It has been very different this time, but considering it was 5 years ago since we were last here, in exactly the same place,it is all strangely familiar.
Last time we came as a group, Greg, Tim, John and myself and this time I am on my own with my family. Last time Savannah was not even three years old and now she is as old as Joshua was then. Last time it was my first 100 mile race I was preparing for, and now I have 6 under my belt, despite having a bit of a hiccup with number four (the fateful Leadville 2010!) and which delayed my participation in subsequent races.
Chamonix is exactly as we all remember it, even the children, were hugely excited to be going back to the Chalet with the outside hot tub, and the streets and location of the race start and bib distribution has also not changed.
A few things have changed though. At registration today, we had to present a great deal more compulsory equipment than previously, including waterproof leggings and gloves, as well as two working torches (which I had taken to doing anyway) and other compulsory layers which are clearly designed for the potential bad weather in the mountains.
Registration was a fairly straightforward, albeit lengthy, affair and I emerged from the exit of the Sports Centre with a bright yellow tee-shirt and all my kit ready to go.
The weather in the area over the last few days has been changeable to say the least. It really bucketed down on Tuesday from all reports, and I felt sorry for the guys running the long distance self-sufficiency PTL. The rain has held off since we arrived though, and the forecast temperatures have been creeping up and the probability of precipitation shrinking down. Hopefully we haven’t swapped thunderstorms and arctic conditions for sweltering desert heat, although given a choice I think I’d prefer the latter, but either extreme can have a significant impact on ability over the 100 mile distance.
The week in Chamonix comprises a number of different North Face organised races nowadays, 5 in total, covering different distances and different courses and catering for different levels of technical preference, and they have been spaced out from the start of the PTL (300km, 28,000m ascent – Chamonix start) on Monday 25th, through the TDS (119km, 7,250m ascent – Cormayeur start) and then the new OCC race (53km, 3,300m ascent – Orsières start). These three races with their varying distances were clearly designed to be finishing today when the town was full of racers signing up for the remaining two races, and we responded accordingly with support for the runners arriving as we scoured the town for waterproof gloves!
At this stage I am subject to the usual preface nerves and so was hugely envious of the guys coming in who had already completed their races and who could sit back, relax and enjoy a beer.
That, hopefully, will be me on Sunday afternoon / evening.
If you’d like to follow along and check up on my progress the race starts at 17:30hrs (16:30 BST) and the live tracking site is here – http://utmb.livetrail.net/coureur.php