In this interview, he talks about arriving at the decision to race this year’s UTMB, his recovery from Western States, and the process of switching gears in training to prepare for this big mountain ultra.
Tom Evans Pre-2023 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Sarah Brady of iRunFar. I’m here a few days before the 2023 UTMB with Tom Evans. Tom, how are you doing?
Tom Evans: I’m very well. Thank you. How are you?
iRunFar: Not too bad. Yeah. Good to see you again. We last saw you, shouldn’t be very long ago at the Western States where you had an amazing run and a great win. So, I remember you said in your pre-race interview that you would decide after that whether to be here at UTMB or not. So, was that decision made pretty quickly after?
Evans: I think the initial decision was made pretty quick, and I was going to give myself a chance of being out here and racing. And then to do a couple of weeks in the UK, got back into training pretty quick. And that was all pretty smooth. And then came out to Tignes, just above Val-d’Isère, for just over three weeks. And then probably only like finally made my decision sort of ten days ago, after my last hard long run. Yeah, things are sort of all pointing in the right direction. And yeah, I’ve recovered, and my body is healthy, and I feel fit. So yeah, that was I guess when the final decision was made. Still a couple more days just in case, though. [laughs]
iRunFar: I think we’re pretty sure you’re going to start. And then you’d also said back then when I’d asked you if you were trying to prepare for the two simultaneously in any way, that you really weren’t doing that, and you were really just focusing on the faster trail running for Western States. You hadn’t picked up a pole since the year before. So, what have you been doing in the last few weeks to kind of transition to sort of big mountain mode again?
Evans: Yeah, it was a bit of a shock, putting poles in a pack again. I think for me, it was just really getting the real specifics nailed for the race. So, using poles again, and did quite a lot of strength work, because we’re focusing on uphill. Almost ignored the faster running and the downhill, because I think Western States takes care of that. And yeah, it’s steeper here on the downhill, but it’s still running downhill. And yeah, just wanted to save the legs a little bit. So yeah, quite a lot of strength work, and then did sort of a mini block in the UK, sort of just to prepare sort of for the upper end stuff. And then went on to Tignes and then got really specific with sort of some longer climbs. And yeah, just getting more used to spending some big days out training. My Western States training, I ran a lot and run a lot of miles, but the days aren’t actually that big, because you’re running relatively fast. And if you ran, if you did eight hours, you’re going 100k. Whereas here, you do eight hours and you might have done 50k. So yeah, it’s been a really fun process transitioning from the flatter US-style trails to the more mountainous European trails. And yeah, I think the nice thing is I can go into the race now with little pressure, little self-pressure anyway, because my main race was Western States, and this genuinely wasn’t the plan, and I’m just super excited. Normally I get pretty nervous before races whereas for this, like I’m sure I will get a little bit nervous, but I’m just genuinely excited. And normally when I finish a training block, I feel like I’m pretty tired, and I’m pretty ready for taper. Whereas with this, we just tried to push the taper as close to the race as possible because I was just having such a great time in the mountains training really hard. And I think that says a lot. In my opinion, that means that I’m well recovered. And if you’re enjoying things, things are going in the right direction. So yeah, I’m super excited to be here, and I really look forward to racing the weekend.
iRunFar: Okay, yeah, and I guess there is no pressure because for anyone, to win Western States is just enough to achieve in one season, so anything else is a bonus, I guess. And then to talk about your race last year, so you came third, and I suppose you were just a year on from your knee surgery then, and you were still, I suppose on the way back to your kind of peak after that. So, it seemed to be a conservative race that you ran from watching it. Like, really steady and you crept up. So, on this occasion do you think will you be a little bit more aggressive, take more chances with it?
Evans: I think first off will be pretty similar. And kind of just see what goes on. Funnily enough, pretty much identical to what I did at Western States. See what happens. Sit at the back of the group. And yeah, if someone goes out hard to the front, which I’m sure they will, don’t be silly and follow them. And then the UTMB equivalent of Foresthill is where I will make my move, which is what I did. I feel like that’s a nice way to get into the race. But it’s always great going in with a plan, but we’ll see how the legs the feeling. I think it’s going to be quite cold nights. It might be dry. It might be wet. No one really seems to know. The weather forecast doesn’t really seem to know. So I think sort of just being super adaptive, and super flexible, and changing the plan if I need to. But for me, it’s just about fundamentally doing the basics. Making sure that I’m staying warm. I’m staying dry. I’m fueling as I should. I’m not going too hard, but I’m also not going too slow. And yeah, for me, going into race like that, I’m just going out for an amazing trail run through the night with a great group of guys. Yeah, and I’m just really looking forward to that.
iRunFar: Great. You spent like a lot of time with Zach Miller last year. Quite the bromance. So have you chatted to Zach? Are you hoping to share some miles again?
