Canadian runners describe scene after fatal crash at TDS

August 25, Canadian Running reported that a Czech runner, whose identity remains private, died during the TDS, the 145 km race that is part of the UTMB Festival. The race was halted as a desperate helicopter rescue was attempted, but it was too late. David Orr, one of the four Canadians who ran that day, shared his experience in a personal trial; John pockler was one of 20 riders allowed to continue after the accident.

Czech runner dies after fall in UTMB TDS race

TDS is widely considered to be considerably more dangerous than UTMB; Orr describes him as the “wild brother” of the UTMB. This means “sin the footsteps of the Dukes of Savoy ” (in the footsteps of the Dukes of Savoy), and begins in Courmayeur, taking runners from the Aosta Valley in Italy to Savoy, through the villages scattered on the foothills of Mont-Blanc and ending in Chamonix. The race has more than 9,000 m of elevation gain. The Col des Chavannes, the first big climb of the race, is a very high mountain pass, at an altitude of 2600m. “On one side, Italy, the Limestone Pyramids, Mont Fortin”, writes Orr. “On the other side, a 20 km long bowling alley downhill towards France. As dangerous as the terrain is, it was the first fatal accident in the history of the UTMB Festival.

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The race starts at 3 p.m. local time and by the time the first to reach the crash site, about 60 km away, it was dark. Orr, a packer at the halfway point, says the 2,000-meter climb to the Pralognan Passeur, where the runner fell, was “full of … runners vomiting, working, out of breath.” The humidity and the onset of rain meant that the runners were sweating profusely; Orr knew that at higher altitudes his wet clothes would freeze, and he had tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to dry himself at the aid stations since the start of the race. Now when he stopped moving he started to shiver. He drank a Coke and warmed up briefly over a fire, then moved on.

“I started over with new determination, but realized we were going down now,” Orr writes. “Something was wrong. I asked a French runner next to me, signaling that we were going in the wrong direction. ‘The race is canceled,’ he told me. ‘Major accident. on the pass above A runner slipped He may be dead.

TDS 2021. Photo: John Pockler

Orr was shocked. “I have stumbled across trails several times,” he writes. “We all have. I had small adjustments where my ankle was slapped by the trail, and some fantastic crashes where I pulled down a steep 30% incline while javeling my trekking poles towards the trail. moon, but with the stopping of the run in the middle of a cold and humid night, he began to worry for his own safety and that of his fellow runners.

Pockler, meanwhile, was among the first to reach the area where the runner had fallen. He is an accomplished trail runner, having placed the FKT on Ontario’s 900km Bruce Trail in 2020 (since broken twice, first by Kip Arlidge then by Karen Holland). “I was the ninth or the tenth man up there on the mountain,” he told us. “A man was warming himself by the fire. I said jokingly ‘Are you tired or what?’ I hadn’t realized how bad the situation was. I put on warmer clothes, because it was only a few degrees above 0 C. There was a helicopter, and the officials kept saying “10 more minutes and we will resume the race”. But after an hour, there were hundreds of people at the top. People continued to flock to the top of the climb in the middle of the night. Everyone was huddled in a group to warm up in the emergency blankets. It was freezing cold up there. I was on top of the mountain for two hours.

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Pockler says he doesn’t blame the race organization, which focused on the rescue, and obviously couldn’t let the race go on as usual. Finally, a race official waved to the first 20 people (including Pockler), who resumed their race. The others – around 300 runners, including Orr – were sent back down the mountain to the previous aid station in Bourg St-Maurice, where shuttles were sent to retrieve them.

“I continued with another guy from France, who drew me in by saying how awesome the next sunrise would be at Bellevue,” Pockler says. “We were the last two people left in the race.

“I spoke to a guy who had to turn around. It took them 12 hours to return to town by shuttle bus. Everyone was trying to help each other to try to come back.

Orr describes the experience of coming back down the mountain as “what a DNF of 1,000 looks like.”

“The runners were talking to each other now, chatting,” he wrote. “At the base, the organizers made faces. Food was plentiful… I got on the bus to Chamonix, muscles tightening against the muddy material. Two hours later the bus pulled up in Chamonix, and we all got out and went back to our lives. We were the same, but different.

“Running in the mountains involves risks,” he continues. “As Reinhold messner said, the mountains are neither just nor unjust, they are just dangerous. We look Kilian[Jornet] dance on the ridges in Norway, or Francois [D’Haene] crush the high altitude in Savoy, and we understand that they are different, but in many ways we are also the same. Before being sponsored, before putting on a bib with a single number on it, every elite had the same dream as us mid-range steamboats: to try to figure out something bigger.

“When someone falls, we collectively shudder because even though we don’t know anything about them, we intimately understand the part of them that dreamed of making it happen.

“I didn’t know the name of the runner, but I did know the energy, the presence that was there that night – a reminder for all of us to celebrate life with vigor, love and high heartbeats.”

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