UTMB 2013

utmb_start

Photo: Salomon Runinng (Damien Rosso).

I dropped from the 2013 Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in Trient, Switzerland on Saturday morning—139km and 17hr after the start in Chamonix, France, but still 29km from making it all the way around the mountain. Curiously—despite the DNF—UTMB was one of the most pleasant, even serene, racing experiences I’ve had out on the trails. However, sometimes a few pieces of gristle are all it takes to bring a halt to our silly ambitions, and, if you let it, completely transform your outlook on the day. I’ve tried to not let that happen, but I’m a competitive bastard, and it takes constant attention on my part to keep my perspective firmly situated in the much-vaunted “bigger picture”. Sometimes you really want to win the fucking race, though. Or just finish, even. And when you don’t, it’s disappointing. Big surprise.

Like anyone, I’d heard all the stories of UTMB’s rampaging opening pace and over-the-top starting line pageantry, so in the days—months, even—leading up to the race, I continually reminded myself of the need to begin conservatively. I’ve ruined at least three 100mi races in my career by being overzealous in the first half, and I desperately wanted to avoid that here. I knew I was fit; success was going to come down to a matter of attentive race-day execution.

Upon arriving in Chamonix three weeks ago, objective number one was to preview the  track by running from town to town around Mt. Blanc. Doing so allowed me to experience the entire course, but I also aggravated the backside of my right knee—the one that I hyperextended and whose fibula I broke two years ago—on the 20km/5000′ drop from Gran Col Ferret into Praz de Fort in Switzerland. Obviously, this section alone wasn’t the sole culprit—injuries are typically the result of accumulated stress—but I knew this long, gradual, fast-running downhill would likely end up being the deciding factor in my race two weeks later (and it was). Of course, in compensating for my locked-up hamstring I also managed to inflame my left achilles tendon.

I took three days off after the tour around the mountain and was extremely fortunate to meet Graeme Waterworth—a physio from Boston running UTMB—for a pair of extensive rehab sessions before the race. This all helped a great deal, and I did the best that I could to willfully squelch any doubts I had about the soundness of my legs, but if I was being honest with myself I knew my wheels weren’t entirely 100%.  Racing 100mi through the mountains as hard as you can is all about irrational confidence and optimism, so I didn’t have much use for acknowledging any chinks in the armor.

UTMB’s format presented me with many new race logistic wrinkles—mandatory equipment that required wearing a race pack, a 4:30pm start time, running through an entire night, etc.—and I came out the other side pleasantly surprised to have thoroughly enjoyed all of these things. Wearing a pack made the 5-6hr gaps between crew access almost trivial as carrying 20-25 gels at a time was a non-issue; I never even came close to running out of fuel. The afternoon start meant that I slept like a rock the night before, essentially with zero nerves (with American pre-dawn start times I usually only get an hour or two of fitful snoozing). And running through the entire night was a total blast—my lighting system worked flawlessly and I never got drowsy, only ingesting caffeine from the odd gel and a few ounces of Coke along the way. In fact, I almost preferred the night—I found it much easier to stay present in the moment when your world is essentially defined by the beam of your headlamp.

I’ve never experienced anything like the race start. Electric doesn’t even begin to describe it. Sure, it’s part Euro dance party, part claustrophobia, part melodrama, but beneath all that is a palpable sense of everyone being in this thing together, all striving toward the common goal of getting around the hill as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s hard to find communal activities with that much positive energy bouncing around and I think it’s important to not trivialize that. It’s pure craziness, in the best possible sense of the word.

Despite that, I found it quite easy to quickly settle into a reasonable, comfortable rhythm. For me, it’s easy to be conservative when the pace is clearly ridiculous. It’s usually harder for me to maintain that patience, however, after the initial energy has died down but dozens of kilometers still remain before the real racing begins. During the couple kilometers of road before hitting the trail I fell in with the TNF triumvirate of Mike Wolfe, Mike Foote, and Jez Bragg. Once we funneled onto the trail, the humid early evening air of late summer, long shadows, and jockeying of pack running all immediately transported me back to early-season cross-country races in high school. The positive vibes were sky-high for me.

In Les Houches, at the base of the 2500′ bop up to the Col de Voza, the Wolfepaw and I finally trotted past Nuria and Emma—the lead women, both of whom I’d been sharing a house with for much of the time leading up to the race—at the base of the steep stuff and settled into a nice rhythm of easy jogging and purposeful hiking. Unsurprisingly, I could already feel the hamstring tightening, but I knew there wasn’t really anything I could do about it so just pushed it out of my mind. We were effortlessly passing loads of people and I generally felt great, especially as we ascended into cooler temps.

