UTMB 2011 - Being able to tell yourself: I've completed my (5 year) dream...

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5 years. 1827 days. Exactly 1827 days ago I was discovering the UTMB, The North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc on Chamonix's main square, on a Friday night. On that day I decided I would do that race and ever since, I have never stopped dreaming of it, training for it and imagining this moment when I would cross the line... A few days ago (already!), 1827 days i.e. 5 years and 1 day later, I did it.

How do you tell your biggest dream, what you want the most in the world? How can you put words on what has been waited for for 5 years? Moreover, how to use words that will not betray what has proved to be even bigger than what was hoped? To tell a story, it is also accepting that it is over, and despite 5 years thinking about it every day, you just don't want it to be over, you would like a bit more, still a few extra hours to go... Given I am missing Sweden so much, maybe it is the Stockholm's syndrom... Lastly, as my older sister said, what I have lived is so linked to my parents and siblings and those moments have been so strong among us that they are a bit personal. Yet I have received so much support and  encouragements that I feel I owe them and I want to give back and I hope to do so in this humble race report.

The race in details:

Monday, Aug 22d 2011, take off from Vancouver, Canada, where I've been living for 5 months. Tuesday, landing in France and short stop by a sports' doctor for him to check my foot, injured on my last training. Verdict: possible stress fracture. We both agree that I will not rick life-lasting after-effects if I go through with the race, I'll just have to take the pain in (solution that I myself have suggested, needless to say...) 

Thursday, Aug 24th 2011, Chamonix. The sun and heat are intense, just like last year, before a storm bursts and bad weather settles in. But I remain focused. I relish the moment, enjoy to be (finally) here, appreciate to have had this second chance and to be once again in the draw (registration by a point system + a lottery) and I am just so grateful to be here as my parents have paid my flight for me to come back. I am increadibly lucky to be here and I want to honour that. 

Friday Aug. 25th 2011, Lolo, my older sister, arrives from beloved Sweden and we are now  together with my parents. Only my older brother is missing but he is there in thoughts and in my heart. He is sending me his "motivex and moraline"...

In late morning, I receive a text from a friend runner telling me the race has been postponed by 5h due to weather conditions. The start is now set at 23h30. This is no trouble to me, on the contrary, this allows me to sleep a bit more.

Once on the line, it is absolutely pouring and with all the umbrellas and the dark, it is not the same feeling alas as the previous years' starts. It does not feel like to the one I experienced 5 years ago or the one I had imagined so many times, or the ones I've lived on my 2 CCC participations or the first UTMB attempt... But dad, mom & Lo are here and this, this had not happened in the past. Moreover, rain just slips on me because I am just so happy and impatient to be here. I think we, runners, we're all in the same situation: we were only preying for one thing: that the race would go on...

Before facing the line, I look at my team and tell them: "You're gonna have to push me, it's gonna be tough, you're gonna have to push me. You're gonna have to remind me that it's been 5 years, that I've trained for it, that I want this, you're gonna have to remind me the 6.30am trainings with Carl (my Swedish trainer for a bit), remind me the runs with the nods in my guts here in Vancouver by fear of seeing bears again, remind me that I have it in me and I will have to go on no matterwhat, even if it's tough and above all, if I am not doing it already, remind me to smile and enjoy".

Team's main role: reminding me to smile because it's here, my dream is here. And when you smile, all is better.
23h30: I am off on my walkabout, this ritual that australian aborigenes take when they set off to the bush during long periods of time, to (re)connect with their roots and hence themselves and in turn, grow. I myself set off to the mountains for 3 days, these mountains that I love so and where I feel so good, where I really feel myself. I am off to live intense moments and to find myself again, when I'll be alone with anyone but me and my goal. "I am not escaping from reality but toward reality". Unfortunately however I will not be accompanied along the way by gorgeous "drovers" like in the movie Australia but I do run toward my never never, my somewhere over the Mont Blanc that I sung to myself for 5 years. And these are, already, "extraordinary circumstances"... 

