After an already long season, Sondre Amdahl is ready to race the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. In this interview, Sondre talks about what caused him to drop from the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc last month, how he’s gotten over those troubles and prepared for UTMF, and where we might see him racing in 2016.
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Sondre Amdahl Pre-2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here at the starting line of the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. We are on the shoreline of Lake Kawaguchiko. I’m with Norwegian, Sondre Amdahl. How are you?
Sondre Amdahl: Good. I’m ready.
iRunFar: We just came in out of a rain storm. The rain started a couple of hours ago, and it’s kind of… it’s not raining hard; it’s just steady, steady, steady.
Amdahl: Yes, and it looks like it’s going to be a lot of rain tomorrow as well.
iRunFar: Just steady all day with lots of chance of thunderstorms, yeah? So, how are you feeling about the course and… this is a course that rings around Mount Fuji, so one of the highlights is getting to see this mountain. Now it’s kind of shrouded in clouds.
Amdahl: Yeah, I’m not sure if we’re going to see the mountain before Sunday. We’ll save it for Sunday.
iRunFar: Did you get a glimpse before the clouds came in?
Amdahl: No, I haven’t seen it. I’ve never seen it.
iRunFar: “What is Mount Fuji?” The last time we saw you was just four weeks ago at UTMB. You dropped out at the 50k mark, and you said your chief complaint afterward was sore hamstrings and maybe a sore mind?
Amdahl: Yeah, I think it was mind a little bit, too. I was running well until about 35k at Les Contamines. I remember seeing you just before at Saint Gervais, and I felt good. Then my hamstrings started to seize up, and I had a tough climb up to Col du Bonhomme. Then I just struggled on the downhill, and I just couldn’t do it. My muscles were sore and my stride was different. I didn’t want to ruin this race, so I just stopped.
iRunFar: The hamstring thing, was it cramping, was it tightness, was it pain?
Amdahl: It was tightness and pain. I think I fixed it now. I’ve been training okay since UTMB. I had some physiotherapy. I think I’m recovered and ready to race.
iRunFar: Probably you imagined racing UTMB, recovering, doing just a little bit of running and trying to ride the fitness high and carry it to here. Things probably changed because you only ended up running a 50k that day.
Amdahl: Yeah, actually it didn’t change too much. I’d been talking to my coach, Ian Sharman, a bit, and we agreed that even if UTMB was shorter than planned, I was still going to do similar recovery and preparation for UTMF.
iRunFar: Because of the injury?
Amdahl: Yeah, and also because it’s been a long season. We don’t believe in too much running the whole time. I think maybe I’m a little bit undertrained, but I’d rather be undertrained than overtrained. I think I’m fresh and ready to go.
iRunFar: You have had a long year. We watched you race at the Hong Kong 100k way back in the beginning of 2015.
Amdahl: Yeah, it was mid-January.
iRunFar: Now it’s going on the end of September. Was part of the mental issue at UTMB, was that related to it being a long season or just worrying about your body that day?
Amdahl: I think it was my body that day. I had a good period of training after Western States. It was just that day I think. I had a long season, but there have been some good breaks in between. Yeah, I can’t blame the long season for UTMB. I think it was my own fault. It’s going to be good to have a break after this race and then start preparing for 2016.
iRunFar: Here we are in a new country, Japan. Have you been here for a couple days to sort of sample the local culture?
Amdahl: Yes, a little bit. We flew in, my buddy Didrik Hermansen from Norway, we flew in on Monday. We spent three nights in Tokyo which was good. We’ve just been adjusting to the jetlag.
iRunFar: Surrounded by humanity.
Amdahl: Yeah, yeah, yeah, lots of people… it’s been nice. We had some Japanese food but mostly just relaxing. We had a little bit of training but mostly just taking it easy and sleeping.
iRunFar: Any run-sightseeing in Tokyo?
Amdahl: Just a little bit around the park at the Imperial Gardens and the palace.
iRunFar: The famous 5k loop?
iRunFar: You partook in the fame?
Amdahl: Yeah, I’ve just done a couple loops, not too much.
iRunFar: Now here we are out in the Japanese countryside. We can’t really see it because it’s raining right now.
