Alissa St Laurent admits she’s had a tough year racing ultramarathons.
The 33-year-old put herself in the hospital because of dehydration at the Tarawera Ultra, hurt her quad muscle at the Lake Sonoma 50-Miler and was swept off the course at the Western States 100 for missing time cut-offs. She’s changed directions recently and is preparing for Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc on Sept. 1 and has been in Chamonix, France, the site of the race, since the beginning of August.
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“The energy is there,” she says. “There were some unavoidable things that led to DNFs. I worried and wondered whether I had lost something, but friends reminded me that so many things can happen and I happened to hit bad angles.”
“It’s been hard to get into the game this year,” she says. The 2015 Canadian Death Race champion had an encouraging result, 12th in 9:25:36 for 78K, at the Swissalpine Marathon in Davos at the end of July. “That’s promising for UTMB,” she says. The result came after being in Colorado, where she was training and pacing at Hardrock 100. St Laurent ran as much as 174K per week, at high altitudes, making the transition to Chamonix a smooth one. St Laurent has had a summer to explore as she takes time off work during a career transition to acupuncture (she’s in school) from accounting.
She’s among the elite women set to run the ultramarathon around Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps. The UTMB passes through France, Italy and Switzerland and, along the 171K route, features more than 10,000m of elevation gain including multiple passes at altitudes higher than 2,400m. Her time in Colorado this summer has paid off training in the Alps in the lead up to UTMB. She says many of UTMB’s high points are lower than the spots where she was camping in Colorado.
“It’s been hard to get into the game this year,” she says.
St Laurent raced the UTMB in 2016 but dropped out around the 21-hour mark. If she could describe the race in a single word? “A journey,” St Laurent says.
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As she has raced 110K of the race in 2016, St Laurent knows what to expect from the course and terrain. The experienced ultrarunner–she is arguably the best in Canada when she gets it right–says she will be taking in lots of “solid foods” for UTMB. She says she’s very strict when it comes to calories taken per hour when racing.
During her downtime in Chamonix, St Laurent, in part, passes the time by reading. (She writes, too.) At the time of the interview, St Laurent was reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth book of the Harry Potter series, not her first time through the fantasy novels.
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This year’s UTMB women’s field is heavily stacked including Caroline Chaverot and Andrea Huser. “I don’t have any time goals, placing-wise my goals are fairly ambitious and that’s how I like to do it.” St Laurent’s resume – the only woman to ever win the Canadian Death Race, a ridiculous Cascade Crest 100-Mile course record (19:25:56) that’s nearly two hours ahead of the next fastest woman ever and a fifth-place finish at the 2016 Western States 100–puts her into top-10 contention. The race begins at 6:30 p.m. local time on Sept. 1.
Stay tuned for extensive coverage from Canadian Running in the leadup to, and during, the 2017 UTMB.