The U.K.’s Tom Evans is among the 10-plus men who could legitimately win the 2022 UTMB. In the following interview, find out what Tom’s last eight months of training have looked like, how he’s spent the last month living and training in the Alps, and what strategies he’s taking into this weekend’s race.
Tom Evans Pre-2022 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Tom Evans. It’s a couple of days before the 2022 UTMB. Hi, Tom. How are you?
Tom Evans: Hey, Meghan. Thanks so much for having me. Yeah, I’m really good. Lovely to be here in Chamonix and yeah, really just excited to do this race week.
iRunFar: Yeah, I just showed up yesterday, but you have been here for a long time. You’re basically a local now. What have you been up to?
Evans: Yeah, I’ve been here for sort of a month now and lots of training. I’ve been in Tignes, so near Val-d’Isère. Did some altitude training. I’ve been looking at the course. Yeah. And sort of just immersing myself into the race and yeah. I’ve done some really good training and yeah, the last couple of weeks, dialing everything back in has been really nice. Just feel pretty ready to go.
iRunFar: I think the last time iRunFar saw you race was at Western States 100 2019 where you were on the podium there. The 100-mile distance is not unfamiliar to you. However, the 100-mile mountain distance is a thing, eh?
Evans: Yeah, I think it’s almost impossible to compare Western States to UTMB. Yes, it’s the same distance, but UTMB is going to be five hours longer. Hopefully. Yeah, if it was only five hours longer, that’d be great.
iRunFar: [laughs] I would like to ask for it to only be five hours longer, please.
Evans: Yeah, please, five hours longer. So yeah, I think, I think it’s different. But I think, yeah, I’ve sort of, I’ve been spending far more time in the mountains. And I think sort of from a military background, I think UTMB, I think the 100-mile distance here is what is most suited because it’s slower, it’s a bit more uncomfortable, it’s at night.
I think my strongest part of the race will be at night. It’s something that I’m super comfortable with. It’s something I’ve practiced a lot but have also just had this eight years of doing military exercises at night without a head torch. So now that you’ve got a head torch, you’re like, oh my god, this is amazing. I can actually…
iRunFar: Luxury! Light!
Evans: Yeah, exactly. I can see where I’m going. And other people are like I’ve only got 600 lumens or whatever. And I’m like I’ve done this with night vision goggles, where you can’t see a thing. So yeah, I’m really excited. And yeah, I think for me, the 100-mile distance at UTMB is, it’s the Super Bowl of ultra-distance trail running. And yes, it’s a mountainous race, but it’s not actually that technical.
iRunFar: It’s steep, but it’s like runnable actual underfoot terrain, right?
Evans: Yeah, exactly. Underfoot is great for 95% of the race. Yeah, there are steep sections, but people sort of forget how runnable the second half is. Like there’s a 13-mile downhill from Grand Col Ferret. And it’s quick. Like it can be, it can be quick.
iRunFar: I don’t think I’ve ever put that together. That’s 13 miles basically all downhill, because I think of it in segments but you’re right.
Evans: Yes, that’s in miles. Pretty much all downhill, from the top of Grand Col Ferret to the bottom of just before you climb up to Champex-Lac is 13 miles.
iRunFar: Yeah. Huh.
Evans: It’s all downhill. So, you’ve got to run.
iRunFar: When I think of you, that’s the kind of running that I think of. You sort of came over to trail ultrarunning from faster, shorter, much flatter stuff. But like you said, you’ve been integrating yourself in in the mountain world too.
Evans: Yeah, I think so. I think, I don’t think races like UTMB are won in the 12 weeks or 24 weeks before the race. I think they’re won in the years and years that you put in before. And am I the best hiker? No. Am I the fastest runner? No. Am I the best anything? No, but I’d like to think I’d be getting a A-minus to an A on all of the disciplines now, I’d like to think.
