On Saturday, Ellie Greenwood will run the Speedgoat 50k after missing last year’s race due to injury. In the following interview, Ellie talks about what she thought of her runs at the Chuckanut 50k and Comrades Marathon earlier in the year, how the road ultra scene and the North American trail ultra scene differ, and what she thinks of racing Anna Frost again.
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Ellie Greenwood Pre-2014 Speedgoat 50k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Ellie Greenwood before the 2014 Speedgoat 50k. How are you, Ellie?
Ellie Greenwood: Good. Excited to be here.
iRunFar: Excited to have you here and to have you back to racing. I know you’ve had a couple races this year, but you had a long absence last year.
Greenwood: I did, but I kind of feel that I want to go, Okay, that’s been done, and that kind of thing in terms of lots of people get injured, right? I don’t want to keep harping on about being injured, but yeah, I was meant to be here last year. I’d signed up, hoped to come, didn’t happen, lots of cancelled races. Yeah, it took quite awhile to get back. It’s good to be back.
iRunFar: You are back. In March, you had a great run at Chuckanut. How did you get prepared for that?
Greenwood: Yes. That was a total surprise, to be honest. I decided fairly last minute. I hadn’t run 50k up to that point. I went out for a 40k training run two weeks before and thought, Okay, I can do it. I went in with what I thought was sensible time goals. Really the goal was, can I run 50k and run it to show a certain level of fitness. I said I should be happy if I get 4:30, and I think I got something like 4:11 or something like that. That was just really fun to be back and see lots of people.
iRunFar: And a race you’ve done before, so you have a good way to compare.
Greenwood: It was my fifth time doing it. That was also the thing—I know the course. So, if it all started going really wrong, I was like, I hate to say, I was like, I could walk it and I would know, Oh, I’ve just got to get to this section and that section, and that kind of thing.
iRunFar: It’s comfortable.
Greenwood: It was comfortable, yes. So it was a very approachable way to come back.
iRunFar: How did that time compare to your previous four times?
Greenwood: I think it was probably my second fastest which was strange. To be fair, it was fast weather. Occasionally at Chuckanut there’s a bit of snow up on the top or it can be muddy. It wasn’t that. It was really good conditions for running fast. There’s been a couple of minor changes. I don’t honestly know how much difference that makes. Definitely it was a good confidence boost to get the time and not just the distance.
iRunFar: And then Comrades. You’ve gone for that goal, that gold, a couple times and you got it.
Greenwood: Yeah, I don’t think… I’d never really gone into Comrades before thinking I’d win. Certainly the first time I didn’t. The second time I honestly, at the start line, didn’t think I’d win, but part way through the race I was like, Okay, I’m in contention to win here. I think that’s what made me really want it this time around. Obviously, again, due to injury I missed Comrades last year. So I had this… I was so close two years ago, I knew therefore I had the ability because I was so close that I needed to get that little bit better or something to go a little bit wrong for someone else. Yeah, it was one I really, really wanted to win.
iRunFar: Did you know going in you were in better fitness than two years prior?
Greenwood: I think I felt more confident on the Comrades course. I just felt I had more experience even the experience of the race two years prior where I’d had that experience of being right up at the front. I hate to say it, but in Comrades, it’s not like if I’m racing Stephanie Howe and I’m friendly with her; at Comrades, I’m not saying it’s unfriendly, but it’s a race, right? There’s no chitchat. There’s no, “Oh well, see you next month at another race.” This is race day, and this is, “Go for it!” Two years before, that experience had given me racing experience which helped. Yeah, then four weeks before Comrades this year I did Vancouver Marathon and I purposely held back a little bit. Even so, I ran a low 2:43 marathon, and I felt great. I felt, Well, if I can feel pretty good a minute off my marathon PB and literally I got to the finish line and I was fine. Do you want me to go and run again? That’s okay. That was obviously a confidence boost. Doing speedwork which comes into big play at Comrades, I’d been having good speedwork. It was still… you just don’t know.
iRunFar: How did it feel when you crossed that line in that stadium?
Greenwood: It was amazing. It definitely was. I didn’t dare believe… it was only with about three kilometers to go that I took the lead. I actually had a terrible race this year if anyone’s read my race report. Everyone said, “Oh, that was amazing tactics.” It was not tactics. It was… when I saw the Nurgalieva twins ahead of me, my first thought was, This is ridiculous that I’ve had such a terrible race and you’re telling me I could possibly win. Those last three kilometers, because I really, really wanted to win, I was like, I am going to run as fast as I can. I’m not going to turn around, because if they’re there they’ll think, “Oh, she’s looking weak,” and that might slow me down a millisecond and a millisecond might be what it takes. Yeah, it was cool. I came into the stadium and I did kind of look up and look around and go, Take this in. You don’t have to enjoy it now, but take it in so you can enjoy it later. Yeah, it was very cool.
iRunFar: So you’ve enjoyed it later.
