HomeRunningA Lifetime of Studying for Tim Tollefson at UTMB – iRunFar

A Lifetime of Studying for Tim Tollefson at UTMB – iRunFar

Ever since his first encounter with UTMB in 2015 whereas taking second on the CCC, the 100-kilometer race on the UTMB competition, Tim Tollefson has been fixated with what many think about the best mountain ultramarathon on the planet.

The UTMB is revered by runners worldwide, its punishing 170-kilometer course with 10,000 meters of climbing begins in Chamonix, France, and circumnavigates Mont Blanc, offering a platform for the very best ultrarunners of the world to compete. HOKA-sponsored Tollefson discovered fast success with the difficult loop. After ending third in his first two makes an attempt at UTMB in 2016 and 2017, many began to whisper that he’d be the primary American man to win the race. Tollefson would go on to drop out the following thrice he confirmed up initially line.

Now, six years after beginning his first UTMB in 2016, with a brand new outlook on the race and his motivations, however with the identical tried-and-true HOKA Mafates on his toes that he’s run the final 4 editions of the race in, Tollefson feels able to as soon as once more put collectively a day that he might be pleased with.

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Tim Tollefson on the 2018 UTMB, the place he dropped after injuring his leg in a fall. All photographs courtesy of HOKA until in any other case famous.

UTMB: The Pressures of Success

When Tollefson first went over to Chamonix, France, the hub of the UTMB competition, to race the 2015 CCC, American males had seen little or no success in lengthy European mountain ultras, and no American man had but gained UTMB. It wasn’t essentially the prospect to go to the Alps or to put eyes on Mont Blanc that drew Tollefson to the beginning line of the CCC; it was the prospect to compete in opposition to the very best ultrarunners on the planet. He went to Chamonix with the motivation to show himself as a younger runner and to indicate that American runners might be profitable competing within the Alps. He and fellow American Zach Miller did fairly nicely, the pair turning up first- and second-place CCC finishes that yr.

Tollefson returned to Europe in 2016 for the complete lap round Mont Blanc, ending his first UTMB third behind Ludovic Pommeret and Gediminas Grinius. The next yr, he backed up the efficiency with one other third-place end. Instantly, the American path working neighborhood began buzzing. Was Tollefson going to lastly be the primary American male to win UTMB? Whereas American girls have been seeing common success at profitable the race, the boys continued to battle to succeed in the highest podium spot.

Based mostly out of Mammoth Lakes, California, Tollefson appeared to have solved the puzzle of learn how to prepare for the considerably steeper and extra rugged European programs. Tollefson understood that to succeed on European programs, he needed to harden his physique to have the ability to excel on climbs gaining greater than 1,000 toes per mile, and that included doing a number of powerhiking.

He selected particular routes in Mammoth to imitate the terrain in Europe, including extra steep trails to his coaching than ever earlier than. A collegiate steeplechaser who had certified for the Olympic Trials Marathon in 2012 earlier than turning to path working in 2014, Tollefson appeared to thrive with the brand new kind of coaching.

However with success got here strain. Throughout UTMB in 2018, Tollefson fell onerous on a descent whereas working with eventual winner Xavier Thévenard, solely 50k into the race. The autumn left a big gash on his leg. He carried on for an additional 90k, slowly slipping again within the discipline earlier than calling it a day and looking for extra medical consideration for his leg.

The years 2019 and 2021 introduced two extra UTMB DNFs. Tollefson admits that he shouldn’t have even been on the beginning line for these makes an attempt, however exterior strain made beginning, even realizing that it wasn’t going to be a superb race, appear simpler than backing out.

“I might line up realizing that it wasn’t going to go nicely,” Tollefson remembers, “However I wasn’t sturdy sufficient personally to make the choice and say, I’m not going to race.”

When fascinated about his causes to race to UTMB yr after yr, Tollefson admits that a few of them weren’t probably the most wholesome sort of motivations. However they labored.

“All three of my finest efforts on the market have actually been pushed out of proving individuals unsuitable, simply feeling a chip on my shoulder and that I must show myself,” Tollefson says. “And that had pushed me by these very troublesome moments.”

Tollefson is philosophical about what is required to finish a race like UTMB. “I feel in all endurance sports activities, it’s this straightforward equation between struggling and reward. When the struggling turns into extra highly effective than the potential rewards, you’re going to give up and drop out. But when no matter reward you might be chasing, intrinsic or extrinsic, outweighs the struggling, you’ll be able to proceed and hold transferring.” In each 2019 and 2021, his motivations to race and end simply weren’t sufficient to counteract the challenges.

