In under 48 hours-time, eighteen Australians and two New Zealanders are registered to race in the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), one of the most prestigious ultra trail events in the world.
The race attracts the biggest names, partly because like attracts like, but also simply because the course is so brutal and beautiful in equal measure, and because with moody weather, anything can happen. It’s a bucket list event for every ultra trail runner, pro or just for the go slow.
Of the men, the only talent from Down Under that gets a sneaky look in as a top-end contender is Kiwi Vajin Armstrong. Noticeably, Trail Run Mag’s/Adventure Type‘s very own Steve Brydon, who is competing and running for Odyssey4Autism, does not register a mention. We here, sitting back at TRM HQ sipping our (strawberry) daiquiris, concur. He won’t be elbowing out Anton any time soon (but he’s tougher than a cage fighter backed into a corner so watch the man bulldoze the course regardless and we peg him for a finish).
In the women’s, Byron pegs Shona Stephenson as a contender after placing second at the UTMF, and also mentions Expedition Equipment-sponsored runner Gill Fowler who won the 2012 Great North Walk 100 Mile and placed fifth at The North Face 100 Australia in 2013 (two places behind Shona Stephenson).
Trail Run Mag caught up briefly with Gill in Europe, not long after completing the Inferno half-marathon up to Schilthorn, a 2000m-plus climb event which made for good hill training.
GILL FOWLER: There are so many great trails over here, that I haven’t sat still. Recovery has been walking instead of running. So these Q&A are great forced rest. You’ve also forced me to think about UTMB, and ponder the course, something I haven’t done for many months.
TRM: How’s your form?
GF: Pretty good – I have no injuries at the moment, which is a bonus.
TRM: Have you done any specific training in preparation for UTMB?
GF: Not specifically. I was doing a lot of long training runs mixed with rogaines on weekends in the lead-up to the North Face 100 in May. This was easy as there was always a group of people going out for a training run. Since then I have just maintained my running. I competed in the Australasian Rogaining Champs (24 hrs) in late June, which was great for time-on-feet, but I haven’t run as many hills as I should have (I’ve been making up for this in Europe in the lead up). UTMB is a great excuse for a long holiday, so I have spent most of August in the Alp region in Switzerland and France.
TRM: ‘Is UTMB your ‘A’ race for 2013?
GF: I guess I have to say, Yes! (it’s the biggest trail ultra in the world after all!
TRM: What’s your race plan?
GF: Race plan? Your question has made me go to the race website and ponder the map and profile. Still no set plan except finish, by ticking off one checkpoint at a time. I don’t like setting times – I generally go with a time range (more for my support crew than for me), so that we can link up at the right time, based on my on the day splits. One of these races I will finally get it right so they are not rushing around madly.
TRM: What are your thoughts on the women’s field this year?
GF: Not sure, as I don’t know too much about the international field, or who is running. UTMB is known as a run of attrition, and weather also plays a big part.
TRM: Are you particularly concerned about any section of the race?
GF: My biggest worry is cold/wet weather. I’m not too worried about the climbs, I quite enjoy them. The cumulative ascent is not too different to the Alpine Challenge, and the altitude isn’t too much higher either. I’m pretty comfortable being on my feet for a long time from rogaining, but keeping warm and running into strong head winds isn’t so fun.
TRM: Any specific plans for recovery?
GF: Yes! take prime back-seat position in the car (thanks Ange & Ant) and travel through southern France for three weeks, with a focus on food! Once the legs start to recover there are a few TDF cols to ride and some climbing areas to play in. I am aiming to run Cals de Vant in Spain before heading home, and then it’s time for a rest.
GOOD LUCK GILL! And to the rest of those from Down Under, Asia or our readership anywhere in the world, strong legs, stronger lungs, strongest minds and hearts!
FOLLOW all competitors having a crack at UTMB this year at:
General details about how to follow here.
ULTRATRAILTV.COM – All week the importantmoments are broadcast on WEBTV:
start of the races, newspapers, direct reports, interviews, round table discussions,
conferences, films…5 webcams positioned along the route and at the finish allow your friends and family to see competitors and action.
LIVETRAIL – All the LiveTrail tools are at your disposition at utmb.livetrail.net
– Follow each runner on line stage by stage – Follow the race-leader on line stage by stage – Follow all the runners through text-messages.Registration possible here.
FACEBOOK / TWITTER: Up to date news posted on Facebook and Twitter !
You would like your friends to follow you on your Facebook wall: your passage through the check-points will be posted automatically due to an application developed by The North Face® and LiveTrail (subscription necessary, further details will be given during the summer)
TRAIL RUN MAG is proud to be the Official Media Partner – Australia/NZ for UTMB.