

The first weekend in August 2015 Simone and I traveled to Vallorcine to explore the area and hike the trail network back towards Trient and forwards to Chamonix.  I had not been beyond Champex Lac in 2013 and conducting this terrain walk was critical to my preparation.  Doing so was to pay huge dividends during the 2015 race.  While running the race I was able to rest on the fact that I knew where we were and that the end was in fact approaching.  A clear, personal mental advantage. 

The weeks following our wonderful weekend in Vallorcine leading up to the race were crazy.  I was unable to stay on track with my training plan and had to commit a considerable amount of time to work.  As a result I started my taper a week earlier than I had envisioned.  I was relieved when 24 August arrived and Simone and I headed to Chamonix.  This early arrival afforded us the opportunity to relax, enjoy Savoy and explore just a bit more.

Wednesday morning Simone and I went for a light run towards La Houches.  On the way out of town I ran past a guy that looked a lot like Scott Jurek.  I did a double take and asked Simone to wait for me for a minute.  Hell, that was Scott Jurek!  I doubled back and chatted with him briefly.  He was as personable as he is portrayed in many of the books and articles I’ve read about him.  He immediately focuses away from himself and onto you.  Very nice meeting him and confirming this frame of reference.  That afternoon, thinking that we would get out ahead of the crowd Simone and I walked over to the Chamonix Sport Center to check in to the race.  Much like 2013 we waited in line for an hour to go through check in and inspection of my racing gear.  We ran into Oliver and Andrea while waiting in line.  It was great to see a friendly face and share a bit of mutual trepidation about the race.  With the pain of race check in behind us Simone and I continued our vacation enjoying the sights, sounds, and culinary delights of the High Savoy.

Friday came more quickly than I had anticipated.  My head and thoughts on the UTMB were not where I thought they should have been.  In fact, I was worried that I was being too cavalier about the event.  Simone and I got a nice hike in, in the morning and I spent the remainder of the day chilling and organizing my kit.  We dropped off my drop bag about 1600 and then relaxed on the lawn in front of the Sports Center with several hundred other trailers until about 1700 when I could take the waiting no longer.  From the lawn we moved to the start chute which proved to be an hour of crushed misery waiting on the ground and standing around like cattle.  At 1730 or so the UTMB announcers began to introduce the elite runners and attempted to fire up the crowd.  I was surprised at just how hollow this all seemed.  My take – spare it or try a different approach.  I was bored out of my mind only wanting to start and not at all interested in who the elites were.  From my vantage point we couldn’t see them anyway.  Big whoop!

FINALLY… The waning minutes of 1700 had arrived and we are at the count down to start.  1800 and we are off bordered by thousands of spectators, yelling, screaming and urging us on.  The UTMB start is something phenomenal – the energy of the crowd is enough to carry you out of town.  I was, however worried.  Because of the crowd in the starting chute Simone and I had parted ways almost an hour previously – would I see her again as we head out of town?  I positioned myself on the far left of the race mob in an attempt to at least see some of the extensive crowd that lined the streets.  No sign of Simone.  Chamonix rapidly came to an end and we head out of town.  Suddenly from my right front I heard Simone yell, “Pudi!”.  There she is!  I doubled back and we exchanged a final kiss before I ran off into the evening.  Pure joy!

Headed out of town towards La Houches my pace was way too fast.  My pack didn’t feel right and I was sweating my ass off.  This was not good!  The race mob pushed me forward.  There was no stopping this pace without sacrificing my position and my ability to influence the amount of time I have against the time barrier at St. Gervais.  So many concerns; way too early in this race.  My monkey mind was back with a vengeance and I worked to shut it down…  At least by St. Gervais.

The 13KM between La Houches and St. Gervais brought back so many memories from previous attempts at the UTMB.  It sucked in 2010 and 2011 and was pure bliss in 2013.  While running here I met up with Jin Cau who I had not seen in more than a year.  Jin is an old pro at the UTMB.  While chatting he mentioned that there is one key to successfully running the UTMB and that is “patience”.  I immediately thought of Emerson’s view to this, “Adopt the pace of nature her secret is patience.”  Jin, not certain if you’re reading this, but thanks for sharing this bit of wisdom.  I carried it with me and employed it on a number of occasions over the course of this year’s UTMB.  After successfully completing the “teaser” of a terrain feature between La Houches and St. Gervais I was able to roll into the aid station at St. Gervais with about 65 minute’s buffer before the cut off barrier.