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Tim Tollefson on the 2017 UTMB after ending in third place.

A Change in Method

After a number of years of disappointing runs at UTMB, Tollefson was prepared to vary his strategy to the race. “This yr, I’m positively returning to the valley with a brand new sense of function, recognizing that my finest days out at UTMB have been after I was not holding myself to an inconceivable customary and simply going out and giving my finest on that day. And I feel I’m lastly again to that place.”

“I actually am extra simply intrigued on getting again and finishing the loop. It has been 5 years since I’ve achieved that. I do know what it takes to have a superb day on the market, and I feel I’m in a spot in my profession the place I’m able to put that collectively once more.”

Tollefson is aware of he’s now not the American man with the very best expectations to do nicely. Jim Walmsley, together with his continued success at seemingly any race that he units his thoughts to, and he’s positively set his thoughts to UTMB, has taken over that mantle. The lowered strain appears to suit with Tollefson’s new perspective on racing and his motivations.

“Previously, my finest moments have been pushed out of anger. I don’t know if I need the remainder of my profession to go that very same route as a result of in these moments, I don’t get pleasure from it. I would get a end result that I needs to be pleased with, and different individuals are pleased with for me, however as a result of I wasn’t actually in a position to get pleasure from it or be current in these moments, it doesn’t exist in my thoughts. I might moderately proceed this path of looking for a more healthy and kinder path for myself.”

Footwear for the Mont Blanc Loop

Whereas Tollefson’s strategy to UTMB has modified, his alternative of sneakers hasn’t. The HOKA Mafate has all the time been his go-to for the notoriously troublesome UTMB course. Tollefson has run his previous 4 UTMB races in HOKA Mafates, relying on the safety and cushion the shoe gives to hold him up and down the 170 kilometers and 10,000 meters of vertical acquire on rocky and technical trails. Varied iterations of the Mafate by the years, together with the brand-new HOKA Mafate Velocity 4, all present the grip, stability, and luxury to maximise the prospect of success on such a rugged race route.

Whereas Tofellson depends on a quiver of HOKA sneakers for his day-to-day coaching, together with the Challenger ATR 6, Clifton 8, and Tecton X, it’s the Mafate that regularly will get referred to as up for lengthy runs and races. Within the Mafate Velocity 4, runners will expertise an up to date higher, conversion to HOKA’s ProFly midsole foam, and the identical trusted Vibram® Megagrip rubber outsole and lug sample.

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The HOKA Mafate Velocity 4.

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The HOKA Mafate Velocity 4.

Buildup to the 2022 UTMB

Tollefson’s buildup to the 2022 UTMB hasn’t been precisely what he envisioned. When issues started to crumble for him in the course of the Western States 100 earlier this summer season, he might have simply tossed within the towel and headed dwelling. However with a brand new mindset to racing, he was in a position to persevere by the difficulties and end.

“Previously, if I had that unraveling, I might be extra more likely to give up. The rewards are now not there. However I acknowledged at States that there have been so many rewards I used to be nonetheless in a position to chase, I simply needed to reframe my definition of success. I used to be in a position to come out of that feeling like I had discovered extra within the ultimate 14 hours of that race than I’ve within the first eight years of my profession.”

Even when the race outcomes didn’t materialize — he completed twenty first among the many males — Tollefson’s appreciation for working hasn’t modified. “I feel I all the time really feel higher after I’m in movement,” he says, a declare that almost all runners can relate to. “I feel I’m in a position to course of inner and exterior issues in life with larger effectivity, and possibly extra responsibly.”

No matter what occurs in the course of the 170 kilometers of UTMB this yr, it appears obvious that Tollefson goes to indicate up ready, each bodily and mentally, to place collectively the very best efficiency that he can on the day. And it’s in all probability honest to imagine that he’ll do his finest to just accept regardless of the day brings him and discover enjoyment from transferring by the mountains and being a part of UTMB.

“I feel I’m embracing that impermanence of the game and of life, it’s one thing that I don’t need to take with no consideration.”

[Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored by HOKA. Thank you to HOKA for its sponsorship of iRunFar, which helps to make iRunFar happen and free for all to enjoy. Learn more about our sponsored articles.]

Tim Tollefson in Chamonix, France, earlier than the 2018 UTMB. Picture: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks



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