Mimmi Kotka ran a challenging race en route to taking third at last year’s UTMB, and she’s back for more this year. In the following interview, Mimmi talks about how her preparation was different for this year’s UTMB, what part of the UTMB course she’s looking forward to, why you can’t know which women will finish at the front of the UTMB field, and which course out of CCC, TDS, and UTMB she finds the most challenging.
[Editor’s Note: Congrats to iRunFar editor Sarah Brady on her first on-camera interview!]
Mimmi Kotka Pre-2022 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Sarah Brady with iRunFar. I’m with Mimmi Kotka just before the 2022 UTMB. Mimmi, how are you?
Mimmi Kotka: Uh, hi. Yes, I’m good. It’s nice to be here. The circus has arrived in Chamonix.
iRunFar: It sure has. So you were here last year and you had a great run. You placed third. So could you maybe talk about some things that went well in that race and anything you think could go better this time?
Kotka: [laughs] Yeah, so I had an okay UTMB last year, timewise. But I mean, I really struggled in the end. So definitely, there’s room for improvement in the later part of the race for me because I had a few hours of like shameful dropping with a lot of knee pain, and yeah, just like proper UTMB misery, I would say so. [laughs] So, a bit less misery would be nice. Yeah.
iRunFar: Okay, that sounds always sounds like an improvement. So how has your training gone then in the past year?
Kotka: It’s been good. It’s been balanced because I’ve had work and stuff, and so the winter was kind of just building up and having a good base. And then I’ve been, I did some races, shorter races in the spring, which is not, I haven’t done in a few years. So that was like shaking up the system.
And then I did Lavaredo Ultra Trail in June and felt really good. And I’ve had some, I mean, the summers here in the Alps are for big days out with friends and I’ve been doing some bike riding and doing long days with the girls, and so I feel like that, I feel that’s a good way to prep for UTMB. Like, have these big adventure style training. So.
iRunFar: Yeah, that sounds great. And so last year, in your post-race interview, you talked about how you’ve kind of overhauled your fueling and your nutrition. And it sounds like that had worked really well for you. So in the past year, how has that been going?
Kotka: Yeah, so I’ve settled into new routines. I’ve just I, we had, we had a long interview about it last year about me changing the way I fueled around training and stuff. And just basically, like the simple, simple thing of keeping track, making sure you eat enough food. That’s really what it’s all about. And yeah, as long as I, I’m still learning a lot about this subject matter, because it’s kind of, I’ve taken a great interest in it, but it’s now it feels like it’s part of like the athlete life.
iRunFar: Yeah, it’s part of the training, isn’t it?
iRunFar: And then in regards to your actual race-day nutrition plan, do you have like a detailed plan for how that will go?
Kotka: Yeah, I do. Yes, I have a plan. Then you always have to have a plan for not having a plan. [laughs] But I think for race nutrition in these kinds of races, it’s very individual. So you’re just kind of, I mean, the more you can eat, the better off you are. So basically. So I think everyone just needs to find their food that works well for them and that they can like not get too disgusted by, not get sick from. So for long-distance racing, I think it’s very individual what sits well with you, but I do have a plan. That’s, hopefully, it will sit well.
iRunFar: Okay, great. And you know these trails very well and you know this route very well. So, is there any particular part that you’re really excited about?
Kotka: I love the Pyramides [Calcaires in Italy] in the night. That’s kind of the technical parts in the night. And I just, because I really like night running, and I like technical descents and stuff. So that’s one of my favorite parts. Usually, I think the end of the course is really beautiful as well. But I mean often you’re very tired and stuff so, but there are some magical spots along the route, but the night is special to me actually. I think it’s my favorite part of the race section.
iRunFar: Okay, great. And so as somebody who trains here very regularly and year-round, does it feel very, very different to be here with thousands of other people around?
Kotka: Yes. It’s like a completely different, I don’t feel at home when it’s like UTMB. It’s not like you train on the course more than I mean, it’s not like you’re training on the course all the time. That’s not how you do it. I mean, I know the course because I’ve done the race three times. So that’s why. But it’s not like you’re out running the UTMB course. It’s definitely a different vibe than the rest of the year, but it’s nice.
iRunFar: And so besides yourself, we have a fantastic women’s lineup in the race this year. So just wondering who else do you think is likely to be upfront and kind of setting the pace?
Kotka: So I mean, at UTMB there’s always like, everyone is here. But on the other hand, it’s really hard to make guesses beforehand, because the guesses are always, I mean, it’s impossible to say. I mean people can be in good shape and done really well but still have, we can still mess up this route. I know for sure you can mess up this race. So it’s impossible to say who’s going to finish on top.
But I mean, there are some super cool runners here like Ragna [Debats] and Katie [Schide] and Audrey [Tanguy] and some super-fast American girls as well, but I don’t know them personally as they do with, well I’m counting Katie as European now. [laughs] I don’t know them as well. But I mean, it’s like 15 girls basically that can go for the win. So, that’s cool.
iRunFar: I think that’s what makes 100 miles very interesting. Just really anything can happen out there.
Kotka: Yeah, 15 can go for the win for sure and half of us will be helicoptered out. [laughs] Just kidding.
iRunFar: Hopefully not. There was one thing I wanted to ask you, just from your experience. You’ve climbed the ladder of UTMB races and you’ve won the CCC, and you’ve won the TDS, and then you did UTMB. So how do you think doing the full 100-mile loop compares to those shorter races in regards to challenge?
Kotka: Well, it’s definitely, well, it depends on who you are as a runner I guess, but for me that the longer distances are more challenging, so I’m really still trying to crack the code on the 100-mile distance because I don’t think I have it nailed down. And so I have so much respect for the 100-mile specialists because they’re just, they got it. They got that distance in them. But I will say that, I mean TDS now with the Beaufort loop added to it is probably just as tough as UTMB. So because it’s more elevation in the shorter distance.
iRunFar: Do you think you’d like to have a go with that one?
Kotka: Yeah, I mean, it’s such a nice loop. So you never know. But I’ve done almost all of it.
iRunFar: Well, thank you so much for your time. Yeah, we hope you have a great race.
Kotka: Thank you.