Anna Frost and Emelie Forsberg are friends, teammates, competitors, two of the top female mountain runners in the world, and the two women’s favorites for the 2014 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. In this joint pre-race interview, Emelie and Anna discuss the nature of their relationship, their respective preparations for this race, the island of La Palma’s increasing excitement for trail running, and a couple of the physical challenges each has faced ahead of this race.
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Anna Frost and Emelie Forsberg Pre-2014 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Anna Frost and Emelie Forsberg before the 2014 Transvulcania. How are you ladies doing?
Anna Frost and Emelie Forsberg: Good.
iRunFar: I’ve seen you all over the world and you’re often together. Let’s start off with what’s your relationship like, your friendship?
Forsberg: No, we’re only teammates.
Frost: We don’t like each other at all. No, I mean, we’re teammates, we’re competitors, we’re friends, training buddies.
iRunFar: You’ve paced… at least one of you has paced…?
Frost: I paced Emelie a couple of years ago, yeah.
iRunFar: You also have been competitors. You guys have raced at Cavalls del Vent two years ago. Have you guys raced other times?
Forsberg: San Francisco [TNF EC 50 Mile] last year, Ice Trail [Tarentaise].
iRunFar: How does that go? You guys do hang out a lot together. What’s it like when it comes race day?
Frost: When you get to race day, you’re still competitors. However, while you’re in the race you’re thinking about the other person and hoping that they’re doing well. You can see them ahead of you or you’re looking for them to help them pull along. The thing is, the more you help each other in the race, one of you is at least going to have a better race in the end even if one of you blows up. For me, it’s just as nice to see Emelie win as it is for me to win. I think that’s what happens as a competitor and a friend.
Forsberg: Yeah, I think so.
iRunFar: So for those 20 or 30k, you guys might work together and cover some distance together?
Forsberg: I hope so. [Frost: Yes.] I hope we can run together. That would be perfect. I really hope I can keep up with her.
Frost: Yes. I hope so. Don’t worry.
Forsberg: I’m not sure.
iRunFar: Have you guys been hanging out on La Palma together?
Frost: Yeah, we had a couple of days and dinner. You haven’t been here as long.
Forsberg: No. In Annecy some weeks ago we went for a run actually. It was more like, “Okay, I want you to wait for me now.” You’d say, “No, we need to run, Emelie. You need to run!”
Frost: You said to me, “I need to run today.” So I said, “Okay, we’ll run.”
iRunFar: Was it one of your four runs ahead of this race?
Forsberg: That was my third day of running. “Ohhhh, I don’t want to.”
iRunFar: Just like last year, you’re coming off a long ski season and transitioning into running. How many days of running have you done before this race?
Forsberg: I have done two days of last week, three days in Chamonix, and two days here.
iRunFar: So a full week of training.
iRunFar: One full week of training—seven days.
Forsberg: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I just hope that I… I will not talk so much about it. I’m nervous.
iRunFar: But your fitness is very good from skiing? Did you have a good ski season?
Forsberg: Yeah, very good. Very happy.
iRunFar: You’ve progressed very fast in skimo, yes?
Forsberg: Yes. I’m still a second level, but I’m trying hard to take the next step.
iRunFar: Is it the physical aspects or the technical?
Forsberg: No, I think it’s the technical. The main thing is the technical now.
iRunFar: So you’ll keep working on that?
iRunFar: Anna, you’ve been here a couple years in a row now. You’ve won it twice?
Frost: No, just once.
iRunFar: Then you were back last year, but you couldn’t run.
iRunFar: You’re back here for a third year. What brings you to La Palma again?
Frost: It’s amazing—the island. The race is really awesome. It’s a nice place to come and train and base myself for awhile because once I’m on tour I need somewhere to base. For me, this place is really nice. I love the temperature. [Forsberg: Whew!] I love the beaches. The training, for me, is really nice here. It’s got a little bit of everything on this island. So it’s nice just to have a home base.
iRunFar: Is it sort of a home away from home?
iRunFar: Is it now a peaceful place? I’m sure the first year… the island really gets into the race, but…
Frost: Yeah, this year it’s crazy. It’s stepped up more this year with the really good organization this year and obviously with Skyrunning doing its best to keep going with the series. I think the island people have gone crazy for it. There are a lot more people wanting to race which is really great. You can’t go anywhere without getting photos.
iRunFar: I was just talking with someone and they were saying you guys came down from a run on the other side of the island earlier this week and there were just people waiting at the bottom.
Frost: They were waiting, yeah; they could see us coming down the zigzags. You just couldn’t move. It’s fantastic. It’s really great to see that the sport is developing like that for everyone. It’s not just running people, it’s people of all sizes and shapes and ages.
iRunFar: You’ve run Diagonale des Fous and seen the culture there. You’ve been here. What is it about these small islands that just embrace it as much as much as any other place in the world?
