Brazil’s Fernanda Maciel tied for second place with American Aliza Lapierre at the 2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. In this interview, hear Fernanda talk about whether she felt recovered from her late-race Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc DNF or the issues that caused it during this race, how she and Aliza worked together to fend off a late surge from fourth place Kaori Niwa, and what happens next for her.
Be sure to read our results article for the full race story.
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Fernanda Maciel Post-2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here with Mount Fuji and women’s second-place finisher at the 2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. I’m with Fernanda Maciel. Congratulations.
Fernanda Maciel: Thanks, Meghan.
iRunFar: We are literally seeing Fuji for the first time in three days or something like that?
Maciel: Yes, finally he’s here. I’m sure many people miss Fuji because we had this storm during the night and during the day, so it was really hard for us. The technical mountain terrain was harder. I think it was the hard point of the race for all the runners.
iRunFar: For everybody. Talk about the challenge of the nighttime a bit. We’re right in fall right now, so night time is really long, between 11 and 12 hours of darkness.
Maciel: Yes, but I love to run at night, so for me it was really good. My strategy was to start really, really slowly and then start to run faster after aid-station four. But just at aid-station four, I was feeling so bad, just really tired. Slowly I was recovering and at the finish line, I was really strong and feeling so good. That was the game. My ultra was like that—feeling bad and then feeling good in the ending. It was good.
iRunFar: Did you end up feeling bad straight off the start line, or did you have a period of time at the beginning there that was good?
Maciel: I started really slowly, so that was good. Then in the middle time, I couldn’t eat, so my stomach wasn’t working well. This is why I was low energy and couldn’t push hard. After, I keep not eating, but I could run.
iRunFar: How about your legs and your feet? You made it a long way in UTMB just four weeks ago and you had some big foot problems there. How did that stuff feel?
Maciel: That was hard for me. I did UTMB, and I had that problem with my feet. That took me two weeks to recover. I didn’t recover for sure. When I came here, you can some climbs I normally run and here I couldn’t. You see that you are still tired.
iRunFar: Talk about how your race went. At the beginning, you put yourself near the front of the women pretty much straightaway. Then you pretty much stayed there, but the girls pretty much accordian-ed out a little bit. You didn’t have a lot of company after the first little bit. You and Aliza [Lapierre] ran together for the first part of the race, but then for a lot of time there were no other women around.
Maciel: Usually, I’m always alone. This race with Aliza, we saw each other many times. At the end it was really funny because I was going down slowly and then came the Japanese [Kaori Niwa, who finished in fourth place] really fast. I said, Okay, let’s wake up because the Japanese cannot pass me. Then I passed the Japanese woman. Then I passed Aliza. Then I started to be really strong and wake up to the finish line. Aliza was really tired at the ending, but I told her, “Come with me or the Japanese will pass you.” She said, “No, you are strong. You can go. I cannot follow you.” I said, “No, let’s go together. Let’s finish together. We spend too many hours together in the race.” She did a really good race. It was really nice to share in this moment. It was special for me and also for her.
iRunFar: When you’re in a place like this… when you’re in Europe, even if you’re outside Cataluña or Spain, you can still find people who speak your language or you can understand enough of the other romance languages to know what’s going on. Here, this is truly a foreign land, a really foreign land. It’s a foreign language. There are foreign things to eat at the aid stations. Talk about that for a minute, what it’s like to be where—I hate to call it strange—but where everything is different.
Maciel: Yes, everything is different, especially the mountain is different. It’s culture, so it’s interesting to race in a place like this because everything is new. You need to learn to manage that during the race. I ate many things I’ve never eaten before. I needed to test, but I didn’t know.
iRunFar: What did you try new?
Maciel: Just these sweet things? Well, I need some sugar. It looked like some berries and sugar thing. It was funny. I shared some moments with some Japanese—Hota was his name and he spend two or three hours with me running. He was amazing company. He couldn’t speak too much English, but it was good to have him beside me just motivating myself to keep running up on a long uphill.
iRunFar: The mountains here, I’ve heard a couple people say that they are just different. They’re super technical but also slippery, in addition to the fact it was wet out there because of the storm. It was just different. How are they different?
Maciel: It’s different because it’s technical, and some places look like a creek. It’s dangerous here because if you slip you can die. But remember I’m from the forest in Brazil, so I love to run here because it’s usual to do that because you have the forest, it’s soft. You get the tree, and the tree is soft. The terrain is soft as well, so you can go. You don’t have too much rocks just in some places. So it’s good for me to remember the forest in Brazil. I like this terrain, and muddy as well. I used to do that in Brazil, so I remembered it a little bit. It’s different. Here, in this race, you have a part on the road. When you get to the mountain, you need to climb with your hands as well. Here, it looked like a vertical race. You need to go with the hands and also the legs.
iRunFar: This mountain is an icon. People pilgrimage to it here in Japan to experience it. We didn’t see it for all the time—the day before the race, the two days of the race, and we’re just seeing it now. You probably came here to race in part to be at this mountain. Was it hard to… most of the rain came before the race started. There wasn’t a ton of rain during the race, but the clouds were so close. The entire time you were in the clouds. Was that hard to be racing and to know that this mountain is there but to not be able to see it and feel it?
Maciel: Yes, this year, it took me three hours more than last year. That can explain a little bit. When I have the Fuji and so good weather, you keep your easy moving. Last night was really hard with the rain and you take off the jacket and put on the jacket because it’s still warm but the rain is so strong. It’s hard. You cannot see the mountains.
iRunFar: This race has a lot of road, and you’re a mountain athlete. I don’t know how many miles, but miles and miles and miles in long stretches where you’re on the road for quite sometime. I asked Uxue [Fraile] the same question because you two are very similar because the more technical and the more up and the more down, the more you excel. I asked her the same question. Where do you go with your mind to tolerate all of the road running?
Maciel: Yes, it was very hard for me and for my mind also because I’m really bad on the road. I could see all the Japanese passing me on the road. That wasn’t so exciting. Yes, but it’s like I told you before. I like to rest my mind as well, to be tired from looking where to put your feet. This part is the positive that I can see.
iRunFar: To not have to think about where your foot is going every footstep. I get that. This is the end of your season now. You said you don’t have to run for awhile. What happens next? What are you doing this fall?
Maciel: Yes! Whoo! Well, first I’d like to have some wine and to enjoy my rest time. I need it. Then I’d like to climb a little bit and do some biking and then prepare for my next project. My project will be to go up Aconcagua.
iRunFar: You’re headed back to Aconcagua this South American summer? Will you go in January or December?
Maciel: Yes, it’s in January, but I start training in Ecuador in December and also Argentina. Before, it’s a hard project, so I need to start training hard in November, so I don’t have too much holidays.
iRunFar: So a little rest, a little wine, a little put-your-feet-up, and some climbing. Then you’ll start practicing the high altitude.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you. I hope your second bid on Aconcagua goes much better than your first one last year. Congratulations to you on your second-place finish.
Maciel: Yes, for sure. Thanks.