By the top of the hill, I’d gapped the Paw and was even beginning to catch occasional glimpses of Seb and Miguel far up ahead, so I didn’t feel any need to be going any faster. The downhill into Saint Gervais (21km) is weird. It doesn’t really look that steep, but it definitely feels steep, and awkward. It’s at just the most awkward grade where one still employs a real running stride, but doing so imparts some serious pounding on the quads. It felt awkward when Joe and I recced it and it felt even more so now with a gimpy hammy.

Town was a blur of screaming crowds, but I do remember passing Seb in the aid station. I was surprised to see him that far back, and, unfortunately, he wasn’t feeling well and would drop at Les Contamines. The trail from Saint Gervais to Contamines rolls gradually up the valley, and there’s very little hiking in this section except for a couple short, steep bops. I remember getting a little annoyed and worried about my hamstring, but soon enough I emerged into the madness of the Contamines aid station, the first place to see my crew. I chugged two bottles of water, Joe traded my sunglasses for headlamps, informed me that I was 12min off the lead (Julien Chorier), stuffed my pack with gels for the next five and a half hour section to Courmayeur, and I was off. I gained a little boost from seeing Timmy leave the aid only a minute or two before me, but I was most excited to get to the real climbing at Notre Dame de La Gorge so I could do some hiking and de-stress my hamstring.

Crowds in Contamines 30km. About 12min off the lead. Photo: Bryon Powell/iRunFar.

Crowds in Contamines (30km). Still about 12min off the lead and in 20th place or so. Photo: Bryon Powell/iRunFar.

I caught a couple more runners on the run to the base of the climb, but once on the hill I really started moving through the field. Notre Dame was a magical scene with campfires and burning stumps lining the bottom of the hill. I saw my friends at Buff a little ways up, which provided another boost, and once the real hiking started at the La Balme refuge I was so excited to finally be on my preferred terrain of alpine singletrack.

Marching up to the Col du Bonhomme. Photo: Salomon Running (Damien Rosso).

Marching up to the Col du Bonhomme. Photo: Salomon Running (Damien Rosso).

Before I clicked on my headlamp, I caught up to Kiwi Vajin Armstrong, tapping away with a pair of sticks. Vajin is always uber-positive and here in the middle of the night on a mountain pass in France was no different. He’d missed his crew at Contamines but was cheerily headed to Courmayeur with his back-up lights and without his preferred energy food. We chatted briefly, wishing each other luck, but most importantly he gave me some unexpected but very encouraging news…passing him put me in 8th place (up from 32nd only 20km earlier) and he claimed within 6min or so of the lead. Good to know, especially since I felt my efforts in the alpine were even more comfortable than the lower-altitude flat running we’d been doing.

I reached the summit of Col du Bonhomme at 9:06pm amidst a thick fog, but Dave James (there reporting for iRunFar) confirmed that the leaders had come through at exactly 9pm and Timmy was only a minute or two up. I caught another runner on the moderately techy, 15min, ascending traverse over to Croix du Bonhomme and then began the 1000m vertical drop to Les Chapieux at 49km.

The top half of this was a blast—lots of rutted cow paths to choose from—and I passed Timmy here and caught up to Jonas Buud, but the bottom half was an endless stretch of long, sweeping, gradual switchbacks that wrecked my hamstring as Jonas disappeared back into the dark. By the bottom I was cramping in my hip flexor from the compensation, but it was impossible to be in a bad mood with the atmosphere at the aid and the fact that I could see three lights stretching out on the 30min of paved, runnable uphill to the base of the Col de La Seigne climb.

I didn’t actually catch anyone on the road, but once we hopped onto the gradual uphill trail that leads into the steeper switchbacks heading up to the Col, I passed Jonas and easily caught up to Julien who was running with two others. Julien tucked in behind me, leaving the other two behind, and we quickly bridged up to the leading duo of Xavier Thevenard and Miguel Heras. And just like that, I was in the lead group of UTMB.

Upon reaching Xavier and Miguel, the pace slackened noticeably (Xavier was in front setting the tempo with a pair of sticks, with Miguel hands-on-knees dutifully marching behind) and I was happy to settle in to what felt like a very casual effort. In our quartet, it seemed that Miguel and I were climbing the strongest as we were constantly having to rein ourselves in from clipping Xavier’s heels and it seemed like Julien was sort of reluctantly tagging along, like if he were on his own he’d be climbing a touch slower. For my part, I didn’t care if we started walking on our hands; Miguel and Julien were the two guys I was probably most concerned about leading up to the race and as long as I was within reasonable contact of them, I was happy. Of course, Xavier would actually go on to win the race.

