Sunday, September 26, 2010


I was surfing on the net the other night and came across the blog: and thought it was hilarious! Here's an article on camping ....

If you find yourself trapped in the middle of the woods without electricity, running water, or a car you would likely describe that situation as a “nightmare” or “a worse case scenario like after plane crash or something.” White people refer to it as “camping.”

When white people begin talking to you about camping they will do their best to tell you that it’s very easy and it allows them to escape the pressures and troubles of the urban lifestyle for a more natural, simplified, relaxing time. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In theory camping should be a very inexpensive activity since you are literally sleeping on the ground. But as with everything in white culture, the more simple it appears the more expensive it actually is.

Camping is a multi-day, multi-step, potentially lethal activity that will cost you a large amount of both time and money. Unless you are in some sort of position where you absolutely need the friendship of a white person, you should avoid camping at all costs.

The first stage of camping always involves a trip to an outdoor equipment store like REI (or in Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-Op). These stores are well known for their abundance of white customers and their extensive inventory of things for white people to buy and only use once. If you are ever tricked into going to one of these stores, you can make white people like you by saying things like “man, this Kayak is only $1200, if I use it 35 times I’ve already saved money over renting.” Note: do not actually buy the kayak.

Next, white people will then take this new equipment and load it into an SUV or Subaru Outback with a Thule or Yakima Roof Rack. Then they will drive for an extended period of time to a national park or campsite where they will pay an entrance fee and begin their journey. It is worth noting that white people are unaware of the irony of using a gas burning car to bring them closer to nature and it is not recommended that you point this out. It will ruin their weekend.

Once in the camp area, white people will walk around for a while, set up a tent, have a horrible night of sleep, walk around some more. Then get in the car and go home. This, of course, is a best case scenario. Worst case scenarios include: getting lost, poisoned, killed by an animal, and encountering an RV. Of these outcomes, the latter is seen by white people as the worst since it involves an encounter with the wrong kind of white people.

Conversely, any camping trip that ends in death at the hands of nature or requires the use of valuable government resources for a rescue is seen as relatively positive in white culture. This is because both situations might eventually lead to a book deal or documentary film about the experience.

Ultimately the best way to escape a camping trip with white people is to say that you have allergies. Since white people and their children are allergic to almost everything, they will understand and ask no further questions. You should not say something like “looking at history, the instances of my people encountering white people in the woods have not worked out very well for us.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

UTMB: race report (5)

UTMB was a joy, even with all the funky things going on. I came away from that race feeling like I'd experienced something very unique. I had quite a few reservations beforehand about the race because it's so big but I really loved it and found that the sheer size of the race is what makes it so special. And of course, the spectators are incredible - they give you so much energy when you're out there, especially late at night when you're starting to droop. To all the volunteers who make UTMB such a success, THANK YOU!! And to the race directors, local mayors, security, medics etc, THANK YOU!!

I got to run 119 km of the 166 km course with 2 race starts. I was wondering afterwards what it would be like to do the whole thing in one go, in 46 hours. I guess there's only one way to find out, and that's to go do it next year!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

UTMB: race report (4)

After a bit of "hurry up and wait" we found ourselves inside the Italian town of Courmayer, gateway to the Italian Alps. And from here, we restarted the race. How weird is that! It was time to get the game plan back on.

The Italian Alps are beautiful. I loved running in this area and it was an amazing sight with so many of us stretched out for miles and miles. One of the helicopters would fly by periodically and hover as they filmed us running. Can't say I've experienced that before - it felt a little bit like being in a James Bond movie!

Just before heading over our first mountain pass, the heavens opened and the rain came back with a cold wind. It was freezing up there but I didn't hang round for too long. Tackling the steep descent was entertaining as it was now a mud fest.

I did what I usually do in adverse conditions; I put my head down and kept going. I can't tell you how much I appreciated the hot noodle soup at each of the aid stations. The aid stations are like miniture villages - huge marquees are set up with rows of tables and rows of food/drink. There's something for everyone on offer and yes, I even tried out the local cheese and crackers. Yum! However, I couldn't quite get into the idea of eating salami!

The support in all the local villages was fantastic, especially during the night. All our bib numbers had our names printed and also our country flags. It's quite amazing to hear people yelling "bravo Brenda, allez, allez". It took me a short while to work out how they knew my name (duh!)

UTMB is a tough course for sure. The uphills are incredibly steep and they don't always have a lot of switchbacks to them - they're straight up. There were a couple of times during the night where I was getting the wobbles - I was walking like a drunk but my body felt pretty good otherwise. I figured it could be borderline hyperthermia as my clothes were soaking wet for most of the race and I was slow on the ascents and descents. Everything was pretty slick and muddy so I moved cautiously on the downhills, especially during the night, but it was cold going.

