Thomas Lorblanchet will start this year’s Western States 100 as the top returning runner from last year’s race in which he placed fifth. In the following interview, Thomas talks about why Western States is so special for him, how he thinks he has the American ultrarunning spirit, what his goal is for this weekend, and why he’s taking on UTMB after Western States among other things.
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Thomas Lorblanchet Pre-2016 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Thomas Lorblanchet before the 2016 Western States 100. Hello, Thomas. How are you?
Thomas Lorblanchet: Hello, Bryon. Fine. Fine. Little tired with the jetlag.
iRunFar: When did you arrive in the U.S.?
Lorblanchet: Sunday in San Francisco. Then we go to Auburn for the acclimation.
iRunFar: And the heat?
Lorblanchet: And the heat.
iRunFar: How is that?
Lorblanchet: It’s very complicated because in France two weeks ago we had snow. When we arrive in San Francisco it was too hot.
iRunFar: In San Francisco it was too hot?
Lorblanchet: For me, it was too hot.
iRunFar: Do you train and go in the sauna at all?
Lorblanchet: Yes, it’s easier for me to do sauna because I live in Clermont-Ferrand, in the center and middle of France, and there’s no big temperature.
iRunFar: When you’re in the sauna, do you just sit in the heat or do some exercise?
Lorblanchet: Seven times sauna with two times only sit and sleep and two times with just little exercise to acclimate with breathing.
iRunFar: Here you are.
Lorblanchet: But Western States is a mystery.
iRunFar: Did you have any trouble with the heat last year?
Lorblanchet: Yes. Last year it was my first time at Western. I respect a lot the race. For me, Western is a legend. It inspires many races in France. I spoke with Gilles Bertrand…
iRunFar: For the people who don’t know, the founder of Les Templiers.
Lorblanchet: For us, Western is a point of start of many history.
iRunFar: It’s the origin. I was really impressed in walking over here, you know the history of the race and not just generally. The times and the years and… you’re studied.
Lorblanchet: Yes, yesterday I took a class with Gordy [Ainsleigh] and Ann Trason. They gave me many advices for the race. Now maybe I think I’m good for tomorrow.
iRunFar: Last year you were fifth here. Are you surprised you’re the top returning runner?
Lorblanchet: Surprised, yes. It was one of my goals of the year. I love the race with lots of parts of running—not too steep. In the American races, it’s good for my ability. I’m very nervous because Western is not too easy to know the final time.
iRunFar: You’ve had… coming from the US, we think of a lot of the top French ultrarunners as being more suited to the mountains, but your best success has been in races like Leadville or here. Is that because of your background or where you live, or why do you think that is?
Lorblanchet: Leadville, it was my first 100 mile, and I won it, but after I run in Madeira and La Réunion. I think it’s easier for me to run in US because I have the American spirit, and I love it.
iRunFar: Yeah, at Réunion, you were in the 20-something position? 25th?
Lorblanchet: La Réunion—yes, 20-ish. I have a very… after 15 hours, I am kaput. It’s very difficult to see…
iRunFar: Last year you were fifth here. Do you think you can improve your position? If so, what have you done to do that?
Lorblanchet: Now, for me, it’s better time than last year. If I finish sixth with a better time, I’m happy.
iRunFar: It’s a personal race.
Lorblanchet: Yes, it’s personal. I think my position is just a trophy point.
iRunFar: Have you done any racing since Diagonale des Fous?
Lorblanchet: Yes, but just preparation and not many races because after Western I will run UTMB. For me, it’s a challenge to run two races.
iRunFar: This is sort of the start to your season, and you want to carry your fitness another two months for UTMB.
Lorblanchet: Yes, Last year David Laney was very successful in Chamonix, too. If I can do the same season…
iRunFar: You’ll be very happy?
Lorblanchet: Yes, very, very happy.
iRunFar: Do you think… I guess you would think this race is more suited to you than UTMB?
Lorblanchet: UTMB for me is just a challenge. I’m a French runner, so UTMB is the most important race in France in ultra. UTMB is just a challenge for me this year.
iRunFar: You have one of your countrymen here. You have François D’haene. He was here last year. Do you think he can improve upon his position from last year?
Lorblanchet: Yeah, maybe. If it’s the same situation as last year, we ran differently because last year we were too fast on the first part. After, when Rob [Krar] caught us, it was very difficult for us. This year we will run differently.
iRunFar: So you think you’ll maybe run a little slower earlier?
Lorblanchet: Yes. This year it’s more hot, so I think the first part is very important for the last part.
iRunFar: You want to save some of your energy? Do you think it’s also important to save some of your mental energy?
Lorblanchet: Yes. Yes, after I speak with Ann Trason, she said the race begins at Rucky Chucky, but when you arrive at Foresthill, it’s very hard to be very fine. So at Rucky Chucky the race begins, but whoooo.
iRunFar: It’s a long way to get to Rucky Chucky.
iRunFar: Almost 100-some kilometers. Moreso than at Diagonale des Fous, there are a lot of really fast runners, so you’re at Foresthill and there are 30k of fast running ahead. Is that intimidating or are you excited?
Lorblanchet: This year, there are many runners who are very fast—Sage [Canaday], Jim [Walmsley]—so I think Foresthill… maybe the record is broken this year.
iRunFar: Best of luck this weekend, Thomas. Enjoy.
Lorblanchet: Thank you, Bryon.