Our walk to the top of the hill was very nice. Unlike Col du Bonhomme, Col de La Seigne was crystal clear with brilliant stars and nary a breeze. Although the four of us were literally always within an arm’s reach of each other—usually closer—not a single word was spoken the entire way up, nor on the descent to Lac Combal and the Arete Mont Favre climb. Out of the Lac Combal aid, Miguel assumed the pace-setting duties and Xavier must’ve lingered longer in the aid because he didn’t catch back up until the descent off Mont Favre down toward the aid station at the Masion Vielle refuge.

At the beginning of the Mont Favre climb, Miguel sort of awkwardly stumbled and I found myself in the front, so I set the most relaxed tempo possible that wouldn’t have been comically slow—I was determined to stick with my plan of patience. Miguel and Julien seemed content to just follow. On the downhill, however, I purposefully went even more easy so as to baby my hamstring. Finally, a couple of minutes before Maison Vielle, Julien asked to go past and the four of us immediately launched into a much more frantic pace on the rest of the (now steep, tight, and dusty) descent into Courmayeur, the de facto half-way point at 78 kilometers.

I again quickly chugged water and re-stocked gels with my crew at Courmayeur, and with nothing better to do, jogged out of the gym in the lead. Miguel caught up a few seconds later and we navigated our way through the silent streets of town toward the 2500′ grunt up to the Bertone checkpoint. Once we hit the trail I let Miguel take the pace as he seemed determined to push the pace on this hill and open a gap on our pursuers of Julien and Xavier. I could hear Miguel breathing heavily and thought it was a little early to be going so hard, but my effort felt easier than Miguel’s sounded, so we marched our way up the dark switchbacks in tandem, reaching Bertone together and continuing on as such for the rolling traverse over to the Bonatti refuge. A pit-stop and a headlamp battery change at Bonatti allowed Miguel to push out a temporary gap but I easily caught back up on the descent to Arnuva, where I led us in to the aid station (95km).

Following Miguel on the climb from Courmayeur to Bertone. Photo: Salomon Running/Damien Rosso.

Following Miguel on the climb from Courmayeur to Bertone. Photo: Salomon Running/Damien Rosso.

Thus far, everything about the race had gone remarkably to plan. While our pace was steady, it felt easy, so I was pretty sure we didn’t really have that substantial of a lead, which was fine with me. I knew it was still so early and the real racing was yet to begin. Despite being determined to not push until at least the far side of Grand Col Ferret (100km)—and ideally not until Champex Lac at mile 76—I immediately gapped Miguel at the foot of the Col Ferret climb. The top third of the climb was increasingly windy and foggy and I gradually felt myself getting a little nauseous as well. I slowed my pace even further as I fished around in my pack to don a jacket and then I kept it there in an effort to keep my stomach happy. I was in the lead of the race but still had 40mi to go so didn’t see any need to be pushing the pace at all. I veritably strolled to the top of the pass then, nearly missing the check-in tent in the fog, and started down the other side, happy to get out of the cloud and into warmer air.

When I stopped about 10min below the summit to restow my jacket, I was unsurprised when a headlamp came cruising by me—despite deliberately taking it easy up the hill my hamstring was again noticeably checking my abilities on the gradual downhill grade. I was surprised, however, that the new leader was now Xavier and not Miguel. I couldn’t really push in pursuit on the rest of the gradual descent into La Fouly, due to my hamstring, but I was a bit surprised when Bryon Powell informed me there that Xavier had grown his lead to 5min. On the flat road through town, though, I had some very encouraging pep in my legs and was still extremely optimistic about my chances of catching back up once we got to the 1500′ climb up to Champex-Lac.

In the Fouly aid station, 111km. Bryon Powell lurking. Photo: Ian Corless.

Leaving the Fouly aid station, 111km. Bryon Powell lurking. Photo: Ian Corless.

The next 4-5mi over to Praz de Fort are a continued net downhill, and all the running was taking a real toll on my right hamstring. It was super frustrating that I couldn’t push because of a simple mechanical glitch in my leg, and when it came time to start making a move on the climb to Champex I found that my left achilles was now also predictably quite overworked from compensating for my hamstring.

Praz de Fort (117km) and a stack of firewood, just before daybreak. Photo: Jordi Saragossa.

Praz de Fort (117km) and a stack of firewood, just before daybreak. Photo: Jordi Saragossa.

As a result, I couldn’t run this climb nearly as hard as I would’ve liked—and had the energy to do—and I could sense that my ability to actually race was rapidly disappearing. I ran into the Champex-Lac aid tent with Miguel right on my heels, but it hardly mattered, I could only gimp so fast at this point. In an attempt to change the stresses on my legs and hopefully off-load my achilles a little I stopped to quickly change shoes in the aid station, swapping out 110v1′s for 110v2′s with additional heel lifts inserted.

