I’m sitting outside a small rustic cafe on a little square in Los Llanos- La Palma’s second capital and finishing point of Transvulcania. The 5th edition of the now famous mountain race is a little over a week away and I’m waiting for last years women’s champion and course record holder- Anna Frost. When she rolls up on her favourite new toy- a pearly white Saracen mountain bike- we settle down for a chat over some damn good juice. What transpires is a classic, good old-fashioned chin-wag on the latest trials and tribulations of one of our sports guiding lights.
Frosty about 2/3rds of the way into owning the 2012 Transvulcania race. © Transvulcania
So Frosty, you’re back on La Palma- you’ve got a shed load of good memories from last year obviously, how does it feel to return?
Yeah, it wasn’t that the memories came flooding back, it was more that it felt welcoming. It felt like home. When you get a connection with somewhere it’s always really nice to come back to that- it’s really like ‘ahhh,’ you know? A breathe of fresh air, there’s a really nice energy coming back here.
But there must be a lot of differences this year, coming back?
Oh yeah, its always different to come back to a place- thats why a lot of people are disappointed when they return somewhere. They have an amazing time somewhere and they come back to try and find that again and it’s different. So I always try and tell myself that it’s always going to be different when I go back so I won’t be disappointed, but you always get something new when you back somewhere- you find a new beach or a new trail and that’s exciting. So I’ve come back in a very different space too- last year I was here for six weeks before the race and my focus was fully on racing and training. This time I’ve been from NZ to Moab in the States to Maine to France and then over here! So I’ve been all over the place and my body is not as happy as is was last year…
Yeah, so why isn’t the body happy Frosty? What’s the injury prognosis?
This time I am not sure. I’m getting like electric shocks, it sorta like a sciatica- I guess the pain is coming from my back and going down my leg. This is the problem, it’s not pinpointed and we can’t find where the problem is. You know, where the pain is is not where the injury is. It’s different every day- I am still trying to get to the bottom of it and still trying to decide if its worth racing or not.
Wow, that must be a difficult decision?
Oh yeah! Its a really hard decision. As much as I want to race because I know how great the course is, I don’t want to write off the my season before its even really begun! Also, because of last year and the injuries that I had- that was so disappointing in the end, so I promised myself that this year was all about getting healthy, staying healthy and running all season. So if I have to forfeit a race for that, than I do.
So looking back on last year, you reckon you pushed it a bit too much when you have should backed off, injury wise?
Yeah, I guess I did. I understand that if I want to push my limits, if I want to challenge myself than maybe I’ll have to go over the line at some point- to find out where the line is. So I realise I am open to that and that’s why I found myself in the position I was in last year. I had pushed it too far but I didn’t know where too far was because it was all so new to me- I mean new running as an ultra-runner or, more specifically, racing as an ultra-runner.
So, you haven’t run much the last few months then?
No, not at all. Pretty much from December, when I went home a big mess really, I took a big break off to really get to the bottom of the injuries and to just let my body settle because I was totally fatigued…
..absolutely no energy?
Yeah, no energy and the bones were inflamed, the muscles not healing. My immunity was shot too, the IMgG (intra-muscular gamma globulin) chemicals were rock-bottom. So it was a process of restocking that with good nutrition, rest, yoga and mental space.
Is it true that you also practiced golf on your free time from running? Do you recommend this sport for athletes like you? And if you do, what advice could you give those people?
Yes in fact I did, I miss it a lot these days, but won’t be able to practice again for a long while. Of course, is a wonderful sport, it’s a very healthy lifestyle, it’s another way for you to meditate. I would recommend learning the top driver the best players in the world use, because a huge mistake I made when I started practicing was use a very old and cheep driver my cousin owned years ago, it was like 30 years old and nobody was using it.
It must have felt so nice to be back in NZ then?
It was really really good to be back with friends and family and having that support network. Yeah, so that was all of December and January, then in February I started cruising back into it with a little swimming and biking and a little bit of running. Then in March the Team came out to NZ so that was a really nice start- I felt like I was consistent and that the health was coming back.
