After taking second at Transgrancanaria last year, Didrik Hermansen only wanted to move up one spot this year. And he did just that, charging his way up through the race to win in front of last year’s champ, Gediminus Grinius. In the following interview, Didrik talks about how exactly his race played out, what his athletic history is, and where else you’ll see him race this year.
For more on what happened at the race, check out our 2016 Transgrancanaria results article.
Didrik Hermansen, 2016 Transgrancanaria Champ, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Didrik Hermansen after his win at the 2016 Transgrancanaria. Congratulations, Didrik!
Didrik Hermansen: Thank you.
iRunFar: You ran a wonderfully smart race yesterday. Did it feel like that during the race?
Hermansen: Actually, yes. I remember when I saw you at Tejeda, and you were telling me, “Didrik, you’re looking smart.” I was thinking, Yeah, I don’t know if I look smart, but I think I ran smart. I started off quite easier than I normally do, perhaps not slow, but at the start everyone else is running so fast. Last year I was 19th at the top at Tamadaba. This year, I was two minutes faster and 13th. I was looking for some good runners to catch up with during the night. I saw Jonas Buud…
iRunFar: He’s a good runner.
Hermansen: Yes, and Sondre Amdahl who knows the trails on this island better than anybody else or perhaps Yeray Duran. So we were a pack of five guys who ran together for the first few hours.
iRunFar: It felt controlled?
Hermansen: Yes, we arrived at Artenara eight minutes before my time last year, and it felt okay. It didn’t feel like I was pushing too hard. Jonas was pushing, and I tried to keep up with him. The first part of was okay.
iRunFar: So you’re at Artenara, and do you know how far ahead the leaders are?
Hermansen: Yeah, I heard it was eight minutes.
iRunFar: Were you worried then, or were you just like, These people are going out too fast.
Hermansen: Ahhh, I don’t think eight minutes was too much, because it’s a lot of uphill in the first part and I don’t think that’s my biggest strength. Eight minutes was okay. Then further to Teror, I was still eight minutes behind. Yeah, still felt okay, and I was telling myself before the race to hold back until Teror, so I was holding back and still not more than eight minutes, so I was happy at that point.
iRunFar: Through that first half of the race, you were in the same position from maybe in the middle teens to tenth place still hanging around Jonas.
Hermansen: Yes, we ran together. That was nice, those hours. Not expected to run alone because Jonas left me. In a part that it was quite easy and quite runnable, so I hadn’t expected Jonas didn’t follow.
iRunFar: You said after Teror, your plan was to take it easy until then. Did you start attacking a little?
Hermansen: A little more, yeah. I caught up with one guy on the way up to Cruz de Tejeda, so moved up to fifth place. I saw another headlamp down to Tejeda, that was Capell, right after I saw you at Tejeda. Then another headlamp up to Roque Nublo.
iRunFar: Probably Diego Pazos?
Hermansen: Yeah, but it took me quite a long time to catch up with him, not until after Roque Nulbo actually. You know that little in and out section at Roque Nublo, it’s a nice place to spot other runners. When I was going in, Gediminas [Grinius] was coming out. That was the first time I saw Gediminas since the start. I was looking at my watch and it was four minutes, okay.
iRunFar: You also get to see them, not just get a time.
Hermansen: Yeah, that was nice.
iRunFar: How did he look?
Hermansen: He always looks strong. It’s hard to tell. I think he was looking strong at that time. Then I passed the guy from Switzerland, Diego, on my way to Garañon. At Garañon I stopped to eat something which I always have a problem to do, and I started to climb the short, steep climb up to Pico. Then suddenly a guy was behind me, and it was Gediminas.
iRunFar: Where did you pass him?
Hermansen: I knew he stopped a little bit longer than me at Garañon to eat. So he passed me, and I let him go.
iRunFar: Oh, he passed you?
Hermansen: I tried to eat some gels, and I started to throw up. So I decided to take it easy up to Pico de las Nievas. At the top, he had one minute, a little more than one minute ahead of me. It was eleven or twelve minutes to the French guy at the first position. So, after I was throwing up, I didn’t dare to eat anymore. So I didn’t eat anything from…
iRunFar: For the last third of the race?
Hermansen: No, just sports drink.
iRunFar: Wow, so when did you catch back up to Gediminas?
Hermansen: Soon after the highest point. Then I pushed. That’s my favorite part, the downhill section where I can run easily. At Cruz Grande(??), Sondre, who had unfortunately pulled out of the race earlier, told me I had taken five minutes to Aurélien Collet.
iRunFar: That must have felt good.
Hermansen: Yeah, and another two minutes all the way down to Tunte. So at Tunte, I was three minutes up to the first guy and two minutes back to Gediminas.
iRunFar: So at that point are you thinking more about… you now just made up seven minutes on Aurélien very quickly. Gediminas is only two minutes back. Who are you thinking about more, Aurélien or Gediminas?
