Posted by: pointlenana | August 25, 2014


I have a mostly-written post about Italy I should finish, but we just arrived in Chamonix this evening and I’m too excited about being here. 

This place is BIG.  Not the town – so much – but the setting.  From our bedroom window, we look up and see the summit of the Aiguille du Midi 9000 feet above us, and only about 4 miles away horizontally.  Mont Blanc is lurking in the clouds somewhere above that, there’s a huge ridge behind us, and more mountains to the northeast. 

The Aiguille du Midi is the pointy thing in the center-left.

The Aiguille du Midi is the pointy thing in the center-left.  This is the view from the balcony of where we’re staying!

We haven’t explored the town too much yet but it is very high-end mountain-cute.  It also is jam-packed with gnarly people who do gnarly things.  Many of them are probably here for the running races this week, but there are plenty of people who spend the day climbing, skiing, parasailing, wing-suiting, etc..  The supermarket looked a little bit like Athlete’s Village at the Boston Marathon, except the people here are stronger, a bit younger, and somewhat dirt-bag-ier (a compliment). 

5 minutes after we got to our apartment, the first UTMB-related race started.  The PTL runners started two blocks away, ran past our apartment in one direction, then ran past in the street outside our door.  I’m a bit intimidated by the UTMB race – 104 miles, 31000 feet of climbing – but PTL is crazy.  It has 100 teams of 2 or 3 runners.  The teams have to stay together the whole time, and they have 142 hours (about 5 days) to cover about 200 miles with about 80000 feet of climbing.  The endurance part seems plenty hard but imagine how hard it is to stay positive with your teammate(s) when you are exhausted and feeling like doo-doo. 

PTL start - check out those packs...

PTL start – check out those packs…


In just 110 hours, the first PTL team will cross the finish line.

After we watched the PTL folks run/stroll/slog by, we wandered down to Place du Triangle de l’Amitie, where I’ll cross the start line Friday evening.  It was filled with those gnarly folks I mentioned earlier.  Looking at the start arch with the mountains behind it was inspiring.

Place du Triangle de l'Amitie.  It's real now...

Place du Triangle de l’Amitie. It’s real now…

The weather forecast isn’t amazing, but maybe it’s good to start with low expectations.  As long as it isn’t really bad, I’ll be content.  I’m hoping it clears at some point though so we can see.  Before driving through Mont Blanc (literally – there’s a tunnel from Courmayeur in Italy to Chamonix in France), we did get this view of the south side of the Monte Bianco massif.  I’ll be running in this area sometime Saturday morning. 

The south side of Mont Blanc, from the line to get through the tollbooth and into the tunnel.

The south side of Mont Blanc, from the line to get through the tollbooth and into the tunnel.

Tomorrow we’re going to try to run up to Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, partly to acclimate and partly to see it.  That’s the first big climb of UTMB, and I probably won’t get there until it’s dark Friday night.  If the weather isn’t great, I still may not see it.  Oh well.  Just being here at all is pretty awesome.


  1. You made it to your dream run, Mark. Very cool. Know that I’ll be thinking of you and cheering along with Janet. Peace be with you, Liz

  2. Great post, Mark.
    Photos and description amazing.
    Truly inspiring and best to you for best results!

  3. Looks awesome Mark! You’ve already accomplished a huge feat by getting to the starting line in terrific shape. Looking forward to hearing more.

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