Rory Bosio won the 2013 The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc women’s race. Not only did she win, but she set a new course record by almost two hours and 20 minutes. And she finished seventh overall, besting all but six men in the process, too! In this interview, Rory tells us what she thought of the thousands of spectators on the course, tries to talk down the enormity of her record, and describes how she’s improved her downhill-ing ability in the last year.
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Rory Bosio, 2013 TNF UTMB Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: I guess we should get this thing started. Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Rory Bosio, UTMB Champion.
Rory Bosio: Bonjour!
iRF: How does it feel?
Bosio: You know, nothing has really set in yet. I don’t know if it ever really will. I had a really fun day on the trails and it was a good experience.
iRF: Obviously it was a good experience and really fun, but there has to be some enjoyment of the actual performance out there.
Bosio: I get enjoyment out of how stoked and excited family and friends and all the people at The North Face get. It makes me really excited for that kind of thing. Yeah, seeing other people’s enjoyment out of it is probably more than I get out of it.
iRF: If only you would have seen Jess of The North Face spelling out R-O-R-Y with her body at 5:30 a.m.
Bosio: Yeah. Yeah. If only. There were some really good spectators yesterday at the race. It was very nice.
iRF: That’s one of the very cool aspects of the race—we’ve probably talked about that before.
Bosio: This year especially because the weather was so nice. You totally noticed going from St. Gervais to Les Contamines which is like continuous people out having parties because you’re running through the neighborhoods there. Everybody was out. It was pretty cool.
iRF: How crazy was it when you got into St. Gervais?
Bosio: It was pretty crazy. Where you in Les Contamines?
iRF: I was in Les Contamines.
Bosio: That seemed pretty crazy. That seemed like way more people than I remember last year. St. Gervais was pretty crazy, too.
iRF: Last year it was 10:00 p.m. and pouring rain.
Bosio: It was raining. Yes, even then they still had a lot of spectators but this year even moreso.
iRF: What was it like in the middle of the night because you go over some pretty remote places in the night?
Bosio: Yeah, the weather was pretty ideal. I was warm pretty much the whole night. I didn’t put on a top layer until climbing up to Col Ferret. Up there it was pretty foggy and pretty windy. Other than that, like going over Bonhomme, it was perfect. I thought it was pretty nice. There were beautiful stars out and it was a nice, pretty calm night.
iRF: You got treated to a perfect night and, correct me if I’m wrong but, it didn’t feel that hot as the…
Bosio: No, it was a little hot climbing up Col de Montez at the last climb when you’re kind of just feeling gross at that point. That side of the hill just kind of bakes in the sun with all that granite. So I just made sure to splash myself in the streams before I went up it. I mean, it was like 75 degrees (F). It was pretty nice.
iRF: You would have been happy with that during the evening at Western States.
Bosio: Exactly. Yeah, it never even got that cold. It was pretty ideal running temperatures which makes a huge difference. Even a difference of 10 degrees one way or another can affect or slow things down.
iRF: Totally. Aside from the physical aspect of it, mentally you enjoy it a lot more.
Bosio: Yeah. You do. Yeah. The trail—it hadn’t rained in a few—the trail was completely dry which especially in the night time running, especially coming down some of those passes where it looks like a bunch of animal trails—which one do I take? You’re just kind of following the markers—I see a marker so I’m going to go there, and I’m going to go there. Everyone is kind of making their own route down these hills.
iRF: I think I remember coming off Col de Bonhomme, it’s integrated.
Bosio: It’s just “find a way down where you’re not going to eat it.”
iRF: You couldn’t cut switchbacks because there are 83 choices.
