France’s Caroline Chaverot has raced and won competitive mountain ultramarathons around Europe, and now she’s racing for the first time in North America at the 2017 Hardrock 100. In the following interview, Caroline talks about how she arrived early and has seen most of the course, how she thinks the high altitude will affect her race, what she thinks of the Hardrock course and community, and what are some of the challenges she’s faced in traveling transcontinentally to race.
Caroline Chaverot Pre-2017 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here in Silverton, Colorado. I’m with France’s Caroline Chaverot. It’s about five days before the 2017 Hardrock 100 Endurance Run. Caroline, welcome to Colorado.
Caroline Chaverot: Thank you, Meghan.
iRunFar: I’ve seen you race in a lot of places around the world, but you are finally racing in my home country.
Chaverot: Yeah, I’m so happy to race in the United States. It will be a very nice experience for me. I have heard the culture of trail running is a bit different, and I’m happy to know it and to discover this place.
iRunFar: I’m just arriving to Silverton this morning, but you’ve been in the San Juans for a week and a half?
Chaverot: Yes, I arrived last Thursday. I got used to the altitude. I could see many parts of the course. It was very beautiful. I was lucky with the weather, too. It was very sunny. I’ve enjoyed my trip very much.
iRunFar: Have you experienced a thunderstorm of Colorado proportions yet?
Chaverot: No, when I was to Handies two days ago, I saw a storm, I heard a storm, but there was no storm finally.
iRunFar: Okay, a safe time to be on Handies. The storm was far away.
Chaverot: Yes, it was very nice.
iRunFar: You’ve raced in lots of races around the world, and you have years of experience racing in Europe. Is this your first race in North America?
Chaverot: Yes, it’s my first race in North America. I have been racing in North America when I was doing kayaking, but for running it will be my first race.
iRunFar: Can you talk about why you applied for Hardrock, and why you want to do this particular race?
Chaverot: I heard a lot about this course. Everybody was talking to me that it’s very wild, it’s very alpine, the people are very nice, and there is a great atmosphere. So I was very motivated to race Hardrock. I applied, and I was picked up I the lottery, so I had to come.
iRunFar: Here you are.
Chaverot: Yes, here I am. It will be challenging.
iRunFar: You’ve seen most of the course. I think you said before this interview that you saw everywhere but the Sherman area on the backside of Handies?
Chaverot: Yes, Sherman is pretty far, so I couldn’t see it. Maybe I will take my GPS because a lot of people told me the marking is quite poor, so you can get lost. Maybe I will take my GPS even though it is a bit heavy. Maybe it’s worth it.
iRunFar: To make sure you stay on the track? Yeah, the elk in the Pole Creek drainage are notorious for knocking down and eating the course markers.
Chaverot: Yes, I heard about it. I hope to see some elk.
iRunFar: One of the great charismatic megafauna of this region are our elk.
Chaverot: Yes, I’ve heard they can be pretty aggressive, so I have to be careful.
iRunFar: Don’t get too close.
iRunFar: You’ve raced just a few weeks ago in Italy running the Lavaredo Ultra Trail. You won that race, of course. How has your recovery from that and transition to being here at such a high altitude, how has that been?
Chaverot: It has been very well. I was very surprised. After Lavaredo I recovered very, very quickly even if I couldn’t sleep very well. Here with the jet lag, my sleep was very poor. But in fact, I recovered, very, very quickly, and now I feel really in good shape. I’m very happy. I think I’ve gotten used to the altitude, so everything is fine.
iRunFar: This is a thing that is hard for people to do, to come from Europe to North America to race. Dealing with the jet lag and the time change is a challenge and vice versa for Americans to come to Europe. What have you learned about your experience doing that? How many days did it take you body to adapt to our time zone here?
Chaverot: In fact, I understand better what North American runners live when they often come to Europe. They often come to Europe maybe more often than Europeans come to the U.S. I remarked how hard it is. You must really come in advance because… maybe it’s my age also, but my sleep is very perturbed. Sometimes I wake up in the night and I can’t sleep until the morning. I think you must just not worry. Be patient. I say, if I’m tired, I will finally sleep. I take it easy.
iRunFar: On those nights you couldn’t sleep, did you just do other things in the night, or did you lay there resting?
Chaverot: I tried to lay and rest. Sometimes I woke up and started to read. I really took it easy. I say, “Okay, I haven plenty of time before the race.” I did naps in the afternoon. This afternoon I made a nap because this morning I was awake at 5 a.m.—great big awake, really awake. I was really tired, so I have to do naps. I’m alone here. Usually I’m very busy with my work and my family. Here, I’m totally alone. It’s very relaxing. I can read. I can take my time for myself, so I don’t really worry about the jet lag and the sleep.
iRunFar: It’s a real vacation.
iRunFar: Not just trying to also make a vacation happen for your family and making sure your kids have fun and stuff like that. It’s just for you.
