Perhaps the most prestigious ultra distance trail race on the planet, the UTMB, takes place this Friday. The UTMB is 166km long with 9500m of climbing. I had the pleasure of taking part in last year’s race, and regard it as the best running race I have ever participated in.
This year sees an interesting line up of Ireland’s top international ultra distance trail runners participating in the UTMB. The top 3 Irish finishers from last year’s Ultra Distance World Trail Running Championships in Connemara are all entered. This will make for a compelling race within a race.
I’ll be returning to run again, hoping to improve on my ~29 hour finishing time from last year (which translated to a finishing position of 34th, and 8th in my MV40 category). Last year’s running season was badly disrupted by my February ankle fracture. Despite a Collar bone break this April I still feel that my training has gone a lot better approaching this year’s race. So hopefully this will transfer successfully to the race itself. The experience of having run the course before will be the biggest benifit going into this year’s race.
Daniel Doherty is the fastest of my Irish teammates to join in the UTMB festival this year. His 100km PB is close to 7 hours, which makes him a real speedster over ultra distances. He has also built up a good body of ultra trail experience, highlighted most prominantly last year by being the top Irish finisher at the world championships. Daniel has already been in Chamonix with his family for a day or two, so should be well acclimatised by now.
Also joining us is Paul Tierney. Paul was the second Irish finisher at the world championships last year. In the run up to the UTMB he finished 2nd at the lakeland 100 mile trail race. It looks like he is in top form. Paul and Myself have been well matched for speed for quite a while now. I expect I’ll be spending a lot of time in his vicinity during the race!
If there was a national team competition in the UTMB we would be confident of getting a good result with this particular combination, but unfortunately there isn’t. In the lead up to the race there has been a great collegiate atmosphere among all the Irish runners. Hopefully this will spur us all on to good performances.
There are quite a few other Irish runners taking part in the other races which are part of the whole UTMB running festival. Another Irish international runner, Barry Murray, will be competing in the CCC, a 100km race with 5600m of climbing. Barry is a professional sports nutritionist and will no doubt be interrogated at length by the rest of us on nutrition strategy for our races.
Two veterans of the Irish ultra running scene, Adrian Tucker and Kevin Grogan, will be competing in the TDS, a 109km race with 7100m of climbing. For Adrian this will be a bit of a sprint in comparison to the 5 days of racing he did here as part of the PTL race last year! Also joining them in the TDS is the relative whippersnapper Brian Linton, back for more after his successful finish at last year’s UTMB.
Everyone is fizzing with excitement at this point! We can hardly wait for the race to start. This video from last year’s race gives an idea of experience ahead of us:
The race can be tracked live on the website. Today we recieved out first text from the race, warning us of temperatures of -5 and snow at 2000m on Friday. This could be very interesting indeed!