UPDATE: On August 29th, Xavier Thévenard sailed through the finish line in Chamonix to claim his second UTMB victory with a time of 21 hours and 9 minutes. Xavier started towards front of the pack and slowly built a lead as other runners dropped off after the halfway point of the course. In the final half of the race, Xavier was running solo, far ahead of the other elite runners. Instead of relaxing into the lead, he used the final climb and descent to rev up his pace and build a 50-minute lead over the second-place finisher, Luis Alberto Hernando.
You can click here to watch a post-race interview with Xavier, and you can learn more about the Marathoner (the pack he used during the race) here.
The UTMB course will take your breath away in more ways than one. UTMB stands for Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc—a 106-mile race that takes runners through three countries, over ten mountain summits, and past countless rivers, glaciers and meadows. The same route takes hikers almost two weeks, but elite runners complete it in just 20 hours.
With such a remote, mountainous course, aid stations are scarce. Unlike many other ultramarathons, the UTMB is partially self-supported. In other words, runners are responsible for carrying enough gear to keep themselves warm, dry and well- fueled if the weather turns nasty. Runners also climb over 31,000 feet during the course of the race (that's greater than the height of Mt. Everest). While it's extremely difficult to gain entry to the race—runners have to rack up points by participating in other long-distance events throughout the year—only about 40% of entrants cross the finish line before the 46-hour cutoff time.
While most distance races start early in the morning, the UTMB kicks off at 6 pm. That means that all of the runners will run through the night, with their headlamps trained on the trail in front of them. With its combination of incredible scenery (sunrise over the alps!) and brutal climbs, the UTMB course is known for giving runners some of their best and worst race experiences, often in the course of a few hours.
This year, four CamelBak athletes will be toeing the line at the UTMB. Read on to see who they are and how they're preparing for their race through the alps.
Xavier Thévenard: In 2013, Xavier won the UTMB on his very first try. He'll be lining up in Chamonix to defend his title and beat his previous course record of 20:34. More about Xavier >>
Sebastien Camus: Seb has made a name for himself in trail races around the world, and has placed second in the CCC (the 100-km companion to the UTMB). More about Seb >>
Sylvaine "Sissi" Cussot: Sissi has been an avid runner since the age of 10, but she didn't take up trail running until 2011. Since then, she's helped Team France win first place at the IAU World Championships, and will be one of the few women competing in the UTMB, where over 90% of entrants are male.
René Rovera: After ten years as a professional triathlete and multiple Ironman races, René Rovera has been racking up victories in some of Europe's most grueling trail races. This will be his first attempt at the UTMB.
Below, you can see a snapshot of the gear each athlete will be carrying: two headlamps, a waterproof jacket and pants, first aid supplies, a whistle and compass, warm layers, extra food and at least one liter of water.
We actually designed our largest running vest, the Ultra 10, to fit every item in the UTMB packing list, from the emergency blankets to the extra batteries. If you're looking for a way to tote some gear on your next run, check out our run vest selector to find the gear that best fits your running style. And to everyone lining up at the start in Chamonix this weekend, good luck and Godspeed!