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Retail therapy …

Start gantry is up!

Short run today, only 5 miles. The trouble with being in Chamonix is that the only way is up. Literally. So whatever the distance schedules, I can pretty much expect to run uphill for the first half and then back down to where I started. Today I explored a little more of the Petit Balcon Sud (Small South Balcony), trying to keep upright and not trip over the zillion tree roots and loose rock on the trail. I’m quite sore from my fall yesterday .. think I called more muscles into play to arrest my fall than I realised. Rest day tomorrow!

Another sunny day in the alps and no breeze for respite, but nothing a couple of cold drinks and ice-cream couldn’t remedy! 🙂 I spent the rest of the day having a leisurely wander round town.

Cheese and deli shops everywhere … yum!

Haribo heaven!

L’universe de Bon Bon (World of Sweets) .. one of my fave shops here!
Then I made the fatal mistake of looking in Ravanel, a great little shop run by Thierry that stocks everything you need for UTMB and more … needless to say, my credit card got a workout today too. Thierry is involved in the UTMB organisation (he’s done the route over 130 times now, and certainly sounds like he’s knows it well) and answered all my questions with great advice and a good range of product options. (I needed a pair of gloves and a warm hat .. honest! My other warm hat makes me look like a gnome.) The new rules for obligatory equipment this year have included items not in previous years’ lists, mainly due to the disastrous weather last year, so everyone’s going to end up carrying a lot more than they got away with last year. 

Ravanel was the only store that had these in my size .. yay! (And they’re obviously an ‘Ultra’ glove!)
Anyway, I came away with a great hat (that doesn’t make me look like a gnome), a pair of Sealskinz waterproof gloves, a pair of Salomon EXO IV 3/4 tights, and (drumroll …) the Salomon XT Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 pack! It’s exactly like the 5-litre version, just big enough to stash all the extra stuff required for longer races. There are stow pockets and storage compartments everywhere, and I can’t wait to try it out! There were only 600 produced for France, and Thierry’s now down to his last few .. I’m taking orders if anyone wants one, let me know! They’re 165 Euro, but I get 10% off for being a UTMB participant. 

Front & back
Side view and unzipped

There’s a detachable divider in the main compartment .. easy access with a zip that goes all the way round .. zipped pocket in the front mesh bit .. small zipped pocket on top .. zipped side pockets and new elasticated side pockets (these are going to be SO handy!) .. and all the usual bits that come with the original version. I know you’re not supposed to try anything new for a race, but I’ve just over a week to trial this so I think it’ll be fine. The main thing is that it fits like a glove, much better than my XA 10+3 .. at least I don’t have to worry about chafing from my pack now!
While I was upstairs debating which hat was the least gnome-like, one of the sales assistants yelled up to Thierry that “Monsieur Scott” had arrived … none other than ultra-god Scott Jurek! I was too star-struck to ask for a pic, and managed to squeak hello. Thierry just grinned and said that I should come by more often as most of the elite runners are there regularly during the week, including Krissy Moehl, the 2009 female winner of UTMB. Not that I need an excuse to go back … I’ve already got a list of stuff on my wish list .. I’m guessing I’ll be spending more time and money there in the near future!
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Countdown to UTMB!

Okay, here we go! 10 days and counting to the start of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc .. 167km of mountainous mayhem and 9500m of elevation for my woefully prepared legs.

The course profile looks like this: (yikes!)

The last few months have been truly crazy busy and I haven’t had much time to breathe let alone do any race prep! I’m arrived in Chamonix yesterday afternoon, so now it’s time to get some much needed rest and sort my race head out. Not that I expect to do a lot of racing .. 🙂 Completing is the main goal, under 40 hours would be good .. any time with a ‘3’ in the front would make my day(s!). I have 46 hours to finish, as long as I make the cut-off times at each check-point as well, but I really prefer not to be out there for the whole 46 hours .. that would make for a very long day out.
I’ve borrowed Bernard’s magic sticks .. I was told my tiny Raidlight folding poles might be too flimsy for the mighty Mont Blanc .. who am I to argue? The only elevation I get here is the minuscule Bukit Timah Hill at 174m high .. and my weekly showdown with the hill program on the treadmill at the gym. Time to get some practice in then!

View from my balcony

It’s been a couple of glorious days here in Chamonix so far .. the sun’s been shining and it feels like a proper summer here … and the shops are chock full of tempting technical gear … looks like my credit card’s in for an ultramarathon as well! 🙂

The town itself is chocolate-box quaint .. I was last here for a brief visit about a decade ago so it’s nice to have the time to explore at my leisure.

Went out for a short run this evening to see how cold it would be .. the race starts at 6.30pm .. it’s not freezing, but when the sun goes in I reckon I’ll get pretty cold. My ears and fingers were definitely feeling a nip despite running uphill for an hour. … And they’d just put up the start gantry, which I ran under .. just for the cheap thrill of being the first runner though! 🙂 I did notice that I’m feeling very parched all the time and my breathing felt laboured very early on. I’m blaming the altitude as my legs felt fine so hopefully all will be back to normal in a few days.

On my way home I ran past a store which had the new Salomon XT Advanced Skin 12 pack … but they were closed and I’ll have to go back tomorrow. I couldn’t fit all the mandatory kit into the XT 5 pack, so I had to use my XA 10+3 pack instead. This could be a great find as I love the fit of the XT 5 .. just needed more carrying capacity for this event.

Mont Blanc itself is stunning. It’s breathtaking and I’m finding it hard not to keep gawking at it. I’ve taking a grand total of 25 pictures since I got here and 22 were of the mountain. You just can’t help it.

Off for a much longer run tomorrow and a little more acclimatisation. The countdown begins!