Ida Nilsson is a Swedish long-distance runner currently running for Team Salomon. Between 2003 and 2006 she won a total of ten gold medals at the Swedish Championships in track & field and cross country running, plus two NCAA gold medals. Then she took up ultra-running, winning the gruelling Transvulcania Marathon last year amongst other great results.
Not content with that, she recently started ski-mountaineering in the winter months as well. (You guessed it, she's pretty good at that too...). Skyrunning Junior World Champion Lucy Bartholomew (who also runs for Team Salomon) gave Ida a packet of Precision Fuel & Hydration electrolytes during a particularly hot training run they were on last summer and we've been working with Ida to perfect her hydration strategy ever since.
We were chatting to her recently about the different challenges she faces with her winter and summer sports and we thought you'd find it interesting, so we wrote it up...
Ida, you recently took up ski-mountaineering to occupy you in the winter and, after a career in track and field, now spend your summers ultra-running. Tell us why you love these sports and how they differ in terms of the main challenges faced...
I'm fairly new to both sports. I've been racing skimo for two years in the World Cup, which has shorter races of up to 1 hour 40 minutes. It's mainly about your Vo2Max capacity, which makes them great training for my summer focus on Ultra. The team races I'm involved in last from 3-4 hours up to for several days, so they're somewhat similar to an ultra race.
I've only been running ultras for a few years, I've only done three races and I'm still learning how to prepare and race this style of race after coming from a track and field background. But so far I have been handling it well and I really enjoy the beautiful places I get to explore by foot.
What are your biggest achievements in skimo and ultra so far?
In skimo I have a few top ten placings in the World Cup and European Championships. I also got sixth place in the team competition in the Worlds this year.
I won the Transvulcania Ultramarathon last year, a 74km race in the heat of the Canaries, with 8000ft of elevation thrown in. I also won The North Face 50 Mile Championships over in California in 2016. My first race ended with me in 2nd place, that was back in 2015 at the Ultra Vasan 90km race.
Not bad for a 'newbie'! So, what are your favourite races and why?
In skimo I love the Pierra Menta and KebClassic, which is a race in the highest mountain in Sweden. When it comes to running I loved the Transvulcania because of the ambience (not just because I won!)
How does your training differ during each season? What does a "typical" week look like?
I do around 25 hours a week in the winter and about 15 hours a week when it comes to race season.
In the summer I have more races, so I seldom get in a proper multi-week "training block". But of course I do get in some weeks once in a while where I'll clock up higher mileages, usually 100-120 miles a week.
As I get closer to the switch between the running and skiing seasons (and vice versa) I start to do a mix of both running and skimo focused training.
How do you stay hydrated during races? Does your hydration strategy differ for the 2 disciplines? And how do you stay fuelled (energy) during races?
In skimo the races are usually shorter and so it's enough for me to take half a litre of water with me in my backpack. I usually drink Precision Fuel & Hydration electrolytes at the same time as an energy gel.
In ultras I drink Precision Fuel & Hydration for my hydration needs, I use a mix of strengths depending on the weather and length of race. Usually I also drink one sachet of PH 1500 in the morning about 1.5 hours before I start, so my electrolyte levels are topped up from beginning. I sometimes throw in the odd isotonic sports drink for energy purposes, but I mostly get my energy from gels at the aid stations. I don't usually eat anything else in races up to 8 hours.
You're defending your Transvulcania title this year, what's the hardest thing about that race?
I think the heat is the hardest factor, especially if you're coming from a colder climate (I'm Swedish!). Also, descending 2,500 meters in one final downhill is hard on the legs!
You're racing in China next month, if you could race anywhere you haven't yet, where would it be and why?
Wow, there are so many places in the world I would like to race. But China will definitely be cool and is ticking off one on my list. I would also like to race in South America, maybe Patagonia some time. I've been really lucky to race in some fantastic places all over the world through my career in track and field, ultra and skimo.
Have you got any kit or gear that you swear by and always use?
There's some mandatory gear you always need in each sport and after that you don't have a great deal of space to add anything extra!
In skimo I always make sure I have good skins, but in ultra running usually I just want as few things as possible!