The first two hours are so so, I feel my way along, I can feel pain in my foot, and I don't like that much. The rain is heavily falling and the night is pitch dark. I recall a few claps of thunder as well. But I am running with Camilla, my Swedish friend met last year on the first kilometers of the race. The descent to Saint-Gervais, already very slippery is as muddy is slippery as last year and I am even more cautious for my foot. By doing so, I start being hurt in my knees. I am also very cold and the thought of a warm shower starts settling in. But the shower is cold when I think this will only be in two days, when I'll be back in Chamonix... At that moment I realize the scope of this race. It really is only once you are in that you can grasp the dimensions... Yet I progress rather well and arrive in St Gervais, km21 in 3h35. I lost Camilla but daddy's here. I eat a bit, change my soaked shirt and go back out again. St Gervais had been our finish line last year upon the cancellation. Going through this aid stop already has a sweet taste of victory. "Daddy, I'll see you in 10k!". That was 2 hours later. My advance on the time cut off in Les Contamines is rather low so I don't lose time and leave quick.

Press last year after the cancellation

Press last year after the cancellation

Press last year after the cancellation

Press last year after the cancellation
The next time I'll see dad is in about 4h30 after having gone up the first difficulty: the Croix du Bonhomme at 2443m. The start of the ascent on this early morning is beautiful as I reach the Balme stop. I had gone through it by night on my first attempt of the UTMB in 2009 (injury withdraw). The neighbouring summits are waking up with the sun's touch. But the cold is tough upon us and many runners try to warm up by the big bonfire. Everyone wants a bit of heat before the cold and snow that are awaiting for us at the summit. A summit that we cannot see indeed as it is stuck in big clouds. I grab a soup, change my shirt once again and start this climb. Everything's going good and I don't get lost this time (heavy fog in 2009) and reach the summit easy in ~ 1h30. I don't linger much up there as we cannot see a damn thing and because it is darn cold. The weather varies between snow and hail, a forecast that my team happened to have known from the start but had "omitted" telling me... They had forgotten snow if my element!

This is not my last winter holiday's pictures...

Though snow is my thing, humid cold on a wet shivering body is not my cup of tea so I really head down nonetheless with caution as, once again, it is very slippery and there are a few sharp rocks on which I could harpoon my derriere.

I reach Les Chapieux at km 50 at 9h30. I hear a volunteer say that we are at indeed "Les Chapieux at km 50" (in case we would already be too tired!) and that was the first and last time I thought about kilometres. It's been 10 hours I'm in the race. Dad contains a sob as I get closer to him (I heard you daddy!) and he can. I'm fully in the race, I feel good and I have just reached that moment when I know. Just like on my first CCC as I was reaching the big yellow tent at the summit of Grand Col Ferret or during the Eco Trail when I found Mr Devil again at mid-race or again at the aid stop of Veyreau during the Endurance Ultra-Trail des Templiers, I know I am going all the way, unless I injure myself or get seriously tired putting me outside time barriers, I have the mind to go all the way, I just know.

Mandatory gear check
I head out under the rain to ascend the second difficulty, the Col de la Seige rising at 2516m. As we climb up, the rain gets heavier. It feels like I'm back in "Raincouver" (Vancouver). Since it's not new to me then, I keep on going even though it is quite cold and temperature keeps on decreasing. But like my brother had told me during my first CCC: "Pain & cold are just information". I reach the top at km60 at 12h12. It must be around 0* but after only a few steps down towards Italy, the clouds are opening up and the sky is beautifully blue. On my way down to Lac Combal, it is getting very warm. I reach the stop at 13h04 before ascending again towards Col Checrouit & Courmayeur where my entire team is awaiting for me.
On the way up toward Mont Favre and later Col Checrouit

On the way up toward Mont Favre and later Col Checrouit

My war apparel to battle the rain, wind and the cold during the first night..
My war apparel to battle the rain, wind and the cold during the first night..

Let me eat in peace!

See? When I'm not eating I can smile! :)

Arriving in Courmayeur

How could I not smile? The sun is here, my team is here... NB: That purple thing on my back is my fleece that I'm "naturally" drying, like when camping!

