Saturday, 31 August 2013

The main event - Action from the UTMB finish line

The North Face paragliding team!
 Xavier Thevenard crosses the line to win the 2013 UTMB in 20:35:57

1st - Xavier Thevenard (FRA)
2nd - Miguel Angel Heras Hernandez (ESP)
3rd - Javier Dominguez (ESP)

 The 2013 UTMB Podium (Miguel, Xavier & Javier)
 4th - Timothy Olson (USA)
5th - Michael Foote (USA)

 1st Lady & 7th overall - Rory Bosio (USA) - fastest lady ever and highest placing!

 1st - Rory Bosio (USA)

10th - Jez Bragg (UK)
13th - Stephane Brogniart (FRA)

Tweeting on the go from the 2013 CCC.

  • Back in the mountains :) Mont Blanc making an appearance above Chamonix
  •  #CCC registration complete. Race no 6769. Off to enjoy the buzz in Chamonix & eat copious amounts of pizza :) 

  •  Stunning sunrise in Courmayeur. Perfect conditions for the #UTMB #CCC 75mins till we're go go go!
  • The start line. 100km to Chamonix with a mere 6000m of ascent :)
  •  30 mins before the #CCC start & gets a spot kit check! Sure it will all go back in!
  •  1900 people lined up in Courmayeur ready to race :) #CCC13 20 mins till the 1st wave of 3
  •  #CCC13 runners stream up the 1st big hill dwarfed by Mont Blanc
  •  The #CCC crocodile starting to spread out. Awesome ridge top running in the sunshine :) 
  •  3 hrs of running on the #CCC13 & the start's still in sight! 1st water stop overlooking Courmayeur
  •  I've run through Refuge Bertone and I'm now in position 950 after 03:19:32
  •  I've run through Refuge Bonatti and I'm now in position 940 after 04:33:19
  •  Ticking along nicely in the heat of the day. #CCC13 Not far to the Swiss border but 2nd big climb coming up... ..
  • I've run through Arnuva and I'm now in position 888 after 05:29:47
  •  I've run through Grand Col Ferret and I'm now in position 821 after 06:51:26
  •  Goodbye Italy! It's been a pleasant few hours. Over the Col du Ferret :) #CCC13 Doooooooownhill...
  •  I've run through La Fouly and I'm now in position 719 after 08:19:15.
  •  Swiss mountain air agreeing with me #CCC13 Good leg down to Le Fouly 40km. ETA sub 20 for 1st time :)
  •  I've run through Champex-Lac and I'm now in position 590 after 10:30:10. 
  •   Feeding time at the zoo! Pasta party at Champex 54km. Half hour till the torches come out
  •  I've run through Bovine and I'm now in position 554 after 12:45:00
  •  Night nav's easy! 1000s of these high viz numbers guiding everyone around the #CCC & #UTMB courses
  •  I've run through Trient and I'm now in position 503 after 14:03:17
  •  I've run through Vallorcine and I'm now in position 468 after 16:51:18
  •  Final climb done & the lights of Chamonix spread out below. Still a long descent but the #CCC end is in sight
  •  I've run through La Flégère and I'm now in position 486 after 20:12:26 
  • Job done :) #CCC IN 21:50. Just in time for breakfast at the hotel! Sure will do the #UTMB quicker! 
  •  Scores on the doors #CCC 497th from 1900 starters in 21:50 198th in 18:49 & 13:41 for 11th!!!! 
  •  I have just finished the CCC®, in position 501 after running 21:50:21.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Chamonix - a town ready to race

 Mont Blanc makes a brief appearance
 Jacques Balmat & Michel Paccard checking out The North Face Base Camp!
 Registered and ready to run!

 Checking out the finish line. Not heard any Vangelis yet!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Jez Bragg - back for his favorite race!

