If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, my desires. Most of all you would see my joy. Watch me from afar run the trails and hills and miles upon miles and you will see ...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Post UTMB - aka The Shortest 100 mile I've Ever Done

So if Fat Dog was the longest 100 mile I've ever done, then the UTMB was the shortest. I might as well start from the beginning before addressing all the issues.
I arrived in Geneva on Wednesday the 24th meeting Ian and Jenn at the airport. We caught a shuttle bus to the Hotel Chamonix Whymper (which is what a lot of people would be doing in a few days' time) at Chamonix, basically the French Whistler.
The first night I slept my usual Europe sleep: 8pm until 1am, toss and turn, drift in and out for a couple hours til 4am, stare at the ceiling until 7.
Thursday Ian and I went up the Augille du Midi gondola which actually involves taking two separate ones to the top which is at 3800m or about 12,500 ft. It was an amazing, cloudless day and the pictures are fantastic. I'll put them on when I'm home.
The next day, race day, was the opposite of Thursday - lots of rain. We even got a text that morning from the race organizers telling us to be prepared for rain and windy conditions during the race. Jenn's race, the 98km CCC (Courmeyeur-Champax-Chamonix) started at 10am in the town of Courmeyeur which would have been the 78km mark of the UTMB. I picked up my race kit and readied my pack and drop bag. My stomach felt almost a little flu-like and I had a bit of a headache, maybe from too much sun the day before. I wasn't overly excited about the race because of this and the weather didn't help either. At 5pm Ian and I walked over to the start area where there were already a few hundred people there for the start at 6:30. I nudged my way forward until I was part of the mass. For this race the pack you carried needed to contain certain safety items and always not weigh less than 2kg. I watched as race officials went around and randomly inspected and weighed the runners' bags. They played the Italian, Swiss, and French national anthems and the race started.
I thought I was close enough to the front to avoid getting stuck in the bottle neck that I've seen on videos of previous years' starts. I was greatly mistaken as it took, literally, five minutes of walking before I could maintain some semblance of a pace. Now all I could think as we were trucking down the town road towards the eventual trail was that I was going to be stuck behind so many runners trying get onto and run on the narrower trail. I made some bold moves and hurried past as many as I could but when we hit stretches of even gentle uphill the crowd screeched to a halt as the people in front started to walk. It was exactly like rush-hour traffic.
When the skies really opened up on us it was nice to see dozens of runners peeling off to the sides and donning rain coats. It was still pleasantly warm so I didn't bother with the coat quite yet feeling that a little water never hurt anyone. This allowed me to gain a bit more room. After about thirty minutes there was some breathing room and the climbing began.
We were basically going up a ski slope of switchbacks and every once in a while we'd go past a chairlift tower. Thankfully I decided to take the trekking poles on this race because without them I never would have made it as far as I did. I've never been a firm believer in the poles but I'd never want to do another race like this without them. Almost everyone had them and those that didn't were falling off the back pretty quick.
Next came the downhill which was awesome and long and steep. Near the bottom it was getting dark and heading through the forested area it was headlight time. A lot of runners were waiting until the bitter end to turn theirs on and I couldn't believe how dark it got and some still hadn't switched on. When we strode into St. Gervais, the first major aid station at 21km, it was like Mardi Gras. I haven't seen people lining the sides of the route like that since Winchoten, The Netherlands, for the 100km World Championships. Everyone was out and screaming and kids were high-fiving us as we ran by. It felt like the Tour de France. I just grabbed some water and bananas because I was going to fill up my camelbak at the next big station at 31k.
