Emma Roca has found herself on ultrarunning podiums all around Europe, but she’d never been to the island of La Palma until she arrived for the 2014 Transvulcania Ultramarathon today. In the following interview, Emma talks about what she’s been up to since taking third at last year’s TNF UTMB (post-race interview), how she’ll approach the race and the competition, as well as what her ultrarunning-related thesis is all about.
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Emma Roca Pre-2014 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Emma Roca before the 2014 Transvulcania. How are you doing, Emma?
Emma Roca: Good. Just arriving.
iRunFar: Here it is 7:30 on Friday night. That was not the plan was it?
Roca: No, I had planned to arrive yesterday, but the flight in Tenerife was not good and there was a lot of fog and problems. So I spent one night there. No problem.
iRunFar: No problem. This is your first time on La Palma. Do you know what to expect?
Roca: It’s my first time. I understand it’s a great race, well organized, great tracks and places and people, and also enjoying the competition.
iRunFar: There is a great field here assembled here on the women’s side. Is there anyone in particular you’re looking forward to racing?
Roca: It’s always proud to be racing with Anna Frost and with Emelie [Forsberg]. For me it’s an honor. And also fighting with Maud Gobert or Uxue Fraile or other that we can be bidding for the first places.
iRunFar: Does it almost feel like a family coming back together?
Roca: Yes. Yes. Núria [Picas] cannot be here, but we are all there, and I am wanting to enjoy the race and to feel the island because I think it will be hard.
iRunFar: Yes. From what I’ve heard of the race, it’s kind of hard which benefits you because you seem to do better the harder the race.
Roca: I hope so, yes. I will start really calm just controlling, a little fast in the beginning to avoid the mess in the little, tiny track. Drink a lot, be aware of myself and my body and everything and just feeling better, and better, and better and going faster, and faster, and faster and I hope after Roque des los Muchachos, run fast downhill, and just a little energy for the last 6k’s.
iRunFar: That’s a very long downhill—7,000 feet, more than 2,000 meters. Do you enjoy that?
Roca: It will be hard for our legs, but I enjoy that. I enjoy the downhills with the tracks and if it’s a little technical, the shoes for me are perfect. I hope I will have legs and my hydration will be okay to push hard at the end. I hope.
iRunFar: How has your training gone this winter? Last time we chatted you had just had a very strong finish at UTMB. Was that your last race of the season?
Roca: I think I did a good plan. My trainer had me do some ‘short’ 42 to 50k races. I did the Cruce de los Andes, a stage race as well. Last 15 days, I did the Ultra Trail Barcelona which was 100k. For me it was an experiment—how I feel after 15 days from these ultra races. I’m also doing some biochemical tests for my classes. I will look for my blood, my physical hydration, muscle strength, my heart, every physiological part of me and see how I can recuperate and how my performance can be.
iRunFar: So you’re experimenting on yourself this weekend.
Roca: Yes, I took nine more with me, nine more volunteers. I’m experimenting because my mom and my dad said, “It’s not good in one month, two ultramarathons and one marathon. Emma, what are you doing? You’re going mad.” I said, “No, it’s an experiment.” So that’s my excuse for doing three races in one month—really good ones. No, I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying and, “Let’s see if my body perhaps lasts a year.” I don’t know.
iRunFar: What is your thesis?
Roca: My thesis is that you need more than one month to recuperate. The muscles can be recuperated but not the heart, neither the immunoglobulins nor the immune system molecules. So we are in the line and it’s easy to fall and to get tired and to get sick. So we are in a line very, very thin.
iRunFar: We’re on a thin line. So there are nine who did the Ultra Trail Barcelona that are here?
iRunFar: I hope you prove yourself wrong in that you’re actually able to recover quickly enough to have a top race.
Roca: Mentally I have recuperated because I’m very motivated winning the last ultramarathon and knowing that I was fast. I did 6:15/k in a 100k. So for me it was fast, but my feeling was that I was comfortable. So I hope tomorrow I will have this feeling.
iRunFar: So while some people are just coming off ski season or maybe they didn’t race as much last year, you’re on top of your game. You’ve had good training and you’ve had some sharpening. You’ve actually pushed yourself, and you know what you’re capable of now. That will make you more dangerous as a competitor, yes?
Roca: I think so, yes. I’m in good shape. I don’t know if it’s enough to be up front. We’ll see tomorrow. For me, I’m feeling good. This is a good point and also in September it has to be another good one for the Transalpine. They’re my two tops. In between Transvulcania and Zegama it’s a good point and also in September. Only two times per year, I cannot be better any other.
iRunFar: So your experiment is Ultra Trail Barcelona, Transvulcania, and then Zegama is the marathon?
Roca: In one month—three in one month and a half—three big races.
iRunFar: Well, good luck this weekend, and I look forward to seeing the experiment furthered here and at Zegama.
Roca: Let’s see if my body can.