NOTE: Read Part 1 of our UTMB series about the three people running the full UTMB course as well as Part 2 highlighting our female members and friends who are running at UTMB.
For the third edition of our series on DPMR at UTMB, we sat down and chatted with four friends who got into CCC as a group applicant in the UTMB lottery.
For an overview of all of the UTMB races and the DPMR members and friends participating, see our original post from last month, DPMR at UTMB 2022.
Profile 3: The Four Amigos
Alex Humeneskyj, Jeff Reifers, Sean Flanagan, and Steve Rowbury have been on A LOT of runs together over the years. They’ve also crewed and paced each other at events such as Western States and the TRT 100. Now they are realizing a big vision to go to Chamonix and run at UTMB together. Here’s our conversation with the guys about their upcoming adventure…
Q: How did this plan come to fruition?
Alex: Back around 2018, I was looking into running CCC and had the points and stuff for it. Then I found out that we could do it as a group, so I slowly went around and planted the seed with everybody that we should go do CCC together. Then on group runs we’d talk about it, and finally the four of us were the ones that were “in.”
Q: Did you know what UTMB was at that time?
Jeff: No, I had no idea. None of us had done the research into it, apart from Alex. But among us we have done a lot of the different 100s and other races here, and I thought going to Europe would be the pinnacle of ultrarunning.
Steve: I skied there when I was a kid, and all around the alps, but I’ve never run there. I had definitely heard of UTMB growing up in the UK, but I didn’t realize quite the crazy, crazy scale that it is.
Alex: So 2018 was the first time we registered, but we didn’t get in that year. In 2019 we did get in, but that was for the 2020 race which was cancelled. So we rolled our entry over to 2021. But in 2021, some travel was still shut down for Americans to Europe and it was just feeling too unpredictable, so we decided to roll over again to 2022.
Steve: We didn’t want to make the commitment, and then possibly be stuck in a hotel room quarantining for 14 days and miss it all. it could have been a nightmare for us. In the end, I think UTMB went off just fine last year,but it might not have just as easily.
Sean: I was kinda happy we rolled it over last year, because I was doing a big bike race in September and it would have been too close, so I was also kinda relieved we rolled it over.
Q: As a group, how did you acquire your points to get in? Did you all use the same race or a mix of races?
Alex: We all used something different. I think mine was TRT.
Jeff: I think I used Castle Peak 100k and Canyons for my points.
Sean: I had done States, so I was set. The system was different back then for qualifying. For CCC it was 9 points and three races.
Steve: I think I used Kodiak 100 and maybe something else, like Castle Peak.
The biggest thing I’ve envisioned is the four of us, coming down into Chamonix together, all coming down the street together into that big arch and finishing together.Sean Flanagan
Q: Do you have a sense of what it will be like?
Jeff: I think the first realization I had about it was with you (Steve Woo) on the end-of-year pub run for DPMR a couple years ago, and you were telling us about your races you had done there. You said you just need to fill a backpack full of weight and just hike. Hike, hike, hike. It’s a whole different ballgame.
Steve: Sean just said that to me, too. I’m hiking a lot with the dog at the moment, and he said you need to throw your pack on with the mandatory gear in it when you do those hikes. It’s a great idea — I’m going to start doing it.
Alex: My only knowledge of the event was that I knew a guy who had to be heli-vaced out of there one year after 90 miles into the race. And I was like, “that sounds fun. I’m signing up!”
Q: So, how are you training for it?
Alex: I’m already training for States this year, and focused only on that for now. It’s my “A” race this year. CCC is more about going to have fun, an adventure. Take as long as I want, take photos.
Jeff: I’m doing a lot of hiking with poles right now, climbing up Diamond Peak and such. Running that Sonoma 50 miler this spring was the first wake up call for me with ridiculous climbing in that. But we’ve been doing a lot of running in the Canyons with big “quad canyon” vert days as Alex is training for States. In something like 27 miles you can get 8,000-9,000 ft of vert.
Steve: That was the first serious vert I’d done in a year, and I couldn’t walk for four days afterwards. I literally couldn’t go up and down the stairs.
Q: Have you guys all raced with poles before?
Steve: Yes. Broken Arrow, TRT, Castle Peak. I definitely think they really help – you can go a bit faster on the uphills, it spreads the work out over your upper and lower body. But you have to carry them the entire race at CCC, so then on down hills they go straight into the pack.
Jeff: I’ve been running with poles since 2012, so I’m very comfortable with them. It’s like 4-wheel drive!
Q: Do you have any strategies or thoughts on how you will approach it?
Sean: I got some insider info from Craig Thornley the other day. He’s done UTMB, CCC, and I think he is training for PTL. He said, “you guys got to sprint from the start to the trailhead, so you don’t get stuck in the conga line to the trail.”
Q: Have any of you raced in other countries before?
