Núria Picas has twice finished second at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. In this interview, Núria talks about what is drawing her back to UTMB for a third time, if she remains intimidated by the 100-mile distance even through she’s had success with it, and what she’s looking forward to most about this year’s race.
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Núria Picas Pre-2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks here, and I’m in Chamonix, France, the day before the 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). I’m here with Núria Picas, the women’s favorite, of Spain. Hi!
Núria Picas: Thank you. Hi. I’m a little afraid about the long distance, but I’m okay.
iRunFar: You’ve run this race twice before, but yet you are still a little bit afraid?
Picas: Yes, sure, this is a long distance for me. It’s 170k. The day before to run this, I feel always afraid and just a little bit nervous. The long distance, more than 24 hours running, and keep calm.
iRunFar: It’s a long night and day…
Picas: Long, long night and long morning until we arrive at six or seven o’clock in the afternoon. So we have to manage the race and do all my best because it’s difficult, the whole distance.
iRunFar: Let me ask you. You’ve done this race twice before. Twice before you’ve been a podium finisher. This is something. Finishing on the podium of UTMB is probably a dream for many people.
Picas: For me also it’s a dream. To be with the best, for me to dream, the podium, to finish this race anyway is incredible. So I would like to repeat. I prefer to stay at the top, but it’s very difficult. Rory Bosio is not here, but there are others here from the U.S., from France, from Spain, from Brazil, so it’s difficult to stay in the podium position.
iRunFar: Having done this twice before, knowing the highs and the lows that come with a race like this, what makes you come back again?
Picas: This is the reason why I fret so. Because I remember the sunset, to cross La Fouly, Champex-Lac, the last three uphills, they’re like the hell because it’s very difficult because all my body has a lot of pain and in my legs. It’s the third time that I’m here, but when I think of the whole distance, the last three uphills and everything, I’m just a little bit afraid. This maybe is good because then I know I will start slowly and run clever for sure.
iRunFar: Run clever—I like that. There are a lot of fast women here as you mentioned, some returning fast women like Nathalie Mauclair—you raced her last year—and some new women like Caroline [Chaverot] and Stephanie [Howe].
Picas: And Darcy Piceu as well from the U.S. Yes, they are tough runners.
iRunFar: Yeah, I think those are great descriptors. Some of the women have a style that is sort of similar to yours in 100 miles, to sort of take it easy and ease into things while other women have the style of go hard straight away. How will you, tomorrow, start the race in your own head and not run another woman’s race?
Picas: I think the most important thing is to enjoy the race, to enjoy the whole distance. This is the most important thing. Then I will try to run clever and very slowly in the beginning—Les Houches, Saint-Gervais, Contamines, Col du Bonhomme, until Courmayeur. I think the race starts in Courmayeur. Then starts again in Champex-Lac.
iRunFar: Three race starts.
Picas: The race starts twice. I have to be very intelligent and manage the race and do all my best because it’s very, very long.
iRunFar: In the beginning thinking about leaving Courmayeur, leaving Champex, feeling good there, too.
Picas: Yeah, I would like to feel good there.
iRunFar: You always have… the look on your face when you race is as if you’re entertained. You always seem to be entertained. Is it something going on in your head or are you looking at the world around you? You seem very engaged.
Picas: Focused? I feel that I run very focused—my body, my feelings, the race. I prefer to stay sometime seriously because this is a game, yeah, but I need to do the whole control of my body, my feelings, my everything.
iRunFar: Somebody is looking at you.
Picas: Bryon. Oops, bye-bye. So that’s all.
iRunFar: I want to ask you, we have seen you at this race, this is now the third time, but from the perspective iRunFar, it’s a different Núria. We haven’t seen you race as much this year. We haven’t seen you around the races as much as we have in the past. Do you feel different?
Picas: Because I went to Nepal to climb a high mountain—Makalu—it’s 8,500 meters. It is one of the highest mountains in the world. This expedition for me kept my season… this year it’s different. I started again to run in May, so I’ve been running since the last three months, but it’s different. Last year I did a lot of competitions and ran in Japan, Australia, everywhere. This year is quite different. I feel confidence for the UTMB, but I don’t know because the preparation for this race is very different than last year.
iRunFar: But you have been preparing a lot. You’ve been doing some races in Spain.
Picas: Yes, short ones like marathons. I ran the [can’t discern the name of the race] which is more than 100k last month. I felt good. So, I’m confident.
iRunFar: You’ve also had some long training days in the Pyrenees, yeah?
Picas: Yes. I did a lot of trails around the mountains. I did plenty of trainings there.
iRunFar: My last question for you. The race starts at 6 p.m. You go into the night. That’s the first thing you do. The night is a really special thing here. You’re running through a national park through the dark with big stars and sometimes with big clouds and over cold passes. What does the night feel like having the race start with that?
Picas: During the night is like a strange situation because I feel alone. I know there are a lot of people pushing me from the TVs and mobile phones, but the night is different, quite different. It’s cold. You run along with your headlamp. Sometimes I try to listen to music to think of a lot of or many happy situations. But I prefer to run during the day because I like to see the whole mountains around here because it’s a beautiful landscape. So it’s different, but it’s also nice.
iRunFar: So when La Fouly comes in Switzerland and there’s the sunrise, it’s a different kind of day.
Picas: Yeah, for sure.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you.
Picas: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: We look forward to seeing you make your third trip around Mont Blanc.
Picas: Thank you very much. Nice to meet you.
iRunFar: Good luck.