Canada’s Alissa St Laurent ran to sixth place at the 2017 UTMB. In the first interview with her, Alissa talks about how she had trouble with mud late in the race, how she enjoyed the camaraderie along the way, what went wrong at Western States and the rest of her season to this point, and how she comes to running from hiking.
Check out our in-depth results article to find out what happened at UTMB 2017!
Alissa St Laurent Post-UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Alissa St Laurent after her sixth-place finish at the 2017 UTMB. Congratulations, Alissa!
Alissa St. Laurent: Thank you so much!
iRunFar: How was your journey out there?
St. Laurent: It was a journey. That’s what I love about this course and this race. You see so much, and you experience so much. I did. I had it all out there. It was awesome. It was really great.
iRunFar: Let’s start with the lows. What were the low parts of the hard parts of being out on the UTMB course this weekend?
St. Laurent: The fatigue really kicked in. I still had so much drive at the end, but things weren’t just firing as fast as I needed them to. I started falling. That mud was just so bad after about Champex-Lac… sometime in there. That caused some problems.
iRunFar: Did that get frustrating after a while?
St. Laurent: It did. I fell a couple times, and I was bleeding. I wanted to go and I wanted to use that downhill, but I was just a little too gun shy after those falls.
iRunFar: What were some of the highlights in the race?
St. Laurent: Just being out there and seeing everyone, I felt good the whole time. I enjoyed the weather, I don’t now if I’m one of the few that did, but I loved that element of it.
iRunFar: The challenge?
St. Laurent: I don’t know. It just felt good. I enjoyed seeing how it changed in different areas of the course. Grand Col Ferret, the top there, it was just white and you could only see just a little bit infant of you. You just wanted to part the fog with your hands. It was raining and freezing rain.
iRunFar: Before Ferret, you were in Courmayeur seeing the moon.
St. Laurent: Yeah, it just changed so much. It was neat to see how it just rolled in and changed with the highs and lows.
iRunFar: Did you have any battles out there with other competitors or women?
St. Laurent: I don’t. There was just such camaraderie. I got to run a little with Kaci [Lickteig] and Aliza [Lapierre] and Sally [McRae] and see a whole bunch of people. Later on in the race I had my little group of guys that I was running with like Yassine Diboun and Tom [Robertshaw?], from the UK—I met him during the race. We kind of just buddied up and would split and see each other at aid stations and come together. So, no, I just felt really friendly the whole race.
iRunFar: Great camaraderie… except in the last few kilometers. Your competitive spirit kicked in a little bit briefly.
St. Laurent: [laughs] Yeah, it did. Kellie [Emmerson] won out. She had more drive a little more intense than I was. I’d already gotten into town on the road there. I see a light, and I thought it was Yassine, and I thought, Oh good, we can run in together! I’d been just kind of… I was done by then. I was off the trails, and I was ready to prep for the energy of the finish line. I was getting ready for that. I saw Kellie just fly past me. It kicked in. She’s taking my spot! I was already fifth! It’s gone! So, I held her for a little bit, but then we still had over a kilometer to go through town. Then I felt silly pushing that hard because my body was like, What are you doing? She’s fast. She earned it. She earned it. It was a little disappointing, but I respect her intensity.
iRunFar: You had a pretty good day out there.
St. Laurent: Yeah, I did. I kind of worried at one point that I started a little too conservatively and was having a little too much fun. I felt good, but I didn’t want to risk it. I’ve just had such a bad year for racing that I wanted a finish. I wanted a top 10, but with this field, it’s hard to even imagine that.
iRunFar: Backing up little bit, you did have a rough year. Western States—what happened there?
St. Laurent: Everything that could had gone wrong at States went wrong. I wasn’t as confident as last year going into it. The training had been good and then there had been bad spots… a lot going on. I had two DNF’s before States. Lake Sonoma and Tarawera—I went all the way across the world to end up in the hospital.
iRunFar: Does that make UTMB all the sweeter? Even just finishing?
St. Laurent: It does, yeah. I was worried I was a little too desperate for a good finish here. I tried to really step back before the race to enjoy this. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. That’s why I started a little slower. I wanted to finish.
iRunFar: It worked out for you.
St. Laurent: It did, yeah.
iRunFar: Over the last couple years, you’ve had some really strong runs. Western States, you were fifth last year… winning the Canadian Death Race. You’re pretty strong at this once you approach 100 miles.
St. Laurent: These big mountain courses, that’s my game.
iRunFar: But you live in Edmonton, Canada. How does that work?
St. Laurent: Yeah, I make it work just by getting out of Edmonton a lot. A big part of my racing now is my travel. I haven’t even raced in Canada for the past couple years. We’ve got our mountains. I have to drive three hours to get there, so I spend the whole weekend and just train.
iRunFar: That’s a good way to do it.
St. Laurent: It is because that’s what I do when I’m there. I’m training. I’m working. We’ve got some great trails in Edmonton, but it’s not enough. I get out a lot.
iRunFar: Going back even further, what is your history with sport? How did you get into running? Were you into running before that?
St. Laurent: No, I never would have called myself an athlete. I’m sure everyone that knew me growing up would never have pegged that title on me. I was always a wanderer. I grew up in the mountains in southern Alberta, and I was a hiker. I was big in the outdoors. I did trail maintenance for Parks Canada. I just loved being out there and did backpacking trips. That’s definitely where it came from. Then, I socially started to run and learned about trail running. It clicked.
iRunFar: When did you start training regularly and getting into racing? How many years ago was that?
St. Laurent: Maybe six?
iRunFar: So you just worked your way up over a couple of years and you find yourself running around Mont-Blanc?
St. Laurent: Who would have thought? I sure wouldn’t have.
iRunFar: What’s up next for you? Anything else this year?
St. Laurent: We’ll see. There’s always a few things on the go. I don’t know what direction I want to take it. I kind of wanted to wait to see how UTMB felt and how the recovery went.
iRunFar: Does this draw you back next year?
St. Laurent: Yeah, I think so. I love the course, and I feel like I can do really well on this course. Maybe I change my strategy a little bit and go out a little riskier. It might work out for me. By the end when I was starting to move up, you can only do so much and you run out of time and you run out of course and the fatigue sets in.
iRunFar: The wheels are going.
St. Laurent: I’m thinking about that.
iRunFar: Congratulations on a great run, Alissa.
St. Laurent: Thanks so much. It was good to have you guys out there.
iRunFar: It was a pleasure.