Jean Beaumont UTMB Race Report

Jean Beaumont is arguably the leading New Zealand female 100mile runner, with wins at Naseby and a slick 26hr45 at the 2012 Northburn100, where she was 15mins off winning overall! At the end of August Jean took on the might Ultra Trail Mt Blanc- 168km and 9600mD+ around the Mt Blanc massif. Below is Jean’s race report-

Well I figured half the battle was won by arriving at the start line. Oh how wrong I was!

utmbChamonix is an amazing place, huge mountains and glaciers visible from everywhere. Fit people striding around with their backpacks. Parapenters filling the skies. The town was absolutely  abuzz with race excitement. I enjoyed myself enormously in the myriad of sports shops. So it was with a SHOPPERS high that I found myself  in the front starting box of the UTMB.
They began to play their famous starting music ( which I found quite funny actually) and we were off in pouring rain. I made my classic and extremely witty “No one told me there were hills!” Joke and there was deathly silence ooops no one spoke English.
I was pretty happy until the first hill where I came to a grinding halt and was passed by streams of people marching up with sticks.

Mistake No1: I considered myself too high and mighty for  cheating sticks.

utmb jean

Jean having a sit down mid UTMB.

After a muddy downhill ( yahooooo) there was a muddy up . Without sticks it was one step up two steps back. Again heaps of people passed me. From this point on any delusions of grandeur I had were gone and  my aim was to enjoy myself and finish.
The rain stopped and the second major climb up Croix du Bonhomme was amazing. It was warm and clear, this weather lasted throughout the run ( so no excuses there!)
As far as the eye could see above and below me were thousands of head lights.
When I arrived at the top I decided to hug the ‘lucky’ aid crew at the top of each peak (I remembered the first two and forgot all the rest).
With 30 minutes to go to Courmayer I met a man who’s batteries were flat and he followed me closely down the hill. At the bottom were 20 or so spectators all cheering “bravo! Bravo!”, I fell on my arse and slid the rest of the way down ….so typical.

Mistake No2 :No dry socks in my drop bag.

At this point I was leading my age group by miles but I had no idea and assumed I was doing really badly.
Dawn was breaking and Italian  Courmayer was a beautiful town, all cobbled streets and wonderful buildings.
Another steep slow climb up to Refuge Bertone.
Amazing amazing scenery, here is where I saw Mt Blanc for the first time in all her glory!

There were wonderful fir tree forests and alpine flowers, glaciers and huge scree slopes.
At every village I passed people were yelling “bravo! Bravo! allez! allez!” Really cool. The Italian toilets though were those stand and crouch thingies. My legs were sore and I was seriously worried about being able to get up again!
Climbing (slowly… sorry was still not over my climbing speed) up Grand col Ferret my feet began to hurt. When I descended into La Fouly they became extremely painful and pins and needlely. I broke my ‘ no sitting till it’s over’ rule and sat down. And the DNF word crossed my mind I was bloody tired and thought my progress was very slow.
But I  decided to ignore feet and hobble on to Champex-Lac where my marvelous friend Jennifer was waiting. We decided to get my feet checked out in the medical tent. They cheerfully injected iodine into the blisters. This was excruciatingly painful. I had an audience of young boys who thought it was all very entertaining!

utmb jean finish

FINISHED! Jean, 2nd in her age group.

Unfortunately this took a long time and I lost 1hr45. However at the time I was so lala I had no idea of this. But I was keen to carry on for another night. And I had Jennifer to look forward to in another 17K at Trient.

Mistake No3: care about your competition.

Except for a couple of stops to adjust foot bandages the second night was pretty neat.
I would think I was approaching an aid station but it would be a flock of cows with their bells ringing. One aid station gave me some fatty steak, thought I’d died and gone heaven! Jennifer was waiting at Trient and I must admit I had lost focus by now and was cruising along on a happy high confident that I would finish. My first place status completely forgotten! And the winner sneaked past me at the next aid station.
The last major climb up Tete aux vents began easily enough albeit with some hallucinations and then became very steep. Near the top there was no track and a lot of boulders to clamber over. It became quite misty and surreal. On the final down hill it gradually became light and I could just make out some incredible rock formations.
Being in no particular hurry!!! I stopped at La Flegere for some soup. The last 8k from here was all runnable. Once I told my sore legs who was boss I was able to get some reasonable speed up. This was lucky as there were a couple more old ladies in my age group very close behind !
And then it was Jennifer and I running though the streets of Chamonix. I mistimed my AWESOME finish sprint twice thinking it was the end, but finally made it, finishing 2nd veteran woman!
And my prize? Probably the only UTMB Cow Bell in NZ!!!

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