Mike Foote (The North Face) was the top American at the 2011 The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc with his 11th place finish (post-race video interview). This year he’s back and looking to use his patient approach to run even better. In the following interview find out more about his approach to UTMB as well as how his training has gone.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Mike Foote Pre-2012 TNF UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell here of iRunFar with Mike Foote, this is take two. How are you doing?
Mike Foote: I’m doing alright, Bryon.
iRF: You’ve got the 2012 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc tomorrow. It’s your second go at this race. Are you excited?
Foote: Yeah, I am. I’m really excited/nervous/anxious, but overall I’m feeling positive.
iRF: You haven’t raced all that much so far this year. Has UTMB really been your focus?
Foote: It has, yeah. I’ve only done a couple bigger races. I did Chuckanut in March, and I did the Bighorn 100 in June. I had planned on the Lake Sonoma 50 miler in April, but had an Achilles flare-up that only lasted a few weeks and then went away and hasn’t been an issue all year. Yeah, you’re right. It’s been a low racing season, but it’s been good. Yeah, UTMB has definitely been the main focus.
iRF: One of your tune-up races was Bighorn 100 where you won and set the new course record. You broke your buddy… whose record was that?
Foote: Mike Wolfe’s.
iRF: But he was there?
Foote: Yeah, he congratulated me at the finish line.
iRF: So how did that run go for you? Did you think it was one of your better performances?
Foote: I do, yeah, absolutely. I felt like I was in good fitness. It’s such a low-key race; it’s an amazing course and a great race. But yeah, it was lower key and I didn’t have any stress or expectations put on myself other than to run really hard. I felt decent throughout the whole race. I never felt horrible, which was enough. And I never felt great, but I felt really consistent, which obviously played very well to my advantage. Yeah, I was really happy with it. It was good to have a race go that well early in the summer knowing that I had a second 100 in the season.
iRF: Talk about consistency—how important is that in a longer ultra?
Foote: So important, obviously. Not having a low point will save you hours is what I’ve learned from that race. I never felt great, but by never going through that low where you’re just shuffling along and spending way too much time at aid stations and all of that—I think that’s a testament to trying to work really hard on nutrition, getting the calories in, not getting behind on liquids, and that sort of thing. It can keep you at the very least maintaining, which we all know can keep you moving forward a lot faster than you would otherwise.
iRF: Last year you went up the consistent path at UTMB and you were back… how far back… you were back with me and the rest of the crew…
Foote: I was 100th at Les Contamines or something like that.
iRF: And you finished 11th. That consistency and not having a lot patch or not having very many low patches has really paid off. This is your second go at UTMB. Are there any other lessons or things you’re doing differently this year?
Foote: Yeah, as far as race strategy goes, I think it will be somewhat similar. I didn’t really have a plan last year, but I did take it out conservatively. I really hope I can keep that patience this year. We all know that race goes out really hard, and it’s a long race. Having that, I know there’s a lot of time to make up—make up ground on folks that may have gone out a little too hard—and I hope I can do that. Otherwise, I’m a little more familiar with my system this year, with the backpack I’ll use, and the gear I’ll keep, and that sort of thing. I feel like at least while I’m out there I’ll feel like I’m more efficient with the things I have out there, which is nice.
iRF: How was your training going between Bighorn and now? What have you focused on?
Foote: You know, it’s good. I spent a few weeks where I wasn’t sure if I’d call it training because I spent probably 80% of my time off-trail, but it was good.
Foote: Oh yeah, I was in the Wind River Mountains, the Tetons, I paced at Hardrock: slow, steep, grinding 12-hour days. I don’t feel like I’m much faster than I was 8 weeks ago, but I feel like 10 hours into a run I’m not as tired. It was lots of just slow big days, which I think for UTMB hopefully will be beneficial.
iRF: Didn’t you just a few weeks ago do an overnight run to help or pace someone in a race?
Foote: I did the Bridger Ridge Run, and I tried running over to the start line from 1-6 am to get to the start line and then turn around and try to race it. Unfortunately, I got weathered off the ridge by a thunderstorm and had to hitchhike around, but I still got a lot of time on my feet. The gun went off and I had a good finish to my race. Yeah, it was a good last big training effort.
iRF: One of the big differences of being at a Euro race is the aid station food. We’re used to certainly the gels and sports drinks and water, but also certain foods and candy and what-have-you. Do you eat anything at the UTMB aid stations?
Foote: I think that’s my secret weapon—I have a stomach of steel.
iRF: You’re throwing down dark chocolate and dried meat over in Courmayeur?
Foote: Well, my crew last year, my good friend Kelly continues to recount the story of when I ran out of an aid station at mile 80 with cheese and sausage pouring out of the pockets of my running shorts, because that was all I was eating on the tail end of UTMB last year although I’d never eaten cheese and sausage on a run before. There are a lot of options; I think it’s overwhelming. You go over one of those aid stations and you can get sucked in pretty quick. As long as there’s soup and maybe some Coca-Cola, hopefully my crew will have some of the food I like along the way. I’ll dabble around thought…
iRF: Get some Big Dipper ice cream waiting for you?
Foote: If I could have some ice cream along the course that would be fantastic!
iRF: Well, great seeing you again, Foote, and have fun out on the course this weekend.
Foote: Thanks, Bryon.