Didrik Hermansen is back as the defending champion at Transgrancanaria. In the following interview, Didrik talks about about how he thinks he can improve upon last year’s race, how he’s improved his race nutrition, and how he trains on a treadmill for a race like Transgrancanaria during the Norwegian winter.
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Didrik Hermansen Pre-2017 Transgrancanaria Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Didrik Hermansen before the 2017 Transgrancanaria. How are you, Didrik?
Didrik Hermansen: Great.
iRunFar: You won this race last year; you were second the year before. You can’t really improve on that. What are your goals for this weekend?
Hermansen: My goal is to win. Yeah, as you said, I won last year. It feels like I have everything to lose, but still, I think I have everything to win. I think I still can improve in a lot of facets in this race which I can run faster than I did last year. It’s not just to be at the top of the podium, but also do to a good race. I think I can improve from last year.
iRunFar: What makes you think you can improve? Have you changed your training over the winter? Were there just places where you made mistakes or did not feel well during the race?
Hermansen: I think I had more problems with eating and drinking last year. I think I’ve sorted that out, so that will definitely be better this year. Also, I have one year more training than last year. One year older, but still I’m very young, at least I feel so.
iRunFar: I remember talking to you last year either before or after that race, and you were talking about how you just very slowly increase your training, the intensity or the quality each year, and you’ve just been trying to work for many years to get slightly better. Do you feel you’ve done that again?
Hermansen: Yeah, I have. I don’t do that; it just happens. Last year, I thought I’d been training well and training a lot, but this year, I’ve been doing everything the same, but just a little bit better and a little bit more.
iRunFar: That’s excellent. On the nutrition side, what specifically did you change from last year to now?
Hermansen: I’ve stopped drinking Coke—no Coke—and actually, my stomach feels really good about that. I’m using another type of gel—a little bit less sugar and actually more water. I try to eat more sugar at the end of the race. Last year I started early and also with Coke early, and I’m going to take it a little more slow in that part.
iRunFar: At the end you’ll have more sugars and any Coke?
Hermansen: Still no Coke. I’m going to stick to water and some sports drink and hopefully gels all the way.
iRunFar: How did you discover that? It’s sort of what people do—not tradition, but…
Hermansen: I think the fickle part with ultrarunning is you can’t do out to do training runs like 70k, so every race feels like training also combined with competition. During a lot of races, I just figure out that this is the best for me now and perhaps if you ask me one year from now, it’s something else. I don’t know.
iRunFar: You may just be drinking only Coke?
Hermansen: [laughs] Yes.
iRunFar: In the US we say, “Ultrarunning is an experiment of one,” but each race is kind of its own experiment for you?
Hermansen: Yeah, of course I have some long runs, but it’s hard to train to run for 10 hours. It’s just a competition to which I can compare to.
iRunFar: Do you have anything else you’re purposely experimenting with in this race? Anything new you’re trying?
Hermansen: No, actually not. I think I’m going to stick to the plan which I did last year. Yeah, I’ll just try to keep it going during the night and hopefully have fresh legs at Garañón to end the race well.
iRunFar: Coming from the US, I always think it’s a challenge to be ready for a race this early in the season no matter where you are in the Northern Hemisphere, but you live in Scandinavia. It can’t be easy, but I know I see you and Jonas Buud and others racing. How do you get through the winter?
Hermansen: Yeah, it’s really cold and dark in Norway, so to come here to Gran Canaria is really, really nice. I did a lot of treadmill these months. I really enjoyed it because I run a lot alone in the woods and forests and mountains the rest of the year, so to stay inside some weeks and months is really nice. Then I also can be very specific with the speed and with the incline of the treadmill, so before races like this, I think it’s a great way to get a lot of elevation. I combine the elevation and the flat and fast like this course profile.
iRunFar: Overall, does your training look different when you’re stuck inside on the treadmill versus when you’re able to run in the forest? Is it shorter and faster, or do you try to run fairly similar?
Hermansen: Actually, it depends on my next race. If my next race is Western States, for sure it’s more flat—or World Champ 100k—and if it’s races like this, it’s more climbing. I also have workouts where I just walk.
iRunFar: Really? I don’t know if I’ve seen you walk. That’s something you specifically do in the winter?
Hermansen: Yes, that’s just on the treadmill and not the rest of the year.
iRunFar: Because that probably comes naturally when you’re out on trails and hit steep stuff.
Hermansen: Yes, and I try not to walk normally when I do a training session outside, but in a long competition like this, you have to walk some parts.
iRunFar: Does it feel like a bit of a vacation coming from the Norwegian winter?
Hermansen: Yeah, I have my family here. It’s a winter holiday in Norway, so I try to combine both things. Yeah, it’s nice here. This is Norwegian summer really. I know I said it last year.
iRunFar: I’ve been in the Norwegian summer, and it’s not this nice.
Hermansen: [laughs] I know. I remember, I think it was a Michigan Bluff last year and I remember you asked me how I felt. I said, “Typical Norwegian summer,” and it was…
iRunFar: 35 degrees Celsius?
iRunFar: This is much more moderate. We’re probably at 20 degrees. It’s actually pretty nice out. If it’s like this on the weekend, it could be a fairly fast day… especially with you out there.
Hermansen: I hope so. Hopefully, yeah.
iRunFar: Good luck!
Hermansen: Thanks a lot.