Xavier Thévenard, the two-time UTMB champion, has traveled to the US for the first time to take on the Hardrock 100. In the following interview, Xavier talks about what he’s enjoyed in his two weeks in the US so far, why he’s chosen to race Hardrock, what his experience is on more rugged terrain, and how he’s trained after minor knee surgery this spring. (For Xavier’s full responses in English, check out the text transcript.)
[Thanks to Cathy Ardito for providing the on-location audio translation for and Guillaume Calmettes for the full-text translation of this interview.]
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Xavier Thévenard Pre-2016 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Xavier Thévenard before the 2016 Hardrock 100. How are you, Xavier?
Xavier Thévenard: Fine, thank you.
iRunFar: This is your first time to the Hardrock 100. Is it your first time to the US?
Thevenard: Yes, it’s my first time for both.
iRunFar: You have been here in Silverton for two weeks. How are you enjoying your time here?
Thevenard: It’s a beautiful race course. I have been on the course. I have enjoyed the mountains (landscape), I have enjoyed Colorado. But there is still a lot to discover for sure.
iRunFar: You’ve had some time to play in the mountains. What has been your favorite location or favorite section of the course?
Thevenard: I really like Handies Peak a lot. I also enjoyed the first part of the course, which was a bit more rugged. I liked very much Oscar’s Pass. But honestly it’s hard to make a choice, everything is really pretty on this course.
iRunFar: A lot of runners in the two weeks before Hardrock find it difficult not to do too much. They want to play. How much running have you done?
Thevenard: I made the choice to go run on the parts of the course that were easily accessible by car. Overall, I think I have ran at least 100km out of the 160km of the race. For the remaining portions of the course I didn’t go to, I looked on Google Earth to have an idea of what to expect.
iRunFar: You don’t race too often. You choose your races carefully. How did you choose to run the Hardrock 100?
Thevenard: Like for other ultra-marathon races, I’ll focus on pacing myself well, and follow a good nutrition/hydration plan. The goal is to be able to be efficient for the whole race and making progess at good speed without losing too much energy.
iRunFar: Why Hardrock out of all the other races?
Thevenard: It’s the type of race I like. It’s very mountainous and a bit alpine. I like races like UTMB in the French Alps, and the terrain here is very similar than what I can encounter in the French Alps. I like when there are a lot of ups and downs, especially when we have to go through stunning landscapes. Also, the temperatures will be fresh, I like that, and we’ll have to cross some snow fields, I like that very much too!
iRunFar: Like Transvulcania?
Thevenard: [laughs] It has uphill and downhill and not too hot and very, very nice landscape.
iRunFar: You are best known in the US for winning UTMB two times. This race is completely different—150 runners, not 2,000, and the markings are very far apart. At UTMB it’s a “road.”
Thevenard: It’s true that compared to UTMB, it is more of a rustic feel, here trails are not a highway, and marking is sparse. But for me it’s not that different of my training playground in the Jura where I am used to narrow trails like that. Also, last year I ran in Patagonia (Patagonia Ultrafiord 70km), and the race was basically 70km without any clear path, so compared to that, here it is very well marked! But yes, compared to UTMB, here it is very wild and rustic, but that’s what I appreciate a lot.
iRunFar: You’re now prepared. You’ve run Ultra Fjord.
Thevenard: Yes. When I trained in the Jura, I was used to training without a path.
iRunFar: It’s normal.
iRunFar: You’ve been running ultras for a very long time, but you have not raced against Kilian Jornet very many times. How do you anticipate going head-to-head with Kilian?
Thevenard: I have competed once again Kilian, at Transvulcania in 2013. But anyways, Hardrock is an ultramarathon race, so I won’t race against Kilian, I will race against myself and focus on my own race. Of course if I have the opportunity to run with Kilian during the race, it will be nice sharing some miles with him, but my real competition is myself, not Kilian.
iRunFar: I heard rumors that earlier this spring you had some trouble with your knee. How is your knee now?
Thevenard: Very good. I had a minor surgery early May, but now everything feels right.
iRunFar: Just a minor operation?
Thevenard: Yes, it was just a minor meniscus repair.
iRunFar: Your training has been strong? As strong as before UTMB in the past?
Thevenard: It’s a bit different because it’s the beginning of July and UTMB is in August, and of course you can log more running kilometers if a race is a bit later in the summer (Xavier lives in a snowy region in France).
iRunFar: But the same with other runners who live in the mountains. When did you start your running season? Did you do much Nordic skiing this winter?
Thevenard: My running training is dependent of how snowy was the winter. This year I started a bit earlier than previous years, that’s actually why I got injured (laugh). I maintained a low volume running training throughout the winter, but the real start of my training season was at the beginning of March.
iRunFar: You’re fit. You’re excited to be here. How do you think you’ll do?
Thevenard: Yes, everything is good and I’m in good shape, but there is still a full race to run before the result. I’ll try to manage the race very well, I’ll try to avoid as much as possible low-points during the race, I’ll try to keep a steady pace, and if I can execute all that, the outcome should be favorable. We’ll see.
iRunFar: Is there anything in particular you think will be a challenge with Hardrock?
Thevenard: I would like to do 24 hours or even go sub-24 hours.
iRunFar: How are you with the high altitude?
Thevenard: Very good. The first couple of days were a bit hard, but now after spending some time here, it’s good, acclimation of the body is good.
iRunFar: This course is very rugged, the footing and terrain. You’re off trail. What shoes will you wear?
Thevenard: I’ll wear the same shoes than the ones I used at UTMB. ASICS FujiLyte
iRunFar: Not the biggest shoe, but fast?
Thevenard: Yes, light shoes, very comfortable…
iRunFar: It’s important as there’s so much water on the course you’ll run through.
iRunFar: Best of luck. Bonne chance.
Thevenard: Bonne chance to you, also.