The trail to there was nice and undulating and I was moving up the field. At the top of a section of road I came to the town of Les Contamines, the 31k point. It was here I was intercepted by someone and was told the race was "stopped" due to a
mudslide. I asked if they knew when it would be open but they didn't know and I could get some food and rest. I started to refill my camelbak and a volunteer at the water table said that the race was over. I guess that the previous gentleman translated "over" into "stopped" and it didn't sound as permanent. I spoke with an organizer then who said due to 80km/h winds, no visibility, and extreme mud sections at the higher mountain areas, the race was cancelled and we could catch buses back to Chamonix. I guess last year three people died in another mountain race in similar conditions and the organizers were worried that might happen again. Jenn's race was halted at the 80km mark but if competitors had gone past there already they were allowed to continue, due to the mostly descending end of the course.
I made my way back (keeping a long story a little shorter) to the hotel in around two hours. As I was cleaning up we watched on The North Face website and a Facebook site to see if there was any news on a rumour of the continuation of the race or possibly a new race the next day. The last we saw before heading to bed at 2am was that there was going to be a press conference at 9am in the morning. Jenn knocked on the door around 3:30 having dropped out of her race at 70km because of the cold and wind and horrible conditions.
We got up at 8:30 or so to have Ian check his facebook and see that a friend of his who was doing the race as well was on a bus to Cormeyeur to do a continuation of the UTMB only from Cormeyeur to the finsh, about 90km. Apparently a text had been sent out but I received nothing of the sort indicating any other race going on. I'm not sure if I'd had notice of a race starting at 10am if I would have started but it would have been nice to have a choice. All sorts of things were coming to light throughout the day: I spoke with several people who didn't receive any information about a new race and they knew other people with the same story. By now it was obviously too late to start even if I wanted to. Also, they were only putting 1000-1300 runners into this new race (depending on who you talked to or what you read) so how would everyone have done it anyways? Finally I found out tonight that entrants into another race, the 107km TDS, which was first delayed three hours then finally cancelled due to the conditions, would be allowed entry into this race. Now you're adding approximately another 1000 racers who could theoretically want to run at least some kind of race. In a conspiratory theory kind of way I'm thinking they purposely didn't send out texts to everyone or it was a "lottery text" and runners were chosen at random. Probably not true but I'd like to get to the bottom of it all.
Anyways, what's done is done. Can't really complain too much. At this point I'm thinking I'd like to try and get into this race again next year because it is so damn beautiful and challenging (at least the little bit that I did see). If I had done the race I never would have been able to go on an amazing six hour hike today up to 9000ft over the Col de Terasse. Pictures on that to follow as well.
Tomorrow is another shorter hike then some souvenir shopping before heading out Tuesday.
I have the fall all lined up with races in September and October to quicken my pace for the World 100km Championships in Gibraltar in November. Unfortunately I won't be able to attend the Haney to Harrison this year as they fall on the same weekend. Gibraltar, H2H? H2H, Gibraltar? I think you know what choice you'd make.
I have to thank as usual Jim Stewart of Cactus Club Cafe in South Surrey for allowing me to get to the start line of this amazing race. Also, of course Carrie and the kids who let me get out early throughout the summer to do some great training runs.