So yeah, you’re not the best but you spent a lot of time improving all of them, and I think for a race like UTMB you’ve got to be a 360-degree athlete. Where you’re comfortable eating on the move. You’re comfortable hiking, descending, running uphill, running downhill, running on flat. I think you need to be a bit of everything and I think sort of my history of coming from like a team sports background and then some faster running, some cross country, some military.
Yeah, I think for me UTMB is sort of the dream race because I get to combine all of these elements that have sort of become my craft over the last 15 years and put them all into practice in one incredible race and adventure.
iRunFar: It seems like you are a study, like a close study of the things that you put yourself into. Like you pick a race, you build a training block that you know is representative training for that. You really focus on it. Can you talk for a minute about some of like the core elements that you’ve been using in your build-up?
Evans: Yeah, for sure. I think these races have just got to be massively respected. And the 100-mile distance, 100 miles is no joke. 100 miles around Mont Blanc is definitely no joke. So the respect has to be paid. So yeah, I guess we sort of break the … I work with Scott Johnson at Uphill Athlete and we’ve been working together for the last year and that’s been absolutely incredible. And yeah, I think the way that we’ve approached, so I’m coming off an injury.
The first bit was, what is the least amount of work we can do to get away with and that’s what we went into Transgrancanaria with. And so, we worked on the relative speed then and then stepped up to the 85k at Madeira [Island Ultra-Trail]. That’s a bit of an increase in distance and time. It’s going to be nine hours, but it’s, there’s more hiking but there’s also quite a lot of running. So, let’s do what you’re good at and combine the two and see where we are from there. And then give us a nice block then leading into UTMB. And yeah, I guess the training for this has been much longer, slower days, still really structured. And yeah, just realizing that you haven’t got to race every workout.
Whereas I think for something like Western States where you need to run fast, you need to do solid workouts, and out here it’s just been so much fun running with friends and people who have come out. I spent the last sort of block at altitude, which has been really nice. There’s a great group of guys out there and now here in Chamonix with the adidas Terrex team, and yeah. It’s just been, yeah, I think really structured, really periodized, and yeah.
But like I said earlier, I don’t think UTMB is won in the 12 weeks before and so I’m hoping that I can use my experience of moving through mountains at night. I know how miserable I’m going to feel like half three to five. So actually visualizing that and being like, right, what is, I guess you can ask yourself before the race: What are the reasons for me to DNF, for example? Injury to your body. Ok well, is there anything I can do about that? Well no, not really. OK.
iRunFar: Just keep doing your foam rolling. [laughs]
Evans: Keep doing your foam rolling. It’ll be fine. And, like, getting really cold and really miserable. And you think ok, well, that’s going to happen when it’s at its coldest, half three to five. Right? What can I do to make sure that doesn’t happen? What can I do to mitigate this? And yeah, so just being really, yeah, I’ve asked for a lot of help from a lot of people and yeah, I think those are conversations we’ve had and then putting things in practice.
Like I did, my final long run was a complete dress rehearsal for UTMB. Same shoes, socks, kit, nutrition, hydration, similar course, starting at 6:00 p.m., practicing everything. Because it’s what you would, it’s what you do in other sports. It’s what we do in the military. And it’s what you do if you’re racing a marathon, you’d do a 20 miler at marathon pace. And yeah, I think it’s just been super important to be that focused and that structured but at the same time, with 90% of the training is, it’s just an adventure. It’s just about learning and getting comfortable being uncomfortable, and being comfortable in the mountains.
iRunFar: What’s a cool thing or experience that you’ve had, as you’ve been out here training? And I know you’re, you know, you’ve had a lot of structure, but you’ve been in the Alps. So there’s probably been some fun.
iRunFar: What’s a cool story you have from the last one?
Evans: I think my favorite moment was on this sort of final night run. I was in Tignes, so the next-door valley to Courmayeur, and there was just the most incredible thunder and lightning in Courmayeur. And I was maybe like 30 miles away, but you could just see it so clearly. And you’re just out on your own. Didn’t see another person for the whole night. And yeah, it was just completely surreal. And it makes you realize that right, one minute it could be absolutely fine, but then the next, things can change. And all the time I was hoping, please stay away. Don’t come here.
iRunFar: Stay in that valley, please.
