Jeremy Waite


The Ultra-trail Tour du Mont Blanc 2010 - race report

The Ultra Trail Tour du Mont Blanc has only been in existence for seven or so years, but is already established as the pre-eminent European mountain ultra. The 2010 edition had been on my radar for a while and having achieved the relevant qualifying points in races through 2009, 6.30 on a temporarily clear Friday evening in August, saw me standing amongst 2,300 other runners in the centre of Chamonix. The typically emotional music was blaring out of the loudspeakers as the mayor set us off on what would was to be a race of 166km (103 miles) around the Mont Blanc massif including 9,500m of both ascent and descent over a variety of high passes and along alpine ridge lines.

My training over the previous eight months since my race entry was confirmed, had gone as well as I could have hoped for. Few if any injuries, regular long runs, weekly totals of 60+ miles running, and whilst not exactly Alpine, I felt as though I’d run up and down every hill that Berkshire and South Oxfordshire had to offer. The lack of proper mountain work was always going to be my main weakness, but I knew that time and money would never allow me to factor in training trips to the mountains, so mentally I was ok with that box being unticked, and for ultra running, getting the mental aspects happy is by far the most important element.

  Looking nervous before the start...

Race day had started with low cloud and torrential rain, so breakfast had been a pretty unsettling affair as I contemplated up to 46 hours out in the mountains getting cold and wet. However, the sun broke through during the course of the day and by the time we got to race start we had fairly clear skies above us. The start of the UTMB is slightly overwhelming with a press of very fit looking people all looking nervous (although inevitably never seeming quite as nervous as I felt myself), all wearing a lot of technical kit and eager to get going on the challenges ahead. As the music becomes more emotional plenty of runners and spectators alike begin to well up before the release of the starting gun allows the focus to shift onto actually getting moving.

Pretty much as soon as we started to run, the weather changed again, so that as we dropped down from Chamonix towards the first checkpoint at Les Houches, we were all getting soaked. Plenty of runners pulled to the side to get out waterproofs, but that didn’t change the fact that the race was very tightly packed with running speed being dictated solely by the pace of the pack rather than the individual. This continued through the checkpoint which was filled with the expected mass of supporters cheering and ringing cow-bells, and on up the first 800m ascent to Le Delevret. This is a relatively simple climb on unmade road which was steep enough to quieten any conversations but not so steep as to put anyone in trouble.

At the pass though, the weather was still poor and so the descent for someone in my mid-pack position was very tricky over churned up muddy ski-piste. This was combined with fading light which required the first use of head torches for everyone as we slipped our way down to one of the most famous checkpoints of the race at Saint-Gervais. This is renowned as a boisterous town where runners stream through under the gaze of a mass of spectators standing on the pavements and leaning out of the bars. However, for us, it wasn’t to be such a happy place.

In the final kilometre coming down to the checkpoint word spread of a landslide further along the course in combination with strong winds and rain on the passes. As such, and potentially with half an eye on the deaths of three racers at an event the previous year, the organisers took the decision to cancel the race, effectively blocking off the road out of Saint Gervais and leaving everyone milling around the town wondering what to do with themselves.

I met my brother Nick but didn’t know what to feel about it all. It was a slight state of shock rather than anger and a feeling that 8 months of training and time away from my family had all been for nothing. A three hour, 21km (13mi) run up and over one 1,800m pass was a nice training effort, but not what I’d travelled all the way to Chamonix for. As we went back to the friends’ house we were staying in I was thinking mostly about how to get back to the UK as quickly as possible rather than worrying about the race and just felt in a total daze.

Click here for The Ultratrail Tour du Mont Blanc 2010 race report part 2.

Jeremy Waite works as a Sports Massage Therapist in Berkshire covering areas such as Streatley, Goring, Pangbourne, Wallingford and Reading.

Providing sports and remedial massage as well as training and rehabilitation advice throughout Berkshire and Oxfordshire and especially to clients in Streatley, Goring, Pangbourne, Wallingford and Reading.

Jeremy Waite UTMB pre start nerves

Contact details:

Jeremy Waite PTS (Dip), MSMA, MISRM
5 Underwood Cottages
The Coombe
Reading, RG8 9RA

Studio: 01491 872556
Mobile: 07827 926123

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