Spain’s Uxue Fraile is back! After a long injury and recovery period, she returned to form and took second at UTMB 2018. In the following interview, Uxue talks about how finishing second feels like winning because of her long time away due to injury, how the difficult weather conditions didn’t bother her, and what it was like to be a part of the ever-changing women’s competitive race.
Check out our 2018 UTMB results article for the full story of the race, as well as links for all of our post-race interviews.
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m with Uxue Fraile. She’s the second-place finisher of the 2018 UTMB. You were so happy on the finish line last night!
Uxue Fraile: Yes, for sure. I was happy because I arrived in Chamonix, and I was happy for all the things that happened around [Mont Blanc]. I was thinking, “Oh, I have to enjoy this moment. It’s my moment, and a moment for the people that have been around me, who have given so much time.”
iRunFar: Being on the podium at UTMB, you’ve been there before. After this long break from running while being injured, how did it feel to be back to where you’d been before?
Fraile: I told Bryon that last year I came with my brother and I enjoyed the other side of the race [crewing]. I decided, “Oh, I have to come back again.” Before, I wasn’t so sure. It’s hard to prepare for this race, but after seeing where my feelings were last year, I decided that I must come again. So, I’m so happy arriving at Chamonix, being on the podium again. I think it was good work.
iRunFar: Let’s talk about the weather for the race. In the days coming up to UTMB, the forecast was good. There wasn’t supposed to be too much rain; it was supposed to be pretty warm. Then, all of a sudden on Friday, the forecast changed and there was rain, there was wind, there were freezing temperatures. Did what happened with the weather surprise you? How did you get ready for it at the last minute?
Fraile: Well, it was a change to some essential equipment, but I think after that the weather was so good for me. It wasn’t so bad. I had been talking with Juliette Blanchet, my teammate, and the night was very warm for me. I had a long shirt, and when I arrived at Courmayeur, I told my coach, “I’m very warm, I have to take it off. I can’t anymore!” [Laughs] Around me were a lot of people, a lot of athletes, who were wearing Goretex the whole time, but I couldn’t benefit… I didn’t use it after Courmayeur. So, I took it out at Courmayeur, and after Courmayeur it was really cold. The night was warmer than during the morning, I think.
iRunFar: So going, for instance, over Grand Col Ferret at this time of day.
Fraile: Yes, after Courmayeur, going to Grand Col Ferret. Grand Col Ferret was the coldest one. It was the only point that I used Goretex.
iRunFar: The women’s race was so dynamic. There were women – I mean, you kind of ran steady, but a woman would come in front of you and then drop back, then another woman would come in front of you and then drop back. Can you talk about how that went?
Fraile: No, because I don’t know. I have read some messages [that showed me] I was thinking one thing, and it was the other. So, I don’t know, really, what happened with the women’s race. I was thinking the women before me were others, not Katia [Fori]and Francesca [Canepa].Well, Francesca, yes, because I saw her, but I didn’t see Katia. I don’t know. My first aid station was so long…
iRunFar: Really? You stayed with them a long time? What happened?
Fraile: I don’t know. Maybe it was stress. Maybe we haven’t done a lot of time for a long time. I don’t know, but they were really bad. So maybe it happened during the aid station. Because I passed Caroline Chaverot going up to Le Brévent, but I think that again she was before me, so I must see the results.
iRunFar: You have to go look and see exactly what happened.
Fraile: Because I know nothing. I saw Magdalena Boulet when I went Les Chapieux [50 km/31 miles] and I was running with Clare Gallagher and another American. I don’t know who it was. I can’t remember the name.
iRunFar: Sarah Keyes?
Fraile: Maybe. Then, I didn’t see her again. I don’t really know what happened.
iRunFar: When did you become aware that you were in podium position, that you were actually doing really well as all this stuff was happening around you?
