Sunday, August 28, 2011

UTMB: DNF

I dropped out of the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc last night at Trient. The decision wasn't difficult as I couldn't walk, let alone run. Needless to say, I am disappointed. I pride myself on being able to grind all day long, but for some reason I just couldn't keep going last night.

I am still processing my feelings about the run, the race and the organization, but before I get to some of the major shortcomings of this race, I'd first like to say how impressed I am with the guys at the front of the pack yesterday. They are clearly in a different class right now and supported by far and away the best crews in the business. I really do not think there are enough superlatives in the English language to explain how impressive Kilian is in the mountains and for that matter as a person in general.

I'd also like to congratulate teammate Darcy Africa on her huge third-place finish, Mike Foote on his 11th, my young buddy Nick Pedatella for his 14-place finish, and to teammate Scott Jaime for grinding out yet another result. Oh, and not forgetting Mike Wolfe, who I passed on the way down to Martigny and who I was certain would drop, but who still managed to grind out a finish. You guys are awesome and I'm proud to call all of you friends.

Now with regards to the race - and I'm not trying to make excuses here - but I had no idea (not even an inkling) that the course had been changed until I was actually on the re-route (some 125 kilometers in). Coming out of Champex, I was mentally prepared for the 700 meter (2,300 foot) climb up Bovine. I had been climbing well all day and was enjoying the ascents way more than the descents. Nonetheless, I was counting the climbs down. Bovine was to be the second-to-last climb and mentally I had already finished the race coming out of Champex - there was no doubt in my mind as to whether or not I would finish, it was just a matter of working through the remaining hours and climbs.

And then, oddly, I started descending and descending some more all the while waiting for the turn up to Bovine pass. Two miles out of Champex I passed a very pissed off Mike Wolfe. He had learned from his crew at Champex that the race organizers had tacked on the extra distance, climb and descent, and he passed that information on to me. The decision had been made in the wee hours of the morning some twelve (12) hours earlier. According to a post-race interview with Kilian, the Salomon guys knew as the sun was coming up over Col de La Seigne. Why the race organization weren't telling people at Courmayeur is a mystery to me. At Trient, where I dropped, they told me that I had been sent a text informing me of the change! Really?

Strange as it may seem, I am not in the habit of checking my messages when racing.

So anyway, we descended the 3,500 feet down into some village outside of Martigny, climbed another, probably, 1,000 feet and then descended 500 more into the Martigny aid station. I hadn't had water in probably an hour and the sun was burning. I was prepared nutrition and water wise for a one-hour climb to a high, cool pass, not for a two-hour descent into a steamy valley. When they told me that I would have to climb a bonus 3,600 feet to get back on course I was beyond pissed off. I essentially checked out of the race there and then. Nonetheless I hoofed it up to the pass going back and forth in my mind as to what I should do. When I finally did make it up to the pass another 90 minutes later I had lost the mental fortitude to keep my legs from seizing up and the decision to drop was an easy one. What should have been an hour and a half to Trient ended up being closer to three and a half hours, yet I left Champex unaware of that.

As anyone who has raced an endurance event knows, especially one as demanding as a mountain 100-miler, there is a very strong connection between the performance of the mind and the performance of the body. A huge part of being successful in completing these events is an understanding of what lies in front of you. Your mind prepares your body, and your body delivers an output that is sustainable for the mileage and elevation change that remains. If the mind is checked out, the body follows. The unannounced Martigny re-route was just too big of a curveball for me and I lost my mental edge. Had race officials told me that morning in Courmayeur I could have made the necessary mental preparations and I am almost certain that I would have finished.

I am sure that my ramblings here sound like excuses, and I guess they are, but they are at least honest - if maybe a bit raw. I lost the mental battle and my race was over. The race organization did a very poor job in communicating information to runners.

It's funny the juxtaposition between the immense amount of organization that goes into ensuring that there are helicopters and endless video cameras on course to cover the UTMB event and yet they cannot get even the simplest of messages out to runners on course. I come away from this experience with a very mixed bag of emotions. The event is impressive, sure, but behind the grandeur they seem to have lost sight of the very basic elements of putting on a successful race. I could go on, but I won't.

I think if I ever do get to lap Mont Blanc, it will be alone with my kids and wife. We will decide what we want to carry. We will pick a start time and a route. And then we will stick to it.

154 comments:

  1. That's like the super bowl quarterback blaming how he lost the game because of a bad call in the fourth quarter.....only the final score was 50-0...and the quarterback quit in the middle of the fourth.

    You guys at the top have no idea how many people were rooting for you! We love you guys, we really do. I know it's tough to convey our support from our cell phones and computers. Heck, tell us how we can support you more! Seein twitter pictures of the DNFers whose training and racing we've followed all year, laughing it up was a bit disappointed. The Americans (and Brits) want more support? Take it as serious as the Europeans. If anyone from team salomon had dnfed how do you think they'ed handle it?

    Saying your done with the race because of "the organization" certainly sounds like a kid taking his ball and going home...

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  2. In France, the cell phone is regularly used by the organization to inform the participants.
    In the obligatory material, you can see " - mobile phone with option enabling its use in the three countries
    (put in one’s repertoire the security numbers of the organisation, KEEP IT SWITCHED ON, do not hide one’s number and do not forget to set off with recharged batteries)".
    These are the regulations. Maybe you don't like them; but, by registering to the race, you must follow them.

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  3. Come on, anonymous. You are rudely calling out Nick for voicing his opinion on his blog, yet YOU do not have the courage to even put your name to your comments. At least he puts his name to what he said. Looks like the kettle is much blacker than the pot this time.

    Nick- thanks for this great post. I definitely understand where you are coming from- I can't imagine getting to the late stages of the race, then having reroutes that throw off the your nutrition and having to deal with that much more elevation change. We were rooting for you and were surprised to see a drop so late in the race from such a grinder like yourself, but this post really displays how much your got thrown off your game. Like you said, once the mind checks out, the body follows. Speedy recovery, and we'll see you back kicking butt soon.

    One last question- UROC?

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  4. Maybe this is the main reason why so many US runners dropped : they are used to be assisted on US races, not to run in autonomy and face with the unexpected. Not to bring enough water and food to be able to run just a few miles more is unconceivable to me. In France we know It is not rare that a race is a few miles longer than announced, or that we have to run 10 or 15 miles without provisioning, so runners bring reserves of water and food, that's why we wear bags and can't imagine to run only with small bottles at hands...
    Now you learned the european style and rules, I hope to see you again on france trail races.

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  5. Nick. Great write up of the whole experience. Truthful as always. You've had an astounding season. Sorry UTMB didn't go off as planned. Enjoy some recovery with Bordeaux and Pont l'Eveque.

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  6. Get well Nick. Obviously there is something wrong with the race if so many of the worlds elite ultra runners DNF in such a huge race. You don't need to justify anything. Your year has been incredible and that can't be disputed.

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  7. Nick -- I can't fathom how brutal it must've been. Foul weather and a delayed start would be enough to ruffle my confidence... it sounds like you guys dealt with a lot more beyond that.

    That said, it was a lot of fun following along stateside and rooting for our American contingent at UTMB. I can't wait to catch up with you and the others to hear more about this epic adventure. Take care and see you back in CO soon!

    -Brendan T

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  8. Anonymous no.1. See Jon Allen's point about having the balls to put your name to your comment.

    To your points: I am not laughing anything up, I am thoroughly disappointed to have DNF'd, especially as I felt like I was running a good race up until that point. I was merely trying to explain why I dropped. Maybe it sounds like I'm bitching or blaming someone else for not being able to get it done, but those are the raw emotions the morning after. I wanted to put my initial thoughts out there so as not to sugar coat them later.

    Do you not agree that we should have been informed of the re-route as soon as possible, i.e. at the next aid station?

    To your point about team support. Receiving the kind of support that the Salomon runners receive would be lovely - they are a truly professional outfit when it comes to taking care of their runners. Second to none in fact. I received kind logistical support from Pearl, of course, but they have maybe a tenth the resources of Salomon and are by no means as focused on team racing as Salomon. I'm just a dude who likes to run in the mountains. This is not my job. I can only take it so seriously. That said, I am very thankful to my family and the Pearl representatives that came out to provide the support that they did.

    Maybe it sounds like sour grapes to you - and I can understand that - but those are my feelings with regards to the race. The route around Mont Blanc is phenomenal, I just think I'd rather do it independently.

    Anonymous no.2 - refer to Jon Allen's point about putting your name to your comment. With regards to texts - it turns out that I never received one. And if we're going to talk about race regulations and following the rules...well I won't go there right now.

    Manu - not sure why so many US runners dropped and have dropped in the past, but I would say that UTMB has as much on-course support - if not more - than many races in the US, so I wouldn't say that has much to do with it. Maybe I should have been more prepared with extra water, but I still stand by my comments that the race organizers - at Champex at least - should have informed us that we were going way longer to the next aid than would have been the case if we had gone over Bovine.

    Jon, Hank, Brandon - thanks, guys. Yeah, tough day. I'm over it.

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  9. I'm torn between saying I understand why you (and so many dropped) and saying Pedatella and Darci and so many others ran the same race and finished. Without personally being there, I can't pass judgement. I know you're one of the toughest ultrarunners in the field, so I'm stunned to read your recap. After you decompress, maybe we could talk more about the race?

    Overall, remember that it is just a race after all. It's painful to walk away coming up short but certainly not the end of the world.

    Hope you feel better.
    Tim

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  10. It's always a leap of faith to put one's thinking out there when things are still raw. Most of us are glad you did. There's honesty in ramblings that clearly are driven by emotion and frustration. Your reminder about the central importance of the mental aspect of this sport, from my limited experience, are right on. With so much right on the edge, and the internal battle between success and failure raging all the time, it only makes sense that race organizers take extra steps to ensure runners are aware of course changes...particularly since so many did so much to prepare themselves for a certain route. I for one, don't feel like you're making excuses for anything...just describing what was.

    Sorry things didn't work out the way you envisioned.

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  11. Hey Nick. UTMB's "organization" is pretty upsetting. For a 100-mile race (not to mention one as grueling as the UTMB) reroute decisions definitely need to be communicated before the race--ideally days before but at the very least as an announcement at the mass start--and if it absolutely needs to be made mid-race they need to do more than texting cell-phones. For example, have the staff communicate this to runners at aid stations.

    Hiking UTMB over many days with family sounds like a good plan to me. Maybe I could join you, especially since I missed out on meeting up with you this year over there as initially planned.

    Bon voyage!

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  12. Tim - I dropped because I was not physically able to continue. Maybe I could have slept for an hour or two and then continued on. I'm sure I could have found a way to cover those last few miles, but I allowed myself to check out mentally, got angry and then it was over. I definitely tip my hat to those that got it done. Just spoke to Nick and he didn't actually know that the course had been re-routed until he finished.

    Happy to talk to you more about the race once I have some more seasoned thoughts on it.

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  13. We missed the cutoff at Arnuva, which the race organizers had not bothered to mention to us had been extended by half hour mid-race. Why this wasnt communicated to the last dozen people leaving the A/S just before is a bit of mystery but you've hit the nail right on the head with the sponsorships. UTMB felt so corporate and impersonal. The focus of this race is marketing and PR. The (way too numerous) runners were almost peripheral.

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  14. No doubt I would be fuming as well. It's tough not to get emotional when we invest so much time and effort into our craft (not to mention $$$). You are a beast Nick. With or without UTMB.

