Ruth Croft rounded out the women’s podium of the 2016 Transvulcania Ultramarathon, and added another strong performance to her trail running resume. In this interview, Ruth talks about how the women’s race played out, how she manages to stay under the radar despite a growing number of successful international performances, and her 2016 season schedule.
Check out our results article for the full race story.
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Ruth Croft Post-2016 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here on the island of La Palma. It’s the day after the 2016 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. I’m with Ruth Croft who finished third yesterday. Hey, how are you doing?
Ruth Croft: Hey. I’m feeling pretty beaten up. I showed you this today.
iRunFar: You look a little beat up. Your toes look a little raw. You took a digger there.
Croft: Yeah, and then I fell in the last switchback coming into Tazacorte as well.
iRunFar: Maybe in front of some people?
Croft: Yeah, pretty much in front of a lot of people.
iRunFar: But honestly, your results show that you didn’t have too rough of a day out there. Third place in this field is quite a strong performance.
Croft: Yeah, I was happy with how it went yesterday and how the race panned out. I was a bit worried actually, especially with the climbing. I didn’t really feel like I had it in my legs. So it wasn’t until that 46th kilometer that I started to feel good about running.
iRunFar: Like after you got to the top and there’s then some more running running up there?
Croft: Yeah, so I was with Jodee [Adams-Moore]. She was first out of the 41k aid station. I was feeling really bad there. Then after that it starts to undulate a bit and you can get running. So it was after that point where I was like, If I’m going to make a move, I have to make it now.
iRunFar: You just said as we were walking down here to do this interview that you had just put in about six weeks of mountain training after training and running the Tokyo Marathon?
Croft: Yeah, so after The North Face 50 Mile in San Francisco I had a break. Then, I started training for Tokyo, so about an eight week build up for Tokyo. Then about seven weeks after that I switched to training for this race.
iRunFar: You live in Taiwan. There’s a fair bit of hilly terrain there. What did your training there look like? Did you just do all in for all the hills?
Croft: Jono Wyatt has been helping me with some workouts. During the weekends I travel to Central Taiwan. Taiwan has over 200 mountains above 3,000 meters which a lot of people don’t know. In the weekends, I try to get the long runs in in the mountains. During the week, some hill workouts…
iRunFar: More closer to home?
Croft: Yeah, because I can’t travel.
iRunFar: You are a person who’s been more under the radar making your way up the ranks of international competition. You had an incredible performance last year at the CCC and, then, a very strong performance at The North Face. But nobody really talks about Ruth Croft as somebody out there. How are you maintaining your under-the-radar status?
Croft: I think it’s because I’m in Taiwan, as well. Taiwan isn’t really on the trail running scene or calendar. So, I think it gets overlooked in that sense.
iRunFar: You are a person who has consistently shown you can run really well in flatter type terrain and, then, you run really well when you get on a big, burly mountain course like this. To what do you attribute your performance diversity?
Croft: I don’t know. I like to have a go at doing everything. I don’t want to stick to doing one type of race. Even Tokyo, I really just enjoy having a change in training structure and trying to get some speed back. I think it’s important not to just focus on one type of race and to try to widen your skillset in the different types.
iRunFar: As your international level performances become elevated, have you devoted more time towards training and accessory things? Do you have a fulltime job? Are you able to devote more time to training? How does life work for you?
Croft: I’m pretty lucky. In Taiwan, I work for Garmin, so I work five hours per day, 12-5 .pm. It’s perfect, so I can train in the morning and work in the afternoon. In Taiwan, I have a really good support system. I get to go to a training center to help me out a lot. Also, Jono has been very good…
iRunFar: As a coach?
Croft: Yeah. Yeah, the main thing is just building a community around you to help you. In Taiwan, I’ve got a lot of support, so I’m very fortunate.
iRunFar: Let’s talk a little bit more about yesterday’s race. In watching you run in a few races in the past, you’re kind of one who takes things out. You usually go hard from the start. Yesterday you kind of sat back.
Croft: Well, that’s the thing. I knew I didn’t have the climbing in my legs. Jono said to me to be a bit more on the caution side for the first climb. That was the plan. Then after El Pilar it was kind of flat, so I thought I should try and use some speed there and just see how it goes.
iRunFar: So on that long, many-thousand feet climb from the start to just before you descend down to El Pilar at 20k, did you consciously dial it back, or were you just running at “here’s my actual hill climbing capacity today,” or had you sort of toned it down and taken it conservatively?
Croft: I don’t think I had taken it conservatively. I wasn’t enjoying it at all. I just kept saying to myself, No one is enjoying this. Let’s be real.
iRunFar: Then so when I saw you at El Pilar, that’s 22k in, you were like, “Where are the other girls? What’s my splits?”
Croft: I didn’t know where anyone was. It was quite hard throughout the course to know what your placing was. I was actually told I was second at 35k or around then. Then I got told, “No, no, no, you’re third.” From then on I was told I was 10 minutes behind. Then, coming into Tazacorte on the river bed, a lady said, “Oh, second’s four minutes ahead.” Then I could see her just coming up that climb to Los Llanos, but I couldn’t pull her in.
iRunFar: You said when we first started our interview here that you made your move around the 41k mark, so somewhere…
Croft: Yeah, I think it was around 45k.
iRunFar: The long descent, the long, long, long, forever descent from Roque de los Muchachos to the sea, you were actually making up quite a bit of time on the girls in front of you. Had you any idea that that was happing?
Croft: No, I was probably a bit more worried about the people behind me, because I was being hunted as well. Yeah, at that point, there’s not much left in the race, so I think you’ve just got to go for it and just hope no one from behind catches you, and hopefully you can catch the ones in front as well.
iRunFar: So you did catch sight of Anne-Lise [Rousset]?
Croft: Yeah, but it was a bit too late.
iRunFar: Watching you guys on the tracker, leaving Tazacorte and doing that last climb, it was quite close. There was an approach happening on your part.
Croft: Yeah, but there wasn’t enough time.
iRunFar: Wasn’t enough real estate left.
Croft: Yeah, no, it’s tough that last climb as well because you’re nearly there, but yeah, especially after the sand.
iRunFar: Transvulcania has a horribly painful finish. You have to run a couple kilometers through pavement. But it’s also just lined with locals cheering you in. What was that like?
Croft: It was awesome. There were so many little kids out with their hands out to give you high-fives. Even on the course, the support at El Pilar and all the major aid stations, there are people out there supporting the races. Yeah, it’s pretty unique to have so much support.
iRunFar: Did getting cheered through the last couple kilometers balance out the pain?
Croft: Yeah, well, I was trying not to give them this hand as well, I was like…
iRunFar: Don’t take my busted up arm.
Croft: I felt more sorry for them than me.
iRunFar: What next?
Croft: I’ll go back to Taiwan and in two weeks I’ll go to China to do the Red Bull. Have you heard about that?
Croft: The Red Bull Female Summit Quest in Western China—it’s only 12k, but we start at 4,500 meters and go up to 6,100 meters.
Croft: There’s an acclimatization for that. After that, I’ll do BUFF Epic [Trail].
iRunFar: Oh, you will? Okay.
Croft: I’ll probably do one race before that. I’d also like to do The North Face 50 miler in San Francisco again.
iRunFar: Come back to San Francisco again?
Croft: Yeah, yeah. That was a tough race. I’d like to come back.
iRunFar: Run those hills a little bit faster?
iRunFar: Awesome, Ruth. Congratulations to you. It was a pleasure to watch your strong performance all day, but interestingly watching you come on stronger as the race went on.
Croft: Thanks so much. Cheers.