Oman and 3 Ultras…

Given that we’ve been in coronavirus lockdown and many of the summer trail races have been canceled this year, I look back at my last season’s bonanza’ of competitions with some nostalgia.

At the time I was wondering ‘why oh why’ was I was cramming in three 50km’s when completing one is usually enough and completing two would have been sufficient to qualify me to enter something bigger ( at least via the UTMB system)…if I wished to.

But the opportunities came up so I took ended up taking part in three very different races.

The first, in July, was the iconic Eigar Ultra E51 set in the Jungfrau region on the foot of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. With a party atmosphere at the start and finish and the kind of Alpine terrain I’m used to, I knew what to expect and when to go for it and up until 40km, I was feeling pretty good. But then it slammed you with a grueling, persistent downhill and 5km of tarmac to slam my tired feet with, before a punishing uphill finish into Grindlewald.

But to my surprise, I knocked about an hour off my previous best time for a (roughly) 50km in 2014! And thanks to me moving into the V1 age category I could also say I came 18th out of 75 finishers (and, of course, the first Brit) and 68th overall female out of 235.

The Beaujolais Vert 55 km in October was on paper more successful for me – completing it over an hour faster than the Eiger – but the climbing was 2.400 mètres, compared to the 3100 meters – and for some reason, that terrain felt much more punishing with rolling hills you actually have to run, rather than walk up. And the shorter climbs were very tough, and muddy, so I felt the terrain definitely didn’t suit me so well.

Also, it being not such a bucket list race drawing people from around the world – the competition was much tougher, with more people who probably dedicated themselves to running – hardcore locals, etc, who had grown up on the trails. So making the top 20 would have been an ask.

In fact I was the 34th woman out of 55, the only – and hence the first Brit and 12th in the V1’s.

And then a late spot in the new 50km Oman by UTMB race in November, an opportunity to go to a part of the world I’ve never been and the first time I’ve travelled abroad for a race.

And the terrain was something else, very technical, barren, hard rock and exposed. Despite thinking, I was in for a good time with its 2400 meters climbing mostly done, when I reached the main downhill it was on such jagged technical boulders I could rarely let rip.

I still came out of it feeling no worse than the Beajoloais Vert however.

And as I discovered after the Eigar Ultra, age certainly is a benefit – (and the fact that this was a new race with less competition) as I came first in my age group out of 22- even after taking an hour longer than the Eigar Ultra – despite 1000m less climbing!

I was also the 14th woman overall out of 74 and the 12th Brit out of 32.

I wrote about the experience for My Outdoors and made a video:

And a video on things to do in Oman:

Depite races being canceled this year some are being held later in the season instead.

I have a place for iconic the Sierre Zinal in September, and the race I find toughest with 54 km and 4,100 meters of elevation gain -the Trail Aiguilles Rouge.

Companies are being quite ingenious in their ways of managing to keep some kind of event going- even if it’s virtual’

The UTMB is holding a ‘ virtual’ event, where you can pick a 5UTMB Virtual 50, UTMB Virtual 100, UTMB Virtual 170, UTMB Virtual 240 and run it over the last weekend of August.

While the virtual races are accessible to runners everywhere in the world, those who are able to travel will be welcomed to take on their virtual race on the trails of Mont Blanc where some volunteers will be providing water and aid along the route.

Entry into the UTMB® for the Planet virtual races is free, and all participants are invited to donate the amount of their choice when they register to support WWF France projects.

It will be interesting to see how that’s organised and how it affects people’s motivation to finish.

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