Emma Roca battled through nausea to take second place at her first Hardrock 100. In the following interview, Emma talks about why she would acclimatize more next time at Hardrock, why she was motivated to push the downhills, why she enjoyed having a pacer, how the second half of her race played out chasing Anna Frost, and what parts of the race were harder than expected.
[For more on how this year’s Hardrock 100 went down, including additional resources, check out our 2016 Hardrock 100 results article.]
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Emma Roca Post-2016 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Emma Roca after her second place finish at the 2016 Hardrock 100. Congratulations, Emma.
Emma Roca: Thank you. You also. Great finish.
iRunFar: Thank you, also. How did you enjoy your first Hardrock?
Roca: I enjoyed a lot. It’s amazing how beautiful it is, how well organized, how can you push hard and really suffer and at the same time enjoy every miles you are doing. For me, it’s the best one I’ve run.
iRunFar: Yeah, you really enjoyed it.
Roca: I suffered, you know. I had stomach problems. I had cold. I had a bad fall arriving to Telluride. But things happen in ultra races, and as you said, you get better and get better. There are many hours to get better.
iRunFar: Yeah, I saw you a few times out on the course. Half the times I saw you, you were not so good. The other times, you were just blowing by me. What were the low points on the route? What were the biggest challenges or problems you had out there?
Roca: My big problem was the altitude. I was not that used to it. I thought that going down and up would be good, but you need to acclimatize more because more of the nine uphills we were over 3,500 meters. For me, that’s huge altitude. Then, it’s the next homework to do before if I can come again.
iRunFar: You had some big problems with the stomach. Do you think that was all altitude or was it also the heat during the day?
Roca: I think the heat in Ouray, because we had excellent weather during the whole race. But actually in Ouray, they gave me a lot of food. I drank too much. My vanilla powder and everything like that. Going up, I haven’t got enough water. I ran out of water. That’s a bad experience to have the stomach close like Western [States]. When it’s really hot, your body answers.
iRunFar: How did you come out of those dark places?
Roca: I saw you, and you said, “You will have a better moment after.” I said, “But when?! I want to gain time between me and Anna [Frost]!” Then I get better two or three hours after.
iRunFar: Then you had another low point coming up Handies. What was happening there?
Roca: The altitude. I couldn’t go fast. I wanted to go faster, and then I started hyperventilating. You can’t. Your heart… I was 110 beats per minute.
iRunFar: You couldn’t go any harder.
Roca: What happens? I’m a little snail going… and then on the downhill, phoooooom!
iRunFar: It was like a light switch went on because we were both more or less in sync going up Handies, and it was very slow. Coming off, you just disappeared. Was that… did you have a mental change or a physical change? What happened on the top of Handies Peak?
Roca: I knew that every meter that will go down, I will feel better. So it’s like, let’s go down because you will go faster. I change, and I like going down my hills.
iRunFar: What was it like having a pacer out there, being with Travis Macy?
Roca: It was great. The first leg, I did it with Rob Bright (?), and then the second let after Sherman I did with Travis Macy. For me, it’s excellent to have a pacer in these types of races, because you can have problems, injuries, and they can just… it’s an accompany for you. It’s a great deal. I don’t know why in Europe they don’t do it because just for the insurance to have someone just taking care of you. They cannot push you. They cannot move you or mule you, but they are there.
iRunFar: Does it remind you at all of your adventure races? They’re not doing the whole distance, but just camaraderie?
Roca: Yes, when we were with Travis with one section after Sherman where it was really cold, really chilly, I fell down in a river and got wet through here, then I just had the long sleeve and a jacket, but I was trembling and I didn’t want to put it on because I didn’t want to stop. Travis said, “Emma, this is an adventure race. Just take care now, because after you will become more and more. So please, stop and I will help you to change clothing.” “Yes, but I am travelling and I don’t want to stop.” “Stop.” I change fast, and I stop trembling, and we continue. But yes, the spirit is really nice to have a pacer, to have someone.
iRunFar: You’re a super fierce competitor. You’re super tough. You keep pushing. But every time I saw you, whether you were feeling well or not, it seemed like you were having a good time out there.
