Sunday, August 29, 2010

UTMB Final Thoughts

Rather than doing a race report for my abbreviated UTMB race I thought I'd do a list of the top 10 reasons why this trip over here was totally worth the time and money even though the race was cancelled after 3 hours of running:

10. Most of the cost of my trip was covered by my sponsors

9. The food. I'm actually kind of sick of the food here (I kind of just wish I could find somewhere to get a $2 burrito, a single slice of pizza, or a coffee to go), but I have had some pretty amazing meals. A good example would be the Pike Dumpling w/crayfish sauce and Risotto that I had for dinner the night before the race. I also had an amazing Monkfish w/garlic mashed potatoes dinner one night.

8. Being at the start of the race. This was simply amazing. People lined up in the streets 20 feet deep for the first half mile.

7. Watching the almost full moon rise of the Aigiulle Du Midi the first night I was in Chamonix. It was cloudy when I got here so you couldn't see the mountains but then just as the moon was coming up the clouds cleared off for the most amazing mountain moon rise I have ever seen in my life.

6. Running from the finish about 7 miles back on the race course to watch the lead runners come through in the "day after" UTMB. I was really excited to see Jez Bragg and Mike Wolfe running out front. I ran with each of them for a brief moment. It's certainly more fun to be in a race than to be a spectator, but it was kind of fun to be a "fan" for a day.

5. Chamonix. I don't know that I would ever want to live in this town but it is certainly a really special place. I used to think that we had some towns in the U.S. where people are really into outdoor recreation (Boulder, Moab, Bend, all the Colorado mountain towns, etc), but Chamonix makes all of these places seem like they're filled with a bunch of couch riding, overweight Americans.

4. Running through St. Gervais during the race. Mike Wolfe and I ran through St. Gervais together (about 12 miles into the race). You wind through town for almost a mile and the entire way there are people lined up shoulder to shoulder cheering, jumping up and down, and overflowing with excitement about the race. It's unbelievable. Small children. 80 year old folks. And everyone in between. If you have run through St. Gervais in the UTMB you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't I really don't know that any words can explain it.

3. Meeting and spending time with many of the most enjoyable and most talented (in many cases) ultra and mountain runners in the world. Not limited to, but most certainly including: Karl Meltzer, Mike Wolfe, Scott Jurek, Nicolas Mermoud, Kilian Jornet, Jez Bragg, Tracy Garneau, Rickey Gates, Scott Mason, Cory Johnson, and Bryon Powell.

2. The spectators all along the 20 miles of route that I ran before they stopped the race. I already mentioned the start and St. Gervais, but what was even more amazing to me were all the people out in the more remote areas of the course. This is a very social event in the small villages here. There are stretches where you run through neighborhoods and almost every home has people sitting on the front steps or up in the balconies and they are all cheering with genuine enthusiasm. In the U.S. it seems like many people would be annoyed by the clamor and disruption of having 2,300 runners race past their front door. Here though it seems like these people have such a deep and genuine respect/regard for all the racers. I kept thinking about how I wished I had the time to stop and make sure each of them knew how deep and genuine respect and regard I had for them.

1. Even though the race got stopped I still was able to run almost 60 miles (with almost 20,000 feet of total climbing) in the mountains in the 5 days that I was here. Some of the most enjoyable and beautiful mountain running I have ever done.

25 comments:

John said...

Good to hear that you still got to enjoy your time in Chamonix. You can always take on UTMB next year!

cenise said...

I really, really appreciate reading these comments, especially after all that was - and is still being - said about the race cancelation over here in France. "Très bel état d'esprit". That makes you one heck of a champion. Hoping to see you back next year, in fair weather this time... I promise I'll be sitting on my front steps or up in my balcony!!
Bam

Paul said...

haha Coffee to go!! Not only to go, but a decent volume!

Libby said...

Wow Geoff! Way to stay positive about what most people would consider a pretty big disappointment in terms of not being able to do what you came there to do. But it sounds like you got a lot out of it anyway and really enjoyed yourself. We miss and love you and can't wait to hear all the details from you in person in Juneau!

Matthias said...

Great words Geoff, I hope you can do it next year!

Libby said...

Whoops--I keep forgetting you are not coming back to Juneau for awhile. I think we are in denial. :(

Carrie said...

Thanks for all the posting over the last weekend. Great to hear your experiences, good and bad... although sounds mostly good. Super top 10!

titeyogarunner said...

Having done the CCC, I absolutely agree on all 10 points...EXCEPT: weren't there some "talented and best" WOMEN runners too? Namasté

Anonymous said...

