UTMR Time!

Ultra Tour Monte Rosa will be our highlight race this year!  It’s a hard race.  We signed up for UTMR stage race just a month before we headed back to Chamonix and after watching all the races in UTMB, reality sets in.  I know it’s going to be amazing running around Zermatt, of course but it is also going to be hard.  The reality is, it’s technical and from what I heard more technical than Tour of Mont Blanc trails.  It’s all up and all down.

The weather forecast looks worrisome now with some rains on the first stage and then some thunderstorms on stage 2.

We’ve got all our mandatory gears together along with SIM cards for both our phones for emergency as required in the race.  We will travel from France to Italy then race from Italy to Switzerland.

We are nervous.  We didn’t have time to recon the race so there will be a lot of unknowns.  The terrain is harder and not a lot of runnable sections.  It will be a tough race for us.  The time cuts on stages 2 and 3 will be tight for us.

There will be lots of climbing and a lot of descending.

So, where are we or how are we feeling about our training?  We trained in Chamonix for 1.5 months and most of it hiking majority of the time.  We lived in Saigon, Vietnam for 7 months at sea level, in an MMA gym.  I know that sounds weird but the MMA gym have been a benefit to me specially strengthening my hips.  The hips have been an unstable part of my body when running in the past.  I figured, Muay Thai’s kicking and kneeing plus all the MetCon workouts will help it.  Right now, the hips are great.

Doug, however left Vietnam with an unstable knee but still trained through the 1.5 months with knee support.  He is able to keep up with my speed which is unusual – he always drops me and waits for me – but that’s how it is right now.  It’s tough and it’s going to be tougher in the race for sure.

The crammed training on the mountains to prepare of UTMR have taken a toll on my feet.  It’s sore and the nerves are not happy.  I am concerned on how it will hold up during the race and we’ll have to take it one stage at a time.  That is my biggest concern right now, my feet.  Last week, I had a bit of a “woman” thing then in the end of the two big days in the mountains, my feet swelled up.  I had to take two days off to let it heal.  Yesterday’s steep ascent and descent flared it again.  Definitely rest before the race.

The other big concern I have is nutrition.  As you can see, we are so new to mountain trail running but not so new.  We’ve done Manaslu Trail Run which was 9 days at high elevation and we finished okay.  We ate what was packed for us before the race…i.e. chapati, apples, nuts, dried fruits etc.  It worked out great for us.  We finished before cut off time and was quite happy in the end.  The race last year, Grand Tour du Lac I hardly ate at all.  I did eat some salami and very stinky cheese towards the end of the race – happy that it didn’t bother me.  In short, we don’t have a nutrition strategy except what we normally do when we hike or run in the mountains every time.  That seem to work for us but that is also without racing effort!  I find nutrition strategy in a mountain trail race the most challenging.

We also trained a lot on trails for Manaslu compared to UTMR this year.  We’ve done a race in Europe in October and another trail run race in Thailand in December – the only two races before we headed to Indonesia.  Most of our training this year were strength training and climbing on the treadmill’s incline.

The first thing that came to mind when signing up for UTMR was to do better than our time in Manaslu.  Why?  I don’t know but because we’d like to do better, I guess.  It’s also important, now that we’ve watched UTMB races – to be realistic of the situation.  It’s also hard to compare apples to oranges races – each stage races are unique.

At this point in our training, we will do the best we can to race smart.  It’s a really good starting point for us to learn more about European racing.  Last year’s Grand Tour du Lac 30km gave us many lessons to learn and work on.  A few things stood out such as learning to use poles, nutrition and mentally battling relentless steep climbs.  UTMR will bring us many lessons once again for sure and a lot to work on for future races.

If we don’t start somewhere, we won’t get anywhere.  If we don’t race a hard race, we won’t know what we are capable or what we need to work on.  This is the essence of racing in the mountains specially with big distances and lots of mountains.  You just keep on doing it and the big plus in racing is that the course is always absolutely beautiful!  The people racing, spectators and volunteers are somewhat with you all the way.  It’s like a celebration of putting our feet on the mountains and just keep on going.  That is how it felt spectating UTMB races this week.  It’s a celebration of challenging oneself in the beautiful and amazing mountains.

It will be a challenge.  It will also be a celebration of life.  We just need to keep on moving.

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