Links and Thoughts on UTMB

Krissy Moehl and gang pre-UTMB. (photo:

As race reports and articles come across the wires, a clearer picture is coming into view; but that doesn’t mean that additional questions aren’t raised.  The difficulty of the scheduling changes, the course reroutes, the way in which organizers communicate to participants can cause frustration at varying levels.  Some handled it well (exceptionally well), like Lizzy Hawker, Darcy Africa, Mike Foote, and Nick Pedatella.  Some, like Scott Jaime, handled it the best they could and grinded through the course, teeth gnashing, legs burning.  Others, like Hal Koerner and Roch Horton, had the shell of their pride torn away and made it to the finish in nearly twice the time of the winner, thus revealing a brighter and bigger sense of pride and due respect.

Here are some of the writings that have emerged in the few days following last weekend’s epic race.


Geoff Roes, UTMB DNF Team Montrail

Geoff Roes’ year has been a stark contrast to last season.  Not finishing the two biggest ultras this year leaves one wondering whether it’s a matter of being tired, physically run-down, or something more mentally derived.  He’s raced and run harder and more in past seasons and dominated.  It’s difficult to speculate from what he’s written in his report but we certainly hope the best for him.


Nick Clark, UTMB DNF Team Pearl Izumi

When I heard Nick Clark had dropped from UTMB, I assumed one (or both) of his legs had simply detached and fallen off. Aside from Dave Mackey, I consider Nick the toughest guy out there.  This is one person I’m certain will rebound quickly and, frankly, I feel sorry for the competitors at the next event in which he chooses to race.  What made UTMB different for him?


CCC 2nd place, Adam Campbell, Canadian  Team Salomon

Adam Campbell might not be a name recognized by many in the ultra world, but he is the Canadian 50 mile national champion, running 5:44 for the distance.  The CCC (98k) was the first run he’s done longer than six hours.  He captures the culture and energy of this particular European event well in his report.


A piece on the comparison between elite US and European ultrarunners written by a Greek fan

There are some good points in this article.  It’s nice to see that Americans aren’t the only ones who sometimes have narrow or limited views of other cultures’ approaches, athletes, and venues.  Matt and I both have trouble with a couple of this article’s major points.  We’re interested in what others have to say about it.


Dave Mackey, Waldo 100k Win and CR Team Hoka

Even though it took place last week, we want to reference Dave’s run at Waldo as an example of an American ultrarunner with both race day laser focus and season race scheduling focus.  Dave chooses his races carefully, and rarely, if ever, “jumps into” any event longer than a half marathon.  With course record splits written on his arm, he surgically picked the course and the competition apart to break Erik Skaggs’ CR from 2009.  It’s also worth mentioning that Dave is 15 years older than Skaggs was when he set the record.  Speaking of Mackey, SF Bay area resident and impressive adventurist Leor Pantilat ran and dominated another trail 50k at the Tamalpa Headlands though he came-up short of one of DM’s many CRs.  Reference to the question we posed last week, will we see another runner like Mackey dominate the way he has (variety and longevity)?  By the way, we see Mackey’s stock going up here at the end of 2011 and surging through 2012.

The runners who dropped at UTMB knew early in the season they’d be competing there.  Did they take it too lightly?  Did they assume that fitness from the first part of the season would carry them across the finish in Chamonix?  What is the key to performing well there for Americans?

We’ve been thinking about the attrition at UTMB and have come to a couple of distinct conclusions, which we’re happy to share, but we’d like to hear some other opinions from fans.


Tomorrow we’ll share an interesting write-up and interview we did with a trail industry insider.  Stay-tuned!

11 thoughts on “Links and Thoughts on UTMB

  1. Why hasn’t there been more commentary on Krissy Moehl’s DNF? I only ask because if you wrote about her you’d hafta post more pics of her, and that’s much better than looking at the ugly mugs of all these Colorado ultra dudes.


    1. Great point Brownie. We were sort of waiting for her to post a report. I haven’t heard why she dropped. We’ll have some info up soon on her and, more importantly, a photo showing her, um, form.


  2. Aaron Harrell

    The Greek fan has some really valid points, well thought out and well expressed. But I also think that the conversation being had is being had by fans and not athletes. I think that fans in Europe are also more serious that those here in the states. I think that US ultra fans are more laid back than our Euro counterparts. That may add to the conflict; that we feel like the Euros are attacking our athletes because they are simply more intense (much like the athletes). I would argue that it’s really not THAT important how elite Americans fared at UTMB this year. It was one day, one race. That said, I enjoy reading ANY race report, whether it was a DNF or CR. Thanks for the great site!


    1. I understand what you’re saying, Aaron but might have to disagree a bit with the statement about the US fans’ seriousness and intensity. Just take a look at some of the comments on any big name in the states who dnfs for anything less that a broken spine. Heck, Nick Clark provides some raw, unfiltered, honest report on his dnf and folks are on him like a pack of hyenas on a lost lamb. You’re onto something in trying to point out differences but I think the differences lie in the teams, not just the structure and management of the teams but the cohesiveness of the athletes and the sense of obligation to one another and the team. That, I think, is an interesting angle and difference.

      Thanks much for the comment.


