Uxue Fraile has run UTMB four times, finishing in the top five every time including placing second twice. In the following interview, Uxue talks about why she’s back at UTMB, why she’s raced only in Basque Country so far this year, and why early struggles in her longest race this year may be a good sign for her race at UTMB.
Uxue Fraile Pre-2019 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Uxue Fraile before the 2019 UTMB. How are you?
Uxue Fraile: I’m fine, and you?
iRunFar: I’m good. How many times will this be for you at UTMB?
Fraile: This will be my fifth time. I still have two days before the race, but I hope to be at the start and I hope to be in the finish area.
iRunFar: You have had so much success here: two second-place finishes, a third-place finish. You have learned this race.
Fraile: And a fifth-place finish – all top five.
iRunFar: There you go! That’s such consistency. There are people who’ve had great success and some failures here, but you are always good. Why is that?
Fraile: Well, I’m always there. I hope that for this year also. I’m not a champion woman, but if things go well, it’s something that we are hoping for being there – not just my very best performance, but the top one… so, you know.
iRunFar: Do you think it’s possible?
Fraile: No, I don’t think so.
iRunFar: Why do you say that? Every year you get a little closer. It’s a margin of five minutes!
Fraile: Every year, I finish in 26 hours, you know? If Rory Bosio has 23, or Caroline Chaverot did 24 and 25, but I’m in the 26-hour range.
iRunFar: Every time?
Fraile: Well, once I did 27, but yeah.
iRunFar: But you’re like a clock.
Fraile: More or less, yes [laughs].
iRunFar: So, this year you have mostly run races in Basque country.
Fraile: Yes. That is what I wanted to do, and I did what I wanted to do. It was my calendar, and I tried to go to Lavaredo or some other race, but I wanted to run at home, and I did that.
iRunFar: And you enjoyed it?
Fraile: I enjoyed it. Because there are all those years when you’re away from home, and the only race I knew was Zegama. So, I had to go and do that [discover more local races].
iRunFar: To see your home.
Fraile: Yeah, to see it and have time to enjoy it with friends.
iRunFar: There are all of these wonderful races around the world that are at the top level, but there are also wonderful races that are at home – for everyone.
Fraile: For sure, for everyone. [When you run locally] You run with friends and it’s more relaxed. I needed that, I think.
iRunFar: So you’re relaxed, yeah?
Fraile: Yeah, and now I’m here and it’s going to be so different.
iRunFar: It’s not so relaxed at UTMB.
Fraile: No, there are 15,000 people here. It’s so, so different. Oh well. The weather is getting close to Basque country weather, so…
iRunFar: You like that? The more rain, the more mud…
Fraile: I prefer the sun, but it’s true that we are used to this weather, so it could be better than a sunny day.
iRunFar: You say there’s 15,000 runners here, but people watching – like at Zegama – you’re used to bigger crowds at a race.
Fraile: Yeah, I think that this year it was the top of the one of the years that come before. I’m a little bit worried about that. Zegama, it’s a very small place. It’s difficult to get to ice quarry or Sancti Spiritu. A lot of the parking lots were full the day before. Well, it’s good, but on the other side we must think about the environment. I suppose that the people that were there take care of the environment, I want to think that.
iRunFar: But it’s still a lot of people.
Fraile: It’s still a lot of people in the mountains [and a lot of cars].
iRunFar: Sometimes there’s also smaller races: You did the 91.7k at Ehunmilak Ultra-Trail.
Fraile: I did Ehunmilak G2Huandiak Goierri Trail… it’s the two biggest mountains in the area Sierra de Aralar near Zegama. It’s very special because we started at night, at 11:00 p.m., and before going to the national park, there was a place where there were a lot of people hanging around, it was like a party. It was like a night party. But we were running and they were cheering for us, and it was so special.
iRunFar: So, it’s hard to tell – the most recent and longest race you’ve run this year was that one, and you won, which is great – but it’s hard to know what your fitness is. Do you feel strong coming into UTMB?
Fraile: That race was very strange because I felt well, but the first part of the race was very hard for me. I didn’t want to continue. So, the first part was worse than the last part, so now my coach has confidence in that and I must have confidence in him [laughs]. If he is right, it could be quite great.
iRunFar: Yeah, you might feel good from Courmayeur [47 miles/75k] on or from La Fouly [68 miles/109k] and later.
Fraile: Well, after Courmayeur has been the worst part of all the races I’ve done here. I hope this time that after Courmayeur I will feel normal – not better, but normal.
iRunFar: So, you’ve had these four great races at UTMB. Why do you keep coming back? What do you hope to happen this year?
Fraile: It’s difficult to explain in English. Last year I thought it was my last time at UTMB, and I told people, “Oh no, I’m not going to prepare for UTMB again.” So, sometimes it’s better not to speak a lot because it could happen that you have to take back the words you said. I’m here again because, well, for my team it’s important to be in Chamonix.
It’s true that I love this. I love being in Chamonix, I like UTMB. It’s a good time for me because I’m on holidays and can prepare, but being on holidays, it’s so hard to prepare for a race. I felt like I didn’t have any other plans. That’s normal, sure, you must prepare for UTMB so you can’t go to other things – to do whatever your friends are doing.
So, I had fun in winter. I went skiing. I went to Austria to go skiing for a week, and I enjoyed a lot during winter, but this summer it was hard.
iRunFar: But you’re still excited.
Fraile: Yeah, I’m excited because I’m here and I think that I have changed my mind after August. I’m excited to run again on Friday.
iRunFar: Well, thank you very much and good luck, Uxue.
Fraile: Thank you.