Kaytlyn Gerbin finished third at her UTMB debut. In the following interview, Kaytlyn talks about why she ran within herself for the race’s first half, why it felt like she was in no-woman’s land for much of the second half of the race, and how she uses adventures to train for her races.
For more on how this year’s UTMB unfolded, read our 2022 UTMB results article.
Kaytlyn Gerbin Post-2022 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Kaytlyn Gerbin after her third-place finish at the 2022 UTMB. How are you, Kaytlyn?
Kaytlyn Gerbin: Doing good.
iRunFar: Yeah? You look energetic and recovered. Is that the case?
Gerbin: I don’t feel too bad, actually. I don’t feel too terrible.
iRunFar: Right on. Probably after really good races, is that kind of common?
Gerbin: I mean, I feel like I ran a good, strong, smart race that was within my means yesterday, so I don’t feel overly like crushed after that.
iRunFar: Sometimes after the bad race, one is more crushed maybe.
Gerbin: Maybe. Yeah.
iRunFar: So you kind of did seem like you ran, not aggressive but you ran strong, but within yourself from the gun.
iRunFar: Like you were in like the women’s top five from “Go,” right?
Gerbin: Yeah, actually, I mean, it’s crazy. There’s like just so many, there’s so much commotion at the start so I had no idea where I was place-wise in the first bit. And actually, like going into the race, the only part I was really nervous about was the start to like, Contamines. Because I know it’s fast. It’s not really my forte of like, that kind of fast, almost like road running really before you get into the mountains. So, I was nervous about that. But you know, looking around I saw a lot of other women who were kind of all leapfrogging together. So I wasn’t sure what place I was in, but yeah. Then went into the night and then just ran fairly chill and relaxed to Courmayeur, which was the plan.
iRunFar: Did you start, after things clear out after Les Contamines, are you able to sort of gauge your place either by like, talking to your crew or like …
iRunFar: Not in detail, but like do you sort of get a feel for how things are going?
Gerbin: Again, not really. But I kind of knew some splits of like where I wanted to be, and I was pretty close on those. So I figured, you know, I wasn’t sure where everyone was in the pack, but I knew I was kind of right where I wanted to be, and feeling controlled and relaxed. Yeah, so.
iRunFar: And good.
Gerbin: And good. Yeah, I felt I was feeling good. And I passed, I made a few passes. Mostly guys but coming into Courmayeur, like on the one little Pyramids climb and then after, there’s a climb to get up to it to the like, the TMB before you go in drop down into Courmayeur. So, I made a few passes then. But then came in, into Courmayeur. I was like, “All right. Let’s go now.”
iRunFar: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that. Like you have a good first half but you know, you get to Courmayeur. Was there a light switch? Was it catching people beforehand? Was it something you did in the aid station that you really kind of turned it on, it felt like?
Gerbin: No, I just, you know, it’s a long race. So I mean, the course is brutal. Like really. Like multiple times out there thinking, like, “Wow, this course is messed up.” [laughs] There’s just like, you got just so much left to go at any given point. So yeah, my plan and race strategy was just to get to Courmayeur feeling like the race could start then.
Gerbin: And so what I didn’t fully plan for was that Katie Schide and Marianne [Hogan] were going to be like over an hour ahead of me getting to that aid. So, I mean, they just ran phenomenal races and really phenomenal first halves. And I think, you know, ultimately, I’m racing competition, also racing the course. And, you know, there’s a little bit of a gamble there, which being my first time at UTMB, I wasn’t really willing to gamble, quite in that way. And so you know, I’m happy with coming into Courmayeur and feeling like I’d run a strong rest of the race after that.
iRunFar: Talking with Katie before the race, she kind of took a, not conservative approach but, like, running within herself these previous two runs here.
iRunFar: Maybe in the future one can you can gamble more?
Gerbin: Yeah, yeah.
iRunFar: It was a nice day.
Gerbin: I think, you know, it’s always a dial of like, how much do you make a gamble and not, and like I said, first time here at the race I feel like I’m really happy with how the race went for me.
iRunFar: Yeah. Kind of somewhere in when the sun comes up in the morning, I think you made a comment of like, you are in no-woman’s land. And at that point, did you kind of have a good feel for where you were, and that you were very much …
Gerbin: Yeah. So I mean, it was crazy. Like I came into Courmayeur and at that point, I asked my husband, Ely, who was crewing me like, “Well, what place am I in here?” He’s like, “Well, you’re about to leave in third.” I’m like, “Oh God, okay. All right. Let’s do this.” And like I said, my plan was to kind of push a little bit going out to Courmayeur. And the next update I got was in La Fouly, or Champex-Lac, I forget where I heard. Probably La Fouly, where I learned I put over an hour on people. And at that point, I was still kind of an hour behind. So I really, I was like, kind of spread in the middle and there really weren’t a lot of guys around at that point, either. You know, I’d pass a few people here and there, but I ran most of the race by myself. Which I wasn’t expecting that at UTMB.
iRunFar: Yeah, so many people. Like 2,000 people.
Gerbin: Yeah. I mean, I think I was actually really looking forward to the night section and hoping I could do some solo running then. I just kind of get settled into my groove. And at that point, you know, that was still when I was really just trying to like race, you know, kind of within my means. But then it made the last 40 miles, which is a long time, feel just, you know, I was just alone. I was running really well. But I think it’s always like, you just have to dig in a little bit of a different way when you’re trying to motivate yourself and there’s no one else around and I don’t see anyone.