Fraile: I think that I didn’t hear anything until Champex-Lac [126 km/78 miles]. Because in Courmayeur I was with Fernanda Maciel. Fernanda passed me going into Courmayeur, but I can’t remember if they told me, “Oh, you are third” or “You are fourth.” Sometimes I heard something from the public, “Oh, you are fourth” or “You are fifth.” So I [thought about who was ahead of me] and I put names, but they weren’t those names. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.
iRunFar: When did you know you were in second?
Fraile: In Champex-Lacs, I more or less knew I was third. Then in Trient, they told me, “Oh, the second is in five minutes [ahead of you].” So when I was going down to Vallorcines, I saw her and passed on the downhill. So I knew that I was second. Francesca Canepa was in first.
iRunFar: At the top of the final climb at La Flégère, it was about 20 minutes between first place and third place. Then, at the end, you were all really close. You were just a couple minutes behind Francesca. Did you know you were catching her? Could you see her or hear crowds in town? Did you ever think that maybe she’s really close?
Fraile: Yeah, but I was first in Vallorcines, or I was third thinking that I was the first one. So maybe I could change that, but, well, I was thinking about maintaining the second place. Then I get so close to Francesca I have a little bit of damage but it didn’t happen and it doesn’t matter. For me, it’s like second place isn’t winning, but it’s close.
iRunFar: So, on the final downhill you didn’t see her or hear her or know that you were getting close?
Fraile: I think that I saw her when she was arriving at La Flégère and I was a little bit down [farther back]. There were more or less seven minutes or nine back. Someone told me about nine minutes. I think I was in five, more or less. But the race stops in Chamonix. There are no more kilometers, so it’s what happened.
iRunFar: You have been on the podium of UTMB before. Then you had your injury, and now you’re back on the podium again. Do you feel like there’s still more to do with UTMB, or do you feel like “Ah… I’ve completed my dream.”
Fraile: I thought yesterday at the finish line about finishing UTMB. It’s something like, I am going to run UTMB maybe with some friends. I’m going to come back. But maybe I’m not going to prepare as we know. Maybe not next year at all. I can’t say anything for sure.
iRunFar: It’s only the day after the race.
Fraile: Yeah, but I have been thinking about that for a lot of time. I love this race. I love Chamonix. I love UTMB. I think it’s the best way to prepare because I’m on holidays for two months. It’s a very good race to prepare for me, because I’m not working at all in the summer. But I am thinking that maybe… now I would like to come back again, but in August it’s not so easy, you know what I mean? Maybe I can be, “Oh, I’m going to Colorado and I’m going to be in the mountains.” I don’t mind if I am to run UTMB, but not at home doing something plannified. I think that’s finished. Maybe next year or two years from now I’m going to Colorado to Hardrock[crosses her fingers].
iRunFar: Fingers crossed for the lottery! Come on, Hardrock!
Fraile: After that, I’ll be training in Colorado, so I’ll come. But it’s not like something planned.
iRunFar: Well, one more question for you: I want to ask you about something you said at the finish line last night. You said, “What I want to do is to help preserve the values of trail running and sort of the values of the original generation of trail runners.” What did you mean by that?
Fraile: I have been talking to Iker Karrera and others. These people, we are all of the same year. We’re all born, I think, in 1974. I think Monica Ikeda was second here some years ago, she’s more or less the pioneer in Spain of UTMB. It’s not only values. It’s a kind of point of view to try running, but not running only – [it applies] to life. It passed through my mind and I had to say something. Yes, we are a generation that have enjoyed a lot and will do a lot of things for trail running and I think that it’s okay.
iRunFar: What values were you trying to express there? Simplicity? Joy?
Fraile: Yes, prolification, training, that it is work that produces results. It was not only to share for marketing, that it was something different.
iRunFar: Got it. I understand now.
Fraile: I don’t know how to explain.
iRunFar: I get it. It’s not just “the show,” it’s the whole experience.
Fraile: I think so.
iRunFar: Well, congratulations to you on your second-place finish and we’ll keep our fingers crossed for the Hardrock lottery.
Fraile: Yes, I’d love to go to Hardrock next year! I want to!
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