Anna Frost, 2015 Hardrock 100 Champion, Interview
In her second 100-mile race, Anna Frost won the 2015 Hardrock 100 after a fierce battle with Darcy Piceu. In the following interview, Anna talks about how well the early part of her race went, why Handies Peak scares her, when she fell apart during the race, where Darcy passed her, when she decided to go for broke in winning the race, and where she found the strength to do so.
For more on how the race went down, read our 2015 Hardrock 100 results article.
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Anna Frost, 2015 Hardrock 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here after the finish of the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run here in Silverton, Colorado, with women’s champion, Frosty.
Anna Frost: Hi.
iRunFar: Dude. You rock. What happened out there?
iRunFar: Everything happened.
Frost: Everything happened.
iRunFar: Start at the beginning.
Frost: I started running with Darcy [Piceu].
iRunFar: No, you started fifth overall.
Frost: Yeah, but after I had a good gossip with Darcy to catch up. Then, yeah, I was excited about the day.
iRunFar: You told me at the start line, “I’m going to start slow.” Then somebody told me about 10 miles later that you came through in fifth place.
Frost: Yeah, but I was still not running fast. I felt like… I was very comfortable at that point. I felt happy to be going.
iRunFar: The first couple climbs of the race were really familiar to you. You practiced them in training a lot. You just felt really good out there?
Frost: Yeah, I guess they were familiar and we’d done a lot of training, and we couldn’t get up and over them because of all the snow that had been there for so long. Yeah, we camped a lot down in Cunningham with Billy [Simpson] and hung out with you guys down there with campfires and stuff. It’s nice. It’s so cool to get the race started and see your crew down there. Coming down into Cunningham is pretty cool because you can see them for ages. Yeah, it was so nice just to get the day started.
iRunFar: After that, you did a big climb to Green Mountain which in my opinion is one of the best views of the Hardrock course.
Frost: Yeah, it’s stunning.
iRunFar: What was going through your head? It’s early in the morning. There was fresh snow up there. You’re feeling really good. You’re running your dream race. You’re running Hardrock. What’s going through your mind?
Frost: I think at that point, I hadn’t gone over Green from over there, so I was going into the unknown. Roch Horton had said to me before the race, “Don’t worry. Don’t panic.” He knows I like to see every little inch of the course just to make me feel confident, so he knew that was a bit of a confidence barrier for me going into the race that I hadn’t seen the whole course. He’d said, “Don’t worry. It’s magical to see something new.” That’s exactly what it was going up Green. It was like a yellow carpet with all the flowers that had just bloomed with the snow melting. Then heading down to Maggie’s from there and all the way over to Pole Creek and to Sherman, I hadn’t done any of that. It was just absolutely stunning through there. So that was a real magical treat for the first part of the race.
iRunFar: Pole Creek kind of gets a bad rap. It’s way back there. It’s pretty remote. Not a lot of people get to train on it because it’s hard to get to. There were threats of it being super muddy and super wet. What did you think of being back there when you saw it for the first time as part of the race?
Frost: It was stunning. It actually surprised me at how runnable it was. When everyone, I think, thinks of Hardrock, they just think it’s a long day out hiking. It’s actually a lot of running, too. Through that, that was hours of stunning, beautiful, great running. You’re out there in the wilderness. There’s no one there—well, there are probably lots of animals, but I didn’t like to think about that.
iRunFar: Looking at you…
Frost: Exactly. That was a really nice part. I was with [Jason] Koop, [Brandon] Stapanowich and [Karl] Meltzer through there. Yeah, we had a really nice cruise with the guys through there. It was really fun.
iRunFar: You ran some fast splits back there. You were still inside the men’s top 10, the top-10 overall. You must have been feeling good.
Frost: I was feeling great, yeah. I had my food and my water and all my gear under control. I felt like I was totally with it. I had no aches and pains. I just felt like I was really loving it, yeah.
iRunFar: The next stretch is the road stretch from Sherman up to the base of Handies and then the climb of Handies. Handies is a turning point in the race going this direction, but I think you felt well going up it and down it and had good weather?