It is bloody hot during that traverse and then down to Courmayeur, which I reach at 16h22. It's now been 17h I've been in the race. I think I can recall new fatherly "throat singing" mis-covered by coughs. Yeah right! Lorraine heard it too dad! You can't fool us, not when we share the same blood! Then they both run by my side as we join mam at the stop. We all share a big smile. As I enter the room, I am a bit torn between sleeping and eating. I start by eating, change but I have already lost a lot of the advance I had on time barriers so I have to skip sleeping for now. I am just very confused: due to the later start, now that all day parts are during the night and vice versa, I have to reorganise my bag, get my changing gears but I'm still confused and scared to mix up. I check 3 times that I have the proper change until the next time I see my team (about 10h). I would not want to have a short sleeve shirt at Grand Col Ferret! But I finally head out to meet my team again with who we share the news I just over-heard: THE ascent of the race, Bovine has been cancelled due to the extreme weather which destroyed the summit stop and is now replaced by the Col de la Forclaz. The new course now goes from 166kms with 9500m ascent to 170kms and 9700m ascent. But again, since I lost most of my slim advance, I start again quick, not minding this new information.
Restart from Courmayeur, with a smile!
Going through the higher part of Courmayeur is madness. Several tens of people are there and since I'm the only one to pass at the time, I receive a powerful ovation, it's amazing.  Grazzie grazzie a tutti!

My ascent toward Bertone is rather good and regular despite the intense heat that is upon us on that late afternoon. I reach the stop 82kms at 18h57 in 1471th position. I have won about 400 spots since Chamonix but many have stopped at Courmayeur.

I then reach Bonatti at 20h39. I quickly drink and go towards Arnuva (where I stopped two years ago) in a hurry as I want to sleep. The night is here and I'm starting to be very very sleepy. Bertone's heat has knocked me out and of course, general fatigue is starting to settle. Once in Arnuva, it will have been 22h30 in the race. This new traverse gives me the opportunity to foresee, despite the dark night, THE yellow North Face tent, so meaningful to me. However, once at the stop, nowhere to sleep... Even in a tiny corner in the aid tent. I try to think but cannot find a solution. I eat then and get changed because they forecast -5 to -10 up there with the windchill. Yup, -10!

As I leave the aid stop, I am chilled almost to the bone. Though I have a dry shirt on and locked in my beanie, hoody, etc, it is biting me. My teeth are chattering. I hang on, I hang on, I keep on going, I know I'll get warmer as I go and that it will feel better, I just need to hang on... Forward, forward, forward... I need to move my fingers, move my arms, keep my head down, breathe... But forward. Always. It's almost 22h30 now and it's really dark. I am alone and I feel really sleepy. I feel really really sleepy now. It's a blend of accumulated fatigue, the intense darkness, the frosty cold and the ray of my head lamp that litteraly hypnotises me being the only point where my eyes focus... However, it is impossible and not even thinkable to sleep here. It is far too cold even just to stop for a few seconds for whatever reason. I have to keep on going, keep on climbing, again and again, for the upcoming hour and a half, again and again. I then start to walk very regularly and my brain starts to disconnect. I can feel my thinking slowing down. I have completely stepped into a  parallel time, I am in auto-mode. The only brain activity detectable is the repetition of "keeping eyes open" and "keeping on going". Self-persuasion could not be more accurate here. I can sense my legs and my head are completely independent. I feel like a zombie. I fight with no mercy against the cold and and my need to sleep, against those very heavy eye lids which fiercefully try to close, whereas my legs require no order. It's fascinating and quite magic to experience. I am almost sleep walking. That's how it feels! That, for the entire 1h30 up to the summit. I am constant.

At 00h10, third day, I reach the Grand Col Ferret at km99.8 at 2537m high in 1378* place. MY Col Ferret, my all-time favourite moment of the race, my milestone. I would really like and feel like taking time to enjoy this moment as I start to realize that the race is flying by but it is quite under 0 here. The wind is mighty and cold and I have to start descending towards Switzerland, third country crossed. It is still very dark and I am still very sleepy. Some people in front of me are dangerously staggering, sometimes really close to the edge of steep fields down. I tell them they need to stop and rest. I could not as I would get dead cold right away but they cannot stand stood. I would really like and need to though as I am really really sleepy. My lids are heavier than before and I can feel my brain taking micro-naps. Like a short-circuit. I am really so sleepy. But I just can't stop. I really really need to sleep , just a little bit, just a few minutes. But there is just nowhere here. A few rocks could be quite comfy but still... But I have to wake up, I cannot decently stand like this for the 8 upcoming kilometers down towards the next stop. In a desperate attempt to wake myself up, I start to tell myself the year's month aloud : "January! February! Maaarch! Ap... April! Maaaaaay!" etc. Then I start humming. Then back to the months. I'm almost positive I also sang random "La la la"... The result is not as effective as hoped but there is a slight progress. This is quite amusing actually to be honnest... This is exactly on of the things I wanted to live and was expecting impatiently during this race, that second night and its sleep deprivation stories... (See here in part II: I wanted). That is why I relish in these unusual moment. And now, a mere straw stack would actually be enough as a bed and no longer a big wide bed with plenty of plump pillows with a freshly washed & ironed duvet... No, I have to keep on going, again and again. I have to focus on the next stop and hopefully I'll be able to sleep there. "While there's hope"... So I keep on descending, descending, scampering along, walking, humming, I just keep on going...