  3. Charlie Koch

    Thanks for the write-up. I’ve been surprised by the post-UTMB negativity being directed towards North America’s “elite” ultra-runners. It seems like a lot of people felt somewhat emotionally invested in the success/failure of the US racers, and the resulting disappointment turned into some negative reactions ending up in the blogosphere. People seem to forget that running should be (at least on some level) enjoyable; if we aren’t doing it for the fun and because it makes us better people, what’s the point? Certainly not dreams of money and fame, that’s for sure. Most, if not all, of our favorite “elite” athletes have day jobs for pete’s sake. I also don’t seem to recall any of the big names before the race talking trash about the competition.


    1. Hi Charlie,
      After reading ultra and running blogs for so long, I’ve gotten to the point where I can read a new post by someone (someone with a lot of readers) and know that he/she’s going to get slammed by negative comments. These folks who spend the time to write particularly nasty comments are like that in all aspects of their lives. They are judgmental and disparaging in general, so they get especially excited when someone opens up a little and exposes a weak spot.

      On the flip side, I absolutely admire honest criticism. I’m not into the soft blogs and sites, “it was sunny with pretty flowers and I loved all the people against whom I competed.” Blech.

      Smart guys like Anton (who’s had his heavy share of ass-comments on his blog) and Nick C. do pay attention to comments when they may be critical yet accurate. Also, when you write a blog, it’s open season for all sorts of readers/commenters. I’ve personally shut down my blog three times because of negative comments and criticism. Over time, you learn what ignites those negative reactions and how to form your thoughts so as to avoid them to some degree. You also, hopefully, form a thick skin.


  4. Aaron Harrell

    Point taken on the intensity part, to a degree. I was thinking more about say, hooliganism in England than ultra fans specifically. Fans on this side of the pond are passionate, no doubt. But I simply cannot find anything on the extreme end of things here that gets quite that rabid on that large a scale.

    Good thoughts on the team aspects of the European teams. I have watched/listened to Killian Jornet talk about the race (UTMB) and how he really didn’t talk about the difficulties he endured as much as he talked about the runners that were around him during the race. Is it also maybe about how Europeans define sponsorship as well? American athletes seem to simply think of it in terms of free gear and entry fees.

    One more thing and I’ll let you get back to running. What are your plans for the site? Are you going to get into gear reviews,etc like many other sites do? Not that it’s necessary, but I think much of your writing to date is at a higher level than other sites doing similar things. Seems like you could go far if you were to branch out a little.


    1. Hey, thanks for the nice comments, Aaron.
      Heck, we can barely get enough people to watch ultras in-person to be considered a crowd. I doubt we’ll see Roes’ mom and Mackey’s wife throwing bottles from the sidelines like a crowd mob at a football/soccer game.

      Yeah, Kilian seemed dialed into everything except the race itself. He seemed to just be out there having a blast running and being with friends. I doubt he’d have that same view if there were five guys in front of him. He’s like Michael Jordan (just half the size). He owns the sport right now. You’ll like tomorrow’s article where we speak with one of the leading teams in the sport.

      Regardless of everything we have planned, it will always be deeply researched, well thought out, and, of course, written well! We absolutely love the sport and that enthusiasm will show through (hopefully) in what we offer.


  5. The DNFs at Mont Blanc were a downer, for sure. I think DNF’ing when races go bad has just become the thing to do for elites. That mentality needs to change, though obviously a DNF is necessary when you’re injured (e.g., Karl Meltzer at Hardrock this year). But staying in the game when things go bad and getting a race done, as Kilian did at the 2010 Western States 100 (for him, a 3rd place finish there had to be a disaster, but he never quit!), definitely can be beneficial in the long run and make you stronger and tougher.



  6. Here’s a thought … a lot of folks want more money in ultras. Seems like a good thing – right? More money, more competition, more elite athletes, up the whole ante and raise the bar.

    Clearly an outcome of that would be MORE DNFs. You go for it to go for the cash. You blow up at mile 43 – there is little impetus to keep going and further wreck yourself when that could crash a payday down the road.


  7. I think one of the reason for the poor results of US runners this year can be found in Tony’s blog, when he said he will walk more. Or in the Z.N. race report from Nick.

    US elite runners are true runners. Apart for a few races, for which usually there is very few competition at the top (Hard Rock), top runners run almost everything. Even if Kilian did won WS100 this year, Goef Roes perf the previous year was of a higher level. The impressive series of win of Scott Jurek at the Spartathlon also shows that.
    However, we have no (too few) great 100 milers performing very well at Pike Peaks. In Europe, or in Japan, the best ultra-trail runners are also very performant in this kind of races. Kilian have won numerous race similar. Kabu also has won the Pike Peak ‘s equivalent in Japan (Fuji Mountain Race, a race that Mark C. won also once).
    I know Mark C. has won Leadville once. He has one of the best profile to perform very well at UTMB. For the others.
    And I think this is also one reason the US ladies do perform better. They do power-walk more often during their races in the US, so are more trained for that.
    This does not mean US runners cannot perform well at UTMB. It means they have to focus more on training the walk. And I am sure we will one day get a podium by Nick, Goef, Dakota or Mike…


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