In 2013, Emma Roca took third at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. Last year, she won the Leadville Trail 100 Mile. This weekend, she’ll try her hand at the Western States 100. In the following interview, Emma talks about her preparation for Western States, whether her toughness is innate or developed, and what her tips are for traveling to races.
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Emma Roca Pre-2015 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Emma Roca before the 2015 Western States 100. Welcome, Emma.
Emma Roca: Welcome. Thank you.
iRunFar: How are you?
iRunFar: When did you arrive here in the U.S.?
Roca: I arrived one week ago. I’ve been in San Francisco and then through some parts of the race. I’ve been in Rucky Chucky place and Robinson Flat and then Squaw Valley three days ago.
iRunFar: Have you enjoyed what you’ve seen of the course?
Roca: Waah! Incredible. I had some adventure or episodes. I had a rattlesnake crossing on the road, and also I saw a bear.
Roca: Yes. Really scared.
iRunFar: You don’t see these things in Europe, right?
Roca: It was at Robinson Flat at 7:00 a.m. in the morning. I just took the Western States Trail a little, and when I came back a bear crossed. I could avoid his sight to me behind a rock. Then I waited for five minutes. After the bear continued, I rushed through the camping area. When I arrived my kids saw me. “What happened, mama? What happened?” Because a bear!
iRunFar: You heard that happened a few years ago during the race?
iRunFar: To the women’s leaders. They got stopped by a bear.
Roca: I was thinking about this during the race. I hope the distance between the racers will be not enough to cross some bears on the trail.
iRunFar: Well, we’ll see. Besides the wildlife, you’re excited about this race?
Roca: A lot. A lot. It’s a pleasure to be here. Also another, Western States is the first ultra-distance race in the world that began. To be here is an opportunity.
iRunFar: It’s a great historical race and also very competitive. How has your preparation been?
Roca: I had a stress fracture after TransAlpine last year. So, I had to spend six months without running. But I did a lot of mountain biking and road cycling and also some races—the Titan Desert last month with my husband. We won a lot of stages. So, I think in the mountain bike, I’m fit. I hope in the running. I started in February and March to run a lot. I feel good. I think it’s fixed.
iRunFar: I think a lot of racers and top ultrarunners in Europe do skimo in the winter, so I think maybe having that change up keeps people fresh.
Roca: Yes, the cross training, I think it’s a good point.
iRunFar: Unlike other runners who get injured and cycle easily, you’ve done adventure races and you’ve done duathlons and triathlons. You can really crank on the bike, yes?
Roca: Pushing hard, yes.
iRunFar: Have you done any preparation specifically for some of the flatter running that we encounter later here at Western States?
Roca: Where I live I have my work place, the fire service, and it’s a flat area. I did a lot of training in the flat of one hours, two hours at kind of high speed. Also I did some races before coming here, short ones like 20, 30, 42k. So I hope I have the speed. Let’s see now the distance—how it feels to my body after more than 16 to 17 hours running.
iRunFar: Did you get any ultra-distance tune-up races in? Did you do any ultra races this spring to prepare for that aspect?
Roca: No, nothing, so this will be the first of the year. I hope my skills, my experience, my mental strength, and also all the ambiance… I don’t know.
iRunFar: As they say, you’re jumping in the deep end of the pool.
iRunFar: You have traveled a lot for races for many, many years—for adventure races and triathlons and ultras. Do you have any tips who are traveling to races because we all do no matter how fast?
Roca: The races you have to do, you have to enjoy them. You have to choose your calendar, your schedule. Also, when you are traveling like me, you are traveling with kids (she is thirsty), you can spend with your family and with your pleasure and with your work. You can mix together and enjoy. Tips—I don’t know. Also, try to be some days before for acclimatization and for the food and the sleep. You need to rest good; you need to eat good. Also, try not to be so tired and overexcited because then your energy for the ultra will be less than expected. With time and relax and also you can go with family, it’s perfect.
iRunFar: One aspect of the race this year, it could be quite hot. You’ve been on the trail when it’s been hot. What are your thoughts on that?
Roca: I think that we will have to be really aware of the hydration and not wait until you are thirsty. You have to drink before. Also, in aid station, stop and take the time you will need. Don’t say, “No, the next one.”
iRunFar: It’s good. The kids can keep you laughing and keep it light, not to take it too seriously and too excited every moment.
Roca: Yes. Yes, the heat will be a good point. I think it will be part of many elements of the race.
iRunFar: Yes, I think that’s a good point for you. There are some very fast women who are, on paper, they’ve got all this speed and you can’t run with them in just a foot race perhaps. But, with your experience and your strength…
Roca: Yes, and I think my mental capacity to suffer, because at the end of 18 hours running, who is going on the front? The one that can fight with her own suffering and her own tiredness, I don’t know how to say.
iRunFar: Is that something that is natural to you, that toughness, or is that something you really work on and focus on?
Roca: I think it’s part natural and also with my 20 years of competing at adventure races and all this stuff. I think I have the self-confidence that I can do it. So, I’m sure of myself, and it’s enough sometimes.
iRunFar: Thank you very much, and best of luck out there.
Roca: Thanks a lot for the interview. Sorry for the kids.
iRunFar: Oh, it’s great.