Bosio: At some point, the markers are just kind of haphazard and you’re just like, I’m just going to follow the markers because that’s the only way to do it. Yeah.
iRF: Yeah. You didn’t go out in the lead. You were comfortable with the lead group or eventual lead…
Bosio: Yeah, this race starts way too fast. It’s like a sprint through town before you get onto the trail that takes you to Les Houches. I just don’t see any point in going that fast at the beginning of the race. I try to keep my heart rate pretty low as long as possible. It’s hard though because you’re like, If I don’t get up there and stick with those people and then things spread out… I have no concept of time or where people are. Eventually you’re just like… you have to do your own thing.
iRF: You were out there running your own race. Was there any point somewhere before the halfway point where you were working your way up—did you take the lead before Courmayeur? Yes you did. It was on Col de Bonhomme.
Bosio: Yeah, it’s hard to tell in the dark, too, where people are and where other women are. I’m not really familiar with the racers over here. So I don’t really know who’s racing or who’s in front of me. So it’s hard to know.
iRF: Did you know before you came into Courmayeur?
Bosio: I think I may have… yeah. But you know, I’ve gotten false information before in the dark where you think someone’s a man or you think somebody’s a woman and so somebody is like, “You’re in second.”
iRF: Because there are layers…
Bosio: How can you tell and I have my headlamp on? No. Yeah, but I try not to… I don’t really pay attention to it especially at that point. The race is not even half way over. So much can change in that many hours.
iRF: Did you ever feel that you were racing? You kept building a lead—you were never going the other way.
Bosio: I do have to say, at La Fouly, my friend and I kind of miscommunicated. She told me that somebody… I thought she said there was another woman two minutes behind me. That was right after the sun had come up and we were coming off Col Ferret and you could see headlamps behind you. I swear I didn’t see any headlamps behind me coming down. How did she make up that much time on me? Not that I knew who she was, but gosh, that seems like such a short time for somebody to make up that much time. As it turns out, my friend said, “No, there was a man two minutes in front of you.” So I booked it from La Fouly to Champex-Lac. I passed the one guy who was in front of me, but I didn’t realize that’s who she told me about. I get to Champex-Lac and said, “Where’s that woman?” “No, there was a man two minutes in front of you.” “Oh, I just put in a lot of effort for…”
iRF: You made a lot of effort and I think that was the point you got into the top 10 [overall].
Bosio: Maybe that was the kick-in-the-butt I needed. No, maybe some deception is what’s needed to motivate people.
iRF: In the future if I lie to you during a race, don’t get mad afterward. I’m just trying to help you out.
Bosio: Yes, well my friends did lie to me and tell me that somebody was closer to me for the last climb because they knew I was slowing down and I totally believed them. It’s a mental thing. It works.
iRF: Obviously it’s nice catching people later in the race because it shows you’re doing well.
Bosio: Yeah, I think towards the end of the races though, I get so focused on myself and how to manage my time and my threshold for pain to get to the finish that eventually I stop caring about the people around me. It’s not such a motivating factor. It’s just like how do I get to the finish as fast as possible?
iRF: So you’re not thinking about being in the top 10 overall or anything like that?
Bosio: Not really. To be anywhere in the top 20, I’m like, Oh, that’s kind of cool. I’ve never been in the top 20 for anything I don’t think for anything. I don’t like thinking about it.
iRF: Did you have any sense that you were totally obliterating the fastest women’s time ever on the course?
Bosio: No, I didn’t really look at my watch. I’ve never really looked at my watch. I don’t think I looked at it until Vallorcine. So I didn’t really know what time it was. I could kind of gauge what time it was when the sun was coming up. I was like, Ok, it must be around 6:30 a.m.-ish now. No, I didn’t know what the women’s course record was. I didn’t know that before. I kind of feel like it’s hard to compare years because the course changes, weather makes a huge difference. This year was pretty ideal.
iRF: But it’s two hours and twenty minutes. That’s a pretty…
Bosio: But over 100 miles, that’s really not that much per mile if you break it down that way.
iRF: Just 2:20
Bosio: It’s a long time… I don’t know… yeah.
iRF: I’m not going to try to do math right now.
iRF: You did keep a really great and positive attitude out there. Were you having fun out there?
