The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc is a name that holds great reverence in the trail running community. It is a monster 170km route that takes in over 10 000m of elevation gain in highly exposed alpine conditions. To qualify and prepare for UTMB there exists a World Series of Ultra Trails and last weekend South African ultra-distance trail runner Matt Healy took to the start line of the Mozart 100 by UTMB to test himself against the European terrain and competition!
We had a few questions for Matt after he ran his way to a strong finish in the top 10 with a time of 10:55:20 over the 105km route (5000m elevation gain), 1:19:11 off the winning time.
WA: So Matt, a top 10 finish at the Mozart 100 Ultra; an event by UTMB and a massive course to race. Are you stoked with your performance and how did it match up to your own expectations of yourself going in?
Matt: Yes I’m very happy with the result especially considering it is my first race out here in Europe. It was pretty hard to have expectations as there were a lot of unknowns going into this race for me, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t aiming for a top 10 finish.
WA: You mentioned that the pace was fast out there and the Europeans were descending very quickly! What kept you in the game towards the end of the race?
Matt: My strategy going into the race was to be patient in the first half with the plan to up the pace after the second big climb, so mentally I was prepared to have to fight back in the latter parts of the race. I also really focused on getting down a lot of nutrition by increasing my carb to water ratio, making sure this kept my energy levels consistent throughout the day. By the time I got to St Gilgen aid (around 67km) I was prepared to dig deep and grind my way back – just making sure I focused on really being present and ticking off one position at a time.
WA: Every race teaches you something about yourself. What did you learn this time ’round out in the Austrian mountains?
Matt: I’ve learnt a lot from the experience as a whole, but in terms of the Austrian mountains specifically, I’ve learnt that I’m pretty slow with the long descents which we don’t really get back home! This will definitely be something my coach and I will focus on for next training block. It was good to see that my climbing was strong, it is something I’ve put a lot of focus on recently and it certainly paid off. It was challenging to stay present when I was sitting around 16th position with 45 kilometres to go, and not get caught overthinking if I could make up time or not, but I managed to master my mind and bring myself back to the moment. At the end of the day you’re the only one who can write the narrative of your race from that position so I focused on my pace, doing what a knew I need to do, and it paid off. In overcoming that I’d say that I learned what it really means to stay present during an Ultra.
WA: How does Mozart 100 fit into your plan for the year? Are you building towards a particular goal or will this be one of the pinnacle events of your season?
Matt: Mozart 100 was the first big event on my calendar this year, but I’m am hoping to get out to Europe again a little later this year, as I’m trying to collect ‘running stones’ on the UTMB World Series (used increase your chance of gaining an entry to the UTMB World Series Finals), and then I’m ending off my season with a good crack at Ultra Trail Cape Town at the end of November.
WA: That was a massive effort that you no doubt need to recover from! How long is your recovery period after an event like this and what does that look like for you?
Matt: I’ll be taking the next 3 weeks pretty easy – not really following any specific plan. Just feeling myself out and making sure I really maximize my down time. I’ll go visit my physio and chiro when I get back to South Africa, and then I’ll try get back into the gym with Mike Watson as soon as possible to work on some mobility.
Other than recovery I will be catching up with mates, and I definitely owe my girlfriend a couple date nights haha!
To keep up with Matt Healy’s racing and training you can check out his Instagram here