Miguel and I exited the tent together and he was obviously hurting but still had the energy to give me a knowing wink and wry smile as we left the station. Miguel was the competitor I spent the most time with during the race, and it was a pleasure to run with such a wily vet, especially since our previous tandem racing experience had been cut short at Cavalls del Vent last fall where he had succumbed to the rain and cold. I was especially impressed with his UTMB performance this year, since I had been witness to just how much effort he was putting forth so early in the race (Courmayeur). Not to mention that his finish was especially important to him, as this was his first finish in five attempts at UTMB. On the run through the streets of Champex along the shore of the lake, though, my hamstring wouldn’t let me stride out enough to match his pace.

Hobbling out of Champex. Photo: Joe Grant.

Hobbling out of Champex. Photo: Joe Grant.

However, the true hobbling didn’t start until we crested the hill on the edge of town, and the course went gradually downhill for the next couple of kilometers on a wide, smooth fire road. Miguel disappeared into the distance, and I had a minor case of deja vu as this was exactly where my hamstring had been the worst on my tour around the course two weeks earlier. On that particular morning, Tim Olson’s wife Krista had dropped me with ease in this very same spot.

The Bovine uphill is sections of flattish trail punctuated by much steeper pitches that would normally deliver you at the summit in quite a hurry. Not so today. The steep terrain was murder on my achilles and I soon found myself actually walking backwards up the hill on the steepest inclines. I stopped several times to loosen and re-tie my laces, trying in vain to find some way to make my achilles operable. After what seemed like ages, I finally made the summit and started down the other side, but now, of course, my hamstring was in total rebellion and my downhill progress was pathetic. This was doubly frustrating because even with ~25k’ of descent on my legs, my quads were still rarin’ to go. Javier Dominguez finally caught up to me on the descent as I was stopped to re-tighten my shoe laces—I couldn’t believe that it took so long, but I guess that’s just the way the game goes in the late stages of a 100mi. No one is moving particularly quickly (though I thought he was running impressively well on the downhill at that point).

Eventually, I limped the rest of the way down the hill into Col de Forclaz where Kilian and Emelie’s encouragement couldn’t even heal things, and then just before Trient, Julien came running by (putting me in 5th place) looking like he was on his way to recovery from a bad patch. Once I finally gimped into the aid station, I stopped for a long time to get my hamstring and achilles taped in a last-ditch effort in at least being able to finish. Of course, things were far too gone for taping to do much of anything at that point, and once I left the aid to test things out I knew I was done. The medical person there was concerned about my inflamed achilles and the possibility of rupture if I continued on it, especially since I was now compensating like mad for it.

Leaving the Trient aid station (139km). Photo: Trails Endurance Magazine.

Leaving the Trient aid station (139km). Photo: Trails Endurance Magazine.

And that was my race.

Ultimately, the decision to drop wasn’t even really a decision. Now, even with hindsight four days later, I have no regrets about it (especially given the states of my hamstring and achilles now, post-race). If I were to have a do-over on my whole trip to Europe, the main thing I would change is touring around the mountain in, say, four days instead of three, so that the stress on my body wasn’t so high.

There is no doubt that I’ll return to Chamonix in the future to give UTMB another go, probably even next year. There are a lot of things about the race that I find to be a big turn-off, but there’s no denying that it is the pinnacle in 100mi mountain racing in terms of international competition and profile. All of this talk about a 100mi “championship” in the ultra community is really pretty redundant in my eyes, because UTMB already exists. I feel the course is very fair—non-technical, not at high-altitude, but enough climbing to keep it honest. The organization accommodates entry for top athletes. The only real issue with it, I think, is that it falls about two weeks too late on the calendar. According to pretty much everyone I talked to, the weather notoriously turns crappy the last week of August and is predictably brilliant in the few weeks leading up to that. We lucked out this year, but as the past five years have shown, this year’s weather was an anomaly.

Finally, a tip of the proverbial hat must be given to Tim, Mike, and Rory. Tim and Mike certainly didn’t have their best days on the hill, but they soldiered on with grit and determination and found a way to get it done, yet again. And as others have already noted, Rory’s run was most likely the performance of the year on the women’s side. I must say, though, I was very excited to see my fellow Buff athletes Nuria Picas and Emma Rocca round out the women’s podium, both under the old course record as well. I was fortunate enough to be housemates with both of them in the couple of weeks leading up to the race and seeing their dedication and professionalism as athletes and irrepressible positivity and warmth as humans is inspiring.

As for me, priority number one is to get healthy, and I’ll make a determination about UROC once I get home to Colorado next week and see how my legs are responding to some running again. Thanks for everyone’s support and following along, I’m as (probably more) aware as everyone else what a rough go this summer has been on the performance front for me, but I don’t plan on stopping trying any time soon.

