Anna Frost enters into the 2016 Transvulcania Ultramarathon at an interesting time in her running career. On one hand, she’s a two-time winner, the course-record holder, and passionate about the race, but on the other hand, she’s beginning to transition her career in other directions besides competitive racing. In this interview, Anna talks about what this means for this weekend’s race, what she thinks her 2016 will look like, and some of her future running-related dreams.
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Anna Frost Pre-2016 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here on the island of La Palma. It’s a couple days before the 2016 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. I’m with women’s Transvulcania course-record holder, Anna Frost. Hey, how are you doing?
Anna Frost: Hi. Good, thanks.
iRunFar: This is kind of like a home for you. You’ve been here so many times now. What’s it like being back on La Palma?
Frost: Yeah, it’s really, really nice to be back here. Like you said, it’s a home for me. Part of the decision to do Transvulcania year after year is to come back here and spend some time here feeling the nice energy of the island and the amazing people here. Even if it’s for four weeks of training or recovering from injury, it’s still the same for me. It brings a really nice energy.
iRunFar: You’ve been here for a couple weeks now? What have you been up to?
Frost: Yeah. I’ve been training but not with the same focus and intensity and maybe drive as usual. I think I’m very, very content with my racing that I’ve had here before. I’ve had 12 years of racing now, and I kind of feel I’m coming to a point where if I’m happy and healthy and fit and getting to the start line, then I really feel like the rest is just an amazing bonus. I really feel that this year. The training has been good, but I definitely feel the difference in training before when I’ve been really focused on having a great performance to just being fit and healthy. I’m really happy to be here and I’m looking forward to the race, but it’s in a very different kind of mindset, I guess.
iRunFar: Last year you came to La Palma hoping to race but you were suffering from a hip injury during that time. What is it like being back on the island and being literally healthy and in a good place?
Frost: Yeah, I mean, it’s really nice because then you can actually go and run where you want to run and enjoy the island for everything it has not just the things that are closer to you when you’re in injured. Like I always say, one of the hardest things about racing is actually getting to the start line. It’s just a pleasure to be able to do that. I think the training that I have done up until now has just been part of that—the pleasure of being able to start.
iRunFar: I want to ask you a few things about the race in particular, but I do want to ask you about the bigger-picture Anna. You’ve been racing for a long time now, over a decade. You’ve kind of been putting it out there publicly; there was a recent Salomon Running TV episode about the transition you’re starting to make with the sport right now. Tell us… where are you at? What is 2016 going to look like for you?
Frost: Yeah, this year I’m definitely still racing. I’ve got this, then [Ultra SkyMarathon] Madeira, Hardrock, and then Squamish 50 [Mile]. I’m still racing and still training. I’m still on race tour, going from race to race to race. Like I say, there’s definitely a change in mojo with just being happy with being happy and healthy and fit and getting to the start line compared to being at an extremely high level. That comes with a change in thinking about what’s next. I don’t necessarily have an answer for what’s next, but I’m searching and I’m looking and I’ve got my eyes open to other opportunities. Sisu Girls has been really fun with that, the project with that—just thinking more of how we can develop that and push that and go into encouraging young women and children to step outside their comfort zones and how I can put what I’ve learned from our sport back into the sport through other ways. It’s kind of an exciting process at the moment of where I might go.
iRunFar: It’s kind of like you’re at the point again… like the second time in your career where the world’s your oyster. The world’s your oyster but it’s a slightly different kind of oyster right now?
Frost: Yeah, yeah, again, I’m very lucky to have so many choices and so many opportunities and directions that I could go, and so now I just kind of have to choose one and grab it and say, “Okay, if it doesn’t work out, then that’s okay. It’s all part of the process. Then I’ll just choose something else.” Yeah, we’ll see. Who knows really what will happen? For sure, hopefully I can keep fit and healthy and finish the race season and then decide where to go after that.
iRunFar: After having watched you compete at such a high level and have such mental focus on these things over the years, it’s kind of fun to be able to wait and see to where you put that mental focus next because your mental capacity devoting to one thing is pretty extraordinary. When you take that and put it onto something else, it will be fun to see that happen.
Frost: Yeah, and I’m looking forward to it. I have no idea what it’s going to be. Hopefully I can spread it over a few different things. Yeah, it will be really exciting.
iRunFar: I want to ask you a few more things about this race. The women’s field this year is quite deep. There’s always been a deep field at Transvulcania, but when I look at it online, there are seven different girls who could potentially win, but there are two different types of women who are there. There’s the “go out and go fast and really go for it from the gun,” and then there are the patient women who you often see come on stronger as the race goes on. What are you thinking about the women’s field?
