This is the planning and lottery season for most major mountain ultramarathon races during summer 2016. Many of the lotteries are already over, for instance regarding the major US races Hardrock 100 and Western States Endurance Run. Others are ongoing, like the one for Leadville 100. My lottery for the summer of 2016 has not started yet and I will have to live in anxiety for another month.
My highest priority course for next summer is once again the longest and most difficult UTMB race Petite Trotte à Léon (PTL) in Chamonix in France in the end of August. The decision to try to enter this race was easy after my attempt to increase the speed in shorter skyrunning and vertical kilometer races this year. It did not go well at all and even though I became faster than ever on relatively flat 10 kilometer courses with times down to low 38 minutes, I failed miserably at for instance Mont Blanc 80 km and Cervinia VK. Next year I will again focus on one major long race and the choice of PTL was quite straigtforward. First of all, I hope to run together with Tobias Lindström who finished the race in 2013 and put together the Swedish team for 2014, but had to cancel when he got his first child. This year he was back on track and became a finisher of Tor des Géants during this year’s harsh weather conditions. It would be absolutely great to run PTL with him as the course of 2016 looks more technical than ever and he has a solid climbing and mountaineering background in addition to being an excellent ultramarathon runner. He is also, like Otto who I ran with in 2014, an extremely strong person and is easy to get along with and I think we would be a great team.
Secondly, the course of PTL 2016 looks once again absolutely spectacular. Nothing can compare with it. The mountains around the Mont Blanc massif are really among the most beautiful and dramatic in the world and the PTL course gives the possibility to experience the environment also way out in Switzerland and Italy. This year the preliminary course starts by climbing up towards the Chamonix needles along the Bossons glacier, along the north balcony towards Mer de Glace before crossing the valley and up into Aiguilles rouges and the high point of the course which will be once again Mont Buet at 3096 meters. After crossing the valley again the course proceeds to the first life base of Champex after having left France at the Autannes ridge. After Champex the course will take a wide loop over Mont Rogneux and around Grand Combin deep into Switzerland before entering the Aosta valley in Italy by the Durand pass. The track through Aosta valley seem again to be really beautiful following the ridges between Mont Fallère and the Col Sérena before descending to the second life base in Morgex. From there the route this year goes directly towards the south face of Mont Blanc and on the north side of Val Veny before crossing back into France through Col de la Seigne along what looks to be the GR TMB tracks. Then the course again leaves the well trodden paths and heads north towards Aiguilles des Glaciers before crossing into the Montjoie valley over Col d´Enclave. This pass was the only one during PTL 2014 where the organizers recommended passage in daylight, but even then it was difficult to find the right way down and when Otto and I passed we saw another team get into real trouble by taking the wrong path down into a steep scree slope with only loose rocks and gravel, so I am happy to have been there already and know the right way. The route exits the Montjoie valley once again over Col Tricot before passing the Bionassay valley and taking a high path up to Nid d’Aigle. The end will also take a higher route than in 2014 through the Arendelly forest through Chavanne Vielle before descending into Chamonix and the finish.
|PTL 2016 course|
There are certainly some runnable sections of the course, but most of it will be fast mountaineering where navigation skills and experience in scrambling and moving in difficult mountain terrain without any path will be much more important. I guess it is for this reason the organization this year has changed the entry criteria and introduced a pre-screening of all participants where you have to fill in a formulary outlining your mountain experience in detail. I think this is an excellent step. PTL certainly requires plenty of mountain experience together with some resistance to profound sleep deprivation. It is almost like a Catch 22 race – you should probably not run it if you have not been running it before already. Having mountain experience will remove some of the difficulties you will encounter during this race, but certainly not all and I am mostly afraid of the Arendelly forest considering Otto´s and mine experience in 2014. However, having been through it once I know now what to do in order to at least try to avoid to come into the same situation. It is amazing how quickly you heal and forget the bad things and I now look forward to the possibility to run even more than I did the same time two years ago. So, now Tobias and I can only cross our fingers and hope that we both will be accepted for the race by the organization and that our team Living the Dream is lucky in the lottery.