Hermansen: Actually, Aurélien because I wasn’t sure of him if he was just taking it easy at that part. Why did Gediminas let me go if he had… I thought that… but I knew that Gediminas is Gediminas and he never gives up. I was looking back in the climb after Tunte, and suddenly, there he was again. Why don’t you give up?! He passed me. I let him go because I wanted to have fresh legs.
iRunFar: He passed you again?
Hermansen: He passed me again, so back at third position. He only had 10-15 seconds on me at the top. Again, I started to run fast again. Probably about a half kilometer after the top I passed Gediminas. Then I was chasing the leader. I was chasing and running and looking and couldn’t see him, but finally I saw Aurélien perhaps 2k before Ayagaures, and then I passed him quite easily, I think. When I came to Ayagaures, I decided to take a really short and fast stop, so I just grabbed a bottle of sports drink. I couldn’t eat the gel anyway, so I didn’t need to lose any time to take on those things. Then when I was going up from the aid station, Gediminas moved up to second place and he was coming in. Then another steep…
iRunFar: Then there’s another three kilometers that you kind of don’t want to see because you think that last bit is downhill, but no.
Hermansen: It’s not. It’s not. It’s up, up, up. I didn’t want Gediminas again to catch me, so I speeded up a little bit. It turns like this, so I could see Gediminas in back.
iRunFar: And he sees you.
Hermansen: Yes. Luckily for me, it was the last time we saw each other.
iRunFar: How was the new descent to the finish? Was it very rocky?
Hermansen: Yeah, it’s in a river, so the stones are moving and they are a size that is not natural to run. They’re not big and they’re not small. It’s quite difficult, I think, and it’s hot.
iRunFar: Do you like the new finish better than the old?
Hermansen: Yeah, actually, I do.
iRunFar: So you came in and finished in 13:41 which is incredible. That’s so much faster than last year. Do you think you ran that much faster, or do you think the last part of the course is so much faster? How do you attribute such an improvement in time for not just your race but for the front of the field?
Hermansen: At Pico, I was 15 minutes in front of last year’s time. That part of the race is the same. I think the last part of the race this year I did better than last year. I think I ran faster, but perhaps not 49 minutes faster, perhaps 25-30 minutes faster.
iRunFar: That’s a lot faster. Do you think it was a little cooler and there were some clouds, maybe, as you were coming in, and not so hot?
Hermansen: Not so hot. I thought the trails would have been more muddy than it actually was. Yeah, I don’t think it’s… it didn’t get any slower because of that.
iRunFar: Do you think it was your best ultramarathon so far? Pretty proud of that one?
Hermansen: Absolutely. Absolutely.
iRunFar: You only wanted to move up one spot, and you did.
iRunFar: Going back as far as we want to, what’s your history with sports and particularly with endurance sports?
Hermansen: I’ve always done sports—athletics, football, handball. Handball was my main sports thing during many years at the highest level in Norway.
iRunFar: Is it professional?
Hermansen: No, not professional.
iRunFar: High club?
Hermansen: Yeah. Some cross-country skiing and several things. I think running is less easily for me. I ran my first marathon eleven years ago, and then I didn’t run for a couple years. Then I hooked up with another friend and we ran another marathon in 2007. Then a couple of years less and in 2009, 2010, I started to run my first ultramarathons.
iRunFar: What brought you to the trails?
Hermansen: I think it’s easier to train on the trails. I live close to the forest. In Oslo, Norway, where I live, it’s really, really nice trails. I think it’s difficult to find trails which are more technical. It’s not steep, but the trails are very technical with roots and very rocky. I think when I run in a race and I hear that it’s technical, I think, Yeah, it’s not going to be a problem.
iRunFar: So you like that? It’s interesting because I think of you being quite fast, but you like the tougher the better?
Hermansen: Yeah, I love it.
iRunFar: So that last part of the riverbed was a challenge, but also you knew that you were strong at that.
Hermansen: Yeah, I knew that Jonas Buud was probably the only guy in the field who could catch up with me if I was leading 10k before the finish.
iRunFar: Having seen him earlier in the race, did you pretty much know that that wasn’t going to be an issue?
Hermansen: No, I didn’t know where Jonas was, actually. I was looking behind me for Gediminas, and I was also looking for Jonas who was perhaps smashing in at 3:30 minutes per kilometer.
iRunFar: You didn’t know?
Hermansen: No, you never know. I wasn’t sure if I was going to win until 3-4k before the finish line.
iRunFar: Was that your first time beating Jonas?
Hermansen: Yes. YEEESSSSSS! (fist pumps) It was nice.
iRunFar: What other races are you planning to do this year?
Hermansen: Actually, this is not my main goal this season. I have two main goals. Next up is Western States, and then I have UTMB.
iRunFar: Western States folks, watch out!
Hermansen: Looking forward to it.
iRunFar: And UTMB?
iRunFar: So, no UltraVasan this year?
Hermansen: No, I love that race, but I’m aiming for UTMB this year.
iRunFar: Get ready for those mountains?
Hermansen: Yeah, I’m ready hopefully.
iRunFar: Looking forward to seeing you at Western States. Good luck with your training. Congratulations.
Hermansen: Thanks. Thank you.