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  15. Nick, this is a great post.

    A few folks need to remember that Nick isn't really under any obligation to explain anything to anybody on his blog. He did, as truthfully as possible and I think that's worth applauding.

    Nick, you're an incredible runner but it's stuff like this that really makes me a fan. Safe travels back to Colorado.

    Cheers,

    -mp

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  16. It's hard for an observer to reconcile "rugged mountain race" and "we'll text you course changes midrace, so keep your cell phones on and handy!". What are these race organizers thinking? I don't think some of these commentators are really thinking this through. They want runners to be self sufficient, but at the same time checking their texts like a teenager at the back of the class. It's absurd! But anyway you had a hell of a season, and one race doesn't diminish that. Safe travels home.

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  17. A-ha! I'm going to re-route the V.B.M. halfway through and not tell you, or Alex, or Brian, or Celeste for that matter, so I can take the cup this December! See you Tuesday for some training at the T.H., rounds on me.

    -Anonymous (Mrs.)

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  18. In my opinion, the toughest 100-mile guy out there is Nick Clark. Look at what he's done this year alone and that tells you what's in his heart. He would never quit because it got tough. He would never quit because he just wanted to go home. He DNF'd at Mont Blanc because, quite honestly, this race sounds like amateur hour in terms of how the organizers handled communication.

    I've never understood the alure of Mont Blanc when we have so many superb races here in the States. But oh well. I guess if I were an elite I'd want to go to France and run against the world's best, too. But the problem is that European ultras seems to have a very different set of rules than American ultras. So, why bother?

    Thanks for the report, Nick!

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  19. Nick, you're a bad ass and a true gentleman.
    You've been nothing but honest in all your race reports (& weekly updates) and always write your true opinion on everything, so this is nothing new, and I see nothing wrong with this one. Anyone who follows your blog knows this.

    I am a middle of the pack runner, that simply enjoys reading your blog. I use it as motivation to keep working at improving.
    I was very sad to see that you had dropped and mostly concerned that you weren't severely injured. Glad to hear that's not the case, and again, love the sincerity in your write-up. -Much more interesting than those who just wait till the dust settles, and like you said "sugar coat".- If anything, UTMB can learn from this and improve, instead of continuing in the dark with shortcomings. (I am no Race Director, but in my real life, I sure as hell welcome opinions from my clients - good or bad.)

    The mind is a beast that sometimes can't be tamed.
    You had a phenomenal year!
    Enjoy your off-season!

    Anonymous 1 & 2 - Grow some balls and either create a profile or sign your name to your comments.

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  20. Nick,

    After following your blog for a year now I cannot believe that anyone would have the gall to question your determination. Keep up the great work and being an inspiration

    Thanks,

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  21. "Checking their texts like a teenager at the back of the class."
    You said it, mrubsam. If the entire event were televised, watching runners pull over to check text messages would look ridiculous.

    "I think if I ever do get to lap Mont Blanc, it will be alone with my kids and wife"
    Nick, this isn't surprising, because the love of running in the mountains by itself is at your core. (No doubt that it is for the other top racers as well).
    Still, you have a successfully competitive interest. The news of the re-route seems to have triggered feelings that the competitive aspect was sub-optimal (the part of competing/planning against the course); I have a suspicion that other smaller factors regarding competition and rules played in as well and compounded upon each other. It'll be interesting to hear more about this over rounds of beer (bought by Scott).

    It'll be Autumn soon back home. Time to keep it simple and old-school: the best time of year. Safe travels!

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  22. @Craig Smith - UTMB so corporate and impersonal ?
    What can you expect from an organizator having to deal with more than 2000 runners (and much more with sister races...) ? The race will never have the soul from its 2003 debut and its only dozens of runners anymore. All the marketing, complex rules, lottery, mandatory equipment, ... is linked to the high demand from runners.
    If you want more friendly, personal and soul-full races there are many in France... Beginning with the Grand Raid Of Pyrenees this same Week-End, which I was told is much more beautiful than the UTMB... But what ? Foreign runners prefer to run the marketed UTMB instead of a race they have never heard of or will never be highlined by running web sites and magazines ?
    So hard to satisfy everybody...

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  23. Glad to see your post here this morning Nick. Mostly because anyone that knows you, knows that if Mont Blanc had a volcanic eruption you would swim through the freakin' lava to get to the finish line. That is, of course, if you were racing. Unfortunately, you "checked out" and the "racing" was over. So I am just relieved to see that you are ok. I can't imagine the mental and physical commitment you put into a race to be able to perform at the level you do. It is inspiring. So when you gave it your all for 140+ km and the race throws you yet another curveball, I can certainly understand why you reacted as you did. Hope this UTMB result doesn't put too much of a stain on your trip and you come back with lots of good memories and stories to share. See you back at the Fort!

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  24. Hey Nick

    Sorry about the tough race. I am also sorry about the tough showing for the Americans. Clearly the route change affected some more than others. While everyone had to deal with the route change, I expect it’s differential effects had something to with runners' past experience (some have been running in the Euro scene for a long time and many had run UTMB several times before), differences in expectations (again Euro runners expect different things), differences in level of support, and runners’ mental and physical state at the time they heard and/or had to deal with the route change.

    I just hope that this doesn’t completely sour the US runners from making their presence felt in Europe and showing up to UTMB again.

    We love you guys and are proud of our top mountain/ultra runners. You truly inspire us middle of pack guys. Like you said, you run because you love it, not because it is your job and I really appreciate it.

    David T.

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  25. Anonymous #2 (August 28, 2011 5:48 AM) - Just a point of information, but I actually did check my text messages (and I received many from the carrier as I switched phone regions) and never got a message from the race... and it was a French phone.

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  26. P.S. for those who say American runners are unprepared for "rugged" mountain races, I invite you to come runner a little race we call the Hardrock 100 or just ask Julian about it....

    David T.

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  27. I agree with Mike. I look forward to hearing more details about the race while drinking Scott's beer at Trailhead this week.

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  28. Mentally crushed in a 100-mile race? Hard to imagine. ;-) After the summer you've put in, no need to explain your reasons for dropping. You've put in an extremely impressive season, and anyone doubting your mental toughness hasn't been paying attention. Get some rest—you've earned it...along with UROY!

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  29. Nick,
    I am sad to read you are angry. It is not all about making podium, not in the mountains. In the mountains is about the experience, the good and the bad things you experience out there, it is about learning. Although I don't know any of the U.S. runners that DNF I don't consider any of them mountain athletes. The act of running hills in the mountains for a few years does not make you a mountain runner, it takes a lot more time, moving in different weather conditions, in different state of minds and feeling different emotions, it is a life learning experience. You don’t go from ULTRARUNNER to mountain runner suddenly because you like hill running. Most important, you need to have a mountain spirit of adventure and survival. Being in the mountains it is a risky event, running 100 miles in the mountains it is a very high risk event. You need to be ready for anything, and I meant anything, you need to have that mountain spirit...
    You DNF, not a big deal!!! but It was only your fault. You don't like the rules and that is OK, but you volunteered to run so do not blame on how they organize their own race. Part of being a mountain athlete it is to be ridiculously humble, if not the mountains, the weather… will demolish you. That it is what happened, the mountain and the weather ate you, you did not DNF because of the organization or else, you did not go out with that spirit, you went out with a runner mentality, with a plan to race a fix distance and that rarely happens in the mountains.
    There are many, many U.S runners that have that spirit like Gary Kipling, Keith Kipling, Dr. Horton, Brandon Sybrowsky, Tim Twietmeyer and I can go on and on. But the so call U.S eliteULTRARUNNERS right now are just runners. And lastly If somebody thinks I do not have a pair of ball because I rather be anonymous, let me know where and when and we will talk about that face to face.
    I really hope to see you go back to UTMB,
    Girona

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  30. Bummer man. I can not even imagine how you feel. I can't say I didn't have those same 'super bowl' feelings that anonymous1 had, but, I'll be back next year to cheer on my 'team'!

    -Rob

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  31. @Girona 6:00 AM July 13th, Silverton, Colorado

    David T.

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  32. Regarding the anon comment about mountains I would have to agree being an ultra'runner does not equate to being a mountain runner. Mountain weather and terrain add a whole other level. I don't like the comment about not knowing any of the dnf elites from utmb but claiming none of them are mountain runners. I do know one of those, Geoff, and would argue he is very much a mountain runner. I live and run with him often in Juneau, AK where many 'runs' are 7-10 hours plus in the mountains making up our own routes dealing with variables including crap weather, bush wacking, snow/glacier travel, exposure, etc... My guess is many other 'elite' dnfers from utmb have at least some mountain experience to draw from. I am very interested in hearing reports from what went wrong for these folks so that in the spirit of all mountain endeavors we may learn from their mistakes so that we all become better runners/mountainracers whatever you want to call it. Thanks Mr. Clark for sharing what happened out there.
    Cheers to a great effort.
    Bryan. Juneau, AK

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  33. I've little to add to what the positive commentators already have said. Thank you for posting your story. I'm beyond impressed with what you do and wish I could figure out the mental part of this kind of racing... (any advice would be greatly welcome as I'm about to embark on my first 50K trail race... I know, small potatoes for you). Anyway, thanks for sharing your story. Keep em coming please! Shelby

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  34. Gotta love people who "label"other people with there own criteria,so when do you cross the threshold from being a Ultra-Runner to a Mountain Runner?Same as when people didn't want to call Matt Carpenter a true "Ultra-Runner",since he never did more than a few ultra's,did he need to do 5 more?,maybe go a little faster?,maybe he didn't have the "spirit"of being a Ultra-Runner,as you claim the Americans didn't have to be called "Real Mt.Runners"Anon,when you can finish all your races without saying to yourself,"Coulda,Woulda,Shoulda",than you have achieved rare status indeed,and than just maybe you have earned your label of "True Mountain Runner",for the rest of us,the true "spirit"isn't in the labels you seem to want to put on runners,but the fact that all of us that are involved with being out-doors in nature
    is all the criteria we need to follow.

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  35. Nick, you have had an unbelievable season. I have really enjoyed following your results and cheering you on from Iowa. Thank you for your willingness to share thoughts in such a public forum! I'll make it out to a Towers run one of these days.....
    Brad Bergman

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  36. The mountains of COLORADO await. Time for some September soul running.

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  37. thanks for sharing Nick - always love hearing your input & reports. i can't fathom how people can be critical of this. i can't imagine any ultra having race protocol to be to text message participants during the race. perhaps the french are simply confusing "text messaging" with "verbally telling" participants? in that case, i urge them to use wikipedia to understand the meaning of these words; it's a very helpful site.

    at any rate; thanks again for sharing, sorry it was a frustrating experience. good luck with the next race.

    -Ben

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  38. Just wanted to join the chorus and say that those first two comments are complete bullshit. You are awesome, and I can't wait to follow the next step in your journey.

    -David R.

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  39. Hi Nick...

    I just wanted to congratulate you on your 2011 season. You put in a tremendous amount of work and it paid big dividends. Thanks for sharing the ride with everyone!

