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Run247's UTMB 2017 preview

by 1
Monday 28th August 2017
Tags  UTMB   |   Tom Evans   |   Holly Rush   |   Damian Hall   |   Robbie Britton   |   Majell Backhausen   |   Natalie White   |   Beth Pascal
Ahead of this year's UTMB we spoke to some of the top Brits and a top Aussie to find out about their training, kit, facial hair preferences (only the men) and most importantly, which hashtags they'll be abusing. We'd like to wish them all the very best for their races. We will be following the races and reporting back. 
Here's who we spoke to: 
  • Tom Evans, 3rd place in MdS, 4th place Eiger Ultra Trail. Running the CCC.
  • Holly Rush, GB trail runner, 7th in last year’s CCC. Running the CCC.
  • Damian Hall, 19th place at last year’s UTMB, 7th at Lavaredo this year. Running the UTMB.
  • Robbie Britton, GB 24 hour team, coach, 11th at last year’s CCC. Running the OCC.
  • Majell Backhausen, 6th at last year’s TDS. Running the UTMB.
  • Natalie White, 4th at last year’s OCC, Tor des Geants finisher. Running the TDS.
  • Beth Pascall, GB trail runner (8th in world champs 2016), winner of Lakeland 100 and Highland Fling. Running the UTMB. 

UTMB men
L - R Tom Evans, Damian Hall, Robbie Britton, Majell Backhausen

1. How’s training been going and what has your best run/session/race been in training?
Tom: My training has been really good in the build up to CCC. After racing at the Eiger, I spent a couple of weeks on the trails in Chamonix. On return to the UK, I focussed on my speed work by using a marathon build up. I am now back in Chamonix staying with Robbie and Nats doing some last minute training and tapering.
Holly: It’s actually been going pretty well (compared to last year!!). My best race has been Salisbury Trail 50k last weekend. I ran it 10 mins quicker than 2 years ago breaking my course record in 3.31 and I actually didn’t feel that great really.
Damian: Training’s been really good, thanks, with the caveat that I haven’t been running in the Alps, unlike most of the people I’m trying to beat. My best run was probably at the 75-mile Lavaredo Ultra Trail in June. It’s like a mini UTMB, but prettier. I also ran up Everest three times. No, sorry, Snowdon. And have been getting to the Brecon Beacons as often as possible. And I did some planks, too. Pretty certain I’ll win.
Robbie: Training has been a little different this year as the main focus was the World 24hr Champs and that didn't go to plan. Then Nats and I ran 580km across Bulgaria so the main focus has been on recovery and getting to the start line fresh. Majell and I dd a good 4 x10 min threshold on the UTMB climb to Col de Bonhomme last week that was pretty sweet though. We got that one spot on.
Majell: It's been GREAT because that's what it's all about, right? Enjoy the process and not just the outcomes? Nah, in all seriousness it's been different. Coming back from a fair bit of time off meant easier days, which progressed to longer days and I have only just got back to some more intensity in the past month or so. 
Favourite session would the hybrid UTMB & TDS Recce at the beginning of August.
Natalie: Thought to be super prepared for the TDS (119km/7200m) I’d run across Bulgaria with Robbie and Ry Webb. Just around a 585km jaunt in the Balkan mountains on the Kom Emine trail. Who knows what will happen to my body or mind during the race after that epic adventure.
Beth: Training has gone pretty well. I fastpacked the UTMB route over 3.5 days a few weeks ago with my boyfriend, sleeping under the stars and living off bread and cheese. As it's my first time is was great to get a feel for the route and terrain.