After grabbing a bite to eat (sausage, cheese, bread and soup) I rolled out of St. Gervais feeling very solid.  My head was in the right place and I felt strong after the aggressive start we had made.  Headed to Les Contamines the running field was still crowded, but not as jam packed as the first 21KM.  The village of Les Contamines and the spirit of the spectators highlight the impact of this course on the local region.  I got into Les Contamines with a 73 minute buffer before the cutoff.  Rolling in, it seemed that the entire village was out on the town.  In the middle of town they had set up a fest-like aid station.  Bon Scott and AC/DC were pelting out “Whole Lotta Rosie” to the point where you could not carry on a conversation without yelling.  It does not get much better than this!  Les Contamines ROCKED!  From here we headed out for the 19KM climb through La Balme to one of my favorite points on the course, Croix du Bonhomme.  Croix du Bonhomme is the first serious climb of the course.  Our trip over the Croix this evening was surreal with a moon that was almost full.  The moonlight was so bright that you almost did not need a headlamp; and you could not make out the stars.  Instead of the stars you could look back down below and see thousands of trailers’ headlamps stretching back at least four or five kilometers.  Breathtaking!

Movement over the course from Croix du Bonhomme through Les Chapieux, Col de la Seigne to Lac Combal was largely uneventful.  Uniquely we followed a course I was not familiar with around Col des Pyramides Calcaires.  In the past we have rapidly progressed down from Col de la Seigne to Lac Combal.  In 2015 we were forced to move about 500m down and then course back up the Col des Pyramides Calcaires over large talus and scree fields.  I would like to hike back into this area as it marks the frontier between France and Italy and there are remains of field fortifications, obstacles and beaten down concertina wire.  I don’t know if these fortifications were French or Italian and if they were established during the First World War or during the Fascist period in Italy.  It was surreal hiking through this area.  I rolled into Lac Combal with almost a two hour buffer before the cut off.  I took a few minutes to re-supply my water and to eat (sausage, cheese, bread and soup).

From Lac Combal we moved up our fifth climb to Arrete du Mont-Favre.  Moving up this mountain the sun’s rays were finally able to reach us bringing a little life into our legs and spirits.  After summiting at Arrete du Mont-Favre we began our “fast” decent down towards Courmayeur.  The winding trail here coursed through a pine forest.  I had the horrible memories from 2013 about this section of trail as the air was permeated with moon dust like powder from the beat down the trail took.  This year the trail surface was moister and remained excellent to run on. 

Almost two hours ahead of the barrier I felt great rolling into Courmayeur.  As I approached town I mentally searched for the feeling of despair I experienced in 2013; thankfully they were not to be found this year.  I picked up my drop bag and decided to enjoy a somewhat longer break.  I moved into the Sport Center and upon entering was struck by the heat and stink in the main hall.  The aid station and all of its resources were overwhelmed with trailers, their supporters and volunteers.  There was no seating and lines for everything.  I pushed my way through to a far corner and secured a chair from someone that was leaving.  Working through my aid station priorities I dumped trash, re-supplied from my drop bag, stood in line for the restroom and took off my shoes and socks.  The line for food in Courmayeur was occupied by at least seventy-five people.  No chow from there.  Instead I ate two cliff bars and downed two liquid baby food meals I had in my drop bag.  This meal was probably about 700 calories!  As I was getting ready to leave Oliver surprised me by sitting down right next to me.  Oliver is a much stronger runner than I and I thought that he would have been at least a couple of hours ahead of me.  He indicated that he was having a hard time with the down hills.  His motivation was spot on with him saying that he would stay in the race until the race pulled him off of the course.  I wished Oliver all the best and headed out of the Sport Center after about a forty-five minute break.  Time to recapture some of that lost buffer!

