Photo by Chris Neilson

Keely Henninger placed fourth in the 2017 UTMB CCC 101k, and she wanted to drop some tips for anyone planning to test their mettle around Mont Blanc in the upcoming UTMB races this week.

The GU Crew will be in Chamonix for the festivities, so if you’re in the area, stay tuned to our social media channels for info about shakeout runs and other events!  #GUTMB

How does one prepare for a 100km race that travels through three countries in a day? Well, to be honest, I am not sure that you can prepare fully for such a trek, but here are a few tips that’ll make it a little bit easier!

Climb slowly and steadily. And learn to work them poles!

Right out of the gate the UTMB race starts with a 10km with 5,000’ of climbing. Don’t be afraid to take it out slow. If you can keep moving throughout the race on the hills by not taxing yourself too early, you will be in a good position in the latter half of the race.  Poles will be your best friend (if you have practiced with them) and can alleviate some of the fatigue these climbs will have on your legs and disperse it throughout many other muscles in the body.  When some of the climbs can take well over 2 hours, don’t be afraid to go slow and steady and embrace those poles.

Don’t forget about the cows.

There are going to be a lot of instances during the UTMB CCC where you think you are coming up on a boisterous crowd or aid station. Don’t get too excited and down the last of your water or gel storage. The bells you are hearing are most likely attached to happy cows.  If you’re like me, you won’t help but let out a little chuckle at the sight of them. Laughing is okay- ride those ‘oxen’dorphins!

Eat. Eat. Eat. And… Dare I say, eat?

Longer races result in slower running speeds and long days out in the woods.  Add in carrying poles and long, slow climbs and hours can go by like minutes. Trail-running burns a lot of calories with its undulating terrain, off-camber trails, and monstrous climbs.  Make sure to eat; a lot.  There is no room for your pride when you feel a bonk coming on, if you find yourself in a nutritional hole, stop and eat! You will make back the time later.  Eating early on and frequently (I do Coconut Chocolate Gu every 20-30 minutes) will help you steer clear of the bonk and running steady.

Don’t be afraid to practice your second (or third or fourth or non-existent) language.

The beauty of these races is in the comradery. There are thousands of athletes setting out to cover >100km through the alps from all across the world.  Don’t be intimidated by language barriers, we are all doing the same task and enduring the same downfalls.  A smile or a high-five can go along way to boost excitement.  And who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and run into someone who speaks a language you remember vaguely from high school and can have a go at a conversation to pass the time. 

Smile. A lot.

Smiling has been proven to boost positive endorphins and reduce the feeling of fatigue.  Need I say more?  This probably won’t be a dominant focus of your UTMB training plan, but you’ll automatically feel better, make those who witness the smile feel better, and be guaranteed to look good in mid-race pictures taken by photographers hiding around the bend.  Smile through the pain, it will help, and make you remember that since you are the one who signed up for this demonic but beautiful race, you ought to enjoy it.

What to Pack for your UTMB Race

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