After a down year, Anna Frost reasserted herself with a win at the 2014 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. She also broke her own course record. In the following extensive interview, Anna talks about how the race played out, what (physical and mental) relief finishing was, why she thinks female runners should talk more about their health issues, and where you’ll see her next.
For a full recap and links to additional post-race interviews, check out our 2014 Transvulcania results article.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Anna Frost, 2014 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Anna Frost, the 2014 Transvulcania champ. How are you doing, Anna?
Anna Frost: Good, thank you.
iRunFar: You had a great run out there.
Frost: Yeah, it was hard. I had to dig really deep.
iRunFar: Yeah? Before the race we were talking and you said you weren’t sure what shape you were in. Were you hedging your bets a little bit?
Frost: No, I mean, obviously, I’ve had a huge break and been on and off with racing. I knew that I was feeling healthy and happy and fit, but I didn’t know on what sort of level. Yeah, it was nice to actually be able to pull it together on the day.
iRunFar: Did you remember at all your splits from the early part of the race in 2012 while you were running this year?
Frost: I didn’t remember the exact splits, but I know this course like the back of my hand; so I know exactly how long each section takes me anyway. I knew that I was moving quickly in the race. I just wanted to keep moving. I knew that my weakness comes at the downhill, so for me this course is about getting to the top as quickly as I can. That’s what I had to do.
iRunFar: In the early going, the first 20 or 30k, you were six minutes or a good deal under your course-record pace. You sort of held that on the upper part. You were really focused when I saw you at 30k. Were you working really hard already at that point?
Frost: I wasn’t working hard. I felt really, really good the whole way up to the summit. I was focusing really—I was enjoying every second of it—but I was very focused on keeping my fluid, keeping my food, keeping my good technique of running, and just keeping myself together because on this sort of course you just have to maintain yourself the whole way. It’s such an important race to take care during the race. So I didn’t feel like I was pushing too hard at all, so that was a really nice feeling.
iRunFar: So you were focused but not pushing.
Frost: Exactly and it was definitely a physical push for me, this race. So I really knew I had to really keep things on line and in form.
iRunFar: Did you feel pressure from the women behind you because they were never terribly far back? You were always in the lead.
Frost: No, again, I didn’t feel pressure because, like you say, they weren’t there. They weren’t right beside me. Obviously it’s in your mind when you’re leading a race—where are they?—because you never know where anyone is. I was also looking out for Emelie [Forsberg] because I was hoping we’d run together, and I didn’t know she’d stopped. So I was still looking for her.
iRunFar: When did you find that out?
Frost: I found that out almost near the top, so at about 40 or 50k, that she wasn’t chasing which was really sad because obviously I’d seen that she’d cut herself. I’d asked her if she was okay. She was fine.
iRunFar: So you actually saw her up there.
Frost: I saw her when we were right down near Faro, right at the start of the race. I saw that she was bleeding. I’d asked her if she was okay and then she sort of disappeared which is hard because it’s dark, so you don’t know where anyone is. So that was sad to hear she’d pulled out but obviously that gave me even more energy to go with her strength as well.
iRunFar: As you said just now, your forte is not the descent. You’re not a bad descender, but did you take it even more cautiously this year? Compared to your course record you were even four to five minutes slower on the huge descent.
Frost: This year?
Frost: Yeah, the first part of the downhill I felt really good. The second part I just had a really bad stage. I started cramping up in my back and my stomach and just started feeling a bit sick and not really on top of things and obviously getting hotter and hotter as we were coming down. So I just sort of pulled back a little bit and took it a little bit easier because you know once you get down there to Tazacorte you still have to get back up the other side. So I was being a little bit cautious and really, for me, it was just about getting to the finish line.
iRunFar: And those last 6k up to the finish—a lot harder than is used to be?
Frost: Yeah, well when you go through that river, it’s a really nice part of the course because you go through this little canyon. The thing is that your legs are like jelly by then, so it’s very hard to actually stay standing. Those zigzags, for me, it’s just about getting it done. You have to take away the rest of the race and just think about it as those zigzags to the finish and just get up it.
iRunFar: Did you have a chance to savor the last kilometer or two on the pavement?
