Polartec Athlete Advisory Board Member Laurent Valette competed in the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in the Alps last month. Here’s his story:
UTMB. The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc – the epitome of ultra-running. More than 2,000 runners enter UTMB each year, typically representing over 75 different nations. Widely regarded as the most difficult foot race in Europe, it reportedly has an attrition rate that hovers above 50%. I entered and finished in 32 hours to earn 144th place in 2009 and decided to test my luck again this year in Chamonix, France.
Due to rough weather, organizers decide to shorten this year’s race. They didn’t consider cancelling it, but shortened it to a mere 104 kilometers with 6,000+ meters of elevation gain, rather than the originally planned 166 km and 9,800+ meters. A little bit of weather wasn’t going to spoil all of the fun.
All 2,400 runners started at 7 p.m. on Friday, August 31 in Chamonix under an intense and foreboding rain. It would rain and snow from that moment until 7 a.m. the next morning, giving us 12 brutal hours of continuous wet and cold (-5C to +7C) conditions.
Right from the start, I donned my Polartec® Neoshell® jacket to protect from the rain. I was relieved to find that the jacket repelled water the entire night, allowing me to stay dry and stay moving.
After just 30 kilometers, I lost my footing and slammed my knee on a rock, hard. The pain was intense, and I had to take several moments to register the severity of my injury. With 74 km to go, I decided to press on through the pain. After the injury, the most important thing for me was to finish – my ranking no longer had any significance. Staying dry in the NeoShell jacket – perfectly suited for effort in harsh conditions – helped keep my spirits up.
As the grueling race dragged on, it became more of an internal, mental battle to keep moving than a physical struggle. I was absolutely ecstatic, albeit exhausted, when I finally crossed the finish line. Despite my injuries, I finished 383rd out of 2,400 total participants.
Polartec Athlete Advisory Board Member Laurent Vallete is an ultra-runner and adventure racer. He placed 17th in the Mauritius Island Ocean Classic 2012 and will compete in Argentina’s Race World Cup Series and the Rodrigues Trail Race in the Indian Ocean this year. Stay tuned!