With this weekend’s Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji, the U.S.’s Mike Foote will make his first trip around the iconic mountain. In this interview, Mike talks about how much he skied and ran this past winter, whether or not he’s undercooked or cooked just right for an early-season 100 miler, and what he thinks will be the key skills for UTMF success.
[Editor’s Note: Find out more about the full women’s and men’s fields in our UTMF race preview.]
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Mike Foote Pre-2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell here of iRunFar with Mike Foote before the 2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. How are you doing, Mike?
Mike Foote: Great. It’s great to be here.
iRunFar: It is. It’s a beautiful day here in Kawaguchiko.
Foote: Absolutely. We’re in the middle of a cherry-blossom grove. We’ve got Mount Fuji behind us. I couldn’t be happier actually.
iRunFar: You’ve run in a lot of awesome places, but how does that mountain inspire you?
Foote: Yeah, we’re going to run around that, so… I’m excited.
iRunFar: You’ve had a couple great seasons the last couple of years. You’ve really excelled on tougher courses. You’ve had some great runs at Mont Blanc [UTMB] the past two years. This is another tough course.
Foote: So I hear.
iRunFar: At Mont Blanc, it’s obviously August and you’ve had plenty of time to train in the mountains. How have you prepared for this coming from Montana?
Foote: Good question, a very good question. We’ve had a long winter this year capped off by some huge storms in late February and early March. It’s kind of been the same as it’s always been the last few years—just trying to ramp up miles early in the season and spending a lot of time on snow. I ski a lot. I got a fair amount of backcountry skiing in in early and middle of winter which may or may not translate a bunch here, but the last six or eight weeks have definitely been running focused. There’s a lot of snow in Montana, but you can always find a few pieces of dry trail to run over and over and over and over again. Yeah, I think it should work out okay.
iRunFar: Are any of them particularly steep trails?
Foote: Yeah, definitely. We have a few trails right from town where you can get a couple thousand feet of vert in a mile or two. It’s good for seasoning the quads and you’re powerhiking and all that. You know, with this race, it’s funny, it’s a mountain race but everyone keeps talking about the road. So I’ve been running a lot of the roads in the valley, too, in the winter. Who knows? Maybe those two things together will be somewhat similar to what this course will offer, but probably not.
iRunFar: What does your road work… is it just your standard daily runs or is it some more focused training on the roads?
Foote: Yeah, right now it’s not too focused on the roads. Just, again, finding out dry, ice-free sections of anything to run on in February and March was the reason I was on roads a little bit more. Recently, not so much. Then throwing in a handful of tempo runs, but this time of year, I guess I’m of the mindset that if you try and bite off too much early on, you’re just going to get burnt out. I’m trying to let my training come to me right now and take it as I can. Being that it’s a 100 miler in April, who knows?
iRunFar: I was going to ask you about that. It’s really early for a 100 miler.
iRunFar: You’ve never run one before June, right?
Foote: No, definitely not. Crazy. I always thought I wouldn’t, but I’ve been so inspired to come to Japan. I’m really happy that I’m here now. But yeah, volume has been okay. It’s a little bit lower than normal, but I don’t think that will be a bad thing. If there’s any race that you should come into maybe not fried or over-burned out, it might play to my advantage to be a little undercooked right now.
iRunFar: I think you and a couple other people are in that same boat.
iRunFar: One thing I’ve noticed about your running since we last spoke on camera is you have a lot of speed. You’re known for doing really well on the Mont-Blanc-type courses, Bighorn, but you ran really fast at the Moab Trail Marathon in November and again at the [Red Hot Moab] 55k in February. Where does that come from? Do you work on it?
Foote: I don’t know that I have a lot of speed, but it’s all relative. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t necessarily do a lot of speedwork, but I’ve been trying to be more consistent attempting it occasionally. I did a lot last fall. I’ve had a few workouts this spring. I don’t know. I think it’s a strength-dependent workout. I think when it comes to long stretches of road, when you’re tired after long stretches of mountain, I think it comes down to strength more than speed and to just being able to hold consistent form on really monotonous terrain. I don’t know. I don’t have a perfect answer for that.
iRunFar: So one thing you’ve been doing that a lot of ultrarunners don’t do is some cross training.
Foote: Oh yeah, spending time in the gym.
iRunFar: What do you do there? What is your focus?
Foote: Oh, this winter a group of us in Missoula including Mike Wolfe and a bunch of our other friends in Missoula got together twice per week and have been doing a lot of circuit training trying to… the idea is injury-proofing just so that as we build into the season we can stay injury-free so we can be consistent—doing some really hard workouts. It’s definitely been one of the reasons I haven’t been able to do as much running volume because you can’t do it all. I tried to for about a week, and I realized that was a bad idea. My hope is… this is the first spring in two years that I actually haven’t had even a small injury. I usually ramp up a little quick in the spring and deal with something in my lower legs, but this year has been good in that sense. I’m happy about that. We’ll see.
iRunFar: Early season, you might not be in your best fitness, but you’re here healthy and ready to go. Best of luck out there.
Foote: Thanks, Bryon.
iRunFar: Bonus question. You’ve only been here in Japan for a couple of days. Any ice cream that blew your mind?
Foote: We saw some in Tokyo where we were in the hotel for the first night, but it was… I held off. It looked good. It was Coldstone Creamery. Eh, it’s just a chain from the U.S. I can do better than that. So I haven’t seen anything yet. Have you seen any?
iRunFar: The bean ice cream, the green-tea ice cream…
Foote: Really? Oh yeah, I’ve heard about that.
iRunFar: All sorts of interesting flavors.