I’m finally in France and less than 48 hours until the start of Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc’s 104-mile mondo course in the Alps. Boasting nearly 34,000 feet of climbing, it’s one of the premiere ultrarunning events in the world. I can’t believe I’m finally sitting in Chamonix and running this race. Definitely a bucket list race. The first thing you understand when the 5 races start happening during the race week, ultra and trail running is a legitimate sport in Europe — not just a fringe sport like in the United States. They have TV coverage, helicopters, media, spectators everywhere. People sitting in bars until they close to watch middle of the pack runners finishing. People hiking up on the course to watch runners go by. It’s awesome and contageous — straight-up exciting.
Summer Training and Racing
I spent June getting in big climbs in the Cascades with a pack and using my BD Z-poles after some time off recovering from UltraFiord’s gnarly race in April. After a good training block in June, I started looking for something to test my fitness in July as a tune-up for UTMB. I found Beaverhead 100K in Salmon, Idaho.
I entered this race two weeks before — six weeks out from UTMB in late August. I wanted something with some altitude and something with some solid climbing. This hit just right in my scheduled build up for the race in France.
I took off on a Thursday afternoon for a whirlwind solo trip to Idaho — 20 hours of driving and 3 nights of sleeping in the back of my Honda Pilot. Since this was a trainer, I also decided to start my altitude mask the week before the race, only do a mini-taper and run on both days around the race (Friday and Sunday) so the total 3 day block of Friday through Sunday would be 75 miles and nearly 16,000+ feet of climbing and almost 20,000 feet of descent. Always good for 100-mile training.
Beaverhead is a 100K point-to-point almost entirely on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) with one foot in Idaho and the other in Montana, it’s a cool route. And to add a little extra toughness, the course veers off the CDT and onto an off-trail scramble along a 9,000-10,000 foot rocky ridgeline from 51-55 miles before bombing you down to connect with a drainage trail/double track section following a creek back into the sage brush to finish at one of the Race Director’s farms. Techinical course, great aid and an esthetically cool route.
The early miles I ran with Zac Miller (Missoula, MT) and Travis Macy (Evergreen, CO) and author of new book “Ultra Mindset.” Short of it, I took the lead in teh 30s, held it until the late 40s when Travis passed me at 47. I watched him run away up the climb and quickly pull away with no way to answer. We were hovering around 9,000-10,000 feet and Travis had better lungs at that altitude. I held onto 2nd place and chalked it up to a solid training trip.
I took an easy week and jumped right back into training in the Cascades for August — back to summiting the volcanoes before flying out for Chamonix in mid-August to finish up training in the Alps. Now, I’ve been here for almost two weeks and have scouted 60% of the course. Weather forecast looks solid, even hot and I’m completely stoked! About go time and it’s gonna be epic. Giddyup.