So it had been a long road to recovery, at that stage when the Team were out there, were you contemplating racing Tarawera?
I would have liked to but at the same time I was like ‘Try and be sensible!’ and to be sensible was to not run Tarawera at that point. So that was my decision in the end.
My heart is saying ‘Go for it!’ while my my mind is saying ‘Don’t be so stupid!’ so I have to come to an agreement between my heart and my head I guess!
You had some fun though, you ran the relay right!?
Yeah we ran the relay- myself and Rickey, Francois and Emelie, we all ran together and that was really fun. So at that point I was feeling really confident when I was leaving NZ to go to Moab but I don’t know whether it was too soon or if it was the travel or if my body was just not quite right and was sending me some signals but it kinda flared up. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed and keeping an open mind.
It must be so frustrating though!?
Yeah, straight away, when I first felt it, I was really, really upset and really, really distraught and I was like ‘ok that’s it! I quit. I’m retiring.’
Ha ha, yeah but that was like a quick, short blast of outrage but, I think, I have gone past the frustration and gone ‘ok, something’s not right.’ I can’t be frustrated by it, I am still happy, I’m still able to bike, able to swim, able to come to amazing places like this and I have other projects going on with Salomon. You know, I am extremely lucky and I have got friends and great support so I had to take away the frustration and go ‘Deal with, work it out and carry on.’ So at the moment I am dealing with it and hoping, more than anything, that I can sort it out.
So what’s the chances, really, of starting Transvulcania on Saturday?
At this point it’s slim. A sensible person would say it’s very, very slim…
But you’re not sensible!?
Yeah exactly! My heart is saying ‘Go for it!’ while my my mind is saying ‘Don’t be so stupid!’ so I have to come to an agreement between my heart and my head I guess!
You’ve been getting intensive physiotherapy here on the island, what have they been focussing on?
Yeah I’ve done quite a lot here but since December I have gone through a big variety of treatment. I’ve had lymphatic treatment, vitamin and mineral supplementations, acupuncture, massage, manipulation..while I was in France I had quite intensive manipulation and stretch sessions. Here I have been going to an osteopath and have been using RockTape to help strengthen the muscles. So we are hoping that after the weekend, with all the alignment, that everything is going to perfect!
With all that in mind then, have you not been running the La Palma trails at all then since you got here?
Not so much, no- which has been hard because I know how amazing they are but the great thing is I have got a bike (at which point we booth glance admiringly at Frosty’s brand new Saracen 29er parked a few feet away) so I have been able to get out there- that gives me another buzz. When you’re running you get a different buzz than when you’re on the bike, when I’m blasting down hills. I am constantly falling off the thing…
Ha ha it sounds dangerous to me Frosty!?
Yeah it probably is. It’s maybe not the best thing to do while preparing for a race but its given me the buzz anyway!
So back to La Palma. I guess last year you would have been quite anonymous while you were here before the race. I mean you were well known within the trail and ultra community but now, on La Palma at least, you are something of a celebrity aren’t you!?
Yeah a little bit! People are starting to recognise me. The thing is that La Palma are doing so great at promoting the race and promoting us as athletes so its only because of them and because of their really great efforts to promote the sport and develop the sport on the island too. I spoke to different people and they have said that running groups have started, which is amazing, and there are kids at 5 and 6 doing running groups and that’s really, really cool because, especially on the island, it could be very easy for the kids to feel that they are isolated, don’t have an outlet and not get into sport. I mean you would probably take this place for granted if you lived here wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t see the amazing trails and everything so it’s incredible to hear that they are starting early and it’s really nice for me and rewarding for me when kids come up to me and say that they want a photo because they have started running. So that’s really cool.
I was speaking with Emelie about it and we were saying that if we raced together we could probably bring my course record down.
