France’s Blandine L’Hirondel has been the 2019 and 2022 Trail World Champion. Now, she returns to run the Trail World Championships 80k in Innsbruck-Stubai, Austria, in 2023. In the following interview, Blandine talks about how 2022 was her best trail running season so far, why she plans to keep running shorter ultras, why she’ll focus on avoiding problems during this race, and how being a member of a team makes it important to keep trying even on a less-than-perfect day.
Blandine L’Hirondel Pre-2023 Trail World Championships 80k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here, with Blandine L’Hirondel before the 2023 Trail World Championships, so how are you?
Blandine L’Hirondel: Well, I am fine thank you.
iRunFar: Yeah? So looking back at 2022, you won CCC, you won the Trail World Championships, do you think that’s your best trail running season so far?
L’Hirondel: Yes, I think so, yes, I was very surprised about my last season because it was exceptional and I did a new race, like new distance, it was my first 100 kilometers in CCC, and a long race on the Trail World Championships in Thailand. For me it was my best season.
iRunFar: Yeah? And did it give you confidence now, for the longer races maybe?
L’Hirondel: If I have confidence?
iRunFar: Did the success at CCC and the longer Trail World Championships give you confidence for races like this one?
L’Hirondel: Yes, as I tried I like it, I think I have some quality for this, and I would like to continue to try in this distance.
iRunFar: Will you keep running shorter ultras at the same time, or may be change your focus?
L’Hirondel: No, I think it’s important to keep shorter races to prepare for training. So for example I did Zegama Marathon three weeks ago to train, to prepare to the world champs because you can’t do 100k in preparation to 100 or 100 miles, so yes, it’s necessary to do short races.
iRunFar: Was that your first time at Zegama?
iRunFar: Yes, and that’s also outside of your comfort zone, that’s may be new to you, more. Not more technical, it’s Zegama, it’s very much a mountain race.
L’Hirondel: Ah yes, yes. There are some parts very technical but because of the weather it was very, very bad so they changed a little bit. But yes, it was very technical. A short part but, it’s just amazing.
iRunFar: The spirit?
L’Hirondel: The spirit, yes.
iRunFar: It is something incredible.
iRunFar: That is also good training for this race because, have you been on this course much? Have you run some of the course here?
L’Hirondel: Here? No. I recognize the trail, yeah.
iRunFar: It’s somewhat technical in places.
L’Hirondel: There are some parts technical but it’s not very, it’s not very, very technical parts but all the race will be very difficult because it’s very steep, and it’s very long. So I think after a few hours, the muscle, it will be very hard for the muscle to down and … There is a long, long downhill, it’s not very difficult but players, you know, you must be very focused because…
iRunFar: Small stones?
L’Hirondel: Yes, stones and…
iRunFar: Roots from the trees?
L’Hirondel: The tree, yeah. And I think…
iRunFar: So it’s never easy?
L’Hirondel: No, it’s never easy. You are always, you must always be focused.
iRunFar: It’s not alpinism, climbing but it’s… Yeah.
L’Hirondel: And it will be very, very long so we need to be very patient.
iRunFar: And how will you approach, how will you try to be patient? How will you, in your mind how will you try to keep patience? To stay calm? How will you relax in those first hours? Have a slow rhythm, a slow pace?
iRunFar: Is that hard for you?
L’Hirondel: If it’s hard to be slow?
iRunFar: Yeah, yeah.
L’Hirondel: No, it’s better. Yeah, I think I just … I think my spirit will be to begin like if I will do a long day in mountains and a long, a long training.
iRunFar: For pleasure.
L’Hirondel: For pleasure. And for the beginning, for the long race pleasure and after I will see if I feel good at the medium of the race, maybe I will try to go faster. But I think, even if you are, if you feel good on the beginning it’s very, very long and hard and I think it’s the good things to do.
iRunFar: So you won the Trail World Championships two times in a row now, 2019, 2022. What makes this event special for you?
L’Hirondel: Well people can try … Can think it’s an objective to have a three titles, but for me it’s the opposite. I told me, okay I’ve been once time world champion, I proved it a second time, so now I would like it will be a dream to be a third time world champion but I don’t have a lot of pressure. I told you, okay I yet approved what I can do and sometimes I can be … I can be …
iRunFar: In 10th position or something, not have a perfect day.
L’Hirondel: My real objective Friday, is to finish the race with good pacing, a good alimentation, without injuries, you know? To finish it with all the … There is a French expression, all green. And if I try to do that I’m sure it will be a synonym to a good place but I would like to finish, I would like to do the race without any problem.
iRunFar: Any big problems at least. And if you have a race like that, that also helps your team. Because the team … Is that important to you?
L’Hirondel: Yes. We have a very strong team and I think, I’m sure we can have the title, even if I’m not here the four other girls on the team can have the first place without me. So yes, we are five strong girls.
iRunFar: But you would like to help your team?
L’Hirondel: I would like, but it’s another, it’s another thing to not have too much pressure, to say, okay if I don’t do a very, very good race, I’m sure my teammates will do the job.
iRunFar: But the same time you could not have your perfect race and be in sixth position or 10th position and still help your team?
L’Hirondel: Yes, yes. That’s why it’s very interesting because yes, you know when you are favorites on the race, individual race sometimes, okay, if I’m 10, is a very important to continue? Maybe it will be bad for the rest of my season but when you run for that, your country and for a team, even if you’re 10 or you always are thinking for the team, it’s a very good positive psychology.
iRunFar: I remember being at the finish line in Thailand and seeing you in and you are very happy? And then your two teammates come across a line and you are just –
L’Hirondel: Yeah, it was fantastic. I really hope it will be the same in two days.
iRunFar: Bonne chance to you and your team.
L’Hirondel: Merci beaucoup. Thank you.