I bumped into my friend Joel in one of the aid stations and that surprised me as I was expecting him to be miles out in front but he'd stopped to help another runner and then had gotten slightly hyperthermic himself, but was back on track when I saw him and was now on a mission to get to the finishing line under 20 hours. He was pleased that we could run together but I knew it would be hard work for me as he's so much stronger than I. So he took the lead and together we spent the next 6 hours making our way back to Chamonix. He'd call out to me periodically to make sure that I was still there. And any time I started to slow down too much, he would get me going again "allez, allez". He knows the trail like the back of his hand and would tell me what was in store. It was heartbreaking at times to hear how many mountain passes we still had to go up and over but we would plod on, slowly slowly. And at the top of the last pass, we had beautiful moonlit views of the mountain ranges.

The last descent was easy compared to what we'd experienced up to that point. Out of the blue, another friend, Jean-Luc, caught up with us so the 3 of us ran down together. We were on a mission to get to the finishing line and it was going to be touch and go if we'd make it under 20 hours. Joel and Jean-Luc kept a pretty hard pace so I stayed focused on keeping up with them and promised myself anything and everything if I would just keep running for another 20 minutes. You know that feeling - the finishing line is not so far away, but is still not close enough.

When the 3 of us ran over the finishing line together, joined together like the 3 musketeers, it was pure joy! I was sweating like a pig and felt relieved to have finished. We looked at our time and we had crossed in 19:51 hours, just 8 minutes to spare. That's what I call cutting it close!

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UTMB: race report (3)

Jez Bragg (UK) in green, accepting his first place award.

Well, if you follow racing news, you'll know that this year's UTMB race was a little funky. We had loads of rain the morning of the race but by mid afternoon, it had cleared up. And just as we started the race at 6.30 pm it was sprinkling lightly. The start of the race was amazing - I've never experienced anything like it before. The streets of Chamonix were lined with hundreds and hundreds of people, all cheering and clapping. It felt like we were part of a massive celebration. It took me all my strength not to cry; I know that might sound a bit pathetic, but it felt very emotional and we were only just leaving the starting line!!

Me with female winner, Lizzie Hawker (UK).

I was having a great run. It was incredible to see that people were still lining the streets to cheer us on, even though we had already left Chamonix behind. It started to pour with rain again but at least it was warm and it added to the fun - I felt like a kid sloshing my way through the mud and puddles! After leaving the valley floor, we started to climb up and all I could see were hundreds of runners above me and hundreds of runners below me - it was a fascinating sight. I felt like I was part of a human train. It was lovely and quiet too; the Europeans don't seem to say much when they're racing! And everything seemed to flow well - I was expecting some pushing and shoving what with so many people being on the trail but everyone was very gentile and polite about passing each other.

Saint Gervais was at the 21 km mark and this is where the first main aid station was located. I was planning on stopping here to refill my water and re-adjust my clothing. I can't tell you how surprised I was when I stepped into the aid area and was told that the race was cancelled. I was only just starting to warm up! However, I didn't feel any emotion as such; no anger or disappointment. I think most of us were still trying to wrap our heads round the fact that it was finished. As in finito. Finished. Cancelled. No more race. I rang my friends who were ahead of me and we quickly found each other and they had already arranged for another friend to pick us up and take us to Les Contamines which was 10 km up the road. As we neared the village, we could see that some runners were still running but they were soon stopped by the volunteers and told that it was over. It's amazing how quickly the organizers had reacted because there were already lots of buses pulling in to take people back to Chamonix. I think most runners were in shock.

Yannick, Joel and myself met up with friends in the local pub and had some hot chocolate. None of us really said very much as there wasn't really anything we could do except for go home to bed (it was already gone 10 pm). And so we called it a night. I spent the next couple of hours sitting on my bed writing notes about the race start and the terrain (I know I'm a nerd!) but I figured it would be handy for next year.

After 4 hours of sleep, I was woken up by knocking on the door. Joel had received a text message to say that the race was back on but we had to leave immediately to catch the bus into Courmayer (Italy) so he came to see if I was wanting to go. Heck yes! Are you kidding? I was there to run and being able to run another 98 km of this course was music to my ears. So after throwing together my gear, we headed out.

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UTMB: race report (2)

The UTMB is more of an event, rather than just a race and there was a real buzz in Chamonix days before the actual race. We went in a couple of days beforehand to pick up our race bag, bib number and, thanks to one of the volunteers, had our timing chip safely attached to our wrists!
There are 3 other races in the North Face series which depart out of the same area in Chamonix and we were lucky enough to see one of them start their adventure earlier in the week. It gave me butterflies in my stomach!
Chamonix is beautiful! It all looked so European that I had to pinch myself. What a great place to go for a race.
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UTMB: race report

It's funny how things work out .... Steve and myself spent part of last November running across Costa Rica which was a French-run event and so when I was accepted into UTMB, the first thing I did was to contact my new French friends who live just outside Chamonix, and it turns out that they're also racing UTMB. How fun is that?!!
The beautiful, quiet village of Les Contamines. I loved it here. I actually felt like I was on holiday and everything was just so very French!!!
The UTMB course also ran through here so it gave me a good chance to scout it out (when I was eating almond croissants and drinking lattes!)
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