For most of us, the idea of running 100 miles is unfathomable. But for a growing number of ultra trail runners, it’s just another distance to run, over and over again. We caught up with Krissy Moehl, two-time champ of The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), to find out what happens during those 100 miles—when to eat, how to get to the finish line, and when to take a power nap—and why it’s such a supportive community of friends. Follow the 10th UTMB in live webcasts starting today at http://www.ultratrailmb.com/.
Can you tell us about the mechanics of completing a 100-mile race?
Krissy Moehl: Even reaching the starting line is mostly about the mindset. To start a 100-mile race there is a lot of preparation both physical and mental, but I would say that to complete or finish the race the mind must be strong, ready, flexible, and willing to endure whatever situations arise while on course.
When do you eat during the race?
K.M.: I try to eat every 30 minutes.
When do you drink?
K.M.: Before I am thirsty.
Do you take rest stops?
K.M.: I utilize the aid stations for refueling, but try not to stop. I had a new experience at Hardrock 100 this year where I had to take a short nap as a way of hitting the reset button.
Are you moving for the entire race?
K.M.: Yes, ideally.
Do your feet bleed?
K.M.: Thankfully no.
You are known as a master of the 100-mile distance. Why does this distance work so well for you?
K.M.: I will never claim that I have mastered the 100-mile distance. If ever I have thought I had everything dialed for a race it has gone the complete opposite way than what I wanted. Being flexible, not having any expectations of outcome, and a complete desire to finish are the basics and most important aspects of finding the finish line.
You’ve won the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc twice, in its first year and again in 2009. Does that make it easier as you mentally and physically prepare to run it again?
K.M.: Having finishes at a race does help with the mental preparation because you have seen the course and experienced the distance. The conditions are different every time, and even the same preparations for the winning year will not guarantee a finish the following year. I believe you must always respect the 100-mile distance.
How have you been training for the UTMB?
K.M.: This has been a fun summer of racing and not much training. I completed the Western States 100 (June 23) and the Hardrock 100 (July 13) and have had to battle a few injuries and serious recovery time in between these events. The hope is that my experiences at both Western and Hardrock have prepared me for UTMB.
Without giving away your strategy, what advice do you have for UTMB rookies?
K.M.: Be flexible and do not have any expectations of your outcome. Find a complete desire to finish. Be able and willing to change your race plans while in motion and adjust to the day and the conditions. These mountains can throw an amazing amount of challenge your way, and I hope you will be ready to adjust.
The race in the Alps! Do you stop to take in the views at all during the race?
K.M.: Definitely! The mountains are my inspiration throughout the race.
It seems like the U.S. is starting to embrace distances longer than the marathon. Do you see that as a trend?
K.M.: Trail and ultra distance running and racing are definitely growing sports in the U.S. The number of events and people running have increased hugely in the 12 years that I have been racing.
Why do you prefer the trail over the road?
K.M.: I enjoy the opportunity to explore beautiful places under the power of my own two feet. I am constantly amazed and inspired by the beauty of quiet, wild places.
You talk about ultra trail running as a very social sport. Is the competition more friendly than fierce?
K.M.: We had a great conversation just this evening about how caring and wonderful the ultra-trail community is. It is very welcoming, nurturing, encouraging, and supportive.
What’s the most satisfying about knocking off another 100-mile race, now that you have done so many.
K.M.: Each one is its own experience, and there hasn’t been a 100-mile race that I haven’t learned an amazing and applicable life lesson.