And you know, as far as I know, it’s like I’m running about the same splits as Katie and Marianne ahead of me. You know, gaining a little bit here and there, and then, you know, back and forth, but then I still had a really big lead from behind. So it was a little bit of, you talked about kind of making gambles and choices, and that at that point, I was like I had a really solid podium, but I knew I still had you know, 40, 30 whatever miles to go. And so at that point, like the worst thing I could do for me, in this, race on this day, is to just make a stupid mistake and blow up myself. Like I wanted to just like kind of keep it together and make sure I just was running consistently.
iRunFar: And you weren’t going to gamble. You didn’t need a full house or a straight flush or something to have a great day.
Gerbin: No, I didn’t need to yesterday.
iRunFar: You had a good hand on the table.
iRunFar: And you went with it.
iRunFar: So how did you motivate yourself in that last 40 miles?
Gerbin: You know, Ely told me at one point, I think it was in Champex-Lac, and I just asked like, “Hey, has anything changed ahead or behind me?” He’s like, “No, it’s basically the same.” I’m like, “Okay.” He’s like, “You don’t need to run scared, but you need to run like you want to podium at UTMB.” And I’m like, “Okay.”
So, I felt that was actually good motivation, just to be like, yeah, like, you know, kind of pushing when I felt like I could push, but also, again, kind of being conservative enough where I wasn’t going to risk blowing up or making a big fall or something like that. So, you know, I’ve done quite a few like, big mountain adventures and stuff like that over the last few years. And so I feel like some of those FKT efforts teach you how to just self-motivate, and it really felt like that. Like I mean, there are lots of sections on the course where I felt like I was running the Wonderland Trail again. Just without a friend running with me.
iRunFar: I was going to ask you about that. Like, you do a lot, it seems like a big motivation for you in a way you get a lot of your fitness is from like these adventure outings.
iRunFar: What role do adventure and these long adventure runs play in your, not just your racing, but your approach to running in general?
Gerbin: Yeah, I mean, I just like to have fun and push myself and I think there’s a lot of different ways to do that. You could do that in races, or you could do it where the terrain is a challenge or when the time or you know, that kind of thing is the challenge. So yeah, earlier this summer, I did, actually just a couple of weeks ago, I did a big traverse in the Cascades.
And I feel like that actually was a pretty critical part of my build-up for UTMB. Fairly different than what most people would do, but I think it helped me from overdoing it in training. Like I came in fresh, ready to race. And I felt really strong. And I think a lot of that was is due to just so many days of moving and a lot of vert. And just you know, being used to just being in the mountains and kind of following the terrain like that.
iRunFar: And maybe mentally fresh. In a racing perspective, it can be mentally challenging and one of these long adventure-type runs to deal with the elements in the mountains.
iRunFar: But it’s maybe a different mental energy than racing the clock and/or other people or whatever.
Gerbin: Yeah, totally. No, I felt like I was able to be like mentally fresh going into the race because I hadn’t raced a lot this year. And that was kind of the plan. Like my goal was UTMB. And so being able to come in and like, really just be ready to take that on, because 100s are a lot, take a lot out of you. And especially I think to deal with, like this race, and this course, but also with just how much commotion.
I mean, it’s just like so much hype, but like it’s really exciting. But I think like, you really have to, or at least for me, and kind of how I deal with races and stuff, like I knew I needed to just be able to like chill out and settle into that. And I think it helped just being like really excited to get out and race.
iRunFar: Yeah. Talking you sound like you were just like, controlled. Calm but purposeful the whole race.
iRunFar: Were there any low points or sections?
Gerbin: I had a low point going up the Bovine climb, and it was really hot. Like it started to get really hot. At least for me, it was like full sun then. And I … it’s not the easiest to manage your heat in a region like, compared to like Western States where there’s ice and water everywhere and like sponge baths. Like you know, there’s just like nothing. Just you and the cows. So yeah. I had a little bit of a low there but fortunately, after that, I had planned ahead and had some ice waiting for me at the next aid station. So I used some ice, had dumped some water on myself and stuff so and I think that helped a lot with the heat.
iRunFar: Did you have a favorite memory from during the run?
Gerbin: I don’t know. One favorite memory. Oh, yes. Actually, when I got into Les Chapieux, is that how you say it?
iRunFar: Chapieux. I don’t speak …
Gerbin: At that aid station there was a song playing that is like, one of my, like, I studied abroad when I was in college and like right around that time there was a song “Stereo Love” that was just like blasting in all the clubs. And so like ever since then, that’s been, like, the Euro dance song for me. And that song was playing when I got in there. And of course, I came in by myself but I was just like dancing with the volunteers. It was really fun. I was like, this is special that this song is playing for me.
iRunFar: There was a moment.
Gerbin: There was a moment. A good moment.
iRunFar: So, you know, you just got to finish on the podium at UTMB. Does that kind of wrap up your season or do you have other adventures or races planned?
Gerbin: You know, I really didn’t plan anything specifically after this. I really wanted to just give myself a chance to be all in at UTMB. And then I’ll take the next couple of days and just see how my body’s doing and then see if I want to fit in, you know, there’s a bunch of great races still in the fall. But I think now that I can think ahead, already like I know I want to come back next year. So I’m going to kind of look at the calendar and figure out how to best fit in an off-season and just go from there.
iRunFar: Yeah, it did sound like you want to do to UTMB again sometime but you kind of want to do it, next year.
Gerbin: I want to do it next year. Yeah. I’ll be back.
iRunFar: Well, congratulations on a great run this year, and I can’t wait to see what you do next year.
Gerbin: Thank you.