If Ludovic Pommeret graces the beginning line of the 2024 UTMB, he’ll achieve this on the twentieth anniversary of his first try on the revered race. And he positioned fifth at the latest, 2023 version.
There usually are not many athletes on this sport or any who can boast the 48-year-old Frenchman’s longevity, and nonetheless compete on the highest degree. We caught up with him to see if we might glean any insights to this, and to listen to a few of the story of his illustrious profession within the mountains.
Pommeret was born in Grenoble, France, the place he lived for 5 years till his mother and father moved to the mountains. The household moved as soon as extra earlier than ultimately settling in Valloire, a ski resort within the Savoie area, the place Pommeret lived from the age of 10 till he returned to Grenoble for college.
It was in Valloire that he had his initiation to mountain sports activities, and he mentioned: “I used to be not climbing, extra snowboarding and snowboarding. I used to be additionally performing some windsurfing on the lakes. However probably not working till I used to be 25 at the least.”
Pommeret’s initiation to working within the mountains was not by means of any formal teaching or coaching philosophy — however began out as a enjoyable problem with household. He shared: “My brothers-in-law — my spouse has two brothers — had been runners they usually had been doing a race in 2000. There was various climbing. They pushed me to take part on this race.”
Pommeret shocked himself and the others together with his pure potential, and cheerfully recounted: “As I used to be not working towards working, they anticipated to beat me, but it surely was not the case!”
Later that very same 12 months, he set his sights on an even bigger problem — a neighborhood 107-kilometer path ultramarathon beginning in Valloire, however he didn’t end, and mentioned, “For the primary one, it was an excessive amount of.”
Quite than beginning with shorter races and build up incrementally, Pommeret was drawn to the problem of simply ending a really lengthy distance. He continued to coach and construct up miles, with the purpose of at some point ending his native extremely, however the race was canceled earlier than he had one other alternative to run it.
“After which I attempted one other race in 2004, it was referred to as UTMB, you understand this one?” he requested wryly. Right here Pommeret suffered one other DNF, having nonetheless not cracked the code on how one can practice for lengthy races, and with little working expertise.
Finally, it referred to as for a change in technique: “Then I began to run some shorter distances to coach, and began to have good outcomes.”
Among the many extremely aggressive shorter races he accomplished had been the 2007 Sierre-Zinal, the place he made the highest 20, and the 2008 Les Templiers, the place he positioned fourth.
Though nonetheless self-coached and coaching in a considerably haphazard method, Pommeret was accumulating expertise and miles-in-legs and continued to go from energy to energy. Additionally in 2009, he cracked the 100k distance in excellent trend, inserting third on the CCC.
He shared, “It was probably not coaching, I favored to go within the mountains for working and I used to be racing quite a bit. I used to be racing virtually each two weeks in summer time, and I used to be additionally doing ski mountaineering within the winter.”
To at the present time, Pommeret divides himself between the 2 disciplines — pursuing path working in the summertime and ski mountaineering within the winter. He attributes this stability partially to his longevity, saying: “I believe [skimo] is a type of cross coaching throughout winter. It’s nonetheless an exercise that requires a variety of effort and it’s good coaching. It provides you extra energy, however there’s much less impression and it’s higher for the joints. It helps to get well a bit throughout winter from small accidents that you simply choose up in the summertime.”
A turning level for Pommeret was when he was chosen to run for France on the 2015 Path World Championships, held in Annecy, France. Resolved to do the very best he might with the chance to characterize his nation, he mentioned: “This was after I began to work with a coach. I wished to have a extra structured preparation for the world championships.”
Pommeret positioned fifth, and working on Workforce France on the world championships grew to become a staple on his calendar for a few years to return, with two extra fifth-place finishes in 2016 and 2018 being the excessive factors.
His improved coaching construction additionally led him to a win on the 2016 UTMB — a race that simply ending had beforehand eluded him. He shared, “I believe I’ve achieved UTMB seven occasions however completed solely 4. The 2016 race is the very best reminiscence. Particularly as a result of I used to be a bit of bit sick at first of the race, and I couldn’t think about that I might win.”
One other occasion that has drawn Pommeret again many times is the Diagonale des Fous on Réunion Island. He took second within the 100 miler in 2009, 2014, and 2019, earlier than tying for the win with Dani Jung in 2021.
In 2023, he was again, however with a special goal. He mentioned, “This 12 months I went there with my spouse. We had been working collectively, and we wished to complete collectively. We tried final 12 months [and didn’t finish] and this 12 months, second try, we completed. It was her first 100-mile end.”