Frost: I think it’s the environment. You have to be fit to live somewhere like here because if you’re walking anywhere, you’re walking up a steep cliff. It’s hot, so you feel like you want to be out there and doing something. I think because they’ve got the environment, they’ve got the inspiration to get out amongst it; so they’ve got the energy to give towards the race.
iRunFar: Emelie, a couple days ago you were out on one of your seven training runs and you turned your ankle.
Forsberg: No, it was a shoe thing or something. I fell into the river because it was a big jump and it was, No, it’s easier to do that. Then I just fell in and I think I twisted kind of my tendon back there, but I went to osteo and he put it right back. My foot was like this [makes hand motion], but he put it like that [makes another hand motion]. Then it was just three days of resting to stabilize. After the three days I went for one long run.
iRunFar: So not a serious training injury—you were clowning around at a photo shoot.
Forsberg: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s okay now. I feel nothing.
iRunFar: So you’re 100% going into the race.
Forsberg: Yes, otherwise I wouldn’t do it.
iRunFar: Anna, you had a really tough 2013. [Frost: Yeah.] You got to jump into TNF 50 at the end of the year and a couple other races along the way, but your health was definitely a concern and you were very public about it. How are you feeling this year?
Frost: Yeah, I’m just healthy and it’s a really nice feeling to have. I’ve obviously gone through a lot of injuries and sort of started back from scratch again and given myself quick breaks. I’ve gotten on top of it mentally now and I’m feeling just healthy again feeling happy. And like I said to a lot of people, the hardest part now is getting to the start line. Knowing that I’m going to get to that start line is almost like winning the race at the moment. I’m healthy and I’m not injured and I’m really happy to be here and racing. If I can get to the finish still feeling like that, obviously tired, because I still will have been running for a long time, but if I can get to the finish in that frame of physical fitness, I’ll be really happy.
iRunFar: Do you change your expectations at all because every year whether it was shorter mountain running or when you transitioned to ultras you were always a favorite or the favorite?
Frost: I definitely feel… you know, I’m still competitive, I’m still strong, I can still have a good race. I’m not going to turn up to a race to walk it. I’m not in that phase. I’m still competitive. The expectations for me right now is that I’m healthy and I’m happy and I’m on the start line and I want to be like that at the finish whether that’s winning or coming in 600th because I need to back it off in the last monster downhill or whatever. I’m not going to be disappointed either way.
iRunFar: Emelie, you just had a great short film come out from The African Attachment. What was it like working on that?
Forsberg: It took a long time. It was great. It’s always nice to film with people that you know. The African Attachment and Seb [Montaz] I know. It was just like hanging out with friends.
Frost: The amazing thing with that is you can spend two weeks with 12-hour days doing nonstop filming and then it comes out with a three-to-four minute video. It’s crazy. You think, Oh, wow, those hours!
Forsberg: Yeah, for sure.
iRunFar: I’m sure it crystalizes what each of your inspirations are. What draws you to the mountains in one sentence?
Forsberg: The contrast and the view you get of life or the view you get of… yeah, life, I would say.
Frost: I think for me it’s the sense of freedom and the simplicity when you’re there. It’s just easy.
iRunFar: You just recently went through your 10th anniversary of mountain running.
Frost: I know, yeah, crazy.
Forsberg: Wow, whew! It’s good.
iRunFar: With those 10 years of experience, would you give Emelie any advice—well, you know, over that long span?
Frost: No, we were speaking about this the other day. I think Emelie is really, really good at listening to her body already. When she’s tired, she rests. When she’s feeling a niggle or something, she rests. She gets it treated. That was something I always pushed through. So she’s already doing the listening part really, really well. I think a lot of the part of racing or doing anything, whatever you do, I think, is experience. You have to learn from your mistakes. Something that might work for me might not work for Emelie. It obviously doesn’t. We train very differently. I don’t go ski mountaineering. If I did I’d probably break every part of my body. I think it’s good to listen and it’s good to speak and it’s good to ask. I’d say that to everyone. You need to talk about issues and about problems. I think definitely for women, women need to talk about what’s going on. Without that, it’s really hard to do on your own.
iRunFar: It’s interesting—women’s health involved in athletics is really kept quiet. You’ve been very open and public about what you’ve gone through with the female athlete triad…
Frost: I just think it’s important to keep talking.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you ladies out this weekend. Enjoy La Palma.
Frost and Forsberg: Thank you.
iRunFar: Well that’s a good start, Emelie. Not a bonus question, but a challenge: we’re in front of a beautiful banana plantation. There are no monkeys here.
Frost: You can be the monkey.
Forsberg: [monkey sounds/actions]