Greenwood: Yeah, because I sort of took a photo in my mind of, yeah, there was a British flag when I was coming in, and there was a Canadian flag, and then Ian Sharman was next over the line behind me.
iRunFar: Really? So how was that? He’s coaching you and now you’re going to be working with him.
Greenwood: It was really… how this could happen in a race with 16,000 people. So Ian had passed me which really shouldn’t have been the plan with about 20k to go because of course he was ‘taking it easy’ with Western States coming up. I think if everything had gone to plan, I would have always been ahead of even. But with 20k to go, Ian passed me and I was walking. So he’s obviously like, Oh dear, Ellie’s not having the day that she wanted. Then I took the lead. Then I saw up ahead, I was like, That’s Ian up there, because everyone’s quite distinctive if you know their running style. By this point, you’re in the lead, so I’ve got the cyclist, the motorbike, and the lead-timing car, and five motorbikes behind me. So this entourage is coming. I thought, Ian is going to see the timing clock go past him and he knows Comrades and he’s going to go, Okay, lead woman, and he’s going to expect one of the Nurgalieva twins and then I came past. So that was very cool.
iRunFar: Did you give him a little tap on the butt?
Greenwood: No, I did not turn around. I did not look. It was probably about 800 meters to the finish line. It was that close. I was still like, I’ve not won this thing. I was in such a mindset that, yes, I knew he was there and I was taking it in, but I was still like, Just run as fast as you can run until you cross that finish line.
iRunFar: Do you think there was any advantage to having run it in the same direction without the other one in between? You had the course in your mind?
Greenwood: Yeah, possibly. Equally then two years passes and however much you think you remember a course you forget little bits and what not. But yeah, I do feel quite familiar with it. Definitely the downhill year which it was this year and two years ago, that is to my advantage. That was a also a bit of a confidence boost although I still felt I was coming back post-injury. At least I’m coming back to a direction that suits my kind of running.
iRunFar: Here we are a month and a half later in the Wasatch Mountains—quite a different race. This is a friendly, chatty…
Greenwood: Yes, this is North American trail ultrarunning. There are so many people you know. That’s fun and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here.
iRunFar: A lot of the people in the North American ultrarunning scene probably don’t have that. They’re just at the trail races. Is it nice to have that dichotomy between the super intense road ultra and…?
Greenwood: Yeah, one thing I feel when I go to Comrades and I’m on a South African running team, it’s quite all business. You’re there to run for the team and they’re expecting you to do well. They do understand, of course, the realities of things, but it is very much, “You’re on our team because we’ve chosen you for this year.” Whereas come something like Speedgoat and of course all of my sponsors hope that I do well, but I feel there’s less of, I don’t want to say intense pressure, but yeah, they’re a bit more understanding that you can’t do great at every race.
iRunFar: If your gut goes at 20 miles, Topher [Gaylord] is not going to give you a call tomorrow saying…
Greenwood: Well, I hope not. No, but it’s people more that you’re friendly with and you’re there as an ambassador. It’s a little less cutthroat racing.
iRunFar: But there will be some good racing this weekend—Kasie Enman is here and Anna Frost who you have only raced once at The North Face 50… two years ago? I think it was 2012?
Greenwood: Yes, it probably was 2012.
iRunFar: And she edged you out that time.
Greenwood: She did, yes.
iRunFar: You both had sort of an off year or a down year last year with injuries and issues. Here you are both at the top of your game again. Are you excited to race here?
Greenwood: Yes, yes. Definitely. It’s more Anna’s sort of course. I’ve got to be realistic. So, no, I’m excited to hopefully race her because if I race Anna then that means I’m having a good race that I’m up there with her. I honestly am slightly (I don’t want to say) clueless going into this. Seven weeks between Comrades and this, I did have a bit of time to recover, I’ll be honest. I was pretty beat up after Comrades. Then I’ve done, of course, hit the trails right away and done lots of hiking and tried to do technical stuff and lots of elevation. I have totally switched it up to try to get Speedgoat-specific kind of training in. Equally, I’m sure that’s what Anna has been doing for months. Yeah, I’d love to be up there with her, but we’ll have to see.
iRunFar: You’re feeling good, you are recovered, and ready to go?
Greenwood: Yes. It did take me quite a few weeks to recover, but that’s fine. I feel like I’ve got some, as well as recovering, I’ve had good time to get enough training in. It wasn’t as if I wasn’t fit, it was just getting more specific fitness in for this kind of event.
iRunFar: Great to have you back and good luck on Saturday.
Greenwood: Thank you so much.