Mike Foote rounded out the men’s podium at the 2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. In the following interview, Mike talks about feeling rough in the race’s early miles, seeing the sunrise from the course’s high point, and taking a brief wrong turn in the morning hours. Mike also discusses his upcoming summer vacation of running and racing in Europe.
[Editor’s Note: Have a look at our results article for the race’s full story.]
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Mike Foote’s First/Failed Attempt at a Post-Race Interview
After his pre-race interview, Mike suggested we might try interviewing folks immediately after they finish. We agreed that if he was on the podium at UTMF we would do so. He did… and so we did… with humorous results. There are some good nuggets of knowledge in here as well!
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Mike Foote Post-2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Mike Foote after his third-place finish at the 2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. Nice run.
Mike Foote: Thank you.
iRunFar: You’re looking a little better than you were at the finish yesterday.
Foote: Yeah, I was tired. It was a long day out there.
iRunFar: We made an attempt at an interview per your request. Turns out you’re wasted at the end of 100 miles.
Foote: Yeah, I couldn’t keep it together. I lost my voice a voice a little. I needed to sit down. It’s a much better idea to wait a day for an interview.
iRunFar: Here we are. You did have a spectacular race yesterday. It was a Mike Foote race but not particularly for the reason that it normally was. You just weren’t feeling great early.
Foote: Yeah, it was funny. It was a race similar to how I felt at UTMB last year. I’m not really sure what it is. I need to address it. It was just… from the outside looking in, maybe it looked like strategy, but it wasn’t. I was wanting to push a little harder earlier on and allow myself to be in the mix a little bit more. My body wasn’t having it. I actually was the closest I’ve ever been to DNF-ing, I think, in an ultra around 50k. I just wasn’t sure if I was going to turn things around. As it happens in these races of this distance, I was able to bit by bit put food down and get my energy back and feel strong for the second half which was great.
iRunFar: How did you convince yourself not to drop? We all go through those demons—front of the pack, back of the pack.
Foote: I think it’s a little bit of pride having never DNF-ed. I think if it’s not an injury, why would I? I think also, experience. We’ve all been to that dark, dark place and even though it feels like the first time, you just remind yourself that it will pass and you’ll see yourself through to the other side. Just a reminder that you can make up… I’m always impressed with how much time you can make up in the second half of these races. If you’re able to speed up when everyone else is slowing down, you can gain 20 spots in a few hours.
iRunFar: At what point did you feel like your day had turned around—not just okay, but that it was a good day?
Foote: Yeah, exactly, it was somewhere in the middle of the night. I was running with Nick Clark. I was in 20th spot for awhile. I caught up with Nick and I think we went from 10th to fifth and sixth at some point. We were just really feeling consistent. Surprisingly it was on a road section—the long 20k section of road before getting into the Tenshi Mountains at Aid Station 8.
iRunFar: How did you find those Tenshi Mountains?
Foote: That was easily the most technical, steep, and challenging section of trail I’ve ever experienced in an ultra race—just Class III scrambling at times. I felt strong through it. There was this huge hour-plus climb directly out of Aid Station 8 that I loved. I was able to power through it. I passed three people on that climb and was able to see the sunrise over Mount Fuji right at the top of the course, the high point. It was a little inspiring. It gave me some motivation for the last fifth of the race, to be honest.
iRunFar: Then you were coming off the Tenshi Mountains and did you get lost for a little while?
Foote: I did, yeah. There was just this section of trail—I popped out of the mountains and was really close to the aid station and somebody had parked a car on this dirt road. The marker was on the left side where the turn was, and I went around the car to the right and kind of wandered around for a bit kind of looking for course markers and finally came back and realized what I’d done and just tried to maintain composure. I was pretty frustrated.
iRunFar: You were on that high. That’s got to be interesting…
Foote: Yeah, exactly. I was feeling as good as I’d felt the entire race, but just again knowing, Okay, we have tons of time. I didn’t even lose… I think I might have lost one position actually in that 20 minutes.
iRunFar: And then you probably made that up right after the aid station. I think it was Antoine Guillon that was right ahead of you.
Foote: Yeah, I ended up just passing him immediately. But François D’Haene was in a different race, obviously, at that point, and he was all day. What he did yesterday was so, so incredible and such an impressive effort. Ryan Sandes was so strong, and he just maintained really consistent pace at the end, so I wasn’t going to be able to close on him at all.
iRunFar: Do you think it would have been a different race with Ryan had you not lost those 20 minutes? Would there have been some contact? Twenty minutes, still…
Foote: Yeah, I think I would have been a little bit more motivated. I was probably only 20 minutes or a little less behind him right when I got lost. Again, he’s an incredible athlete, but I would have tried for something. You never know. It would have been fun to feel like there was a little bit more contact, yeah.
iRunFar: It’s pretty cool. You had your sister here crewing for you. She’s crewed you at other races, Rachel has. Is that a special thing to have her at your races?
Foote: Absolutely. We’ve had some crazy adventures together through running and have gotten to experience some amazing places. Yeah, it feels good to have that support from somebody that’s so close to you. She can take it when I come into… you know, the first half of the race I came into a few aid stations (I’m not proud of it) angry and frustrated and feeling kind of unmotivated. She doesn’t care about any of that. She knows. She’s like, “Alright, I’ll see you at the next one.” It’s good to have somebody who can maintain that composure when maybe I’m not.
iRunFar: What’s up next for you? What are you focusing on next?
