Extreme Energy Events hosted an Alps Ultra Seminar, aimed at those looking to undertake races and runs in the high mountains, but also for those embarking on the UTMB race series of events. Headlining were Nicky Spinks, Neil Thubron, Damian Hall, Colin Barnes and Robbie Britton. Each speaker had a wealth of personal knowledge, from competing at the front of the elite pack, to finishing where us mere mortals spend the majority of the time.
I should explain this isn’t a break down of the day, I had been invited to take photos and these are the the reflections that stuck with me. If you’d like a full break down, keep your eyes peeled for blogs or sign up for the next seminar
Aimed at all levels of ability and knowledge, covering all aspects of preparation; the course, racing, food, kit, logistics and the mental game.Neil was first to speak, setting the scene and lining up the rest of the speakers. Neil’s area of interest was the psychology, how runners can mentally prepare and deal with any situation in their training or race day. Attendees were encouraged to write down their journey to this moment and the goals they wish to achieve.Nicky needs little introduction and her 11th Female place at the 2016 edition of UTMB gives her a status which few UK women share. Referring to her experiences of her Double Bob Graham Round and two attempts at the race, it became clear Nicky is a meticulous planner. From pinning a route map to her wall, to studying photos and videos for clues to course markings and checkpoints, to the food and drink on offer. Little is left to chance.This is in turn allows her to relax, make her own substitutes and preparations where required and above all have surprises on race day. Lunch followed the theme of the day, with a platter similar to that of many European races of fruit, biscuits, cheese, cold meats, nuts, cake and noodle soup. In complete contrast to Nicky, Damian, who finished 19th overall at 2016’s UTMB entertained the audience with his hap hazard, eloquently constructed version of events. Someone who prefers the sense of adventure, he actively looks to keep the course and its unique quirks a secret, instead discovering them on the day. Apparently there are a lot more runnable sections than you may think…Working through his pack, Damian showed just how light you can go, if you’re willing to opt for ultra light kit. However, and Damian agreed, that if the weather was questionable or there as a good chance of running in prolonged rain that heavier weight alternatives are more appropriate. Colin Barnes, co-owner of MyRaceKit is a gear specialist and although their main trade is for multi day races, many of the lessons and equipment is suitable for UTMB races of all distances. As Colin said himself, you can liken each checkpoint to the beginning/end of a stage.From poles to flasks, head torches to waterproofs, the key lesson was that getting by on the bare minimums isn’t enough. You need to plan for the conditions, be comfortable in your choices and above all know what to do when the weather turns, equipment fails or you meet unexpected issues.Robbie Britton, 11th at CCC in 2016 and a resident of Chamonix for the past two years was leaching his passion for the entire event. It couldn’t be contained. Someone who moved to the area specifically to adapt to the terrain and challenges the Alps pose to someone from London. With the smallest notes in the history of speaking, the audience was guided round each of the four courses, col by col, checkpoint to fountain, his intricate course knowledge was there to see. Full of humour and anecdotes which swiftly led him off his own course, everyone was laughing at his laid back approach. Above all, XRNG’s Alps Ultra Seminar was a grounding place for all abilities to ask any question without the fear of being belittled. There was no sense of superiority regardless of experience, proposed race or knowledge and the entire group engage throughout.
For anyone looking for an incite into the world of UTMB, the course really is a worthy investment.