Interview with Urs Jenzer

30. May 2017

Anyone who thinks of the Eiger Ultra Trail will also inevitably think of Urs Jenzer. The 47-year-old athlete from Frutigen has won this legendary race two times already and also valiantly participates in the international ultra-running scene.

You have been on the Eiger Ultra Trail podium three times already. In your opinion, what factors are key to a successful race in general and a successful performance at the Eiger Ultra Trail in particular?

For me, dividing up the race is key to a successful ultra race. Particularly during the first two hours of the race, this means running as sparingly as possible without nervousness or the other runners inducing you to run too fast at the start. You’ve usually found your rhythm by then so you’re unlikely to run the risk of over-pacing yourself.

For the Eiger Ultra in particular, one key point is the descent from Faulhorn to Burglauenen halfway through the race. On this section of the route, there are around 2000 metres difference in altitude to contend with so you need to spare your thigh muscles as well as possible in order to tackle the next ascent towards Männlichen, which has an altitude difference of almost 2000 metres, with reasonably "fresh" legs.

What does your training and day-to-day work look like? Can you give us an overview as to how much you work, how many kilometres you run, how often you do strength training, how you combine both with each other, and how much time is ultimately left for your recovery?

Ninety per cent of my working life is spent at the Raiffeisenbank in Frutigen, where I work as a caretaker. I organise my training according to my mood and don’t have a fixed training plan. For me, the most important thing is the fun and joy of movement. I usually do my training on the trails around Frutigen, my place of residence.

I do the long units of between 2-4 hours at the weekend and during the week I usually undertake shorter training units of 45-90 minutes. I cover 100 to 120 kilometres a week, peppered with several metres difference in altitude, both uphill and downhill. For at least one day a week I don’t do any training. Due to my not quite so young age and to protect my body frame, I am also doing more alternative training. I spend winter cross-country skiing or ski touring and summer sees me on the racing bike or mountain bike. What’s more, after sustaining a gluteal muscle injury last year, I do yoga once a week as well as core stabilisation and Blackroll training.

As with most amateur athletes, regeneration is sometimes a balancing act. However, I consciously try to set aside a few weeks for relaxation and regeneration to ensure my recovery is not neglected.

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?

My tip is: go about the whole thing with fun and increase the distances step by step. At first run a trail marathon that encompasses several metres difference in altitude, both uphill and downhill. The next stage should involve a 60-70 km trail run and only then should you run 100 km and more. This is the only way in which the body and the mind, in particular, can get used to the strain and there is a much bigger chance of finishing with a smile.

Eating and drinking plays an increasingly important role in the longer races. Can you tell us what you eat and drink during your ultra races?

I normally eat gels, bars, Biberli (honey and marzipan biscuits), and crisps as a salt substitute. Every 3 hours I eat an Ultrapro protein bar, which was specifically developed for such a long race. I also drink water and isotonic drinks. In the second half of the race, I drink cola instead of the isotonic drinks. I already start eating gels after the first half hour and thus try to prevent an "energy dip”.

What key training unit do you do in preparation for major races?

I don’t actually have a key training unit. For me, what’s most important is the 10 days of tapering before a major race to ensure I am completely recovered and full of energy at the starting line.

Foto: ZVG