Another year, another UTMB podium finish for Xavier Thévenard. This year that was a second place. In the following interview, Xavier talks about what it was like in the early miles when so many other runners were keying off his pacing, how he planned this year’s race based on his splits from 2015, and how he felt so many more people were cheering for him along the course this year than in years past.
Be sure to read our in-depth results article to find out how the race played out.
Xavier Thévenard Post-2019 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Xavier Thévenard. He’s the second-place finisher of UTMB. Congratulations! Félicitations!
Xavier Thévenard: Thank you.
iRunFar: I loved that you posted your splits on Instagram before the race, and your time at the finish was right in line with your splits.
Thévenard: [With assistance from a translator] I had good legs, and I based my splits on my timings when I won in 2015. I did three minutes better and I felt good when I finished, so I was pleased to have done better.
iRunFar: I like to think of you as a scientist of UTMB. You break this course down into its component parts, you have strategies for different sections. Can you talk a little bit about your strategy early in the race this weekend?
Thévenard: I had a strategy of starting slightly more paced at the beginning – not going too fast, and progressively building the speed. That’s the way I work and that’s worked for me in the past. Everyone has different ones. Pau Capell went much faster in the beginning. That can fall back later on, though it played out well for him. My strategy was to start slow and then to build progressively.
iRunFar: Early in the race, one of the things that I noticed was that many men were watching you and keying off of you. What’s that like, to have a bunch of guys following you?
Thévenard: It was funny. Yes, I did feel a lot of people keeping my pace and following my moods. You have to follow your own. It was funny to have other people follow my pace, but I kept my own pace and that’s what works.
iRunFar: We have so many pictures where there’s you running, and then other men running and they’re looking at you.
Thévenard: It really was amazing. It was great. I’d never had that much encouragement from the spectators and the fans throughout the whole course. It was really great.
iRunFar: In all of your runs of UTMB, you seem to take the time around Grand Col Ferret, La Fouly, Champex-Lac, to really push at that time, maybe push the men’s field to see how it shakes out. It looked like you were pushing in that time yesterday. Were you?
Thévenard: Yes, I tend to calculate things. I know the margins I have to play with. I’ll do that the same at the aid stations – work out how much I take in and how much I carry in terms of food. Yeah, I really work out the margins I can have at each of those key moments in the race where I have big climbs and I really work them, and the differences that I can play with.
iRunFar: The church bells have come and it’s gotten a little bit loud, but I have one more question for you: You keep building your UTMB résumé.Will you keep coming back to this race in the future? Is there more that you think you can and want to do?
Thévenard: I’ve done five now, and every time I try to do a little improvement. I love this area, I love Chamonix and the environment around here. There are other races as well and I’m going to do lots of different ones, but I have a particular attachment to this one. I definitely want to come back. We’ll see for next year, but I want to come back.
iRunFar: Well, congratulations on your second-place finish. As iRunFar is American, we definitely look forward to seeing you at the Hardrock 100 next year.
Thévenard: No worries. It would be great to be there. If there’s no snow, I’m doing it.