Earlier this summer I was nudged by Doug Mayer to get press credentials for UTMB. At first I dismissed the idea since I didn't exactly have a reason to make the long trek over there - no connections, no experience, no story.Read More
Welcome to Chamonix! Last week was an intense mix of work and pleasure. I was over in France to create daily videos of UTMB, the largest ultra running festival in the world. As part of my press credentials I was also able to get an entry bypass for one of the smaller races, the OCC (Orsières - Champex - Chamonix). The entire event was a huge success but absolutely wiped me out - an endurance event not far off the Direttissima! You really need to experience something like this first hand to comprehend the magnitude - the crowds, the mountains, the enthusiasm. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Here's how it unfolded:
Monday: Arrived in the late morning after doing the 18 hour commute from my house. All I wanted to do was sleep off the jet lag but I motivated to walk around town and experience the building atmosphere as the town prepped for the crowds.
Tuesday: My goal for the day was to get in a trail run so I went up to the Refuge Plan de l'Aiguille and north across the Mont Blanc Balcony over to the Mer de Glace. It was the perfect hike / run to experience the popular trails accessible right out of Chamonix. It did leave me wanting more though. I'd love to get back and do some bigger days that take you further out of town.
Wednesday: It was an early day - 4:15 wake up on a couple hours of sleep getting the trail running edit finished. We had to meet at 4:45 at the press building to get our ride to Courmayeur. The TDS race that we were following is a 119 mile race with 7,250m of vert. A beast that had a relentless climb in the middle that the runners approached midday with nowhere to hide from the sun. We stopped at several aid stations and the views were incredible. It was a good practice run to see what it's like following one of these races. Here's the video from that day:
Thursday: Another tough morning - In bed at 2:30 and up at 4:15 to catch a 5am bus. But first I had to get an emergency blanket (a required provision for the races). I went to the finish line and the first guy I saw finish I went over and said "congratulations, can I have your emergency blanket?" - Marco the Italian who was finishing his TDS race kindly gave me his blanket and I scrambled back to my room because I had forgotten my key. I'll write a separate race report for this day but here's the video:
Friday: The main event. Luckily this race starts at 6pm so I was able to get some sleep to make up from the past few nights. I spent the morning editing and had lunch with Nick Yardley of Julbo and a drink with a couple I had met who are from Silver Lake, NH (awesome to see some NH folk!). But I was scrambling to handle some last minute gear packing and the press was meeting at 5pm - it's 0.6 miles from my accommodations to the press building and I think I made that trip 4 or 5 times that afternoon carrying too much gear. I had an idea of the shots I wanted for the start - in the corral then go get some overhead drone shots. Now I knew that I might catch some heat for flying above a crowd this big, especially with tight security but I figured my press pass would get me out of any trouble. My hands were shaking as the drone hovered near the upper balconies. I got the shots I wanted and as I was flying back police officer flanked me and were not pleased. They asked for papers and all I had was my press credential. They took that and were on the radios trying to figure out what to do. It was 6:05 and I had to be at my van at 6:15. They tried to get in touch with the press organizer but weren't having any luck. Now it's 6:10. I'm starting to realize that they aren't going to take my gear but could potential delay me long enough that I miss my ride to the first location. I didn't exactly study the logistics of where we were going and figured if I missed that first ride I was screwed. 6:15, they tell me they are keeping my credentials, essentially a slap on the wrist. I run to the meeting location and catch the vans at they are loading up. I ask a passenger to wait TWO MINUTES while I grab my luggage. I put my cameras in the back and run to the building a few hundred feet away. When I get back they are GONE. You can imagine how I was feeling at that point. Now without cameras and holding my two bags wondering what to do - I see one of the press organizers and they don't know what to do. Luckily there was another press buss that stopped and picked me. They were going to the same place. Crisis adverted. It was still confusing to figure out which van had my gear - find the driver, walk the half mile to where they were parked. Then find my new driver and move my luggage. A wild start to the race but it was smooth for the rest of the race. Here's the footage:
Saturday: UTMB Con't - Well almost everything was smooth. I wasn't sure what to shoot for the finish. I caught the first finisher then hiked up the course a little to watch the next few guys. Then hustled back to my room and pack a back to hike up to La Flegere where I had big dreams of getting the alpenglow time lapse off Mount Blanc, a NEMO tent shot under the stars, and a few more action shots. There's also a restaurant called La Floria which runners cross the seating deck. As I'm hiking up it starts thundering. I check the weather forecast and it's calling for severe thunderstorms. No one had mentioned this. Basically it killed all my shots and I was forced to run down an access road in the rain / darkness. I tried. To cap that off, I was shooting finishers in the rain and my battery died but usually the camera saves the file. Nope, not tonight. So I ended up missing a lot of my finish shots but learned a few things in the process. These run and gun shoots are challenging and this stuff happens. In general everything was executed well on my end, especially getting the edits up before the next day, a big challenge.
Sunday: The next morning I packed up and checked out of my room. I lugged my massive amounts of gear over to the press building and caught a little bit of the press conference before getting on my 11am bus to the airport. Unfortunately I caught some food poisoning (could have been ANYTHING from Saturday) that made getting home the biggest endurance feat of the trip!
Hopefully I can go back next year and do more vacationing and less work. I'll have the points to do OCC / CCC / TDS so we'll see how that lottery selection goes. But as far as a work destination goes it will be hard to beat.