After an injury-plagued 2014, Ruby Muir put her passion and talent for trail running on display during her win of the 2015 Tarawera Ultramarathon. In the following interview, Ruby talks about her exciting race with Ruth Croft, what she enjoyed about having to dig deep to win, what mental challenges she’d still like to face (and overcome) while running, what medical procedure she had performed two days before the race, and where else you might see her race this year.
For more on what happened at this year’s race, read our in-depth results article on the 2015 Tarawera Ultramarathon.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Ruby Muir, 2015 Tarawera Ultramarathon Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Ruby Muir after her second win at the Tarawera Ultramarathon. Congratulations, Ruby.
Ruby Muir: Cheers.
iRunFar: You had quite the race yesterday. You went out strong and must have felt pretty good that first half.
Muir: Yeah, I had a race plan and I stuck to it pretty well. It all worked out fine. I just wasn’t planning on Ruth [Croft] at the end there.
iRunFar: What was your race plan? In talking to some people today, it sounded like you were quite meticulous in preparing a plan for this race.
Muir: For me it’s meticulous. I don’t think for most people… I was just actually having a plan which is a good step forwards. I had gels for the first to legs into Okataina. From Okataina to 60k I was planning to go a bit slower and to get some solid food in because eating is one of the things I’ve found hardest. I managed to do that really well. I wasn’t queasy, and I got to eat quite a lot. Then I was planning to really hit the road section from 60k to the finish, so I was going to back on some coffee gels and trying to be light and fast. Yeah, that all worked out.
iRunFar: That middle section from Okataina to Tarawera Outlet is the most technical part. You’re bouncing around a lot.
Muir: Yeah, and none of my training has been on technical trails at the moment, so I knew it wouldn’t be my strength and I knew it would tire me out. I thought I’d take it easy in there and use that time to do some good eating.
iRunFar: Then Ruth.
iRunFar: When did you start to know that she was close?
Muir: I didn’t get a lot of updated information. In my mind, I sort of thought she might be coming. I don’t think she’d done a race this long though, so I thought, Either she’s going to blow up or she’s going to be really strong on those roads to the finish. But I got to 60k at 11:30 [a.m.] which is five-and-a-half hours which was well on… my ideal time was nine-and-a-half hours all up. So I got there and I thought, I only need to average 10k/hour for the next 40k. I’ve easily got this.
iRunFar: With a lot of road.
Muir: Yeah, on the road I thought that would be quite good. I was really satisfied with that. It wasn’t until the Loop of Despair, that’s where we did the loop. On the way back through I heard my splits, and when I entered the loop she was only one minute behind me. So from 60k, over those 20k she’d put in a lot of time. I’m not sure how fast she was running.
iRunFar: She made quite the surge and was right on your heels.
iRunFar: When you found out she was only a minute back…
Muir: Well, I planned from there down to Fisherman’s Bridge is downhill, so I’d wanted to really hit that quite hard. But I’ve just been doing road running, so my quads were fried. Yeah, it wasn’t easy. I tried to… I was telling myself this was free energy. I was choosing between hard work or pain. I decided I’d put up with the pain and try and run fast down the hills. But I think she was still holding onto me then.
iRunFar: Did you ever get an update of when you broke her? You ended up winning by a little margin.
Muir: Yeah, I was a bit disorganized at the aid stations. So I entered Fisherman’s Bridge 10k from the finish and took some time getting the right stuff because I was being really careful about getting my nutrition right. As I was leaving the aid station, I heard someone cheering, “Whoa, Ruth!” I said to who had passed me, “Was that Ruth?” And he said, “Nah, nah, nah it’s a guy, it’s a guy.” “That was definitely Ruth.” I was trying to sort out and put my iPod in to keep me through those last 10k because I was in a really low space and she actually ran right up and caught up to me. We were beside each other. I looked in her eye and I was like, “Oh, no.”
iRunFar: You saw her with 10k to go.
Muir: Yeah, we were in a line, toe-to-toe. I was talking kooky about, “I don’t know if I can do these last 10k.” Right at that point she caught me. Yeah, I think because I knew if she got ahead of me, I was so low that maybe I wouldn’t finish strongly. Maybe I would have jogged it in and then I would have overall been so disappointed because I worked so hard to get to 90k to then… So, I didn’t believe I could hold her off, but I thought, I’m going to surge again so I’m still going strong to the finish. I put in Metallica and turned it up and just got out of sight. She held onto me for 2k or 3k just behind me, and finally I got out of sight. I think maybe that had a psychological effect which is sort of what I was planning because I didn’t have a lot left.
iRunFar: I still can’t picture you listening to Metallica.
Muir: Actually, I was singing to Metallica. I was digging deep and in my head. It was horrible. I hope there’s no footage of that because I would have had the most horrible scream face. Oh, gosh.
iRunFar: A little bit different story than when you won in 2013 and you just ran your own race.
Muir: Yeah, totally. I’ve never really had to… I mean, I’ve been in races with a lot of people, but I’ve never had a race where I’ve really raced someone like that.
iRunFar: What did you find out? You’ve probably gone deeper than you ever have.
