In February 2020, just before the Corona-related lockdown, the “Trailrunning Szene” – the Offroad Running Magazine from Austria – invited me to the trail talk about the UTMB and the #lifeworktrailbalance. Even if the UTMB had to be cancelled this year due to Covid19, all my answers would not be much different from the present point of view. I hope that UTMB 2021 can be held as usual again and that we can all compete together with much more gratitude and emotion.

Trailrunning Szene Interview

Trailrunning Szene: What is your motivation to start again at the UTMB, where there are actually so many races?

Florian Grasel: For me, UTMB is my CV, so to speak, not only because the altitude-profile-mountain-tattoo on my back is under the skin.
2013: The first time, the self-examination whether the legs would carry me 100 miles, and in the finish the marriage proposal to my wife. Luckily Julia said YES!
2015: Heat battle, but simply unbelievable joy in the run itself and again best Austrian’s result.
2017: With many dear friends of the Austrian trail running ultra scene at the start and finally the dream of #sub24h. On the finishline my wife Julia waiting for me, she was pregnant with our twins.
2018: The dream comes true: 9th place and podium of the top 10. I still have goosebumps.
Well, and in 2019 the DNF. I’m just looking forward to 2020 because I’d like to cross the finishline together with my children Anna and Anton and because I have an open bill after 2019.
(Note: after the Covid19 conditional cancellation in 2020, I am now even more looking forward to 2021. Since I will gain 40 years old and it would be more than a birthday present for me to be at the start of the UTMB in Chamonix)

Trailrunning Szene: Is it the distance (170 km) that excites you so much, or the special atmosphere?

Florian Grasel: The last Friday in August at 18:00 p.m. in Chamonix – 2,500 runners are at the starting line and you can literally feel how everyone is going into himself listening to “Conquest of Paradise”. The hard training, the privations, the doubts and the awe of the task ahead and the anticipation that it is finally ready – you can just see it in the eyes of every single runner. This is goosebumps PURE. Yes, the UTMB is commercialized without end and only for the 100 miles you don’t necessarily have to go there – but I have to admit, I love this moment when sooo many runners go together on the journey with the same goal!

Trailrunning Szene: How far will you (want) to lower your best time over the next few years?

Florian Grasel: It doesn’t always have to be higher, faster, further – but I have the feeling in me that I still have potential in terms of time (not placement). If my #lifeworktrailbalance allows, I want to crack the 22 hours. Whether this will be possible this year, my twins, who are coming to kindergarden this year, will tell me that. My company and my body also.

Trailrunning Szene: How long did it take you to digest the disappointment of 2019?

Florian Grasel: Without question – the first days were not easy. I have prepared myself for the goal for a year, endured immense hardships, and then at the end there was a DNF. But after an appropriate period of grief phase I was able to ask myself the right questions and found the right answers. This is what my new talk is about “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”.

Trailrunning Szene: Have you changed your training for this year or are you relying on proven methods to get your full performance?

Florian Grasel: On the one hand, I trust in the tried and tested methods, but there is also a need of some new inputs. Time with #lifeworktrailbalance is short, so I have to make good use of every free workout. But the most important thing for me is that I just like to go out to run.

Trailrunning Szene: Which races are you planning this year? Are these pure preparation runs for you or still highlights?

Florian Grasel: The plan is not yet completely fixed, but in any case there will be one or the other highlight here. GGUT, for example, is always a very special race, which I am always looking forward to. The round around the Grossglockner in the technically difficult high-mountain terrain is already very demanding and not just a “preparation run”. There are now so many brilliant running events in Austria and I would like to do it like Chuck Norris with the push-ups – DO THEM ALL.
(Note: Unfortunately – but absolutely understandable – the majority of the 2020 races were cancelled. But the spirit and hope live on, smaller trail running events are already taking place again!)

Trailrunning Szene: Are you taking your family to Chamonix?

Florian Grasel: I really want it, as already mentioned, it would be a dream for me to cross the finish line together with my children. I also feel very comfortable having my wife by my side. Julia always gives me a lot of strength and motivation.

Trailrunning Szene: You always talk about the #lifeworktrailbalance… Does this always work as well at home as it is presented, or is there still one or the other discussion?

Florian Grasel: It would be a lie if I said that everything is always vain bliss, but I don’t – sometimes I use the hashtag #lifeworktrailunbalance. Unfortunately, you also have to live with compromises from time to time, but I guess you will be able to sing a song about it? Two weeks ago, for example, my wife and my children were very ill, then my immune system collapsed and there was no way, either to work or go running. I was a little restless, not to say depressed.

Trailrunning Szene: What has changed for you since you have children? How would you have dealt with a defeat (excuse the name) as in 2019?

Florian Grasel: Quite a lot, I think in essence, three years ago it would probably have taken much longer to digest failures. My children have taught me to live much more in the here and now. In 2019, I knew at the start when Julia told me, “No matter what happens, your children and I love you” – and she was right! Even in Chamonix, even after the race, when Anna smiled at me, I knew everything was half as bad, the world was still spinning, I could be there for my children, show them the beauty of the world, we are healthy. Children are already changing the view of many things. Running is and will only be running. But family is irreplaceable.

Trailrunning Szene: Otherwise, what do you want from this year and the new decade?

Florian Grasel: Staying healthy, keeping my #lifeworktrailbalance to live on, being mindful. Sporting goals are super nice, but the most important thing is to go out, enjoy nature, to stop, soak up, earth up, take a deep breath. I want to teach my children outdoor love as well as to fight many adventures with them. This year they come to kindergarden and my wife gets back into work. All of this will bring some changes – but that’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to it or as Barney Stinson would say – Challenge accepted!
(Note: Covid19 has also postponed the kindergarden start of our twins. My wife has to work on Thursday and Friday and I’m kind of a full-time daddy on those days. Of course, this has also challenged my #lifeworktrailbalance. But there is still enough time to follow my trail running passion and it is still called UTMB sub22 #challengeaccepted)

Thank you Sigrid Huber, Editor-in-Chief, Trailrunning Szene Magazine