After taking eighth while injured in 2015, a healthy and fit Stephanie Violett is back at UTMB and ready to roll. In this interview, Stephanie talks about the challenges of her first UTMB and what it’s like to be back, her month in the Alps ahead of the race, how she’s switching up her nutrition for this race, and what weaknesses she’s practiced ahead of UTMB.
Stephanie Violett Pre-UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Stephanie Violett before the 2017 UTMB. How are you, Steph?
Stephanie Violett: I’m great.
iRunFar: How long have you been here in Chamonix?
Violett: I’ve been here about a month.
iRunFar: That’s a pretty good deal.
Violett: Yeah, it’s been a great month. Life is good.
iRunFar: Two years ago you were at UTMB. Did you have a similar sort of lead up to it?
Violett: Definitely not. I went into 2015 UTMB with a bum Achilles and really underprepared. This year, I’m feeling good.
iRunFar: You still suffered to eighth place, but was that the race that made you decide to get surgery finally?
Violett: That was the trigger race. I still had an okay race, but it was not enjoyable. Every step hurt.
iRunFar: You’ve had quite a transition from that time and having surgery. How are you feeling now?
Violett: It’s been a rocky road. I’m not going to lie—with the whole year off and this this year a little bit up and down with results. I’m just thrilled too be healthy. I feel really good right now, so you can’t really ask for more.
iRunFar: You had a pretty good training period in the spring, and then Western States wasn’t the race you wanted. What happened at Western States?
Violett: That’s not the race anyone wants. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what went wrong. It was just one of those days where things just didn’t line up. It definitely wasn’t a reflection of my fitness, I don’t think. I just fell apart really early. You’ve seen me suffer before races before, so I’m not a quitter. I stuck it out. I’d like to do things a little better this time around and make it around the mountain with a few less tears. I think it was a good reminder that even though I’ve done a few hundreds now, it doesn’t mean I’m by any means an expert, so really preparing beforehand with my crew and with my nutrition is important.
iRunFar: Is that just planning for the good contingencies, or is it also preparing for things that might still go a little sideways?
Violett: A, B, and C plans. Yeah, especially for this race. Going through the night, it comes really early. That has been a struggle for me particularly with fueling. So, I’m really thinking through what I’m going to do and actually have a plan and not just, Oh, I’ll do something.
iRunFar: What is the plan? How have you changed it from your normal standard?
Violett: Normally what happens to me during the night is I just forget to eat. You’re thinking about so many other things like trying not to fall and I have poles, so anything that makes it more difficult to fuel is going to make you maybe do it a little less. So I have a timer on my watch that is going to beep and remind me to eat—that’s going to be one thing. Then I’ll mix it up in terms of the types of food. Since it’s a really long day, so I’ll have—this is going to sound weird—I’m going to take cheese. I really like cheese when I’m racing or running in the Alps. It seems to set really well for me. I’m going to do my normal Clif products—bars, bloks, gels—interspersed with sandwiches, cheese, pasta, sausage, and that kind of stuff. It sounds maybe not what you’d want in a running race, but I find that a lot of the hiking is so much lower intensity that you can actually digest that food.
iRunFar: So on the cheese front, what’s floating your boat here?
Violett: Let me tell you, I’ve had a month of trying different types of cheeses. I haven’t found one I don’t like. I’m really a fan of the regional varietals—they call them varietals—and probably more of the hard cheeses just so it doesn’t get all squishy.
iRunFar: So you’re actually going to take some on the trail? It’s not like you’re just going to get some in the aid station? You’re going to have Ziploc baggies?
Violett: No, I’m going to take it.
iRunFar: Can you tolerate them on climbs? Will you time them on certain sections? Can you just eat them anytime?
Violett: During training I’ve been able to eat them at anytime. Probably in the race, it will be a little bit more particular. I could see myself doing more of the gels and bloks when I’m running faster. Then when I’m hiking up hill, that’s a time when I think I’ll be able to eat more of the cheese.
iRunFar: In the past, a lot of people have come to Chamonix—especially Americans that come to Chamonix—and just train, train, train, train super hard until a couple days before the race. Have you been able to take some downtime while you’ve been here?
Violett: Yeah, I got here early enough that I was able to get all of that out of my system. I did some really big training days that would have been a bad idea if I got here last weekend. I was fortunate on that front. Right now, I’m feeling pretty fit. My legs could use a few days off. It’s actually feeling good to just sit and stay in my apartment away from all the excitement. I feel okay. I don’t have too much FOMO.
iRunFar: Good. You got a little of that out of your system.
iRunFar: We’re over here in Europe, but there’s you, there’s Magda [Boulet], there’s Kaci [Lickteig] and a whole bunch of others. Does it almost feel familiar in that sense?
Violett: It does. I’m really excited to see them. I haven’t connected with a lot of the American runners yet because they’re just getting here, but Rory [Bosio] has been here a few days and we’ve done some good adventures, and Fernanda [Maciel], another The North Face athlete. We’ve done some runs. We’ve done some just fun stuff, too. We had dinner at her house. Rory and I went berry picking and fun stuff like that. It’s fun to have everyone come to Chamonix and do vacation stuff together.
iRunFar: Are you doing that today?
Violett: Yeah, I’m meeting Rory, and we’re going to go for a little hike and then go ice our legs in the creek. It’s not super warm today, so I’m sure it might be a brief visit to the water.
iRunFar: What are you looking forward to most about this weekend?
Violett: I’m not super nervous, which is unlike me. Usually I’m a little anxious before the race. I’m looking forward to a long day in the mountains. I feel like I’ve been here long enough that I feel comfortable in the mountains. I’ve got my mountain legs back. Going across the technical terrain feels really familiar to me. I’m excited for that. I’m excited to test myself in some of the ways that maybe I haven’t done well in the past—going through the middle of the night, going up really steep climbs. When I first got there, those were my two goals—get better at running in the dark and…
iRunFar: Have you been training on that?
Violett: Story, to meet those two goals, I did a sky race in Courmayeur. There were two races. One was Thursday night at 9 p.m., a vertical k. Perfect right? Practice going up really steep hills in the dark. It was insane. It was great Then two days later they had a vertical 2k in Courmayeur. So I did both of those races, and I kind of checked the boxes of night running and climbing. It was great. It was eye-opening.
iRunFar: How about foul weather? Are you pretty good with that? Was it two years ago that it was a wet year?
Violett: It was hot two years ago. I wouldn’t say I love it, but I’m really good with adversity. If it snows, I know how to run in the snow. I was a cross-country skier, so that’s fine. If it rains, I just have the attitude that we all have to run through it. I’ve got a warm jacket, so I’ll be okay. I’d love for some sun. If it’s raining the whole time, that’s not really fun. Either way, I’m excited and I’ll make the best of it.
iRunFar: Best of luck out there, Stephanie. Enjoy.
Violett: Thank you.