Transvulcania La Palma, the inaugural Skyrunning event of the 2014 Skyrunner® World Series. It was always going to be a stacked field, so stacked that predicting a winner required an element of guesswork, faith, hope and some good old ultra thinking. It was no surprise to see Kilian Jornet duke it out with Luis Alberto Hernando and true to form, as in 2013, Sage Canaday repeated his 3rd place on the podium. However, who could have predicted the rise of Stephan Hugenschmidt?
Stephan should have been on my radar after his 8th place at the 2013 Skyrunning Matterhorn Ultraks, however, he slipped through. In retrospect it was a huge mistake! His Transvulcania 2014 performance has elevated him to a new level and he is now on the ‘one-to-watch’ list. No longer will he slip through the radar…
Stephan’s 2013 results
- March – Trail du Petit Ballon : 3rd
- July – Salomon 4-Trails : 2nd
- July – Swiss Alpine Marathon : 3rd
- August – Matterhorn Ultraks : 8th
- September – Sardona Ultra Trail : 2nd
- October – Ultra Trail del L’Argo Orta : 1st
Post Transvulcania, friend of Ta;lk Ultra and iancorless.com, Hendrik Auf’mkolk interviewed Stephan and kindly shared for all our benefit.
Dancing on a Volcano by ©Hendrik Auf’mkolk
At Transvulcania this past weekend, Stephan Hugenschmidt ran to the top of the trail running world with a sensational 5th place showing. For insiders, this does not come as much of a surprise, however. The 27-year old German who lives and works in Switzerland already made his mark on the scene last year with top results at Swissalpine (3rd), Matterhorn-Ultraks (8th) and Sardona-Ultratrail (1st), among others. Salomon Germany picked him up for the 2014 season and during the team’s spring training camp he impressed his team mates with sparkling form. In the following interview, Stephan tells us how he got into the sport, why Transvulcania is only a snapshot, and what is next.
Stephan, congratulations on your fantastic race at Transvulcania! You definitely won’t be flying under the radar anymore in the future. Has it sunken in yet ?
Well, the response after Transvulcania was huge and I’m really happy for all the congratulations. But things will calm down in a few days. What remains are all the unforgettable impressions of the race and its unique landscape. But the cards will be reshuffled for the next race and then it does not really matter how I did at Transvulcania.
You ran a very constant, clever pace. How did you feel out there on the course? How did you witness the race play out?
As I always do in ultras I tried to listen to my body and find my rhythm. I did not let myself be deterred by the usual early speed of the other runners. And then there were all those spectacular views , the completely different terrain and the crazy spectators – things like that really motivate and help me get through the lows. The fact that I was able to consistently pass some of the international top stars, that surely inspired me as well…
As you said, the terrain and the climate on La Palma are very different from anything here in continental Europe. How did you prepare for the race?
By training in foul mid-european weather (laughs). The one-week training camp in Croatia in April with the Salomon Germany team definitely helped. But not in terms of heat-resistance. While we were there the cold and uncomfortable Bora winds were sweeping across Croatia.
You already turned heads with a string of top results last year. How did you get into the sport? What fascinates you about trailrunning?
I would say I am a very passionate runner and I love being in the mountains. As a child I only spent a few weekends a year in the mountains – mostly with my dad. He passed his passion for running and the mountains on to me. Every now and then I would toe the line for a classic mountain run, but I never really felt comfortable with these all-out mountain sprints. Too short and somehow incomplete… I want to run in the mountains and over the mountains, not just up a mountain. I know trail running does not necessarily have to be in the mountains, but for me the two belong together.
What draws me to the sport is being out there running through the most beautiful landscapes. That’s so much better than running through the street canyons of a big city, isn’t it? Also, I am fascinated by the fact that besides a strong physical condition, you need a good technique.
How does your typical training week look like?
Most of my training happens on the weekends. I live in Uzwil, where it’s hilly, but not enough so for serious mountain running. So on the weekends I make the one-hour drive to the mountains as often as possible, mostly to the St. Gallen Rheintal region. That’s an ideal starting point, because you start very low (ca. 450 m above sea level) and can easily do 1.500 m of vertical at a stretch. My training runs in the mountains are between 30 and 45 km and normally contain more than 2.000 m of vertical gain.
During the week my training is rather unspectactular. I run my usual loops around Uzwil, which are between 10 and 15 k. They don’t contain any considerable climbs though.
Do you have a favorite workout or training ground?
My favorite place to train is in the mountains around the Pizol and the sorrounding Sardona region. The landscape there is simply fantastic!
What are your goals for this season? Where will you be racing next?
My next race will be Zugspitz Ultratrail at the end of June. My first 100k… I am also going to do Swissalpine K78 and Ultratrail del Lago d’Orta. If I remain injury-free, there will probably be more races added to the list, but nothing is fixed yet. Some day, I want to do the Transalpine-Run and, of course, UTMB.
Stephan, thanks for the interview and best of luck to you!
Originally published in German HERE