It is with great sadness and disappointment that I must officially declare myself out of this week’s Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. It’s frequently said in running that arriving healthy at the start line is often the hardest part of the entire endeavor. This somewhat tired truism has unfortunately become a stark reality for me since arriving in the Alps almost two weeks ago.
When my race schedule for 2013 began to materialize near the end of last year, UTMB was the event that most energized me. Well before my tickets and accommodations were secured, I’d already memorized the profile, devoured every race report, and visualized how I’d deal with the challenges of the race. From the late start, to the required gear, I absolutely resolved to leave no stone unturned in my preparation. I trained with the pack, practiced with poles, and arrived more than two weeks early to get accustomed to the European style and to recon as much of the course as I could. Sure, Western States was important and I absolutely treated it with the respect it deserved, but UTMB was always the ultimate goal. Being my first international race and a huge opportunity to legitimize myself, I was determined to do it right.
Immediately upon arrival, I was as awe struck as anticipated. A never ending playground in every direction, Chamonix must be experienced at least once by any self-respecting mountain enthusiast. This place is just amazing. In a jet lagged fog, I decided my first run would be up to the top of Le Brevent – an iconic 5,000 foot climb which, like everything else, can be accessed right from town. I was absolutely in my element, literally smiling ear to ear, when I stepped on a rock and suffered a classic and severe inverted ankle sprain. I’ve always had a propensity to roll my ankles and I’ve always known it was only a matter of time before I suffered something more serious as a result. Unfortunately it had to happen here. On my first trip to Europe. Before the biggest race of the season. On day one. God damnit.
I’ve spent substantial amount of time feeling sorry for myself in the last ten days, but have now accepted what’s become reality. As luck would have it, the universe provided me with two very timely encounters that really helped to put my situation in perspective and help me find peace in it all. First, I came across the most recent post of running acquaintance Brooks Williams, who has fallen on some really tough times. Outside a couple handshakes in Leadville, I don’t really know Brooks, but I’d encourage everyone to read it and keep him in your thoughts. His story is damn admirable. Second, I happened to run into Gary Robbins at the hotel and shared breakfast with him a few days ago. Gary was one of the guys I admired most when I found the sport a few years ago. It’s great to see him back in top form with a chance at doing well after suffering through two years of agonizing injury. He is a true success story and offered some healthy perspective which I deeply needed and appreciated. I’ll be rooting for him this weekend.
So that’s really all there is to say. I’m obviously heartbroken, but still trying to make the most of the experience. In all my years of sport, this is literally the first time injury has interfered with my ability to compete. Even though the timing of my injury seems cruel, all things considered, I’ve been exceedingly lucky. I’m in the process now of setting new goals and will no doubt be foaming at the mouth once I return to training.
Finally, I’d just like to thank Pearl Izumi who has always believed in me and invested in my career – including subsidizing my trip to Europe. I owe them so much and can’t help but feel I’ve let them down. Of course, they’ve been nothing but supportive. I’m truly fortunate.
Healthy running is an amazing gift. Good luck to all the UTMB runners this weekend! I’ll see you here next year.