“The ability to withstand hardship or adversity, especially the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity” ~merriam-webster
Life is a gift and includes a spectrum of good times and challenges. Sometimes challenges choose us. Other times we choose the challenge.
I recently visited Chamonix, France, a lovely mountain town in the Alps with a population of 9000. Situated at the base of Mt Blanc, it is the tallest point of Western Europe at 15,781 feet above sea level. The town is awash with rich European character, active lifestyle, stunning views, and tasty foods. If you ever have a chance to go to Chamonix,I definitely recommend it!
Over 5 million people visit Chamonix each year to take in the views and enjoy outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing, rock climbing, hiking, paragliding and trail running.
Many adventurers come to Chamonix to test their endurance mettle on the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) which is a grueling multi-day hike around the entire Mont Blanc mastiff. This world famous hike covers over 100 miles with 30 thousand feet of elevation gain and loss. Hikers move through three countries as they make their way around the supremely beautiful route. The entire TMB hike usually takes around 11 days to complete.
Ultra TMB is an annual event where 2000 runners put their endurance powers to the ultimate test and attempt the full TMB course as fast as they can without stopping!
When I first heard about UTMB I knew I had to go check it out; these are my kind of people!
The experience was incredible. It was actually a week-long festival with several ultra-endurance events, all culminating with the UTMB race that started at 6 pm Friday evening. I joined tens of thousands of other spectators who lined the streets of downtown Chamonix to cheer and support the athletes as they embarked upon their epic adventure counter-clockwise around Mont Blanc. It was such a rush!
The cutoff to finish UTMB is 46.5 hours. The top runners at the race will finish in around 24 hours. One aspect of ultra running that is unique is that all runners start at the same time–the elites, who are hoping to win, and the back of the pack athletes, just hoping to complete the loop in time. How cool is that?!
Another great aspect of this sport is that the entire course is open for spectators to go out and support the athletes as they run. This gives a unique view into what it’s like to try to run 100 miles in the mountains. So I grabbed my hydration vest, trail shoes, some snacks and headed out onto the course to witness these athletes enduring through this incredible challenge!
UTMB creates literally thousands of unique and amazing athlete stories, but I’ll highlight one.
Courtney Dauwalter is an elite athlete and a legend in the world of Ultra Running. This was her first attempt at UTMB and all eyes were on her to see how she’d perform. She took the lead early on and looked to be running strong. But she ran into major digestive issues around mile 50 and was struggling to get calories to stay in. She spent a long time at that aid station and many wondered if her UTMB day was going to end there. Somehow she dug deep and decided to push onward. One step at a time. As she put it later, “I was in the pain cave and had to get used to being there”.
I saw Courtney on course at the final aid station around mile 97, 47 miles after she made the courageous decision to endure to the end. She had been running for nearly 24 hours straight. Somehow she had found a way to endure and battle fatigue, terrain, stomach issues, and still pushed onward all the way to the end. She even managed to give me a smile.
Courtney finished UTMB in a time of 24 hours, 34 minutes, and 26 seconds. She had won the women’s race and placed 21st overall!
What an incredible feat of endurance and will! She is truly so so inspirational! Go, Courtney!
In her post-race interviews, Courtney gave a lot of credit to her team saying she couldn’t have done this without them. Her husband/crew-chief and the rest of her team had been there from the beginning when the idea to attempt UTMB was born. Throughout the planning and training, during the race, and all the way to the finish. She had to be out on the course running the race on her own but she was never alone. She knew she had the support of her world-class team along the way,start to finish.
In some sense, this is what we do at SUMO. We are all a part of our customers’ teams. Our Customers are the elite athletes of their own business domains. Sometimes our customers choose to undertake a major technology change, knowing the challenges that can bring. Other times the challenges are a surprise and technology fails and/or becomes obsolete. SUMO is there,start to finish. Helping our customers to source, implement, and support the right technology solutions.
There are times along the way that challenges can seem insurmountable. This is when we as a team need to dig deep into the depths of endurance to sustain the effort all the way to the end. That’s what makes all the difference.
And maybe, like Courtney, find a way to smile along the way.