Pommeret talked concerning the distinctive tradition and atmosphere round Diagonale des Fous that retains drawing him again. He mentioned: “Everybody on the island is aware of about this race and everybody goals of at some point finishing it … and to find the island by means of the race, it’s actually particular.”
All through his working profession, and alongside household life, Pommeret has continued to work as a pc science engineer, and at present works for air visitors management in Geneva, Switzerland. After I requested him if he discovered it troublesome to search out the time to coach alongside different duties, he mentioned: “It was prior to now, as a result of I used to be working full time till final 12 months, and in Switzerland that’s 41 hours per week. However for the previous 12 months I’m working 60% of that, in order that’s rather more comfy.”
He continued, “If you find yourself working full time and coaching, it’s onerous to spend time with the household and there are compromises. Now additionally my daughters are older, they’re 19 and 22, so that they want much less of my time.”
At the moment, Pommeret divides his time between his mid-week residence, near Geneva, and the household’s second residence within the mountains close to Valloire. He buildings his coaching round this, and mentioned: “In the course of the week after I’m working, it’s extra coaching on flat paths, and the weekend extra on the mountains.”
Having already raced extensively all through Europe, in 2021 Pommeret was first bitten by the Western States 100 bug — when he traveled to the long-lasting American extremely to tempo French teammate, Audrey Tanguy. The next 12 months, with a Golden Ticket in hand, he returned and positioned sixth in his Western States 100 debut.
Usually at residence within the mountains, the new and quick downhill race was a step outdoors of Pommeret’s consolation zone, and he mentioned: “You must be ready to run 90% of the race. Even in UTMB, you’ll be able to stroll. In Diagonale des Fous, you run even much less, however the Western States 100 is completely different. You must handle additionally the warmth, because it’s often actually heat, however for me essentially the most troublesome half is to run on a regular basis.”
Pommeret then demonstrated his versatility by following up his sixth-place end on the 2022 Western States 100 with a win at that 12 months’s rugged and technical TDS.
In 2023, Pommeret returned to the Western States 100, however was much less glad together with his run that day, inserting twelfth. His season was removed from over, nonetheless, as an invite to tempo eventual winner Aurélien Dunand-Pallaz within the 2023 Hardrock 100 led to him extending his time stateside, alongside together with his spouse and certainly one of their daughters.
He mentioned, “I prolonged my trip, and we took time to go to the western a part of the U.S. We went to Monument Valley [on the Navajo Nation] and the Grand Canyon [in Arizona]. It was very cool.”
For Pommeret, the Hardrock 100 is a bucket checklist race — this was his fifth 12 months coming into the draw — so he relished the chance to expertise the race by means of pacing. He mentioned: “It was good to find the race in one other method. I paced the final half of the race and Aurélien was actually robust … It’s one thing completely different as there are just a few on the beginning line, so it’s actually completely different to UTMB or Diagonale des Fous.”
Pommeret’s summer time of each working and recovering within the U.S. stood him in good stead when it got here to the 2023 UTMB — the place he placed on a grasp class in persistence and consistency, holding tempo all race, whereas the remainder of the sector got here again to satisfy him, ultimately ending fifth.
He recounted: “In the beginning I used to be not feeling that good. The pacing was okay as a result of I used to be within the anticipated timing, however I used to be actually far again within the rating — round fiftieth. That was extra mentally troublesome, however my pacing was what was deliberate. I didn’t count on to achieve fifth place. What I took from this race was that I might hold the pacing constant from the start virtually to the tip. I believe it was essentially the most constant UTMB of my life — essentially the most Courtney [Dauwalter]-style pacing!”
He added that, “I believe the preparation for the Western States 100 helped me for UTMB this 12 months, as a result of there are some flat elements — there are some elements which are actually runnable, the place I might run quick.”
Though his 2024 plans largely hinge on the Hardrock 100 lottery, the 2024 UTMB does maintain some significance for Pommeret, who famous: “Subsequent 12 months it’s my 20-year UTMB anniversary. I began in 2004, so will probably be 20 years. Possibly I’ll go once more, I don’t know. First, I’m ready for the lottery for the Hardrock 100.”
Lastly, after I requested him if there’s a secret to his nice longevity, he candidly responded: “Sorry, no magical components. If I’ve one, I’ll hold it for myself!” I believe we have to have one other off-the-record dialog with him to find the solution to that query.
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