Foote: Yeah, I’m going to do the Lavaredo Ultra Trail in the Dolomites in late June. That will be a big race. UTMB, for the fourth year—really excited to go back. This year I’m trying to switch things up a little bit and head over a little early. I’m going to actually spend some time training in the Alps. That’s something I’ve never been able to do. I always just show up and race. I want to go for runs there that are not the UTMB course and experience the area. I’m really excited about that.
iRunFar: You’ll give it another solid go this year and go for that win maybe?
iRunFar: You’ve been up in the top five twice, so…
Foote: Yeah, I know. I’ve got to move up. Myself and about 50 other guys all want to win that race. It will be exciting as always. Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it.
iRunFar: Is François beatable at 100 miles on that course right now?
Foote: After yesterday, I’m not sure if François is beatable, but, you know, really inspiring. I think he’s one of the best in the world right now. Again, if this race had a lot more history to it, what he did yesterday, I think people would be able to realize a little bit more how incredible of a performance that was. He just said in a press conference that he’s really excited to come experience some U.S. trails. I really hope that’s the case because he’s such an impressive athlete. It would be neat to see him race some really well known U.S. ultras in the future.
iRunFar: I think we’ll see that next year.
Foote: It would be epic.
iRunFar: Great run out there this week. Good luck with the rest of your season.
Foote: Thank you.
iRunFar: A quick bonus question from one of our readers. Seeing a lot of the people crossing the finish line, they were just covered in dirt. Apparently you came across looking pretty clean and proper.
Foote: I don’t believe that.
iRunFar: You didn’t feel that way, did you?
Foote: Actually, it’s funny, I fell a few times, but I normally fall a lot in training or any run I go on. You can ask any of my friends. But I kept on my feet more than I thought I would even in the technical sections. Probably wasn’t moving fast enough. I heard Ryan [Sandes] came across pretty dirty. I don’t know what François looked like.
iRunFar: He fell, yeah.
Foote: I was able to clean off a little bit there. I don’t know how.
Mike Foote’s First/Failed Attempt at a Post-Race Interview Transcript
Mike Foote: Let’s do this.
iRunFar: Alright, stand over here wherever. Back up a little bit more. Just speak loud. We’ve got a bit of background noise.
Guy off camera: Make him do some jumping jacks.
iRunFar: That’s a good idea. Can you do them?
Foote: [looks up]
iRunFar: That’s a no. We’re rolling, by the way.
Foote: I love it. I love it.
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Mike Foote after his third-place finish at the 2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. How did it go, Mike?
Foote: Um, I haven’t really let it set in. I just crossed the finish line five minutes ago.
iRunFar: You said we needed to have more on-the-spot interviews.
Foote: We do. We do.
iRunFar: I said, ‘If you make the podium, here we are.’
Foote: Here we are. It was an extremely hard day. I don’t know what it is, but the last couple of 100 milers I’ve run, I go through a low patch pretty early on. I think I was somewhere in the low 20’s. I think I was in sixth place… I was trying to actually be a little bit further up this year. Then just between 20 and 50k, I just kept getting passed and passed and probably at my lowest point ever in an ultramarathon.
iRunFar: Did you consider dropping there?
Foote: I did. I’ve never DNF-ed. It was saying a lot. I was really, really considering it knowing what lay ahead. But bit by bit, I was drinking and eating water and taking my time and letting it come to me. From 50k on, I started to feel great. I mean, it hurt, but I felt really stable and able to push.
iRunFar: Did you reach a high point somewhere?
Foote: Yeah, I think I was really feeling good, surprisingly so… I’m losing my voice…
iRunFar: Speak up, Mike.
Foote: One second. Surprisingly the road section—I was really rolling with Nick Clark through that and was catching people and catching people. Yeah, felt really good. Oh, Aid station 8 to Aid station 9 which is easily the hardest section of trail I’ve ever been on in an ultramarathon.
iRunFar: In a race, yeah.
Foote: Oh, yeah. It was incredibly hard.
iRunFar: At night.
Foote: At night. I was able to catch a few folks on that actually which was nice. Coming off that…
iRunFar: Were you deflated a little bit in that section?
iRunFar: How did that happen?
Foote: It just took an hour and a half longer than I was expecting.
iRunFar: It’s not a two hour section of a trail even if it’s 19k.
Foote: No, it’s not. Um… I might pass out. We might need to end this interview soon.
iRunFar: Okay, this is why we don’t do interviews at the finish line. Go take a break. We’ll talk later.
Foote: Thanks, Bryon. [Pause] I’m getting lightheaded. And I lost my voice.
iRunFar: This is the lowest point I think I’ve ever seen you.
Foote: I thought I could hang.
iRunFar: You can’t hang with an iRunFar interview.
Foote: I really thought I could hang. I thought I had it. I’m nauseous.
iRunFar: You gonna have an AJW moment right here?
iRunFar: Props for trying, buddy.
Foote: I’m sorry.
iRunFar: I knew, I knew… halfway through the race you were going to podium. I think I told you a couple times.
Foote: You did. You did. I said, If Bryon thinks I can podium, then I can podium.
iRunFar: I know my stuff.
Foote: You’re usually right. That got me excited.