The 2024 Hardrock 100 is history! Check out our in-depth results article for the full race story, as well as our interviews with champions Courtney Dauwalter and Ludovic Pommeret.

Mathieu Blanchard Pre-2023 Western States 100 Interview

A video interview (with transcript) with Mathieu Blanchard before the 2023 Western States 100.

By on June 20, 2023 | Comments

Mathieu Blanchard is making his Western States 100 debut this year. In the following interview, he talks about how he’s been enjoying his time in California so far, how he’s altered his focus to running flat and fast following his second-place finish at UTMB last year, and his excitement at racing a snowy Western States course.

For more on who’s racing, check out our in-depth men’s and women’s previews. Follow along with our WS 100 live race coverage on Saturday.

Mathieu Blanchard Pre-2023 Western States 100 Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Sarah Brady of iRunFar. I’m here just before the 2023 Western States 100. I’m here with Mathieu Blanchard. How are you?

Mathieu Blanchard: I’m good. Thank you. Happy to be speaking with you today.

iRunFar: Yes, you, too. Thanks so much for taking the time. So how long have you been here in the U.S.?

Blanchard: I arrived a day before the Memorial Day Weekend, where we train on the course of Western States. So it’s three weeks ago already, as we are four days to the race. So I spent a little bit less than month here.

iRunFar: Okay, great. And what’s been your highlight so far in the U.S.? Is there anything even outside of training that has been fun or different?

Blanchard: There are lots of highlights for us. It’s the first time for me in the east of California. Usually when I went here, it was for a road trip close to the ocean. And I didn’t know that there are ski resorts in California. Usually when we think about California, it’s about the long beaches and all this stuff along the Pacific Coast, but there are mountains as well here, and I’m discovering it. It’s really nice, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the canyon. I love, with my family, especially my father and my brother. We loved when we were young to watch the American movie, the Western American movies in the Gold Rush, in the river. And it’s like what I saw in my movie, so I feel like in the movie here. And then for sure the ambience around this race. I knew that it will be like that. But I had the chance to speak with all the runners of Western States who told me some nice stories around the race. And you have to come here to know about these stories. And it’s really nice.

iRunFar: Yeah, that’s great. It’s funny. It’s my first time in the US as well. And that was my impression too, that this looks like an old Western movie. It’s great. So, in terms of what you’ve done this year, you had like some really diverse races this year already. So, I know you did the Costa Rica Coastal Challenge stage race. Could you tell us a bit about that? What was that like?

Blanchard: Yeah, I did a special preparation, actually. The first, the main event for me this year is Western States. So, I was thinking about a kind of preparation with stages on the way to Western States. And this is what I love with ultra trail. It’s still very experimental, for me, the preparation. Even for UTMB, for example, I did it three times. And my three preparations were really different.

So this year I was like, okay, Western States. It’s very hot. You have to run fast and flat so maybe I should go on races, which are more flat and more hot. This is why I started the year with the Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. So it’s very hot, but you humid, not dry, but still very hot. We did the 250k in six days, so it was already a huge volume to prepare on ultra.

Then, I went in Kenya to learn how to run fast and flat with the best of the world, because they are there. And I went on the Paris Marathon to check if I improved my level on the flats, with the speed. And it was not too bad, because I was able to run 2:22, which is not too bad for someone who has big quads. And, then, I went to Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert to continue to practice the heats and the flats running. So, I don’t know if it’s too much or not, but it’s an experience I do this year, and hopefully it will be the good stages in preparation for Western States.

iRunFar: Yeah, that does sound great. So you ran like a spectacular UTMB last year. Very different type of 100 miler. So, how do you feel after all that preparation? Do you think that you’ll be able to perform as well at a race like this?

Blanchard: It’s very different races. We know it. But UTMB, it’s still a race. You have to run fast. There are parts which are not very technical, so you have to be able to run faster. So, there are some similarities. [Sound of a helicopter overhead] Do we wait, the helicopter?

iRunFar: I think it’s okay.

Blanchard: Yeah, this is why I did this preparation this year, to be ready for these kind of new particularities of the race. Lots of people told me “Matt, you went at UTMB, third two years ago. Second last year, so you have to go back to UTMB to win it!” But I’m like, you know, there are so much ultra trail races in the world. And there is always an excuse to come back to UTMB. But I want to see, I’m already a young old athlete. I studied the activity when I was originally a bit old. But as I studied a few years ago, I’m still fresh. And this is why I wanted to run a different race like Western States, because this is one of the most magical in the world.

iRunFar: Yeah, great. So you were saying off camera you’ve been doing quite a lot of preparation for the heat, but the forecast doesn’t look as hot as usual. So, how do you feel about that? Do you think the temperatures will be good?

Blanchard: Yeah, I checked, like everybody, the forecast, and it seems to be not that hot than usual, but it’s still pretty hot. I think we will push hard. It will still be hot in the canyons. So I think the heat preparation will be still useful. But, we will see. We’ll see what we will have the day of the race.

iRunFar: Okay, great. It’s a super strong men’s field this year. There’s lots of returning runners. There’s lots of really strong new faces. So who would you expect to be up front and who do you expect to be challenging in the race?

Blanchard: I think, I thought that actually it’s, for me, it’s very, very competitive. One of the most competitive races, because the system to get in is the only one in the world where you have to qualify in races which are very close to the race. I mean, a few weeks, months before. And they are very competitive races. And if you want to get the Golden Ticket, you have to arrive in the first two. So all these athletes are very, very strong, because they did a huge performance a few weeks before. And for sure there is the top 10 of the last year, and so, I don’t know.

I think Dakota Jones is really in shape. Tommy Evans is really in shape, and I think is one of the only who were able to run under 15 hours. Hayden Hawks for sure. And yeah, all these athletes are amazing. And there is a Chinese as well [Jia-Ju Zhao]. I don’t know if it’s the first time we have professional Chinese who come here to Western States, but they can be very strong, so you never know with them. So, it’s like UTMB, good luck to find the best. The final results before the race, very difficult. Yeah.

iRunFar: Okay, cool. And we hear that there is maybe 10 miles of snow on the course. So how do you feel about running on snow? You think that will be okay?

Blanchard: I’m very happy with that, because I used to live for the last almost 10 years in Quebec, Canada. And I spend lots and lots of kilometers on the snow. So I’m really used to run on the snow. And I had the chance to run a little bit during Broken Arrow race last weekend, and I saw around, oh, that people are able to, their skills on the snow, mainly downhill. And, [laughs] I think it’s a good thing for me when there is snow. So everyone’s like, “Oh no! There is snow! It will be difficult to climb and to go down!” And I’m very happy with that.

iRunFar: Okay, great. Well, it sounds like a lot of things are going in your favor so far. Best of luck. I hope you have a fantastic race. And yeah, we’ll hopefully see you after.

Blanchard: Thank you. We will have lots of fun for sure. And see you after the race.

iRunFar: Great thanks.

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is Managing Editor at iRunFar. She’s been working in an editorial capacity for ten years and has been a trail runner for almost as long. Aside from iRunFar, she’s worked as an editor for various educational publishers and written race previews for Apex Running, UK, and RAW Ultra, Ireland. Based in Belfast, Ireland, Sarah is an avid mountain runner and ultrarunner and competes at distances from under 10k to over 100k. When not running, she enjoys reading, socializing, and hanging out with her dog, Angie, and cat, Judy.