Bosio: I was having so much fun. I thought… it was so great. There was a great little cheering section of you and Meghan and all The North Face crew and everything. I felt like I saw them more this year than last year or something. The aid stations just seemed like they were filled with people you recognized and knew.
iRF: You took more time to get to them.
Bosio: That must have been it. I think I saw all my friends a lot more frequently which is a total boost. Then everybody over here is just so enthusiastic—all the spectators and everybody—it’s infectious. I totally feed off that energy.
iRF: I didn’t hear any jokes. You need to learn some jokes in French.
Bosio: I know. I totally do. I had one of my friends—I saw him at an aid station and I told him, “At the next one I need a joke.” So he told me a really good dirty one. I’m not going to say it here.
iRF: Say it after the interview.
Bosio: Exactly. That was great.
iRF: What was your favorite moment from the day?
Bosio: You know, I just felt I had… it was one of those days that doesn’t happen very often where things just kind of click into place and you just feel like things are flowing well and that you can kind of just keep moving along and things are a little bit… more effortless compared to other times. This doesn’t happen a lot; things have to align right. So there were a lot of really good moments—running with certain people and just the scenery. I really did like the sunrise coming into La Fouly. It was just a beautiful morning. It was beautiful. There was kind of mist coming up. You’d just come off the Col…
iRF: And there was that rock face…
Bosio: It was just beautiful there. The light was just spectacular. Then climbing up to Bovine was really pretty views. I like the section when you’re kind of on the plateau above Triente before you take that hellish downhill into Vallorcine. Running along there it’s kind of flowy and it’s kind of fun.
iRF: You can see over to the right.
Bosio: You can see over to Lac d’Emosson, the reservoir there. You can see Martigney. You get the backside of Col de la Bonne (clarification, anyone?). It’s really cool views there, too. So, yeah, kind of cool. It’s very pretty.
iRF: It must be nice to run that in the daylight.
Bosio: It is. I wish we could have run the Bonati Refuge area and Col Ferret in the daylight a little bit, because that’s something spectacular.
iRF: It was really nice a couple years ago in the restart year when they started at 11:30 p.m.
Bosio: I saw pictures from that.
iRF: I was a little slow because I was without any sleep. I got to see Val Veny and Ferret in the daylight.
Bosio: It’s really spectacular.
iRF: That’s why you come over and do the recon.
iRF: Or you could do TDS.
Bosio: That’s true.
iRF: Or for the southern part—the CCC.
iRF: You seem to have gotten two really good runs here.
Bosio: I really like the terrain over here—it suits how I like to run and the fact that I like to hike. I did a ton of hiking—pretty much all the passes. I hiked up almost all that. In training I practice running up, but in the race, I hiked all of it. I like that style
iRF: But you’re pretty good at running downhill.
Bosio: I’ve gotten better. Last year at this race it was an eye-opener about how unskilled I was at running downhill. All these Euros just come bombing on me. I was like, Ahh, look at all that time they made up on that downhill. I definitely did focus more on becoming a better downhiller. I still have a ways to go.
iRF: How did you do that? What method?
Bosio: I think it’s more just training here and running with a couple of guys—a guy who was my ski coach growing up. He’s really good on the downhills, so I just try to get behind him whenever I run with him back in the States. Then being over here early and being able to practice some of these steep downhills. It’s just practice. You just need to get comfortable with it. I’m still not quite there. It definitely helps.
iRF: It would be a nice skillset to be able to transition back to the States.
Bosio: Yes, it’s good to learn how to position yourself when you’re taking steps downhill so you’re not jarring yourself and putting so much pressure on your thighs. When you get tired, all that goes out the window and you’re just like, How am I going to get down the hill? Yeah, it makes a huge difference. You can tell if you’re doing proper running technique if you’re sore the next day or not.
iRF: You seem very even in many senses in this year’s UTMB. You were consistent and fluid and smooth in terms of your running, but you were more ebullient I guess. In something like Western States and you come into the aid stations and you’re telling jokes. It seems like you were more even.
