After finishing fifth last year, Uxue Fraile took second in her second effort at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. In this interview, Uxue talks about taking the race out more aggressively than last year, how she got through a big low patch before the marathon mark, and how nervous she was about keeping second place on the final descent back to Chamonix.
For more on how the race went down, read our 2015 UTMB results article.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Uxue Fraile Post-2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here at the finish line of the 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB). I’m here with second-place finisher, Spain’s Uxue Fraile. Hi.
Uxue Fraile: I’m fine, and you?
iRunFar: I’m good. I didn’t run 100 miles yesterday, but you did.
Fraile: Yes, well I feel good enough to walk.
iRunFar: To walk and to talk and to maybe have a beer today?
Fraile: Yes, soon, a beer or something.
iRunFar: UTMB is not a new race for you, but you came back.
Fraile: Yes, last year was for me the first time. Before the race, I came to do the Tour du Mont Blanc in three or four days, and I enjoyed it a lot. For me, that was very important to know all the race. I think that it’s a very beautiful place and has a very good track. The race is different. You’re stressed, but for my team, it’s important, UTMB, so I didn’t mind to come again. I think it’s a very good race.
iRunFar: You improved your performance from last year to this year—second place.
Fraile: Yes, with the place, but not with the time. I did more or less the same. Last year, I did 26:22 and this year 26:28 or 26:29. I don’t know, but it was more or less the same.
iRunFar: I’m not sure that time can really count for yesterday because it was so much hotter, and there was a new climb and a new descent in the course.
Fraile: I wasn’t sure about that, but maybe you are right. Last year we had rainy Friday, too. I think in this kind of races we can’t compare the times, but more or less is what I mean. I come from the track. For me the time was very important in the track. In the mountains, it’s not so important.
iRunFar: It’s how you move and that you’re able to keep moving quickly relative to the women around you not the actual time on your watch.
Fraile: For me, I have bettered my performance.
iRunFar: You ran, from my perspective, a very strong race all day. You were in about the middle of the top ten all the way through.
Fraile: I started faster than all the other races and I was in second or third in St. Gervais. Then I passed not a very good moment, so all the girls go before me. I stopped there and did my race in top ten, and then little by little I passed others.
iRunFar: That down moment must have not been… very quickly you were back around fifth place again. You must have gotten through it and then got back to where you were?
Fraile: We were close together the whole race. In some minutes we were a lot. It’s not so difficult in these races, long races, to be in minutes go ahead and behind. It depends on aid stations and all the things that maybe you stop for something for two minutes and a girl is coming… so it’s not so important.
iRunFar: This race is unique in that the nighttime comes first and the daytime comes second. How did the nighttime feel to you?
Fraile: The first part of the night wasn’t good for me. From before Les Contamines to Bonhomme, I wasn’t feeling well. But then I did somethings for working in my bad places to fix the situation. While in Les Chapieux, I ate what I had prepared while walking. So after I felt better.
iRunFar: So was it energy that you didn’t feel good? What felt bad?
Fraile: I don’t know. I was thinking maybe I started faster than I had to, but I don’t know why. I didn’t feel well enough in my stomach, but I was eating. For me, it was a surprise because I had a lot of problems to eat during other races. This race was very good for that.
iRunFar: You could eat all the way through?
Fraile: I do tell myself, “You have to eat. You have to eat.”
iRunFar: You spent… you moved up slowly among the women’s rankings from around the middle of the top ten into third place and then into second place in the race’s last 20k. Can you play that out how that went, how you moved from fifth to fourth to third to second?
Fraile: I don’t remember a lot. I think that before Courmayeur, I passed… I was with Francesca Canepa in Col de la Seigne. We were sixth or seventh more or less. I passed her. Going down to Courmayeur, I passed Fernanda [Maciel], so I was thinking, Before me now there are three. From Bertone to Bonatti, I was with Silvia Trigueros. We did a lot of kilometers together until Col Ferret.
iRunFar: At Col Ferret, iRunFar saw you, and you and Silvia were “blahblahblah,” chatting.
Fraile: Yes, we were talking. We are friends. We are from the same part of… we live not near, but we run with each other sometimes. We were talking all the time, not so much because she was with music and I was concentrating, but we did some kilometers together from before Bonatti to Col Ferret.
iRunFar: After Col Ferret you separated?
Fraile: Well, I go down maybe faster, and little by little I think there were five minutes. It was good because in Champex-Lac I was through, but I didn’t see her. I think that Denise [Zimmermann] and Silvia were together more or less, but when I went from Champex-Lac, nobody had arrived, but they arrived within a minute. It was very good sense because I didn’t see them. If I would have seen them, it’s very hard.
iRunFar: To know you’re being chased seriously.
Fraile: It was all good. Then I didn’t know where the fourth was. My assistant team told me they were at eight minutes. I was so nervous that I was third. Last year in the last part with Fernanda Maciel, we were within two minutes at Vallorcine and I wasn’t prepared for that. My mind wasn’t prepared to suffer to Chamonix. It’s like a fantasma. I cried. In Trient, I was crying, “No, no, I don’t want it to happen again. I don’t want to.” I couldn’t suffer more. So going down to Vallorcine, I saw Caroline [Chaverot]. For me it was, “Oh, la la, my gosh, no. It’s happening again. I have to suffer. I can’t. It’s my option to arrive second to Chamonix. It couldn’t be like this.” So, I passed from Tête au Vents to La Flégère very stressed. I didn’t want anyone to catch me. They told me it was still 30 minutes, but the rational part was thinking, It’s impossible to take you in 30 minutes, but the other part, Ah, it’s easy to take you in 30 minutes running. If you are walking, if someone is running…
iRunFar: And feeling very, very, very, very strong…
Fraile: But it’s impossible to feel very strong in 150k. The mind is very complicated.
iRunFar: So the whole time you’re thinking…
Fraile: All the time I was stressed. I arrived second!
iRunFar: Did you at any point from the descent from Flégère through La Foria through… running through the paved roads in town and seeing people cheer for you, at any point did you let yourself *sigh*.
Fraile: Yes, when I arrived to… I was with a French runner, and when we arrived to La Flégère, we relaxed. But then going downhill, it was very hard for me.
Fraile: Yes, painful, and I was very fatigued, but I was relaxed. I was tired but I wasn’t thinking of third. I was thinking to myself, but I couldn’t go. I wanted to walk. I arrived to Chamonix, and it was very special. I wanted… Lionel had a lot of people, so a lot of people ran with us. It was so special.
iRunFar: The energy at the finish line of the UTMB, it has to be one of the most energetic trail finish lines in our sport. How does it feel to come down and cross the line second with all these people cheering for you? How does it make you feel?
Fraile: Special. I don’t know. For me it was very special. There is not a lot of people when the men arrived or when Nathalie [Mauclair] arrive. But for me it was most important people for me. I knew they were waiting for me. It was amazing.
iRunFar: Now you have two finishes at UTMB including this second place podium finish. Do you feel you’ve done UTMB, or do you feel, Maybe I’ll try again?
Fraile: Well, maybe I will try, but I don’t know. Step by step, I’m not so young, so it’s different. I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. I know that maybe when I am 50 or 55, maybe I could come again to enjoy the UTMB.
iRunFar: To go slow and enjoy the scenery?
Fraile: So I’m not going to say I’m never going to come to UTMB, no, maybe I will come again.
iRunFar: Congratulations to you on your second-place finish here at the 2015 UTMB.
Fraile: Thank you, Meghan.