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  40. As someone new to ultrarunning over the last year, I have been drawn to Nick's blog for a number of reasons; partly because he is English (!) and partly because he always tells it how he sees it. Mostly, it is because I get the impression he is as good as he is, not because he is necessarily the most talented runner, but he works harder and gives more than his competitors.
    Having competed at an elite level (double Olympian) in another sport, I have been struck by how much stigma there is attached to a DNF in ultrarunning. I would add a couple of comments to those above...
    - Over 100 miles any number of things might cause a DNF, but Nick's example demonstrates the basic principle; when your physical/ mental state has declined such that your race goals are impossible.
    - if you are accustomed to putting everything on the line (ie. not leaving yourself a reserve) then unforeseen changes in circumstances have significant implications on your ability to finish (let alone 'coast in') and not many people 'commit' to that extent.
    - people live vicariously through blogs like this one, but I get frustrated when someone who is very near the top of his field gets criticised (anonymously) by someone who is unlikely to have ever found themselves in a similar situation
    - then again, you could argue that by blogging at all, Nick is inviting judgement from all and sundry.
    Enough rambling. I will continue reading Nick's blog because he sounds like the kind of bloke who would be good to have a pint with...

    BT

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  41. As a mediocre ultra-runner who has seen you out on the course a few times, I would just like to say that I am perpetually in awe of what you do. Anyone who would question your toughness is a coward or a fool or both. You put together a season that most others would never contemplate attempting. And I'm certain you would have capped it off with a top ten at UTMB had it not been for the foul-up.

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  42. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your experience.
    Liza H

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  43. if you want to podium at the three most competitive 100 mile races in one year, I would make some key changes:

    1- spandex/lycra. all of the top runners use this material both for style and performance. have you every heard of aerodynamics?

    2- shave the beard. clean shaven is the new facial hair.

    3- entourage. how many cameras are following you around? all of the good runners have a video crew. the full page "research monkey" ad is a good start though. Try carrying around some copies to sign for adoring fans.

    4- attitude. you are too hardcore. you have to make out with rocks, hug trees and generally be more hippy-esque to be a top ultrarunner. Track repeats? those are for real runners, not "mountain joggers".

    Aaron M

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  44. 5.give up the beer,not good for P.R.,try smoothies instead,just saying....

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  45. Don't worry Nick,with enough suggestions from your die-hard fans,we'll make your next season a successful one.

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  46. I'm assuming since you have a blog, and allow comments, that you're thick skinned enough to take a few negative comments that aren't people telling you how great you are. I also don't get the 'have the balls to tell your name' thing. What does that change? (btw - I'm not the 'anonymous' above). Are people beating people up now for criticism on blogs? And yes, it's very easy to sit here and 'armchair run', just like it's easy to play fantasy football, and play armchair quarterback, but those same haters, are also the most fanatic of supporters.

    Let's call some spades spades.

    "I'm just a dude who likes to run in the mountains. This is not my job." Really? I think your tax returns and sponsors will disagree. A poorly executed course change shouldn't be a reason for a 'guy who just love to run mountains and isn't his job' to DNF.

    I respect you as a runner which is why I've religiously follow your blog, and followed you and many other runners at WS/HR/Lead/UTMB, you are for sure one of the best ultrarunners in the world, but, come on man, if you just want to run mountains, it's been around forever. The sport of ultrarunning is changing, and at the PUSH of MANY runners. They WANT the championship races, big sponsors, etc. Well, the way that works is athletes do well, more shoes are sold, shoe companies make money, companies support athletes better. If that's what ultrarunners want, then it's more than just 'liking running in mountains'. Looks like Salomon and their runners have just figured that out.

    If runners want support like that, they are going to have to perform like that. I'm (honestly) curious, if the elite ultrarunners on this side of the pond think they need that to perform like that? Can a non-sponsored and non-supported athlete podium at UTMB?

    appropriate (or, not appropriate, but kinda comical, and no I didn't make this it's circling the interwebs): http://i.imgur.com/umsH2.jpg

    Bottom line is there was a huge disappointment with many of the 'elites' who came from this side of the pond and it wasn't because of a course change or how 'the organization' handled said change. Are you saying it was deliberate? or just poorly run in such a way that there wasn't a level playing field?

    Us superfans can't tell the stinkin' Frenchies and Spaniards 'well our guys only lost because it was unfair!'

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  47. Stinkin' Frenchies and Spaniards?,some good points earlier to address,but last sentence seems little out of line.

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  48. Things are unpredictible in France

    2010 24 hour world championship - The race committee said absolutely no garmins or HR monitors - Using = Disqualification.

    Many runners had to go out and buy new watches.

    10 hours into the race the French women were caught using HR monitors, instantly the rule was changed to allow HR monitors, but not garmins.

    Changing the course to try and give a team or runner an unfair advantage - I have no idea if that could be true - But I would not be shocked.

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  49. Nick-
    We love you and are proud of you whether you win or not, whether you finish or not. You are the toughest runner we know, and are an inspiration to us ALL. I, for one, am honoured to run with you and have the opportunity to share in your spirit and wisdom and love of the trails.
    Keep the beard, keep the attitude, keep the beer, and please--no spandex.
    Cat

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  50. That graphic that Vinny shared is just silly and mean. Hopefully it just pisses the Americans off and they come back even stronger.

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  51. Nick:

    Don't know you, but follow your blog and admire how you approach the sport of ultrarunning in the context of the real world (husband, father, job). The criticisms and hostility being leveled are ridiculous.

    Its just running. Sure, it can seem to be all important at times, but really it is only important as a vehicle to making us better people. You seem to be an awesome husband and a great father which makes any success or disappointment in an athletic arena irrelevant.

    In the end, the nice thing about running is we get to choose exactly what to make of it. And this almost certainly changes from year to year or even event to event. Compete hard while you can. Enjoy. Never stop getting into nature just for the fun of it.

    As for the critics:

    "It's not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worth cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt

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  52. @ Bryan, you are right. I don't know enough about the U.S. runners who DNF to claim anything about them. Sorry!
    Girona.

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  53. @ Randy, That is my point. The fact that you run outdoors on the weekends does not make you a mountain athlete at all.It takes a lot more, it is not about crossing threshold lines, it is where you train and live that makes you that.
    Girona.

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  54. Nick - thanks for keeping it real. That is all. Go get it next time.

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  55. @ Girona,you missed my point,probably a language issue or something,you mentioned that the Americans that DNF in UTMB were not ,in your eyes,"Mountain Athletes",do you think any of those athletes only trained in the mountains on weekends?Hardly.And who really cares what you want to call someone,Mountain Athlete,Prancing Trail Advocate,whatever,we all enjoy getting outdoors,trying these races for a variety of reasons.Maybe you live in the mountains,train in the mountains,eat,sleep and breathe mountains,still does't give you any reason to pass judgement on other peoples efforts.

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  56. Wow! Someone with the nerve to criticize Nick. Well, wait... he/she really doesn't have the nerve because they are posting as anonymous.
    A couple fundamental problems with the critics posted by anonymous:
    1. You should never compare a lousy sport, such as football, to ultra running. Non the less, you used the quarterback in the example.... even worse. I am a former college football player. I played defensive end. Supposedly, DE is a grueling position in football... the reality is that football practice, play, and prep is nothing compared to the work we (especially Nick) do to prepare for racing.
    2. Europeans live off of there running. Nick (and nearly all other U.S. runners) do this as a hobby. Yes, they get some endorsements but nothing like the euros receive. It is not like Nick spends his days at the Olympic training center and is paid by us Americans to train and compete. He is American and wants to represent our country well, which he does. However, he does all his work on his dime and time.
    When it is all said and done... let's just enjoy the sport of ultra running. When you pay someone to run for you then you can criticize... until then it sounds like you need a good run yourself (anonymous).

    Drew Brazier
    itaintadiet.com

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  57. Girona,

    I respectfully suggest you read this post by Nick before continuing your line of reasoning.

    http://irunmountains.blogspot.com/2011/07/signal-mtn-stormy-peak-rowe-peakglacier.html

    And if you want to claim that training in the Rockies simply isn't the same as training in the Alps or Pyrenees, then I would have you ask a Nepalese Sherpa what he thinks of these so-called "mountain athletes." It's all relative, isn't it? I'm with Randy, let's all just get outside, enjoy whatever we have nearby to enjoy and stop bickering.

    And Drew, Nick is a brit living in the US. He only sometimes masquerades as an "American." ;) Not to take anything away from the point you're making.

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  58. @ Randy: Still you don't get it.
    Sorry for the language barrier I try my best.
    Girona.

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  59. @ Jay, good post thank you.
    My point is the following: Look who made podium in UTMB this year and research where they grew up and live. Pirineos, Pais Vasco and Chamonix. It is all I have. I hope I didn't offend anybody it was not my intention. Nothing bad about having different backgrounds, it is just you cannot try to compete against people who pertain to that environment and expect to be as successful as they are on it.
    Again I didn't want to offend anybody it was not my intention and if I did I apologize.
    Girona.

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  60. Girona,

    You didn't offend me. I think we all realize that there is a language barrier here.

    While I completely agree that growing up on a certain terrain gives one an advantage, I don't agree that no one else can compete on that terrain. Look at Kilian at Western States. He didn't fare so well his first time, but after learning from it, he came back and won. If you ask me why the UTMB podium looked the way it did, I would say it's largely what Nick said in his post: the Europeans are on another level at this point. This is also evidenced by the results at the North Face Championships, Western States and Hardrock, all won by Europeans in their most recent running.

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  61. Jay,
    You might be right.
    About the language barrier, people sometimes uses the argument of language barrier to conceal intolerance, be aware on where you stand.
    Girona.

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  62. Nick,
    Safe travels home my friend. Fall adventures await. As if anyone with a heart does these things for the glory, but rather to "climb the high mountains and get their good tidings".
    Brian S

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  63. Girona,

    You're right. I should only speak for myself.

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  64. Nick: First, Congratulations for a fabulous season. You are a great runner and inspire us a lot by your methodical approach. I completely agree with you on the mental aspect and have experienced as recently as today!

    I am sure you would have realized with your races and regular runs that you are not defined by 'failures, low points or wheels coming off', but by how you bounce back from them (either during or after the race). Duh! I am pretty sure you will bounce back strongly, not to prove a point to others, but because you enjoy this sport and mountains much more.

    Texting is definitely a good way to communicate especially in mountain races (if the signal is there). What if the weather drastically changes or some urgent message needs to be communicated to that lone runner in the night? Since you did not receive the text, it caused you to suffer. Bummer. Any good organizer will look into this mishap and ensure that runners receive updates at prior aid stations and through text. I bet you would have registered this complaint with the organizers, if they have not realized it yet!

    People learn more from failures than success. Great people learn even more from them, adapt and the spectacular results follows for every one to see. Go on, to become the greatest! Best Wishes.

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  65. Great write up nick! What a season of running! Great job o. All your races this year! Don't sweat those bs comments man, its great that you tell it like it is.
    Adam wilkinson

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  66. Nick,

    Since I took up so much space on your blog with my own musings, let me also congratulate you on your absolutely phenomenal season. You must be a shoe-in for UROY. Happy recovering. Thanks for sharing your running and thoughts with all of us.

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  67. Nick, I was a fan before I read your post race report. Now I have a man crush on you.
    I can't fathom not using personnel at aid stations to convey something as important as this reroute. Relying solely on a text msg in an area with spotty coverage seems irresponsible at best.
    You didn't owe anybody any type of explanation. I, for one, am happy you took the time to put yourself out there and share your thoughts. Safe travels home and best wishes.

    Cheers!

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  68. Wow, I go for a long run today and miss all of this? Holy smokes. Thanks for being honest and open, Nick. I do have a suggestion for you: next year do like Dave M did and come run Waldo instead of UTMB.

