Caroline Chaverot, 2016 UTMB Champion, Interview
After dropping out late in last year’s UTMB, Caroline Chaverot saw full redemption in winning this year’s UTMB while leading from start to finish. In the following interview, Caroline talks about what was difficult about her race this year, what she thought when Andrea Huser closed the gap late in the race, why she was hospitalized after the race, and how she’d like to race in the United States.
For more on the race, read our 2016 UTMB results article.
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Caroline Chaverot, 2016 UTMB Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here in Chamonix, France. It’s the day after the 2016 UTMB. I’m with women’s champion, Caroline Chaverot.
Caroline Chaverot: Hi.
iRunFar: Felicitacions! Congratulations!
Chaverot: Thank you. I’m so happy.
iRunFar: Are you happy?
iRunFar: Your race did not look like an easy one for you. It looked like you had several different types of difficulties.
Chaverot: Yeah, first I felt really good. Then the first downhill to Saint-Gervais, the pain in the stomach. Then during the race, during all the downhills I had this stomach problem.
iRunFar: Same stomach pain? Every single downhill?
Chaverot: Yes, every time. Sometimes it was better, and sometimes it was, “Ahhh,” very sudden and very strong. Then I tried to breathe. Sometimes it passed, but after it came back. Every downhill I had a problem with the stomach. So then I had a problem getting to eat.
iRunFar: Being able to get the food in that you needed.
Chaverot: Banana normally I like them very much during the race, but yesterday it didn’t set good. In fact, I ate a little bit in Courmayeur…
iRunFar: We saw you eating out of a plastic container.
Chaverot: Yes, it was very good. It was a no-gluten, veggie galette.
iRunFar: What was it?
Chaverot: Galette was with lentils and quinoa. It’s very good. It’s a bit spicy. It was very good. But then I wanted to eat it also at Champex and Trient and Vallorcine, but I had no time because Andrea [Huser] was just behind me, so I had no time to eat.
iRunFar: I want to ask you about… from the outside looking in, it looked like you were having difficulties multiple times. In 100 miles, there are always highs and lows, but it seemed like you were challenged a lot of the time. What was it like to run 100 miles with continuous difficulty?
Chaverot: It was very bad. It was funny because I think most of it is also in the head. I had the same difficulty or even more difficulty at the end because the stomach was getting worse, the cramps were getting worse, but I felt better because I knew the end was close. I was more optimistic and more willing to reach the end. In Champex, for example, it was terrible because you know you are still really far from the end. I was suffering a lot especially from the cramps. It was not very pleasant because on the downhill or even the flat, I couldn’t really run. I run, but very slowly. It was not really fun.
iRunFar: You had continuous pressure all day long from Andrea Huser. She was there, there, there, there.
Chaverot: It was a nightmare.
iRunFar: It was a nightmare for you.
Chaverot: This year, in every ultra I did, I was alone in front. It was very comfortable because you know you have time. Here, it was not comfortable at all. What was terrible, my coach told me at La Fouly, “Andrea took from you eight minutes from Arnuva to Col Ferret, and probably she will take you the same time in the down.” I say, “Okay, I will probably lose the race.” After Trient, I just saw and there she was.
iRunFar: You saw her?
Chaverot: Yes, she was a bit lower. I saw her, and she was getting really fast. Okay, I will lose it. I have to accept to be second, but I have to fight also. So I really pushed myself.
iRunFar: Let me ask you, because to be honest I was at Champex-Lac and when you came in, you did not look so good. You said, “I’m in need of sugar. I really need sugar.”
Chaverot: Yes, I was in hypoglycemia.
iRunFar: When Andrea came in 10 or 12 minutes later, she looked really good. How hard or how much did you need to make yourself suffer to stay in front of her? How motivated were you?
Chaverot: I think I really wanted to win. It was my dream. I thought about it all the year. I could not accept easily to be beaten. But I pushed maybe a bit too hard. I ended up in the hospital last night. I did a heart stop where my heart rate suddenly was 10 beats per minute, so they sent me directly to the hospital.
iRunFar: In the night last night?
Chaverot: Yes, in the anti-doping control suddenly I collapsed one time, and then I got better…
iRunFar: At doping control you collapsed?
Chaverot: I collapsed one time, and then I was better. Then I collapsed a second time, and this time my heart was 10 beats per minute.
iRunFar: Your heart rate was very low, and they took you to the hospital.
Chaverot: I had convulsions. I tried to vomit, but I couldn’t. They took me took the hospital. I had a severe lack of potassium. That’s why I had cramps, I think, and maybe pain in the stomach. Maybe that explains everything. I don’t know what is the cause. I have to find it now.
iRunFar: And so did they release you from the hospital this morning?
Chaverot: Yes, I had to fight a little bit because they wanted to keep me. I said, “No, I have the press conference…”
iRunFar: “Let me celebrate my victory.”
Chaverot: Yes, I would be so sad to stay alone in my hospital room today.
iRunFar: We would have to come there to interview you. Last year you were at the head of this race for a very long time, but you had to retire late on the descent to Vallorcine because of leg cramps. Was that the same issue?
Chaverot: Yes, it was just a bit less worse, so I could finish the race yesterday, but in fact I had also the same thing. It’s weird, because at the other races, I never have cramps. It’s only at UTMB. Maybe it’s the course, maybe it’s the weather, I don’t know. At Buff Epic Trail, there were 7,000 meters elevation gain and loss, and I had no cramps at all. I finished really fast. Here, after 5,000 elevation loss, I started having cramps. I don’t know why.
iRunFar: You do have a mystery to solve then, don’t you?
Chaverot: Yes, if I want to come back next year, I have to work on it. Maybe it’s because the course is you run a lot. It’s a runnable course. The other courses I did, they are more technical, and I walk more.
iRunFar: You vary the movements of your body a lot more.
Chaverot: Yes. Here, we are running more of the time. Maybe it’s that. I don’t know. I have to solve it. I have to find out how to eat more because I did not really eat during this race.
iRunFar: In America, people talk about whether Caroline Chaverot will ever come race there.
Chaverot: I dream of it. I’d like to. I love the United States. I travel a lot. It’s a beautiful country. I really want to come. I would like to do Hardrock because it’s a long race. Maybe Western States. I’m not sure I’d be able to be fast on Western States because it’s really fast and quite flat.
iRunFar: You’d have to practice with the running more.
Chaverot: I’d like to do it. It would be interesting. I would like to visit the United States again.
iRunFar: My last question for you, being on the podium of the UTMB is the dream of many trail ultrarunners. Winning the UTMB is a dream for a few. Last year you were very close to being the champion, and you had to retire. This year, you are. How does it feel inside? Can you tell us how you feel right now?
Chaverot: For the moment, I did not really realize, but at peace with myself and very happy. Yeah, it’s a dream. I’m also very proud to have pushed myself so hard. I didn’t know I was so strong in my head.
iRunFar: You pushed yourself all the way to the hospital.
Chaverot: Yeah, it’s nothing compared… I’m reading, actually, the books of Mike Hall, he’s an adventurer. He did that but for 50 days. I thought about that in the race. It’s nothing for 24 or 25 hours compared to this guy.
iRunFar: Congratulations to you. I hope you enjoy your victory, and I hope you’re able to get healthy again.
Chaverot: Thank you. Thank you again.