The UTMB is famous among trail and mountain runners for its toughness, beauty and extensive kit list
2013 UK ultra runner of the year Robbie Britton is set to make his UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) debut. He blogs about what kit he will be using for the ultimate trail and mountain running race.
So what do you need to be able to run 167km across three countries (France, Italy and Switzerland) over a brutal course that includes nearly 10,000m of elevation gain, apart from a slightly warped sense of reality? The UTMB is know for its toughness, its beauty and its extensive kit list -and for good reason, as the weather at 2500m on the Col du Ferret and other high points of the race can be no laughing matter. Using inov-8 kit means I won’t be adding too much weight to my back and making the race any harder than it needs to be. The stripped-back, lightweight gear doesn’t sacrifice quality so I know that whatever the mountain throws at the 7500 runners here to race, I’ll be all right.
The first difficult task is to pick the right pack. Too small and not everything fits in, too big and you’ll just pack stuff you don’t need, just in case you find a chance to wear that third pair of leggings! I’m going for a combo choice of the race ultra vest and the race ultra 1 waistpack, allowing for my bad weather kit, which will hopefully stay in the pack, to sit on my back and my food and nibbles to be easily accessible around my waist and on the chest pockets of the vest.
As I write this the rain is hammering down outside my room here in Chamonix, mainly to make the Brits feel at home I guess, but also to reinforce the importance of a good waterproof jacket for a race like the UTMB in the mountains. The race elite 150 stormshell is lightweight and waterproof, so in the unlikely event it stays in my bag it isn’t too much of a burden. The racepant 150 will also be in the pack but it would have to be pretty grim for me to cover up the pins as well, so hopefully they’ll be safely stowed away at the finish line.
As well as walking poles and my two head-torches I’ll also have a spare base layer, the long-sleeve base elite 200 and a pair of tights, race elite 230s, in there should I decide that people don’t want to see my hairy legs. I’ll be wearing race elite 210 trail shorts, which are a bit longer to help with the cold overnight, my inov-8 team vest as well as my arm warmers, as I like to stuff some extra food in there too. If the rain keeps up I may change my mind about the vest, and go for a short-sleeve base elite 115 Merino or base elite 160 SSZ tee.
The rest of the bag will most likely be filled with food, a mixture of homemade bars, flapjacks, sweets and shot blocks, as I will be attempting to stuff my face with food the whole way around Mont Blanc. I’ll have a toothbrush waiting at the finish!
On my feet will be my trusty x-talon 212 shoes and the race ultra socks. With the hard training behind me and some time at altitude in the bank, all that is left to do is get on that start line. With so many other Brits out here, there are inov-8 wrags as far as the eye can see and if the weather stays miserable it may well feel like a long day out in the Lake District after all.