How have you been training for the UTMB?
This is my second 100 miler of the summer, the first being the Western States 100 in California in June. It’s a relatively short period of time before the two races so initially I focused on getting recovered and not doing too much running. During my recovery spells I’ll do lots of swimming, gym work and road biking to help bring the legs back to life without too much impact. I’ve then been building up the trail miles again and I had a great weekend running round the full UTMB course over 3 days at the end of July with other member of The North Face Team. This was my peak training spell but I’ll also squeeze in a trip to Snowdonia, North Wales, to run some big mountains on terrain similar to UTMB, as a final pre-race session.
What is your target for the race?
My main goal is to put myself in contention to compete with the best runners. As a time goal, I would love to run the full course in under 23 hours.
Are you following any feeding plan for the race?
Nutrition is so important in a race of this distance and magnitude. The key is to start eating early and keep eating throughout. Little and often….. I take a mixture of gels and solid food such as energy bars and flapjacks. I will also have a small meal at one or two of the larger checkpoints such as noodle soup or pasta.
How do you keep yourself motivated in such a long race?
I don’t have a problem with motivation for a race like the UTMB. It’s such a special journey we undertake, circumnavigating western Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc, through some stunning mountainous terrain. When it starts to hurt and negative thoughts creep in, you only need to look up and take in the beautiful surroundings to realise what a special race it is and how lucky we are to be part of it.
Are you going to follow any specific strategy at the race?
My typical race strategy is to run an even pace throughout, and not to go off to hard at the start. It’s easier said than done given the level of competition but it’s a strategy which works well for me. Other than that I will probably set myself a couple of intermediate target splits for the larger checkpoints such as Cormayeur (78km) and Champex (122km) so I can measure progress against an overall target time.
What’s the most difficult thing/s to face in a race like UTMB?
The descending is by far the worst part. An ability to run downhill in an efficient manner, without damaging your legs too much, is the key. There are 8 or 9 long descents of up to 1,000 vertical meters to negotiate. Combined with the distance – they make it a very, very tough race!
What is the thing you enjoy the most in a race like UTMB?
I love the atmosphere of UTMB. It’s unique in that sense – no other race attracts the same level of support at the start, finish and through the many villages and communes the race passes through. It reflects a true mountain spirit.
Who are your favorite runners for the podium?
Kiliian Jornet is not running this year so for the first time in a while I think it’s wide open. There are too many great runners to list but The North Face Team will be ready to put in some big performances!
What’s the most important thing/s to be successful in a race like UTMB?
The key thing is to respect the course at all times. So many runners make the mistake of going off too hard, getting caught up racing too early, and that usually ends in disaster. There’s a lot of fast running to be done in the latter part of the race so it’s important to save plenty of energy for the second half.
Why do you think UTMB is considered the most important ultra trail in the world?
Firstly because of the course – it’s a classic route taking in three different countries – and it truly feels like a journey as you make your way around Mont Blanc. Secondly because the race consistently attracts the best ultra distance trail runners in the world and they are all able to secure places in the race. And finally because the course is one of the toughest of it’s kind – us ultra runners love a big challenge.