France’s Blandine L’Hirondel is the returning champion at the 2022 Trail World Championships as she heads into this weekend’s 80-kilometer race. In the following interview, Blandine talks about what it’s like to be the reigning champion of this event, moving up in distance from shorter to longer races in 2022, how winning the CCC in August prepared her in part for this weekend, and how she’s planning to adapt her racing to the heat and humidity of Thailand.
For more on who’s running this year’s Trail World Championships 80k, read our in-depth women’s and men’s previews.
Blandine L’Hirondel Pre-2022 Trail World Championships 80k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Blandine L’Hirondel. It’s a couple of days before the 2022 Trail World Championships 80k long course. Hi, Blandine. How are you?
Blandine L’Hirondel: Hi, Meghan. Well, I feel good. I’m very happy to be here.
iRunFar: We are in warm Thailand and back at home in France, it’s getting cold and it’s fall now. How does it feel to be in the warm?
L’Hirondel: Well, I’m used to being in the warm weather. Like five years ago, I lived on Réunion Island and Mayotte Island and it was the same climate, the same temperature. And I know I’m used to, I acclimate very well in the warm so for me, it’s okay. I feel good.
iRunFar: Team France has been here for one week. You’ve seen some of the trails, I think. How do you find the course?
L’Hirondel: Well, it’s very, there are the various trails. It’s very different. There is straight downhill, uphill, sometimes it’s flat, sometimes it’s technical, sometimes it’s not technical. When it’s 80 kilometers you can have variety. But it’s always in the jungle. It’s always warm. Well, I like the race. I think it’s very interesting. The difficulties are at the end. So, I think we will be very prudent at the beginning to keep a little bit for the end, but the race will be interesting.
iRunFar: And also, a pretty long race. Like I think it’s going to take a while for this race. It’s going to be many hours, 10 hours, maybe of racing?
L’Hirondel: Yes, I think nine or 10 hours.
iRunFar: Okay. So, a lot. You’ll need to save yourself a lot for the second half.
L’Hirondel: Yeah. I think you should be very prudent, as I say, because it’s a long, long race.
iRunFar: You were the Trail World Champion in 2019. You’re the reigning Trail World Champion, but a lot of things have happened. We’ve had cancellations and COVID-19. What’s it like to be the reigning Trail World Champion at this race?
L’Hirondel: Try again?
iRunFar: In 2019, you won the Trail World Championships.
L’Hirondel: Mm-hmm. And now I’m here. My sensation?
iRunFar: And now you’re here. How does it feel to return as champion?
L’Hirondel: Well, I, for me though it’s a little bit different because I was champion on the 40k, and now I try another distance. So, it’s like another race. Another, yes, another distance. I began the longer distance just since this year. So, I am trying to, I’m trying me, and I’m testing me in this distance. So I’m not here just on the idea to stay a world champion. Because as I said, I’m trying me on the long distance. So yes, I would like to do a good performance. But I’m very relaxed and very, just very happy. One thing is I’m sure I would like to do something very good with my team, because I think we have a strong team. And in individual, we will see.
iRunFar: We’ll see. You moved up to longer distance with the CCC in August, but it went well. You were the champion. Now you’re stepping down a little bit to a little bit shorter?
L’Hirondel: Yes, it’s not, I think it’s the same, like 100k or 80k with these conditions. And it’s the elevation. It’s high, too. So, I think it will be the same, more or less the same.
iRunFar: How has it been for you in terms of adapting your nutrition, your pacing, your effort to doubling or more the distance of running?
L’Hirondel: Yes, that’s the question. And I’m always, since I’m here, I’m always thinking about it. Well, to be honest, I don’t know yet.
L’Hirondel: I think I will just feel my, follow my sensation. Well, when I arrived here, I drank a lot. But I think I drank too much because after I had water retention or something like that. So I think we just need to listen to your body and do what it wants. So, sure, I will drink a little bit more during the race and I think I will consume more water, and some drink with less of, well, less concentrated.
iRunFar: Yeah. So, more liquid and maybe slightly less electrolytes per unit of liquid.
iRunFar: Got it.
L’Hirondel: But it’s my, the thing I’m a little bit, it will be my problem. Because I am new on this distance so it’s easy to say I will listen to my body, but I don’t know what my body will tell me. But that’s, I’m very curious to know. I think yes, I will drink a little bit more water and eat a little bit more and we will see.
iRunFar: For me, it’s really interesting in the women’s race in that both you and Sunmaya Budha, who was second place at CCC, that you have finished very close together. You’re both racing again. What do you think of matching up with her one more time?
L’Hirondel: Yes, the favorite is my principle concurrent. She was very, very strong at the CCC and I didn’t know her. So, I was very surprised. I think we are strategically very different. That me, I always begin very fast, and after I slow down a little bit. And she …
iRunFar: Was the opposite.
L’Hirondel: The opposite. She, but I think she had a strategy more intelligent, that she is slowing down in the beginning to preserve herself. And after she … when she can go fast, she goes fast. So, I hope it will be well, it will be the same. I will have the same place. But I remember the CCC when I was just five kilometers to Chamonix, she was just behind me. I can, I can see her. And the last 5k was very, very difficult. Mentally, psychologically. So, I hope it [won’t be] this. But when, if I am first, I can’t complain.
iRunFar: It was a very close race all the way to the finish line with you and Sunmaya.
iRunFar: At CCC, you and Sunmaya were so close.
iRunFar: At the finish, you were running, I don’t know, scared, to stay in front of her?
L’Hirondel: Yes, a little bit. The last downhill from La Flégère to Chamonix. I don’t know if you know this expression, but my brain, that I get out my brain and just go faster, as you can. Okay. I accept to be second, but not so close to the finish.
iRunFar: Once you had that position, so close to Chamonix, you wanted to hold it, keep it.
L’Hirondel: Of course. Okay, my last question for you and I asked the same question of your teammate Ludovic Pommeret. This race is in the jungle of Thailand where there are snakes and spiders and things. Have you seen anything out on your runs yet?
L’Hirondel: Yes. Yesterday we saw a snake. Well, I’m not, I’m not very scared about it. And well, I will be not the first. All men will be [before] me. So, I hope they will do the clean before me.
iRunFar: Ludo said the exact same thing. [laughs]
L’Hirondel: I’m not very surprised. [laughs]
iRunFar: Best of luck to you on Saturday and we look forward to following you around the race course.
L’Hirondel: Yeah, thank you very much.