Xavier Thévenard is a three-time UTMB champion looking to add another victory here to his resume. In the following interview, Xavier talks about how he chooses his race schedule, when he added UTMB to it, and why he’s returned to UTMB for another year.
(Thanks to Eddy Ferhi for translating.)
Be sure to check out our in-depth men’s and women’s previews to see who else is racing and follow our live coverage starting Friday.
Xavier Thévenard Pre-2019 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Xavier Thévenard before the 2019 UTMB. How are you?
Xavier Thévenard:Good, thank you. Good legs.
iRunFar: Good legs? Good mind?
iRunFar: One thing that I admire about you is that you’re very selective in how you choose your races. How do you choose your schedule?
Thévenard:[With the assistance of a translator] I plan my schedule a long time ahead. What’s important for me is the timing – I need enough time to prepare and enough time to rest. So, really, the main focus is timing and finding races that allow me to prepare and recover the way I feel like I need to, so I can take on the next project. That’s how I choose: it doesn’t depend so much on “where” as on “when.”
iRunFar: For instance, two months between the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji and the 90k at the Mont-Blanc Marathonis okay.
Thévenard: Yes, that works. If it’s one month after, for me, that’s a little short. One-and-a-half months is good, but two months is perfect.
iRunFar: In the past you’ve run 100-mile races 1.5 months apart. Is that challenging?
Thévenard: It’s like playing with fire. It’s a short period, but you can make it work. Last year, I did it with Hardrock and UTMB and it worked. It depends a lot on the intensity of the first of the two races. Hardrock is a slightly less intense race, in that you reach a little less into your limits, so it’s easier to readjust and recover before UTMB. If UTMB came before Hardrock, it would probably be more complicated.
iRunFar: If I remember correctly, in December when there was the UTMB selection, you were not entered. When did you decide to run UTMB this year?
Thévenard: UTMB is a race that I had mapped on my schedule, but it depended on how Hardrock would go. Once Hardrock got cancelled [for 2019 due to snow], it became natural to come to UTMB. It was something I had flagged but wasn’t sure of in December. The facts of what happened at Hardrock made the decision a lot easier.
iRunFar: Last year, you ran well here shortly after Hardrock. Should the competition be scared here that you’ve had two months of recuperation after Mont Blanc 90k?
Thévenard: You know, it’s difficult to say. Obviously, every year, every race, every preparation is different. It’s tough to say that there’s a real rule that exists [for improving performance with extra recovery time]. But I would say I feel more comfortable having two months to prepare because if there’s adjustments that need to be made, I can make them. When you only have a month-and-a-half, it’s more complicated. I would say I feel more comfortable. Mentally, I feel like I’m confident and my body feels good. But it’s 170k, so anything could happen. I wouldn’t say that I’m overconfident, I just appreciate that [recovery time], but not too much.
iRunFar: So, you have three wins here. Why come back? What do you have to achieve?
Thévenard: I get asked that question a lot about going for my fourth UTMB: “Oh, you’re coming back, are you going for some kind of record?” That’s not the point for me. I had a dream recently where I was explaining it to a friend who asked me that exact question, and my answer was that there are four important times in the year: there’s Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, and UTMB. It’s a celebration of trail running, it’s a race that’s special for me. That’s what I come for–that sensation. Plus, I always discover something new when I race this trail. For me, that’s the main reason why.
iRunFar: Looking at the entrants’ list this year, I see another Thévenard. Is it a family member?
Thévenard: Yes, it’s my little brother.
iRunFar: Should we be watching for him to do well?
Thévenard: He runs sixth at the [Mont-Blanc] 90k and he’s as well-prepared for UTMB, so he can be someone you look to see at the front.
iRunFar: Thank you, good luck.
Thévenard: Thank you.