I have been thinking for the last couple of months to attempt the Grand Raid des Pyrénées (GRP). The registration opened today, the 12th January 2012 at 12:12.

This race series is not without similarities with the UTMB, being run at the end of August in high mountain ranges and featuring 3 races. The original race: Ultra (160km +10000m), comparable to the UTMB (166km +9500m), a shorter one: Grand Trail (80km +5000m), against the UTMB's CCC (98km +5600m), and a longer team race with little support and tougher entry conditions: Raid (240km +15000m) vs UTMB's PTL (300km +25000m). The GRP isn't run around a major landmark as the UTMB's Mont Blanc, but goes up the Pic du Midi instead! The wild landscape is stunning.

Looking at the GRP elevation profile is scary, as it features only 5 majors ascents, against 9 for the UTMB. The ascents (and worse, the descents) are therefore very long on the GRP, with 1000m looking like a short ascent, and some featuring about 2000m in one push. The descent from the Pic du Midi is 2400m end-to-end, plus a few extra bumps to make it 2600m cumulated...

On the plus side, the GRP starts a 05:00 as opposed to 18:30 for the UTMB, which I think is a major advantage. Indeed, this means that you run through only one night if you finish in less than 40 hours, which is reasonable, whereas only the elite (sub 26:30) can enjoy this privilege on the UTMB. And given my dislike for running by night, this is a significant bonus point.

In 2012 the UTMB will be run on the first week-end of September rather than the last of August. As far as I know, this is then the first time the UTMB and GRP are not organised on the same week-end, which will obviously give ideas to some :)

I had been contemplating the idea of running the Ultra, as a "secondary" objective, taking my time. But a Little Bird reminded me that one long ultra per year is probably enough for my slow recovery. I keep it my mind for 2013, if we don't need qualifying points by then :) . UTMB will require 7 points next year!

Ultra reasonable