Defending The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships champion Ida Nilsson is back to race again. In this interview, Ida talks about what has brought her back to the Marin Headlands of California a second time, how she’s in a different place going into this year’s race than last year, how her year of racing has gone, and how she sees the women’s race playing out.
Be sure to read our in-depth men’s and women’s previews, and follow our race-day live coverage.
Ida Nilsson Pre-2017 The North Face 50 Mile Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here at the San Francisco Running Company. It’s the day before the 2017 TNF 50 Mile. I’m with co-host, Hillary Allen. Together we are interviewing defending champion, Ida Nilsson: Good morning!
Ida Nilsson: Good morning.
iRunFar: You’re back!
Nilsson: Yeah, of course.
iRunFar: How are you doing?
Nilsson: Very good.
iRunFar: You’ve been in America for a couple weeks now.
Nilsson: Yes, after Les Templiers I came straight over. I spent three weeks in Flagstaff. It’s been very nice to be there running on dry and fast trails.
iRunFar: It’s your former home territory.
Hillary Allen: I’ve been pining after the photos. It looked so beautiful.
Nilsson: Yeah, good, amazing weather for being there because November could be snow and cold, but it was good every day.
Allen: Did you find running in the [Grand] Canyon was a good prep for this race, the training?
Nilsson: I’ve never run in the canyon before, so I thought it was super cool to do. It’s the opposite mentality to first go down and then have to climb up than actually climbing mountains. It was harder in one way that you start with the easy part, and then you have to make yourself go way up there again. I really liked it. I liked it a lot.
iRunFar: Ida, you’re last year’s champion, and your’e back again. What has inspired you to come back and go for a second run and a second win?
Nilsson: I really like the trails and the course. For me, it’s a perfect race. It’s the kind of race I like to run when there is a group of people and you can go fast. It’s a beautiful forest, and I think there are a lot of nice parts on this course for me.
iRunFar: I think that’s one of the interesting parts about this race is that the depth of fast women is enough that you do end up running with other women at other times and not just men.
Nilsson: Yeah, I think that is so nice because not all of the races are like that. We get spread out quite quickly. I remember from last year we were six or seven people in the beginning in a pack, ad then it spreads out, but still that’s not very common for ultras or other races.
Allen: It proceeds all the way throughout the race. The top-five women were separated by a couple minutes each one of them. I’m excited to see how it transpires this year.
iRunFar: Last year coming to this race you had a very short build following an injury.This year you’ve had an entire season of racing including a lot of success. How are you feeling about your fitness and where you are mentally with racing this weekend?
Nilsson: Yeah, I feel so happy that I’ve been able to actually run the entire year and do all the races I planned. That’s huge for me. I actually realized when I was back in Flagstaff, the last year I did that was 2014, my last year in Flagstaff. I had an entire year of running. It’s super nice. I still feel like I started to get a bit tired of racing six weeks ago. Now, it was so nice to be in Flagstaff because I got energy for this last race. Now, I feel good and fit, and I’m excited to race.
iRunFar: You did a fairly long race not so long ago. In October you ran Les Templiers where you had a fight to the end. You and Ruth Croft were kind of dueling all the way to the end with some other women very close behind you.
Nilsson: Yeah, it was a really fast race. It was cool. I know I looked at the times before and thought to break eight hours would be a good race. Then you see that was the fifth woman around that time.
iRunFar: You guys were way faster.
Nilsson: I felt I had a good race. Ruth was super strong and about 45k, I think, she was too strong in the uphills, and she pulled away.
Allen: Does that change your strategy for this race since she’s not going to be here, or do you think other people bring the same kind of intensity to this race, too?
Nilsson: Yeah, I think so. I don’t think it matters. It would have been great to have her on the start line because she’s always a good runner, and she’s always up there. But it will be a lot of wonderful women, so I think just need to find a good pace.
iRunFar: There is one woman on the start line… a lot of the women on the start line you’ve beaten before in races, but there is one woman who has beat you in 2017 who is racing tomorrow—Megan Kimmel.
Nilsson: Yeah, it will be nice again.
iRunFar: You guys saw each other at the Mont Blanc Marathon in June. How did that race between the two of you play out?
Nilsson: We were running together in the beginning, but then I’m stronger in other things. I didn’t feel I had the perfect race at that race.
iRunFar: She was just the stronger runner on that day?
iRunFar: The course this year is different. It has a lot of the same trails as last year, but it’s coming in a different order, and it’s finishing with a bit of a road run across the Golden Gate Bridge. What do you think about the new course?
Nilsson: I tried to get it into my head yesterday when I saw the loops. I guess they took away the back and forth in the end on the open fields, and now it’s the bridge, and otherwise it’s pretty much the same we’re doing. So, I guess it doesn’t… it was a flat part also, and now we get some roads instead and maybe some running around people. I think it will still be a nice course, and maybe the finish will be better hopefully with more people and feel more like a race. It was a bit in the middle of nowhere with the start and finish. I hope it will be a good change.
Allen: I think it will be—add some drama to it running across the bridge.
iRunFar: I’ve heard a lot of women say, “When Ida is on the start line of a race, the race always goes out really fast.” Have you thought about your strategy or approach to tomorrow? Are you going to be running by feel or keying off some of the other women? There’s a late entrant, a woman with a lot of leg speed, Renee Metivier.
Nilsson: Yeah, I ran against her in college. I know her well. I was really excited when I saw that. That’s nice!
iRunFar: She’s another person with a lot of inherent leg speed, so I’m expecting her to go off the line pretty quick tomorrow, too. How do you think things are going to go?
Nilsson: I think there will probably be a pack in the beginning like there was last year. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to take it slow, but then it’s only for a few miles and it feels good. It doesn’t feel so fast when you’re in a race.
Allen: You’re rested. You’re tapered. I know that feeling.
Nilsson: So, I don’t know. Usually I just go by feel and hopefully…
iRunFar: So you’ll probably go out fast. Best of luck to you tomorrow. We look forward to seeing you out there.
Allen: We’ll be rooting for you, and we’re really excited.
Nilsson: Thank you. Thank you.