events

My fifth time running the CDR. Why? Like many things, I don’t know.  A big reason was I had three runners that I had coached in the race. I knew they were all well prepared and I wanted to be there on their day. With so much time invested personally in them and in training, I was focusing on the details.  Much of ultra running is minimizing the variables and there are so many fewer now.

For the Death Race, I break the golden rule – I fast pace the start. This is not a good idea but at the CDR, you are intermixed with relay runners and with only a few kilometers to hit the single track trail you want to be ahead of them so not to bottleneck. As always, my ridiculous head was thinking get ahead – beat the other guy. About 9 km into leg 1, I settled in. Calum Neff and I ran together in the lead.  About 15 km into Leg 1, Aaron Heidt caught us. Aaron is such a good guy – we chatted for a while about all things ultra. It was great to chat with a fellow who has so similar thoughts on the sport.

I basically skipped the 19 km leg 1 transition. Rhonda took my tossed bottles and handed my my pack. I didn’t break stride.  This put me in the lead by a few minutes. Aaron caught me again about 10 km into leg 2. We ran and chatted. I admired his easy uphill running style as I switched to a power hike. As we transitioned into the alpine, I wished him luck. I knew I wouldn’t likely see him again. I wanted him to win and break the course record.

Eventually, Calum caught me and we leapfrogged a bit on the downhill into the end of leg 2. I transitioned very fast again and encouraged him out of the aid station. I had made the switch. I wanted him to beat me. This is what I love about ultra running. The race was my race to run.To run the best that I could run. It didn’t matter if that meant 1st of 100th and I truly did not care about placement. Only effort. When I feel this way, I want the other runners to beat me. To run as best as they can. It’s easy to get caught up in how well you place but the great thing about the ultra is it always ends up being about how well you do. I willed Calum ahead. Soon enough he caught me anyway due to some severe cramping. This gave us the opportunity to chat  bit.

I moved ahead near the end of leg 3 only to here Joe Huising give me a ‘Hey Jeff’ from behind. We ran together for a while and chatted catching up on things since last year at Sinister 7. Joe pulled ahead. He’s fast on the flat that Joe. I made up some ground across the bridge and we were back together at the highway crossing and ran into the transition to Leg 4 together. I transitioned very fast and doubled poled up Hamel. I ran hard and near the summit there is an out and back. He was about 8 minutes behind me. I hoped he would catch me. Calum wasn’t far behind either.

I downhilled off Hamel pretty fast and finishing Ambler Loop, Calum was just starting – about 25 minutes back. Joe was about 5 minutes behind. Run faster Joe, I thought. You can catch me!

A fast transition through the fourth aid led me to winding single track. I cooled my hands on the wet brush and soon I exchanged my coin for a ride across the river. For the first time in five years at the Death Race, I entered the town of Grande Cache and crossed the finish line in the light of day.

I made 2nd place of 371 soloists in a time of 13:25:25. Out of the 242 relay teams, only six were ahead of me. Two of which were less than a minute. Aaron Heidt ran first for 12:31:44. An incredible time.

It worked out. It was a good day. Things came together.

The best part was yet to come. I waited for ‘my’ runners to cross the line. And I didn’t wait long. Reid Roberts crossed in 8th place with a 15:03:21. Reid ran an incredible pace, especially for a first time at the Death Race.

Aaron Bond followed in 17th place with a 16:18:36 Aaron had only been training with me since late January but he stuck to the plan and he beat his goals.

At 19:23:14, in 37th place Steve Staves crossed the finish line. Steve was relatively new to running and this is a tremendous time for this level of experience.

Like always., I had high expectations for these runners. All three of them exceeded them. I couldn’t be happier!

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Thank you Queensway Auto World for your generous support of this event.

This Sunday, May 26th. Information on the event is here

Signup here

Updates on the progress of the run will be available on facebook – https://www.facebook.com/jeff.hunter.9822, twitter #voneugen and below on this page.

Need a ride? Meet at Otway and Queensway Auto World will drive you to your start. Email me to reserve a spot jeffthehunter@gmail.com

12:55 shuttle to Blue Spruce Campground behind Art Knapps for the 25 km start

1:30 shuttle to UNBC Greenway Trailhead for the 19 km start

2:30 shuttle to Takla Road for the 7.5 km start

Had some fun recently running a double crossing of the Grand Canyon with some great people – Colin Miller and Scott Kesteloot. We also had great support for our little run from Colin’s wife Erin. She took pictures, worried and waited for us.