This downhill is really boring but I keep on going, I pass some, and arrive in La Fouly at km 109 at 2h53 in 1335* position. I quickly grab a bite and try to find a place to sleep. I have not gained further advance on the time barriers but I have to sleep now. I then ask a volunteer woman if there is any place. She answers: "Yes sure, you've got benches over there". Wonderful! What a delightful woman! Well, I head towards those benches then but none is free (of course, quality goes fast!) so I decide to sit at a table and try and sleep on my forearms (you know what I mean...). I nap for about 4 minutes. There is quite some noise, the position is not the best, I just can't rest. So I head out again. 

It is to be noted that at that point of the race, I go over the longest distance I had done in a race i.e. the ultra des templiers.

I progress despite this failed attempt to sleep and fast walk steadily towards Champex, next stop where I'll meet my team. After 28h in the race, I realize that in less than 24h I'll be reaching my dream. I start to think about the several times my fellow friend & co-runner Stephane, as many others, have warned me to "enjoy it". And that is what I had tried and do in the past and it is the only race diktat I allow myself: to enjoy. And I regret not having done it enough so far. So I start looking around, it is pitch dark and I cannot really see a thing of course but as I rise my head up: the sky is boasting an incredible stellar drape... Another beautiful night sky along my way (cf the Templiers). After spending 3 months in the center of Chile, I have been fortunate to live enchanting nights under hard-to-describe skies but this night tonight is also absolutely astonishing. I trip and almost fall several times as much as I am drawn to look up and cannot keep my eyes off this magic vault.

My progression is still good and I reach Praz de Fort, a wonderful little swiss village, even at night. Nonetheless, though I thought I had left it behind, sleep has haunted me down and found me again. It is once again more redoubtable than before. My legs are still in mode "I keep on going, follow me if you wish" but my head is now about to fall and stay behind... Suddenly, two volunteers appear to show us the way (it is a bit tricky to understand why they are there given the three streets in this village but still, it's refreshing to see people who talk). Ahead of me, a runner asks them if they can wake him up in ten minutes. Upon hearing that I open my eyes wide and tells them "Oh yes, me too please!" like a jealous kid. We both throw ourselves on the two random bus benches right there (again, how improbable that there would be a bus stop in this tiny village!) and this time, it's ME who takes the bench! Haha! So as we lay down, the charming men is about to ask me which one I want (truth!) but I can barely hear him as I am already deeply asleep. I can only sleep for 7 or 8 minutes but these 480 seconds are very repairing and that allows me to kick back in towards Champex.

Just like four years ago, dad does not see me right away because of all the head lamps when I reach km 124 at 6h37 in 1186* place. But I understand because I must have the face of a "Bayonne goer" on the 5th morning... (a five day non-stop "city party" held in Bayonne in South of France). I am beyond sleepy and I don't even let him greet me that I am throwing at him "Me sleeeeeeeeeep, me sleep!!". Pretty similar to when I go back to France and right upon stepping out of the plane screaming for "cheeeeeeese!!". Dad then takes me into the tent towards Lolo & mom. As she sees me, I can read mom wondering what happened to her daughter and who is that girl walking to her, look-alike for sure but with eyes... dead! Anyhoo, she tardies no more and takes me on her knees as I lay down... yes! on a bench! "Wake me up in ten!". 10, time's up! In just a few seconds, I have pastas on the table, soup and a dry shirt. Pastas are good and soup salty to taste. The part where I remove my soaked shirt is less agreeable but putting in a dry almost warm one compensates. That is also what I love in these ultra races: going back to easy simple pleasures like drinking plain water, sitting down (slowly...), taking off one's shoes, brushing my long hair (come to think of it, no, that's pretty atrocious), kissing their loved ones, putting on a dry shirt. These are truly wonderful moments which makes very humble and appreciative.

