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In 2016, 42.5% of runners engaged in the UTMB® did not pass the finish line, which represents at least 1087 abandonments. And, amongst the 57.5% who did finish, one could count, without doubt, a large number who did not exploit their full potential. To help guide you through a successful UTMB®, we are associated with Outdoor Editions for the publication of a new book by Guillaume Millet: Réussir son UTMB®. Sports physiologist, professor at the university of Calgary, Canada, where he leads a group researching neuromuscular fatigue, Guillaume Millet  is an expert in ultra-endurance in trail-running. Before leading the studies on fatigue and recovery on the UTMB®, he was classed 3 times in the top 6 of the event (2005-2006- 2007). For his new book, Guillaume is joined by François Nicot who, notably, adds his vast knowledge of the mountain environment, training principles and nutrition. François Castell, a specialist in mental preparation, has also contributed. Together they worked on a playful and effective list of 12 errors to be avoided in order to be successful in your UTMB®

Before the publication of the book in the summer, look at the 12 errors not to make for the success of your UTMB® 

1. Ignore the fact that the mountain is not a high-altitude stadium

Tarmac is repetitive and monotonous; it is set in a sanitised, urbanised context. A footpath is completely different: it is ceaselessly renewed, questioning us, demanding our attention. A footpath is, in principle, only a place for pedestrians, without motorised vehicles. It opens on to an area of liberty, and this is maybe what trail-runners are looking for. However, this liberty is not innocuous, it requires a knowledge of the area in which the activity takes place. The mountain environment has an infinitive richness, particularly because it introduces a third dimension, that of verticality. The nature of the differing terrains, the ascent/descent, the slope, sometimes the exposure of the slope, weather conditions (temperatures, wind, rain and snow, fog), the presence of snow on the ground are all factors which restrict the activity, and which one should be able to master correctly.

2. Wanting to do too much

Once one has fixed the principles of the races in which one wishes to participate in the season to come (obviously with one of the UTMB® races as a climax), it is none-the-less time to prepare oneself.  No, stop! Do not leave straight away having put on your trainers! Beforehand, we are going to spend a little time on the manner in which we must structure, lay-out and organise the training for the 12 months to come. You will soon see that training does not necessarily mean running along paths. It is a much vaster concept and the integrator which is going to support not only the training sessions themselves, but also your lifestyle, by including rest, sleep and recovery... all those things which the runner often has tendency to reject, naturally, because in essence they seem contrary to the vision of effort.

3. Do not do specific sessions

These specific sessions could take the form of shock weekends which is to say a long weekend in the mountains during which one is looking to accumulate an enormous volume at a moderate intensity. The aim will be mainly to work specific endurance among which are three main characteristics, resistance of muscular fibres, the prevention of gastrointestinal disorders and the decrease of the energy cost of low-speed running and on a typical trail-running terrain. The shock weekends also serve for knowing how to equip oneself correctly, at any moment; know how to eat and drink; know how to link the rhythm of sequences of ascent and descent, between running and walking; know how to recognise one's itinerary; and in a more generally speaking, by placing your body in physiological territories which maybe indispensable for you.

4. Think that an ultra-endurance trail is just a very long trail-run

Technique is an element which is sometimes forgotten in an ultra-performance. Contrary to trail-running (over a duration not exceeding 6 hr), in ultras one has to learn to walk (and with poles) and know how to save one's muscles. Walking seems evident. Yet, one has to learn to do so!  Muscularly speaking, it doesn't use the same muscles, nor the same coordination, nor the same length of contraction of the muscular fibres. Psychologically also, there should be learning: walk before being obliged to walk. Another good point for shock weekends.

5. Starting a specific training too soon

So that you do not injure yourself before a race it is necessary not to skip the steps to speed things up. Diversity of the activities practiced is primordial. To do so, it is interesting to complete your training with supported activities (cross-country skiing, ski touring or road cycling / mountain biking) as well as body-building! These activities are very interesting when preparing for your race as they help work on your endurance while protecting the joints from the trauma and impact linked to running. In the book, we give details of the benefits but above all the keys for their practice.

6. Neglecting one's lifestyle

Training is essential but it is not everything. Daily nutrition, stretching and sleep are as important as the content of the training sessions. Not having good sessions will without doubt be a handicap but no more so than being negligent about one's food, stretching  or optimising one's rest, particularly sleep. This book covers each of these points in detail which impact not only your performance but also your state of health.  It is up to you as to whether you want to risk missing the start of the UTMB® due to injury.

