Canadian Alissa St. Laurent ready to tackle epic Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc
One of the world's top endurance events set for Sept 1
The race, first run in 2003, follows the route of the Tour du Mont Blanc along the Alps of France, Italy and Switzerland.
The UTMB is over 170 kilometres distance and 10,000 metres elevation. It is daunting, to say the least. St. Laurent has been here before, and she knows what she has to do.
Her track record since she began racing in 2013 speaks for itself, including most recently winning the Silverton 100K in Colorado outright earlier this month.
She received national attention a number of years ago after becoming the first female to win the 125-km Canadian Death Race outright in 2015.
But now she’s in France, and she’s ready to go. Get Out There checked in with the fierce competitor on the eve of the big race.
How are you feeling heading into the race?
I'm fairly relaxed. Obviously I have a lot on my mind and am focused but I am very much looking forward to spending a lot of time in the mountains.
Tell me about the race, and its importance in your career and in terms of the greater global ultra-running community?
UTMB just has so much energy surrounding it. It collects so much talent and diversity in this valley, its very special to me. It’s such a huge contrast to the world of ultrarunning I was first introduced to that at times it does feel overwhelming but I appreciate the grandeur of it. The depth of talent makes it a natural proving ground on a world stage and as much as I love that competitive aspect I also think the journey that the course provides is the biggest draw.
What do you enjoy most about big races like this?
I feel a connection to these mountains. To me that is the draw. But there also is a feeling that I haven't touched on my full potential on this course. That will keep me coming back.
And what do you find most challenging?
There are just so many variables in these big mountain races, it requires strategy and patience and it's so important to stay within your own race. It's a challenge to stay within your own self.
Have you run this race in the past? And if so, tell me about how that went, and what is different this time around?
This is my fourth consecutive year here. 2016 I dropped due to injury at 109km, 2017 I ran to a 6thnplace finish and last year I got 5th at the sister race TDS.
How long have you been training and building up to this event?
Training is, kind of, a constant. It changes throughout the year but its such a part of my life that I can't even limit it to specific time periods.
How has the rest of this year went for you, and what have been some of the highlights?
There have been some huge personal challenges this year. I have no desire to explain the specifics but it has affected my racing this year for sure. But I’m in a great spot right now, July and August were spent in the mountains in Colorado and I've just had so many positive experiences recently.
Where have you done most of your training for this event?
I've done my final training here in Chamonix but a lot of quality training in the san Juan mountains in colorado.
What will you do when the race is complete?
I just hope to quietly absorb this experience and focus on recovery.
What originally piqued your interest in ultra-running?
I have always belonged in the mountains, it’s just who I am. After a brief introduction to road running, I started to see my potential in endurance and gravitated back to the trails, it was immediately a natural fit.
Where is your favourite place to run?
I have so many favourite places. I have made efforts to see more and explore more paces around the world and I appreciate every place for its own uniqueness. But it has also made me realize how lucky I was to grow up in the mountains of southern Alberta. That will always be the most special place to me.