Handy tip #1 - from Andrew Findley. "With the time you're looking for, make sure you get yourself into the front of the pen." - FAIL. Passing the first check point at 10km in 1500th of 2500 demonstrates it was big fail. When arriving at the start pen, it was mobbed. Not only were the runners crammed in, a lot of supporters were also wedged in for what reason I do not know. The start line was no more than 100m in front of me, yet it took several minutes to cross it, and several minutes more before we even got to a movement that resembled a jog. Accepting the situation, I went with the river and took a breath.
Handy tip #2 - from Rebecca Dent " Calm down, you are doing great". Once the hustle and bustle of the forest path was dealt with, the real business of the session began, with the first proper ascent to filter up. I won't deny, the mind got a bit carried away and although I was moving at an intensity well within myself, I was little annoyed about losing so much ground. I got a good hoof on and passed a lot of folk. Weaving past and when the path became more open, settling on the side of the ski slope path and driving past, feeling strong. By the time I descended to St Gervais, unbeknown at the time, I had moved from 1500th to 750th. Whoops. A bit quick.
Handy tip #4 - "burst or not burst, cover it with Compeed immediately" - Rebecca Shanahan. 1500+ miles and 220,000ft in training and no signs of skin problems. First descent into St Gervais and the left heel base flared up, grew into a monster and popped on the descent to Courmayeur. A most weird sensation, which left me wondering how much pressure must there be for the skin to be forced to open to let it out! Anyway, after much pantomime "oh yes it is a blister" - " oh no it's not" - Jayne smacked on the compeed, told me to get on my feet, and the resulting kick flip on the way out of transition sums up how good it felt. Drama Queen.
As the session continued it was becoming harder to break into sections. 50 miles is not halfway and with a towering climb to get to halfway, it is delusional to try to break the session up into halves, quarters, thirds or any other fraction that comes to mind. It is what it is. Another path to discover, haul up or drop down. Another amazing view to be mesmerised by. Another roof in the distance that fingers can touch and yet is still 45 minutes and 2000ft below. Into the 2nd night, it is a constellation of head torches zig zagging above and merging with the night sky. It is what it is. A moment to nurture. Get rid of the mathematics. Hide the clock.
It is UTMB and it is awesome.
Part 3 - to finish with one whole. Beaming smiles, good legs and great company.