I am still a little shocked to hear that you may not be running Frosty, I wanted to ask about the competition..its such a stacked field
Yeah, I would really love to be racing because its such a strong field with Nuria and Emelie…because they are probably going to be the two strongest and the biggest competition. We have raced before together, the three of us, and it was really fun. You know we pushed hard together and I was speaking with Emelie about it and we were saying that if we raced together we could probably bring my course record down. Last year I pretty much ran on my own…
Yeah, you were out front right from the off last year right?
Yeah I was, but thing is you can’t see that at the start, I had no idea where anybody was and I actually thought that Nuria was ahead of me so I was ‘chasing’ her until the daylight hit and then I saw one of the film crew and he said ‘No, no, no..you’re in front!’ and I was like ‘Oh cool, I can breath now!.’ From then I was on my own and, looking back, I was thinking about the places where I could probably make some time up a little bit. The flatish section up in the clouds I could have made a little bit of time there…
So between El Pilar and the next steep section?
Yeah exactly, thats definitely a point where time could be made up and also up on the top, not right at the top but the undulating parts high up where I eased up a little and checked out the views. So time could definitely be made up there as well..
And what about the downhill?
The downhill I went as hard as I could! I’m not as good on downhill as Nuria or Emelie so..
But that’s a tough section too..
Oh yeah it’s really tough! I worked a lot on that last year too though, on the downhill. I knew that if I wanted to keep a gap on Nuria that I had to go for it so I could not have made up anymore time on that and then I dug deep for that last 5k up. So I think the places to make up time are really up at the top, you can’t let go there, and then on that flat section.
I guess the heat was also a factor last year too? it looks like it will be cooler this time round
Yeah I know, but I guess that I had been here for six weeks so maybe I was more acclimatised to it. Actually the start last year it was not that hot so early in the morning and you get that sea-breeze coming from the east so it kept me cool for all of the dark. Then along the ridge it was windy so it actually wasn’t that hot but the problem was that people were getting dehydrated because it was sunny but the wind was blowing their sweat off so they didn’t realise they were sweating that much until they got to the downhill, then a lot of people were like ‘wow, I’m cooked.’ So by the time we got down to the beach at Tazacorte, yeah then it was hot but I was like ‘I don’t care, I’m getting out of here!’ So I don’t think that it going to be so much a problem this year as the temperature doesn’t seem as hot..
I think they had the hot wind from the Sahara called ‘Calima’ last year too
Yeah exactly, but since I have been here this time I haven’t even been lying out sunbathing, I feel white! I need to get my tan going! I didn’t bring half as many hoodies and warm clothes this time either. Although in the race I think that everybody will be in the same position- everybody is coming from winter. But in terms of the competition with Emelie and Nuria, and I am sure there are other people that are unknowns, but the three of us, because we are such close friends and we are very similar in form when we are running and we race very similar on the hills at the same sort of pace..
And competitive too..
And really competitive too! But the nice thing is that we all want each other to do really well and help each other and push each other in the race. So if I can race, that’s what I will be doing and if not I will be shouting my head off from the side to get them to keep moving!
Ha ha cool! So back to NZ, it must have been great to get your Salomon family over finally?
Oh it was amazing! I think since 2009 I have been begging them to bring the team out, I have been like ‘You have to come to New Zealand, its amazing!’ So finally they came and it was really good, I mean we could have spent another 4 or 6 weeks travelling around and having fun but, yeah, it was really a dream come true for me to have them there.
So Tarawera wasn’t an actual Skyrunning race was it?
It’s potentially a Skyrunning race. At the moment I don’t think they have enough climbing in the race for it to be a SkyRace but next year they are hoping to actually get over the mountain- the Tarawera mountain- because at the moment access is a problem.
Are you involved with the race organisation Frosty?
No, not at all but I’m a really good friend of the organiser. I am hoping to become more involved with Skyrunning for New Zealand and Australia in the next year. We will hopefully try and have an Australasia type skyrunning federation and, hopefully, bring in some Australia and NZ specific competitions and draw in some internationals into those races. Its something we have been talking about so we haven’t put the rubber-stamp on it all yet.
Does this mean you will be spending some more time at home in NZ then, settling down?!
