Fernanda Maciel is going for her fourth UTMB finish this year. In this interview, Fernanda talks about her long history with the UTMB festival of races, how she broke her hand in training and if she thinks that’ll impact her race, some of her nutrition tips for long races like UTMB, and how she sees the women’s competition growing over time.
Fernanda Maciel Pre-UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Fernanda Maciel before the 2017 UTMB. How are you, Fernanda?
Fernanda Maciel: Hello. I feel great. Yes, I’m feeling great here in Chamonix. I came to Chamonix four weeks ago, so I’ve been training on the course and also doing some high mountains Yes, it’s very special. This is why I come do UTMB because it’s always a pleasure to come here to Chamonix just for training, and after, the race is good.
iRunFar: You’ve been coming to UTMB for a very long time now. Have you always tried to come here for a few weeks to train on the course?
Maciel: Yes, I live seven hours by car from here, so for me it’s easier just to come before to train on the trails. It’s perfect.
iRunFar: The trails here are so wonderful. How do you decide to stop training? How much of a rest do you give yourself?
Maciel: Well, I have just arrived from my training. I have one or two days off before the race. It’s not too much. It’s hard to have a day off here in Chamonix.
iRunFar: It is. The temptation is strong. You’ve raced a lot less this year. Why is that?
Maciel: Well, last year I raced a lot, so when I came to UTMB I was completely exhausted. This year, my strategy was different. I didn’t do a project before the race. I had just two races before UTMB, so I’m feeling more fresh, very fresh. My body is great. Yeah, it’s okay.
iRunFar: This spring you ran Marathon des Sables again. How was that?
Maciel: It was hot for sure. Yes, this year I did it three hours faster than last year. I felt much better. I carried much more food than last year. Last year I was coming from Aconcagua, so my body got crazy because coming from high altitude and cold to the desert and hot. This year I had a great experience there. It was amazing with more food because it’s one week of racing. Now, it’s my second race of the Ultra-Trail World Tour that I do also. So after UTMB, I’m finished.
iRunFar: What was the other race you did? You did Marathon des Sables, and what was the other race this season?
Maciel: No, just the UTMB. I did a shorter race, the Lavaredo-Cortina [Trail] for training and some races in Catalunya as training, but yes, the big one will be UTMB.
iRunFar: So you’ve had a couple chances to see where your fitness is. How do you feel? Do you feel strong?
Maciel: Yes, I don’t know because I didn’t race a lot, but during the trainings, I’m feeling good. I broke a bone and ligament of my hand, so that scared me a little bit before UTMB because I couldn’t move my hand, and I felt so sore in my arms, but now I can use my poles. Usually for UTMB, I like to use the trekking poles because of the longer climbs. Now I can use, so I’m more comfortable with that, so I’m feeling good.
iRunFar: You’ll take the brace for the race?
Maciel: No, no, no. No, it’s broke, so I need to use because then I can use the trekking poles; otherwise, I cannot.
iRunFar: Does that make you a little scared in the race to already have the broken bone?
Maciel: No, because I did the loop in the training, so sometimes I need to put my hand and my arm in the cold water. But that was two weeks ago, so now it’s getting better. Each week, my hand is getter better and my arm, too, so I think for the race, maybe it will feel a little bit sore, but I think my legs, I think, will be worse. So, it’s okay.
iRunFar: Now, with all the experience you have running UTMB do you have any tips for people who will run it in the future?
Maciel: I think it’s a very long race. I have seen that many runners have stomach problems. This is because you push hard and also because it’s so long. I think if you can eat more natural food and more solid food, sometimes it’s better to keep your stomach working but slowly. It’s okay.
iRunFar: Do you take some gels, or is it all real food for you?
Maciel: No, I take some gels as well because sometimes you cannot eat. It’s important to try. I know that it’s very hard to eat, but sometimes you need to take it easy and eat some solid foods just for your stomach.
iRunFar: What do you do? What solid food do you eat?
Maciel: I have sushi but with just avocado and some little potato or a little bit or rice, but it’s just one spoon when I go to the checkpoint with my support crew. After, it’s just natural bars and bananas and dried bananas and dried fruits.
iRunFar: Have you ever tried taking the sushi rolls with you in a little baggie?
Maciel: Yes, I bring. I love sushi, sorry. It’s a great excuse to eat Japanese food during the race.
iRunFar: You have run Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji before.
Maciel: Yes, I had that. I love Mount Fuji, and this is why. I’ve raced there four times because of all the sashimi and sushi.
iRunFar: You’ll be happy to go back next year?
Maciel: Well, let’s see. I’ve been there four times. Sometimes I know that it’s good to change the location, but I love Japan. Japan is an amazing country, and the culture and the trails there are lovely. The temples… the Mount Fuji—the mountain—is great. It’s an inspiring race.
iRunFar: What was the first time you ran UTMB? Was it 2010, or did you run earlier than that?
Maciel: I did 2009 the TDS, the first edition of TDS. I loved TDS because it was very technical and wild and remote areas. Yes, it’s my favorite race. Then after TDS, I wanted to run a little bit more, so I tried UTMB. I did it in 2010 (fourth), 2012 (seventh), 2014 (fourth). In 2015, I couldn’t finish. I spent five hours without a light. It was very stressful to be running without a light. This year again, let’s try.
iRunFar: Between 2010 and now, have you seen the level of the women’s competition increase?
Maciel: Yes, for sure—Wow—you have lots of women and also because the time between one woman and another is minutes. So if you stop to pee, one woman is passing you. In the past, no, it was like 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour between the first woman, the second, and the third. Now it’s five minutes or 10 maximum. It’s a very short time. We are always running together. It’s good because we are always friends, so we can see each other and have the pleasure to share some time together, but for the race, it’s hard.
iRunFar: Best of luck out there, Fernanda. Enjoy.
Maciel: Yes, thank you so much. I hope everyone can enjoy and suffer as well because you can suffer because you push hard but enjoy because Mont Blanc is very special and magical.