Jack Gammon - Journey to UTMB - Part 4
So... How’s everyone doing?
*peeps out from under the wrapping paper and empty Baileys bottles to see who’s survived*
I hope you all had as great a Christmas as possible, given the state we find ourselves in, and I hope you're all safe and well and looking after each-other.
Welcome to Blog No.4. Thanks so much for sticking with it. It means a lot to me to know that people are reading these blogs and maybe even enjoying them (What do you mean you've got nothing else to do!?)
It’s dark in Chilly Warwick and I’m sat in an armchair in little Flo’s bedroom in the slippers I DID get for Christmas being stared at by the slightly unnerving talking ‘Snax The Sloth’ she managed to con me out of on her Christmas list. I’m listening to Flo rabbit herself to sleep and tapping out working titles again in the blue light of my laptop.
I’ve thrown around a few titles for this month’s blog and I keep coming back to the only real obvious choice. I’ve typed it, deleted it, tried to get excited about it, panicked, typed it again, and as much as I try to resist it I can’t seem to get away from the only obvious choice.
WORKING TITLE BLOG No.4
I THINK I’VE GOT IN!
Now bare with me a bit here... We had a family dog when I was little called Simba. Simba used to relentlessly race around the local park chasing squirrels, baring his teeth and scaring the nuts out of them. He would give his all in the pursuit of those cheeky little pirates, but would eventually come up short and trot back to my Dad’s heel with a kind of ‘I tried Dad’ look on his face. I do however clearly remember the day he actually caught one, All that fake gnashing and snapping actually came down hard on a slightly fatter, less bothered squirrel’s backside. Now, I wouldn't go as far as saying I knew instantly what that dog was thinking, but I’m pretty sure he:
A) Didn't have a clue what to do.
B) Couldn't quite remember why he was chasing them in the first place
C) Was utterly traumatised and terrified by the whole process.
So I’m sat here with Snax and that story is rolling around my head. My steadfast sloth mate doesn’t seem that bothered by my worrying (If he is he’s not letting on) but I’m starting to get that post squirrel catch nervous flipping in my tummy. I’ve been chasing big races (squirrels) for years now, pouring over qualifying standards for dream adventures, countless hours on websites checking out routes and watching videos.
‘Will my care home for the elderly let me out for the day if I ever finally get in to Western States?’
‘Would I actually die in Death Valley trying to finish Badwater? And is that a cool way to go?’
‘Would I have to sell both of my kidneys or just the one If I ever got into the Marathon Des Sable?’
Sure these thoughts are fun and exciting, but they're also pretty safe. It strikes me that you can be pretty brave within your own head, and maybe there’s a certain security to daydreaming a good game whilst knowing the chance of any of it actually happening is slim.
So let’s rewind a couple of weeks between now and when I spoke to you all last.
PING! ‘You've got mail’
An email landed from (the now thoroughly hassled) ‘S’ at the UTMB Press Office and word for word it said this.
Cue dazed squirrel dropped from my slack jaws!
I immediately text my buddy Dan. ‘Tell me you've got the points mate?’ was his semi frantic response. I reach for my phone instantly and fight my way into the frankly Enigma level UTMB website, a big green light flashes next to my name, that's a good start right? I text Dan back and reassure him as best I can that I’ve got the points, although It takes another three or four checks before I actually start believing it myself. My sister calls it imposter syndrome, a condition in which you are perfectly qualified to do the thing you are doing, but you can’t quite let yourself believe it, whilst living in constant fear that someone (probably no more qualified than you) will pop up and tell you you've messed everything up.
It does however seem that after years of chasing after squirrels I may have finally caught one!
So, that’s where we are, and I promise to stop hammering the squirrel analogy from now on (although I do now have a massive list of nut jokes that I may never use, which is a shame).
The one thing you can rely on me for dear reader is honesty, so I should tell you that this blog was born out of a few things.
Thing 1 - Could writing these blogs help me get into UTMB?
Thing 2 - Maybe Anthony will give me some free stuff to review and everyone will think I’m some kind of sponsored ultra running pro badass.