76 thoughts on “UTMB 2013

  1. Mate! True grit just to keep bouncing back like you do. Just watched In The High Country and your passion for connecting to the outdoors and testing yourself are inspiring for all. If you ever feel like venturing down under there would be numerous peeps willing to take you on a trail or two! Keep running.

  2. I think you made a fantastic race. I followed you on the computer (irunfar) from start until perhaps 04:00 in the middle of the night. I had a good couple of hours of sleep knowing you were in the lead. Sadly you didn´t make it to the finish but it’s not an easy choice to stop the race. I’m glad you did just not to hurt yourself even more.
    Thank’s for some good and funny hours anyway, regards from Sweden!!!

  3. For a superb and inspiring athlete you certainly know how to connect with those that just love running, the regular runners, I’m one of them. I dropped at Trient with crazy knee pain in the CCC (i know a lot less KMs covered) I too said to my support “I’m not really deciding to stop, I just can’t move forward with locked knees”. I have no regrets, and want to return next year too. Irony, I ran four days later without a knee glitch? Running can be wicked. Good luck with your recovering legs and limbs and look forward to seeing you in action again soon. PS. Great writing.

  4. Thanks for the great write-up Anton, it’s really inspiring to read these (as well as your own blog). It’s such a shame, I (like many others) were following your progress throughout the race and also during the build-up thanks to Joe’s Instagram feed, it was a real roller-coaster to see you work yourself up to the lead before dropping back and then withdrawing.

    From the blog and from watching ‘In the High Country’ it seems you still have the desire to be in the mountains, and I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing you a speedy recovery and they best of luck in the future. I’d be great to see you back in Europe again.

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  6. I normally lack the patience for blow-by-blow race reports but the excellent writing had me reading every sentence, and you collected good photos from everywhere. UTMB is unique in the MUT world – it has to be experienced – or at least described as well as you have.

    • Thanks, Buzz. I’m always ambivalent about the blow-by-blow reporting style, but typically fall into it, mostly out of laziness I suppose.

  7. I’m curious about something. Runners like Anton write amazing, and amazingly detailed race reports. They seem to remember who they were running with, who they passed, who passed them, what they consumed at each aid station, and when it all happened. I’ve never run an ultra, but I’ve read that some runners (though perhaps not elite runners like Anton) forget to eat and drink, hallucinate, forget their names, etc. That being the case, I’m wondering how runners are able to remember every moment of their races in such detail.

    • David – I’m not sure what the answer is to your question, but I know that I could/would write a FAR more detailed race report if I thought people were interested and it didn’t bore me so much. There are so many little things I remember very clearly from the race, from what people said, to what shoes people were wearing, to exactly when/where I stopped to go to the bathroom, to when I was cold, when I was hot, to trail conditions, to headlamp use, gel and salt cap consumption…it’s totally ridiculous, I could go on and on and on. But none of that is really that interesting or useful, it’s just lodged there in my brain for some reason.

      • But for the fan who is following from home, that small detail stuff is exactly what makes the report so interesting. Sitting here in my living room I read your report and create an image about “what it must be like” based on your description. The broad strokes are given from many sources… the detail however is what brings it alive. And in that I mean both the emotional and technical detail. Your generosity in sharing your experience is wonderful, and I say the more detail the better… even if it doubles the length of the report.

        • I’m with you Tris on that. I love to read the details – it is what makes it such an interesting report! Cheers Anton! Get better… love watching your videos and reading your stories.

          • I’ll third that. The more details, the better. I’d read race reports every am over coffee, If they were as well written as yours. Miss your weekly log, hopefully you and Boulder are healing as quickly and painlessly as possible.

      • I think that detailed memory is one of the gifts of running and especially racing. The presence that trail running requires slows down my perception of time (in a good way) and hits my brain’s record button every time. This weekend’s runs were like little stand alone, day-long capsuls. So, in effect, I was granted a four day weekend. Two blissful days of running and two days of weekending. When else in our lives are things interesting enough to cause you to remember every detail? Sex, music, laughing, eating…

        Thanks for the great race report!

  8. I loved following you during the race. The way you ran it reminded me very much of the way Kilian handled and ran it the last time he won. Which made it all the more sad that an injury forced you out. Stay strong and try to be positive. I’m currently nursing a pulled hamstring. These baby’s are hard to rehab.

  9. Great report; echoing the previous comments, as always, your writing is spectacular and makes your blog posts doubly enjoyable. It’s a darn shame about UTMB. Hope for a speedy recovery and an exciting rematch against Sage and plenty of other strong runners at UROC.

    A quick question: you mention ruining at least three 100s by racing too hard early on – obviously two of those are your Leadville DNFs; what’s the third?