Amdahl: It’s the countryside.
iRunFar: I guess we’re in the countryside. Now you’re about to do a loop around Mount Fuji. You’ve probably done some reading about what you’re going to expect out there in terms of the terrain. There’s a lot of flat road running. There’s a lot of steep ups and downs. They’ve just announced some course changes because of the weather that’s going to lead to even more flat running. Where are you at mentally in terms of approaching the diversity of the terrain?
Amdahl: Of course I would prefer more mountains and more trail and more technical terrain…
iRunFar: “Give me the steeps!”
Amdahl: No, but it’s okay. I think it will be a good break, the flat roads, and also I think with this weather, the trail parts and the steep parts are going to be really muddy which is not too fun. I think it’s going to be okay. It’s still 170k, so it’s still going to be a long day out and a long night. Yeah, I’m prepared for whatever comes. I haven’t been here. I haven’t seen the course. I don’t know what to expect, but from the profile, it looks like it’s going to be like you say—steep ups and downs. But I’m ready for it. I think it’s good that we get the most difficult parts in the beginning.
iRunFar: Get through that stuff while you’re still fresh and then hopefully be able to turnover the legs when you get time.
Amdahl: Yeah, and hopefully we can be a little group through the tough parts in the beginning which is nice. Then I’ll just run by myself from the mid-section to the finish.
iRunFar: One of the questions I’ve enjoyed asking a lot of different runners is the course is really diverse—there are miles and miles of pavement and miles and miles of really technical stuff that’s going to be made even more technical by the weather that’s going on right now. How do you decide on your shoes?
Amdahl: Yeah, I think I’ll do a good trail shoe with a good grip, the Superior from Altra from about 70k, and then I’ll switch to a more road shoe. Then hopefully that will last through the race because I don’t want to change too many times.
iRunFar: So you’ll wear the Superior through the Tenshi Mountains and then switch to the road shoe after that?
Amdahl: Yeah, then I’ll change to the Paradigm 1.5. Hopefully that’s going to be okay on the technical section at the end.
iRunFar: You’ll be the guy surfing maybe?
Amdahl: No, I’ve seen Jason Schlarb using that on Diagonale des Fous at the end, so then I can use it here.
iRunFar: There is some international diversity going on here, but there are two Norwegians racing—you and Didrik. Is there any national competition going on between the two of you?
Amdahl: No, I think if there was, he’s going to win because he’s a really, really strong road runner and also good with the technical sections. I’ll hang as long as I can, and then we’ll see what happens. He’s a really good runner. We’re good friends, and we’re actually from the same place in Norway or very close.
iRunFar: I didn’t know that.
Amdahl: It’s called…
iRunFar: Do you train together sometimes?
Amdahl: A little bit. He lives in Oslo, the capitol, and last winter we trained a little bit together. We travel to races together, and I look forward to doing more of that in the future.
iRunFar: Cool. Last question for you. It’s the end of September, and you’ve been racing since January. Is this the end-of-season closer?
Amdahl: I think so. I’m not doing Diagonale des Fous, that’s for sure. Yeah, this is the closer. I think I’ll do three or four weeks off running and easy, easy training and then start preparing for 2016.
iRunFar: You were at races all over the world, but mostly the long mountain ultras. Do you have any visions for what 2016 is going to hold?
Amdahl: No, and that’s exciting. For sure, I think there are some races I want to do. I think I’ll start 2016 season with The North Face in San Francisco in December.
iRunFar: Coming back to America.
Amdahl: Yeah, yeah, I like you guys in America. Then probably Hong Kong in January and Transgrancanaria in March—that’s my favorite race for sure. I don’t know for the summer. It’s a lottery going on, and maybe I’ll be back in the States for July. You never know.
iRunFar: For that one mountain race in Colorado? Put your name in the lottery and see what happens?
Amdahl: The long one. We’ll see. We’ll see. Yeah, yeah.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you not only in the Hardrock lottery, but you know you’ll need a little luck to get around the mountain this weekend. Best of luck to you, and we’ll see you out there on the flanks of Mount Fuji.
Amdahl: Thank you. Thank you.