Mike Foote was the 2013 The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc’s fifth-place finisher. In this interview, Mike talks about what wasn’t going right for him during the first couple hours of the race, how he and Timothy Olson worked together for several hours, and whether he was satisfied with his performance.
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Mike Foote Post-2013 TNF UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Mike Foote after yet another great run at UTMB.
Mike Foote: Thank you.
iRF: It’s odd because you’re probably going to say it’s not the run you wanted.
Foote: No, in the end I feel like I was happy with my time for this course. Not to mention, being among the top 10 at UTMB any year is something anybody should be proud of no matter what your expectations are.
iRF: Or gender.
Foote: Exactly. Or gender. It was a really positive experience. There were definitely some highs and lows. The first couple hours were really odd. I felt completely flushed out and horrible like I have at the end of 100 mile races before. I don’t know if I was working through something or was getting the flu. Then luckily I made it to Les Contamines and everything turned around and whatever I was dealing with was…
iRF: Yeah, you weren’t looking too good.
Foote: Yeah, I felt pale. I was sweating profusely. I went to switch into my long sleeved t-shirt and I’d sweat through everything in my backpack, so I had to switch all of my gear out. I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life. Luckily after 30km I felt normal again and was able to start playing some catch-up which is fine by me. I like being in that role anyway.
iRF: What does motivate you about that?
Foote: It keeps you a little hungry early on in the race not being chased. I think I gain confidence from passing people. This race was the perfect example of everybody I passed, the next person was a little bit harder to pass because they were moving a little bit faster. Bit by bit it was fun to work my way back into the top 10. I think I was in 40th or 50th in St. Gervais which is kind of right where I wanted to be even though I was feeling pretty bad. As always, I had a lot of time to catch up in a race like UTMB.
iRF: Early on in Les Houches you were with a bunch of other Americans and Europeans—Jez [Bragg] I think was in your group and Tony [Krupicka]…
Foote: And Mike Wolfe…
iRF: And Amy Sproston. Especially on the men’s side were you talking it all about trying to temper or reinforcing that on one another to sort of chill out?
Foote: We didn’t talk about it, but you could tell we were all trying to take it really easy. The hard part was that I was working really hard because for whatever reason I was feeling horrible. You could tell we were all reining ourselves in. I think we all said that was going to be our plan, and we were all kind of keeping each other in check to see if everybody was actually going to stick with that plan.
iRF: Wouldn’t it have been hard if one of them would have taken off…
Foote: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. It’s always funny to say, “I’m gonna run my own race. I’m gonna run my own race.” and you see somebody you want to be racing with take off.
iRF: Jez takes off and you’re like, “Ok.”
Foote: Yeah. We only have 145km to go. I have to go right now.
iRF: Only 20 hours left. There are obviously a lot of European runners that you don’t know and you’re in 50th and there a lot of random bodies in lycra. When did you start feeling yourself back in “the race?”
Foote: Barely. I’d say coming into Courmayeur, I was probably in tenth place but kind of a ways out from everybody still. I knew I had a lot of work to do between Courmayeur and Champex-Lac. I could start seeing headlamps in the distance and felt like I was moving at an okay pace and hitting splits alright. Again onto Grand Col de Ferret, which is the high point on the course, and knowing I had a 20km downhill into Champex-Lac I really wanted to make up some time. In Champex, I ran into Timmy Olson who was in fifth or sixth at the time. It was great working with him. We were racing for a good 30km. I was pushing him on the climbs and I was trying to keep up on the descents. We worked together all the way into Vallorcine essentially which was probably good for both of us for the latter third of our race. So that was really helpful to help bring us into contention with Julien [Chorier] who was in fourth at that time. We brought ourselves into position to catch him on that last climb which was great.
iRF: Were you guys “racing” against each other or were you actually working together to some degree?
Foote: I think it was a little bit of both. You know, we got to top of the climb above or before you go into Vallorcine and we settled in with each other finally. We’re chatting for quite awhile. Timmy was hurting, and I was hurting, but we were working hard. It was great. We were excited to go catch people together which was awesome. I think that really helped. We thought Miguel Heras was in front of us just from random things we’d heard on the trail. It ended up being Julien. We were both competing but also knowing that working together was going to help us get to the finish line faster.
iRF: Once you got yourself back together after Les Contamines, did you have any other major low points during the race?
