Ultra-Trail® du Mont Blanc or UTMB® as its better known, is the pinnacle of the ultra distance mountain running in the world and forms part of the Ultra-Trail® World Tour. It takes place once a year on either the last weekend of August or the first weekend in September in the Alps. The trail follows the route of the ‘Tour du Mont Blanc’ hiking trail through France, Italy and Switzerland, looping the Mont Blanc Massif. It usually takes hikers between 7 and 9 days to complete.

It has a distance of approximately 171 kilometres (106 mi), and a total elevation gain of around 10,040 metres (32,940 ft). It is widely regarded as one of the most difficult foot races in the world, and one of the largest with more than 2,500 starters. It is one of the races during a week-long festival based around Chamonix, France. This race has strict entry and qualification requirements attained by accumulating enough race points through qualifying trail races over the previous two-year period. In 2016 and 2017, 42% and 34% of runners did not finish the UTMB® race.

While the best runners complete the loop in slightly more than 20 hours, most runners take 32 to 46 hours to reach the finish line. Most runners will have to run through two nights in order to complete the race.

I have qualified and will be racing the 2019 edition of the UTMB on the 30TH of August 2019 and this is my road to UTMB®. This will provide you with a monthly glimpse of what it takes to prepare and hopefully finish the UTMB®.

As a build-up to UTMB®, this journey will also see me prepare and race the Mac Mac Ultra 100 miler at the end of May 2019. A single-stage foot race that covers 161km (100 miles), and a total elevation gain of around 7,500 metres (24606 ft) from Pilgrim’s Rest to Sabie in Mpumalanga, South Africa.

So let’s start at the beginning… I’m a corporate legal counsel by day and an avid low-carb ultra-distance mountain runner the rest of the time. I started running ultra-distance at the end of 2016 after the bug bit me. It’s tough going most of the time, balancing work-life with the running-life and the various other life and family commitments.

Its been a rollercoaster 2019 so far, most of January has been spent nursing and recovering from an ankle and foot injury that I picked up at the end of last year. There was not much in terms of training volume to speak of, but I am glad to be back running, even if most of the runs were made up of run/walks.

February dawned, and I have picked up training and started running more volume, in terms of distance and climbing, but also working on loads of speed drills and tempo work to increase my leg turn-over and general running speed.

The typical weekly mileage for February has been between 60km and 100km, with climbing around 3000m (9842 ft) as I build up the base over 5 weekly runs. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s are reserved for sessions to improve my speed, leg turnover and aerobic base, with Thursday’s aimed at working on climbing. Saturday’s and Sunday’s are spent on trails, focusing on distance and time on technical and race-specific terrain.

During the longer Saturday and Sunday runs, I focus on my nutrition. Depending on the distance and time that I will spend out on the trails, it will either start out fasted (for shorter time and distance efforts) or a nutritious higher fat-content breakfast (for the longer efforts). Distance and time requirements have not been excessive and I have to date not required nutrition during any of the runs.

Hydration remains critical, particularly with the long weekend runs. For electrolytes during and after these runs I’m using Keto Nutrition Sports’ Hydro+ and depending on the time of day and ambient temperature during the runs, I consume around 350ml of Hydro+ and 350ml of water per 15km.

February hasn’t been plain sailing or drama free but despite missing a week due to a respiratory tract infection, I have been able to run on the Portuguese Islands, in the KZN Midlands and even on a cruise liner.

March will bring its own challenges but I am ready.

My word’s of wisdom to you... Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.― Dean Karnazes”

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