Chaverot: It was a bit hard for me to leave my kids for two weeks. This was the first time. Sometimes I get a bit sad to think about my kids, but I know they’re on holidays in Switzerland with my parents. We have a small chalet in the mountains, and they are very, very happy. Yeah, I don’t think they’re thinking too much about me.
iRunFar: If they aren’t thinking about you, you don’t have to worry too much about them?
Chaverot: Yeah, the modern internet, we can Skype each other, so that’s very nice.
iRunFar: That’s perfect. Most of the people watching this interview know you as a very tough runner in longer-distance mountain ultras, but I also think you have some alpinism experience on some of the big mountains in Europe. I think I remember talking to you one time after you came down from climbing Grand Paradiso, which that mountain is just as tall as some of our mountains here, isn’t it?
Chaverot: Yes, it’s less high than Handies, but it’s very easy technically. You still have to have crampons because you’re on a glacier, and it’s better to be well-equipped. In Europe, we can’t do a 14,000-foot summit without walking on glaciers. When I was younger, I was climbing a lot and doing a lot of alpinism. For alpinism we had to be out in the mountains for very, very long time. We woke up at midnight and walk all the day and sometimes we slept in the mountains. It’s a bit like you here.
iRunFar: The high altitude of the Hardrock 100 is something that impairs most people’s running. How have you found, in your previous alpinism at high altitudes in Europe, your body to adapt to these long exposures up high?
Chaverot: I think it’s a lot of question of genetics. Some people are very easily used to altitude. For some people it’s harder. For me, it was always very easy to cope with the altitude. I went one time in Central Asia and I did some summits to 7,000 meters. That was really high, and I had a problem to eat at this altitude until 5,000 meters. Yeah, you are slower. Yeah, you breathe more heavily, but it’s not really a problem. You just have to take time to get used to it. Here, I remarked that I have a problem to push myself. My body puts itself in economy mode, so I’m pretty slow. If I want to push really hard—I tried to push really hard this morning—I couldn’t really push as hard as at home. Maybe it’s the effect of altitude. I hope I will be able to eat normally and to drink normally and not to have headaches. Maybe that’s a bit of a problem with altitude. I will see.
iRunFar: You had a couple pretty long runs and training days seeing the course. How has it been trying to take in your nutrition then? Have you been able to eat okay?
Chaverot: Yes, but when I train, I eat very few.
iRunFar: So you didn’t practice your nutrition?
Chaverot: Not really, no. One day I forgot. One day I wanted to do a three-hour run, so I didn’t take any food. In fact, I did five-and-a-half, and I had no food. I was very hungry.
iRunFar: You have championed some of the top endurance runs around the world against some of the deepest competition among women. The Hardrock Endurance Run isn’t even called a race all the time. It’s called a run because it’s more about sharing these mountains with other people. In your week and a half here so far, have you sort of gotten a sense of the community and the camaraderie that’s built around this race?
Chaverot: A little bit because I read a lot about this race. I read all your interviews—from Anna Frost, from Kilian Jornet. I read everything I could read about it. I got into the spirit. I got in touch with a guy who worked for the organization and he talked a lot to me about the race. He was very happy to help me. Yeah, I think I seem to see this community. I’m really looking forward to the next days because most people will arrive. There will be some events ahead of the race. I will be happy to meet other people now.
iRunFar: Yes, it’s Sunday right now. People will probably be watching this on Monday. The Hardrock week is just getting started. The Hardrockers are descending now upon Silverton.
Chaverot: Yes, I will be very happy to meet some people. It’s incredible. I read some stuff about people completing 10 or 15 times the Hardrock. I’m very impressed because it’s such a challenge. It will be very challenging with the weather—cold in the night and warm in the day. I’m very impressed by all these people doing the Hardrock and also the volunteers. I heard about Kroger’s Canteen and people staying there in the night at such a high altitude.
iRunFar: Attached in harnesses to get into a little bivy to have a nap and wearing their helmets for rock fall. Kroger’s Canteen is a very serious aid station, but they don’t take it too seriously. They have a lot of fun there.
Chaverot: Yes, the culture here in America is quite different compared to Europe. For me, it’s very interesting to meet some people and to talk with them. I try to meet as much people as I can.
iRunFar: Fantastic. Best of luck to you on Friday as you make the loop around the San Juan Mountains. We hope to watch you make your way around so you can come and kiss this rock and become a Hardrocker.
Chaverot: Thank you. Thank you. I hope to finish. I imagine people coming here must be so happy to kiss this rock. Thank you.