Tuesday, March 27, 2012


One of the secrets to achieving any goal is to set up another one straight after completing one. So with this in mind I signed up for the 52 K Ultra Trail des Balcon D'azur or UTBA. This is the event that started all this madness one year ago,( except last time I only did the 20 k race). Although this is only slightly longer than the Way to Cool 50, its a whole different ball game. Quite simply it is nearly 8000 feet (2400metres) of elevation gain and is horrendous.....as you can see from the profile map below:-

The Ultra Trail des Balcons D'azur

Not only are there 4 huge climbs but they are incredibly steep and I know, because this is my training ground. I've run this course many times BUT with one major difference, I would do maybe a quarter of this for a training run and possibly half for a Long Run.....but to do it ALL in one go is unthinkable! plus its much worse than it looks because its what they call 'technical' ie rocky, shale, stone, gravel and very slippy when wet.
    Hopefully I'm over my injuries because I've only got less than 4 weeks to get ready! Now I know its too soon after the WTC and my endocrine system may not be very happy with the prospect but its my one year anniversary of Ultra running, so what can I do? I have to give it a shot. However this time I am going to be realistic. I reckon that even on a good day this could take 9 to 10 hours as it's a brutal course and I have to face the prospect that I might not make it......but you know. 'You have to do the thing you cannot do'.
    I just did a quick 10 k practice run on the course last week and climbed 2000 feet on solid rock the whole way up and then did a fast quad crushing nearly vertical descent all the way back down again. Today I feel like I've been hit by a truck, it really is a big test for someone of my limited experience. This is the race I mentioned in my blog a long time ago when I had commented to Jamie 'But people don't actually run up that do they, I know those mountains , thats ridiculous'.
     Not sure if I'm of sound mind on this one. This is where the reality of the actual terrain is much worse than the profile map above....and thats saying something. This race is two thirds the elevation of Karl Meltzers Speedgoat 50, the toughest 50 k in the America, so it will be interesting......or maybe just one big 'painfest'.      
       So the short training window I have for this is just hills and mountains, up and down, non stop. If my quads (and calves) are going to survive this one they better be toughened up a lot, otherwise its going to be a very long day. The lovely soft undulating trails of the 'Way to Cool 50' now seem rather inviting in comparison but to be fair thats a different type of race and they all offer unique and varied challenges. Again for this one there are half the number of Aid stations so you have to be much more self sufficient plus there will be at most 200 runners and they will be spread out along the 52k course so you're very much on your own. Nobody is going to be shouting 'looking good' or 'looking strong' and for two reasons :- 1) Its France and the most you'll get is 'Bon courage' and 2) There's virtually no support in these mountains apart from the local Forest / Medical staff, two goats and a wild boar.
     Already the WTC is a distance memory.


  1. Good on you,Phil,

    Looks a tough one....the challenge, for sure, is the terrain, not the elevation and going down, not up. I have done many runs of this length over 8-10 hours and it is fine on the cardiovascualar but tricky on the ankles and easy to lose confidence once you have fallen a couple of times. So, my usual advice.......just believe in yourself, stay mindful and go with the flow! Jamie.

    1. You're right the terrain is pretty testing especially on the downhills.......easy for Killian no doubt.