Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc—C’est très difficile!

The verdict is in. The UTMB is one tough race. This unforgiving race course put a hurting on many of the runners, including Deb. She was forced to retire (arret) at the Refuge Bonati at the 89km mark. So, she still ran more than 55 miles and climbed more than 16,000 feet…and only made it a little past the half way point. We are not quite sure what was bothering her, but the symptoms were headache, vomiting, and extreme lethargy. It was likely a combination of things: lack of acclimatization, altitude, jet lag, a stomach bug, a tough race, etc.

Deb Livingston, Stephanie Ehret, and Peter Bakwin at the start.

Since Bonatti was at 2020 meters (over 6000 feet), she was flown off the mountain by a rescue helicopter. The problem is that they took her to a hospital in Aoste, Italy, and just left her there with no way of getting in touch with us or getting back to France. Aoste is a long ways away. I will publish a list of “lessons learned” that all future racers can benefit from.

Topher Gaylor ran well.           Deb in Saint Gervais.

A long adventure ensued for the crew (Buddy Teaster, Shep, and me) as we drove all over Courmayeur, Italy, looking for the hospital. She was able to make a call, but didn’t really know where she was and only one nurse spoke English. At one point, out of frustration, she considered walking back to the aid station in Courmayeur. Thankfully she didn’t because it was like 40 kilometers (25 miles) away! We didn’t know there wasn’t a hospital in Courmayeur.

Buddy Teaster at the wheel of the “team car.”

The Teaster Clan was amazing. Without them, well, I’m not sure what to say. We would have had bigger issues to deal with. Just hours before we finally reached Deb in Aoste, we were on the other side of the course, in La Fouly, Switzerland…waiting for Deb. We spent a lot of time in the van. Thank goodness for the van! And wow, what switchbacks. Buddy could qualify to drive the Pikes Peak Hill Climb now.

Before we went to Switzerland, Shep was in bed (staying with Becca, Taylor, and Laura Macie Teaster at the apartment in Chamonix, France) and Buddy and I were in Courmayeur. We were up all night waiting for Deb to arrive. She was hurting when she did arrive, but I got her pumped up, fueled up, and in shape to continue….to Bonatti. Thanks Scott. Too bad she didn’t return to Courmayeur both of the times that she turned around. Some force was pulling her towards the finish despite all of that nausea!

So, I went through the Tunnel Mont Blanc four times in one day. It was ugly, and expensive. The last time, we waited nearly 2 hours. Deb recovered and is feeling fine. We hiked 10 kilometers today with 4000 feet of elevation gain. We took a cog railway back down from the Mer de Glace (big glacier).

The regional hospital in Aoste, Italy.

They have big hills here. We just might have to comeback and try a new solution to conquer the Ultra Trail Tour du Mont Blanc. Maybe Deb and I (and Buddy) will run it together. To be continued….

The view from our balcony…the reason why we are here!

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