Au Revoir, UTMB

Every era needs to come to an end and with my personal competitive plans and the UTMB, it feels like that time is here now. I’ve run the race before as well as the CCC in 2018 and in 2021, I’m fired up to have one more proper go at it. This doesn’t mean that I would not come back with a different approach, for example, I do have dreams of doing the PTL one day and would love to do the UTMB one day with my daughter.

The 2021 plan has been forming in my head for a long time now. 2021 was supposed to be 2020, but with COVID everything was pushed back. I wanted to take the first opportunity to do the race though, so postponing to this year was an easy choice. It’s been sitting at the back of my mind from the beginning of the year, but plans really started solidifying a bit later in the spring.

As I’ve written earlier, there needs to be an emotional investment into these things if you want to do well and stoke the fire. I’m someone who wouldn’t do very well without having some internal reason and drive to do this stuff. For example, in 2018 in the CCC I wasn’t quite sure why I was there. I was lacking my own reasons to do the race, so I ended up adopting Maija’s. It was great. Another thing happened in 2018 that was important – Ville Maksimainen re-set the all-time Finnish record on the UTMB course at 27hr 47 min. That’s around the time I thought I could have done in 2016 without the problems I ended up having. This gave me a sufficiently audacious goal to target and good motivation for training, etc. This goal feels just right – I was there in 2018 when Ville did this and his performance was textbook solid. The guy was like on rails the entire race as far as I could tell. To beat that time, I’d have to bring out the best in me, avoid problems and probably also need a bit of luck. I was a different runner in 2016, likely by all key physical parameters I was a better runner then, but 5 years later also means around 12k mountain kilometers and 600k+ vert more in my legs, that must mean something in terms of robustness and skill. I have no idea how the current me stacks up with the 2016 version on the UTMB course, but it’ll be fun to find out.

The other big factor was that some friends got excited about crewing me. I now have a big crew of 4 people who are somewhat new to the sport, plus my wife for some added emotional support. The impact of this has so far been significant, because of these people now caring about my race and lending a hand, I’ve had to do my part in training and I’ve probably been the most consistent I’ve ever been in preparing for a race. I’ve done pretty much everything I wanted to do and then some to get ready for this.

Yet another thing is that I’m again planning to run with Maija, at least to the point where it benefits the both of us. I’ve done a couple of races with her before and we make a nice pair. She’s faster than me, especially on the climbs and earlier in the race, so she’ll likely drag me along in the beginning. I will do what I can do help her be patient and ready to kick ass later in the race. However, we’ll make sure that neither one slowing down either one’s race so we’ll see how it all plays out. Would be great to at least run through the night together.

In terms of strategy, my thinking is that you can only play with the cards you are dealt with on the day. My crew has been analyzing splits and will keep me up to date with how things are going, but in reality there is only so much I can do about sticking to them. I want to get to Courmayer – near the half point mark with everything being solid. Champex will be important to get ready to face the final parts of the race – with three brutal final climbs, lots of time to be lost or gained here, along with tremendous potential for suffering if not done right. I’ll be racing somewhat conservatively, while taking advantage of any good moments I may encounter along the way.

Really looking forward to the journey, as well as the support of my crew and meeting my wife at the finish line – she’s my totem and the hug at the finish line is a moment I’ll be visualizing during the tougher moments of the race.

Hope some of you will be following and perhaps this little write-up will help bring some perspective into my race.