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  69. well, ... a lot has been said ... there are people who run their signature races and DNF and then when asked by their faithful fans they just say "I did not feel like running ... ". Nick is taking the flak for all the US elite which somehow got beat pretty bad this year, because he was just the first to publish his account. I think I understand really well how and why you quit. I am a true mid-pack runner (zane gray and jemez 50 both in 13+), but believe me, it hurts the same. It seems that the organization of UTMB sucked big time ... but, please do not blame them. Bad stuff like this happens at Olympic Games or soccer World Championship as well. I am sure it was not intentional, I am sure the organizers regret this very much ... but at the end, it was just you who was not prepared "for the unexpected". Many others were, but you not. I am your die-hard fan, and I will be one for the foreseeable future. Just think of this as noise, more important is what are the Euros doing different, that they steal all the important wins on US soil and dominate so much at UTMB.
    I think that most of the "critics" (anonymous or not) have a valid point and we should not bash them just because they do not praise your past performance. Actually, I think that most of them are your fans, and they criticize because they care, and because they know that you are tough enough to handle that ... after all, you are one of the rare breed who can chase Kilian in WS, and few weeks later stay on Julien's heels ... yeah, and btw ... I forgot about the UTMB.

    Vlad, Los Alamos, NM

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  70. Hey Nick,

    It was really nice to met you the day of the race (I was the Irish guy) and sorry to hear about the DNF. I followed your progress all throughout and there is no way anyone can come on here and say you did not give it your all. I completely agree with you on the mental connection and having lived in France and raced here for years it is so common for the distances to fluctuate. I rememeber a 50k trail race turning into a 58k race and I just fell apart after 55k because I could not summon the will to go on. But that was paltry in comparison to what you must have been feeling, as for the people who haven't been there and are commenting without ever having step foot on the course?? Its just beyond belief how tough this race is. As for the annonymous commenters, grow a pair and sign your name or f**k off and peddle your arm chair opinions somewhere else. Apologies for the language Nick but these guys who won't sign their name rile me up. A great season you have had and Ultra Runner of the Year without a shadow of a doubt, not just because of your amazing performances but for your true love of the sport and the fact you are a top bloke. As for the event itself, I was seing North face logo's in my sleep last night Word.

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  71. Nick your performance on UTMB is very, very bed, I dont now what you expected, to be winner or top ten or top 100, maybe only to be finisher, is that ok for you? To be finisher...but everything is ok, life goes on...next day,next place, next race...enjoy in the nature.
    Anonymous from anonymos land ;)

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  72. But DNF is also OK!
    Anonymous from anonymos land ;)

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  73. Nick,
    Thanks for having the guts to be honest. I DNFed at Arnuva and am having a hard time figuring out how to tell my family and friends that I did not enjoy myself. I'm having a hard time admitting it to myself still since I felt great and was not ready to be done! I'm a middle to back of the packer and needed those 15 to 150 minutes they shaved off of each cutoff when they made the decision to push back the start. Upon arriving at Refuge Bonatti we were still in great spirits until we figured out we had 25 minutes to go 5k. We did not have this in us and mentally checked out. Half way to Arnuva two runners sprinted past us saying they had added 30 minutes to the cut off. WTF!!! We could have run that but couldn't get ourselves checked back in to do it. Whether those two got to go on our not we aren't sure, regardless someone either changed the rules or lied to those two guys pissing off them and everyone they passed. What kind of a race does that? So many more small things too that just said this is for money not for runners.

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  74. Hi Nick,

    This is my first comment on your blog, although I often drop in to read it...
    First, thanks for the honest explanation on your bad experience in UTMB this year.
    I was following your progress online, and you were progressing well. I was wandering if Kabu would ever manage to catch you.
    And then suddenly you dissapeared from the Live Updates...

    For the communication from the Race Organizer...
    You won't believe it but it has improve a lot.
    Last year it was much worse, and following the UTMB cancellation and the shortening (by a few hours) of the time barriers for the CCC, a lot of runners asked for better communication via handphones / organizor homepage / others.
    And this year, the organizor did it, with the text SMS messages, announcement on Twitter, Facebook.
    (For SMS messages, it seems that a lot of foreign runners did not get it, for it was blocked on the provider side)
    Yet, as you put it, one don't check his handphone when he runs...
    Usually, when it is compulsary, I have it in a waterproof small bag and don't care about it, considering it to be just for emergency calls.
    Yet, while the runners won't check on it, at UTMB, the crew will check for this kind of updates, and then the info is being propagated between runners. (Like for you in fact: Mike Wolfe's crew => Mike => You).
    I think one of the main problem for this race is that, unlike in the US, a lot of volunteers are not runners themselves.
    So they will take care of you (and they are really so nice, even if they have to endure harsh conditions and very very long services).
    But they won't see how important the info is important for you. Or won't realize that the info did not spread. Some won't even know about the course change.
    If you look at the You Tube videos of Kilian and others in the different aid station, you will see that he does not hurry to get out of the aid station, but instead, is given lot of info. Not only does he knows about the course change a few minutes after it is announced, but he also gets info on other runners, weather forecast, etc...

    I do believe that the organizor are really willing to improve their race. And that if you and other US runners complains about it, they will make something to avoid the same misfortune next year.
    I think that they should force runners to read a French/English message about course change + time barrier change when entering or leaving the aid station, and confirm they are aware of it.

    Now, I still hope you will come back to UTMB one day. Difficult to have a professional crew, but if all the crews for US athlete were sharing the info (knowing one can't rely on the organizor to do so), and it would be better.
    Otherwise, you should have a look at the Grand Raid de la Reunion, where Julien is going. Completely different organization, no risk for course change (you have to cross the island), etc...
    I believe US (and Japanese) runners have a lot to learn from European ones, and European ones have a lot to learn from US runners.
    We all love the same sport, and we should take the best of both experiences.

    P.S. BTW, when you lack fluid in the UTMB, check out for fountains. They are some almost everywhere in the lower parts.

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  75. Nick,

    I follow different blogs of american trailers (Roes, Tony k, Grant, you etc...)they gives me great inspiration and motivation for my run.
    If I can find one reason why such good americans dnf at utmb : I think they were TIRED.
    The big events were in june with Western then in July with Hardrock and most of all who stopped have runned one of this event ( I even know one who runs the 2 ;-)).
    Except Kilian who is from an other planet, the 2nd Iker and the 3rd Sébastien focused their trainning on utmb.
    Anyway, I wish you to recover quick, I will continue to read you and I hope I will have the chance to see you one day on a race.

    NemoCamino (from France as you can read !)

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  76. Great Post Nick, thanks for keeping it real. Tough race but great year.

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  77. LOL 76 comments already.

    I think many people are jumping too quickly to over analysis. Look, it was a tough day of running.

    A couple years ago there was a rainy start to the Pikes Peak Ascent and it was snowy and windy above treeline. Nearly half the people did not finish and this was just one 13 mile climb up one mountain.

    Did I see it took Hal Koener nearly 40 hours to finish UTMB and he still finished inside the top 10%? It was a tough freaking day. Its probably useful to learn from mistakes and do a little post race analysis, but any post doctorate psychoanalysis by the peanut gallery is background noise.

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  78. Hey Nick congrats on an awesome season, I'm sorry it ended on a down vibe. Despite this you continue to inspire me, not only with your running, but your humility and honesty. Cheers!

    For the people bashing the american's based on Nick's comments, I'd remind them that Nick never made any excuses for the american runners, he simply told HIS story. I'm stunned at the arrogance of people who act as though they've never experienced moments of insurmountable adversity and consider it failure to have a moment of defeat.

    And finally to the A-hole who called out nearly the entire trail ultra community for being weak, I have one thing to say... Western States 2010! A bad day can happen to anyone.

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  79. It was a tough day, and DNF's happen. As many said, we LOVE you guys. And we are almost as frustrated and upset as you are, so sometimes some of us express thoughts rather harsh and too soon, but I sure hope neither one was meant to be mean. We rooted for ya'll, put our hearts into following twitters, and gasped as the race went on. It is awesome to be fast and talented. I don't really care how "out of this world" Killian (or others) is and where he grew up and how well he is supported. So are amazing Kenyan marathoners. I am more inspired by people who overcome, on any level, fast and slow, first or last. But it's not to say that each of our decision is deeply personal. I don't think commenters here blame you or anyone, just getting overspill of emotions out. That said, you did have an incredible season, and may you have another many of awesome ones. We feel very connected to our runners representing US, various teams, cities, states, various jobs, families - and especially because many of you have blogs and share your thoughts and feelings. It's like following my own brother, you know. So, you have raw emotions and wrote about it. And then another 70+ folks have raw emotions and wrote them too:) And then we all go for a run - in the mountains, on the trails, or even on a busy road. And it all begins anew.

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  80. A lot has already been said above so I'll save my breath. Just good to see you're healthy and well and we couldn't be prouder of both the effort and honesty you always put out.

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  81. Nick, quite a fire you've lit:) My only advice, grab a beer and take up residence on the couch for a while.

    What some people seem to be forgetting is that you were in the process of running an otherworldly "triple" and you fell just short. To question your ability and pedigree as a "mountain" athlete after your runs at WS100 and HRH is pure folly. So, my suggestion, is that you skip WS100 next year and focus on the tough stuff:)

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  82. "And finally to the A-hole who called out nearly the entire trail ultra community for being weak, I have one thing to say... Western States 2010! A bad day can happen to anyone. "

    Only, he said he was stupid for not planning properly, trained, came back and won. He didn't say it was the races fault for not having enough water stops and he didn't say if he does Western States again, it would be on his own and not in a race.

    I don't think anyone is questioning Nicks ability, regardless of how harsh the comments are.

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  83. i probably dont deserve to post here, but im gonna.

    im no elite. i got to come here because i ran white river and cascade crest (slow at that) and squeezed in with those qualifications.

    i dont know nor understand the stress elites feel to perform, but a small part of me hopes to get there.

    im sad to see the swipes being taken at Nick cuz his points are honest and real. No need to bash the entire american elite field virtually calling them posers.

    the points about Europeans having these kinds of mountains and conditions nearby seem fair, but it feels like its best left at that.

    i dunno, maybe i shouldnt even chime in, but i loved UTMB. This is the most incredible experience i have ever had; and while i agree the communication could have been better, i'd rather point the lens squarely at myself and ensure that I get better.

    thats the only entity that i have control over.

    not the weather

    not the course

    not the organizers nor the communication

    just me.

    great job Nick. You and Hal and Scott and all the elites rep USA well. Im such a fan of all of you and inspired to continue to improve mine.

    Cheers!

    Christian Griffith
    http://run100miles.com

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  84. @ AJW: you are definetly a flat lander...

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  85. @ anonymous: he is not, he can only run down hill!!!

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  86. http://i.imgur.com/umsH2.jpg
    Nice job AJW :-(

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  87. Great season racing Nick,Pikes Peak next year?.Maybe under 2:30 Ascent,under 4:00 hrs final time,good goal under good conditions.Reminds me of the National Geographic Special where the water- buffalo is stuck in a bog,and the few hyaenas come slinking out,nipping,yapping,being a general nuisance,until the buffalo's herd surrounds him till he gets out,shakes himself off,and goes about his way,while the hyaenas go slinking back to their caves,(not that you're similar to a water buffalo or anything Nick,course with that beard and toughness...hmmm)Maybe at top of your blogsite(Please,DONT FEED THE TROLLS)

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  88. I was looking back at the checkpoint times and noticed that Miguel Heras also seems to have dropped out at Trient, though I believe that was due to an injury. Sébastien Chaigneau also commented on the difficulty of that last, unexpected longer climb, but I guess he had something else to hold on to and keep going. At any rate it's a shame as you were the top US athlete at the time you threw in the towel; but that also proves that you outperformed many of America's best ultra-runners!