The climb (800m over a very short distance) out of Courmayeur to Refuge Bertone was the opposite experience of the pine forest headed into Courmayeur.  It was hot with very little wind moving through the low hanging trees.  I watched four trailers turn around and head back to Courmayeur to quit.  Watching this happen is a mental kick in the Jimmy!  Working to turn away from that mental let down I focused on getting by butt up this climb and to Berone.  Finally!  Bertone was pleasant; the sun was shining and I felt pretty darn good.  After a short break to refill my water bottles I headed forward to Refuge Bonatti.  This portion of the course is relatively flat and a good time to regain strength and make up time on your barrier buffer.  Following Bonatti there is a short, sharp piece of downhill that at the time I could have done without, but having been here in 2013 I knew that it took us into Arnuva.  Arnuva is a significant aid station as it is the last prior to assaulting the highest summit of the course at Grand Col Ferret.  I arrived at Arnuva with an hour and ten minute buffer before the barrier.  I re-supplied water and had to do some foot maintenance as hot spots were developing on both of my feet.  After removing my shoes and socks I found that I had no blisters, but had a strange rather large hot spot developing on both heels.  I applied moleskin to each and took off.

The assault on Grand Col Ferret reflects the highest climb of the UTMB course.  The push from Arnuva to the summit consists of about seven kilometers, but reflects an elevation change of almost 900 meters.  The climb up was demanding and although at this time of the early evening it was not too hot I almost ran out of water.  Grand Col Ferret is where I literally crushed my 2013 race.  That year I hiked up largely using my toes and in doing so wasted my shins.  This year I forced myself to remain flat footed going up.  The summit was almost a surprise.  Once there I restocked on water and headed out for the 1100 meter decent down to La Fouly.

The passage from the summit of Grand Col Ferret to La Fouly, although down hill is no walk in the park.  Wanting to recapture some buffer time I hiked and ran much of this stretch.  The later half of this section was the first time I witnessed runners asleep on the side of the trail.  The push to La Fouly is a grind.  The aid station arrives when you transition from trail to hard ball road.  At the hard ball you are directed onto its course and move into the town of La Fouly.  In 2013 I arrived here in a miserable state with the rain just starting.  In 2015 it was dusk and mild.  I moved into town and arrived at the aid station almost an hour and a half before the cut off time.  I took a short eighteen minute break to restock on water and to eat.  I had a couple of bowls of soup, some fruit and more sausage, cheese and bread.  Given the heat of the aid station tent and crush of runners heading back out was miserably cold.  Push!  Next stop…  Champex-Lac.

The course segment between La Fouly and Champex-Lac is fourteen kilometers.  The UTMB profile chart shows the course of the race moving down from about 1800 meters to 1000 meters and back up to 1500 meters.  It took me right at four hours to transit this suck fest of trail, forest, farm and country lanes.  To make matters somewhat more difficult I carried the weight of my 2013 UTMB decision which was made at this point through this section.  Fortunately, until we actually started climbing again, much of this section is a blacked out portion for me.  I was probably sleep-hiking.  In Praz de Fort I was treated to a delicious cup of coffee by a family that had set up a stand in their front yard.  Heaven!  Going back up to Champex-Lac I looked for and passed the picnic bench where I had made my 2013 decision.    There were paths through the forest here that as I passed through them this year I realized that I had not only dreamed of this place I had actually been here before.  This knowledge gave me strength to continue the climb up to Champex-Lac and although the aid station seemed as if it would never arrive, suddenly it appeared, right in front of me.  I had arrived with almost a three hour buffer before the cut off.  Fantastic!  Time for a break, something to eat and lots of caffeine.

Like 2013 the aid station at Champex-Lac was jammed packed with people eating, drinking, sleeping and suffering.  Champex-Lac is the place where the highest percentages of runners drop from the UTMB.  My focus was to re-stock my supplies, eat, drink coffee and get out.  I had a bowl of soup, some Coke and bread and noticed that they were serving pasta with meat sauce – had to have some of that.  I approached the volunteers serving this meal from heaven and was served a bowl.  One of the volunteers asked me if I’d like cheese on my pasta and I told them of course.  My thoughts, “This is going to be delicious!  Now to grab another Coke and to quickly eat.”  While grabbing a Coke I noticed a horrible smell, but blamed it on myself thinking that it was my body odor.  I went and sat down with this delicious plate of pasta just under my chin and prepared to dig in.  Gawd!  What an awful smell.  What the hell is that?  The only way I stink like that is if I’ve soiled myself.  No way!  As it turns out, that delicious cheese that the volunteer so graciously applied to my pasta was not Parmesan, but “Frumunda”.  (Never heard of Frumunda?  Say it out loud and you’ll recognize it.)  I almost threw up it stank and tasted so badly.  None of that for me.  I downed my Coke, threw the pasta away and left the aid station.  Off into the unknown…

