If Ludovic Pommeret graces the beginning line of the 2024 UTMB, he’ll accomplish that on the twentieth anniversary of his first try on the revered race. And he positioned fifth at the latest, 2023 version.
There should 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 may 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 finally 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 doing a little windsurfing on the lakes. However not likely working till I used to be 25 at the very least.”
Pommeret’s initiation to working within the mountains was not by way 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 — have been runners they usually have been doing a race in 2000. There was numerous climbing. They pushed me to take part on this race.”
Pommeret stunned himself and the others along with his pure capability, and cheerfully recounted: “As I used to be not training working, they anticipated to beat me, but it surely was not the case!”
Later that very same 12 months, he set his sights on a much 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 aim of in the future 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, this one?” he requested wryly. Right here Pommeret suffered one other DNF, having nonetheless not cracked the code on prepare for lengthy races, and with little working expertise.
Ultimately, 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 have 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 very good vogue, inserting third on the CCC.
He shared, “It was not likely coaching, I appreciated to go within the mountains for working and I used to be racing rather a lot. I used to be racing nearly 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 partly to his longevity, saying: “I feel [skimo] is a sort of cross coaching throughout winter. It’s nonetheless an exercise that requires plenty of effort and it’s good coaching. It offers you extra energy, however there’s much less impression and it’s higher for the joints. It helps to recuperate a bit throughout winter from small accidents that you simply decide 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 one of the best he may with the chance to symbolize 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 Group 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 feel I’ve accomplished UTMB seven instances however completed solely 4. The 2016 race is one of the best reminiscence. Particularly as a result of I used to be somewhat bit sick to start with of the race, and I couldn’t think about that I may win.”
One other occasion that has drawn Pommeret again repeatedly 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 have 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 in regards to 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 desires of in the future finishing it … and to find the island by way 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 presently works for air visitors management in Geneva, Switzerland. After I requested him if he discovered it tough 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 way more snug.”
He continued, “When you’re working full time and coaching, it’s exhausting 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 constructions 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 enduring 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 recent and quick downhill race was a step outdoors of Pommeret’s consolation zone, and he mentioned: “It’s important to be ready to run 90% of the race. Even in UTMB, you may stroll. In Diagonale des Fous, you run even much less, however the Western States 100 is totally different. It’s important to handle additionally the warmth, because it’s often actually heat, however for me essentially the most tough 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 along with his run that day, inserting twelfth. His season was removed from over, nevertheless, as an invite to tempo eventual winner Aurélien Dunand-Pallaz within the 2023 Hardrock 100 led to him extending his time stateside, alongside along with his spouse and one in all 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 record race — this was his fifth 12 months getting into the draw — so he relished the chance to expertise the race by way 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 sturdy … It’s one thing totally different as there are just a few on the beginning line, so it’s actually totally 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 endurance and consistency, holding tempo all race, whereas the remainder of the sphere got here again to fulfill him, finally ending fifth.
He recounted: “At first 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 tough, however my pacing was what was deliberate. I didn’t anticipate to succeed in fifth place. What I took from this race was that I may maintain the pacing constant from the start nearly to the top. I feel it was essentially the most constant UTMB of my life — essentially the most Courtney [Dauwalter]-style pacing!”
He added that, “I feel the preparation for the Western States 100 helped me for UTMB this 12 months, as a result of there are some flat components — there are some components which are actually runnable, the place I may 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 it will likely 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 maintain it for myself!” I feel we have to have one other off-the-record dialog with him to find the answer to that query.
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