The rabbit crew was out in force at the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc week, the world summit of trail and ultrarunning, where the rabbiteELITEtrail athletes successfully competed in the various distances offered. After his return from Europe, we caught up with Riccardo Tortini who wrote a pre-race blog for us as well. When all was said in done in the Alps, Riccardo came away with his first UTMB finish in 28 hours and 21 minutes, good for 78th overall in the deep international field.
Ready to go with fellow rabbitELITEtrail Chris Thomas
Tell us about your UTMB experience Riccardo?
All in all UTMB was a fabulous experience! I love this sport because each and every day represents a different challenge with plenty of new lessons to learn. With that said, I feel like my race could have gone slightly better. I found myself way in the back at the start and with at least half of the field between me and the start line. I passed most of them in the opening 9 miles and found myself in around 200th place at the first aid station, steadily moving up all day and entering the top-100 at Champex-Lac (mile 75). I hit a rough patch between Trient and Vallorcine, approximately 90 miles into the race, but hung in and moved very well in the final 10 miles to finish strong. As with most races, perhaps one has to take part in the race multiple times in order to be able to take calculated risks and maximize the performance, but I am convinced that starting in the back was key for me to eventually cross the finish line in the top 100.
Ultrarunning is all about connecting with other athletes and having fun, here Riccardo shares a big smile with Tim Tollefson
What else did you learn from your 28 hours around Mont Blanc?
With 107 miles and 33,000 feet of vertical gain one should not expect everything to go as planned! Weather, nutrition, terrain; the entire time we had to keep our eyes peeled and brain stimulated. The altimetry is relentless and the weather can turn upside down in a matter of minutes, but at the same time you also encounter long runnable sections. From my limited experience, the course does not have a similar counterpart in North America. Above all I'm thankful for all the travel companions, especially my crew and new friends made on the trails - it's definitely the people that made this experience so special for me!
It sounds like having trail buddies was one of the highlights of your race; what were the most challenging aspects of the race for you?
With races each day of the week the atmosphere in Chamonix was electrifying, though on the other hand it makes it challenging to stay away from the buzz and find time to relax. Logistically the start area could barely contain the nearly 3,000 runners starting UTMB on Friday evening. The amount of trash that I came across on the trails was a bit disappointing, if I had enough pockets I would have picked it all up! I want to believe that littering is exclusively almost accidental and unintentional, but I would like to invite my fellow trail runners to stop and pick up a gel wrap in each race we take part. Let’s all do our part to leave no trace!
Would you change anything about your gear?
It was wet and cold out there so it's hard to be comfortable at all times, but I think I did a great job in general! I started the race wearing the FKT 5” shorts and the ez tee ringer, but after just 20 miles I had to bundle up with waterproof gear before tackling Croix du Bonhomme, Col de la Seigne and Mount Favre at night. In fact the nearly constant rain combined with strong winds and freezing temperatures above 8,000 feet had me wearing long pants through the night and a thermal long sleeve all the way to the finish.
Sounds like rough conditions! How is the recovery going now?
Quite surprisingly it is going very well! After some general soreness in the 48 hours that followed, the week after I had the opportunity to guide my dad, who is a visually impaired runner, in a stage race on the Aeolian Islands in Sicily. I got to rock some summer clothes like the best in show shorts and the welcome to the gun show emoji (my favorite!) after a freezing weekend in the Alps - it was a nice change of pace.
What’s next on your calendar?
Just days before UTMB I registered for UTMX (Ultra Trail Mexico) 100k at the end of October! Actually, it is the perfect excuse to spend a weekend with friends and explore a fascinating part of the country. However, my next big challenge will possibly be Tarawera in New Zealand in February 2019. Stay tuned this winter!
Leaving Switzerland, re-entering France.