Frost: Yeah, I think Handies is the place on the whole entire Hardrock course that scares me shitless. Like, I’m just scared that it’s going to blow apart with lightning up there, and I’m going to get blown off the mountain. So, to get up there and over there without that happening was such a breath for me. I could stand on the top and kind of say, “Thank you,” to Mother Nature and say, Okay, I’m here and I haven’t been blown off the top. Now I can continue with the race. Until then, that was all I was thinking about. I wanted to get over Handies before the storm hit. To finally get over there, and I mean, the views from up there are absolutely stunning. It was my first 14er, and that was my “welcome to Hardrock run” that I did three years ago when I actually realized that that was the Hardrock course and said, “That’s the race I want to do.” Since being on the top of Handies, it’s been in my blood to run Hardrock, so it was a nice point in the race to get to.
iRunFar: Awesome. The descent to Ouray and the ascent out of Ouray up towards the base of Virginius is…
iRunFar: Pretty darn tough. Basically you drop nearly a mile and gain nearly a mile. But your splits through there were also still strong. There were no girls gaining on you. You must have…
Frost: Yeah, I just wanted to get down into Ouray. It’s a long, long, long, long way. It just carries on and on and on. I was happy to get down there. Then things started really falling apart coming out on Camp Bird Road.
iRunFar: That’s when you started feeling bad?
Frost: Yeah, mentally I fell apart. I didn’t want to be on that road at all. I just wanted to be on single trail. As soon as I would hit something that was like a single trail, I just felt everything pick up a gain. It’s like 11 miles from Ouray to the top of Virginius climbing nonstop. It’s just a brutally long way up there. It gets dark up there as well, so you know you’re going into the night time. It’s going to be cold. Virginius was just covered in snow. It gets pretty steep up there. You can see the aid station miles above you and you’re like, “Is that a star or is that the aid station?” So you’re already thinking then it’s a long way to go, but what a treat when you get up there. I think I got up there and basically collapsed onto their mattress and nearly passed out. You get served whatever you want up there. It’s incredible. Yes, that’s a very special place to get to as well even though I was feeling really terrible at that point.
iRunFar: You were still feeling terrible when you got to Telluride. You said earlier today just in chatting with you that you don’t really have awareness of what happened in Telluride.
Frost: No, my legs decided to give up, like my quads, coming down into Telluride. I was thinking, Oh, this is not good. This is early for my legs to start blowing out. I got into Telluride, and I don’t really remember what was going on. I remember it being like a circus in there and just saying… I think I said something like, “Wow, this is a circus.” I don’t think I picked up anything that I was going to pick up or drank or ate anything that I thought I would eat. I think I just got overwhelmed by the circus there and left. So maybe that’s why I don’t remember much. Rickey Gates later said to me, “Sorry if that accordion was annoying you, or the disco ball or whatever else they had done there.” I’m like, “Nope, don’t even remember it.”
iRunFar: “Don’t remember that happening.”
Frost: No, not sure I was even there. So, yeah, I think I was getting tired at that point.
iRunFar: Darcy Piceu was gaining on you then. Her splits were very close to you in Telluride. Then she saw you and you saw her not too long after that. Where exactly did that pass happen?
Frost: We were up on the snowy basin just below Oscar’s Pass. I started suffering big time there. I’ve never ever wanted to fall asleep, like tired fall asleep, in a race. Going up that hill I just wanted to sleep. I had my pacer, Erik Skaggs at that point. I’d had Gavin McKenzie from Ouray to Telluride, and he was really patient and kind of just pushed me down that hill. Then Skaggs was really patient in dragging me up the hill and really had to get in my face and say to me, “You can’t sleep here. You’re going to get hypothermic.” It was freezing. I had all my clothes on. I had waterproof trousers, three jackets, Merinos, gloves, hat, and I was just really, really cold. I was still eating gels and baby-food-like compote stuff. Maybe just being cold and not having enough energy maybe just set me off to sleep. I guess it was like 11 p.m. at night, so it was starting to get to my bed time. Yeah, I was really suffering up there. As I was going through that suffer fest, Darcy came whizzing by in little short shorts and just a jacket. I have no idea how you’re doing that. We hugged on the ice. I said to her, “Go get it.” She said, “Good luck.” I said I was going to have a sleep finally when I got to Chapman and figure something out. It was really nice to see her on the ice.
iRunFar: You got to Chapman and by all accounts you pretty much went flat in the grass.
Frost: Yeah, I just wanted to sleep. Skaggs had said to me that I could sleep once I got to Chapman which was five hours after I’d started wanting to sleep. So finally when we got there, I was like, Thank goodness, I can just sleep on this grass. Before I knew it, there was all the crew around and the crew’s friends and friends that I’ve met in Durango and people from Silverton rolling me up in blankets, taking off my wet clothes, putting on my warm clothes, feeding me with soup, keeping me awake, and hands all over me rubbing me and massaging me, caring after me. It was amazing. It was a super support crew, but all I wanted was to sleep. “Leave me alone. I just want to sleep.”
iRunFar: “Stop touching me!”
