Interview with Kathrin Goetz

13. August 2019

The 40-year-old athlete from Solothurn wins the Eiger Ultra Trail for the second time in a row. The mother of three and participant in this year's Trail World Championships in Portugal needed around 14 hours for the 101 kilometres and altitude difference of 6700 metres. 

How did you find «your» day at the foot of the Eiger north face? Can you give us an insight into your race and how you were feeling?

I didn’t sleep for a second during the short night before the start because I was more nervous than ever. This was not least due to the fact that, as the winner of last year's event, I was touted by many as the favourite and Swiss Television wanted to accompany me with a camera team. I tried to block all this out and just concentrate on my race.

After a somewhat sticky start it got better and better until I was jerked out of my flow at the 40 kilometre mark: I unfortunately fell on my knee and in one fell swoop the race seemed to be over. I tried to keep running and ignore the pain and focus my thoughts on the things that were going well. Luckily, I was able to run uphill well. But the long downhill trails were torture and I felt really sick from the pain. I have rarely been so happy to arrive at the finishing line.

At the finish I was happy and disappointed at the same time. On the one hand, I was able to defend my title from the previous year, on the other, I didn’t achieve my personal goal of finishing the competition in about 13 h 30 min. The Eiger Ultra Trail has once again shown that you can’t plan for everything in an ultra trail and a lot of things can happen. Viewed in this light, I am glad that under these circumstances, my performance still let to victory.

 

The fight against the distance and altitude difference was thus coupled with one against pain, which you mentally overcame. What runs through your head during a race?

I always divide a race into individual sections and try to deal with these as efficiently as possible. At the same time, I keep checking how my body and my energy level are doing. I always try to detect possible signals of a reduced performance capability as early as possible so I can respond and top up my energy. I also try to focus my thoughts on the things that are going well in that moment.

Given that I have already run several Ultra Trails, I know that there are always lows. However, most of the time it “only” requires a bit of patience and a top up of energy to overcome them.

In your eyes, what are the three most important factors that lead to success?

Attitude: on the one hand, I think it is important to consistently pursue a goal and also organise your training accordingly. On the other hand, this requires a certain relaxed attitude and flexibility to ensure you are better able to deal with unpredictable events. Furthermore, I feel it is important that you don’t waste energy on negative thoughts and feelings about the things you cannot change.

Environment: I am very grateful that my kids understand how important the sport is to me. They know that I am there for them. But they also know that I need my free time (= training). I also have a partner who is very understanding and highly supportive. I really appreciate this!

Trainer: behind the entire training plan is a trainer who is well acquainted with my situation and perfectly adapts my training and recovery accordingly.

More and more runners are toying with the idea of running an ultra. What are your three most important tips to make it work out for them?

  1. A lot of training and good preparation. This does not necessarily mean that the training always needs to last for 5-6 hours or more. Those who have somewhat less training (and recovery) time available can also achieve a great deal with shorter - but possibly more intensive - units.
  2. Make sure you are well informed about the target Ultra Trail. What is the terrain like? Are there many rocky passages, very steep ascents and descents? Can you actually “run” the route? Does part of the race run through the night? All this has an influence on your preparation.
  3. Food and drink: During training, test what you like and can tolerate in terms of food and drink. If you have a product that sits well in your stomach, but you don’t like the taste, this will impair your food intake, which can result in a huge drop in performance.

Do you have a secret tip you would be willing to share with us?

I try to eat as balanced a diet as possible and abstain from nothing. Thanks to my studies (BSc Nutrition and Dietetics), I know which deficiencies can arise from very unbalanced diets and a lot of abstinence. The following therefore applies: a little bit of everything but not too much of anything.