Durangoan finishes the most prestigious ultra in the top 10%
About three years ago, Durangoan Cameron Winters said he was eating too much and was not very healthy.
“I needed to do something big to get in shape,” he said.
Three years earlier, he had run the Boston Marathon, spent two years qualifying and then finishing the race.
“After the race I was done – that was my goal,” he said. “I quit for three years.
Last week he accomplished the feat – starting from Chamonix, France, and covering 106.5 miles through France, Switzerland and Italy around Mont Blanc, gaining 34,000 feet in elevation in course. He finished 221st out of 2,347 riders who started the race, in 34 hours, 2 minutes and 19 seconds.
The journey to finish, however, actually took him years if you include his training.
When he decided to do something big again, the Zion 100 was only a few weeks away.
“I walked out my door and said to Durango and said I would do 50 miles,” Winters said.
Ten hours later, he said he had run 35 miles, but his legs stopped cooperating.
“I literally couldn’t walk,” he said. “It crippled me. “
He canceled Zion’s race that year, but did a 50-mile race in Bryce Canyon, Utah. This year he was able to do the Zion 100.
“It’s been a trip,” he said. “I have a coach and I train with other pros; it is intense training.
Winters said he originally wanted to lead the Hard Rock 100, but because he uses a lottery to select participants, he said it could be eight years before he enters.
The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc also uses a lottery system, but Winters found a loophole. He could qualify by participating in the UTMB of Oman in Dubai. “I finished that one,” he said. “It was like running the Grand Canyon over and over again.”
With that to his credit, Winters lined up in Chamonix at the end of August with riders from 89 different countries.
“It was crazy,” he said. “I was trying to talk to people, but nobody speaks English.”
Winters said he wore a heart rate monitor for the first time in the race and lost his heart rate during the first half of the ultra.
“I wanted to stay aerobic,” he said. “I let a lot of people pass. “
He said he started at around 300th and then slipped to around 600th. Then he started to go runner after runner.
“At a first aid station, I passed around 300 people,” he said. “Everyone comes out fast and then, bonk. After kilometer 20 I started to pass people like crazy. I worked to get to the front, but the leaders won’t let you go.
At around 50 miles, however, Winters struggled with what he called the “steepest descent” of the race.
“Getting off at Courmayeur at kilometer 50 crushed my quads,” he said. “It was a tough time – my quads were locked out. I literally couldn’t straighten my legs.
The trails, he said, differ from the local trails in a significant way. “There are no laces. They are literally ski lifts going up and down, ”he said.
Winters used his poles to help him get off and luckily for Winters he had his wife, Tyan, to help him.
“She massaged them for 20 minutes,” he said. “People were passing me, but I couldn’t walk. “
The massage worked, however, and he was able to continue.
“She motivated me to keep going when I didn’t think I could do it,” he said.
Fearing that his legs would lock up again, “I said, I won’t stop,” Winters said.
The course, however, still had a lot of challenges ahead.
“There have been three monster climbs in the last 40 miles,” Winters said. “It was crazy. The last climb was like climbing a cliff. It was the ugliest thing I have ever taken down.
About a mile from the finish, a runner caught up with Winters, and he figured he could pass him, but he should earn it. They ended up catching the guy in front of them, but he didn’t want to be passed either.
So after 106 miles, Winters found himself in a race within the race.
“It ended up being a total sprint to the finish line,” said Winters.
He finished 22nd in the race. Only 1,520 runners managed to finish out of the 2,347 who started it.
“Putting myself in the top 10% I’m pretty happy with it,” Winters said.
And now that he has achieved his goal, this time he has no intention of stopping again.
“The worst part of the race was finishing,” he said. “Being in the mountains with the view and the competition, chasing elite runners around Mont Blanc – that’s something I’ll always be grateful for.”
François D’Haene from France ended up winning the race in 20:45:59. D’Haene also won the Hardrock 100 this year.
Colorado Courtney Dauwalter was the first woman to finish in 22:30:54. No American man has ever won the race.
Of the 36 American men who finished the race this year, Winters had the seventh fastest time.
His takeaway from pushing himself to finish the race: “Anyone can do what they think about. For me, that’s what life is about: dreaming big and we can get things done.