Muir: Yeah, definitely. That’s really satisfying because you’ve always got that question, but not quite enough to hang up my running shoes. I guess the thing I’d want to know is if she passed me, if I still would have run strong for second or if I would have given up. That’s what I still need to find out. That’s why you do these races—to find out about yourself and your mental strength. I learned I could push harder than I thought I could for sure.
iRunFar: Do you think having the injuries and having to concentrate on road running for a period has made you a better runner?
Muir: It definitely gave me the strength I needed for a race like this. I still had my technical trail skills, but I didn’t have the conditioning for it, so I really suffered for that. My muscles were ruined by the end of it, by 90k. Then I tried to run hard on them for 10k. Yeah, it wasn’t good. But I think the road running was the best thing I could do for it. It gave me that strength even though it hurt.
iRunFar: So after the race I was driving back from the finish and with your pacer, Hooge. He mentioned maybe a month ago you were out for a run with him in the mountains, and every time you had a step, you had to go to the right side of the step and swing your leg outside the step before you took the next step up.
Muir: Yeah, that was really the only trail run I tried, and that’s why I went back to road running again—just no hope. But on Thursday this week I had an appointment to get an ultrasound. While doing the ultrasound, they dug a needle in my knee and pulled out all the fluid that had gathered from my injury. I was pretty anxious about that. “I’ve got a race in two days. Are you sure it’s going to be alright?” “Hmmmm… (had a big discussion)… Yeah, it will be alright.” Yesterday, the day before yesterday, the day before the race, it was still really sore and quite swollen and bruised. But actually, I got a lot more movement out of my knee from doing that. On the other hand, I hadn’t moved my knee like that for so long, I found out part way through the race, Hey, look! I can go down the stairs forwards. So I went down the stairs forwards and it meant that after 10k or 20k of doing that, those muscles were so not used to being used properly… yeah.
iRunFar: But you could now run normally again.
Muir: Not 100%, but definitely better. It helped. I’m not sure how much of it was the swelling and how much of it is the muscle I’ve lost. I’m actually seeing some improvement, so that’s great.
iRunFar: Does that make you want to reconsider your plan to stick on the roads for the rest of the year?
Muir: Well, a year’s not that long. I don’t know. I think the thing that will make me reconsider is people sending me tempting offers. I’ll see how strong my resolve is. My partner, Christian, and other training mates are all targeting some road marathons.
iRunFar: But you’re saying that if you got some good offers, you might consider some other trail options.
Muir: I’m very easy to tempt. I don’t know. I’m trying to do the sensible thing, but I also like to have fun, So you need to have balance somewhere.
iRunFar: Two years ago you were running with Vibram and with that you were wearing UltrAspire and sort of kitted out and sponsored. Over the last year you’re now and independent. Was that a conscious choice?
Muir: Not totally. I still get support from Dylan [Connor] from Barefoot, Inc. but it’s just not a very official support. And I’ve been injured for so long and not racing. And I just have been buying the things that work for me. I still had all his UltrAspire gear that he’d given me which was really helpful.
iRunFar: Has it been useful to get to play around with some different gear?
Muir: Yeah, totally. I just had to. You have to wear whatever works and that changes.
iRunFar: So what was that yesterday on your feet?
Muir: That was some Adidas Boosts with… I needed some medial support because on my good leg, it’s been doing so much work that my arch has started rolling in. So I was wearing some shoes with it. They also had a big heel raise which was good because actually at about 85k my calves and the top of my soleus were just ruined. If I’d have tried to do that in flat shoes, I’m not sure if I’ve got the calves to do that anymore.
iRunFar: So you’re willing to try new things and see what works.
Muir: Totally. I do whatever works. I mean, I love the minimalist shoes. If I could wear them, I would because I love being on the ground. I love that feeling. Maybe I’ll recover and get back there, and maybe not.
iRunFar: Now you have a range of shoes in your arsenal.
iRunFar: So what is your next race? Do you have something on your calendar?
Muir: There’s nothing I’m entered in. In my mind it was Wellington Marathon which is our capitol marathon. It’s not the biggest marathon in the country, but it’s one to have a go and see what my times are. A couple of months after that is Aukland Marathon which is the New Zealand Champs.
iRunFar: Is that in November?
Muir: November, I think, or end of October.
iRunFar: There’s a whole month of a bunch of marathons in New Zealand.
Muir: Yeah. That was my idea.
iRunFar: Have you ever run a road marathon before?
Muir: No, I’ve never finished a road marathon.
iRunFar: Have you ever run a road race at all?
Muir: Yes, I’ve done some half marathons and stuff. I’ve joined the local harrier club, so I’ve been doing some more of that side of running which has been quite fun.
iRunFar: Have you sort of thought about how fast you might be able to run in a marathon?
Muir: I don’t know. I have very unreasonable expectations.
iRunFar: How unreasonable?
Muir: Very unreasonable. When I was kid I was very sure that there was no difference between women and men and that I could be able to do as well as them. The reality is there is a big difference, and when you hit the roads and hit the faster times there’s an even bigger distance. In my mind, my goal times are similar to what my partner’s would be. I think, You know, 2:30 is a really good top marathon time. But actually for me that’s a bit unreasonable which might also be why I haven’t tried them because it would be a long years and years of trying to improve to get to a time that I’d actually be happy with.
iRunFar: Well, congratulations on a great run yesterday and a bunch of experimentation and new pursuits.
Muir: Cheers. Yeah.