Anna Frost returns to this year’s Hardrock 100 as the defending champ. In the following interview, Anna talks about why she’s back at Hardrock, why she tends to cram her training in for specific races, how she tapers, why she’ll stick with the same game plan as last year, and how she’ll feel if she finishes far off her goals.
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Anna Frost Pre-2016 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Anna Frost before the 2016 Hardrock 100. How are you, Anna?
Anna Frost: Good, thanks. How are you?
iRunFar: I’m doing alright. We’re up here in Silverton before the race. You’re back. You won last year. What brings you back this year?
Frost: Well, I think it’s just the… it’s more than just a race. This is the mountains. This is the people here. It’s a family. Like I said last year, when you learn about Hardrock, it doesn’t just go into your mind. It goes into your blood and your bones and everything. It’s a way of life. When you come here at this time of year and you get ready to train, you’re not the only person here with this way of life. There are lots of other people who come and camp in the mountains and live in the mountains and make it part of their daily routine. For me, it’s hard to move away from something that’s so much ingrained into your way of life.
iRunFar: You came over to the San Juans a little later than last year, but you’ve still been here for quite awhile. How long have you been up now?
Frost: I guess it’s a month now, a month. Plenty of time to acclimatize. Plenty of time to see the course. There’s nowhere near as much snow as last year, so we’ve been able to do some really great loops on and off the course to explore a little bit more. It feels good to be back here. I feel acclimatized, so that’s a huge part of it.
iRunFar: Last year you were maybe a little stronger shape earlier on because you’ve raced Transvulcania and Madeira and they went okay for you, but they weren’t quite up to some of your standards. You’ve been here for a month training. How do you feel like your fitness is?
Frost: It’s good. I’m definitely training and racing differently this year and with a different focus and with more pleasure and enjoyment. It’s definitely been harder mentally to get the training in this year, but I’m definitely still happy with what I’ve been able to get in. I’ve had some really long days and some consistently long days. It’s nothing… I don’t think there’s anything really magical about it. It’s pulling it together on the day. I think in terms of fitness, I’m fit enough. I respect this race. I respect these mountains. It still scares the heck out of me. You just have to kind of go with it with a lot of respect and hope that the mountains give you that back.
iRunFar: One thing I’ve seen you be able to do for quite some years is no matter the distance or the race, you’re good at cramming for a race. You’ve done that this past couple weeks. How any kilometers have you run in the last few days?
Frost: No idea. I think it’s a lot. I think probably I’ve been averaging between 100-120 miles per week for the last four weeks. Before that I was in Madeira, so I had a week off. Before that I was walking around Rome. Before that I was walking around Venice. Yeah, I definitely do tend to cram. But it’s been maybe four or five years that I’ve done that where I’ve known that I can take six weeks and really push my body to the limit. At the end of that six weeks, I’m tired and ready for a taper, and it puts me in a really good place. It takes away a lot of pressure and stress for a 12-week build up or even longer. Maybe I’m not very disciplined when it comes to that, or I’m too impatient, or I’m not focused enough to be like, “Okay, I’m going to spend the next four months focusing on one thing.” For me to have a six week project has always been easier.
iRunFar: It seems like you’ve always been able to get in that really cram period and then recover. You do give yourself ten or so days…?
Frost: Usually before a 100, it’s 10-20 days. Before a 50 miler, it’s six or seven days. For me, it seems to be enough. I really feel like my body wants to keep moving. I’ve never really taken rest days even when I was training properly. I think, you know, just to keep moving, and in those weeks, definitely to take recovery but still do some intensities or steep ups and downs just to keep the legs moving, it seems to work.
iRunFar: Will you approach anything differently this year?
Frost: I don’t think so. I’ll just stick to it. This year I’ve just done the long miles again. I’ve probably stayed at altitude just as much. I’ve done about the same miles, maybe more actual miles this year, because we’ve been able to do loops without the snow. I’m a pretty simple, basic person. I can eat the same salad every single day, and it seems to work.
iRunFar: I’ve witnessed that. Nothing you’d even tweak in the race? Pretty similar?
Frost: This year, I’m definitely going to start eating caffeine earlier because I probably left it a little late last year and I needed to sleep. Whether I was really cold and maybe a bit hypothermic or very hungry, I’m not sure.
iRunFar: That was mostly Wasatch Basin and Oscar’s Pass with 20 miles to go?
Frost: Yeah, maybe midnight when it was really cold and we were up in the snow up to my knees. Maybe I needed more clothes as well. I think this year as we had off into the night, I’ll definitely take a puffy jacket and some more caffeine. I’ll have a drink of coffee before I go and hopefully, fingers crossed, it works.
iRunFar: Last year, you showed a lot of fire late in the race. You kind of did your own thing for awhile and had your highs and lows. Seeing Darcy [Piceu] at Grant-Swamp Pass, you kicked it into overdrive. Do you feel you have the same spark this year?
