Preparing for the Race Ahead

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. The Big Kahuna. The gnarliest mutha. The French/Italian/Swiss butt whooping. Whatever you call it, we are talking about the same thing: the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) 100-mile trail race.  First, let me tell you how I got here and what the heck all this means:

My name is Sydney Pitt. I work for Icebreaker as the Account Manager for the South US. Before I came aboard the flock, I was an Icebreaker lover. Always wore it, always loved it. One of the very best things is being able to wear the pieces multiple times without washing (travel, anyone?!). As true Icebreaker die-hards know, our mantra is “Adventure in Nature.” Having always been the outdoorsy type, as well as a runner, I feel pretty connected to the whole “Adventure in Nature” thing. For the past 4 years, I’ve really been loving the trail running scene.  Friendly folks, gorgeous views, and pain for days!  After getting a few 100 mile trail races under my belt, UTMB became even more attractive. High mountain views, friendly European villages to welcome the runners, running alongside Killian and Anton and Rory (oh my!), and really just the allure of the event. Unlike other races, this one isn’t just the type one can sign up for. One must accrue points over a period of time to qualify to even be in the lottery, to then have the chance to be drawn for the race.  On January 15th this year, after I’d spent many hours day dreaming of this moment, my name was drawn. Dang! I couldn’t believe I got in. Ultra marathoners all around the world hold UTMB in high regard. Firstly, it is the largest 100 miler in the world (roughly 2,600 entrants), the race passes through three of Europe’s most scenic countries, and has the most elevation change of any 100 in the world (70,000 feet).

Training started shortly after the draw. Hills for breakfast, hills for lunch, hills for dinner, hills for snack. You get the idea. Living in Austin, Texas (while fabulous), isn’t the most conducive place to train for a mountain race. I’ve been able to go up to Colorado a few times this summer to do some trail races and mountain training, but I’ve been spending a lot of time on the incline treadmill at the Pure Austin, a local fitness club that is an Austin institution. Sleep and recovery are the other most important components of training, and I’ve been trying to keep up with those as well.

Ok, I’ll try to answer the questions I’m most commonly asked.  The time limit is 46 hours. No, we do not sleep. Well, I guess we could stop in one of the little villages and catch a few minutes of shut eye, but that’s not really my style. Do we stop? No, not really. Except to eat…and eat we do! The race has well stocked aid stations about every 10-12k or so. In UTMB you will find things like dried meats (think Prosciutto), baguette, soft cheeses, chocolate, candies, coffee, coke, cookies, etc.  Hell, I’d pay just to go to this ‘buffet’!  Where do we go to the bathroom? Does a bear squat in the woods? Yes, so do trail runners. Unless we are at one of the little villages where toilets are at the ready, the outside is our toilet. Lastly, why.  Why am I doing this?  Ultra runners have a hard time explaining the allure of vomit, cramps, fatigue, hallucinations, and more to those who do not relate and don’t want to taste it themselves.  Running started out as a way to maintain fitness and allow me to eat Fois Gras and Ribeyes like the world is ending, but it has really become a hobby and a way I like to travel the world. The vistas and sites I will be privy to in this race are only available to those who work our way to each peak and valley. The fact that I can do these things is my motivation. Why not?  A wise woman once told me to never live a life I am less capable of, and I won’t!

An event like this takes dedication, but I’m not the type to take these things so seriously that I forget to have fun. Race week we will be celebrating my Mom’s 62nd birthday in Chamonix with bottles of champagne and delicious steak tartare. I guess what I mean is the best life is a balanced life. So I believe in the work hard-play hard mentality.  I just happen to take my hobbies to the extreme.

So, the big race day is almost here (August 29th). All the training is in the books. Now I’m just trying to maintain my fitness and not go crazy. After the race my awesomely supportive boyfriend and a few friends and I will be vacationing in Europe while we eat delicious food (my other hobby) and relax. Oh who am I kidding, and HIKE in those alps. Stay tuned for a post-race summary with photos, tears, and reviews of the best Merino apparel anyone could wear for an adventure in nature, Icebreaker.

– Sydney Pitt, Icebreaker Account Manager