How to Succeed at UTMB


If you thought the qualifying process for the Boston Marathon was sophisticated, try Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, the enduring mountain-ultra-trail race whose 2018 lottery opens subsequent month. More than 17,000 folks utilized for spots at 1 the 5 distances provided this yr; simply over 7,000 shall be accepted. Every applicant needed to accumulate a minimal variety of factors at acknowledged extremely path races all over the world. To apply for the total circumnavigation of Mont Blanc, which includes operating 106 miles by way of France, Switzerland, and Italy whereas climbing (and descending) virtually 34,000 toes, candidates wanted 15 factors inside the previous 2 years.

Still, getting an entry is the simple half in comparison with really attending to the end line. As ultrarunning’s recognition has grown over the previous decade, coaching approaches have developed, and researchers have begun to check the keys to success. The fruits of that analysis are collected in a brand new guide (translated from the unique French) referred to as How to Succeed at UTMB, by Guillaume Millet and François Nicot.

Millet, who heads the Neuromuscular Fatigue Lab on the University of Calgary, is a former elite cross-country skier and ultrarunner himself and one of many world’s main extremely researchers. The guide gives an in depth information to making ready for and racing UTMB, however its insights are priceless for anybody who desires to discover the mountain-ultra-trail world, the place most of the “normal” guidelines of operating now not apply. Here are a couple of highlights.

An Ultra Trail Race Is Not Just a Long Trail Race

A 10Ok race is twice so long as a 5K race. But a marathon shouldn’t be, on any scale that issues, merely twice so long as a 1/2 marathon. Somewhere past 20 miles, the character of the problem modifications. The identical is true for races like UTMB, the calls for of which might’t merely be extrapolated from shorter path races based mostly on the gap and elevation to be coated. You must cope with sleep deprivation and grasp fueling on the run. Durability—your legs’ skill to face up to the pounding of repeated descents—is extra essential than effectivity. And the stability between physiological attributes like VO2max and psychological attributes just like the willingness to endure discomfort is tilted sharply towards the latter.

Learn to Walk (with Poles)

Walking is extra economical than operating when the uphill slope exceeds 13 to 15 p.c, and also you’ll possible really feel that transition and make the swap naturally. But at a race like UTMB, that’s not sufficient. You must be taught to begin strolling earlier than you’re pressured to begin strolling, even on gentler slopes. That’s a psychological adjustment. And you want to bodily put together for strolling by doing it in coaching, ideally on slopes much like what you’ll be racing on, as a result of it makes use of totally different muscle groups than operating.

Millet and Nicot are additionally huge believers in utilizing poles for uphill propulsion and downhill shock absorption. American ultrarunners have historically been skeptical about poles, however the guide quotes Tim Tollefson, who has completed 3rd on the previous 2 UTMBs, about his conversion to poles earlier than the 2016 race: “I realized how easy it was for me on the long climbs, especially when my legs were tired. I owe them a lot, I think.”

Float Down the Hills

Only sedentary folks suppose climbing is the toughest a part of path operating, in accordance with Millet and Nicot. On downhill slopes steeper than 15 p.c, the impression forces are amplified by 50 p.c in comparison with operating on degree floor. As a end result, when Millet and his colleagues studied UTMB runners in 2011, they discovered ranges of creatine kinase, a marker of muscle harm, that averaged 13,000 UI/L, and in 2 instances exceeded 45,000 UI/L, ranges you’d count on in somebody with extreme rhabdomyolysis, although on this case nobody suffered opposed penalties.

To mitigate the harm, you want to be taught to chill out as you descend so you possibly can keep away from slamming on the brakes with every step. There are 2 keys varieties of coaching classes: First, lengthy steady descents to accustom your muscle groups to the pounding. Spend 2 or 3 hours operating down a ski hill and taking the chairlift again up. Second, apply quick and quick technical descents on steep slopes, with a protracted restoration between reps. This will allow you to grasp stability and foot placement so it turns into 2d nature.

Plan “Weekend Shocks”

Marathoners construct up their weekly long term till they’re overlaying near the total race distance. That’s not an affordable choice for 100-milers. The normal different with a greater risk-reward ratio is to plan two- or three-day stretches of condensed coaching with a number of days of full restoration afterward. Aim for between 2 and 6 of those weekend shocks, with the final 1 about 4 weeks earlier than the race.

Not the entire weekend shock coaching needs to be operating. The guide cites ultrarunner Sébastien Camus’ pre-UTMB shock of an eight-to-nine-hour bike journey with 16,000 toes of whole elevation acquire, adopted by a day of simpler operating, then a seven-hour mountain run. To simulate the calls for of the race, the weekend ought to combine in some strolling and a major quantity of downhill operating—although it might be finest to save lots of the most important downhill stretches till the 2d day to keep away from prematurely trashing your legs.

Stockpile Sleep

Finishing instances on this yr’s race ranged from 19 to 46 hours, so except you win the race, you’re going to be coping with some sleep deprivation. Last yr, Millet teamed up with the French Armed Forces Biomedical Research Institute to check the advantages of stockpiling sleep within the week main as much as a interval of sleep deprivation. Subjects had been requested to go to mattress 2 hours sooner than regular for six days in a row. Then, their muscular endurance was assessed earlier than and after a sleepless evening. Staying up all evening nonetheless sapped their endurance, however solely by 1/2 as a lot as below regular circumstances.

Put all this recommendation collectively and UTMB will in all probability nonetheless be the toughest factor you’ve ever carried out in your life—which is form of the purpose. The latest development of this form of race, Millet and Nicot write, “owes much to the urge to test limits and feel pain that practically no longer exists in the modern world.” But the one ache worse than ending a problem like this isn’t ending it, so it’s value getting the preparations proper.

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(Editor references)

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