Frost: Yeah, I totally agree. There are definitely the ones that I think are going to go out there and go hard, and I think that’s awesome that potentially those group of girls… I’ve always said with the record here that it can easily go down. It just needs a group of girls who go together and push each other and help each other get at least one of them over the line quicker. I think we’ll see that this year. I think we’ll see a group go off and potentially there will be some fall-aparts and breakdowns and whatever goes on out there, but I think we’ll see someone get pushed forward and charge forward to a really good time this year especially with the forecast for lower temperatures which may also help as well to get some faster times out. Then always with that, when you have a group of fast people go out and some blow up and some fall apart, there’s always those strong oxes that plow through and tear up the rest of the field.
iRunFar: That’s a good metaphor for sure of who they are.
Frost: So, we’ll see. I think every year here it seems to get better and better and deeper and deeper. I’m really excited to see what happens this year.
iRunFar: You know the course like the back of your hand. You’ve been here so many times. You’ve done so many training runs on the course. We do have a weird weather forecast for a potentially cool and kind of wet day. What does that do to the course? Is it going to make some parts slower? Is it going to speed some parts up?
Frost: I think with this course and with the last four years that I’ve been here, there’s always been this really nice cool breeze which cools everything down. But what you don’t remember is that you’re actually sweating a lot, but it’s just drying up before you notice. What tends to happen is people get right along the ridge and they think, Ah, I’m in pretty good condition because this nice breeze is blowing. Then they get to the big downhill where there’s no wind at all and it’s 40 degrees [Celsius] and they realize, Actually, I’m really dehydrated because I didn’t notice how much I was sweating. So you see people falling apart all the way down the hill. This year, though, if there’s a cloud all along the ridge, I feel like people are going to drink more, they’re going to eat more, they’re going to be able to run at a quicker pace because it’s not as hot, and maybe they’ll be in better condition at the top of the hill and be able to get down which could be interesting for the entire field. You could see an entire race of faster times or overall less dropping out or whatever. It’s surprising when you sit down here and it’s so hot and you go up to the top of the island, I’ve been wearing arm warmers, a Buff, gloves, a jacket because it rains up in there. That could really throw people because it could potentially be like this at the start and at the finish and in the middle be in jacket and be cold and be in the rain. You really have to be prepared for everything in this race. It’s no different to a lot of other races around the world, but it’s just that here, it’s La Palma, it’s boiling hot, so you think it’s that the whole way. Yeah, again, it’s another interesting aspect to the race.
iRunFar: A new variable that maybe won’t have been encountered here before.
Frost: No, and for sure for the last… well, since I’ve been here it’s always been hot, hot, hot. If it rains over there on the downhill, that could be lethal on those rocks because they’ll be slippy as anything. Again, does that slow down the hill because people are being more cautious?
iRunFar: Being more cautious or are they flying down anyway?
Frost: Yeah, because they’re slipping down? Yeah, again, it’s another big variable.
iRunFar: Last question for you. The relationship that you have with the island in the race is pretty well evolved at this point with all the time you’ve spent here. What are you looking forward to on Saturday?
Frost: I think it’s like any race when you’re in this week before, you just want to start. So that’s going to be good just to get started. I think like I was saying, I’m so content with this race. I’ve had two awesome races here before where everything has just clicked.
iRunFar: Pretty much like perfect days?
Frost: Perfect days, yes. I’m very, very grateful for that. I feel greedy for wanting more than that or for asking for more. Really, I’m going to go out there competitively. I can’t help it. It’s in my blood. I’m also not going to be disappointed if I have a bad day or if I don’t feel great or if I feel good but there’s a group of girls ahead of me that I just can’t keep up with. I’m really happy for them to do that. Then I’m just going to really enjoy everything about it because the aid stations here, the support here, the organizing, the course, it’s all just a fantastic scene and atmosphere, and it’s something to not just run by every year.
iRunFar: The culture of the island has so embraced trail running. It’s such a buoying feature. Everywhere you go you’re recognized and cheered for by people.
Frost: Yeah, it’s an incredibly motivating race. Like I say to everyone here, just don’t pull out. If your leg is broken and snapped, then absolutely stop, but if you’re just cramping up or can’t get things together, I just say to people, “Just sit and stay in an aid station. They take such good care of you… two hours if you need it just to eat, drink, cool down, and get things together again, and then keep going.” The atmosphere you feel the whole way around like when you’re coming down into Tazacorte Port and you can hear the music blaring from the top and you get down there and it’s like… from the very first runner to the last runner there’s a festival going on. The finish line is an amazing environment and atmosphere that you don’t get all around the world. Yeah, I just say to people, “You just have to keep going for the motivation and the experience of what La Palma has provided.”
iRunFar: Of what La Palma is, yeah. It’s a fascinating study of maybe trail running in the future off the island.
Frost: Yeah, exactly, yeah.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you.
Frost: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: We look forward to seeing you make your way around the island one more time.
Frost: Yeah, thank you.