Blandine L’Hirondel of France successfully defended her Trail World Championships title in winning the 80-kilometer race at the 2022 Trail World Championships in only her second “long” trail race. In the following interview, Blandine talks about how she ran conservatively early on, how well should managed her nutrition and hydration after failing on these points at CCC earlier in the year, and how she gained a mental boost in passing second-place Ida Nilsson for the final time.
For more on how the race played out, check out our 2022 Trail World Championships 80k results article.
Blandine L’Hirondel, 2022 Trail World Championships 80k Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Blandine L’Hirondel after her win at the 2022 Trail World Championships 80k. How are you, Blandine?
Blandine L’Hirondel: Hey. Well, I feel good. Better than yesterday.
iRunFar: You gave such a strong performance yesterday. How did your day start out? How did your race start?
L’Hirondel: Hmm, I started, well, I would like to be very prudent because I knew it will be a very long race, 80 kilometers. I think, I thought I will take like nine hours with the heat and the warm. So, I would like to be very prudent. And I controlled my first part, but there was two, three girls very close to me. But I’m very satisfied because I was prudent at the beginning. I could continue and go faster at the end.
iRunFar: So, when did, at some point in the race Ida [Nilsson] did pull away from you. Were you just okay with her going away or did you try to stay with her for some time?
L’Hirondel: Well, if we’re being honest when she go behind me, in front of me, I say okay, I will try to stay with her. But after 10, 15 kilometers, I feel she was too fast for me. So I say. Okay, I will let her and if I can see her again it’s good. But if it’s not, I prefer to stay in my good sensation to keep a podium, even like third or second place, than try to stay with her and explode and don’t finish the race.
iRunFar: So I know between about the 50-kilometer mark at the top of the mountain to the place down low at 60 kilometers, Ida made a very strong push. Did you know how much of a gap she’d opened up on you?
L’Hirondel: Well, not a lot. Like three minutes, I think. But yes, she was very, very strong.
iRunFar: And then Ida said when you passed her on the climb, that you were just on another level. Did you feel really strong at that point?
L’Hirondel: Well, I didn’t feel, I felt strong but I didn’t feel stronger than the first uphill. But I think I have a very good taking care of race, and I always drink and eat so I keep energy. And that’s true when on the down. On the uphill, my … one of my team, people of my team told me, “Ida is three minutes in front of you.” So I said three minutes is difficult to … to catch. And when I see her like just 100 meters of elevation after, and she was walking with the … [motions hiking poles]
iRunFar: The poles?
L’Hirondel: The poles. And I was running so I said maybe I am better than her. And you know, I think it gives me mentally, I was stronger mentally, when you can pass running and Ida was walking. Also, I don’t think if I was stronger than her, but mentally I think I was very satisfied.
iRunFar: Yeah, so you put yourself in a position. You ran prudently early. You eat and drink and then you’re still feeling strong at 60 or 65 kilometers and just …
L’Hirondel: Yeah, I think I don’t, I didn’t do any errors about my nutrition. It was my, I was scared about it because it’s just my second long-distance [race] and the first was CCC. And then at the CCC during 60 kilometers, with 60, 50 kilometers I drank I think one liter of water and three gels, it was nothing. And when I, when I arrived to Champex-Lac at the medium of the race, [I didn’t eat much], so I wouldn’t like to do the same. And more, more of it with the temperature, the warmth, etc. I think when our organism depends [needs] more energy, so I tried to always drink and eat some gel. And I think it was great.
iRunFar: It was a success I’d say. Yeah.
iRunFar: You did have one problem during the race. You had your foot. You had a bandage or something on it, early?
L’Hirondel: Yeah. For being honest, it’s my ankle. It risked every time, and it risked the, I don’t know two, three, or four times this week. So, I decided to keep it with a strap.
iRunFar: With tape, yeah.
L’Hirondel: With tape. With my French physio, and they did it very well the morning. But after 50k, it was hurting me here. Compress the muscles of my feet. So I said I need to cut it. Because each time I put the foot on the ground, it was …
L’Hirondel: Yes, it was painful. And so, they keep my shoes and do that, and I said, okay, if I keep my shoes and my socks, we can change shoes and socks. I will last just 30 seconds more. So we did a clean. All clean. They kept my strap. We changed socks. We changed shoes. And after I will be another person. Another person. I could run on the downhill very fast and strong. I didn’t have pain. I was very comfortable in my new shoes and my new socks, and it didn’t produce but I think it was a good idea to do that.
iRunFar: So yeah, even beyond them not having to deal with a tape problem, that pain, the new, the fresh socks and shoes …
iRunFar: Another mental …
L’Hirondel: Maybe. Because you know it was very warm and we always throw a river and water so all my foot was very warm and so it was good to change, to have something … I don’t have the words but not warm.
L’Hirondel: Dry, yeah.
iRunFar: So, you had, you won CCC. You won this, your second time winning the Trail World Championships But in these longer ultras, two races, two big successes. Do you enjoy them? Do you maybe want to do some more?
L’Hirondel: Well, yes, I, some more, I don’t know. But yes, I enjoy it. I discover I am good for that. My body is adept for this longer race. Well, if you say, if you mean when you say more, if you mean ultra trails like UTMB or 100 miles, I don’t know yet. Because for me it’s another discipline, it’s more than 24 hours. You need to run during the night. The difference of climate, of temperature. There is a lot of mental. The mental, too, there is a lot of different things. So yes. I ever think about it, but I can’t answer you now. Because I think too, when I asked my coach a few weeks ago, “Okay, what’s the plan for 2023?” He told me, “We wait for the world championships and after we will see.” So, I will see. But now during two weeks, I don’t want to hurt about overtraining.
iRunFar: But maybe some more 80ks and 100ks in your future.
L’Hirondel: Yes, I think.
iRunFar: One of the best things to see yesterday was you celebrating with your teammates. Just like running over to them, on the ground.
L’Hirondel: Yes, because I know the team …
L’Hirondel: Yes, the first-place team. It’s very important for me, for us, for everybody. It represents, you know, we do individual sports, and this is the only case on our sports that we can be on a team. And I was very proud of them. They do a really good race. Some people have up and down, and they all finish for the French T-shirt, you know. And I’m very proud of them. And we did, we form a very beautiful team, and I was very happy for us.
iRunFar: So, I know you don’t want to think too much about next season yet, but the Trail World Championships come back to Europe, to Austria in June. You think you maybe will?
L’Hirondel: It’s not impossible. [laughs]
iRunFar: Yeah. Well, congratulations on your run here.
L’Hirondel: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: And see you somewhere next year.
L’Hirondel: Thank you, Bryon.