UTMB women
L - R Holly Rush, Natalie White, Beth Pascall

2. What are the key bits of kit that you’ve decided on?
Tom: My Compress Sport trail running shorts are key….it would also be a bit embarrassing, and cold without them!
Holly: I will basically be wearing my ASICS FrontRunner kit from head to toe, my Camelbak pack and ASICS FujiAttack trainers and Black Diamond poles like last year.
Damian: Inov-8’s new Trailrocs are well skill. They make me feel fast and light on stony terrain, while grip is excellent as you’d expect. Plus the tough toe cap is ideal for that “kicking rocks seems like a good idea” phase of the race. But last year I wore the Trailtalon 275 and they were perfect, so maybe I shouldn’t be trying to fix something that ain’t broke? I’m a fan of the new Inov-8 All Terrain Pro Vest, too. But as a gramme-counting gear geek, I’m super-excited about their new waterproofs. The Ultrashell is just 108g and the excellently named Ultrapant just 86g. This is my third year in a row, so my kit is fine-tuned. I’ll also go with Black Diamond’s excellent poles and Petzl’s nifty MYO headtorch. Food will be a mix of 33Shake, CLIF Shot Bloks and caffeine gels and Mountain Fuel. There. Think I’ve mentioned everyone I should have.
Robbie: We've managed to find a working mobile phone that's only about the size of my little finger, so that feels like a #GAMECHANGER although in reality that'll make little difference. The Berghaus waterproof I have is pretty cool, 78g and actually keeps you dry and I'll use the Naked Running Belt from the US that I got shipped over after seeing Ryan Smith use it on the Bob Graham Round. 
Majell: Definitely going to rock all the mandatory kit, first and foremost. Shiny bling will include a Suunto Spartan Ultra and that's all I can afford. 
Some tight Compressport V2 Trail Shorts to help support me when I'm feeling lonely. A Compressport Free Belt along with a Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 8 Set pack. Finally, I have saved a clean, brand new, white Salomon Sense T-shirt for the race and can't wait to see how multi coloured I can make it over 170km.
Natalie: Nuts bars (cheaper version of a Snickers), Bounty bars, SIS gels and my nice favourite Adidas Raven Boost shoes to help keep my feet happy.
Beth: My Raidlight Responsiv 10l pack is my favourite bit of kit. It's super light and it keeps everything accessible. It's also easy to loop my poles to the front of it which is really handy. 
3. Which hashtags will you be shamelessly overusing during UTMB week?
Tom: #TrainAsOneTeam
Holly: #asicsfrontrunneruk #chamonix #porkpies #utmb2017
Damian: #shamelessselfpromotion #thatgilethadbetternotbeabagoshiteagain #whattookyousolongkilian?
Robbie: Definitely not #ShamelessSelfPromotion. Damo, you've got to stop using that dude. I might use #ballbag everytime Damo tweets that.
Majell: #usestravaresponsibly #saveracedayforracing #RUN247islegit #Iturn30inUTMBweekandiguessibettergorun170kmtocelebrate #suuntorun #salomonrunning #timetoplay #UTMB #Enjoytheride #compressport #univedathlete
Natalie: Not sure the one I would use is allowed to be shared ;-) [ed: for reasons of taste and decency Nats’s favoured hashtag was censored] I’ll stick with hashtag Alps for safety reasons.
Beth: They'll likely be food related #timeforanotheralmondcroissant

Damo Nats
Damian at Lavaredo Ultra Trail and Natalie, feeling a bit tired, on her epic adventure across Bulgaria