Frost: Yeah, for sure, because I didn’t know what time I was on. I didn’t know… I had assumed that I was nowhere near the record because my last part on the downhill was a bit slow and going through the river I knew was going to take a lot longer. I was really, really enjoying the atmosphere. That last kilometer where you’re just going straight, it feels like a 10k along there. There were so many supporters—it was great. I was high fiving and there were people doing Mexican waves along there. It was really great. It wasn’t until I came into the final 50-meter stretch where I could actually see the official timing clock and could see that, Whoa, okay, I should go now, because I think I had about a minute to go to get under the record.
iRunFar: Did you think you had any chance of breaking your course record?
Frost: Not at all.
iRunFar: Pretty fantastic.
Frost: Yeah, it was an awesome surprise.
iRunFar: When you crossed the line, there was such pure happiness and relief in your expression.
Frost: Relief, yeah. Yeah, I think it’s not just relief of this race because when you get to the start line, you’re like, Okay, I’m at the start line and I just need to get through the race. The relief was really the whole year before and even the year before that of just working through the process of going and getting through emotional and physical lows and highs during that as well and just sort of getting that nailed and getting to the finish line. It wasn’t even about getting to the finish line in first or in a course record, it was about getting to the finish line feeling good, obviously tired, but not injured, and really happy.
iRunFar: In that year of down time or dark, there are various emotions you had during that. What was the hardest part in terms of… did you feel pressure to perform? Was it your health?
Frost: No, there was never any pressure to perform. The wonderful thing with Salomon and the whole team and that family is that they were there to support me throughout no matter what happened. So I didn’t have any pressure to come back except for the pressure I put on myself, and that’s the worst pressure. After I took that away from myself, it was just a matter of getting the health back. And it takes a long time when you’ve gone so deep. So the hard part was just going through the emotions of feeling like I was getting better but then realizing I wasn’t and then starting again.
iRunFar: Do you have any advice from that process?
Frost: I think it’s just what I always say to people is that you have to talk. Especially women’s health—we don’t talk enough. You can get so much help from other women. We’ve all been through it. We’re all going through it. So why not talk about it? We can really help each other through that. Then we don’t have to go as deep and dark as a lot of us are going at the moment. So, if we can stay on top and talk and just deal with issues right there and then, then we can work together and get in better places.
iRunFar: How do you do that? Just talking to the friends around you who are running?
Frost: Yeah, talking to your girlfriends, talking to guys. You’ve got so many guys you end up running with. You know, runners know everything about each other anyway, so why not talk to them? There are lots of places like on my Blogspot. I’d love for people to start asking questions or keep talking amongst each other, not just me, because I don’t know everything.
iRunFar: It’s a discussion, isn’t it?
Frost: Yeah, we just need to discuss and put it out there so it’s not so taboo anymore.
iRunFar: We were just talking a minute ago about people who over train, especially women. Is it important to sort of… you don’t want to curb people’s enthusiasm, but when somebody’s doing too much to actually speak up?
Frost: Yeah, I think you have to be brave and be able to say to your friends and fellow runners, “You need to stop. You need to sort this out and figure it out.” I’ve been lucky that I’ve people that have said that to me. It’s the worst thing you can hear. It’s often you don’t do it. I’m a total victim and I am guilty of that that people that have loved me and cared for me have said to me, “You need to stop,” and I haven’t. Now I’m really trying to take that on board and saying, “Okay, I’m going to stop and take a good break.”
iRunFar: It’s probably even harder when you don’t have a sprained ankle or a stress fracture or something that’s not actually physically keeping you from running at that moment.
Frost: Yeah, when you’re just tired and can’t run and your blood tests are showing normal, which for so many of us they do, it’s very hard to say, “Well, give yourself a reason to stop.” In the end if you’re not feeling great then you need to stop and get support.
iRunFar: On a happier note, we’re here on La Palma. You clearly love this island. The island honestly loves you. Just hearing them talk about you, “La Palmera,” you’re one of them at this point.
