Anna Frost Pre-2011 TNF 50 Mile Championships Interview

Anna Frost, the 2010 TNF 50 Mile Champion, is back to defend her title. In this interview, she talks about her racing from the past year, her injuries, her reasons behind gaining weight, the differences between mountain running and ultras, and the meaning of being part of the Salomon family. For more on the women’s field, check out our preview.

Anna Frost Pre-2011 TNF 50 Mile Championships Transcript

iRunFar:  I’m with Anna Frost, 2010 The North Face 50 mile champion.  That’s the last time we talked to you.  How have you been doing?

Anna Frost:  It’s been up and down.  Really up and down.

iRF:  The last time we chatted you said, “I have no 50 milers on my schedule for next year.”  And here you are two days out from doing it again!

Frost:  I’m not sure what happened there.  Yeah, I swore last year never ever again.  It took me a good six weeks before I could even look at a pair of shoes without feeling sick.  Then it was maybe six months later when I actually went, “Ok, wow, that was hard, that was cool, that was amazing.”  I’m amazed at what I went through.  I was intrigued by physically what it did and mentally what it did and what I learned.  Then there were ideas with the team, with support of the guys and doing Leadville [100] with Ryan [Sandes], and just being amongst other people doing the ultras.  I became more and more involved and more intrigued.  I thought, well, why not go and revisit it and see actually what it was about.

iRF:  So you come from a very strong mountain running background in the prior years.  Having reflected upon the ultra enough to want to do it again now, what are the main differences in your approach to a race (mountain race vs. ultra)?

Frost:  For me it’s all a mental place.  You can do your training and you can do it well and you can do it hard, you can be happy with it; but there is only so much training you can do and that will only get you so far in a race.  This is what I know from doing one ultra.  For me it’s at about 4.5-5 hours–physically I can get there through my training and then from that point on, you go into a mental place and you’re battling with the terrain, with yourself, with people around you, with the competition, and it’s just how you last through that mental barrier.

iRF:  You mention there’s only so much you can do physically.  You ran into that after this race last year.  Tell us about that.

Frost:  It wasn’t until April that everything just went, “I’m not having it.”  I got a stress fracture in my foot and my period stopped–just hormone breakdown.  So I went to a specialist who just put it out there, was honest and brutal, and just said, “You either put on weight, you stop running, you get the stress fracture fixed, and you get your life in balance again or you keep running through this, you keep being injured, you stay unhealthy, you be lonely for the rest of your life, you don’t get your hormones back.  So make the choice.  It’s simple isn’t it.  You want to be living and healthy.  So it’s been a long process working with a nutritionist, working out a good way to … obviously, I had to put on a lot of weight to get my hormone levels back and then slowly take it off and still maintain that balance which has been a really hard project.

iRF:  You’ve been very honest on your blog about the changes in your weight over the last year.  You were ten pounds heavier a month or so ago, so you can healthfully take that off?

Frost:  Yeah.  It was horrible.  I’ve gone back into racing and doing races that I’ve won and that I’ve been 30 minutes quicker over 16k.  And it was horrible, but I was healthy and, ok, maybe I was a little bit overweight, but I was fit.  I was cross training and I was still out there enjoying it which is the main thing in the end.  I’m honest because I want people to learn from my mistakes and not do that.  You know, if anyone ever said that to me, I’d want to take that on board and say, ok, it’s not worth losing that weight.  Or if you are going to lose the weight, then do it carefully, get a nutritionist.  It wasn’t that I was just trying to lose weight.  I was just training so hard.  I really needed a nutritionist to say, “you need to eat a lot of protein after that run or a lot of carbohydrates after that run.”

iRF:  You were telling me about your training in the past month.  You work out five hours per day with different length runs, but you’re out there.  You complement that with cross training.

Frost:  Yeah.  So it’s a lot of training and it takes it out of your body.  It’s been important for me to keep on top of my nutrition.

iRF:  What are the details of your training over the past month?  Are you really focused for this next race?

Frost:  Yeah.  Total focus on this race for the past month.  Yes, I’ve done three 4.5-5 hour runs per week; two 2.5 hour runs per week; two 1 hour runs per week; and then each day I make it up to five hours with cycling or swimming or cross training or weights or pool work or walking just anything to get those hours in.

iRF:  So this year you did a couple mountain races and a couple stage races.  You’ve also lengthened your other races this season.  How has that gone?