Again, more pictures to follow in a few days.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc Cancelled

This is from the North Face website:

The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc has been cancelled 31 miles in due to severe weather. High altitude weather in the mountains is not passable and not safe.

A press conference will be taking place in 1 hour back in Chamonix with the race director. The athletes are returning to Chamonix. Additional information and updates will be provided then, within the next hour or so.

We will update as soon as we have information.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Update from TdMB

After looking up weather conditions for Chamonix and the surrounding areas, it looked like there might be a bit of rain to start the race. Then, today, we received the following email from the organizing committee:

Attention, weather conditions planned during the race: rain, wind and cold.
Provide the necessary equipment

Comité d'Organisation de The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

Thank goodness Darin is prepared and packed for any kind of weather! And I don't think he ever was a boy scout!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pre-Mont Blanc

Scott Corsie sent me this quote the other day, "Some men storm imaginary Alps all their lives and die in the foothills cursing difficulties which do not exist." Edward W. Hore

I thought this was weirdly appropriate as I'm about to take on probably my biggest trail challenge to date. I definitely am worried about getting through it all because being in the longest race where I haven't been supported by a crew, there are a million things that could go wrong with no way to correct them. On the other hand, I like the way you're not allowed to have pacers and every runner has to carry a certain number of items in a backpack, even the ones with crew. Kind of puts us all on the same level playing field. Of course, the only level field of this whole run is a few hundred metres at the start and then the pros will be gone.
Some 100 milers are won in 14, 15, or 16 hours. This one is usually around 20 or 21. To make the top 100 out of over 2,000 entrants, I would finish in about 30 or 31 hours. I was hoping for the 24 hour barrier to be broken but I can't see me going much less than 30 hours. I'm prepared for 30 hours and if it takes me longer I'll be relying totally on the supplied aid stations for food and energy drinks.
Anyways, not to run on with my fears and worries, the race starts at 9:30am on Friday the 28th, BC time. I should be done hopefully by 3pm Saturday the 29th if all goes well or better. There's around 20 time checkpoints along the way to follow the runners. Here's the website

Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc

Another cool website with videos and more info on the race, along with a Google flyover of the course can be found at:

Trail Running Soul

If there's video of the start I'll be the guy in the white hat, yellow shirt, and red backpack.

Au revoir, mon amis.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Guess who moves up an age group today?

Happy 40th Birthday Darin!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stormy 50 Mile Training Run

For all of you that are going to say, or have said, "Oh, yeah, another 'training run' that he goes out and wins (or tied in this case)", I wasn't thinking 'race' in my head at any point along the way. I didn't really want to be out front for any of it and even contemplated starting 15 or 30 minutes later than everyone else so as not to be tempted to run harder than I should. Really. I have to say I wish I had run this race in the past because, in my opinion, it was one of the best organized races I've done. The aid stations were awesome, the flagging plentiful and exactly where it was needed at those 'doubting myself' times, and the volunteers were very helpful and supporting. I also like the way the relay was run in conjunction with our race because there were always people you could see on the course and the exchange points were packed with encouraging runners waiting to head out. I know I said last year I was going to try and get people I know to run 40 miles or 40km for my 40th birthday but it never really materialized. Carrie and I went to Whistler instead and I incorporated this run as a last long one before UTMB to go along with our 40th birthday weekend. I guess when I turn 50 I'll do a 60km run.
Tim, Dave, Dario, Hozumi, and I all ran the first leg pretty much as a train following Tim's perfect pacing. It was fun to chat along the way and also as a perk they were able to catch me from going off course in the first couple miles because it heads out onto some streets and my eyesight is failing from old age so it was tough to pick up the flagging at times. At the Perth aid station they all stopped to get water but with my camelbak I kept going. Long story short I ran alone save for a couple relay people going past me like I was standing still until I passed the University at around 26 miles when Hozumi caught me. We ran pretty close until Nine Mile Hill when I managed to run/walk that stretch on my own again. Little did I know that Hozumi's powerwalking outclassed my 'running' up the hill and he was right with me and we reached aid station 8 at the same time.
Normally I like to run on my own in my own misery but I have to say it was quite enjoyable having someone along for the ride at this point. We talked about all sorts of stuff to pass the time. At the Powerhouse station for the second time I could feel myself losing some energy and my fun meter was on low as Hozumi and I took off together. I think he actually might have waited there a bit for me as his crew had bottles ready and I had to fill my camelbak. My energy level picked up after some Coke and we were running strong the last few miles save for the longer uphills. I couldn't keep up with him on the steep hills and when I wiped out with about three miles to go I stood, brushed myself off, and hoped he was long gone so I could just do my usual finish line shuffle. At the next turn I saw him waiting for me, probably not a pity wait, but to see why I had stopped, like, due to a wipeout or something. Somehow I knew in the back of my mind that he wasn't one to sprint to the finish and this actually came up in conversation with about a km to go. We laughed and couldn't understand how people would sprint to a finish after running 50 miles total and three hours with someone. It was a classy move on his part that this didn't happen because he could have dropped me anytime in that last eight mile stretch. Together we finished in 7:24 quite comfortably.
The next day my legs felt pretty good. I was telling Hozumi that, due to training for Fat Dog and UTMB, I hadn't done that much straight running for months. Most of my training has involved running but also thrown in has been a lot of climbing up steep stuff. That's why I'm surprised my legs didn't cramp and I could walk the next day which was a good thing, too, as Carrie and I did the Ziptrek tour at Whistler.
Thanks again to Wendy Montgomery and her band of merry volunteers for being part of my birthday celebration and putting on such a terrific event.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