The North Face athlete Jez Bragg is no stranger to the UTMB. A win in 2010 put his name in the history books and he's back this year to continue his special relationship with the event. His running hit the news earlier in 2013 when he ran the length of New Zealand. The 3054km Te Araroa trail took him just 53 days. His latest blog entry details his recovery from this epic and the challenge of learning to run and race again. Jez kindly took time out of his final preparations in Chamonix to answer a few questions. Best of luck and blue skys to the whole Bragg team!
What's your history with the UTMB?
I ran my first UTMB race back in 2005 and I've been hooked ever since. It has a unique course, a unique atmosphere and a unique level of difficulty! The UTMB course holds some my fondest trail racing memories - notably a win on the shortened course in 2010 - and also some of my worst memories - like having to withdraw from the race in 2011 after suffering a chest infection. I love it every I time I step foot on the course, whether it be in training or during the race. Sunrise after a tough night running through rain and snow in 2011 was very special.

What's your favorite section of the course?
The section from Refuge Bertone to Refuge Bonatti is always amazing, although it will be in the dark this year with the earlier start time. The cruisy descent from the top of the Grand Col all the way down to Praz du Fort is also pretty cool. The trick is being in a position to really run those latter sections well to achieve a solid finish time.

What are your top 3 bits of advice for first timers?
(i) Run your own race - don't get carried away with the razzmatazz of the start and go off too quickly.
(ii) Plan your nutrition carefully. The food on the aid stations is different to what the Brits might be used to - so I plan to have my own food available along the way.
(iii) Save yourself for the second half. Many people drop at Cormayeur - there's plenty of fast running to be enjoyed beyond there - so keep something back/ left in the tank.

It's very sociable at the back of the field! Is there much talking among the elite competitors?
Not really to be honest. Quite often there is a language barrier, but everyone's usually working too hard, or too focused, to speak. 

Do you have any mental strategy for digging yourself out of the inevitable holes/lows?
Peaks and troughs. You will go through spells of feeling rough, but if you can get yourself through the other side, invariably there will be a high to be enjoyed on the other side. Also think about why you may have slumped? Low blood sugars, dehydrated, feeling sorry for yourself...? Then correct it!

What's your key piece of TNF kit for this race?
Stormy Trail jacket and pants - super lightweight and packable, but incredibly protective in wet weather. 

Are you a fan of technology - iPods, HR monitors, GPS watches etc?
Mmmm. Yes and no. I will be taking an iPod shuffle with me this year to help get me through the rough spells, and also a my Garmin Fenix to help with speed, pacing and monitoring altitude. I try not to be too reliant on technology but it has to be done in part.

What's your key nutrition for races like the UTMB?
A mixture of gels, flapjacks, chocolate, rice pudding, and probably the odd expedition type meal (dehydrated) if I can stomach it.

Will your New Zealand experiences help your racing?
I hope so - certainly mentally! This is my first competitive long race since the expedition and I'm excited to see how my recovery and training has gone. I'm feeling very positive after a great summer of training, but in reality I won't know until I'm half way round. I definitely learned a lot about myself in NZ, both mentally and physically, and I will always be able to draw strength from those experiences.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Open Adventure Coast to Coast Adventure Race