Heading out of town I met up with Girish an Indian runner that is a professor of Human Resources at the Catholic University in Seoul, Korea.  Fortunately, he liked to talk and liked to run so he was able to help keep me awake as we worked our way into the depth of the second night.  We chatted for some time until I had to take a bio break.  After my short break the trail took us back up to the place that after reading in so many reports I dreaded, Bovine.  This part of the course is the real “gut check” as the trail here if it can be characterized as a trail is extremely difficult to negotiate.  The course moves over foot grabbing roots; is strewn with knee-high stones, talus and scree and includes hip high walls that must be negotiated over.  These obstacles are further enhanced by the six to seven hundred meters in elevation change that characterize this climb.  As you progress up the mountain to La Giete conditions only get worse with multiple stream crossings that must be jumped and climbed across as well as table sized rocks that are at times covered with water or moss. 

During the movement near Bovine  I had to stop every few steps to catch my breath, wait to negotiate yet another obstacle, or pause for the person in front of me to negotiate something.  Suddenly a woman (I think that it was a woman.  Yes, it was a striking Japanese woman with pitch black hair.) bounded past me dressed in a yellow karate outfit wearing a broad black belt.  What the hell!  My initial thought – “Where did she get the strength to move like that in this terrain and she’s got real balls wearing a karate outfit like that for the UTMB? Wow!  She looks a little ridiculous running around in the mountains of Bovine in a yellow karate outfit.  That yellow was a good safety call though...  Anyway, focus, breath and move over these damn rocks.”  I continued to move forward and doing something I had told myself not to do because it’s like looking at your watch when you’re waiting on something; I looked up to see how much further we had only to find that the mountain continued almost straight up.  Fuck!  The next set of headlamps was just over my head as if walking on the next floor up.  There are more people curled up on the side of the trail here – wasted and sleeping including Girish my friend from earlier.  I refused to allow myself to succumb to the temptation as I couldn’t face the fight with the cold that was bound to come following such a trail nap.

I didn’t really register summiting above Trient and the transition to following the maddening trails downhill.  I do recall passing the Japanese Karate woman again.  She was standing besides the trail cleaning her glasses.  I didn’t recall seeing here wearing glasses the first time I saw her.  She does have a black belt though and is wearing that insane yellow outfit.  Devo!  I’m loosing my mind and hallucinating like a son-of-a-bitch.

We passed through a café garden where two volunteers cheered us on.  They told us that this was not the aid station, but we didn’t have too far to go into the valley.  “Allez, Allez, Allez!”  Forgive me, but I’m not certain I can hear or speak those words at this time of day.  No stopping, I wanted to get down to Trient, get something to eat and continue moving forward.  As if it would never arrive I found myself finally standing in the aid station in Trient.  I made it in with a good two hour buffer before the barrier, but was droning hard.  It was here that I met up with Elaine A.  Thankfully her fiancée took charge of both of us; directed us through the aid station and back out onto the course.  Both of us were hurting on sleep and without Tom’s push would have likely stood around the aid station for much too long.

Elaine and I busted out towards Vallorcine.  I led the climbs and she led the downhills.  Super team work going into the finish of this race.  The hotspots I had identified back in Arnuva had calmed on my right foot, but had developed into a monster blister on my left.  The entire foot from mid-foot to my heal was one giant blister.  No issues going up hill, but down hill was a nightmare.  You don’t die from blisters, but they certainly can raid on your parade.  Focus!  I centered on chatting with Elaine about running and on seeing Simone in Vallorcine.

Above Vallorcine I encouraged Elaine to take off.  She was super strong on the downhills and by this time the sun was coming out and I just needed an opportunity to gut through getting down off of this mountain.  I was glad that Simone and I had hiked here earlier in August as I knew where we were and could judge how much more suck I needed to push through to get to the aid station.  Running slightly later than I had anticipated I arrived in Vallorcine at 0924 and was all smiles as Simone was there waving and cheering me on.  A visit like this is a two edged sword.  I wanted to spend some time with Simone, but needed to push onwards to finish this thing.  We spent a total of 22 minutes together and I was off again into the cold headed to Le Tete aux Vents (supposedly the last climb which turned out to be bullshit).