A few people out there have the misconception that I'll be 'racing' the Stormy 50 mile event tomorrow morning. Well, let me be the first to clarify my plan: Just get through it. No racing, just running. I haven't had any speed in my legs pretty much all year.
So Stormy is simply a long run because I was getting a bit bored with going through the same trails and mountains lately and thought I'd do something I've never done before. It's the last long run before UTMB and I don't want to have dead legs for the next week and have to recover. Slow and steady will be tomorrow's plan.
There you go.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

4 years - it was a good run

Last weekend Ultraman Canada was held in and around the Penticton area. I always knew my record of just over twenty-three hours would be broken, just as I knew my run record for the third day would fall eventually (which it did last year). Congratulations to Kevin Cutjar of Penticton who now owns the record in a time of 21:49. Kevin has also won Ultraman Hawaii and someone told me he won Ironman Canada back in the '90s some time. At 44 this guy is in pretty okay shape I would say. The number two finisher for the men, Mike LeRoux, finished in 22:36 so he actually beat my time too!
Now that UMC is a qualifier for UMH, you're going to see better and better talent showing up in Penticton to do this event. And, we just found out that there will be an Ultraman UK in September 2011 which our friend, British endurance superstar Ian Mayhew, signed up for. I see another crewing adventure in my future.
Here is the final write up of this year's race:

Ultraman Canada Day 3 Final Race Report
The 10th Ultraman Canada event hosted the largest field ever and brought a higher caliber of athletes to the
event. This year’s field also included the highest number of female athletes ever in an Ultraman event and was a
hotly contested event. The final standings of Day 2 provided racers and staff with lots of suspense going into
today’s 84.4kmdouble marathon. Those involved were rewarded with tremendous performances from the 35
athletes that lined up at the start. The athletes were rewarded with near perfect weather conditions for the
In the men’s division, the excitement stared when Penticton’s Kevin Cutjar , the leader going into the run, set
off in the front and never looked back. He ran a spectacularly consistent pace throughout the entire course to
post a time of 6:37:41 for a total overall time of 21:49:45. Cutjar broke the previous run course record by over 6
seconds set last year by Benat Zubillaga and demolished the previous course record by 1:10:50, set in 2006 by
Darin Bentley. Cutjar becomes the only person to have won both the Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii
(1995) and Ultraman Canada.
Mike LeRoux , of Australia, maintained his second place overall standing by running a 7:17:31 double marathon
for a 3 day total time of 22:36:54, also beating the previous overall record time and claiming the second fastest
time overall. Rounding out the top three on the men’s side wasMike Coughlin of Sudbury, ON who started the
day in same position. Coughlin posted a negative split on the run completing it in 7:36:41 for an overall total
time of 23:33:03. His time was good enough for the fourth fastest overall time at Ultraman Canada.
The incredibly competitive women’s field started the day with only 13 seconds separating the first and second
place positions. Tracey McQuair of Penticton, BC, was leading Australia’s Alice Clark at the start and blazed
herself to the overall win in the women’s division by posting an 8:37:46 run for an overall time of 26:08:24.
McQuair’s time was quick enough to claim the second fastest run and overall times ever. Kellie Smirnoff, of
Jacksonville Beach, FL posted the second fastest run with an 8:40:18 which moved her into fifth place in the
overall women’s standings and give her the third fastest women’s run time ever. Consuela Lively ofWinter Park,
FL,posted the day’s third fastest women’s time with a 9:07:28 to finish third place overall. Andi Ramer came
back strong from issues on the bike yesterday to post a 9:25:02 run which boosted her into second place overall
with a total time of 28:09:49. Alice Clark who had dominated the bike course for the last two days completed
the course in 11:45:28 for an overall time of 29:16:19 and fourth placing in the women’s race.
Overall, there were 32 official finishers, 18 men and 14 women that wrapped up the three day adventure
through the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. Seven athletes were unable to complete the event due to
various medical, nutritional issues and time cutoffs.
Ultraman Canada 2011 will take place on July 30-August 1, 2011.

"A higher caliber of athletes"? "Demolished the old record"? Ouch. I've never been demolished before.