Xavier Thevenard, 2013 TNF UTMB Champion, Interview

Xavier Thevenard won the 2013 The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. The 25-year-old Frenchman started ultrarunning with a win at the CCC, a sister race to the UTMB, three years ago. In the following interview, Xavier discusses his Nordic skiing background, his extended preparations for the UTMB, and what race he’d like to try out in the United States.

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Xavier Thevenard, 2013 TNF UTMB Champion, Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Xavier Thevenard, or that’s how I’d say it in English. What is your name?

Xavier Thevenard: Xavier Thevenard.

iRF: Congratulations on your great run.

Thevenard: Thank you.

iRF: Very few runners around the world know you and even fewer in the United States but you have a long history of endurance sport. Can you tell us about your endurance sports background?

Thevenard via translator: We can say that he was born with skis on his feet because he began very early. He was living in a very little ski resort near the Jura. His father is a ski teacher and he began very, very early at 5 years old.

iRF: That seems very, very similar to the story of many of the top European mountain runners. It’s not just skiing, but they’re in the mountains. They’ve been doing it forever, yes?

Translator: Yes.

iRF: You are only 25 years old, but you won the CCC when you were 22. That is very young to be racing so long. How did you get involved in ultra trail?

Thevenard: Yes, Kilian [Jornet] won his first UTMB at 20. I won the CCC when I was 22 and the UTMB at 25.

Translator: It’s very good.

iRF: Still, what interested you about ultra trail? How did you become involved?

Thevenard: First of all, I’m a cross-country skier and I made long distances like La Transjurassienne in France or Vasaloppet in Sweden. I used to train on very long time and I like it. I like to stay in the nature and staying the nature by training. It’s my nature.

iRF: Rather than be on roller-skis during the summer, you want to run in the mountains?

Thevenard: Yes, yes, sometimes.

iRF: But you prefer to run in the mountains?

Thevenard: Yes, during summer.

iRF: You’ve won the CCC three years ago. Have you run many ultra trails before that or was that your debut?

Thevenard: The CCC was his first ultra trail. Before the CCC I ran 70k and in 2011 I won Les Templiers at 120k.

iRF: So you’ve run CCC and you’ve run UTMB. What is different about them?

Thevenard: The CCC is the little sister so it’s very important, but the UTMB is much, much, much more.

iRF: You did win the UTMB these past two days. Tell us some of your experience.

Thevenard: The last times there has been a lot of emotion. I’ve come to realize it’s very difficult for me to realize. I enjoyed it. I think the days after it will be different for me and I’ll realize really the victory.

iRF: It’s like good wine—it ages with time and gets better.

Translator: Yes.

Thevenard: Of course.

iRF: During the race, during the first part of the race, you were running with some of the best trail runners in the world. You were running with [Julien] Chorier, [Miguel] Heras, Anton Krupicka. Were you intimidated?

Thevenard: I didn’t pay attention to the other runners. Heras, Krupicka, Chorier—they are runners. I would like to stay in my race. It’s important to stay in my race and to enjoy running.

iRF: How are you able to stay in your race and run so consistently when you’ve not run for so many hours before? The longest race you’ve run is Templiers. This is much longer in terms of hours. How did you run so consistently and run your own race without experience?

Thevenard: For me, it’s difficult to appreciate the length of the race because I prepare for long time before in my head and I’m very well prepared for the length of the race.

iRF: So the mental is as important as the physical.

Thevenard: Yes.

iRF: Do you have any favorite memories or moments from the race?

Thevenard: The finish line.

iRF: What food and drink do you consume during the race?

Thevenard: Potatoes, bananas, and only drink water.

iRF: Real food.

Thevenard: Not only, but gel and energy bars, but not only as I need potatoes and bananas and real foods.

iRF: So a mix?

Thevenard: Yes, both.

iRF: Do you have any other race plans for the year?

Thevenard: No.

Translator: He doesn’t know and will discuss with the coach/trainer. Now the essential is the recovery and enjoy the victory.

iRF: Are there any races in the U.S. that interest you in the future? Any particular races?

Thevenard: Maybe the Leadville because Thomas Lorblanchet won this race.

iRF: Will you go run faster than him?

Thevenard: Maybe.

iRF: Not only did you win yesterday, but you ran the fastest time on the course. Did you imagine that was possible?

Thevenard: I never wondered if it was possible or not. I just prepared for the race and only prepared. Good preparations.

iRF: You made great preparations. Congratulations on your run.

Thevenard: Thank you.

Bonus Question

iRF: One bonus question. You are from the Jura Mountains. How are those different than Mont Blanc?

Thevenard: Of course, the Jura is less high than the Alps and less high than the Mont Blanc. There are more trees and forest and maybe more savage and less human exploitation than the Alps.

iRF: More wild?

Translator: More wild, yes.

iRF: Go and enjoy your wild and beautiful mountains.