Thing 3 - Since writing my first Article for Tobias back in 2015 I have realised that I actually really enjoy the process of writing and hope it's as much fun for you lot as it is for me.
Now it’s that fun bit I want to touch on a little. There are plenty of Vo2Max=Threshold=MC-squared type ‘how to train’ blogs out there, and that's great. The guys and gals that write them are super sharp, It must take some real learning to be able to talk with authority on all that stuff. I however clearly come from the utter chancer journalism school of squirrel/sloth jokes and pursuing this format remains my only real chance of being allowed to continue to do this.
Given the uneducated rambles you guys have kindly put up with over the last few months I’m guessing it will come as no surprise to learn that I am NOT a doctor, therefore It is with great care and respect that I raise the slight elephant in the zoom. COVID-19.
As I’ve talked about in previous blogs it’s the magic of races like UTMB that fuels my fire to keep training and qualifying for big ultras, besides the races themselves I have always loved the way towns like Chamonix seem to ignite for these big weekends. Cafes and bars spill out into the squares and a sea of like-minded people talk a good game in their expensive jackets, trying to act casual about the finishers T-shirt they've just 'thrown on'. To me there is something very lovely about a small town falling in love with something SO huge for the week only to have it respectfully swept back up and popped back in its box for another year on the Monday morning. Given the fact that I've barely left the house for months and I can't even take Dan to the pub to chat it all through
Shimmering Chamonix feels a very long way away.
As I say I’m not a doctor. I’ve spent the last year (just like a lot of people) firefighting rules, going through the excruciating journey that is homeschooling and lamenting why I don’t look like Joe Wicks when I try and perform a forward lunge in the living room in loose fitting pyjama bottoms. (Probably got a lot to do with my banana bread intake)
So once again how does this sound?
Please know that I believe COVID-19 to be one of the most challenging things we have faced in our lives thus far and I send love and support to anyone it has touched, but as I said, this blog is about JOY and losing ourselves in the magic of ultra running, so with your blessing I intend to respectfully not mention COVID-19 very much unless it has a direct affect on the logistics of my UTMB journey (2,500 runners lining up in France feels pretty alien and scary right now). I intend to just plough headlong into preparing for a magical race that might not happen.
It’s not that I’m ignoring Covid, If we have to talk about it we will, but for now I have made the decision to train harder and smarter than I ever have before and to cling on to the chance and the very real joy that the 2021 UTMB WILL happen. If it does, I will be as ready as I can be to tackle those brooding mountains, and If it doesn’t then I'm sure it will be cancelled for very real reasons.
Best case scenario
We are all in a world that feels a bit more healed in August and my family and I get to go play in the mountains. (We may have to pack Snax)
Worst case scenario (As far as this blog is concerned)
I will hopefully be in the form of my life and that won’t feel like a waste. Frankly, I feel like I’ve wasted huge amounts of time already this year 'catching up' and learning how to live in a COVID world, maybe having the focus of training for UTMB whether it happens or not could be a better focus for my mental health and well-being than panicking over headlines and trying to resist banana bread.
Maybe, if anything can give me a focus other than COVID its making sure I’m ready for the biggest mountain race in the world WHETHER IT HAPPENS OR NOT.
So to sum up…
I’M IN!! (I think)
IT’S ON!! (I hope)
THE WORLD WILL GET BETTER (Trust me I’m a
doctor and when I say doctor I mean bloke who talks to toy sloths… what could go wrong?)
You've got mail
Genuinely as i'm writing this an email lands from 'S'
We have a new player. 'S' had forwarded my details to 'H' in the UTMB registration office and has asked once again for confirmation of my points
I'm a nervous wreck... These points will be the death of me!
PS. And I'm not making this up I promise. H is obviously a very organized guy.
PING! I pull the car over into a lay by my click and collect.
Email from H. I am officially registered for the 2021 UTMB as a press representative for XMiles.
Anyone got a squirrel I can drop!?
Keep safe everyone