Emma Roca was the third woman to finish the 2013 The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. Her 24:48:14 was also 8 minutes under the previous course record set by Krissy Moehl in 2009. In this interview, Emma speaks about what it means for the sport when three women finish under a course record, her 24-hour duel with second place Núria Picas, and whether or not she’s sore from her run around Mont Blanc.
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Emma Roca Post-2013 TNF UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Emma Roca. Emma, you had a great run this weekend.
Emma Roca: Yeah, I’m really happy.
iRF: You’re happy with your third place.
Roca: Yes. Today I’m a little sore, normal, well a little more big than normal. Yesterday, the podium was really expensive, so for me being there it was the best.
iRF: You’ve done UTMB before. How does this year compare to your previous runs?
Roca: This year we did the full course, so it’s more than 24 hours running and some walking also. It’s really a long race with a lot of uphills and downhills—completely a heavy one. And the level—a lot of female favorites. Actually during the race, a lot of them stopped, but they were there and they could be, like I was telling you, on the first. And Rory [Bosio] just exploding was incredible. So for me, it was incredible.
iRF: Yes, and your performance was under Krissy Moehl’s record. So was Nuria [Picas] and Rory. Has the paradigm or game changed?
Roca: Completely. I think it was before and after Mont Blanc about the concept of the women doing long distance because we are approaching the men’s time. And it’s not because we’re extra-terrestrials, it’s because the distance is long and we have more time to improve the gap between them and also because we are more diesel. In short distances the time is really huge between. In long distances, like in adventure racing, I felt much better the third day than the first and my teammates, I had to wait for them. So you change.
iRF: So in the shorter distances maybe you need more power and muscle strength.
Roca: And this is genetics. We cannot fight with that because the genetics for the men are completely different.
iRF: And when it’s longer it maybe more about metabolism and energy and… smarts…
Roca: And strategy and… completely. In the perfect race, I was talking with Lizzy Hawker and we were talking about the performance and it was the perfect day for her when everything went…
iRF: Was it a perfect day for you?
Roca: Yes, well, I had some up downs, up downs during the night feeling tired and not wanting to push, but as I said to Nuria, you are a Ferrari and I’m an Audi or a less model of my car, so I have to arrgh. It’s impossible. My speed, my limit… I cannot… My 5-10 minutes gap I had all the race with Nuria—I’m pushing, I’m pushing—perhaps in the uphill I was closer to her, but in the downhill, she just rushed. My legs were, “No.” I don’t have the same legs. It’s ok.
iRF: You know Nuria well. You’re both from Catalunya. Did you expect your race with her to go as it did?
Roca: No, I was expecting one hour more for me behind her.
iRF: One hour more behind her. Late in the race, I’m sure you were hearing how closer you were to her.
Roca: At the last Col de Montez, five minutes. At Col de Montez to here it’s three hours before finishing and there was only a gap of five minutes. I was thinking, Please, don’t do it the last sprint line. After 24 hours, no.
iRF: After 24 hours, there’s nothing that you want to do less than sprint.
Roca: Exactly. It was really, really nice to fight.
iRF: You finished behind her, but it probably helped you run faster.
Roca: Both I think we also did a good time because we were controlling one to each other. We were just pushing and pushing and pushing. The last seven hours were really tough and fighting. I was closing my teeth in the downhills because everything was painful and sore. C’mon, Emma, let’s fight!
iRF: Your legs were sore on the downhills, and Nuria was a little bit faster. Do you think there’s a way you could prepare better?
Roca: I’m 40 years old now. How can? I’m ok. I’m very happy. No problem.
iRF: Over the last week I’ve heard you talk a lot about the town of Leadville and the Leadville 100 and the Leadwoman competition. Might we see you in the States next year?
Roca: Let’s see, I was talking with Anton [Krupicka] because we were in the same house as the Buff team and he told me about also Hardrock, but it’s a lottery, so I have to put in my spot and see if I have good luck. So Hardrock will be my first, but if I cannot get inside then why not? I’ll try it.
iRF: It would be great to have you race in the U.S., Emma. One other thing, you have a long adventure racing background. How different is it to run… UTMB is over 100 miles and is very strenuous. How does it compare to your adventure racing?
Roca: Mentally, it’s not as tough as adventure racing because you know you can finish. It’s a distance you’re very used to because in adventure racing, you’re racing for 3, 4, 5, 6 days. So, no problem. But the speeds and the stress with the competition that you are also racing alone and you have to maintain yourself all the time. So it makes you more complicated when you are having bad moments. It’s different also when you finish as I was telling you. Ok, you have sore legs, but that’s all. In adventure racing, your body is hurt. Every tiny part of your body is hurt. Because you paddle, you climb, you mountain bike, you have very heavy backpacks. Here, no.
iRF: So you’re feeling ok then.
Roca: Yes. Going down the stairs, not much. I saw Rory and said, “Oh, you don’t have your legs sore?” “Oh, a little.” “Ohhhh, I want yours, little one.”
iRF: Well, congratulations on a great race and good seeing you again.
Roca: Thank you. Thank you very much.
iRF: Ok, and a bonus question for you.
Roca: Ah, always there’s a bonus question.
iRF: You speak a lot and you’re animated when you’re speaking. You speak a lot with your hands. What is your one gesture up here? What is that?
Roca: You need to eat; you need to drink; you need to feed yourself. “To take.”
iRF: Would it work for beer?
Roca: It works. Drinking something.
Roca: You remember what you have to ask to each athlete? Do you remember… because you know a lot of athletes… the improvement and the results. So in the head and in the mind, you have to structure many, many information of everyone. You have a huge family of ultra racing.