    • Tyler – The third would be my run at Leadville last year, as well. I had no business running to Fish Hatchery in 3:05, or Winfield in 7:38 (when the course was 1.5mi longer than this year and Aish was there at a similar time this year).

      I felt I’ve only paced two of my nine 100mi races well—WS100 2010 and now UTMB. Both times the first 70mi felt very comfortable. Most of my other 100mi races I’ve gotten to 50mi thinking that it’s absolutely absurd I have to run another 50mi. When I got to Courmayeur (roughly halfway) at UTMB, I felt really, really good.

      Actually, I did a pretty good job at Leadville in 2007, too (it was by far my fastest time on the course but I only hit Fish Hatchery in 3:16 and Winfield in 7:43 that year).

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  11. Toni, thanks for the full and frank report. I’m loving your approach to this race and for those of us following the race, I can say we were willing you on all the way. I hope you will be back to get a clean run round the course next year and that the weather permits another good race. Hving done the TDS this year (awesome race), it’s UTMB all round next year…

    Batlong!

  12. As a 64 year-old and an ex-marathoner (2:51 during my 30′s), you are one of my inspirations for getting out on the trails and still running albeit much shorter distances. But what a gift to still be passionate and have a body that’s runnable. Treat your body with lots of kindness and wishing you a speedy recovery.

  13. Excellent report, Anton. Following your progress on irunfar was the highlight of my weekend. Looking forward to your next go at it!

  14. Anthony
    Famtastic race report !
    I am an ex marathon runner (2:38),but you inspire me to try the mountain races and i discovered an amazing way to run.
    Will be dissapointing not see you in cavalls de vent in 2 weeks time.
    Now is time to recover to be stronger and i am sure you will enjoy ang get very good reaults in a near future.
    one question: days before i saw you wearing a t-shirt in Montblanc,really was too cold??
    I wish you the best and as we say in Catalonia “Salut i forca”

  15. Tony,
    It is always such a pleasure reading your blog posts. Your ability to remain candid and transparent about what it takes day in and day out to run and climb is simply extraordinary. You are not only inspiring, but a testament to the pull that running has for all of us who get out there to endure and train. Your words and photos always strike a chord with me. I followed your UTMB race closely and was sad when you dropped, but again huge admiration for someone who knows their body and when to say “not today.” I look forward to your future endeavors. Come what may. Cheers.

  16. Great report on a fantastic race. I had woken up early in the morning to continue tracking your race from NYC after a short night’s sleep, and although I was sad that you eventually had to drop out I’m glad to see that you’re able to reflect back in the experience with a remarkably mature perspective. It’s rare that I get a sense of deeper insight from most peoples’ race reports, but you’re one of the exceptions. You write about being at the front of the pack better than almost any elite ultra runner out there, and it’s a fascinating look into what goes through the heads of the front-of-the-packers. Keep up the good work and know that there are a lot of anonymous supporters out there wishing you the best.

  17. First off I must say to Anton specifically and the trail running community in general thank you thank you thank you for inspiring me with your stories and dedication. I am a hack runner who has little ambition for racing or FKT but feel connected to the land when I am moving on it, and I am healthier physically, mentally, emotionally, and in my relationships because of it. Your blogs, films, efforts, serve a greater purpose than you may know and win lose or “fail”(gasp) it is of little consequence in the greater scheme of things. Inspiration matters. Connection and discovery matter. Please continue your efforts and thanks again for the motivation to be better. period.

  18. Love the F word placement . It rings of true frustration . Awesome run .

    Where and when can I watch “In the High Country ” over here on the east coast ?

  19. Anton: Hope that the achilles issue is of a short-lived, acute nature only – I’m sure you’re getting super advice, but you don’t want it to turn into a ‘tendonitis’…eccentric heel drops are key if it doesn’t resolve quickly…cheers for a quick recovery! Pat

  20. Great write up. Sounds like you prepared well. It was very thrilling to follow along the race and I am now inspired to run UTMB soon. Get healed up and continue to drive forward.

  21. One of your best reports, thanks for sharing. Sorry for the disappointment, but running these things wouldn’t be the same if not for the real chance of failure. I can’t wait for the next time you toe the line, because that day could be the day all the cards fall into place. You always give it 100% and it is always exciting to watch.

  22. Hey Tony – great racing out there! You mention that there were many things about the race you didn’t like – can you share your thoughts?

    • Eva – UTMB represents one end of the spectrum of racing events in the ultra/trail/mountain world. The other end of the spectrum is represented by, say, unofficial, Fat Ass events. Thus, being an extreme, there is no way that it is going to be the ideal—I tend to prefer something that falls a little more in the middle. However, I think the sport needs an event like UTMB—with its hype, media, and drama—and I appreciate it for that. Additionally, I was treated exceedingly well by the race management and organization, making some of the necessary annoyances go as smoothly as possible. In the end, I think most people who sign up for UTMB are aware of the kind of experience they’re getting into and the good certainly outweighs the unpleasant. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be planning on going back next year.

