Friday, August 7, 2009

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc -- a journey starts

Like I was a starving and half-crazed fish in search of food after days of roaming an empty ocean only to find a juicy meal perched on a shiny, barbed piece of steel, my journey to prepare for and race the Marathon des Sables in 2008 hooked me on ultra running and has tugged me along ever since deeper into the amazing world of ultra running.

That journey into the unknown introduced me to a wonderful mix of camaraderie, self-drive, and awe-inspiring beauty that is at the heart of the ultra running culture. After each stage of MDS I would sit in the Berber tent with my mates, covered in dust and sweat with an aching body, listening to their tales of 50 and 100 mile running races thinking "I wish I could do that." I know -- a bit odd to be in the middle of a stage race in the desert, a significant ultra race in its own right, dreaming of running ultras in other parts of the world -- but that's how it is.

MDS was my first ultra -- and everyone around me seemed such the veteran ultrarunner. I felt privileged to join this community and honored that these vets would treat me like one of their own.

The long stage of MDS served as an awakening for my ultra running soul. I'll never forget the feeling of running alone near the front for that 50-mile stage, powered by the vastness, surreality, and intense heat of the desert and a mind that grabbed hold of the spirit of all the wonderful friends and family in my life to carry me to the finish line. This was my spirit walk, my walkabout, my journey into the land where the mind is freed and the feet move on their own -- where human flight seems possible and a natural high abounds. Sadly, that event eventually drew to and end, but the spirit drove onward and opened new doors.

After MDS, I worked through a period of post-race blues and then snapped out of it with a commitment to tackle as my first 100-miler the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). While there are lots of great 100-mile runs in the States that I'd love to go for, UTMB is just a few hours from our home in Switzerland and has a monster course appeal and stunning Alpine scenery that begs me to make the starting line in Chamonix for my first 100. UTMB covers a ridiculous 31K feet (9400 meters) of elevation gain over stunningly beautiful terrain in France, Switzerland, and Italy. I experience a mixture of excitement and fear just watching the Google Earth flyover!

The race is set to start in Chamonix at 6:30pm on August 28th and it has a 46-hour time limit.

Stay tuned to the blog for a glimpse of what it's like to train for UTMB and if all goes as planned, toe the starting line in Chamonix at the end of August.

Cheers from Zuri,

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