UTRB 2018 – touching the core

UTRB this year had a special dimension for me because several friends took part in the 100km race, the Trail des 7 Couleurs. Not only is it the longest trail race in Mauritius, it is part of their journey towards a bigger goal: the mythical Grand Raid of Reunion Island. I was very glad to be assigned to this race because I would be able to see and support them at least a little, depending on how well I could keep up with the leaders. This post is the tale of my impression as a (close) observer. For a full event report, have a look over here or google UTRB 2018.

Le Morne: I started out in the dark, keen to see the mountain appear with dawn which did not disappoint. On they went towards Baie du Cap and the higher grounds of Chamarel. Participants were still just warming up, showing signs and smiles I could only see in the photos afterwards.

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Piton Canot: a small peak on the western ridge, it offers a great view on the west coast and one last descent before climbing Black River Peak, the highest summit on the island. Most of those I’ve seen there were doing great and smiling, some preferring to keep their head down and stay immersed in their focus bubble.

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Down from Black River Peak, you dive into the Black River Gorges, a low point preceding one of the most difficult ascents on the island: the parakeet trail. An elevation gain of nearly 700m over 3km. First you get to refuel and if you like, have a quick dip in the refreshing waters of a river confluent. I was there for a while and now that most had seen me three times already (photos from Baie du Cap not show here), I could feel that I was becoming a familiar face who brought encouragement and moral support.

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Refuelling at Parakeet antennas: the hard part is done(?) Most of the participants reached this refuel station before or, here, at nightfall. The temperature drops quickly on these higher grounds. Having now covered over 50km and crossed out most of the race’s elevation (last 30kms would be flat, along the South coast), you could eat and be massaged, change into dry clothes, see the family and friends who came to support you, and most of all, prepare the mind to rule over an aching body.

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The vibe here was warm yet intense; all hands on deck to help the trailers face a sleepless and cold night. My good friend Julien told me later, this is where he experienced the full potency of mental strength, refusing to quit and applying pure will power to keep going.

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From that point I had to take leave from the course and shoot towards the finish, where the winner had already arrived. My colleagues caught him, so all was fine but I wanted to see in what state the others were crossing the finish line. There was a big moon over the Shandrani hotel and the race village looked fantastic, filled with the usual suspects from ROAG and others, always  present to welcome finishers. It’s difficult to articulate, especially having followed a good part of the race, how “palpable” the sense of relief and accomplishment was when somebody arrived…

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Naomi Brand, the first lady, collapsed at the finish line… 100km and 4700m of positive elevation. DONE.

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Others arrived through the night, and others again in broad daylight the next day…

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Huge congrats to all finishers and thank you for the inspiration… At this level, the proportion of stats and numbers (although necessary) have a small place for me in comparison to the qualitative stuff: how people, yes human beings like you and me, are able to pull resources from deep within, how they train and support each other, how they show what the mind can do when the heart wants something… respect and all the best for your next challenges!!!

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