Frost: Yeah, yeah. It’s an amazing place. And like I’ve always said about coming here whether I’m racing or running or cycling or swimming, the energy that I receive and hopefully give to this island, as well, is huge for me. I always feel like I’m in a really nice place when I’m here. The atmosphere here is absolutely crazy. In the last three years that I’ve been coming, the people have just gone mad for trail running, for Transvulcania, for Skyrunning, for everything that goes on here. It’s fantastic to see. It’s fantastic to see not just runners getting involved, but all the support, all the kids, all the organizers. Just the finish line and all along the course was absolutely bananas you’d say. It was crazy. It’s really, really fun to see.
iRunFar: On the relationship front, you also have great support from your Salomon teammates. One thing I really enjoyed two days ago was seeing Jonathan Wyatt out on the course being the water boy for you.
Frost: Yeah, it was fantastic, yeah.
iRunFar: What’s it like seeing one of your countrymen out there in the middle of nowhere?
Frost: Yeah, I know it was really in the middle of nowhere. It was really great because there’s people that obviously know you. And when you’re in a race like that, you don’t really have time to chitchat, but you know that even just seeing them and they look you in the eyes and they give you water or they take a photo or they say something just so simple, the confidence in those people is just so powerful. So to know that in 16k or in another 10k I’m going to see that person, it’s huge for confidence. To have Jono out there, it was just awesome to see him. To have him see the ultra scene as well, which is really cool to have a guru of a mountain runner and a marathon runner out on the course as well.
iRunFar: Did you needle him a little bit and say, “Come on out and do an 80k?”
Frost: I’ve tried. I’ve tried. I’ve tried. Hopefully we’ll see him one day.
iRunFar: Find a runnable course for him and I think he’ll make it happen.
Frost: He was running pretty quick when he was out in the middle of nowhere anyway, so I think he could do fine on here.
iRunFar: I think so. Speaking of running in the future, what are your plans?
Frost: Well, from here I’m going to rest for a couple of weeks. Then I’ll go to the Azores islands of Portugal for a running holiday for the Azore’s trail race [the Azores Trail Run]. Then my next major focus will be the Chamonix 80k for the Sky World’s Champs. This is six weeks, so it gives me a good time to rest, recover, and really get myself fit and strong again.
iRunFar: I know in the past you’ve had a little chatter about maybe doing Nolan’s 14. Is that still on the calendar for this year?
Frost: Definitely, it’s an option for this year. I’d love to do it. The thing with that, it takes a lot of time on the route and on the course and a lot of time on your feet. I’ll do it if I’m prepared and have seen the course which if I have time this year I’ll do it. If not, it will be a project to complete at some point.
iRunFar: What’s your thinking about not only doing a tough hundred like Hardrock, but doing something outside of that as your first effort at that distance—something so intense?
Frost: I think it’s just, the first time I went out there, I was just blown away. Those 14ers, they’re just absolutely incredible. From at the top there, you can see forever. I guess I was up there in some electrical storms and really got a good lesson on how powerful mountains are. It’s nice to go there and be taught lesson after lesson about how small and insignificant humans are.
iRunFar: You had a pretty significant accomplishment. Welcome back, Frosty.
Frost: Thank you so much.
iRunFar: It’s a relief for all of us to see you happy and healthy.
Frost: Thank you.
iRunFar: Frosty, a quick bonus question for you here. Didn’t think of it until this morning, but you ran the whole race in a dress.
Frost: I know. How was that?
iRunFar: You don’t really see that very often, but what’s with the dress?
Frost: No, you don’t. Well, the dress has been a project that I’ve had for a long time and finally it’s come to the shelves—not just for me but for everyone, well, no guys. I don’t want to see any guys in that dress. It would be horrible.
iRunFar: I promise.
Frost: Yeah, but the girls will look beautiful. I’m really looking forward to seeing more girls in that.
iRunFar: Is there anything else in that line or is it specifically that?
Frost: Yeah, there are six pieces. There’s a skirt, tank, the dress, and a yoga jacket, and pants, and a singlet.
iRunFar: All that blue stuff?
Frost: The beautiful colored stuff. They can find that on the Salomon e-shop now. It’s the New Zealand Limited Edition. It’s awesome.
iRunFar: Available around the world?
Frost: Almost all around the world.
iRunFar: Most places.
Frost: Yeah, exactly.
Frost: Excellent. Thank you.