Patagonia Ambassador Moehl Takes 1st in Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, Sets Course Record
On August 30th, Patagonia Ambassador Krissy Moehl left an indelible mark on the ultra-running world when she crossed the finish line in Chamonix, France to take first place in the Women’s division at the 7th annual Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB); a 103-mile circumnavigation of the Mont Blanc massif, stretching across France, Italy and Switzerland, with over 31,000 feet of elevation gain. Krissy’s time of 24:56:01 also earned her a new Women’s course record, made her the first American woman to cross the finish line, and landed her 11th overall in a race that began with over 2,200 competitors. 2nd place went to last year’s winner, Britain’s Elizabeth Hawker, who crossed the finish line over an hour behind Krissy. Patagonia also had Ambassador John Stamstad and employee Jenny Uehisa finish the race with times of 39:52:14 and 43:23:25 respectively.
The news of Krissy’s victory has been a jaw-dropping experience for all of us here at Patagonia. Like overjoyed parents, we couldn’t be more proud of her. Many of us have found ourselves reveling, “1st place!…1st American!…course record!…11th overall!…all in the Multi Use Skirt!!”. I’ve even had a few friends who were present at the race say what they found most impressive was how much energy she carried through the finish line with her – all smiles, and laughter and looking fresh.
We’ve been privileged to work with Krissy for many years now, and in her role as an ambassador she wears several hats. As an accomplished ultra runner, employee of the Conservation Alliance, and vibrant (hit the jump to continue reading)
[Patagonia Ambassador Krissy Moehl crossing the finish line to claim the Women's title in the 103-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. Photo, Justin Bastien, www.justinbastien.com]
Both Krissy and Jenny raced in this year’s Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, and although they covered the same terrain, their experiences had their differences. Here we share their words, two perspectives on the same race from two coworkers, friends…and competitors.
To start amidst thousands of runners and spectators was quite an incredible feeling. Thanks to Topher we were able to scoot a small group of us right to the front of the starting line. In that group was Lizzy Hawker who I finally got to meet. Meeting minutes before a race start is an interesting time, she was definitely focused and quiet, I was nervous, had goosebumps and was definitely in my own head about what the night would bring.
Upon ducking under the tape to join the 2300 starters they immediately grabbed Scott’s pack to weigh it and double check his mandatory gear. Lizzy and I stood there along with some other women and I didn’t see them check one woman’s pack. Personally I was relieved, I knew I had everything, but I wondered, what if they don’t like my choice of whistle or something. Thankfully everything checked out for Scott and to the tune of “Conquest of Paradise" from Vangelis we took off through town, some of the men at a full sprint. I’ll admit it was difficult to not run fast with the adrenaline and spirit of SO many people lining the streets to cheer us on. I was fascinated by how many people were along the way giving hi-fives and taking photos. Town after town we made our way along the course and into the night and people cheered us along well past midnight. (Krissy's post continued here)
From Jenny Uehisa:
Greetings from the back of the pack! Not to point out the obvious, but my experience was completely different than Krissy’s. And that’s ok as I’m not a professional runner, I’m a designer who likes to run in the mountains!For full race results click here.
The UTMB is a race that I’ve wanted to do since I first heard Krissy talking about it years ago. I remember hearing her stories about how beautiful and grueling it was…sign me up! When she was down in Ventura for an ambassador meeting last October, I talked her into applying with me and when we both got in (the race has more applicants than available spots so you have to first qualify and then put your name in a raffle and cross your fingers) I was ecstatic!
Training for something like this is pretty committing, even for a hack-job like me. It meant that instead of climbing every weekend I had to buckle down and run trails all weekend. I was able to get out and run large chunks on the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail along with a few ultras during the year to keep things interesting.
When we finally arrived in Chamonix, I felt pretty confident that I had done all the necessary mileage and preparation. The only other 100-miler I’d run was the Cascade Crest in 2007 where Krissy crewed and paced me for 47 miles. I learned a ton from her on how to troubleshoot aches and pains and keep moving through the night. I thought I would be solid for my second go at a 100-miler.