Alex: This will be my first time.
Steve: Not ultras, but I’ve ran shorter road races.
Jeff: I think I’m probably more worried about the food and what options are available.
Q: Okay, let’s talk about your race nutrition then. UTMB will have the standard drinks and gels/bars, but they’ll also have pasta, ramen, sandwiches, cheese, pizza, etc. What will you eat?
Steve: I can’t eat anything solid. I’m going to be screwed, and I’ll just have to carry it all. I can’t even get a salt pill down. Of all the races I’ve ran over 50 miles, I’ve had nutrition issues until I got it right at States last year.
Jeff: I can do the solids, but not sure which ones I’ll eat yet. I do well with the Spring gels and I drink CarboPro for liquid calories.
Q: Any strategies for carrying the required gear?
Steve: To keep your pack weight down, Steve Woo says to carry your light headlamp at the start to pass the requirements, and then have your heavy headlamp in your dropbag at an aid station for nighttime. And latex gloves for the waterproof glove requirement.
Sean: Craig also told me for the required leggings that some people pack pantyhose, since they are super lightweight.
Sean: I’ll pay money to see Jeff in pantyhose!
Steve: I’ll pay money to NOT see Jeff in pantyhose!
Jeff: I did wear arm warmers on my legs for the last 20 miles of the TRT once. I thought they were leg warmers, and I kept having to pull them up!
Sean: I have packed all my gear for CCC and weighed it – it was 10.5 lbs.
Steve: Yeah, that’s a good idea. I mean, I haven’t even really thought about my gear and pack yet. I just have a little note on my reminders so I don’t forget to do it – that’s all the planning I’ve done so far!
Q: So, you signed up as a group. Will you run together as a group?
Sean: That’s the plan.
Jeff: We’ll start together, but I imagine we will break up.
Alex: We’ll break up. Things happen.
Steve: We’ll start together and I’m sure we’ll be together on that first hill.
Sean: What? We ran the Grand Canyon together.
Steve: I think we should have a rule that we start together, we stick together, but if any one of us wants to go go off and do their own thing, do it. That’s my opinion. Either that, or we all stick together. I don’t mind either way.
Alex: So it’s still an open item for us. We’ve been back and forth on it a bit.
Jeff: Here’s the bottom line. We will all be at different degrees of fitness and injury. And is it really a “race” for us? For me, it’s an adventure. To be in those mountains and take it all in. I want to be looking up, taking pictures, enjoy it – I want to be enjoying the runner around me. Take it all in. I couldn’t give a rat’s ass what place/time I finish.
Steve: My only thing is I want to make sure I get my States qualifier, which is just to finish.
Sean: If you remember our PCT runs, or Green Canyons runs, I want it to be like that. Where we are together the whole time, laughing, having fun. We’ve done some adventure runs together where it doesn’t even feel like a run.
Steve: If everyone wants to do it together, then I’ll change my goal for the race to be different.
Q: Do any of you speak another language?
Steve: I speak Japanese, but I don’t know how many Japanese runners there will be. And I know a tiny bit of French.
Jeff: I can read French, and speak a little, but I’m not conversant. I bought the whole Babel language thing, but haven’t done anything with it yet.
Q: What are you most looking forward to?
Steve: Just hanging out in the house with these guys.
Sean: the biggest thing I’ve envisioned is the four of us, coming down into Chamonix together, all coming down the street together into that big arch and finishing together.
Steve: That would be pretty awesome.
Alex: I’m looking forward to the scenery. Being up on those peaks, looking down onto villages, going through villages, all of that stuff.
Steve: It is going to blow your mind. It’s nothing like here – it’s like a different world really. There it’s something like 12,000 ft gains right in front of your eyes. It’s phenomenal. Really spectacular.
Jeff: After doing some research on Switzerland, for me it’s just finish this race and go hang out and stare at the Eiger, the Matterhorn, the glaciers, and take it all in. We don’t get to be around that here.
Q: Any travel plans afterwards?
Alex: We are all hanging out for 3 days afterwards, then I’m heading back via Zurich.
Steve: I’m headed to Greece to meet up with family.
Jeff: I’m headed to Switzerland for a week.
Sean: We are going to Lake Como, then we’ll visit a friend in Aix-en-Provence, then head north up to Saint-Malo and take a ferry to the Jersey Channel Islands where I have family and stay there for a week. Then we will take another ferry to Southampton and on to London where I have family as well, and stay there for a week. And, meet up with Steve again. Then on to Ireland, returning home on September 23rd.
Q: Anything worry or scare you about the race?
Jeff: We’ve never done a race all together, so I think you should interview us afterwards and see how it goes!
Steve: Yeah, let’s see how it goes with us running (or walking) together as a group!
Jeff: I think the scariest part for me is the downhills. I’m not sure our quads are ready for all that downhill.