Foote: No, not really. The lowest point on the race for me was coming into La Flegere aid station, the last aid station. In hopes to catch Julien, I skimped on getting enough calories and water in Vallorcine. That last climb is brutal and long and it was getting hot yesterday. I made it into La Flegere aid station and just stood there and was kind of wobbly on my two feet. I’d run out of water 30-45 minutes before, and it wasn’t the point in the race where I needed to be doing that with only 5-10k to go. So I actually took a couple extra minutes in that last aid station just to get my wits about me and get a lot of water and calories on board. Then I was able to have a decent descent. But my actual, one of my worst splits of the race was…
iRF: Did you catch him before La Flegere then?
Foote: Yes, I caught him half way up the climb, but I didn’t want to leave it to chance, so I took some chances in Vallorcine by skimping on my time in that aid station, and I paid for it.
iRF: Was it just having Julien ahead of you or was it also that Tim left about a minute ahead of you.
Foote: It was a little bit of both. Oh yeah, when he left we both patted each other on the butt. He was walking out and I was walking in. We were going for it. That’s what it’s all about.
iRF: So you’re in Vallorcine, do you know how far ahead Tim is? I mean, not at Vallorcine but up at La Flegere?
Foote: Oh, he gained a lot on me because I was hurting. I lost time.
iRF: Did you sort of switch modes into “holding Julien off mode?”
Foote: Oh yeah, by the time I made it to La Flegere, it was “holding Julien off mode.” Yeah. Tim and I were working together for a good chunk, but by then I knew I wasn’t going to catch him which is what it is.
iRF: Did it feel different to not… last year you were racing that last 10km. You had an amazing finish. Does that cloud your perspective on the day at all just not having… just that last small little portion on the end? You were making so much great progress from 20 miles to 100.
Foote: Yeah, it definitely does. I’m not going to lie. The first thing I thought about when I woke up this morning was where I could improve upon. You know, that part of the race maybe settling in a little too much… and making good moves throughout the middle to put myself in contention and maybe not taking advantage of that last 15km as much as I’d like. So in the end, I’m definitely excited about my performance but wouldn’t have minded maybe having that beast mode in the last 15km like Timmy had which is something I had last year. I know that feeling of just charging all the way into the finish. It’s a mental game and it’s a physical game. You need to be there at the right time to be able to finish that strong.
iRF: You were third last year and fifth this year. Are you going to come back and get another?
Foote: You know, it’s funny because I was like, As long as I do the full UTMB course, I’m going to take a break. Immediately, now that I’ve run the full UTMB course, I can’t help but think about picking it apart. And now that I have that experience, where I can improve upon each part of the race. It’s hard not to come back. We’ll see, thought, there are so many great opportunities.
iRF: There are, but this one is becoming special to you.
Foote: Yeah, for a good reason. It’s an incredible experience.
iRF: Well congratulations.
Foote: Thanks, Bryon.
iRF: Great seeing you again.
Foote: Yeah. Absolutely.
iRF: You know what’s coming. This might be the last interview of UTMB. The bonus question: What’s it like being on the stage—the prize-giving stage—in Chamonix after UTMB?
Foote: The first time I was here, I was 11th, so I was one off from being on the stage because it’s the top-10 men and the top-10 women. Last year it was great. It’s a pretty neat experience. The awards are unique to that place and made by an artist from Chamonix valley. There are thousands of people staring up at you. It’s pretty neat. More than looking out at the audience, it’s pretty neat to look to your left and look to your right and see the best runners, men and women, in the world. And to stand next to them is probably the most proud feeling.
iRF: Hey, Timmy Olson. Hey Julien Chorier. How ya doing?
Foote: Yeah. Honestly, that’s more the proud feeling than the…
iRF: Oogling on stage.
Foote: All these people taking pictures.
iRF: I’m one of these guys.
Foote: Yeah, these are my peers. That’s something that I never thought I’d experience in my life. That’s what’s cool about it.
iRF: You’re about a minute late.
Foote: I’ve got to go.