7 o'clock, time to go. I would not want to miss the sun rise on this cute little village of Champex, which I've always passed by night. From there, we head down towards Martigny where we've been rerouted after Bovine has been cancelled. The downhill is quite boring and uninteresting and so is the short uphill towards the town's aid stop. It is also getting very hot. Once at the stop, several runners start complaining around me as regards this change in the course and the change of information received from the organisation. I just don't get it: last year, I would have given everything for these changes in information, changes in the courses, be it 20 extra kilometers, anything for the race and my dream would not be shattered... This year, the organisation must have pulled their hair, as well as many others' to find a solution, be it dull but still, they were giving us the chance to go on. They mobilised more volunteers and towns just for us. And we have to give that to them. So I, myself, leave and continue because I, myself, want to climb that Col de la Forclaz (even under a saharian heat). After a macadamesque climb, maybe, but a climb towards my dream, I ask my sister as I reach the top, fajitas that I've been longing for a little while... She stops breathing for a second: "We don't have them". Well, that's ok, Trient is only 30 minutes away and there'll be bread for sure.
Down towards Trient
I'm there, in this small Italian village of Trient that again, I've only crossed by night. It's 12h36 and I'm in 968* place. That's right! Under the 1000* place! It's my dad who told me (not without water eyes ... haha, daddy dad, please hold on to your heart, I still have 4 stops in 25kms to see you so, get it together!!). Maybe I below the 1000 but a lot of people have stopped in Champex. At 11h today, 1186 had stopped which is about a bit more than 50% of the starters. A quarter stopped in Champex (km 50), 233 in Courmayeur (km 77) and 281 in Champex (km 123). So feeling so good, I want to once again, head back in tracks, to ascend Catogne, the very last ascent now that the Flegere has been cancelled as well due to the start delay. But mom & Lo are still not there. "They're parking the car" says dad. The thing is that Trient was announced after a 30 minutes downhill so they wanted to go back to the and where we are staying (wonderful place  and hosts) in Vallorcine, a short drive from the Col, just to get my fajitas that I wanted. But it took me 15 minutes to get to Trient. However, a few more minutes and they're here... with my fajitas!! I told you, I had it all to succeed! My team has gone beyond just for me! And I did not even get to eat those fajitas! I took off too fast after creaming my feet which were starting to seriously get blistered, the size of fajitas for that matter!

Fajita blisters ...
On this last ascent that I need to enjoy, I found Camilla again. We start exchanging on the fact that we are almost there, we can almost hear Chamonix, but start getting a bit too emotional and quickly change the subject. Or, subjects should I say because we just have not stopped talking all the way up, despite the aggressive heat beating us. I much prefer the rain and cold! Once at the top, as she tells in her race account (in Swedish), I tell her: "Time has gone by so fast, I cannot believe we are already here". Yet with the heat and dryness, my blisters are seriously starting to hurt. Each step is hurting. We begin our descent though at a good pace, at least for a bit for me but as we reach the woods and its rocks and roots, it really hurts. And I start to want to cry. The sun and heat are just so strong and with fatigue and now Chamonix only a few steps away, the emotions trapped inside for 5 years are no longer possible to hold in. But still, I do hold them in. Just as my pain screams from the pain. 

At last, we arrive in Vallorcine at km 155 at 16h05 in 965* place. I was 958* in Catogne and it's the first time I lose spots. Damn feet! You resisted for 40h30, why not a few more hours!? But my displeasure is soon compensated by the astonishingly large crowd. It could almost be mistaken for Chamonix! It is not Chamonix but it feels however so close. So close. It's right there. Just a few steps away now. We know it. Camilla and I look at each other and hold each other. It might not have been 5 years that she wants this but we went through the cancellation together and this year we will be together to finish it. It's a strong moment. 

