Ultra Trail Mont Blanc – OCC

Author: Dennis Sundman

I don’t remember what started this folly, but most likely someone had a glass too much of wine and figured it would be a good idea to go to Switzerland for UTMB-OCC. UTMB-OCC is a 56 km race in the Swiss alps with around 3500 m+. Anyway, Fred and I decided we wanted to run it. In order to run any UTMB race, you need to qualify. In order to qualify, you first need to obtain a certain number of points from qualifying races. This year, 2018, the number of points needed for OCC was 4. That corresponds roughly to a 100 km easy trail race. Furthermore, you need to do one of three possible qualification steps: pay (a lot), enter a lottery, or be exceptionally good.

Qualification
So first we needed the 4 points. These 4 points may be obtained as a sum of points from 2 races. I think at the time we came up with the idea, Fred already got them. I, however, still needed to get the points. The time frame was tight, but I found a good race: Tjörnarparen 100 km in December 2017. I ended up winning the race, and got the points. However, my performance was not good enough to be considered “exceptionally good”. So I had to enter the lottery. Fred had performed well enough and could qualify without the lottery. Luckily I was lucky and qualified through the lottery.

Final days of preparation
The race was on Thursday. I went to Switzerland on Tuesday. The idea was to get two nights of good sleep before race day. We had the full crew with Merle, Nico, Lulu, Bibi, and of course Hartmut to support us. That meant good food, good stories, and lots of love. Isabell could unfortunately not join this time since she needed to be home and take care of William.

Tuesday was pretty uneventful. We all went to bed early after some Mackmyra whiskey and good wine.

On Wednesday we went for a small hike. The plan was to take it easy, but with 1000 m+, 10 km, and a looming thunderstorm, easy soon turned to sprint in order to get back to the car before the sky cracked open. Before this happened we had a wonderful time, evident by the following pictures.

Having some snacks by the lake

The lake

Race day
The day promised to be good, so the additional heat and rain kits were not needed. However, we had carefully packed all the mandatory equipment, and together with our support crew left home at 7:19. The race started at 8:15, and the struggle to find a good bird sight-seeing site was real. However, we only found some drones flying around, so the birds had to wait until after race start.

The gear

Just arrived to the start area

Still optimistic

8:15 and we were away! Fred and I stayed together for the first 10 km, at which point we had the first motivation enhancement from our support crew. I said good luck to Fred, who sprinted off ahead. My training during the last 6 months had not been good enough to keep up. However I found my pace and stayed together with people with similar strength for most of the time. The race itself was both awesome and terrible. It was awesome because it was very tough, and the views were very good. It was terrible because some of the climbs were not just reasonable. Too steep to run, and almost too steep to walk. I think at some point I did like 2.5 km in 1 hour. The support crew was amazing and I think we never had to run more than 10 km before we got to see them again.

I don’t recall any downhill until the final descent, so I guess we were running backwards

Fred gets some encouragement from the support crew

After some 8 hours I reached the finish and found the support crew and Fred chilling. Some snacks, a beer, a photo and we were back off to the house.

Finally some beer! Did Fred run the final part of the race barefoot?

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