No, actually, it doesn’t! I am still undecided about this year but I am thinking that the Grand Raid Reunion ‘la Diagonale des Fous’ (100 mile, 9000 meter climbing) is on my hit-list. For me it’s out of my mind as being achievable- 100 miles on that sort of terrain! But that inspires me, you know?, to want it, to really want to give it a go. So that’s in October. If I get there then after that somewhere that’s always inspiring for me and somewhere that gives me just enormous about of energy is Nepal. I’m thinking I will go there after ‘la Diagonale des Fous’ and run a stage race or if I am too broken from ‘la Diagonale des Fous’ than to just go into the mountains and enjoy it- walk and drink tea.
Sure, it sounds like an amazing country, the pure spirituality of the place..
Yeah it really is, I think the healing powers you get, just by being there, are enormous. After that I am not really sure, there are so many things that I would like to do- I have really wanted to travel through Cambodia and Vietnam so maybe I will just throw the running shoe out for a month and pack the sandals and skirt and go around that area for a while…or, potentially, and I have been saying it for years, but maybe have a winter because I skip winters..so I haven’t had a winter in seven years! I am interested in trying a little more nordic skiing and some ski mountaineering…
So possibly make Chamonix your winter base?
Yeah maybe Chamonix or go out to America..wherever the best teacher is, I need to find a good teacher or a patient teacher might be better!
You spent a bit of time in the States last summer right? And you seemed to really like the experience, it’s drawing you back then?
Yeah I loved it! I am going back in July, hopefully for Speedgoat…
Which you won last year..
Yeah I won but I felt like I didn’t have a really good race. I felt like I could have done a bit better. I had started suffering with the injury already at that point and I was only walking up until the race and then raced on the day so I would like to go back and have a decent one there..
And then UROC too?
Yeah and then stay for UROC. So thats all of August and all of September. I’m planning on just being around Leadville- hopefully Miguel (Heras) will do Leadville and I can help him. Dakota (Jones) also has a race that he is organising in Telluride so I will hopefully go and support him for that. There also a few guys doing Run Rabbit Run so maybe I will go and watch that as well. I think I will get a van that I can live out while I am there and just cruise around for a couple of months..
Yeah! We done that last year and it was just so much fun- Tony (Anton Krupicka), Joe (Grant), Dakota (Jones), Mike Wolfe, Mike Foote and Hal Koerner pull up there, get the trucks together and go running together. We were at Hardrock around that time as well and it was just a really, really fun scene. You are just surrounded by these 14ers and 13ers (14,000 and 13,000 foot mountains) and its just incredible!
Hardrock blew my mind- that’s a race that has inspired me to do longer races..
I actually registered for the Wasatch 100 and on the day that I had to send the cheque in I went ‘No! I’m not doing it! I’m not doing it!’
Yeah, you sent in a really cool written application for this years race too
Yeah that’s the one I really wanted to do! The organisers now will not accept written applications, you have to race one of their chosen 100 milers to apply- so I won’t get any of those done this year, unless I do Run Rabbit Run so there’s a little niggle in the back of my mind to try for that as its the only one left that would get me in. I actually registered for the Wasatch 100 and on the day that I had to send the cheque in I went ‘No! I’m not doing it! I’m not doing it!’ I got too scared and maybe I should have just entered it anyway..
Ha! is it the distance Frosty or what was it?
Yeah it’s the distance.
It’s the unknown..
Exactly, it’s unknown and I want to do it but when it came to the crunch, I was just ‘nononononononooooo!’ Haha, but that’s what I first did for the 50 miler too, I just said ‘No, no, no’ the whole way up to it the first time in San Fran (TNF 50) and it wasn’t until I actually got there, well actually even on the start line I was like ‘How the hell am I going to do this?!’ I was blown away, I was thinking it was going to be a cruise in the park- I thought we were going to head out slowly, everybody’s going to have a bit of a picnic…Next thing we are charging down the trail and I was like ‘What!? What are we doing!?’ So, yeah it was total new experience. So I just have to sign my name down for a 100 miler and I think I will get to the start and I will be like ‘What on Earth am I doing?’ and I am still not sure I will make it but I hope I would. Either way I would definitely learn something new about myself and about racing.