After, that words I hope you can come back in 2011. Next year, you'll have the sun and the french'trailers will be pround to receive you around the Mont Blanc.
Don't worry, if the weather is still bad, you can have new beautiful dinners.....
See you next year Olivier

Anonymous said...

Next time you are here, ask around - there are many places to get pizza, savory crepes are the French version of a burrito, and we also have plenty of small sandwich shops and places to get a quick but healthy bite. Coffee to go is available downtown at Mojos in town center or McDo. Places exist to satisfy your cravings, but as a race tourist you might not have had time to find it all.

I'm an American living here since 2001. English speaking locals call the 98km 5700m CCC the 'fun run' btw ... and the alternate race they offered was the already marked CCC course. Slightly over 2nd half of UTMB but with 2 extra climbs - so it was not an invented race, and 90% of it was the UTMB (the CCC has more height per km than the UTMB).

But mud slides and gale force winds are not so much fun (slides had been reported on the first half of the course), and despite what Killian Jornet had to say on his blog (in French not sure if you read it) about lack of mountain spirit in canceling the race instead of letting runners decide for themselves, I think it was the right call considering the number of people now involved in the race and the 3 deaths in France last year on a smaller trail run when people slid down a frozen slope in bad weather, were knocked unconscious and died of exposure before searchers found them.

The UTMB had never been entirely cancelled before. The organizers were trying to get accurate information on the ever changing condition of the 2nd half of the course to see if it would be runnable or not for the UTMB folks the next day, hence the pfaffing.

You may not realize, but the CCC was also halted after midnight Friday due to gale force winds on the last col, so anyone who did not finish before 2am was stopped at Vallorcine at around km 80 of 98) and the TDS (more technical and remote than either the CCC or UTMB, but not as long as the UTMB) was cancelled as well. There are 4 ultras running over 3 days, and the longest one is not the UTMB, but the Petit Trotte de Léon with 240km distance and 18000m of height gain, run over 3 days) -- and it was the only one not halted.

I listened to Scott Jurek talking to the guys in the Ravanel running shop about how the race cancellation was disorganized, and I don't know - it just sounded whiney to me. I understand it comes from immense disappointment at not being able to do the race you came for, but it is hard to fault the organizers knowing what they went through. They were trying to get accurate information from the 3 different alpine countries the race passes through (each with their own mtn rescue service) on the course conditions in real time during a mountain storm in the middle of the night to see if/when they could restart.

In the end, around 1500 racers DID decide to run the ‘restart’.

Personally I admire the attitude of Dachhiri Dawa Sherpa (a top Nepalese trail runner living in France) - 1. he does not drop out of races when he realizes he will not win the race, unlike so many other top runners (he is sponsored) 2. he ran the 'make up race' in good spirit 3. he stuck around (and always does at every race he enters) until the LAST runners came in, congratulating finishers, smiling, friendly and open, talking to any folks who approached him all through the afternoon after his race was finished. To me THAT is great sportsmanship from a top runner.

I know it is hard when you come from so far away to do one race and the rug is pulled out from under you - some people had come from Japan and many other countries and were also disappointed.

It was the first time the whole race got cancelled (the first time they ran it, it was stopped in the middle well after the first finishers came in, due to hail and snow and high winds) ... unlucky for you and all other 1st time Cham visiors, but I hope you all find time to get back to run it in future. And try to talk to Lizzy Hawker too.

Anonymous said...

That's too bad. When we were trying to follow, and then found out it was cancelled, holy shit! Glad you were able to stick around and enjoy!

michelle said...

ummm- 3:01 anonymous:
Thank you for providing this detailed information about what happened in France. I just wanted to clarify something for you though aboout your statement:
"Personally I admire the attitude of Dachhiri Dawa Sherpa (a top Nepalese trail runner living in France) - 1. he does not drop out of races when he realizes he will not win the race, unlike so many other top runners (he is sponsored) 2. he ran the 'make up race' in good spirit 3. he stuck around (and always does at every race he enters) until the LAST runners came in, congratulating finishers, smiling, friendly and open, talking to any folks who approached him all through the afternoon after his race was finished. To me THAT is great sportsmanship from a top runner."
If you're trying to insinuate that Geoff is any different than this guy you're talking about, you should get your facts straight. What you just described above is exactly who Geoff Roes is and anyone who has been a part of or watches a race he is in will tell you the same. And while he did not ever whine about the race cancellation or its organizers, he did have this to say:
"Had the race organization been able to put together a more definitive alternative race without all of the confusion and question marks that ensued (not blaming the race organization here in any way. Rather just touching on the difficulty of what they were dealing with), and in a more timely manner then it is likely that this alternative race would have been where I would have used this extra energy provided to me by the cancellation of the UTMB. The way it was though, with no sleep and with the threat of weather stopping the "new" race, it was a really simple decision not to invest this energy into this."