After new hugs with our respective teams, we hit the trail again and given that the way to Argentiere is rather flat without rocks or roots, we are able to go quite fast. On the way, we see my sweet hosts who warmingly cheer for us. We pass Argentiere, km 161, at 17h27 in 942* place. We just scan our numbers and leave the aid stop for the very last time. 

Already almost over ...
Following the cancellation of the Flegere climb, we have to reach Chamonix by the valley, like during my first CCC. This way has several steep ups and downs and is bombarded with rocks and roots again which again are an ordeal for my feet during the entire 9 kms. I try to keep going as much as I can but like a subconsciously deliberate act, though I want to get faster, I just don't. I get passed. But my feet are just hurting too much to run. It is quite difficult to accept that I have doing so great so far and that now only a few rock tosses away, I have to walk, slowly... Yet I hear a passer-by say that Chamonix is 30 minutes away and though I want to enjoy, I also want to enjoy the line and I can no longer wait to live this. I start running again. Oh shh feet! Yes there are still rocks and sometimes a bit sharp but let's get over it. I scamper but still, I go on a bit faster. "Pain is pshychological, victory physical".

I have now arrived, this trail is now ending and opens to a small street of Chamonix. Chamonix. I ask jokingly to a passer-by where we are, if by chance this would be Chamonix and she nods in agreement. No doubt. The Mont-Blanc, the Aiguille du Midi and all their friends are looking at us, I recognise those streets. I now scamper a little less and run a little more. A few streets later, I run along the Arve where a lot of people are gathered. I try to look at each of them, to make the most of it. I cannot really see the faces though but I can sense them cheering. My smile is as high as the Mont-Blanc. I run even faster and while I enter the rue Vallot, I have to stop. It's my turn to sob. Some people come up to me and put their hands on my shoulders saying: "Come on, come on, you're there". I know I'm there! It's this specific street where our hotel was five years ago, with a window towering all the finishers that I had cheered for all night long. I start running back again but I'm slowed down by the crowd getting bigger and narrowing our way through. I distinguish even less the faces but only a mass. My smile is back at 4000m. I cannot believe all these people. Ten, twenty meters further and I have to stop again. I inhale, exhale, and start again. I should walk and soak everything that is happening but I just run without realizing. I look left, I look right but I am just drawn to the line. Then, there, the last slight turn, towards the line. Kilian must be around because there's just so many people! I stop one last time on that very last turn. No tears come out yet my stomach is the size of a pea. My turn to "throat sing"... I take a few seconds and raise my head up again. I take a few steps, look around but only see blurry noiseless movements. I smile. And throat sing again. Smile again. And only a few centimeters away from the line, stomac contortions again as Lorraine jumps on me and grabs me in her arms. My smile is higher than ever yet I don't know what I feel. I don't know if I'm feeling anything at all for that matter. Everything just goes too fast. There are so many people everywhere, more runners are coming in and there isn't THE music, the finisher's music to which I've cried so many while watching the DVD and which was such a big part of the dream. But mom's jumping on me now as well and just after daddy dad as well. Dad, who, as you might have guessed, has 44h10 of dust in his eyes... Everything just goes too fast. Too many things are happening, too many people, I don't have time to understand and sink it in. I cannot be ruining my dream just now! Not after 44h10 and even less after 5 years! Let me make the most of it! Let me understand what I am living! But we have to make room for the others and I am asked to leave. I retrieve my 'finisher' vest with the "UTMB finisher" stamp on it for my 44h10 race, ending in 954* position, a stamp similar to the one forever engraved in my heart and soul. Gratianne, you are a UTMB finisher. I am a UTMB finisher. I just finished what I set out to do and started 5 years ago. I've completed my dream, I made it come true.

It was not a dream or rather it was and I made it come true...

5 years, always wanting it, always believing and never ever giving up before accomplishing it...
We remain on the arrival area for a few minutes. I do not think. I am back to that parralele time, from which I'm taken away from by Camilla, who arrived a few minutes before me and who's come to congratulate me. We hug each other. We did it. We finished. Grattis min kära kära vän. Still, everything goes too fast. 

