I think the idea of running UTMB came to me at the launch of Ryan Sandes book, Trail Blazer, in early 2017. In my copy he wrote “I hope to see you at UTMB, Live your dreams.” Now, how could I not accept such a challenge?
I decided to enter the CCC which is known as the “little sister of the UTMB”
The CCC is 101 km with 6 100 metres of height gain. It starts from Courmayeur, Italy, is semi-autonomy and has a 26hrs 30 mins cut off. Deciding to do the race was the easy part. To enter the race I needed to qualify, which requires 8 points from two races that the UTMB committee has ranked. Once you have that in the bag you enter a lottery and hope for selection.
I chose to do Skyrun which is a 65km traill run starting in Lady Grey and UTCT which is a 65km and completing these gave me the 8 points I needed.
The draw was done in early 2018 and I was lucky enough to be selected. On receiving the news I made a frantic call to Coach Neville for advice and to develop a training plan for me. This would be my first 100km trail run, being a comrades runner it was the 6000m of elevation gain which that scared me far more than the distance.
Friday 31st August, being race day, came far to quickly and with 1500km and 21000m elevation training behind me, the big question remaining was, had I done enough? Flying into Geneva and looking down at the mountains all I could think was WTF have I got myself into? The Alps are big mountains, bigger than anything in SA! Driving into Chamonix the mountains surround you and tower above you in such an intimidating way.
Race registration and compulsory kit check went off without any problems - much the same as our races here in South Africa. I had decided that it would be best to stay close to the race start in Courmayeur to avoid an early morning start. The organisers arrange buses to take athletes from Chamonix to Courmayeur on race morning which I didn’t think was ideal.
The start is organised in three waves to help the fluidity of the race. Start times are calculated according to your ITRA's performance index. I was in wave two.
The start line at the centre of Courmayeur is tinged with an atmosphere that only Italians can provide, a rare emotional moment to the music of Vangelis and the singing of the three national anthems of the counties we were going to pass through, the first of a couple of times this race had me in tears.
Finally running into Chamonix in just under 24hours and seeing Veona waiting for me on the finish line was one of my most memorable moments and certainly the biggest and finest personal achievement.
A special thanks must go out to the awesome ladies at Parkmore Health and Wellness centre, Megan and Cayley for all the sports massages, pilates classes and grucox, Megyn Robinson my great physio from Wellbeings physio, Coach Neville for all the advice and encouragement and last, but not least to my amazing support crew, Veona who was able to follow me around
Mont-Blanc the whole night, crossing three countries by bus - you are amazing!