But then the reality started to settle in. Watching Krissy get ready for this race made me a bit nervous. I didn’t have a time goal or my splits calculated. Heck, I didn’t even have a watch! Luckily she had extra supplies and helped me fill in the missing pieces.
The fact that I didn’t have a crew or support team didn’t worry me because usually I don’t need it. But then I read that the aid stations were not stocked with the usual fare. No gels, no potatoes and salt, no peanut butter and jellies and only one drop bag location at the half way point. Uh oh. That meant that I would have to carry all of my food provisions for 50-mile segments. Wow, that made for a heavy pack but c’est la vie!
Heading to the start was exciting. People began queuing up hours before the race and we were arriving minutes before the start. Krissy slid into the VIP elite runner section while I had to shimmy my way toward the back of the pack to avoid getting trampled by men in compression tights with poles in both hands.
And then the real adventure began and I realized how very naïve I was. I was not anywhere close to being ready for the difficulty of this course and this wasn’t the sort of race I could ride on my experience to get me through. The trails were hard, steep, and relentless.
At the halfway point in Courmayeur, Italy, I was completely wrecked. I could barely even walk the downhills, my knees killed and my feet were covered with blisters. I wanted to quit along with the masses who were hopping on the shuttle buses back to Chamonix. But then a group of Italian guys I had been running with said, “American girl, don’t give up. Stay with us, together we go!” and I set off once again on the trail.
I realized that I still had 30 hours to make the cutoff time and I knew I could finish even if I walked the entire second half. And that’s what I did, I basically walked to Switzerland and tried to enjoy the beauty of Mont Blanc and made some new friends along the way.
But as you can imagine, walking started to get old. Especially when the second night fell upon me. By the time I reached the Champex Lac aid station in Switzerland I had mentally given up and wanted to drop out. However, members of Krissy and my boyfriend Scott’s crew had driven for an hour and a half to meet me there. They talked me out of quitting and gave me two knee bands and a bunch of caffeinated trail food to keep me up right!
Seeing them brought me back to life and gave me the inspiration I needed to keep plugging away, one aid station at a time. When the sun came up for the second time, I was happy and bubbly once again and could feel the pull of the finish line. As I ran down into the Vallorcine aid station, I heard a bunch of cheers for me and was elated to see Krissy and Scott waving at me. They had both finished the night before and should have been sleeping! But they rallied for me, which made me feel super special.
Running into downtown Chamonix was surreal. The streets were packed with people and I saw all my friends and coworkers jumping up and down. It was such a great feeling of accomplishment. I freaking finished that beast! Not anywhere near the time I thought I would finish, but who really cares? I’m just glad I stuck it out further than I wanted to and overcame the constant urges to quit.
Krissy got a little teary eyed and was so proud of me, even though it took me almost twice as long than it took her. But that’s what is so great about ultrarunning; everybody runs their own race and it doesn’t matter when you finish, what matters is what you learn about yourself along the way.
Additional coverage of the race can be found on ultrarunning.com and trailrunningsoul.com.
[Top - Krissy receives congratulations from her supporters. Middle - Patagonia Running Ambassador John Stamstad also competed in this year's UTMB. Bottom - Jenny Uehisa, Patagonia Velocity clothing designer. All above photos, Justin Bastien - www.justinbastien.com]
A few more photos of race day:
[Krissy leaving Contamines with her two-woman trail angel support crew, Benita Gateman-Lewis and Zoe Hart. Photo, Jean Celle]
[Team patagonia group photo - the whole gang gathers after a long weekend of racing. From left to right, Krissy Moehl, Benita Gateman-Lewis, Jenny Uehisa, Holger's daughter, Holger Bismann, Alyssa Firmin, Zoe Hart. Photo, Jenny Uehisa]