 The initial sea kayak stage from Whitehaven
In an unusually sensible decision for me I decided not to race the Open Adventure Coast to Coast race a few days before the CCC. I completed this four day adventure race in 2011 and was keen to compete again but thought I'd save the legs for the main event. However it did mean I was able to enjoy the atmosphere and buzz of the race as a supporter shuttling equipment, feeding my competitor, filming and generally drinking coffee in the sun.
The race began in a millpond like Whitehaven harbour with a sea kayak stage around to St Bees. As the flotilla swept around the headland they were met by choppy seas and things became a bit more exciting. A couple of competitors had to be rescued and ferried to the beach while the leading team capsized within sight of the finish and had an eventful swim and clamber through the rocks with their kayak to reach transition.
Day one is the most demanding for competitors and support crews alike. As the racers headed off on their bikes the boats were transported to Crummock Water. The next stage was a paddle in to a headwind along the length of the lake, an interesting and energy sapping unsupported portage and back into the boats to paddle to the far end of Buttermere. Finally the race took to the hills for a run over Robinson, Maiden Moor and Catbells. With the finish in Keswick in sight there's a final sting in the tail with a 600m swim across Derwent Water. After the days efforts the cold water triggered leg cramps in even the hardiest of competitors and the rescue kayaks were kept busy providing a floating stretching service. As the racers hobbled from the water they faced a short run in to the centre of Keswick and the finish outside the iconic Moot Hall.
Day 2 began in the half light of a misty morning with a short but sharp climb on the bikes up out of Keswick to Thirlmere Dam. The midges were out and hastened competitors through transition and into their kayaks for the paddle up Thirlmere. A muddy portage, change the shoes and away up the side of Helvellyn heading for the summit in the cloud. Navigation was certainly an issue for some of the competitors this year and there were a few variations on the normal descent via Swirral Edge and Hole in the Wall. The final paddling stage was from Patterdale to Pooley Bridge along the length of Ullswater.Conditions were improving fast but all the racers made it safely past the ice creams and on to the bikes for a mainly on road blast to Kirkby Stephen. Within a few miles of the finish an unsecured map restricted a competitors view at high speed and she found herself sliding along the road minus her bike. Missing several layers of skin but made of tough stuff she was able to finish the day and with a bit of good work by the medical team was able to complete the four days.
Low cloud gave a challenging start to day 3 with a boggy run over Nine Standards with even some of the most experienced competitors struggling with the navigation. Meanwhile the local farmer was doing a roaring trade in teas and coffees at transition as the support crews relaxed after an early start! The rest of the day would be spent on the bikes initially offroad on some great mountain biking over the moors to Castle Bolton and then following minor roads to Northallerton. Unfortunately another highspeed bike crash caused one of the leading teams to retire from the competition although the two remaining members did complete the course - in a particularly fast time.
The final day was spectacular as the early morning cloud inversion burned off to give a hot and dry day. The first racers were on their way at 4.30am making their way through the gloom on a short road bike to Swainton. The early start was worth it though as they climbed out of the cloud for a stunning sunrise as they ran over Carlton Bank on the Cleveland Way. A long biking stage then followed. Less technical than yesterday but mainly off road as far as Gainsley and then back on to the minor roads as far as Whitby. In a major route change from 2011 the final leg to the finish at Robin Hoods Bay was a run along the cliff top path dodging the bank holiday tourists. The staggered start times meant that the majority of the competitors finished within a short space of time of each other and there was a real party atmosphere on the terrace above the sea where the finish gantry was located. A top event with some very close racing. There were clear winners in each category but further down the field sometimes only seconds separated the racers after four days of racing. Race reports can be found at here and results here.
The field heads for St Bees and some rough conditions!

 Stunning early morning on the Cleveland Way
Fast mountain biking on the fourth and final day of racing

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Carstensz Pyramid

Carstensz Pyramid

Easy jungle trekking

 Rebuilding a bridge over a Gr VI river

Recent land slide activity and several tons of balance tree trunks

 Challenging scrambling to cross a land slide

 A work of art but still not sure H&S would pass it!

  The more usual two trunk affair!

 The inside of a Dani Tribe hut

 Climbing on to the kaarst plateau

 Weird and wonderful vegetation

 Carstensz Pyramid - the route take the right hand skyline

 Base camp located between the two lakes

Glacial approach on a solo ascent of Puncak Jaya

 Puncak Jaya - formerly the 2nd highest peak in Australasia but now the 4th due to glacial retreat

 Carstensz Pyramid after a snow storm

 The huge Freeport Gold mine at the end of the valley

Fixed lines to reach the summit ridge

 Sunrise on summit day

The team on the ridge

Cloud building as we complete the infamous Tyrolean traverse

Team Millet on the summit of Carstensz Pyramid

The highest point in Australasia and my 5th Seven Summit

 The final descent to base camp

 Trekking out through the jungle