Frost: Yeah, I think I was in there maybe five or 10 minutes or maybe 10 minutes.
iRunFar: So no actual sleep?
Frost: I couldn’t sleep. They were talking to me too much and filling my bag with gels and energy and moving me around and massaging me. I think in the end I was like, Well, if I’m not going to sleep, I might as well run. I just got up and left again.
iRunFar: What Darcy said was, the next climb, that she was very near to the top of Grant-Swamp Pass and she looked back and saw you there. She said that she… all of a sudden you just changed your pace, like sped up, and she could tell you had seen her. Did you see her and get fire…?
Frost: Yeah, so we got to the end of the basin of Grant-Swamp and there’s just a steep, straight-up scree up to the pass where you look over to Island Lake. Skaggs just said to me, “There she is. Shall we go and chase her?” I said, “Well, I don’t think I can feel any worse, so it doesn’t matter if I try and bonk because I’m not going to go much slower than I already am.” We just said, “Why not?” So we just went at it. They got over the pass maybe 10 minutes ahead of us at that point. We hadn’t necessarily put the hammer down, but we were kind of… I was thinking about it, I guess, at that point. When we got to the pass and looked down over the other side, they were gone. I thought, Well, she must have put the hammer down and she’s out of there. I thought, Well, let’s just chase a little bit and see if we can find them on the zigzags. Finally we spotted them and Skaggs was just like, “You’re just going to have to go.” My legs were already shot. They were just so painful. I had to suck that up and go to another place mentally with pain. We charged down the mountain and just as we got to the turn off to KT, we caught up to them and sort of shimmied past them. I just went for it at that point. I was like, Well, if I’m going to do it, I need to do it now. I know what she’s like. She’s super strong to the finish. Unless I can do something kind of magical right now and just go for it, there’s no way I can pull a gap from her. We charged into KT. I think I shot back about five caffeine gels.
Frost: I think in that last 11 miles I had five caffeine gels and Coke. It was disgusting. It really gave me the buzz I needed. Then at KT I picked up my last pacer which was Ron Brazelton, a friend from Durango as well. All the Durango crew was there as well screaming and shouting because the last time they had seen me, I was on the ground at Chapman. So when I came in flying they were like, “What on earth is happening?” Yeah, I just, from KT, hit it as hard as I could up those hills.
iRunFar: I want to ask you, Hardrock is about as hard as they get for 100 miles. This is a race with 33,000 feet of climb. You took the lead at 87, 88 miles into the race. Where did you go mentally? Where did you find the strength to do that?
Frost: I don’t really know. I think it wasn’t necessarily a decision that I had made, it was that I knew there was so many people wanting it for me, not just there at the race but the Salomon family, all the crew that were there, my mom and dad were there, my family at home and sister, all my friends and family that were on Twitter and looking at iRunFar saying, “Come on! Come on! You can do it!” just wishing me on. For me, the running and especially a race like this is absolutely not solo. It’s not an individual event. You can’t do it. You can, but I can’t do it without the help of all of those people and without the love of all of those people in my mind believing in me and knowing that I can do it. I think I probably drew a lot on that. It certainly wasn’t like, Anna, you can do this. Come on, let’s go. There was nothing like that. It was like, Well, it’s now or never. You’ve got to give this a go. You can’t feel any worse than you already do.
iRunFar: Cheers to that.
Frost: Cheers to that.
iRunFar: Cheers to the Hardrock family and the Hardrock community.
iRunFar: You’re part of that now.
Frost: Yeah, well, I think as soon as you come here and you feel it and you have a passion for that—great wine supplied by iRunFar—yeah, I think when you come and you get involved and not necessarily as a runner, but as an aid station crew or helping at the finish line, you become part of this Hardrock family. Every step you’re taking is like a passionate step through those mountains that all those other people are taking somehow whether it’s pacing or crewing.
iRunFar: Well, you’re now a part of it. Congratulations to you.
Frost: Thank you.
iRunFar: One final question for you, and I know it’s just 30 hours or so after your finish, but by winning this race, you’ve earned yourself a free entry into the 2016 edition. Do you think we’ll see Anna Frost here again?
Frost: Yeah, if you’d asked me that yesterday, I would have said, “Absolutely not.” Today, this morning when I first stood up on my feet, or tried to stand up on my feet, it was, “Absolutely no.” But now after a glass of wine, then that’s a yes.
iRunFar: Congratulations, again.
Frost: Thank you. And to you, too. Well done. I’m very proud of you.
iRunFar: Yay! We’re Hardrockers!