In this interview, she talks about balancing training with recovering from a foot injury, how the race unfolded for her, the feeling at the finish line, and how she feels now about the 100-mile distance.
For more on how the race played out, read our in-depth UTMB results article.
Blandine L’Hirondel Post-2023 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Sarah Brady of iRunFar. I’m here the day after the 2023 UTMB with Blandine L’Hirondel, third-place woman. Congratulations. How do you feel?
Blandine L’Hirondel: Thank you very much. Well, I think I feel not so bad after 100 miles yesterday.
iRunFar: That’s great. So, I know you had a foot injury earlier in the summer. So obviously it’s better. That’s great. So, what was that, and is it fully recovered?
L’Hirondel: Yes. Now I can say I’m very fully recovering. It was after the [Trail] World Championships [80k], I took one month to recovery very, very well, so I cut with the running. I pass a lot of time in my physiologist and doctors. And one week before UTMB, I was always on the physiologist to take care of my foot. And before beginning the UTMB, when you will run during one day, entire day, you’re not very sure how your body will respond. And it was a big surprise but a happy surprise, because I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t feel my foot during this UTMB. So now I can say it’s best.
iRunFar: Okay, that’s really good to hear. And then your training must have been difficult, trying to manage an injury. And it’s your first 100 miles, so were you able to do higher volume training with the foot?
L’Hirondel: Well, yes.
iRunFar: Your training. Were you able to run like, high volume, more kilometers per week, to train for this?
L’Hirondel: Yes, because I come back from an injury, and it was my first 100 miles. I needed to do a training to try to augment the volume, but not too much, to preserve my body. So I started the specific training just two to three months ago, not a lot. I did a block, you know. A few days at 40 kilometers, but sure, the best will be to do more, but I prefer to preserve my body. So if I compare with a lot of elite runners, I did less. But for me, for my past, my history, I think I did a perfect training. And I hope next year I could have a specific and better training to be better.
iRunFar: Okay. Obviously it was enough anyway, what you did. And then to talk about the race. So, for the first half, you were close to the front all the time. How was the earlier part of the race? Were you racing hard from the start, or did it feel comfortable?
L’Hirondel: Well I didn’t have a plan. Normally I need to be comfortable always, but how I’m used to do a race, like 40 to 50 kilometers of more faster races. And that’s why when during the first part, I felt good, even it was so, so fast. So, I would like to trust my sensation, but I think it was too much. And I paid for it a few hours later. But you know, I was there yesterday to learn, and it will be a lesson for the next years.
iRunFar: Did you have a difficult part in the middle, so after that?
L’Hirondel: A difficult?
iRunFar: Did you have a difficult section of the race?
L’Hirondel: Yes. When I arrived in Champex, I was terribly bad. I think from La Fouly to Champex it was difficult, because I never did more than 100 kilometers. And it’s very strange, because until 100 kilometers I was good, and 101 kilometers, I felt bad. I think it was mentally I said okay, I know 100, but 101, I don’t know. So, my brother said, “Oh, you’re on the unknown.” So, it was difficult during two, three hours. At Champex-Lac, fortunately, there was a refreshment to stay, to eat, and to see my husband, my family, and people. And when I finish in Champex, from here, I say, Okay, you just want to finish. If you will be very slow, it’s not a problem. Accept it. But today you just want to finish and to discover this distance. And the downhill before Trient, I felt good.
L’Hirondel: My legs can work. I had energy. So, it came back. I don’t know why.
iRunFar: Brilliant. You recovered. It was good to take some time in Champex-Lac.
iRunFar: So then you seemed to have a really good last section, and I think it was just on the last climb that you entered podium position. So, what was it like trying to chase down the women in front to get yourself in podium position?
L’Hirondel: Yes, I have an assistant in Vallorcine. And then they all told me, you are not far away from the third. She looks not, she looks a little bit bad. Not good like you. You can catch her. And I didn’t like that people told me that, because I just want to discover, to do my race slowly, and to enjoy. And I didn’t think before the race, I need to go fast. And I didn’t want, at the beginning. So, at the last climb, I saw her, and I think there was a switch.
iRunFar: Yes. You had to go.
L’Hirondel: And my competition mode will activate, and I was unstoppable.
iRunFar: Brilliant. That’s great. And then once you passed her, you looked very comfortable then in third. And did you feel, before you got to the finish line, did you feel safe that you could hold on to the podium? Or were you running scared until you got to the finish?
L’Hirondel: I didn’t feel I could do a podium before. I don’t know if it’s your question.
iRunFar: I just meant when you were in third, did you think you would stay in third, or were you worried that someone would pass still before the finish?
L’Hirondel: Well, I had information about the last checkpoint in La Flégère.
L’Hirondel: And there was 10 minutes, I think. And I don’t know why I can have a downhill very fluid, on the last section. Even though I did 100 miles. So I knew it was good when I arrived in Chamonix. I knew the third was assured.
iRunFar: And how did it feel then, to get to Chamonix and get to the finish line?
L’Hirondel: It’s incredible. The finish line in the OCC, it was a step. And the CCC, it was another step. And the UTMB, it’s another thing. When you taste it, you always want to have more.
iRunFar: So, you’ll be back next year?
L’Hirondel: It’s a little bit fresh, but something sure, I will come back. Next year, I don’t know, but I will come back here.
iRunFar: Okay, that’s great to hear. And apart from UTMB, 100 miles in general. Do you think you want to run more 100 miles?
L’Hirondel: No, no, no, 100 miles is sufficient. But I think I will continue in this distance, because for my first, it happened well, and I know I have a lot of things to manage, to improve.
L’Hirondel: So I think I can. I don’t know, but I think I can be better, and I would like to see, and to see my limits.
iRunFar: Okay, it was an amazing first attempt anyway. And then for the rest of this season, do you have anything else, or are you just going to take some time to relax?
L’Hirondel: Well, I check with my calendar the Templiers, but just if I can recovery well. Maybe I will do the Templiers, but if I feel I am not recovering well, I don’t want to take the risk. My injury this year was very difficult to accept, and I don’t want to do the same error.
iRunFar: Okay, yeah, that sounds like a good sensible attitude. So, thank you so much, and congratulations again.
L’Hirondel: Thank you very much.