Finally we go back to the hotel before heading out to the restaurant (French fooooood at last!). After all, this little walk in park made me quite hungry! So after a rather tricky shower post removing gooey and sticky clothes attached to my skin (they don't want it to be over either and want to stay in for some more!) and despite having slept for nano-seconds up in the tub, we run, well, not quite but still, hurry towards the restaurant before I fall asleep for 4 days. Au menu: ceps mushrooms fondue, fries and, since a platter of cheese would not have been reasonable -really-, I just had 3 scoops of ice-cream. Do not ask me how I was ever able to eat all of that and without being sick the following day because I would just not be able to answer you... I just did. And it was guuud! I am not quite sure either how I did not litteraly fall in the fondue pot dead asleep as my eyes were criss crossing like knitting kneedles but my team and I had just too much to talk about! I want to know their side of the race, I want to know if they are just as happy as I am, I want to know if they enjoyed, if they liked it, what they have lived or seen, etc. They too did a 44h10 race running to different places to see me with little sleep. Our bonds have grown even more and I want to make sure they know how much they have lifted me till this line. So as I understand this experience has meant just as much as it does to me, we go back to the car which I cannot recall starting, not even hearing the door shutting because I fell asleep maybe even in the street already. I fell asleep to new dreams, as I still have so many to make come true..

"Victories, small or big, are at reach every day if only you train to see them" (Is it me or my eyes are hazy??)

The race and 5 years in short:

There is a private joke running in the family about people 'analysing sport' following a French comedian's joke. It's partly true however what happened during this UTMB and in my ultras in general, goes beyond sports since so many friends, family and random people are involved. And 5 years of wait and resistence call for a little thinking... 
* Me and myself:

  1. The first feeling that crosses my mind is that I have completed the UTMB but not THE UTMB, not the one I had discovered 5 years ago and dreamed of since given we have not had Bovine nor La Flegere. Frank, a friend I met here, semi pro-triathlete once and Olympic trainer who does 600kms races in the Yukon in winter, told me that I could not degrade what I have accomplished. His mail stated: "Only the toughest in their heads could go through this edition. You did and therefore you showed you were -are- part of the toughest". And he does know and I hear him.
  2. Nonetheless, another big part of my dream was the arrival. Of course, as regards crowd and cheering, it was way bigger than I would have hoped for but it cannot fully compensate for the absence of this music that grabs your guts and makes your heart beat as fast as a hummingbird's wings. I wanted and waited for it. I know I would have heard it.
  3. The intensity on the line was not as I had thought either. Of course, it's been great when my team hugged me and indeed I have had stomac roller costers in the streets of Chamonix but I had thought that after 5 years thinking about it every other day, training for it and wanting it so so much, I thought I would have gone through an apocalyptic burst in my heart, gasping for air, and about to scream out my immeasurable joy. So maybe it was because it had been 5 years and 5 years getting so ready for it, and in particular since Les Chapieux where increasingly I was certain that I was going all the way, because of that, I was conditionned and just so ready. I think it would have been different if it had been difficult but I have not had any battle to fight during these 44h. Maybe the intensity has faded along the years from the moment I told dad "Next year you'll be chearing for me" though at no point did I hang on to this race "just to finish". It represents so much more to me, got me into the trail world and truly shaped me and for that it will always be a race appart.
  4. In addition, looking at my lack of soreness the following day (only knee pains and those gigantiquesque blisters), as almost every race, I believe I could have gone faster, in particular that last part. But the most important was to finish first. The good side is that I have a good progress margin. Always look at the positive.
  5. A last thought is that it all just went too fast. The finish line is so blurry in my memory, the streets crossing so short, the 44h, I really have not enjoyed and made the most of it enough and I regret that. Though it is for sure impossible to live it all 100%, too many things happen.
  6. Despite those few points, what have I not lived! What an incredible joy and happiness have I not forever engraved in my heart along this course. Regardless the first two hours with my foot fear, I have not stopped a split second being tremendously happy to be there and run. I cannot recall a moment where I grumbled or maybe only a neutral face when I arrived in Champex because I was just TOO sleepy. And my smile was always magnified by my team, just perfect.
  7. My team indeed, what can I say? They went beyond. They had told me upon arranging travel details that they were coming for me, to help me and accomplish this wish of mine. I concede I am volunteering myself on sports or other events to participate in the overall good experience of everyone but I am so grateful for the devotion to give me all the extra keys to reach my dream of mine. I still can't believe they went back to the hotel to get my fajitas! Or that Etienne my brother spent 44h on his cell! Or that my father drove hours to see me in the Chapieux while I only stayed a couple of minutes!! Really! So I humbly hope that my 'victory' is a reward for them or which ever the reward is, that it is as worthy as the strength they have given me. This gift of oneself is to be cherished and aknowledged in today's world. I had already read Kilian say that without his team and their logistics, he would not have done the Pyrenees crossing, the Lake Tahoe loop and all his other exploit in such record times. This year also his said: "That's also the charm of ultra-trail, this inner quest, these obstacles that push you dig deeper in our strength to be able to carry on. And when you get to share those moments, it's even better". Sometimes, I did not have to think or do anything, just  ask, like the pasta plate in Champex. Proof is I would have done not as good without them: the only time they were not in with me in the stop in Courmayeur, I lost a lot of time. They just have been perfect. This will remain as one of the best moments of our family life. That is my own ultra world and never will it change (or then I'll stop): to be in the mountains and share with the ones who and the ones I love.
  8.  The bottom line is it was just absolutely unbelievable and just so great. I got the chance to live so deep and beautiful moments: the sun rise in La Balme, opening the sun door at the top of La Seigne, the windy Grand Col Ferret at night, and that second night indeed with the funky moments and the starry sky. The warmth of the volunteers as well and everyone on the course. The few words with such and such. And all I have discovered about myself and gained: I know even more that ultra running is part of me and that I get to be part of it and again, all the parallele world moments with those automatic modes, the power of the mind over the body, proving that way too often we under-estimate our strength and shadow our will It is just about trying a bit more. Everything was just beyond extraordinaire.
  9. I am a finisher, finisher of the UTMB, finisher of what I started 5 years ago and that I never ever EVER let go. 
* Me via the others:

