In 2013, I arrived in Chamonix feeling well prepared and eager to tackle UTMB. It was to be my first real international race and I was determined to make the best of the opportunity. I arrived in France two weeks early, allowing enough time for sufficient jetlag recovery and race course familiarization. I was taking it seriously and had pretty high expectations of myself. Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out the way I'd imagined. Instead, on my first run in the Chamonix valley, I suffered a severe ankle injury that precluded me from even starting the race. Needless to say, it was a huge bummer at the time, and I spent my remaining three weeks in Europe largely feeling sorry for myself in various local bars.
In hindsight, this episode has been one of the most valuable experiences of my running career. Instead of racing myself, I was afforded the opportunity to cruise around the course with Joe Grant and Anna Frost, crewing for Anton Krupicka, who'd always been a hero of mine. Though Tony's race had an early and unfortunate conclusion, the ability to observe the front of the race overnight and into the morning that year had a profound impact on me. I realized that I was totally unprepared for the demands of UTMB specifically and European mountain racing in general. I left convinced that, had I not suffered the ankle injury, my race would have been a complete disaster.
Since 2013, I've done a lot of racing, but I've yet to make it back to UTMB. My avoidance of the race in the last few years has not been for a lack of interest or desire, but rather a commitment to only return to the race when I can give myself an opportunity to be successful. For me, that means training specifically for the brutal demands of the UTMB course, which is hard to accomplish on the Northern California coast. Quite simply, I just have no interest in going to UTMB without doing the type of training that's necessary. Luckily for me, 2017 provided an opportunity to do things right.
I arrived in Aspen, CO on Monday afternoon positively giddy to be back in my former home. I've rented a room in town and will be here for the next 7-8 weeks, focusing on accumulating steep and sustained vertical (up and down). In discussing this training camp approach with my coach, Jason Koop, he emphasized the importance of keeping volume high and distractions low. I communicated my intent to exist as a humble shred monk for the next two months, which initially provided amusement and has since become our training motto.
These sorts of focused camps are quite common in road/track running, cycling, and triathlon and will likely become more commonplace in MUT running as the sport continues to evolve and professionalize. I'm super fortunate and very happy to be back in Colorado training in the mountains again. While I fully recognize that there's still a good possibility I'll have my ass handed to me at UTMB, it won't be for a lack of effort.
No excuses. Commence Operation Shred Monk.