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Running

30 Days (Running) in Andorra

For most of July we lived in the small town of Arinsal in Andorra, a tiny “mountain-locked” country sandwiched between the Pyrenees of France and Spain and just a few hours by car or bus from Barcelona. I first learned of Arinsal when researching potential running races for 2019 – Arinsal hosts the Skyrace Comapedrosa, which starts and ends in the town center, covering 2.300m of elevation gain (4.600m of total elevation change) in a mere 21km and summiting Comapedrosa, the tallest point in Andorra, along the way. Naturally, it seemed like a great place to live and train – and without all the crowds of more popular trail running destinations like Chamonix.

I was able to log almost 70 hours of running & hiking while we were there, along with 33.000m of elevation gain and 360km, for an average elevation gain of 92m/km. This training block of low-intensity aerobic work with significant elevation change was critical (for me at least) for showing up confident and prepared for UTMB.

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Running

Race Report – UTMB 2019

It was a 10-year goal to run and finish UTMB. This dream began two and a half years ago after a failed summit up Mt. Rainier led me to sign up and race the Grindstone 100 two months later to begin the qualifying process for UTMB. I completed the Kodiak 100 and Mogollon 105km last year, finishing 3rd place and 2nd place, respectively, and together with Grindstone earned the points needed to qualify for the lottery for this year’s UTMB race (despite the qualifying criteria, each year there are still more people who qualify than spots available). I found out in early January of this year that I had been one of the approximately 2.500 runners selected for this year’s race.

Andrea and I spent July in Andorra and August in a small town outside Chamonix so I could focus and train for this year’s UTMB race. I also raced the Mont Blanc 90km race in late June to prepare and ran a 3-day preview of the UTMB course in early August. I was well prepared going into tho race and as I do for most races, I went into it with 3 goals: first, to finish (always my first goal!); second, to finish in under 30-hours; third, to finish in the top 100 – my “A” goal if everything went well.

With an amazing crew, a lot of training(!) and a bit of luck, I’m thankful to say I was able to achieve all 3 goals. I finished in 28:02:57 for 69th place overall (out of the 2543 starters) and was one of the top Americans to finish this year’s race. Following is my race report for this year’s 2019 UTMB.

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Running

Previewing UTMB: 3 Days of Running around Mont Blanc

After speaking with a local in Girona who won his division at CCC in 2013 (one of the shorter distance races held during UTMB week), I decided that my last long training run would be a 3-day preview of the UTMB course. His advice was to run the course over 2-3 days in early August a bit faster than race pace and then to taper from there. He told me this was what Kilian did his first year at UTMB, and what he and others had done as well. Sounded great to me. Andrea and I had planned to stay in Chamonix for the month of August anyway, so this would give a bit more structure to the time there.

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Running

Race Report – Mont Blanc 90km

There are two big race weekends in Chamonix, France every year for ultra running, the Mont Blanc Marathon weekend in late June and UTMB week in late August. Bookends to the big mountain ultra-running race season in Europe, both events feature races of varying distances that take runners into the mountains in and around Chamonix. My “A” race for 2019 is UTMB in late August, a 170km race around Mt Blanc that climbs over 10.000m and draws thousands of racers every year, including top professional runners, from across the world. I had heard of the Mt Blanc 90km race, the longest race of the Mont Blanc Marathon weekend and figured it would be a great training race with its 6.000+m of elevation gain over the course of the 90km on some of the same trails featured in UTMB. While its sister event the 42km Mont Blanc Marathon is generally the more competitive of the races during this week, the 90km race still draws over a thousand runners every year including many top professionals. It is also known as one of the toughest ultra-running races in the world given its exposed paths, technical trails and numerous snow crossings at altitude. A heat wave in France during this year’s race made it only that much tougher.

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Running

Run of the Week: Queralbs-Nuria-Puigmal

This is not a fast run given the steepness of the climbs and the rock-hopping required along the way but incredibly fun, especially up top on the ridge where you feel wild and free. The descent from the ridge back to Nuria, with its more runnable terrain, is pure joy šŸ™‚

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Running

Cow Trouble

Today I drove 90 minutes for a run in the Pyrenees. After about 500m of climbing, my path ran head-on into a pack of grazing cows, several not so friendly, insistent that I would not be passing. I’ve passed cows before on runs, but always separated by some fencing. I thought all cows were docile and friendly, which is not the case, demonstrated by the unwelcome noises and downright mean looks directed my way as I approached.

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Running

Race Report – Transvulcania 2019

This was the first race of the season, and the first chance to test out my training. All I could think about in the second half of the race, especially as I began the massive descent for the final 15km or so was boy I did not train for this elevation! After 4.500m of climbing, my legs were dead and had nothing left for the technical descent to the bottom. I was hoping for sub 9 hour finish, so was an hour slower than I had hoped, but given the state of my legs and the stomach cramping I experienced for a couple hours that forced me into a slow walk/jog, I am happy overall with the performance and think I’m on track training wise for UTMB – my “A” race for the year. I’m skipping next week’s race in Madeira to get in a good training block with a lot of elevation before the Mt Blanc 90km at the end of June. Now that the snow is gone in the lower parts of the Pyrenees, I can head there for bigger climbing than offered here in Girona.