He said ‘Why is it that you want to do Hardrock and ‘la Diagonale des Fous’- The two hardest 100 milers in the world and you want to start with them!?’
So, like I said before, the 100 miler ‘la Diagonale des Fous’ is definitely something I am interested in. When I was speaking to Greg Vollet, our manager, when we had a meeting at the start of the year about our race calendar for 2013- I had already emailed him to tell him that I wanted to do ‘la Diagonale des Fous’ and he had already crossed it off! So when we sat down at meeting I said ‘So what about ‘la Diagonale des Fous’?’ and he said ‘Why is it that you want to do Hardrock and ‘la Diagonale des Fous’- The two hardest 100 milers in the world and you want to start with them!?’ And I said ‘To be honest, those ones are more approachable for me because something like Leadville or Western States, where its pretty flat and you’re running, running, running for 100 miles, so fast…its scares me! Whereas somewhere like ”la Diagonale des Fous’ or Hardrock where you’re in these most incredible mountains and going up these insanely huge mountains- thats inspiring for me. Ok, I’m going too be walking and its going to be a long day out but, for me, they seem more approachable.’ So when I said that him, he was like ‘OK, you’re in!’
So Greg tries to guide you a little? Its ultimately your decision though right?
Yeah it’s my decision but he’s the one that’s keeping my feet on the ground. Like when I start listing off all these races I wanna do he’s like ‘Remember that you have travel there, remember that you have race there, remember that your legs are broken right now!, remember that you are human!’ So he is definitely my grounding force. He knows when to hold me back and he knows when to push me forward as well- so he is a really good bouncing board for my crazy ideas!
Ok, so you have been in Annecy just know too, so this has to do with your secret project right?
Yeah that’s my secret project…its an alive secret project, it’s looking amazing, it’s exciting…
It’s apparel, right!?
Yeah, it’s apparel. It started off just as a little inspiration for me when I was working off an injury last year. I put some ideas down on paper, just some of my inspirations from travelling and running that I shared with Salomon and they liked what they saw. So they took it in and put it into the range.
So is it a part of the S-LAB range or the regular trail running range?
Yeah its part of the range for 2014, I think. It will be called the ‘New Zealand Limited Edition.’
So how’s it going to differ from the other products in the range then Frosty
It’s very feminine. The colours are feminine inspired…
It’s still technical too though right?
Yeah, it’s still very technical. The motto has always been, right from the start ‘No Compromise.’ The material is light, it’s wicking, it’s really breathable but it’s also feminine as well. The lines are made so that there are as less seams as possible, so there is less chafing and less weight. Its really nice to race in- so there is racing, a training and a casual range.
Ok, so its quite a range then, pretty expansive?
Well there are six products that will come out in the edition and they are a variation of the race, training and casual ranges. Its really exciting! It’s been hugely rewarding for me, I’ve learnt a lot and that has been fantastic because the team at Salomon- the apparel, the marketing, the developers and the ladies and guys down in the LAB, have just been so welcoming. I mean, to have someone who is not at all experienced in anything like this to come with these questions and ideas- they have been amazing. You know, for me, I don’t know what’s possible or not so I am just throwing everything out at them and they are like, ‘Thats not possible at the moment but maybe this can work!’ So we have been able to look into the future a little bit and see what the fabric technicians can do. It’s just been really inspiring- all the women are going to love it!
It sounds really cool Frosty! So just to finish back with La Palma- so you haven’t been running the trails but have you been doing some exploring on the bike?
Yeah I’ve been on the roads and on the trails. I’ve been exploring new parts of the island that I haven’t been to before.
So have you found any good places!?
Oh yeah, amazing places! Yesterday I got up to El Pilar and then bombed back down the side of the volcano..I just went straight down! It’s been really really fun!
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