Our total kilometers were about 75 km with about 11,000′ climbing. It was cool on the Rim’s and wicked hot in the bottom.

Perhaps I can make up for some bad writing with some bad video footage.

The best thing about an ultra is all that one is forced to learned. This was especially true at the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.

After several years of training and a heavy 2012 racing season aimed squarely at UTMB, with the help of Falcon Drilling and Queensway Auto World I found myself in Europe running the alps at altitude. As someone who runs for the love of it, it’s an excellent place to enjoy technical mountain trails.  One evening while running from Les Houches over a pass to Saint Gervais, I was on a small mountain trail and I found myself in the middle of now where at a cheese store. Where in the world but the french alps would you find a homemade cheese store on a narrow hiking trail?

Mont Blanc reminds me of  the Canadian Rockies, perhaps like Mount Sir Alexander Mackenzie. However, in every pass, valley, ledge and slope there are houses, restaurants and bars. Additionally, there is a 12 km tunnel under the mountain and a distinctive lack of mosquitoes.

I do have some experience running North American ultra’s. There is amazing comradeship, help, politeness and trail etiquette. This changes a bit as you run closer to the front. Let me tell you, Europe is very different. Not necessarily a bad thing, just different.

In order for my crew to make it to the first two aid stations, they dropped me off in Chamonix at the race start about an hour and a half early. I sat very close to the start and watched runners bully there way to the front for spots. 2600 runners lined up. No one spoke or made eye contact. The fellow next to me urinated in a pop bottle down his pants so as not to lose his starting place (yes – I took a picture, after all this is France). He casually tried to drop it but it sprayed over some other runners. I’m positive someone defecated in their pants.

The 168 km/9600 meter gain race had been changed to a 104 km/6000 meter gain race due to severe weather above 1800 meters. Everything changed. This wouldn’t be a slog, this was going to be fast and furious. Everyone new it and prepared.

Then something magical happened. The new winner of the CCC race set a course record and crossed the finish line at our start, a couple minutes before the UTMB. The crowd gelled and cheered him in.

And instantly the crowd went back to business. As the countdown neared, I took a video, trying to capture some of the energy.

And then – we were off, fighting to stay vertical, runners pushing and jostling for position. Cameramen moved backwards on roller blades, people cheered and cowbells ringing.. Runners were going down left and right. I tried to avoid sharp pole points and I was amazed by the thousands cheering. I ran for several kilometers not able to see anything but cheering spectators and runners front and back trying all their tactics.

Soon I passed the aid station in Les Houches, cheered on by Karen Rutherford. We turned off the road and started the climb up the mountain. I had wondered why everyone had poles, especially on the modified shorted course. And then I understood. These weren’t for climbing – they were for tactics. Placed crossways across single track, the pursuing runner could not pass. Runners paired up side by side and double poled to not let anyone pass.
On the single track, no one gave trail for oncoming passing runners.

The depth of field was amazing. Efficiency and capability was everywhere. I watched everyone navigate the trail with expert precision. The runners here were serious. No giving way or being nice. It was everyone for themselves and every trick they could think of to keep the runner behind in his place – and that didn’t mean by running faster.

Things were moving very fast. My watched averaged 4 minute 30 seconds/km almost 10 km’s in but contrary to usual, I played it smart. I held back – I had a long way to go. I held my heart rate under 90%  ready for most of the front runners to burn out or drop. I would not push the beginning of this race. I would make my move later.

I went over the first mountain, playing it smart. I climbed slow and downhilled fast in the dark making some moves past other runners in the dark, fog and rain. I learned a new trick – come up from behind using the light of the runner ahead and then pass turning on my light. It worked in the steady stream of rain.

The trail was steep, muddy, narrowing and technical but I was quickly running the streets of St Gervais. Marja-Lisa directed me into the aid station and Chantal handed me gels and helped with a quick sock change. I very quickly left the town and into the pastures moving up the valley. My reserved climbing payed off and I made moves past runners. We soon hit the single track in a steep cut along the river. Every once in a while, we would hit heavy fog patches in the ever increasing rain.