Evans: Yeah, exactly. But you never know. Things might happen. Things might change. Then you’re constantly thinking about if it does happen, like what can I do? What am I going to do? So yeah, that’s been, that’s been really cool. But then I think just yeah, just the whole attitude of and just the lifestyle of being able to be in the mountains. And I was on my own, living on my own, so if I wanted to wake up at 8:00 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. or whatever, you can just run out of bed and look out the window and you’ve just got these incredible mountains.
And yeah, I’ve really enjoyed you know, really enjoyed that lifestyle and really bought into it. And yeah, that’s been really special. And then I guess sort of being able to come to Chamonix with the Adidas Terrex Team and put up in these incredible chalets. And support the big team that we have here. We’ve got a couple of guys and girls racing now at TDS, which is amazing. And yeah, I think having that whole team spirit is pretty unique and just incredible.
iRunFar: As a study of the sport, you’ve probably been rehearsing a little bit like how you think the competition might go and like where you see yourself in it. I don’t want you to give away any of your race day strategy, but what type of visualization and preparation do you do in that respect?
Evans: I think for me, I’ve definitely split this race into three different parts and visualizing in three different parts of the race. And the first phase is the start until …
iRunFar: Surviving the start.
Evans: Surviving the start, surviving the first three hours. Like I think if you can survive the first three hours …
iRunFar: Get to Les Contamines.
Evans: Get to Les Contamines, put your head torch on, great. But I think those first three hours is going to be super stressful. Worrying, what are other people doing? Am I going too fast? Am I going too slow? Is there, have I left too much of a gap? Or I’ve really messed it up. Like you can destroy your race in the first 10 minutes. So yeah, so I think that’s been yeah, that’s sort of been a factor and something that I’ve thought about, right.
What am I going to do if this happens, or that happens, and there’s so much talk, because there are so many big names in this race that oh, this person might do this, or that person might do that. And it’s great. And I’m there thinking, okay, I’ve got my plan. Is that plan going to last or am I going to have to modify it on the ground? And yeah, so there are a couple of different options for that. And then, yeah, the second phase going into the night, the head torch comes on. Super comfortable at night, from nine until half three, and then I’m going to suffer at half three, but it’s all right. I’ve got my M&M’s that I’m going to pick up in Courmayeur. And then yeah, that’s my real …
iRunFar: No caffeine.
Evans: Oh there’s a lot of a lot of caffeine. A lot of caffeine and M&M’s. And then yeah, sort of use, I know that’s going to happen. So I’ve sort of visualized the good parts that I’m going to really enjoy and then the miserable parts and what I’m going to do. And then the sun comes up, you’re in, hopefully are in Champex-Lac. And from there it’s, yeah, well, from Bertone I can, I’ve run CCC. I know the course. I love the course.
I’ve got some of my best-ever trail running memories from that course. From feeling great, from feeling horrendous. And yeah, just plan on using those, using that previous knowledge to yeah, just to get me around to the end. And for me, my goal, my goal for this whole, for the last 12 months post-injury was getting to the start line. And yes, I’m not there yet. I’ve got a couple more days to sort of stay…
iRunFar: Not trip on any stairs.
Evans: Yeah, exactly. So yeah, I think the goal was to get to the start line. So I’ve sort of achieved that goal. Now anything else is just an absolute bonus. And yeah, I’m just super excited that it’s finally here and I’ve managed to get myself onto a start line. Yeah, super excited.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you.
Evans: Thank you.
iRunFar: Yeah. And, you know, turn off your headlamp for just a little bit for the military throwback and enjoying the night on Friday night, eh?
Evans: I can’t promise that, but if I do, I’ll let you know.
iRunFar: Good luck to you.
Evans: Meghan, thank you so much.
iRunFar: You’re welcome.