Evans: Yeah, we spoke a little bit. We spoke in Olympic Valley just before Western States. And yeah, sort of planted the seed that it’s an option that I’d be here. Super excited to share some miles with him. And yeah, quite a lot of other a lot of other people from Western States as well. I think there’s going to be a pretty big group for a lot of race.
iRunFar: Yeah, it’s definitely becoming a lot more common to do the double. It’s like people are not quite as afraid of that as they used to be. And then just again, to go back to last year, I know it was probably quite different, but was there anything in particular that you feel like you could have done better then, or anything specific that you’d want to improve on?
Evans: I think last year in itself was, for me, as good as I could have been on that day. Yes, I could have changed things. But yeah, a year on from fairly serious knee surgery, I didn’t want to risk things, and I thought, what if I did risk things, things were far more likely to go wrong. Whereas now going into it having run the race before, I’ve learned a lot of lessons. I guess the only thing that I would change is my aid stations, how slow I was in a few of them. I was in aid stations last year for 16 minutes. It’s quite a long time. So I really tried to nail things down on my own but also with my crew, just to try and streamline it. Definitely not rush. Take my time in the ones that I need to take my time, but also don’t hang out for the sake of hanging about and for a smile telling me that I look great, and you’re doing really well. It’s just get in, do what you need to do, get out, be composed. The more time that you’re in the checkpoint, if someone’s already out of it, then you’re just letting them get away.
iRunFar: Yeah. For sure. There’s a time to chat: at the finish.
iRunFar: I know you’ve been in other parts of the Alps, but you just arrived in Chamonix just a few days ago. So, have you got a chance to recce at all any bit since last year?
Evans: Yeah, I’ve run a couple of times in the Pyramids section. That’s where I struggled a little bit last year. I fell over and broke my finger there. From Chapieux up to the top, and then on to the Pyramids was where Jim [Walmsley] and Kilian [Jornet] made their move last year. So yeah, I wanted to get pretty, pretty savvy with that. And then the changes of the course out of Trient, and then on the final climb is the same course that we had in 2018 when I raced CCC, so I’d already recced a lot then. So, I just thought actually, just you’ve done the race.
Evans: Same, kind of similar to what I did for Western States this year. You’ve done the race. You know the course. It’s not changed. Most of it is in the dark anyway, so a recce doesn’t matter quite so much. And I know the course really well. I’ve run it probably 10 times. And yeah, just really look forward to thinking Oh, the next time I’m going to be here is on race day.
iRunFar: Okay, super. And then have you’ve got anything specific up your sleeve nutrition-wise? Because I know you probably have to adjust back to real food more after Western States. Or is it the same strategy?
Evans: Yeah, exactly the same strategy. I might have a bar, maybe two bars, but that’s probably it. If it’s cold, we’ve been sort of working on developing a bit of a strategy for fueling when it’s cold. And maybe we’ll talk about that a little bit more in the post-race if I’m fortunate enough to get a post-race. But no, fairly similar. High carbohydrate.
Evans: Similar to Western States. Being very aware of if it’s cold, or you’re at altitude, your metabolic rate speeds up. You burn more carbohydrates. So if it is cold at night you need to fuel more.
Evans: Especially when you’re up high, which you are when it’s dark. So yeah, I think just being sensible, fueling, for me, or for everyone, it should be basic. It shouldn’t be a complicated thing. But if I feel like I need some more solid food, then I’ll take some more solid food. But last year, I made heaps of cycling risotto rice balls, and I ate a quarter of one.
Evans: And then my crew ate the rest.
iRunFar: That’s important, too.
Evans: Yeah. The crew will be very well fed. I will, yeah, a fairly similar diet to Western States, but maybe just with a couple of more solid bars as well.
iRunFar: Okay. Yeah, it sounds like you’re prepared for all eventualities anyway. So yeah, hope you have a fantastic race. And yeah, we look forward to seeing you there.
Evans: Me, too. Thanks very much. See you out on the course.
iRunFar: Okay, great. Thanks, Tom.