I woke up shivering next to the river in the dark. After a few minutes of orientating, I walked the overhanging bank. It took me a bit but I found a tree that went down the ten foot bank and then went about forty feet up a scree slope back to the trail. I had some pretty good cuts on the hip and elbow and a goose egg on the head. My coat and shorts were shreds. Muddy and bleeding, I forced myself to warm up by limping up the trail. Strange – I never slip on that kind of trail.

I wasn’t sure how much time I had lost but the runners had thickened. I made my way slowly, in pain, to the absolute insanity of a French run, 2600 runner aid station. I felt like I was shopping in an over-packed Gap store in the middle of the night.The techno blared.

My crew knew before me. I was out but I couldn’t admit it. I had come this far and I did not want to stop. I was over a third done a race that I had run over ten thousand kilometers training for. I had an excellent position and I had played it smart. I was cut, bruised and my hip barely let me walk. My memories of the future didn’t have this scene.

I swore. I swore again. Then I smiled and I laughed it off.

I don’t suppose everyone can say they fell down a cliff in the streaming rain of the night in the French Alps while running the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.

Until next time….

 

 

 

My UTMB crew…



In less than 24 hours, I will be at the starting line for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.

This is a 168 km running race held at altitude over rough mountain trails in the alps of France, Italy and Switzerland. The course has 9.6 km of vertical gain (32,000 feet) and the equivalent in loss. Much of the course is over 8000 feet and the current weather forecast is for rain, snow, sleet and down to -10 celcius with high winds.

The enormity of this race has sunk in after the last number of days running sections of the trail and driving to some of the aid stations. The amount of climbing and the type of terrain is hard to explain.

I sat down this evening for dinner with my crew and discussed how they will manage the high mountain roads with the forecast of snow and subzero temperatures. I have never looked for snow chains in August before.

I feel very prepared and I am looking forward to the run. If you are interested in following this event, there are some online resources at:

Televised at http://www.ultratrail.tv/en/

Follow me on twitter @runningthenorth

Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jeff.hunter.9822

Live runner tracking

http://utmb.livetrail.net/

http://utmb.livetrail.net/nexxtep.php?course=utmb   Runner number 3182

and  http://www.nexxtep.fr/UTMB/FR/Reperages/UTMB/ Runnber number 3182

I’d really like to thank Falcon Drilling and Queensway Autoworld for their support with UTMB and the 2012 racing season. There is no way I could be here without them.

 

 

Five of us left Otway at 7:00 am on Saturday morning. Geoff and Aaron had graciously planned to join us on the first 30 km through some hilly single track.

OK – so technically I was responsible for route finding but good conversation and excitement had our first diversion to the ditch on North Nechako road. The wrong ridge at the top of Pidherney, a new fence at the dump and we found Dick and Bob waiting for us. One more small course correction and back down Pidherney. Fresh bear tracks and other steaming sign led us across Foothills to the Hart Scales.

Things started to get interesting. Sherri, ready to tackle the 50 km,  was in need of a bit of the hair of the dog that bit her – not hot sun and pavement. Geoff and Aaron were in good spirits as I had been  slipping them double caffeinated gels all morning. They decided to tack on 8 more km to LC Gunn.

LC Gunn had Dick, Bob, Shar and Dennis with smiling faces. Geoff and Aaron decided to up the ante and tack on even more to make it a full on marathon so we hit the shade in the trees, ran the trail, crossed to the other bridge, through the graveyard and onto Cowart Road. With over a marathon down and enough to make a full ultra out of the extra  and the way home, Aaron and Geoff parted ways with us. I think that was double the longest distance Geoff had ever run. Gumption!

Twelve happy runners greeted us at Blue Spruce. Enthusiasm was high. We ran then sunny gravel until we hit the shade of the fir trees.  The company pulled us along to UNBC parking lot where the group  grew to 34 brave souls. There were many more waiting at Takla. It was hot, but the energy in the group was astounding.

Queensway Auto World had refreshments, cake and pizza at the finish. Dick was there blowing his horn! Family and  friends greeted all of us runners.

What a great day. Thank you to everyone for coming out and making this such an enjoyable time. Almost 1300 total kilometers run.

Thank you to Queensway Auto World for everything.

Photography by Bob Rutherford.