Last year ultra-trail runner Ruth Croft was runner-up on her debut in the gruelling Western States Endurance Run, which involved 100 long, hot miles over California's Sierra Nevada Mountains trails. The race is one of five 100-milers in the US Grand Slam of ultra-running.
This year, Ruth, now a CurraNZ ambassador, returned to take the win - and set the third-fastest time by a woman in the race's 49-year history.
We put a few questions to Ruth to get an inside view of her race and what went down during those 17 hours.
On your list of races you have run, where does WSER 2022 rank and why?
It is definitely one of the races that I am the most proud of, mainly because everything did not go super smoothly heading into the race. Normally if my physical training has gone well then the mental side essentially takes care of itself. However that was not the case, so I was really proud of getting myself into a good head space leading into the event. Also, my folks and aunt came over from New Zealand, so it was pretty special sharing the day with them and also my crew.
We heard you had injury and Covid challenges leading to the race. How did you mentally deal with these? Did they affect your performance?
They definitely affected my build up, obviously coming out of Covid I had to cut back the intensity, during the time I was aiming to do peak mileage. My partner is a mental coach so he is always helping me, and I also worked with an energy healer. Which was talking about what was coming up with me at the time and working through that. If anything, these challenges made me put more of an emphasis on the mental side of running, which I have not had to do so much in the past.
Were there any major differences between the race this year and last? Eg how you ran the course, lessons you learnt that you put into practice for this year?
They say the race does not start until Foresthill, which is the 100km mark. So the goal for both years has always been to get to the 100km as “fresh” as possible.
However 50km into the race I was already feeling like I was working harder than last year. Thankfully I was with my teammate Emily Hawgood and we kept each other in check through to about 85km. Emily is the most positive person you will ever meet, so having her to share those miles with really helped.
I also revisited my nutrition and made some tweaks, I had fallen back on nutrition slightly in the later stages of last year’s race, so this year I was making sure I really dialled in getting 60-70 grams of carbs per hour.
What role did CurraNZ play in your preparation for the race?
I found it especially beneficial when I was training in Flagstaff, AZ. Training load and being at altitude was definitely taking a toll and that is when I relied on CurraNZ. I also took the purple pills the morning of the race.
During the race, what were the most mentally uplifting parts that helped you ‘find more strength’?
100 miles is a long way so I always break it into manageable chunks.
Just knowing I was going to see my crew and family at certain aid stations was uplifting enough.
Also, you are allowed pacers from 100k to the finish. I had a good friend Alex who paced me from 100km-130km and he is renowned for bringing good chat, which kept me entertained and helped me forget I still had a really long way to go.
My goal going into this was to really emphasise 'having fun', of course I’m still racing hard, but I believe by having fun, then more often than not “flow state” can be achieved and that’s when the kms go by and everything just clicks.
Will we see supporters in dinosaur costumes running behind you again in future races?
They are the best investment I have ever made, so you will definitely be seeing them pop up somewhere in the future.
What’s the next big race you've your eyes set on and what challenges does that bring?
I am signed up for Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc CCC, which is 100km at the end of August. The challenges are that Western States is a very runnable ultra and coupled with the heat it does take a lot out of you. I also always find it takes some time to shift gears from training on runnable terrain to the Alps. However I will see how recovery goes and make a call closer to the race.
Thank you Ruth - such a pleasure to be supporting you with CurraNZ - good luck with your next race!