4. Are you looking forward to the ascents or the descents more and why?
Tom: The ascents, because there is always a descent to follow!
Holly: For once I am looking forward to the descents more this year. I’m much more confident this year, mostly due to falling less and better grippy shoes. 
Damian: I used to love the ascents (who doesn’t like a nice hike, right?) and hate the descents, because they can be a bit ouchy towards the end. But I’ve been working on beefing up my feeble leg strength, and on downhill technique, with Shane Benzie from Running Reborn. So hopefully they’ll be a little more pleasant, as they were at Lavaredo.
Robbie: Bit of both really. I feel like I've improved on both aspects so if I can overtake be strong going up and not lose any ground going downhill then I'll be a happy little man.
Majell: Both, but the earlier ones more so than the later ones. Usually, because more people fly past on the earlier ones and it great to see everyone so eager. 
Natalie: My weakness is the ascents so I need to make sure I don’t go too hard on these in the race. My favourite part will be the descents, but again need to make sure I don’t get excited too early on and smash my legs. Pacing will be the key for the TDS, looking forward to a different adventure as not too familiar with this route.
Beth: At the beginning it'll be the descents, but towards the end I'll enjoy the climbs more. An excuse to walk!
5A. Question for the men: will you be growing any of the following for UTMB: a Prefontaine moustache (Robbie Britton says these are hot right now), a Jez Bragg beard or a mullet a la Jason Schlarb?
Tom: If I could I would….
Damian: Hmm, a cutting question. Feel free to trim my response. That ultra-beard craze looks to have peaked. Sadly I no longer have the hairstyling options of some men so I try to keep things more, er, aerodynamic. I am however cultivating some excellent ear hair.
Robbie: I've just started using a cut-throat razor so most likely I'll just be sporting the "Clean Shaven/Attacked by a squirrel" look.
Majell: Chuck Norris's Mullet is the only one I would replicate, it doubles as an umbrella because rain is scared of it. I didn't start growing a moustache or beard 6 months ago, they probably won't come through in the next week. Seriously though, in regards to the hair, I have a consultation with my hair stylist Monday, so we will see what happens. 
5B. Question for the women: which female elite’s legs do you most envy/admire?
Holly: Easy… Emilie Forsburg
Robbie: I don't think Nats will mind me answering this one for both of us. Mimmi Kotka, last year's CCC winner, lives upstairs with us and she has legs that most men would kill for. Very strong! 
Majell: The ones that are not shaved.
Natalie: I have to say Mimmi Kotka (last year’s CCC winner) who lives with us in our Chalet. Mimmi’s legs are pretty awesome… 
Beth: Caroline Chaverot. Quite how she races (and wins convincingly) so much whilst working and having a family is beyond me.
6. Does Vangelis’s Conquest of Paradise (the overdramatic music they play at the start and finish lines) make you: a) cry b) feel a bit sick c) spontaneously run up and down mountains and only stop when you hear it again?
Tom: You will have to ask me in a couple of weeks! It will be better than what is currently on my iPod though.
Holly: Feel a bit sick… it’s a bit like the VLM music or the Comrades Shosholoza start music….
Damian: All the above. I love it though and have it on my iPod Shuffle’s race mix, twice. So there’s a chance I might stop and cry mid-race when it comes on. Mind you, there’s a good chance I’ll do that anyway.
Robbie: A & D (Grin like a Cheshire Cat).
Majell: Usually, I have head phones in listening to motivational sayings such as:
‘Chuck Norris has a diary. It's called the Guinness Book of World Records.’
‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’ - Seneca
‘Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck’ - Dalai Lama
‘Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end’ - Seneca
Natalie:  I don’t believe I have heard this being played… maybe at the OCC last year they played something different haha.
Beth: Hopefully option C! I imagine I'll be feeling pretty sick when it's playing at the start though.
7. What will your blowout post-run feast be once you’re back in Chamonix?
Tom: Silly amounts of almond croissants.
Holly: Probably a gurt big burger and pitcher of beer at the Micro Brewery……followed by a trough of ice cream at one of the vendors on town… (Mont Blanc is my fave flavour). Breakfast will have to be at least 2 x almond croissants.
Damian: I’ll spend most of the race salivating over the idea of a huge pizza at the finish line, followed by a vat of custard. But I’ll more likely be given the stale crusts leftover by my children and told I’ve got back late. A beer will be heavenly too, and send me doolally as I won’t have drunk booze for six weeks or so. I’ll have a couple of those as I wait for Killian, Francois and the boys to finish. #whattookyousolongkilian?
Robbie: We have friends bringing over Swedish Sour Sweets and Norwegian Brown Cheese so that'll be it I reckon.
Majell: So many plants, that any other plant based animals like pandas, gorillas and cows better start hiding their food because I'll be on an epic forage!
Natalie: I may pop to Poco Loco for a pretty tasty burger and then an ice cream - two scoops in a bowl and share with Rosa hound - two spoons of course. Followed by some Raki that our Bulgarian friends gave us this week… well maybe too strong for the likes of me, haha.
Beth: I usually crave salad and veg immediately after a race, having overdosed on carbs and sugar for the last day or so. Once I've got my appetite back, my French favourite is  omelette and chips.
Follow all the action at http://utmbmontblanc.com/en/live/utmb

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