To make it short first, I didn't manage to complete the race this year :(

Contents:

Update: added pictures (27/09/2006)

A good start
The full story now. After a week of rest in Nice, I felt pretty much relaxed for the big day. I spent the entire Friday in my bed, excepted a short trip to the pasta party. On Friday afternoon, the stress was growing in me. Will I or will I not finish the loop ? Will my hip be all right ? Then the start was given. The first kilometers up to the Col de Voza were not particularly enjoyable, due to the stress. I started slowly, in the mass, to rank 1045th at the Col. But I then entered properly the run and started to get happy running. Supporters at the Contamines and the rock band at the Chapieux were amazing, just as last year. Soundtrack of the Contamines check point includes "Dancefloor FG" which was part of the music I listened last year on my MP3 :) . At the Chapieux (km 44), I was already ranking under 500th.


Julien @ UTMB 2006 (mini)
(Click to enlarge)


I had my first fear in the descent by night to the Chapieux. I twisted my right ankle in a hole I hadn't seen. For half a minute I thought the UTMB was already over for me, after only 40km. But suprisingly it was actually fine. Up to Courmayeur (km 72), I arrived at the checkpoints at the same time than last year, or slightly earlier. Feelings were good, clear mind, good speed (but very cold night !).

I managed the big stop at Courmayeur much better than last year. Pasta were yummy, but too much al dente to be digested easily in the middle of a race. I didn't force it, got a massage and left quickly. Ascent to the refuge Bertone was so much easier than last year :) . At that point, I was about an hour ahead of my 2005 time. The weather was really nice and sunny. I was still relatively fresh physically and felt like I would be able to push it: I could still run very easily in every flat section.

Deception
The descent to Arnuva would break my dreams: the very gentle but steadily growing ache in my left ankle (ie. not the one I previously twisted) started to be really annoying. It was painful while running or going downhill. Doctors at Arnuva gave me some strong anti-inflamatories. I then climbed the Grand Col Ferret (highest point of the race) relatively easily, especially regarding to last year, when I needed to stop and sit down several times. But the descent to La Fouly became increasingly harder. Steep slopes were a torture and I couldn't even run the gentle ones. Anti-inflamatories didn't seem to help at all. I was continuously being overtaken. At La Fouly (km 102), kinesitherapists gave me a strapping with compression points. I planned to walk up to the big check point of Champex and then see. Unfortunately, strappings were also useless and even walking on flat terrain became painful, and I took more than 2 hours to walk 7 easy kilometers. During this section, I was overtaked by all the runners that were still able to run (including Michel Poletti, the organiser, quite suprising) and then I was left alone for a while. At Praz de Fort (km 110) still 45 minutes ahead of my previous time, I decided to stop the destruction and to withdraw ... I know pain, just like cold, is only a conception of the mind, but I really couldn't go any further. As I managed to run at least 100km, I'm an arrivant (which means finisher), instead of being a finisher (in English in the text)... I ranked 1370th.


Julien @ UTMB 2006 (mini)
(Click to enlarge)
Live times
2005 2006
Way Point Distance Running time Rank Running time Time diff. Rank
Col de Voza 13km 01h55min50s wrong01h54mn53s-1min1045
Les Contamines 25km 03h29min59s 53703h24mn34s-5min700
La Balme 33km 04h50min24s 41104h48mn13s-2min584
Refuge Croix du Bonhomme 38km    06h18mn52s 489
Les Chapieux 44km 07h14min28s 37007h03mn54s-10min464
Col de la Seigne 54km 09h35min30s 34509h11mn59s-23min384
Refuge Elisabetta 58km 10h08min37s 34209h46mn44s-22min363
Arête Mont-Favre 63km 11h31min02s 32510h55mn00s-36min352
Col Chécrouit - Maison Vieille 67km 12h15min32s 33311h36mn14s-39min337
Courmayeur 72km 12h56min02s 31912h16mn50s-39min338
Refuge Bertone 77km 15h18min49s 30814h25mn01s-54min357
Refuge Bonatti 84km 17h10min40s 36315h43mn13s-1h27min333
Arnuva 89km 18h08min06s 35016h41mn47s-1h26min323
Grand Col Ferret 93km 19h41min59s 32618h13mn25s-1h29min307
La Peulaz 97km 20h18min09s 31818h48mn16s-1h30minwrong
La Fouly 102km 21h13min23s 30419h49mn12s-1h24min316
Praz de Fort 111km 22h43min24s 28121h57mn42s-45min369
Champex d'en Bas 119km 24h29min32s 275   
Bovine 126km 27h25min17s 256   
Trient 132km 29h01min24s 258   
Les Tseppes 135km 30h20min10s 251   
Vallorcine 142km 32h21min29s 248   
Argentière 149km 33h45min42s 243   
Chamonix - Arrivée 158km 35h31min37s 233   


Julien @ UTMB 2006 (mini)
(Click to enlarge)
Conclusions
I'm globally surprised how I felt globally very well, especially in the big ascents, as I didn't have as much specific training as last year. My hip didn't complain so far. I'm also happy about my management of the food points, much more efficient and without any trouble with my stomach. And overall, how my mind was clear all way long - I could really enjoy the race and the landscape. So where does that tendinitis-like pain come from ? I had a very slight ache probably due to rock climbing a week before. It may be the starting point that dehydration may have made worse. Today it's even hard to walk normally. I hope that will heal soon!

It seems that runners were pretty good this year: 1151 (nearly half) of them finished the loop! Congratulations to all of them. Also, people were faster (eg. at La Fouly, I got a similar ranking although I was about 1h30 ahead).

I know it's not recommended, but I did a bit of gear testing during the race... I eventually decided to take the Raidlight shoulder strap bottle (see "Shock week-end" in North Wales). I managed to remove a pipe hook from the strap to make it more stable and I also shortened the pipe. But I'm still not 100% convinced. I think I'll need to stitch it directly to the strap. I also tried my new head torch Petzl Myo XP, which is pretty powerful and lasted easily all night at full power.

I've raised again some funds for AVERT - this year I've collected £331.21. Unfortunately, it's quite as much as last year, because I did not manage to complete the loop and also because I had less time for fundraising. A big thank you to you all donators !

So what's next ? It's hard for me to leave the UTMB on a failure, so I'm quite tempted to try it again next year. But I also want a bit of change. I've been thinking of the West Highland Way or the much flatter Grand Union Canal 145 miles Race. Any suggestion welcome!

Ultra deception.