Frost:  I’ve loved it.  The stage races have been really fun with Rickey Gates.  We had such a ball, it was really great!  He pushed, well pulled, me through that.  We had a really hard and fast week which was really fun.  And it’s just been a new challenge as well.

iRF:  Having seen you here last year with the Salomon crew and then you being out there for Ryan Sandes run at Leadville, and Transrockies, what does the Salomon team mean to you?  It really seems like an aspect that is really strong.

Frost:  Yeah, you know, they’re my family.  We come and go throughout the year and meet up again and then we go apart and meet up again.  When people say, “Where do you live now?” My answer is that I live wherever they are.  My home is where the Salomon team is because they are there to support.  They’re there with our clothes, with our shoes, with our team and, you know, we’re not doing it because we have to, we’re doing it because we love each other.  We understand each other and everything about our team.  I’m not just doing this race for me.  I’m doing it for everyone and they’re doing it for me.  And we all want to be a part of it together.  It’s beautiful.

iRF:  Come Saturday, whether somebody is on your team or not, it’s race day.  You have the top four women from last year’s race back and some others to boot!  How’s that competition looking?

Frost:  Wow, yeah.  Again, I’m such a novice to this.  I’ve never raced them, I’ve raced Lizzy.  So that’s all I know.  But what I’ve read is just mind-blowing.  Just on the top, Lizzy [Hawker] and Ellie [Greenood] are both absolutely incredible athletes and I think highly of them and totally respectfully of them. I would never underestimate the mental and physical power of them, not to mention all the other girls that are in the stacked field.  I mean, I guess last year was quite nice because I was so naive to everything about it that I just didn’t care.  This year, I’ve been a little like, “I want to kind of know.”  And then I’ll have a look.  Then I’m like, “OH NO!  I don’t want to know, I don’t want to know, turn it off, I don’t want to know!”  I’m just really looking forward to being out there and racing with them.  I’m going to learn a lot about me, about them, about an ultra.  So I’m really looking forward to it.

iRF:  Best of luck out there!

Frost:  Thank you so much!

There are 9 comments

  1. Hthe3rd

    Frost's Training Week

    3 x 4-5hr

    2 x 2.5hr

    2 x 1hr

    Complemented with cross training to get her daily average of workout time up to 5hrs/day.

    Wow!

  2. Sarah Lavender Smith

    Thanks – this was very interesting and I wish Anna the best tomorrow. She's an inspiring athlete. But, this interview left me wanting to go to her blog to know more about what was going on with her physically. It's implied but not clear that her stress fracture was related to her loss of periods and thin weight; did she have the full-blown "female athlete triad" of disordered eating, amenorrhea and osteoporosis? If so, I'm curious what percentage of body fat she had before and after. It's an important topic a lot of female runners struggle with, since 5 to 10 pounds makes such a difference competitively but also can mean the loss of periods and all the health problems that can follow. I wish her the best of luck and am glad she's recovering.

    Thanks, Bryon, for your great coverage at the NFEC!

      1. Ben Nephew

        The important issue this highlights, in addition to the risks of the female athlete triad, is that there are vast individual differences in how an individual responds to an insuffient caloric intake. It is shocking how much some women's bodies can tolerate an incredibly low BMI and still function, to some degree, where others start presenting severe symptoms before anyone would guess that there was an issue. This is something that athletes and their friends and families should be aware of.

  3. AJW

    Bryon,

    That was a great interview, thanks! I am quite impressed with Anna's willingness to speak openly and candidly about her nutrition and health issues. Clearly, she has a great attitude about her running. Looking forward to following along tomorrow!

    AJW

  4. Brett

    The 2010 SJS 50 was my first real remote/rugged ultra. I remember seeing women step off the trail to do their business and thinking how inconvenient that was…especially across a dozen miles of the divide where there are no trees. Female ultra runners are a tough bunch. Reading this just cements that view.

  5. Marcus Warner

    Great interview Bryon, we are big fans of Anna down here in Australasia and there is no tougher athlete when it comes to going hard from the gun, so looking forward to the fireworks this weekend. She won't be hanging back running a tactical race, it will be on like Donkey Kong !

    Cheers

    Marcus

    Ultra168

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