UTMB Week in Chamonix – a bit mad really!

One of my big concerns when Gemma said she wanted to come with me for race week, with the kids,was that I didn’t want to ruin their summer holidays by dragging somewhere that didn’t come with a beach or pool (I know, first world problems..). In all seriousness, they (and I include Gemma) love a campsite/beach/random place where they can go feral and I was bit worried that we were staying in a small skiing flat, in a ski resort in the summer.

First night (stop over on the way to Chamonix – the RockyPop hotel in les Houches – and I quote “dad, this is the best hotel ever”!!! They loved the split mezzanine rooms, the playpark, pétanque pitch, pizzas made in the shape of faces etc etc From the parents side, kids happy, we’re happy! This was a very non French hotel and one we will be returning to.




We then left for Chamonix for a flat rented through AirBnb which was much bigger than expected and with everything you could need. Kids happy as there are bunk beds! Went shopping to get provisiosn and I was a bit surprised to find some UTMB merchandise for sale by the fruit and veg, so bought it!


Now, probably utter total naivety, but I thought the race would pop up on Thursday/Friday, but before then not a lot would be going on, actually maybe a bit like the London marathon, Expo on the Friday, race Sunday. NOPE – the whole town can see the dollar signs that comes with the race and everyone is into it. Everyone is finding a link to the race, form the supermarket to the saucisson sec seller! Columbia has all the official t-shirts and the amount of money people were spending in there was insane. But to be fair every shop we went past (every imangineable running/outdoors brand) was rammed with people buying things form the store. Expo tomorrow so I’ve been keeping my powder dry, 200 stalls so should find something to buy!!!

The one thing that has been strange is that Chamonix is one big running T-Shirt c0ck fest! Everyone but everyone is wearing a race t-shirt! The bigger the better, no 10k race t-shirts here… I can’t count the number of 100k or 100mile t-shirts on offer! Also, everyone is race ready! Just in case the UTMB gets moved forward 3 days it’s OK! People are eating their fondues in full race gear (race vests with bladders etc). And then you have the guys in full gear but from one brand! North Face Numpties, Salomon Samurais and WAA wallies! One guy (the WAA wally) was dressed in full MDS get up, he could survive 10 days on the trail unaided at least. Well I saw him on and off all day round Chamonix, he was just taking some pics and doing some shopping!!! Come on….

Mentally though that piece has been tough until I mentally mocked them! It’s as if people are trying to prove they belong here for one of the races. Of course you do, you had to do qualifying races! But for the first couple of days I didn’t like it at all. I don’t have any race tshirts with me (as regualar readers will know, they never fit) so I’m in my normal clothes (which Gemma would say are at least 10 years old).

Anyway, Sunday we went up the mountain with the girls to Brevent. They loved it, absolutely loved it (as long as there was a food stop every 100 meters). They bounded around like little montagnards and got loads of pats on the head and big smiles from other walkers who could see they were enjoying it. Towards the end it was more shock as Amy was hiking in her pants (due to a wild wee going wrong). One for the wedding at least! Pics below


Today the kids hit the outdoor (heated) pool and had a great time followed by ice cream and we then went to do a treasure hunt! The Patagonia store organised a treasure hunt around Chamonix for adults (again people in full race gear turned up for an hours looking for tickets at pre-agreed places). Kids loved it, Gem got a bit over competitive and ran to the far away locations and we got all the tokens required for a prize draw (we didn’t win). But after the draw Jeff Browning (their sponsored athlete) showed a video of him doing the western states 100 and hard rock 100 followed by a Q&A. Awesome stuff, what a race (the Western States) and real aspirational stuff. Being France though, a full apero followed (wine, beer, soft drinks food) and the chance to have a chat with Jeff. Nice guy and happy to chat to us. Again happy and tired kids put to bed tonight.

Gem is booked into the North Face run with their sponsored athletes tomorrow morning and the compressport one on Wednesday so she’s happy. For me, tomorrow we’ll check out the Expo, Wednesday registration/mandatory kit list check/race number and then Thursday the 5:30am bus to Switzerland to then run home to Chamonix.  Am still nervous, uncertain but I know the children and Gemma are having a nice week so that’s good. 

This evening, whilst we were getting stuff put away etc, I overheard Amy on her pretend phone talking to her pretend friends

“Ok, well, OK I’ll see you at the bottom of the cable car and we’ll go up and go for a walk in the mountain. I know the way and I’ll bring some snacks. You’ll need a rucksack with a bladder as I’ve got one so you don’t run out of water. It’s brilliant, see you tomorrow.”

I may post again before Thursday but if not see you on the other side. Whatever happens, it’s definitely been an experience.

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