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  89. Nick, I'm just a dude who likes to run in the mountains too. I don't care if you have a DNF or a win. I just want to hear your story. Keep writing and running.

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  90. thought this might be a fitting quote considering some comments were directed towards being a mountain runner...

    "On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow."
    Friedrich Nietzsche

    You're a beast Nick, best of luck moving forward!

    Cheers,
    Justin

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  91. Nick how the fuck can you expect to compete at Western States, Hardrock and UTMB all in the same summer? There is only so much the body and mind can handle. If you don't watch out you're going to destroy yourself and, like Roes, have a short shelf life. The great ones who don't over-race and who instead target only 1-2 big races a year are the ones who have staying power. Sure you're going to get an exception now and then (Meltzer, and Jurek back in his day) but by and large you can't race as much as you're racing and expect the world. Not gonna happen. What happened in France wasn't about a course change or lack of info-it was about Nick Clark running out of physical and mental gas and not being able to continue. Kilian is more than 15 years younger than you are!

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  92. Nick,

    You are inspiring, humble, brave, honest, smart and tough as leather. There is no façade. Please keep doing what you’re doing. Looking at that DNF straight in the eye, you'll climb past it. Your achievements and habits speak for themselves. The best is yet to come.

    L

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  93. The first year I ran Mt. Blanc, us few americans, Scott J, Hal K, Dean K, all were briefed about cutting the course. I was briefly in the lead at La Fouly, and all the while getting there, I saw other lead runners switch out poles, cut corners. That's what happened to me, I got frustrated just like you did. I can feel your pain on that. Sorry to change subject, just making a point that it's a bit different in Europe, they do cater to their own in their own way. They put on a great race, no doubt. I wish I could have been there to see the whole deal. Funny that Pedatalla didn't even know, he was probably lucky he didn't get his text while racing.

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  94. Thanks for the write up Nick. For some reason I really resonated with your statement about not having the mental fortitude to keep your legs from seizing up and about the mind-body connection running these long races. I will think about all this and try to keep my mental state as fresh as my physical one next time I run a 100. Very helpful info.

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  95. Nick - I just want to commend you for having the guts to be so open on your blog, whether its a good race or a bad race. Sorry about the DNF, but you are a hell of a competitor, and have had a great season. Spend some time this fall playing in the mountains in Colorado w/ your family.

    Preparing to race against you way back for that early season 50K is initially sparked the amazing year I have personally had. Since Antelope Island I've been following your season, and you've been an inspiration to me.

    Keep your head up and keep running strong!!

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  96. Safe travels home Nick! I'm with Cat, "keep the beard, keep the attitude, keep the beer, and please--no spandex." We'll see you at Towers!

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  97. Quite the gammit of comments for a DNF (usually most people just say, good try or nothing).

    I think it's worth noting just how different ultra running is over there. Kilian is set to have a reality show filmed about him next year. Even though America has way too many reality shows, I don't think we'll ever see one with a runner. It just goes to show how interested the masses are in the sport in each country.

    When you have national intrest in a sport, more runners are developed, competition levels go up, companies sell more and have more money to sponsor runners, special technology gets developed, and sponsored runners spend months training on championship courses in order to run amazing times are run with ease.

    If UTMB tells us anything, it tells us the potential levels ultra running can reach in the U.S. There's no guarantee it's going to get to that level because of the societal trends going on here, but if it does (as much as all the purists would decry it) it might be a good thing.

    As for the DNF, I think you fought hard all year Nick, and the people that know all the times you didn't quit when you had plenty of good reasons(middle of the night at Hardrock, earlier in UTMB, etc. etc.) know you're one of the toughest competitors in the states. It's tough to criticize when "mere humans" is all any of us are.

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  98. sorry for all the vicarious anguish (on the part of americans) and hostility (on the part of others who cant seem to accept that the race organization messed up in a fundamental way). This blog obviously means alot to alot of people and I for one am very grateful for your efforts (on the mountains and the internet). Thank you for connecting the people with the highest expression of the art, and thank you for shouldering the burden of our collective expectations.
    -denver Gregor

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  99. I'm commenter #100!!! Who-hooo!!!

    That aside, a solid effort, Nick. And thanks, btw, for your Wasatch 100 write up which has been very helpful to me as it nears.

    Good luck with "anonymous". ;-)

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  100. Nick, I am sorry to hear, that your efforts didn't work out as expected. Every single DNF is a lesson from which every passionate runner learns more than from stories of best performances; regardless the distance and regardless the clock. A bitter lesson this time; it happens. Thank you for sharing that with us.

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  101. DNF > DNS
    Damn, I would hate to read what those wankers wrote about me.
    I live at 100m elevation.
    Can't afford spandex nor poles...
    Shit, I'm screwed again.

    I would be proud to sit down and buy ya a beer anytime Nick!

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  102. That certainly sounds like a frustrating time. Will you get a postcard indicating the course change also? Sorry man.

    Re: the condescending comments: ULTRATROLL ALERT!

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  103. Great job Nick, I've always been impressed by your running. Still remember the first time we met and the race we ran in together, just like it was yesterday. I remember you telling me, Colorado 1, 2 in the race, it was close 1, 3. Stay focused my friend, there is a lot more for us to do. Can't wait to run with you again. Take care
    Dan Vega

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  104. 105...Yes!!
    Your a strong dude Nick.
    Keep up the inspiring work.

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  105. Wow Nick, this blog has opened a can of worm eh! Just some perspective from a Brit.
    I was in the Alps for 10 days, just got back home today! I was running 2-4 hours everyday out early with a map, rucksac, food and liquid. Just me, my partner and some stunning routes, trails and mountains. The weather was 34deg. On Thursday I arrived at Chamonix for some PRE UTMB atmosphere, I had hoped to meet up with Nick but missed him... what is apparent is that UTMB is 'the' European race. It is massive not only in terms of profile but runners.... over 2300 started!
    Last years race was problematic and caused all sorts of problems with cancellations. Ironically, the re-scheduled UTMB race was run over the CCC route. All runners were notified by 'text'.
    This year steps were taken to avoid this. The organizers had planned 11 alternative route options (just in case). They also increased the required kit for each runner (thank goodness). They made the decision to delay the start, never good but I think that helped... for safety, during the race they needed to re-route. This was done for safety. Not ideal but necessary... had been running I wouldn't have checked text messages, just not an option for me in something like this. I don't understand why 'verbal' notifications were not made as and when possible? Seems crazy.... pretty sure all the salomon runners and North face runners were told but they may just be that the support network is so much better.
    I must say though, as problematic as course changes, re-routes and poor weather affects the body and mind, the finish is the finish and everyone one way or the other had to try and make it!
    I do feel that for probably 2100 of the 2300+ starters of the race the course and weather changes were a pain but for the majority, the race is so tough and that the finish line is hard to achieve that they just put the head down and soldier on.
    For the top guys and in this I include Jurek, Roes, Clark etc... they are racing 'on the edge' at a level that I can only admire.
    Running at this level is that balance between mind and body and when they come out of sync problems arise. I think this is purely the case for Nick... as for Jurek and Roes, the early drop out is certainly a point of interest and it will great to find out more.
    Ultimately we are all runners, testing ourselves in brutal harsh terrain. Will an ultra runner ever be famous and rich? Killian may very well be, he certainly is class act and pretty much out on his own (no disrespect to Nick or any other top guys).
    As for Anonymous, you make some valid points but you also make some over simplified controversial points. I do feel with anything like this, you should put your name to it and stand by what you say. We are all allowed opinions and debate is great.
    Finally, Nick, I hope you come back to UTMB. It's a race that I am 100% sure you can nail. Alternatively, it is also great as a hike....
    Respect

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  106. Nick, I know we've talked at great length about this but I applaud you for your honest, raw thoughts. I know a lot of us in the race were thinking the same things you said. I don't think what you posted (ie the facts of your race) is anyway an excuse, it is what happened to you and you move on. The longer we do this, the more inevitable something like this will happen. We are all human and in no way perfect. When you are good at what you do, the naysayers will find a way to crack your armor. As I've said, don't let this shroud the amazing year you have had and, more importantly, the talented runner you are.

    I had a great time over the past 3 weeks my friend.
    Scott

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  107. Great points in this post:
    http://polyenios.blogspot.com/2011/08/runblog-utmb-2011-comparison-of-us-and.html?spref=tw

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  108. sorry to say that, but you should check with your telephone company about the messages sent by the organizers of utmb if you did not recieve it or get into the habit of checking you messages when somebody tells you that he will contact you that way. I come from greece and i received the message the organizers sent about the Martigny change the moment they sent it. It was your problem (or your telephones company problem) if you haven't received it or read it, not the organizers problem. By the time i got the message you must have been a few minutes before La Fouly as i see from your time that means about 4 hours before you got to Martigny.
    Good luck next time, and keep an eye to your mobile.

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  109. I've successfully completed UTMB twice in reasonable, but certainly not podium position, times. On my first UTMB I hadn't done anything like it before ~ many things along the way were "unexpected". On my second UTMB I had a much better idea of what was in store, and I performed better. And enjoyed it more.

    Kind of like Kilian at his two WS100 performances. Kind of ;-)

    We learn; we improve.

    Murdo t M

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  110. Back in CO from a long day of travel yesterday. So, did I miss anything good?

    Wow!

    So first off, thanks for all the commentary. I figured I might touch a few nerves with my post, but wasn't quite expecting this kind of response. Some good points raised all around. Thanks everyone for the kind words and also for the constructive criticism. We learn from our failures and mistakes, and hopefully there are a few lessons to be learned from my own personal experience at UTMB and then from the subsequent conversation in the comments here.

    Girona - thanks for your comments. I understand where you are coming from on the whole mountain runner vs. ultrarunner thing. I wasn't born in the mountains - far from it in fact - and really didn't gain an appreciation for being active in the mountains until relatively recently. That said, I definitely have an understanding of, and humble respect for, the environment.

    I know all too well that things are highly unpredictable in the mountains, which was part of the reason I thought the RDs were wrong to delay the start. If this were a 'real' mountain race (under the labels you have defined), we would have gone off as scheduled and dealt with the elements we were given. Trying to predict weather patterns in the mountains is a fools' errand.

    I know I could have dealt with the course change better - plenty of others did - but I don't think my DNF had anything to do with me being a 'mountain man,' 'ultrarunner,' 'racer' or any other label you want to throw out there. I was running on the edge and then couldn't readjust. Simple as that.

    You should try and get out to Hardrock in 2012 to get a flavor of how we do it in the States. That race right there is a true mountain 100-miler: man against the mountain with no BS tolerated.

    Vinny - seriously, if you saw my tax returns you'd understand that this is not a job in the sense that I can feed my family doing it. I can get around the circuit and equip myself without too much personal expense thanks to my sponsors, but believe me, I'm not putting food on the table through running.

    That said, I have obviously learned a lot about the corporate side of the market in the last year or two, and fully understand that by running with (paid-for) corporate logos on my kit I am part of that culture. Salomon are light years ahead of other teams in terms of the support they offer their runners, which allows a handful of them to undertake the sport as a full-time gig. That is huge.

