Stian Stensland

Describe your experience with the Equinox.  Have you participated in the full marathon, the relay, and/or the ultra?  How many times?

I’ve run it twice.  The first time was in 2009 – I was over here for a year of my Ph.D., and this year I’m back to prepare for my post-doc., and when I’m here (Stian lives in Oslo,Norway) I run the Equinox.

This year, we ran out as a group. I was feeling pretty fast in the beginning there.  Some people pulled away at the top of Ester Dome, but I was able to pick up the speed and catch Matias and Chris during the last part going down Henderson and Gold Hill Road. I was a couple of minutes faster in 2009, but I just pounded the ground and messed up my legs.   It was more of a positive feeling this year. It was two different experiences.

When do you start training for this race?  How much of the course itself do you incorporate into your training?  How often do you incorporate the Dome into your training?

In 2009, I started training on the course a month prior to the race.

I’ve had this year’s marathon in my mind for three months, so I started doing some longer runs in June after I finished my dissertation.  I was following a marathon schedule up until this last month when it got pretty busy at work, and then I got sick when I got over here from Oslo two weeks ago.  I was on the out and back a couple of times, and also, had a long run up Ester Dome and back.  I’ve been on every part of the course this year.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

Get two to two 1/2 hour long runs in with varying speed, with about one hour of this at threshold or marathon pace.  Run your last one a couple of weeks before the race.  And I try to do general threshold runs two to three times a week for 30 to 40 minutes.  Sometimes I train more than once a day so I get eight to nine workouts in a week.  I ski a lot in the wintertime, and don’t run that much during the winter.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

It’s the atmosphere.  All the people along the course cheering you on even though I’m from Norway.  Even though my support group wasn’t able to get to the top in time, there were other people there feeding me, and that was nice!

What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?

I probably have to work more on the hill section, especially the downhill.  When it’s so steep and you’re running on trails… that’s pretty technical, and you have to be able to let go.  If you break too much, you cause a lot of harm, and that really gets to your quads.  My best parts are the flat parts because I’ve been running a lot of track.  

Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race. Describe the worst.

Best moment was getting out to the forest after the chute, and getting onto Henderson and Gold Hill.  I was feeling pretty good because I moderately went down the chute, was able to pick up speed, and surged by Matias on the downhill section.  Two years ago, I went pretty fast down the chute, and then cramped up when I got down to the road.  My legs were toast and I wasn’t able to catch anyone that year.  

Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?

Yes!  Back home, I’ve been running track.  I competed in Nationals a few times.   I want to keep up my running ability.  This year, a lot of my emphasis was on finishing my Ph.D. in June.  I’ve been training fairly well, but focusing on my Ph.D. was a load on my mind and body.  If you work a lot, you can’t train as much.  Rest is something more than not training.  You need to rest your head, too.  

What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?

Many people are going too fast.  If you’re a beginner and you’re breathing really hard, that might be an efficient workout, but psychologically hard because you’re pushing it.  So the workout feels hard, and I think that many people feel it’s too hard to go running.  So if you start moderately, then you may feel better about it.  If you walk a little bit, you’re still moving.  You need to pick it up gradually.  When you’re able to run for awhile, like up to an hour, you should also do some threshold work.  Try to run 30 to 40 minutes at threshold level – 25 to 35 heartbeats below your max. Many people go too hard on that. 

Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?

I was teaching a field course back home and that was quite a lot of stress getting that finished before getting over here.  So I got sick traveling.  I shouldn’t have pushed it too hard before traveling. That was a mistake.  

Any plans on participating in the Equinox this year? This race has been described as one of the most grueling marathons in the country!  What keeps you motivated to participate in this event?

Right now, I cannot promise that because I don’t live here.  It’s pretty far away – a 10 hour time difference!  I know it’s the 50th anniversary.  Never say never!  In 2013, my wife and I plan on coming back for a year for my work, and I’ll run it then.

Well, I’ve been 2nd place twice!  It’s the main event of the Fairbanks running community.  This if my fifth time in Alaska, and it feels a little bit like home.    

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