Frost: Definitely in the moment. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what I drew on. I’d say it would be the same for Darcy in those last 30 miles. We both gave each other an hour’s gap. We gave and took it again. It wasn’t necessarily me thinking, Okay, I’m going to chase Darcy down. You’re in this deep, dark place and you have to get out of there. You’re like, Right, I need to go right now. It was a great place to be. Obviously, I’ll try to get to the finish as quick as I can but purely to get to the finish as quick as I can. I just don’t want to be out there longer than I have to be. Whatever that takes, I’ll do. I’m extremely open for that being either a 27-hour record or a 37-hour finish. For me, this race is about getting to the finish. It’s a personal challenge. If you go out on 100 miles racing someone, you’re probably going to end up in the gutter really early, because you’re out there for over a day. You can’t be going someone else’s pace for a day. You have to be focused on yourself and doing what you can do to get through it.
iRunFar: This year is interesting because it’s probably the strongest women’s field this race has ever had. It’s a small race, so it’s not huge, but you, and hopefully Darcy’s back (she’s on the wait list right now), Emma Roca, Bethany Lewis.
Frost: It’s going to be really good. I’m really excited. I think that’s the thing about these races is that maybe some people think, “Oh yeah, but they’re not that fast,” but I’m sure that they’re an ox. I always say the oxen are the ones that are potentially going to have the highest chance of winning because they’re strong and consistent the whole way through. You see a lot of that at Hardrock. You have a lot of oxen in this race.
iRunFar: You mentioned if running your fastest finish turns out to be 37 hours, have you ever had that experience in an ultra where things go wrong and you still push through to that finish where it’s totally off your placing and your pacing?
Frost: Yeah, sure. Transvulcania this year, I was an hour slower than my record time, but I never at any point thought about pulling out. It wasn’t an option. It’s not an option at Hardrock either. If I finish in 37 hours, I’d still be just as happy because it’s Hardrock, and I’ve finished. It’s one of the hardest 100-mile races in the world. I’m going to be happy to get done. It’s part of running. We’re going to have bad races. If you can’t accept that, then you’re not really accepting being an ultrarunner. For me, it’s just the same.
iRunFar: On the other hand, you mentioned 27 hours. Do you feel like if you had… so many variables at Hardrock obviously, but do you feel like if you had a good day that you’re in a place you could challenge that course record?
Frost: I’m not really sure I’m the same animal as Diana Finkel. I’m not sure if anyone is. I don’t know if we’re going to see a performance like she put on. Hopefully her time will get beaten, because that’s what a record is there for. I don’t know if it will be me or if it will be someone. But I don’t know if we’ll see someone who ran as magically as her. But, if I have a magical day, I’ll take it. I’ll totally take it.
iRunFar: If you’re at Maggie Gulch… if it’s possible, you know what the record is. It’s in your head.
Frost: Yeah, if I’m feeling okay and I can see that it’s there, I’ll go for it for sure. Absolutely. That’s what they’re there for. But I’m not sure I’m quite there.
iRunFar: Now you have one returning pacer from last year.
Frost: [Erik] Skaggs. He’ll be great. He was amazing last year. He’s just got that competitive streak in him, so he was able to say, “We have to go now or it’s never.” Between and [Ron] “Braz” [Braselton], my final pacer last year, I had something like 10 caffeine gels and later a coke just to get me through that final section. Absolutely, without Skaggs earlier on in the race keeping me going up and over through the snow at midnight, I would have frozen to death up there.
iRunFar: Skaggs is back and who else?
Frost: Dakota Jones. It’s a little dream team. Yeah, it’s going to be really great. I’m pretty sure they’re going to sing songs or play music or do something strange the whole way.
iRunFar: Dream team in that they’re awesome runners in their own right, but they’re also your friends and they know the race.
Frost: Yeah, and they know the course really well, so you have no stresses about going wrong in the night time or the complicated areas. It’s just great to share that with them because really it’s not… racing in general for me now is not an individual sport. I’m doing it with other people. Something like Hardrock, absolutely, I wouldn’t do it without my pacer or my crew.
iRunFar: Who’s crewing you?
Frost: Braz who can’t pace, so he’s going to crew. I guess Dakota and Skaggs will be there and a couple of other Durango buddies. It’s going to be great.
iRunFar: You might be tempted to stop at Grouse and have some fun.
Frost: I’ll just have to block my ears and ignore them. Last year at Telluride when Rickey [Gates] was playing the accordion in my ears, I didn’t hear a thing. I didn’t even know he was there. I might not notice it at all.
iRunFar: Best of luck out there, Anna. Have fun.
Frost: You, too. Good luck.
iRunFar: And a bonus question for you. What’s been your favorite part of training this year? What have you enjoyed—a moment or a day?
Frost: I think probably getting up on Handies is probably my favorite part when you actually break through the snow and get up there. You’re at the highest point of the course, and that’s where I fell in love with Hardrock when I was standing up there and realized, Holy crap, this is Hardrock. Yeah, I think that’s the best part for me.
iRunFar: Thank you, Anna.