    'Can a non-sponsored and non-supported athlete podium at UTMB?' Absolutely. Had Diana Finkel run, I am sure she would have been pushing for a podium spot. She has absolutely no interest in corporate sponsorship.

    And, finally, I am definitely not suggesting anyone had a deliberate unfair advantage. Just stating that I wish I would have known when the front pack did about the course change. Maybe that is part of having a professional crew.

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  111. More thoughts:

    April - sorry to hear about your experience. There was definitely a lot of confusion out there. I think UTMB is close to being the race that it thinks it is, but these communication issues are a major shortcoming. The RDs seem...a little paranoid...and all this chopping and changing before, during and after is difficult to deal with when trying to stay focused.

    Christian - awesome that you had such a great experience - no doubt this race is a unique experience like no other. And believe me, I learned some good lessons last weekend - many of which you touched on. At the end of the day, we've got to be able to manage the unpredictable. That's a major part of running 100-milers - they never go according to plan. I failed to adapt and DNF'd as a result. Lesson learned.

    Nemo - I think you are right. Many of us in the States race too much (I certainly do). Kilian races more than me, but tends to do shorter races (and apparently is immune to fatigue). I think a lot of guys were tired coming into UTMB. I know I was. To do well there, a focused training effort is definitely required. It can't just be a tack-on race.

    Brett - hilarious, man. Yeah, I saw Hal finish with Roch. Two nights and two days. Mind blowing stuff. Major props to both of them.

    Olga - thanks. Always appreciate your comments. Lets all go for a run, chill out and do what we love to do.

    Craig: thanks for the invite. I'm going to take you up on it one of these years. I think Dave would have won the CCC (UTMB 100k) too if he'd have come out as originally planned. I was stoked to see him run so well at Waldo.

    AJW - I see right through that comment, sir. Don't count me out for WS next year. It will be HR or WS, but not both. HR lottery first - if unsuccessful, then there is a good chance I try and qualify for WS. We don't want any gimmes for that top 10. Kilian says he's coming back (!), I know Tony wants some Cougar action...
    BTW - I bet you would have snuck into the UTMB top 10. Just needed to be steady all race, as Foote/Pedatella demonstrated.

    Cloud - I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head. It is very difficult to be competitive at more than a couple of deep 100 milers in a season. I was definitely running on fumes towards the end, and got bit in the butt with the course change. Next season will look a lot different in terms of how I choose races. One other reason why having a structured team approach like Salomon's is so beneficial: coaches/managers help you pick out realistic race schedules. That said, it's a fun challenge to try and run some of these races on less-than-optimal conditioning. Hardrock 2011 will be one of the highlights of my running career - not because I was third, but because of the extra focus and determination it required 13 days after WS.

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  112. And finally:

    Dom - excellent points. Had no idea about Kilian and reality TV. And you are 100% right that there is no reason why runners in the US cannot compete with the top European runners. The sport has been on a wild ride over the last decade. Guys like Tony K, Matt C, and Kyle Skaggs blew the competitive nature of the sport wide open a few years back, and now this merging of European and US mountain running cultures looks to be taking it to yet another level. Guys and gals who want to be competitive in the international arena will see that and adjust their training accordingly. It may take a couple of years, but I predict we'll have some guys with the necessary talent and dedication coming through the ranks and making their mark felt at the biggest races. I'd put you and a couple of others up there as guys who currently have the potential, desire and knowledge to be among that crowd. Keep the fire alive!

    Brandon - you're an inspiration!

    Ian (runwildfree) - absolutely right. Everyone ran the same race, so the re-route cannot be used as an excuse. I definitely tip my hat to each and every finisher. I was simply at the end of a long journey of races and didn't quite have that last ounce of fortitude to overcome the final 100-mile curveball.

    Scott - good times and great memories. Thanks, man! You're a great mentor.

    Some other points to pick up on:

    I certainly appreciate all comments here, positive and constructive criticism alike. We learn from our mistakes, and it's good to have those pointed out to you. That's part of the reason I have a blog in the first place. Sorry about the tone of one of my earlier comments in response to the anonymous comments - I think my emotions were still a little raw. Back in CO now and a lot mellower.

    Texting as a way to communicate in races: it is not plausible in most US mountain races as 85 percent of the time there is no signal to be had. The phone is dead weight for the most part out here in the mountains. If I do Euro races in the future, then obviously I'll have to have the phone a little more handy.

    UTMB and corporatism. I guess it's inevitable and unavoidable for a race of this size. Salomon and NF are both great for the sport of ultrarunning, in my opinion - both from a competitive standpoint and also as a means of getting more people into the sport in general. It may not jive well with everyone in the ultra community (and I get that), but it sure is exciting for fans of the sport to see the best guys and gals running against each other. Joe Grant got to follow the lead race after his unfortunate early ankle sprain caused him to drop at Contamines. He was like a kid in a candy store when detailing to me the day after the atmosphere and how the race at the front played out. Awesome stuff.

    US runners at UTMB. We'll get it figured out eventually.

    UROY - Two words: Dave Mackey.

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  113. Nick,
    very good! Hoping to read a lot more from you in the future like we did in the past.
    Rest and enjoy your family,
    Girona.
    PS: A few more mountain races and we are thinking about making you SPANIARD! run like an animal...

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  114. Nick: You are a class act. Your responses reveal what an incredible person and runner you are. Thank you so much.

    David T.

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  115. Welcome back. Been a whirlwind couple of months for your!
    tim

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  116. Just kidding about switching beer to smoothies for P.R. reasons in earlier post,maybe lite beer?Welcome back,don't under-estimate your recovery time from your awesome season,lot of weird stuff happens too body after racing that hard in such a short period of time,been there,done that,enjoy Colorado's fall season,be up there myself soon.

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  117. You still need to qualify for WS100? There's some major issues then with that races organization! JUST KIDDING ;-)
    Rick Merriman

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  118. Rick - no don't need to qualify, but would need to commit my (non-refundable) entry fee before the HR lottery if I wanted to claim my top-10 auto entry.

    So my option if I wanted to run WS, if not drawn from HR lottery, would be to race for a spot by trying to place in the top 2 at a Montrail event. Bandera would be fun. That's all a long way off though.

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  119. Hi Nick,
    Thanks for your thoughts about dropping out of UTMB. Too bad. You were performing well... Really. In a spot for top 10, for a first time, with no time for course recognition, and a very limited crew. This would have been awesome.
    If one day you change your mind and decide on trying it again, make sure your crew, however small it is, handle the race update (check regularly on the organizer twitter or facebook, or IRunFar or whatever for course change) and keep you inform. Let your crew handle that part, and focus on your race.
    Yes, reading out posts in French or English, communication was not always top-of-the world this year.
    Most complains are about cut-off time being changed to be more severe, and runners learning that just one check point before the cut-off.
    When I am running and have a handphone because of some race regulations, it is in a small waterproof bag, and I don't use it. I just think of it as an emergency kit, to be used if I happen to witness an injured runner. So people can send me text messages, I wont see them before the goal.
    Now, believe it or not, this was a huge improvement from last year. After last year carnage, the organizer created twitter and Facebook account to send updates about any course change, time barrier changes, etc... And crew were usually checking that and telling their runner, who were spreading the info. Like what happen for you in fact: Mike's crew => Mike => you.
    I think that there is three factors in the bad communication:
    * language barriers. Organizer are French, but when you are in Italy and then in Switzerland, you are in italian-speaking area most of the time. A lot of volunteers will speak two languages, but not three. So some will speak French + English, other French + Italian, or French + Spanish...
    * a lot of volunteers are not runners themselves so they don't see how important the reroute information is for you. Most will have learned the reroute, but not see if it means more or less km / climbs before the next station. And some will not even have heard about it.
    * there is 6,000 runners, with volunteers all over the mountains for 3 days. Yeap, it is not only UTMB, there is also the CCC, and the TDS...

    Now, I believe the organizer will improve again next year. They did improve a lot this year, being able to reroute the course, delay the start, etc.. something they could not do last year. They did put update on their homepage on time, and on twitter, facebook... Something they were not able to do last time.
    So I hope you will one day change your mind and come back again, for a more enjoyable race.
    But if you don't check out for other fun races elsewhere. Very different mind of set, is the Grand Raid de la Reunion (GRR). The budget to get there is not easy...
    And otherwise, next year in May you will have the UTMF .... Ultra Trail Mont Fuji in Japan. And with Japanese organizers, I believe the organization will be very smooth... UTMF -> HR sounds easier than WS->HR for the schedule....

    Wish you a fast recovery, and enjoy your next race !

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  120. Nick,
    Wow, is all I can say about the race. I followed it the entire time via Irunfar tweets. No sleep. Not once did I consider the US racers dropping for any other reason than they could not continue. DNF is a hard choice to make, but it sounds like your body made it for you. I hope you recover soon and this makes you a stronger and better man.
    In looking over this, and hearing your understanding of the support from Euro/Solomon racing team vs. the U.S. piece it together reality, I have an idea.
    I am a musician, and we employ certain means to support ourselves that fall outside of our craft that enable us to dedicate the right time and effort to further our artistic endeavours.
    Could we not use something like Kickstart.com to raise funds to cover your entry fees etc. to at least make sure you are present at the right races?
    I for one would happy to kick $25-50.00 a month to support the efforts. I would be honored to have the chance to directly support someone I look to as inspiration and see them not have to worry about finances, at least having finances dictate if you were to be able to run HR or WS.
    I m certain there are others out here reading this that would/can give to this cause.
    Just a thought.....and my support is here if you ever need it.

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  121. Great post, and great comments (yours). I understand where you're coming from. I'm running my first ultra this fall (50 miles) and you're a real inspiration. This is the first year I've followed the ultra scene and it was awesome following WS, HR and UTMB online (and reading blogs and watching interviews). Hope you get some downtime now and I'm looking forward to following you next season!

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  122. Nick, tough break at UTMB. You still deserve Ultra Runner of the Year. Top 3 at WS and HR...bananas. Enjoy your down time.
    Ian

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  123. Nick, thanks for sharing your experience. I am becoming more and more of a fan/supporter of your racing.

    Some mention you race a lot....Kilian being much younger....etc. Whether you intend it or not, I think it is great that you push hard to find out what you are capable of. 'Maybe' you found a breaking point...I hope you are able to grow from it and come back stronger UTMB or not in the future. We probably would not get great PR performances and course records if runners didn't find out how hard they can push and occasionally fail.

    I can only guess, but maybe Kilian had never had a bad day until WS100 '10, he learned and well....he conquered in '11. My bad experiences have always made me stronger for next time. Being out of my element or off routine has commonly gotten me into trouble many times, but I hope to only allow it to happen once before making corrections in my best efforts for the next time.

    Maybe apples to apples comparisons at UTMB aren't possible of Americans and the European's this year, you went to their house for dinner and you didn't expect escargot to be served (I would like to try that by the way) and it gave you mental diarrhea. I do find it impressive that (Nick) can race a-damn-lot, work full time, have a family and makes regular and consistent threats (podium potential) towards other runners (of any origin) whom get to train and prepare for their key races in such a different way (I will use Salomon runners as my example of other runners).

    What I am trying to say is...similar to Ian Sharman taking 10th place at Miwok 100K this year. I wonder what the guy in 11th place thought who may have been training big time for Miwok as a key race and got beat by Ian Sharman who was wearing an Elvis costume and just there to screw around. A taste of my own medicine would be to say Nick had a great effort at WS100 this year and got third, but compared to Kilian in '10 who got third while having a bad day. My best effort would probably be Nick's DNF!!!