From a climbing perspective the course trail between Vallorcine and Col de Montets was relatively mild, but I froze my ass off the entire way as it path lies in a valley where the sun had not yet arrived.  At Col de Montets I took another short bio break in the fixed facility there before attacking the final major climb up to Le Tete aux Vents.  As I began this climb I began loosing touch with both my physical and mental capacities.  By this point in the race I had not eaten a full meal in two days and had been surviving on the limited food available in the aid stations, gels, energy bars and junk food.  This was not a good place to be mentally and physically – my tank was running on empty.  This was the only time I was really concerned with my well being and ability to move forward.  To fight through this I increased the number of gels and energy bars I was consuming and hoped for the best to get this thing wrapped up.  The course distance between Vallorcine and Chamonix was only 19KM, it would have been a pity to waste this all knowing the finish line was so damn close.

At the summit above Le Tete aux Vents the course was very similar to the rocky path near Bovine.  After summiting we coursed across this talus field to head back down and there below us lay Chamonix.  Way below us…  Shit!  “Are you kidding me!?!  We have got to go back up to Le Tete aux Vents?”  OK, I can do this, but then, we’re certainly headed down to Chamonix.  No, no, no!  Le Tete aux Vents comes and goes and we head back down, to head back up again.  Eat another gel!  Next stop, the aid station at La Flegere which lies atop a ski run.  Shit!  OK, I can do this, but then, we’re certainly headed down…  No, no, no!  The profile chart for the UTMB is somewhat misleading as the scale is way too large to actually see that you must course up and down to get down to Chamonix.  Eat another gel!

Traveling down a ski slope, from which we transitioned to a mountain service road, to finally transition to a serpentine forest trail, all headed down hill I came out of the haze I was in and recognized where we were.  Again, it paid dividends to run and hike this terrain with Simone before the race.  She and I had agreed to meet in this area at the gates of Chamonix.  My thoughts were that maybe she had come a bit further out – it would be great to see her.  Yes, that is her in the distance – I waved and smiled.  No, that’s not her, that woman probably thinks I’m an idiot.  I repeated this routine four times hoping to see Simone and then finally stopped waving and smiling at anyone.  Eat another gel!

There it was, the final left turn back onto hard ball in Chamonix.  From here it’s only a short jog into town and the finish line.  No!  This is not the final turn.  Yes, you’re in Chamonix, but they have somehow re-routed the course to take you weaving through town.  Anger!  No, let it go, you are in Chamonix.  I came around a corner and there in fact was Simone, dressed to run and carrying her water bottle.  Pure joy!  Pure overwhelming joy!  This was it…

We ran along the river that courses from the Sports Center into the heart of town and the finish line.  The atmosphere was insane.  There were thousands of people lining the street yelling and cheering us on as we approached the finish.  Time stood still.  I had, and actually continue to have trouble comprehending that this endeavor was over.  Simone and I crossed the finish line together.  Bliss!  Oliver and Andrea were there as well to welcome us in.  Amazing!  My thanks to them both!

The UTMB has been a journey for me which I have not yet completed.  A week later it is still too early to measure the depth of its impact on me.  The 2015 UTMB was the culmination of a multi-year journey for me.  Since 2009 there have been a number of central characters in this journey that made 2015 possible.  My apologies up front if I’ve overlooked someone, my blood sugar level remains low.  I’ll eat another gel.  I extend much gratitude to Bernie Conradt and Friedbert Isenmann:  Your focus and dedication to finishing this race inspired me to pursue the same.  Christine Lallier:  We’ve been running this thing together since 2010 – thanks for the inspiration and motivational push.  Lutz Kalitzsch:  A damn fine racing partner.  I drew from the experience of our previous events together and your stone cold approach to finishing.  Aschu Grantl:  You’re a sandbagger, but one hell of an inspiration.  Thanks for sharing the insight into our enemies.  And last, but certainly not least, Simone:  You made this all possible. 

Albert Einstein once characterized insanity as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  As I pursued completion of the UTMB I contemplated this view on a number of occasions.  I’m finishing this report up on Sunday afternoon a week after the 2015 race.  A week ago I was not yet finished and could not have imagined doing this race again.  There is however, a desire growing in me…  The UTMB is an incredible emotional and physical adventure.  It may not be next year, or the year after, but I will be back again.  Insanity – it’s a very pleasant place to be.