UTMB I: OCC
The Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc, or UTMB for short, is the famous trail race in Europe, and arguably tied with Western States 100 for the most famous trail race in the world. It passes through France, Italy and Switzerland as the course circumnavigates Mont Blanc, with finishers racking up 170km of distance and over 10000m of elevation gain for their troubles. It’s the stuff of legends and something I’d never be able to do, but as it turns out, there are several races under the UTMB umbrella, including the Orsières-Champex-Chamonix, or OCC.
As the name suggests, the race starts in Orsières in Switzerland and finishes in Chamonix in France, covering a mere 55km with “only” 3500m of vert, making it a casual Sunday stroll in comparison to the UTMB itself. To qualify for any of the UTMB races, you need to finish events that offer qualifying points, and for the OCC, you need 4 qualifying points from a maximum of two races. Once you have your qualifying points, you can enter the lottery and find out whether or not you’ll be lucky enough to be able to register for the race itself.
I really want to run the OCC next year. It feels like it’d be a taste of just how incredible a challenge and adventure the UTMB itself is, but in a much more achievable package. So I need to get 4 points by the end of the calendar year, as sadly my recent trail marathon didn’t offer any. The ultra I had signed up for at the end of the month would’ve offered me two, and the event I signed up for in September to replace it also offers two, so that leaves two left. The problem is that I want to get a proper training block in before the Eden Valley 50km in 2 months time, and that there aren’t very many suitable races left in the UK for the rest of the year. I don’t want to travel to North Wales for the Snowdonia Ultra Trail, and I don’t want to pay £130 for any of the Ultra Challenge events. I also don’t desperately want to do a race in November or December firstly because I won’t have any leeway to still get the points if I can’t start or finish the race, and secondly because I have no desire to run an ultramarathon in the cold and the rain afforded by the British winter.
So anyway, what I am getting at is that I have signed up for another ultra in September, the Tring Humanity Direct 50k. I would’ve preferred it to be a week later than it is, but it was the only good option: close enough to London that I can sleep at home the night before, not horribly expensive, and a manageable amount of distance and elevation to get the necessary points.
It’s a gamble, but obviously I love gambling. I’m feeling a lot more confident about this training block than the last one, given I’m not moving overseas in the middle of it, and having gone for my first run since the race this morning, I feel fit and ready to try to build some solid weekly mileages again. After these races, the season is pretty much over, and there isn’t much opportunity to take on any trail races that actually seem achievable until next April, so I may as well try and end my (incredibly short) season with a bang.