  23. Always inspiring. You seem to give every day your best shot, even in the days leading up to a race. Some might think this is foolish, I think it is admirable.

    Your blogging and a few chats with Alex Nichols have inspired me for the last few years. Thanks! Your posts are good beta for exploring trails around Colorado Springs.

    • Brian – Having lived and run there for seven years, the Pikes Peak region will always be a special place for me running-wise. I love getting back down there occasionally for the endless miles of smooth, runnable trails and while I feel like I know a lot more of the obscure stuff than most, there are always new nooks and crannies to explore. Alex is still probably the guy I’ve shared the most miles with in my running life; after running together in college, it’s been cool to see him make his mark in the mountain racing world.

  24. I was happy to run this year’s UTMB. Reading your report has made me re-experience many of the moments in the race and understand what it is like for those like you who lead the pack. Inspiring and informative. Many thanks.

  25. Hi Anton, very nice chronicle. Thanks for giving us the emotions during the event.
    I have a question: Was it hard to make the desicion to leave the event, there was a struggle between mind and body? I hope that you recover soon

      • Thank you for your reply, you are an athlete who inspire us.
        Thanks for reading and commenting our questions, this does not make any elite athlete, you’re different and show us your quality of person.
        I hope you’re soon back doing what you most enjoy … run

  26. Very nice race report !!!
    As the Grand Col Ferret controller, you’re right, I almost missed you with the fog, the night and your lighting.
    We were also surprised with all spectators, by the little gap between the 4 first runners and the timing.
    Hope to see you next year in the UTMB race …

  27. Always INSPIRING.

    P.S. I see the mt110 v2 prototypes on Your feet – what about the shoes made after Your experience? The MT110 ( MT00 as well ) learned me how to run, not only on trails.

  28. Anton, first of all, thank you for providing a great recap of the race from your perspective. I can imagine it’s not easy to do, knowing the outcome. Secondly, I’d like to encourage you as you return to Colorado and decompress from Europe. Many people, including me, follow you thru blogs and the like, not because of your race performances or record setting Nolan’s 14 adventures, but because of what we get to see thru your eyes. From my perspective, you live an exceptionally examined life, continually evaluating your motives for running, climbing, or whatever your heart pulls you toward. I can only imagine the pressure you feel traveling to the unofficial ultrarunning championship and coming away without a finish less than a victory. But, for this running fan, I find it equally, if not more interesting, to read about your solo trip to a little known area of Wyoming.

    Recover well and keep inspiring folks, whether thru a sanctioned event or crusinig up Longs Peak.

  29. Hi Anton,i hope to see you in 2014 again on the UTMB.Without problems you were not so far this year,I’ll support you again.What you say about the race is completely true,however it’s very good to feel those good vibrations during one week in Chamonix.The place is unique.
    Grace as you, 3 weeks ago,i ran Leadville 100 .A great experience in this small and authentic city. And did my last training in Boulder and its Flatirons.Your playground.Merci for that
    I know now two very nice and different races,damage too closed in the calendar.
    I wish you a good rest to return stronger
    Benoit from France

  30. Pingback: Grattis dårå! Prylar och Planer. | TriDurance

  31. Pingback: Tävlingsberättelserna från UTMB | Ultralöpning med Camilla

  32. Tony,
    Curious as to how your body had reacted/recovered? from the hammy and achilles problems you encountered at UTMB? I am hoping that is was just a simple overcompensation issue resulting from the mechanical failure after such a intense race with the high caliber racers that toed the line. I guess it may be too early to tell but I mainly am just concerned for you as I know how injuries have inhibited your exploits and I am just hoping that this has recovered, or atleast to an extent. Especially if you may still be considering UROC in 2+ weeks.

    As always, godspeed TK.

  33. Very wise race but not very wise training on those last two weeks before. Sorry but You ruin Your race especially 15/8 and 22/8. No ones body can`t take so much before the race.
    But anyway You are inspiring person and runner. I still fully respect Your choices. Targent oriented running is not everything but if someone is so talented than You are it leads to high expectations.
    Recover and recover Your mind too.
    Respect from Finland, pasi.

  34. You always race, and write, from the heart. Great race, and report..I agree with Tris, it is those small details that you recall and eloquently form into sentences that makes your experience even more real and something we can all relate to. We may not all travel over the trails at your pace, we do all soak in those details that go together to make a whole memory.
    Hope you are doing ok with the flooding down in Boulder – may you recover as quickly as your body needs, and be back again running those mountain trails that your love!