7. Being influenced by fashion or champions

Do not let yourself be influenced by trends, hyper-light or minimalism. We advise you to adapt the choice of your equipment in relation to the time that you expect to take for the race. If you envisage running the UTMB® in 40 hours go for the quality of the equipment rather than its lightness. Each person reacts to the cold, fatigue and stress in a different way, the choice of suitable equipment for your needs is therefore a key to the success of your race.

8. Throw everything away in August due to inadequate training

We no longer count the athletes who throw away all the benefits of their training by having done one or more sessions too many. Maybe you personally remember a difficult session that you later regretted because it was too close to a race? This was the case for one of the authors before the 2009 UTMB®. Moreover he was not wet behind the ears because it was his 5th UTMB®! Obviously, it is even worse if it includes long downhill sections because it is necessary to give the muscular fibres the time to regenerate themselves. On the approach to a trail-running competition, and above all if it is an ultra-endurance event, it is necessary to rest. Whether you have been injured or you have simply not trained as you had hoped for whatever the reason, do not try to make up for lost time in the last three weeks.  It is too late because it will only add fatigue to the lack of training. In brief, you will be losing out on all fronts.

 9. Wasting everything with a diet which does not suit running

When the day of an ultra approaches, there are several dietary errors which must be avoided at all costs. It would be silly to throw everything away just several hours away from the start of the race! During the preceding week, we describe in the book the period D-7 to D-4, then that of D-3 to D-1 and lastly D day. The general rule is nonetheless that you should adapt your food while following our advice but do not change your normal eating habits. It is what champions, who we questioned on this topic, do like others, in relation to the subject. 

 Ludovic Pommeret :

« On the dietary front I don't change my eating habits, I limit my intake of cheese, milk, dried meats a little… but nothing is forbidden ». 

Caroline Chaverot :

« On the dietary front, I try to eat a little less the 2 to 3 days preceding a race, and limit fibres. Essentially I eat rice and easily digestible fruit and vegetables like bananas, avocados, tomatoes and cooked beetroot... and for sure my home-made chocolates, which are essential for the moral! »

Xavier Thévenard :

« from a nutritional point of view, the week of the race, I am above all not going to change my normal protocol, because that is the best way of making mistakes. I don't eat gluten, lactose and sugar and I eat organic when possible. The week of the race, I only avoid foods with a high fibre content.». 

10. Waste everything through a badly managed approach to the event

What to do during the 3 weeks before the UTMB®? Actually not a lot. Or rather yes, rest, chill out! Profit from the time freed up by a lighter training to start the preparation of the race logistics so to minimise the stress and to be certain that you sleep enough the week before the race.

11. Throw everything away due to bad race management

Concerning « pacing », the most common mistake is starting too fast. It is a problem for more than one reason: you will produce metabolic waste, you will waste your glycogen which you have so carefully stored and you will limit the use of lipids as fuel. Not to mention the drop in moral as others begin to over-take you. We tackle successively the parts « From the start to the 1st night », « The night(s) », « The 2nd part of the race » and the management of the « lows ». We also describe the routes of the UTMB® and TDS® as if you were there.

12. Ignore the pain: the wish to run at all costs

Above all, take note of any signs of pain, if necessary adapt your behaviour by choosing to decrease, or stop training, even forgoing your race (see the box « cancelling a registration in the case of an injury »). In general, do not in any event try to over-ride pain which is a warning sign from your body which must be respected.  Analgesic medicines can mask a serious problem, and anti-inflammatories can have a dramatic consequence for runners creating rhabdomyolysis (muscular destruction which can sometimes cause severe renal failure requiring dialysis).


Outdoor Editions:

Conceived in 1996, Outdoor Editions is a structure created by Joël Doux. Passionate about outdoor sports and member of French wildwater canoeing teams (team world champion). Today Outdoor éditions publishes several magazines specialising in sport, of which Trail Endurance Mag, as well as numerous books in the outdoor sport domain. 

A word from the publisher, Joël Doux:

Réussir son UTMB® is above all « a well thought out book to accompanying runners, to help them have a good experience during this mythic race, so that their preparation has an outcome, a positive result ». 


Guillaume Millet
Physiologiste du sport

Guillaume Millet est physiologiste du sport, professeur à l’Université de Calgary au Canada où il dirige un groupe de recherche sur la fatigue neuromusculaire. Il est l’auteur de plus de 160 articles scientifiques et, avant celui-ci, de 4 livres sur la physiologie et l’entrainement. Guillaume a pratiqué de nombreux sports d’endurance (trail running, ski de fond, raid-aventure) pendant plus de 30 ans en compétition. Il s’est en particulier classé 3 fois dans le top 6 à l'UTMB®. Il a aussi été consultant et organisateur. 

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