    Anyways, keep up the grind! I will continue to admire your running as well as all great ultra-runners from around the world.

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  124. Nick, first it was early cool to meet you guys in chamonix, and I totally understand the frustration with the route changes. They were so many changes before the race then the weather all the way to courmayer that was so bad especially for me living in San Diego.

    I remember the last changes you are taking about and I had the same feeling even people at the aid station were not aware about the changes. May be they should have talk about the changes at the pre race meeting instead of playing the sound dancing in the rain:-)!!!!!

    I got very frustrated as well and lost a lot of time at the end I was not sure anymore what was next anymore....

    But at the end of the day everyone that started the UTMB rock the alpines.... And we were all crazy just to even start with the weather.

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  125. Nick

    Hi from England. I passed you in the street in Cham and now wish I had said hello.

    I did CCC this year and last. I was out for 19.30 in last year's weather just to get to Vallo. I managed to finish in 19 hours dead this year. I think last year's experience had a salutary effect on me.

    Others have made the point about looking at the mobile during the race. It's a pain in the arse I know, but it is how they chose to get messages to us all, and that's why they ask us to carry them.

    I was on the start line for CCC when my phone beeped. Now, I knew we were in for a kicking from the storm later that day, so I was pretty keen to look and see what message might just have arrived from the organisers. As it happened it was notification of the course change, at least the generality of it anyway. We also got an English language summary just before we set off.

    During the first climb I got 2 more texts which I glanced at during my water stop at Bertone. New cut offs for CCC. I also got the UTMB ones!? which is a further suggestion that the system isn't perfect.

    I quite understand why the course changes had such an effect on you. I knew we were headed for Martigny and because I am pretty familiar with the area, I know where that is in relation to say Champex. But I knew nothing about the detail of the route. On top of that, I failed to take note of when the next aid station was after Champex. This resulted in a minor crisis somewhere in the river gorge, just after it got dark. I stopped for 5, ate and gave myself a bollocking to get a grip. But I well remember the continuing uncertainty about where the hell we were and what was (or wasn't) coming next. The same feeling remained all the way up that sod of a climb up to Forclaz, made worse by the arrival of the storm and some very heavy rain.

    I guess that after the events of last year, and being pulled just 18 kms short of the finish, I came prepared for just about anything, especially weather-wise, and with the course.

    If I recall, Bryon said he didn't get the course change text either. Try and find out if others didn't. It's one thing me telling you to look at your phone, but if the texts don't arrive, there is nothing you can do to prepare for what's ahead.

    I recall last year that lots of US-based runners said they didn't get the sequence of texts about the revised start. Maybe there is some kind of issue here that needs resolving with the organisers.

    I've had plenty of contact with Michel Poletti because I supply him with data for Bob Graham Round completions (I'm the BG Club Secretary, completed it in 1985), and he has always been a great help with questions about any aspect of the races and the organisation. If someone did some research on the phone problems, maybe they could engage with him on the topic to see truly if there are compliactions and how these could be sorted.

    And if you do decide to have a crack at the BG, I'd be delighted to hear from you. Email address is on the BG Club website.

    And I loved your exchange with Andy Peace at SZ. Classic!

    Cheers, and keep up the great racing and the blogging.

    Morgan Williams

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  126. Erwan - thanks for your thoughtful comment. You make great points and I am sure you are right that the organizers will learn from this year's event and make next year's even better. They cater to so many - it's no easy task, that's for sure.

    Grand Raid Reunion is on the radar for a few of us over here. Tony K and I have talked about how much we would love to run the race, but like you say, it's a tough one logistically and financially. And, yes, UTMF is also one that many of us here in the States are hoping to get a shot at. Watching the many groups of Japanese runners at UTMB this past weekend, your strong trail culture was very evident. I am sure the UTMF organizers will do a first-class job.

    Antirabit - thanks for the creative thinking on the financing issue, but honestly, Pearl helps out generously with race expenses, so attending races for me is really more about being able to create the time outside of family and work than it is about finding the dollars to get there.

    Fabrice - nice meeting you too. Congrats again on your run.

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  127. Morgan - thanks for the thoughts. As it turns out, I never did get the text. I had my mom's UK phone. I switched contact details on my Runner Profile a few days before the race to include the new phone number, and I know that Bryon was also using a phone that he had purchased a few days prior, so maybe they had already uploaded contact details and didn't get the updated ones.

    Separately - Bob Graham Round is definitely on the radar. Joe Grant (a fellow US-based ulrarunner Brit) and I have been talking at length about a joint go at it for some time now. Will contact you separately with regards to that.

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  128. Nick, could you please describe the UTMB course a bit ? How does it compare to Hardrock or Jemez, or some other hard courses you recently ran ? Thanks, Vlad - Los Alamos.

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  129. Nick:

    We in Texas would love to see you come down for another round of Texas rock torture and give Mackey's record a scare. The rocks are calling you Nick!!!

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  130. It's a good thing we have such eloquent ambassadors of the sport. Thanks and congrats on an excellent year so far.

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  131. Nick,

    You're a friend of mine because you're a hell of a nice guy, love your family, take huge measures to minimize family disruptions while training, you're open and honest, hard working at everything you do, and you don't don't drink shitty beer or wear spandex. I don't care how fast you run or if you win, or even finish... though it's fun to track the race progress.

    One of these days I'll get up to Ft Fun and crush you're skinny arse on the weight-graded Towers TT. Hope you have a big enough pack to hold the 56 (Imperial) pints of beer you'll need to equalize your weight to mine. :-)

    - Chris

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  132. Nick, you are still and always will be my hero. I look forward to seeing you soon for a good run in the hills and we can share stories about our recent disappointing races. Seeing how well you are handling your race is helping me deal with mine.

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  133. Nick, as well as the email address on the BG Club site, you can also get me on morgan@morganwilliams.org

    Still no American in the BG Club. Nick Kaiser had a go in July I think, but didn't make it.

    One very fast round this year. Mark Palmer of MdC (Welsh club) ran the fourth fastest ever at 14.58 I think, off the back of an 18.30 schedule. Not sure what his pacers thought of that!

    Mark Hartell contacted me on hearing the news to check he was still number 2 on the all time list behind Billy!

    Look forward to hooking up on the email sometime.

    Morgan

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  134. Just returned from UTMB. A few random thoughts in no particular order.

    1. Organisation. Patchy at best and very, very French. Worst example was the public address to runners immediately before the start. This was given in French, Italian and English. The first two were fine, the English version was totally incomprehensible. Runners were thus told that amongst other things that they might encounter during the night were bands of frogs (i.e. fog)! This is unacceptable given (a) the heavy emphasis on runner safety (b) the large number of English speaking runners (and not just US and UK) and (c) the huge number of English native speakers present in Chamonix at the time. This must be remedied in 2012.

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  135. 2. Communication. I'm not alone in thinking that this was totally inadequate. The race organisers appeared to have relied on mobile phones to communicate with runners. I'm not sure if UK and US mobiles are compatible with the French SMS messaging system. My UK mobile worked, Nick's US mobile did not. Some runners received information re modifications in timings and routes well in advance and could prepare for them, others just before the event and yet others not at all. This smacks of one law for some and another for others. It was surely imperative that ALL runners should have received ALL information at the SAME time. And is it really reasonable to expect runners to be constantly checking their phones for messages as they progress down the course?
    I was on the other hand impressed by the speed and efficiency with which the rescue operation at Trient (where Nick stopped) was activated. The people there seemed to know what they were doing and did it well. Jezz Bragg tells a similar story when he too stopped. In both cases the events took place in Switzerland where, as we know, things run like clockwork... On the third hand the people at the AS in Trient were cleary VERY reluctant to talk about the rerouting that had taken place at the last minute between Champex and Trient. There was talk of a tent having been blown down in the (very windy) night; could this not have been re-erected the following morning or early afternoon when things were calm? In the end the bloke I was speaking to refused to say any more and just walked off. Runners on whom this was sprung at the last minute clearly suffered.

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  136. 3. Crewing and other matters. Three different levels of crewing seemed to be in place: the slick, professional outfits of e.g. Salomon and North Face; the majority of runners had groups of family and friends crewing for them in an efficient manner; some runners had minimal crewing, teams consisting of just one or two individuals. My view is that in the end these varying levels of crewing made relatively little difference - except perhaps where the (crucial) question of information received is concerned (see above). What Kilian received in terms of help was not markedly different from that received by Nick, largely organised by his elder brother (thanks Matt). Kilian come in, ate some, drank some and was on his way. At no point did he unplug himself from his audio system - he was clearly in the zone, in his own bubble (or in whichever other cliche you might prefer). One wonders in this context exactly what he listens to on his audio system (Barca commentaries?). He would seem to be one of very few runners to use an audio system.
    In addition some of those who received minimal crewing placed very well - e.g. the Hungarian and Portuguese runners (sorry - cannot remember their names).
    The regulation whereby only one individual is allowed to interact with his/her runner seemed to be very sketchily observed, if at all. One wonders what its point is.

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  137. 4. To pace or not to pace. A key difference here that has not, I think, previously been commented on (apologies if I've missed someone). US ultras allow pacers through the last third or so of the run; European races appear to prohibit pacing (am I right?). To know that ca. mile 70/80 you are going to pick up a pacer to bring mental and physical support must provide a huge psychological boost that was absent at UTMB. US runners are I guess just going to have to get used to this. Julien (cannot remember his surname) had some interesting things to say about this in his account of HR where he ran with a pacer for the first time. Would be interested if anyone else has views on this. There's clearly a big difference in attitude here.

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  138. 5. Where now? I've known Nick for 35+ years. He is NOT and NEVER has been a quitter. Any suggestions in this direction are beneath contempt. The reasons for the DNF at UTMB are probably multiple (some perhaps suggested above). One wonders in particular about the question of preparations for ultras. Was WS + HR + Speedgoat + SZ (in Switzerland) in pretty quick succession over ambitious as a preparation for UTMB? Others will have more knowing views on this than I. Salomon runners appear to plan their campaigns very carefully.
    I have no idea whether Nick will want to have another crack at UTMB. I suspect that once the dust has settled he will at least give it serious consideration. I know the nature of the beast... And I'm sure that the lessons learnt from this first attempt will be of considerable use for possible future attempts. In this context I was interested in what others have said about Kilian's two performances at WS - the first which ended in (relative) non-success (and when in fact he would have appeared to have been on the very of DNFing) and the second which ended in victory. Remember that next year is the 10th anniversary of UTMB...
    In the meantime I feel there is much to be written out of this experience. On the differences between ultra and mountain running (is there such a difference?), on the contrasting attitudes to long-distance running between European and US runners, on exactly why you (all) put yourselves through this ordeal, etc. Where this last question is concerned I found what Kilian and Sebastien (again cannot remember his surname) had to say in their post-run interviews on Irunfar quite moving. They are both real sportspeople.
    So Nick, now your feet have done their running for the year (have they?), why not let your fingers do the talking.