  35. I still think that Anton is one of the most talented trail runners in the US but he is also his biggest enemy to himself.

    I am not able to remember any other ultrarunner who has so many DNF’s and 1st places at the same time.

    Smart (less) training would be a good start.
    Keep on running

  36. You are sooooo AMAZING!!! You made the right decision to stop when you did…you have to remember that running is such a part of whom you are that it’s not worth it to end up out of commission for a couple of months maybe even years because of one wrong decision!! At least your still able to run today!!! Hope your legs are recovering well!! Wonderful story.

  37. Why every time an elite fails, everyone commends them and says how great they are. You quit and didn’t finish. You won’t get kudos from me. This was a poor performance like some recent failures. I don’t want to be too hard, but it is what it is. We aren’t talking about a beginner. You’re an elite. You know what needs to be done or not in training and racing. You’ve done this long enough. I’m tired of hearing excuses from elites. You knew your situation at the start. If you didn’t, then you’re a fool. You shouldn’t have started or at least gone out to just finish. Again, nothing personal, but elites should be held to a higher standard Nd not be told how great they are when they show up on race day less than 100%, try to race, then when they can’t win, they quit.

  38. Great writing, could you elaborate on the negative points of the UTMB?
    I was considering running it in a few years, and am curious

  39. perfect reading with a lot of details, I would love more details to know about that race. Don´t know why, but after many years I was looking at Twitter and live tracking as a small child a was happy for every notice that you are somewhere facing + / – alt..

    When I was thinking about NB Minimus I remember one sentence : “wearing minimalist shoes doesn´t automaticly make you better runner, it´s sort of force become a better runner”. Why am I writing this? Cause this was some kind of real start of my “real” running :), I can´t live w/out, cannot imagine a day w/out. Now, plenty of things are more understandable, running is more pleasant. I wish, I would achieve what I want, and therefore consistancy of running, enjoying every step, every hill is what I really love to do. I would be happy to ask you some Qs about running, however don´t know where could I reach you?

  40. Hi, Anton. I’m your fan of South Korea.
    I wanted to see your great finish in this UTMB like in Caval’s del vent 2012 but it’s nervous not to see it. I’m sure that you ‘ll show the powerful, great finish next or more UTMB. I’ve been trying and training “minimal trail running” with your film in yutube as ‘high in the country’, ‘ NB present ‘ … etc.
    Anyway, Go for it, Tony~!! (sorry my poor english….)

  41. So, thanks dude for the race report and for being so dang cool. Anyway, someday drop into Oregon and we’ll hook up a run in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of North Eastern Oregon. I run (more like scramble, hike, boulder) slower than you but it would be cool to get a group and punch in there again. I was just there with my son. I used to run in Durango but started off in the deserts around Phoenix. I’m a comeback kid (kid nothing – I’m freaking 46), and having a blast at it. You’re a real kick and you get me all worked up to hit the trails so thanks for that. I mean it dude – Thanks! Keep it up. And by-the-way, Nolan’s 14 was kick ass. Nice. I wanna try that one (on a mule).

  42. Hi Anton,

    A bit late to say that I am sorry to hear of your drop from the race, and hope that you return next year to smash it and win, which, had circumstances been different this year, would’ve been the case!
    I’m curious to know whether you cross train or not? This race and at Speedgoat you looked to be carrying a significant amount of muscle mass. Reputedly, you only do core, but if that has changed, what prompted the change, and generally, what are your thoughts on cross training and it’s carry overs into running?
    Hope to hear from you.

  43. It was really great meeting you at the WVMTR Trilogy. It was so nice to see you and get a picture with you. (I am the person who said, “it’s nice to meet someone who comes in first, I am the guy who always comes in last”. Your visit was a great uplift, and I did better than finish last. Don’t know how to contact you, but I noticed you had a week where you didn’t have a venue to show the movie. If you are interested, I serve as pastor of the Vienna Assembly of God church in Vienna, Va., a suburb of D.C. You are welcome to fill up one of those dates if you are interested. We have a fellowship hall that would be perfect. (Everyone in the room applauded you at the end of the movie, it was great.)

  44. Thanks for sharing. It was timely for me. I have struggled this summer in racing with injuries. Leadville and Canyon De Chelly. It left me wondering if it was just downhill from here. My IT and achilles. I felt the same frustration with dhill and having energy and desire but lacking the mechanical ability. I wondered if I just wasn’t tough enough or strong enough or just don’t have what it takes. Because I know you are tough, strong, have what it takes and still struggle with injuries I need to just quit whining around questioning myself, recover and get after it.

  45. Pingback: DNF – Did Not Finish | Swiss Ultra Trail Community

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