michelle said...

ummm- 3:01 anonymous:
Thank you for providing this detailed information about what happened in France. I just wanted to clarify something for you though aboout your statement:
"Personally I admire the attitude of Dachhiri Dawa Sherpa (a top Nepalese trail runner living in France) - 1. he does not drop out of races when he realizes he will not win the race, unlike so many other top runners (he is sponsored) 2. he ran the 'make up race' in good spirit 3. he stuck around (and always does at every race he enters) until the LAST runners came in, congratulating finishers, smiling, friendly and open, talking to any folks who approached him all through the afternoon after his race was finished. To me THAT is great sportsmanship from a top runner."
If you're trying to insinuate that Geoff is any different than this guy you're talking about, you should get your facts straight. What you just described above is exactly who Geoff Roes is and anyone who has been a part of or watches a race he is in will tell you the same. And while he did not ever whine about the race cancellation or its organizers, he did have this to say:
"Had the race organization been able to put together a more definitive alternative race without all of the confusion and question marks that ensued (not blaming the race organization here in any way. Rather just touching on the difficulty of what they were dealing with), and in a more timely manner then it is likely that this alternative race would have been where I would have used this extra energy provided to me by the cancellation of the UTMB. The way it was though, with no sleep and with the threat of weather stopping the "new" race, it was a really simple decision not to invest this energy into this."

Anonymous said...

you should take all of the energy that you saved @ utmb and come run the pine to palm 100 here in oregon in a few weeks... the nw trail/ultra community would love to see you...

peace and good things to you...

Anonymous said...

@ the American living in France.
I am a Catalan living in the US and I have been following Geof's racing life for a while. All I can say is the I think you have the wrong picture about him, he truly has the humility of a true champion.
Pe.

Geoff said...

anon in oregon,
your thoughts about palm to pine are very present in my mind already. maybe i'll see you there.

Geoff said...

titeyogarunner,
i was just touching on the runners who i had a chance to personally interact with. unfortunately tracy g. was the only female runner who i was fortunate enough to spend some time with. one thing a lot different about this race than most ultra in the US is that less than 10% of the field are women. not sure why that is.

Bruno said...

Dear Geoff,

As a french guy quite new in ultra, I am following your blog and your race for a few monthes. I came to Chamonix to run TDS the first over 100km mountain race in my short running carrer. This did not happen as you know. But still I am very happy to get the opportunity to see you in Les Houches. A lot of emotion went out both from utmb's and tds' competitors following the cancellation. But I really like the way you feel about this experience. And I am happy that Chamonix made you pleased and that you did not regret to come here. I wish I could have the same attitude if one day I go to run the Western States and found the race canceled after a few miles.
Thanks to sharing your feeling with us, and wish you a lot of joy in your next races.

Human runner said...

Love your Ten and two..Free and great people.

Michael said...

Geoff,

Glad we got to hang out in Chamonix and run a bit of the course together friday night! You'll never forget that feeling of running through the streets of St. Gervais, eh?! Hopefully that will keep you inspired to return next year....now an american needs to WIN the real UTMB!

take care and keep in touch (shoot me an email),

Mike Wolfe

Anonymous said...

Whoa, easy Michelle, Geoff's not a saint, he's just a regular dude living off his friends alimony. relax

Geoff said...

anon,
if you're going to make stuff up about me that has zero factual basis to it you could at least be man (or woman) enough to use your name. then again i could see why one would want to remain anonymous when saying something so pathetic and embararassing to oneself.

Mom said...

anon,

You have a lot of nerve saying things about someone that are not the least bit true - I agree with every word Michelle wrote. Geoff is not a free-loader. I would appreciate it if you just keep your ugly thoughts to yourself. Sounds to me like you do not know Geoff at all nor do you know anything about his life style. He had a job until moving to Colorado and is looking for another one now. He has parents that would give him anything he ever would want, but he asks for nothing. Next time be sure of what you are saying before saying anything. You are sick.

michelle said...

LOL Anon! I never suggested that my brother was a saint (and I don't think that he is.) But he comes pretty damn close in my book :) You, however, aren't worth the crap on the bottom of his shoes.....

Sis said...

Your blog it is amazing and rece repport are great! This words about UTMB make me happy, I was on CCC race and it was a great experience. Chamonix it is the great mountain city for this kind of race and the peoples who were cheering us evrywhhere are beautiful...and the mountains, the moon, the sunny days.... really deserve to comeback in Chamonix! See you in Chamonix next year! Good luck for the next race in 4 Dec!! I love your positive thoughts and your way of live and running: Pure joy of life!