Roca: I love Hardrock because you find the aid station points really close, within two or three hours. They are excellent. They can tell you things, give you whatever you need, and they are there to help you. Also, the landscape was whoa! Now you do that summit, that col, that downhill, now snow, rocks, lakes, rivers…
iRunFar: How about the night?
Roca: Ohhhhhh, with the moon? Amazing. It was an experience that even if I was suffering, I was enjoying every minute of this Hardrock.
iRunFar: And you saw a little bit of wildlife out there?
Roca: Yes, apart from the typical chipmunks or some squirrels or blue birds, we think that before arriving to Cunningham, it was 6 a.m., and we saw a lynx. It was perhaps at 500 meters. But it was brown and with the legs and white and he was looking at us all the time and not moving. After I saw it in the web, it had the same profile.
iRunFar: When did you start really pushing and trying to catch Anna because early on in the race you ran your own race, but when did you turn on the competitive…?
Roca: After Ouray, but then I started to feel bad. Then it was, okay, let’s see, and that was the race more or less.
iRunFar: Was there any time in the last half that you started feeling really well again and could make up some good time?
Roca: Arriving to Cunningham, it was like, uhhhhhh, because the altitude, the high altitude points, then I knew I could go faster because of the altitude problems.
iRunFar: You pushed up the last climb?
Roca: Yes, as hard as I could. Also the downhill, I left my legs there. When I arrived to the finish I said to Anna, “My sore legs are because of your fault because I was trying to chase you.”
iRunFar: In thinking about the race beforehand, at least, this was my first time in this direction, I was thinking that last downhill was going to be easy and was a great way to finish.
Roca: No, the piste was awful. I did it in training before coming here. I did it just the piste in 30 minutes. In the race we took 23 minutes going down the piste. We gained seven minutes on the training day, but after 27 hours. It was a nightmare. But then the trail coming here is nice.
iRunFar: You liked it?
iRunFar: Liked it enough to come back maybe next year if you get a chance?
Roca: Perhaps to do the other direction it makes it more attractive, but also it’s really difficult to get inside the lottery. It’s a big challenge. This year for me was a big present to me, so I’m really proud and happy to have raced Hardrock. Thanks for the coverage. I really appreciate it because it makes more people know this type of races. For me, it’s the best.
iRunFar: Speaking of other races, do you have any other big goals for the year?
Roca: I will only do two ultra races this year. This one is already done. Resting now. In October, Diagonale des Fous. I have the spot from UTMB from the Ultra-Trail World Tour; they have a spot for me. I think it’s also a good one to have an experience there once in your life.
iRunFar: It’s your first time going there?
Roca: Yes, and perhaps the last because there are a lot of races. I’d love to know others and see how they are organized and also the trail. I think the race course for me is one of the motivations.
iRunFar: Do you like the concept of Hardrock where it changes directions, so it’s the same area but it would feel different?
Roca: Yes. In Europe, when I did the stage race, TransAlpine race, that also motivates you with the change in direction. Do you like both directions?
iRunFar: Somebody asked that yesterday, which is more difficult? The one I ran most recently because the memory is fresher. I actually think this direction is a little easier because the other direction…
Roca: The piste?
iRunFar: The long downhills on the road, but also you have three huge climbs in the other direction at the very end, so when the gas tank is empty, it’s very hard. Here, you’re up high above Sherman, but the terrain is much easier except that little climb up Maggie which you don’t think about as a major climb… it is.
Roca: It is. Arrive to Sherman, the profile shows only downhill, but no. It was a piste that didn’t go down.
iRunFar: And there are these little climbs.
Roca: I said to Rob, my pacer, “I think we are mistaking. I stop. I see the map. I have the cell phone with the photos. “It says down. I don’t understand.”
iRunFar: The only down was so steep you couldn’t run because it’s off trail.
Roca: No, and you had to watch the markings for assistance.
iRunFar: Speaking of markings, did you manage to stay on the course the entire race?
Roca: Sometimes I had to check in the cell phone where I had the photo of the map just to check and make sure because there were some pistes that came I hoped it was this direction because there were other pistes similar. I hoped for another flag. No, it’s a main road, and you have to know it’s a main road. But no, we didn’t have any problems—just to check at some points, but that’s it.
iRunFar: Congratulations, Emma. I’m glad you enjoyed your Hardrock experience.
Roca: Thanks. Thanks a lot.