This weekend sees the showpiece of the UTMB week and the racing of the 100 miler. Along with Western States 100, UTMB probably ranks right up there globally as ‘the’ race for the elites of our sport to participate in and go head-to-head against one another. After the weather played havoc with things last year with a reduced distance race, we’re hoping that the Gods smile this year and that we get a full 100 miler, along some serious racing up front.
In 2011, the Americans came and to be honest went home with their tails between their legs. This year we think things will be very different indeed. Tim Olson, Mike Wolfe and he of bare-chest fame, Anton Krupicka will be leading the charge, with the guys setting up camp in Chamonix weeks ago in preparation. They’ve been training out on the course and they mean business. To be honest, we at Ultra168 think they’re going to give the European boys some serious competition this time round and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a couple of Americans on the podium this time round.
One of those guys that we think will do so is Tim Olson. After (quite literally) a blistering run at WSER100 he’s looking to be in tip-top shape ahead of this weekend. We were very fortunate to catch-up with Tim this week to get his thoughts on the race, how his prep has gone and who he thinks will be leading the charge…
How are you feeling leading into race week at UTMB?
Full of excitement to get this run under way. These mountains are majestic, full of energy to push me on; I hope to feed off the beauty of the land and the ambiance of the race and everyone out to cheer and volunteer at the race. I’m well rested, feeling healthy and hungry; ready to rock n roll.
What sort of training have you done since WSER?
I have basically just been recovering from WSER100 while throwing in lots of hiking on steep terrain. I haven’t logged tons of miles, but I am feeling confident in what I have put in.
Have you sought any input on your training in order to better prepare for UTMB and the uniqueness of its course?
Nope 😉 I’ve run the 2nd half of the course, so I know what to expect. I’ve punished my quads well and hope they can withstand all the downhill punishment.
Why do you think the US athletes have always struggled to make a major impact on this race?
I’d guess a combination of some athletes simply having an off day and others racing too much leading up to UTMB. Having races like Western and HardRock on your legs before this run is a difficult task. It’s also difficult to deal with the jet lag and find time to check out the course.
This year a few of us have had time to adapt early and get ourselves ready by checking out the course; hopefully we were not too excited and have rested properly. This race will take a lot of mental strength to finish strong; I’m hoping to be up to the task.
If you had to describe the UTMB course in one sentence what would it be?
A hard course that is relentless all the way to the end, it will pay off big to be patient.
When you consider all the factors that go into running the perfect 100 miler, what is the one critical factor that you will need to be on top of to be successful at UTMB?
Just like any race, I need to listen to my body from the beginning; if I’m self-aware and can address the problems that come up while staying relaxed I should have a good day.
You have been touring the area, what makes it so special?
They are huge and glorious mountains; the mountain has much emotion and only allows the brave and respectful to pass. You’re pretty much in awe the whole race; it’s incredible how big the mountains are and the amount of greenery mixed in, it’s a special place for sure.
It is a race within a race with several thousand competitors in Chamonix for the week doing various races like CCC and TdS, do you see this as the future of trail running or do you still prefer the intimacy of States etc.?
I think it’s wonderful to have so many like-minded people sharing in the celebration of mountain love; I think there is room for both types of races and I enjoy both the intimacy of small races and the energy of large races.
Are there any parts of the course that you see being decisive in being successful this year?
Having something in the tank for the last 3 big climbs and still being in contention from early on, you can’t let the leaders gap you too much, but you need to be prepared for a strong finish.
How do you think your fellow compatriots will go, especially Wolfpaw (fellow TNF athlete Mike Wolfe) who is off the back of the Jim Muir FKT and of course TK (Anton) has been clocking up the miles?
Anton is ready to go and Wolfpaw is a super strong dude and once he gets started he’ll be right there in the mix. This will be an incredible race to be apart of and witness!
Who else will you be keeping an eye on?
So many amazing athletes; Julien, Miguel, Jonas, TK, Wolfpaw, Gary, Jezz, Seb and many more will all be ready to go. I’m hoping to stay strong and be smart.
What sort of runner is suited to this course? As we have speedsters like Jonas Buud v veterans like Seb Chaigneau and of course the ever consistent details-man in Julian Chorier.
Julian will be tough to beat, all three know the course well which will be a huge factor. Anyone who runs strong through the night will be tough to stay with.
And you tip for the women’s as there is no Lizzie Hawker this year?
I think Rory Bosio is ready to have a big one!
The talk over the past few weeks has been Kilian’s Matterhorn record – any comments on his achievements?
Kid is incredible! He inspires me in everything he does and the person he is, I’m honored to know him and call him my friend. I wish only the best for him as he keeps defying the impossible.
3 tips for anyone running UTMB or a big mountain 100miler for the first time?
- Practice lots of strong/purposeful hiking.
- Listen to your body, pull back when you need a moment and move fast when you can.
- Be prepared for anything and adaptable when the unexpected happens.
You are traveling with your family, how has that been? The pictures look amazing.
I’ve had a great time with my family; they inspire me in so many way. I’m here to race, but more importantly I’m here to enjoy life with my family in a beautiful place.
The decision to hit the road for the better part of the year and pack up house must have been an interesting conversation? How are you finding it?
Pretty easy thus far, we’ve just begun. It sure is nice to have so much family time and not much agenda besides race stuff. We’ve also had a lot of help from family, our parents have helped take care of our son on different parts of the journey thus far. It will definitely get more interesting once it’s just the three of us on the road. We are excited to see where life leads us and share our stories along the way.
Tell us a little about what the North Face have been doing with you this past few months, any new shoes, gear you have been testing? Whats it like working with such a large company compared to previous years of little or small sponsors?
The North Face has been incredible; I’m playing a huge part in the formation of the following years running attire and shoes. I love working with people who listen and are trying to make the best light and efficient gear for the mountains. I’ll be running the UTMB in a modified Ultra Trail shoe that we are getting ready for next year, this new shoe feels amazing thus far and I look forward to continuing the process to bring to the market as soon as possible. It’s a big and time-consuming process and I’m impressed with how hard they’re working to dial it all in.
The Ultra Trail Committee are trying to unite a World Series of major global ultras, do you see this as being good for the sport and something athletes will aspire to compete in?
It would be great to have races where all the best line up a truly beautiful, inspiring and difficult mountain courses. Those are the races we want to run and a World Series would be great.
What is next for you after UTMB? What racing do you have coming up? UROC? TNF SF?
We’ll see how I feel after UTMB, possibly Run Rabbit if I feel like it’s the right and healthy choice. Otherwise my wife and I put on a race called The Enchanted Forest Wine Run the same date as UROC. My next race will be TNF Argentina and then TNF SF to finish the year.
Are we going to see you in Australia sometime?
I hope to visit soon, it’s a land that’s been calling me. I will do TNF Australia some year soon, but it might have to wait a year. If a race wants to bring me and my family there, I’m definitely keen for a good run in Australia!
We wish Tim, and indeed all the competitors the best for this weekend. Tim is one of the sports genuine, nice guys who takes time to speak with anyone who passes his way. Good on ya Tim, we’ll be gunning for you this weekend.