  1. In addition to all the spectators, volunteers and other runners met along the way, I have received an incredible amount of messages before, during and after. I am sincerely moved of course because again, it is my dream, and so many people have sent support to help reach it. Yet, I feel a bit of a gap. Everything went so well, it was a true awaken dream that I don't feel I deserve all these greetings. Many have used words like "exploit", "extraordinary", "impossible", "admiring", "hero", "fabulous", "amazing" but above all "exceptional". It's way too much! I dont' feel I deserve all these superlatives! I believe this stems in part from the fact I don't think I did a race per se, as opposed to the winners and top finishers, but rather a long 3-day non-stop hike. It might come from too that it has not been a big suprise to finish just because I wanted it so incredibly much and that I would have fought until I reasonably could not anymore. From the outside it may look a bit further to the understanding reach but I was prepared, I had it all in me to fight for it. I seriously think it has been easy and on the contrary that it has gone too fast, that I have not had enough. But this takes nothing away from the gratitude I have for each and everyone. I thank you wholeheartedly.
  2. However, if I see nothing in myself as "exceptional", I accept and actually take pride in the title of "example" I have been given. Mam was telling me several of my cousins have followed me online (we are all very close) and feel inspired by what I have done at the UTMB and the other races. Even my older sis' told me she was too, my older sis!! I am glad that the message I am showing and that remains is that when one wants something, you can have as long as you resort the necessary means. It's really so simple. I am glad that it is my determination that shows because it is key: you have to be determined to reach something. I understand in my case it has been a bit easier because all the trainings bring me happiness and I need it: sometimes as early as 5h30 because I want to meet with friends after work, sometimes under pouring rain ou under the snow (Sweden), going to bed early, training 5 to 6 times a week; all of that, I need it, it makes me happy, makes me feel alive and at no point is it a sacrifice or burden. But f you accept to want something, you have to accept to fight for it. And for that reason I could not be happier and actually more proud to this "example" because the reward for the ones who obtain it is so, so magnifying and impossibly comparable. To be able to tell oneself: "I reached my goal because I worked for it".
From tears ...
To laughter!

And a big smile because I get to share

My eyes might be half closed but my smile covers it all!
Med Camilla min svensk van!! (I do have scary eyes!!)

Kilian the master, sublime photo...

A bit of reading to do...

Course description : 5 years...

MERCI to each and everyone, who ever you are, whatever you said, thank you from the bottom of my heart. (and stay tuned for upcoming enchanted walks in the park!)

And please leave a message, whichever words you use! ;)


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