UTMB - CCC 2018
Updated: Jan 14, 2022
2018 saw my first saw me finally make it to Chamonix, not for the UTMB but for the CCC, one of the 7 races run as part of the UTMB during the final week of August. The CCC is 100km long with over 6,000m of climbing, starting in Courmayer in Italy heading in an anti clockwise direction into Switzerland before finishing in Chamonix.
2018 was my second visit to Chamonix, my first one being in July 2012 when I travelled to the region to summit Mont Blanc, really enjoying the feeling of the town I vowed to return one day. Returning to Chamonix felt like a homecoming for Ultra and Trail runners, people walking around in running affiliated gear and looking as if they can run down a gazelle - and that's not even the runners.
Stupidly I left booking accommodation until several weeks after confirmation of my registration to the CCC and as a result was not able to get accommodation in Chamonix itself, I therefore ended up staying in Argentiere with my crew (my parents). Argentiere is only a short bus ride from the centre of Chamonix and public transport is very accessible and usually free with your accommodation if staying in the Chamonix region.
The UTMB has been running for several years and the organisers and volunteers run a pretty slick operation, from thorough kit check and registration to bussing runners to the start of events (in my case from Argentiere to Courmayer) as well as providing supporters with a shuttle bus service following the various race routes. The start line atmosphere is a mixture of tension and excitement that builds up the crescendo of Across the Mountains by Vangelis playing before the runners are let loose onto the course.
This is a bit of an anti climax if you are not in the first wave as you are having to wait around for around 5-10 minutes before being set free to run through the streets of Courmayer and quickly into a steady climb. W
What really stood out for me for the first 8 miles of the CCC was the queues that were building up as people were having to cross styles or through single person gates - it felt as if a lot of time was being lost here and people were clearly frustrated and some non British people thought it ok just to jump the queue of the 100 or so people who were ahead of them. This clearly explains the wave start, trying to reduce or lessen the affects of these bottlenecks.
Other than that the first part of the race felt really easy, I concentrated on walking the up hills and trying to run and many flats and down hills as I could and not allow myself to get drawn into anyone else's race, reaching the first checkpoint in 1,385th position.
The race was progressing well and just enjoying being out in the hills, I made it to the halfway point in Champex-Lac (Switzerland) at 19:56 and in 1,030th position, still feeling strong and happy. At Champex I had access to my support team and access to some additional kit. Here I changed my shorts and socks as well as put on and additional t-shirt as it had started to get cold and dark.
Leaving Champex I knew I had 3 big climbs left 2 of which were over 700m, feeling strong and being used to running and walking in the dark I decided to push on hard for the second half. Between Champex and the next check point at the summit of Les Giete I had passed 172 people, I felt as if I was actually getting faster but in reality I was probably slowing down at a slower rate than everybody else as well as being very comfortable moving around in the dark.
Topping out on the next summit at Les Tseppes I had passed another 104 people, feeling strong enough to run passed groups of runner on the up hills. The way my legs were feeling the down hills were a litter slower as we hit some slippery mud in parts and had to slow down to save my footing and ensure I would be able to finish the race.
Running the last 7.5km down hill from La Flerege to Chamonix took and embarrassing hour and a quarter, by this point my knees had decided that they did not like going downhill and what normally would be fun and fast was slow and painful.
Dropping down from the slopes and onto the valley floor I could see the lights of the town starting to shine and as I crossed the river and onto the streets of Chamonix the town was starting to wake up with shopkeepers washing their shop windows and the patisserie staff warming up their coffee machines. Unlike the winners of the UTMB events when I crossed the line the streets weren't lined with throngs of supporters, but I did have my bleary eyed parents there to greet me as I jumped across the finish line at 06:57 in 691st position and a time of 21:41:03.
I spent the next few days in Chamonix watching the finishers of the UTMB and PTL come in and soaking up everything the town had to offer including the prize giving ceremony (I didn't win anything) and closing buffet.
As races go this was certainly the most scenic, brutal and inspiring that I had completed. Chasing UTMB points would now be my priority. I would certainly giver the CCC two thumbs up and look to run it again one day.
Key kits and bits
Trainers: Salomon S/LAB ULTRA
Watch: Garmin Fenix 3
Pack: Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0
Poles: Mountain King Trail Blaze
T-shirt: Inov8 Base Elite
Shorts: Salomon S/Lab Sense
Socks: CEP run sock 2.0
Cap: Inov8 Race Ultra Running Peak Running Cap
Nutrition (carried by me)
SIS - Gels
SIS - Beta Fuel
SIS - Electrolyte tablets
Tan y Castell Welsh Cakes