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  139. 6. A few concluding observations.
    i. Chamonix is a strange place. It clearly makes a great deal of money out of UTMB (I speak from a degree of personal experience!). But I'm not sure it copes with an event of such magnitude. For my taste, it's rather OTT, impersonal and too corporate.
    ii. I'm not sure it's healthy having the same individual winning the event year after year after year. Kilian is clearly at present in a class of his own and he brings glamour as well as spectators (and thus money) to Chamonix. But how soon will people get bored? I know Nick disagrees with me on this one but the analogy would be with ManU being the only team capable of winning the English soccer premier league, which they do more often than not (ugh!). We're only three weeks into the season and I'm already bored.
    I'm not sure there's an obvious solution to this one, short of handicapping Kilian in some way!
    iii. If I hear that tedious man on the public address system talking once more about "cette course mythique" (this mythical race) I'll shoot him.
    iv. Best of all: I really enjoyed meeting those many friends of Nick with whom I had only previously had cyberspace contact. It was a real privilege. Thank you all.

    That's all folks. Sorry to have been so long.

    Roger Clark (Nick's Dad)

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  140. Hi Nick,
    With admiration we read your story. We are sorry you could not make it till the end but can imagine very well your frustrations and decision.
    Also the weather; that saturday we were passing the Col de Bresson - a little south from Les Chapieux - and it was snowing up there first time since weeks. Bad luck for Nick we thought. Or didn't you care?
    Anyway, it was great meeting you in the Mont Blanc Lodge in Chamonix. We wish you all the best in your running career, maybe you can find the motivation to beat that crazy Mont Blanc a next time.
    For us the journey continues in a nice pace. We'll leave the Alps in a few days descending to Italy and then onwards to Rome.

    All the best,
    Janik and Frank

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  141. Hi,
    There is a lot of focus on race organizers changing the route which seems to have caused a stir to the people at the front, I personally agree that the check point before the change should have relevant information, when the brains starved of oxygen you just need the info put under your nose! Not a lot to ask!

    BUT

    My problem with the race organization is the cut off times, this UTMB adventure was my first attempt at a 100 mile trail run so I set out at what I thought was a strong enough pace to keep in front of the cut of times but have enough in my legs to carry me over the finish line. Having maintained 3 mph average speed for 40 miles I was only 20 minutes in front of a cut off, with a 46 hour time limit you need a 2.2 mph average speed to complete. I did make it a lot further into the race before being kicked out.

    I have returned to the UK absolutely gutted having completed the toughest part of the course including three 2500 meter passes I struggled with due to thin air, dropping down to Le Folly in reasonable shape my race was over. The organisers had delayed the start by 5 hours but not added 5 hours to the Le Folly cut off – all cut offs after Le Folly had been updated?
    The amount of time I had put in to training, money invested in kit suitable for the mountains, race entry travel and accommodation..... You can’t believe how I feel! And the race organizers won’t even return my phone calls.

    Best Wishes
    Barry (UK)

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  142. Just an beginner as an ultrarunner but the UTMB sounds like quite the event. One of the guys I follow in the ultrarunning world Nick and from what I read it sounds like it was a frustrating race considering all the factors. And those who comment as anonymous? Excuse my language but "grow a set". Good luck on future endurance endeavors Nick, I'll be pulling for ya!

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  143. To Roger clark

    This is Julien Chorier and Sebastien Chaigneau.

    Don't worry, if Nick make a good race last year you will everything fantastic in Chamonix and UTMB.

    You must know even if we don't speak english very well, american and english runners are really welcome in France specially in Chamonix where there are many of them !

    UTMB is a big event, there is a lot of other trails very difficult in the montains if you want to try something else ( Alps or Pyrénées)but nobody will speak english :-)

    Now you can write about the positive aspect of UTMB !

    Nemocamino

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  144. This thread is quite upsetting for a European to read, i cant believe i am hearing some of these comments from other trail runners whom i thought were a peace loving nature loving open minded bunch of people who i was proud to consider my self part of. I have travelled to many other contries both running and visiting and would never have thought about complaining how things were done in those countries. France IS another country, not part of the USA and there are differences between how things are done over here (France) and over there (USA). Differences that i as a Brit living in France respect and i would have thought that other trail runners would do the same.

    I finished the UTMB although with a sore ankle so know somewhat the pain Nick went through and to be honest most of my comments are not really directed towards Nick as he was quite diplomatic in his report but other comments on here are out of order suggesting that the "French" might have changed the course on purpose is outrageous! any way it was a Spanish person who won.

    Kilian is the only fully sponsered runner who is paid a wage to run and train full time so it is not like all "Euros" are paid to run. All the others work and are simply supported by their sponsors with kit etc. We had a Portugese guy staying with us who dropped in Arnuva but runs for Salamon he was in 9 or 10 place, he works full time monday to friday and gets kit from Salamon. Dawa Sherpa who is a well known runner in France works as a builder too and runs on weekends he won the first edition of the UTMB and frequently wins other races in and around France whilst holding down a full time job so to suggest all Euros are at an unfair advantage is simply not true, they do it for the love of running.

    Yes Europe is built up and the mountains are busy but this is a growing sport in Europe, i run daily in Chamonix and see many other trail runners out there all the time its not an elite sport any more for a select few its big business, the UTMB has over 5000 people trying to register every year the numbers are stopped at 2300 to try and keep it managable. Europe didnt have the advantage of the US to designate large areas of wilderness as parks (which is a wonderful idea and has preserved some amazing wildernesses in the USA and Canada) before any parks were designated in the USA it was too late for Europe it was already built up, the tunnel through MT Blanc was finished in the 60's.

    The subject of mobile phones is strange, it was clear from the beginning that this was the chosen method of communication, it is literaly printed and noted all over the place from race registration, on the web-site all the paperwork and even had a control in Chapeaux to check the phone. I am not used to looking at my ohone all the time either but once i had seen it was a requirement i looked at it, simple. I received all the messages clearly and on time. This way the staff didn't have to stop what they were doing and start trying to tell 2300 people one by one about the changes.

    A French person spoke English with a French accent at the beginning of an event held in FRANCE, maybe we should give him the death penalty.

    Why such negativity towards Europe, i maybe should not say this but it sounds like sour grapes, might not be the case but it sounds like it, just come back and win it, or get in the top ten. There were no US runners in the top ten, would we be hearing all this if there had been? anyway isn't (aren't you) European?

    Rant over, lets embrace this worldwide sport, all our brothers and sisters who enjoy running in the mountains, its ups and downs, but lets not breed negativity towards each other its not in keeping with the ethics of the sport at all.

    Jim

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  145. Jim - I have no beef with France, in fact I come from about as francophile a family as you could probably find in the UK (we, as a nationality are not known for our love of the French). I think my Dad's comments (if those are what you are referring to) towards the 'French'ness' of the organization come from an understanding (and maybe frustration) of the French and their way of doing things, rather than any kind of jingoistic desire to bash them. He might as well be talking as a Frenchman considering he was raised there and then spent his career teaching and writing about the language, the literature, the cities and the people of France. Our family understands France well - and hence some of the frustrations.

    The point about the English translation at the beginning, I think was that with so many native speakers present that week, it probably wouldn't have been too much of a stretch to find someone who could have given the pre-race directions in an English voice that could be understood. A small point, but certainly one that can be improved upon if the race wants to continue as the de-facto World Trail Gathering (or whatever).

    Cell phones: at the risk of repeating myself, I and several others did not receive texts regarding the race delay, nor the re-route. And again, it really would not be that difficult, given the huge amount of volunteers on course, to alert people to the race change verbally.

    Yes, I am European by birth. I live and run in the States. If people want to label me a Brit, then fine; if they want to label me an American, then fine too.

    Amen to your final paragraph, but a bit of constructive criticism is healthy. The race is never going to get all things right, but if people take the time to point out some shortcomings, then the race can surely improve and learn from them.

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  146. I understand Nick, i think i might have mentioned this earlier on another thread maybe but i didnt receive the text about the race being postponed until 11.30pm either, i had a friend call me and then i checked the website, it was true! and thought "i should have received a text about that" so i called the race organization number and got through to someone and told them i had not received any text, within seconds i was getting them and from that point on i got them all. Please don't get me wrong i am not saying "you should have done this too" but maybe next time (if there is a next time) you could double check the text messages are working.

    Its a bit crazy when you think that up until last year all the UTMB events went off without a hitch and the last two years have been plagued by bad weather. I am only glad they managed to NOT cancel it this year given the bad conditions not too far removed from last years.

    In previous years they have had English people on the start line doing the english translation i do not know why they didnt do it this year.

    Cheers

    Jim

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  147. Amen to the above two comments!

    All I wanted to suggest in this particular context was that it was a shame, in an event that otherwise prides itself on being slick and professional and that aims to be the premier competition in this particular sport, that the person making the security announcement in English very obviously had no appreciation of the language's syntax or vocabulary. He was cleary reading from a prepared script of which I don't feel he had much understanding. It's a minor point perhaps but, in an event that above all else values the safety of its runners (very many of whom are English speakers), one that could so easily be rectified.

    A reverse analogy that I experienced recently would be the announcemnt in "French" made on the Shuttle train in the Channel Tunnel. This too would have made absolutely no sense, this time to speakers of French. Given the context, probably more unacceptable than what happened at UTMB.

    But you are both right: it's now time to turn the page and to look forward to 2012.

    Roger

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  148. Hi Nick, hi everybody,

    I am a bit shocked reading all the messages here. I have the impression there is far to much agression within that discussion. And I really do not understand that US/European thing. In fact, in trail running, like in so many other sports, just the best should win. And I don't care from which continent the winner is.
    I mean - isn't that the promise of sport?
    Nick, I do understand your disappointment on the communication issue. But I would take into account that it is not easy to manage. It is by far the worlds biggest trail running event and the organisation got better and better every year. But there are more than 5000 runners in total, so it is a hard to manage task.
    I do believe that even most of the volunteers didn't know about the rerouting. I was myself at Champex and after beeing there for more than two hours (before the first came in) I noticed a small sign which said something about the changes. Hard to see if you run through the aidstation - but at least they tried!
    I understand that trail running is something which has a lot to do with beeing in the nature and not in a business meeting and therefore I understand everybody who doesn't like to take the cell phone out on a course.
    But against the experiences of the last year - it is simply the best way to bring messages to all runners.
    BTW: I really can understand the issue with the language barrier. The organizers have improved that but is is still not very satisfying - an event that is of such importance needs high quality translation, no doubt.
    I have been doing trail running both in Europe, in Africa and in the US - I don't think it is really a cultural issue. It is from my perspective a different way of doing things due to the surrounding.
    I have been climbing, mountaineering and running in the Chamonix area now for 15 years. The main difference to other spots: It is an alpine surrounding! That meens freezing temperatures and snow even frequently at summertime. And french organizers are far more strict with their regulations due to the legal framework - that doesnt't only go for the UTMB, but for other famous races like the Marathon des Sables as well.
    In addition, we had in a race here in Germany (where I live) two people dying during a trail race because of exhaustion due to deterioating wether with the case going to court afterwards. So this is a serious sport!
    What I do not like about many posts here (and I definitly dont't blame you here, Nick)is the assumption US runners would be discriminated or that european runners would have an unfair advantage, more help through the organisation etc. Maybe no US runner couldn't win so far is just due to the fact that the winners up to know were just better used to the conditions in the Mont Blanc area. And in fact, US girls have won here - so is it just a conspiration against the boys?
    For me the true spirit of ultra running is to go out and compete in a beautifull surrounding - and be true friends and helpfull towards each other.
    In that sense, I hope to have the chance to welcome all of you guys from the US here at whatever race - and have the hope to be welcomed some day at a big race in the US vice versa.

    cheers

    georg

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  150. What is this UTMB??

    Marcelo

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  151. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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