After taking second just four weeks ago at the Ultra-Trail Mount Blanc, Spain’s Uxue Fraile commandingly won the 2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. In this interview, Uxue talks about the rest and fun she had in between UTMB and UTMF, how running in Japan reminded her of Basque Country running, and where we might see her race in 2016.
Be sure to read our results article for the full race story.
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Uxue Fraile, 2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here on the shores of Lake Kawaguchiko with the 2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Champion, Uxue Fraile. Hi.
Uxue Fraile: Hi, Meghan.
iRunFar: I just saw you one month ago at UTMB.
Fraile: Yeah, just four weeks ago.
iRunFar: I interviewed you afterwards and you said, “I’m so tired.”
Fraile: Yeah, and I was tired. I think I have had a good rest until the end of September, and maybe I was good prepared for UTMB at the end of August.
iRunFar: So you had good training for UTMB in August and good rest in September?
Fraile: Yeah, I think that the meaning of this is I was well-prepared for UTMB, and I was good prepared and I have gotten a good rest because of that.
iRunFar: I think a lot of people out there would like to be able to run a good hundred and then another hundred a couple months later. Talk about that rest. What did you do to stay ready but also to recover?
Fraile: This year, I started running really late, and my first race was Zegama in the middle of May. This was my sixth race. I haven’t run a lot of races. I think we can’t do a lot of times these kind of things in my opinion.
iRunFar: There are only so many you can do and be good at?
Fraile: No, in one month it’s very difficult to run two 100 milers. Maybe it depends on the season and maybe it could be possible at the end of the season. So in September the first week I didn’t run anything, only for celebrate the UTMB result with my friends, but it was laughing. We went out near the sea to get wet, so it was like an enjoying running. It was most important to keep in mind we were enjoying and not training. Then I started again running but not so much—maybe to the game and then running in flat, going to the mountains but walking. I think it’s very important to do a good rest and a good recover after UTMB.
iRunFar: This is a race that has a lot of running, a lot of pavement and flat. Did you do anything specifically to prepare for that like practice running on roads before?
Fraile: No, not for the race, but I was a runner for 25 years on the track. I ran the 1500 meters, but now I prefer not to be running in the road. No, I haven’t prepared specifically for this race. My main objective was UTMB, and then this race was like, Well, you have to finish the Ultra-Trail World Tour [UTWT], so which one—Japan or Diagonale? I have been in Réunion, so I choose a new place. So, I haven’t prepared specifically for Mount Fuji.
iRunFar: Because of this race changing so much between lots of flat, then straight up, then straight down, the strengths and weaknesses of different women in the competition becomes obvious. You get to a flat part, then the road runners take off. You get to a mountain, the good climbers take off. In spending time with different women, who did you see take off on the flats and come back to you on the roads?
Fraile: Well, I started all the time with Amy [Sproston]. I knew Amy from UTMB. I knew that maybe downhill maybe I could go with because she was before me. So, I was thinking in the downhill I will take her. Then we will arrive to a road and she is going again. After 45k aid station, it was a very steep uphill. I felt well enough to go. I think then she had problems and stopped. I love that part of the race where we were in the forest like where I’m from in Basque Country. I felt well.
iRunFar: The mountainous part of this course, you’re in green trees and it’s very rocky and there are roots. Did it feel like home in Basque Country?
Fraile: Yes, I felt like at home. I was thinking, Oh, I’m running Zegama. I’m running in other races in my country. A lot of mud—I was seeing a lot of people couldn’t run well there. It was very enjoyable.
iRunFar: You could, yeah. For you, the road sections are the most difficult. There is a lot of road. How did you deal with running all of that pavement? Did you run and take walk breaks? Did you run more slowly than usual to tolerate it?
Fraile: At first when I was with Amy close to me, I was running. In the middle of the race, I think there was a long part that was all the time road or track, but a big track, and I was walking. I decided to walk because I couldn’t run. I told myself, It’s better for you. You are going to be with more energy for the end of the race, so I walk. It was a tough decision. I was trying sometimes to run, but I walk as fast as possible, but not all the time walking.
iRunFar: Some walking.
Fraile: Yeah, I think it’s good because if you are with few energy to finish the race in good feelings.
iRunFar: From about 40 or 50k onward, there were no other women. You were by yourself with the men. It was a long time to be alone—100k maybe.
Fraile: Sometimes I run with a few men. Some of them spoke English. We talked about the race and other races. Yeah, I met with different boys when we spent a good moment. It’s true that in this race you have to do your own race, so you can’t do things that you don’t want to. It’s difficult to explain in English. If I am with another person and it’s not my pace, it’s not good for me. So maybe you can go with him or her a little bit, but not for a long time because maybe it’s a different speed.
iRunFar: You have to go your own pace always.
Fraile: I think—it’s my opinion, but it’s good I think.
iRunFar: You’ve had a big year and performed really well in the UTWT. What have been some of the highlights from your races this year when you look back? What are a couple things that were awesome?
Fraile: This year maybe for me the most important thing at first was running in Zegama and running in Zegama in less than five hours. It was my first race. I had changed the coach, so it was, well, what am I going to do? It was a surprise at Zegama to run less than five hours. For me, it was a very good feeling.
iRunFar: To start your year meeting that goal in your home race?
Fraile: Yes, because it was a surprise. It’s not my best result but one of the most important moments, because with that I told myself, This year I’m going to run. I decided to run after Zegama. I’m going to try with my calendar. I had a calendar and it was a possibility but not very sure. So after that race, I decided I’m going to run the calendar. It was a very important moment for me. Then running in the UTMB and being second and winning here, they are really good moments. I have enjoyed all the races. I have been in Switzerland, in Mauritius, in Annecy at the [IAU Trail] World Championships. So with all the races, I think I have had good memories.
iRunFar: It’s been a good year.
iRunFar: Looking forward to 2016, do you have anything you really want to do?
Fraile: Maybe I’m going to your home to visit you in the United States?
Fraile: I don’t know. I’m not young. I’m 41. I have to go step-by-step. The future is not very sure, so we will see. I’m thinking I’m going to run next year, and I’m looking for something interesting. For me, it’s important that it’s something interesting like going to the USA and spend all the summer there because I’m on holiday. It has to be something like that not only for race.
iRunFar: If you were to come to the U.S. to race, which race would that be?
Fraile: I don’t know. Maybe USA or maybe another thing, but I have to spend my summer as my holidays, so something interesting not only for race. I’m not so young. It’s important for me because I want to improve my time.
iRunFar: Well, the sport has proven that age doesn’t seem to be a defining characteristic of the front runners and certainly you’re an example of that, eh? Congratulations to you. See you in 2016, and hopefully in the United States.
Fraile: Thank you, Meghan. I hope so. Well, why not? I’m not going to say it’s not. Maybe.
iRunFar: Congratulations again.
Fraile: Thank you.