Bosio: I was pretty even keel. I was just riding it. I got into a good little zone where mentally I was in good places and wasn’t wanting it to end. Sometimes you’re doing those races where you’re just like, I just want it to end; let me get to the finish. This time I was really just enjoying it.
iRF: Like Western States this year?
Bosio: Yes, and lots and lots of races for me. Ok, let’s just get this over with. I just really enjoyed running out on this course. You get excited to go out on the next part—I want to see that. So yeah, I just tried to maintain a steady pace.
iRF: Is this the end of your season?
Bosio: I haven’t thought about it. I’m going hiking for a couple weeks in Switzerland after this.
iRF: More time to enjoy?
Bosio: Because I’m spoiled rotten, but I’ll take it. Then I’ll think about it, but I don’t know.
iRF: Do you like UTMB enough to come back again?
Bosio: Probably. Any excuse to get me over here to run, I’ll take. They put on a really good race.
iRF: You’ll probably get back in next year.
Bosio: Yeah, it’s easier to get in than some of the races in the States because there are 4000 people doing this race… but only 200 women. There are 2500 men and 200 women. We need to change that.
iRF: Ladies, come on over to Europe. Or European ladies, come on out.
Bosio: Yeah, European ladies come on out. There are lots of eligible bachelors out there.
iRF: In spandex.
Bosio: In spandex. Gotta check out the merchandise.
iRF: Did all your—there’s a lot of running outside of the physical and mental—did all of your equipment and nutrition plan all work out?
Bosio: Yeah, that was actually pretty good. It was the first time I haven’t changed shoes in a race. I stayed in my same kit the whole time—no major issues—which is a huge difference. I love the pack I train in. It fits me really well. Nutrition-wise, I kind of stuck to the prisoner diet of bread and water. I kind of get to the point where it’s like sweet things just aren’t cutting it—lots of bread and potatoes and water.
iRF: Not so much the cheese and dark chocolate?
Bosio: You know, that dark chocolate has no sugar in it.
iRF: No it doesn’t, but I love it.
Bosio: Coffee—I drank probably enough coffee and Coca-Cola to kill a pony. That’s why I didn’t go asleep last night because I was like ahhhhhh and vibrating… vibrating home.
iRF: You were definitely…
Bosio: You were going to go buy me a cup of coffee…
iRF: You said, “No.”
Bosio: That was too nice. “Coffee? Coffee?” You were like, “I’ll just go get one.”
iRF: You were going to have to wait 15 seconds, but you were on a mission.
Bosio: I couldn’t. I couldn’t.
iRF: That guy was “two minutes ahead of you.”
Bosio: Right. I thought it was a woman two minutes behind me. “I’d better get going.” Yeah, Coca-Cola. That’s the only time I drink it is during these races, and it’s the real stuff over here.
iRF: Real sugar?
Bosio: Yes. I’m making eyes at a cute runner over there. Hi, Mike.
iRF: I guess that’s our cue to wrap things up unless he needs a little more time to finish up his…
Bosio: He’s getting his makeup on. A little more rouge… a little more rouge.
iRF: This guy is going to look really good, ladies. He’s gone to the mountains. He’ll be back.
Bosio: That’s right.
iRF: Rory, thank you so much. Congratulations on a great run.
Bosio: Thanks. Thanks for all your coverage and support and everything. It’s really cool.
iRF: Ok, I’ve got to ask one more question. No bedazzling this year?
Bosio: No bedazzling, man. You know, I really liked my Western States jersey. I didn’t bring my arts and crafts kit over here. Usually my taper week is when I get all my creative stuff done. So I didn’t have any arts and crafts, so I was like, I’m just gonna…
iRF: Sit in the café and look at Mont Blanc.
Bosio: Yeah, pretty much. So my taper was cut a lot shorter. I can’t do any bedazzling, so I may as well go out and run.
iRF: Seemed to work out well for you.
Bosio: Yeah. Au revoir.