Australian Erika Lori made a big splash in taking third at the 2018 Tarawera Ultramarathon. In our first interview with Erika, learn about her history with running and ultrarunning, the challenging course conditions, if podium-ing in a competitive race gives her newfound confidence, and where she hopes to race in the future.
For more on what happened at this year’s race, read our 2018 Tarawera results article.
Erika Lori Post-2018 Tarawera Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m here with Erika Lori. She took third place in the 2018 Tarawera Ultramarathon. Congratulations, Erika.
Erika Lori: Thank you so much.
iRunFar: It’s the day after the race. You’ve had a sleep, you’ve had some food, you’ve had some drink. How are you feeling right now?
Lori: A little beaten and bruised, but I’m happy to be done and happy to have been out there.
iRunFar: We were just looking at your wrist and it’s really swollen.
Lori: Yeah, I fell over about five times yesterday during the race and, then, once about half an hour before the race.
iRunFar: So you put your wrist in a bad spot.
Lori: Yeah, it was hard to grab onto things during the run. I think I sprained it or something.
iRunFar: Well, if nothing else needs a rest, your wrist definitely does. This is my first time watching you race and my first time meeting you. I’d love to hear more about you. You’re from where in Austrailia?
Lori: Perth, western Australia.
iRunFar: Looking at your ultrarunning results it seems like you’re pretty new to ultrarunning. But judging by the way you run and your speed you must have a history with running.
Lori: Yeah, I started in high school. I was on the state team and things like that for cross country. I started with shorter runs, and, then, it gradually got longer and longer. Then my family was looking into doing some ultras, and I did a 42k in the mountains in Switzerland and they had an ultra there. So from there, I’ve kind of enjoyed running in different places so I decided to go and see different things. I also don’t mind not being too competitive, as well, so just pushing to that next distance… there’s no expectations on what to do next. It’s been nice to slowly build up. Every time I just enjoy it.
iRunFar: Yesterday’s conditions–you were running 100k through burly, North Island of New Zealand’s rainforest-y terrain. Then you had this tropical storm on top of it, dropping rain for about 24 hours before the race and basically constantly during the race. What were the conditions like?
Lori: Muddy and wet, basically. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much mud before in my life. It was knee deep in some places. It was just insane, but it was beautiful, as well. I was trying to look around because it was so green and so tropical and there were waterfalls and things like that. That’s what I love about running is trails and things, but it was a bit tricky with the mud.
iRunFar: You’ve been racing before. You’ve done a few ultras in Australia and it sounds like something in the marathon distance in Europe?
Lori: Yes, I’ve done the Swiss Alpine [Marathon]. That was about five or six years back. That was beautiful, a lot of uphill. Absolutely amazing at the top of the mountain there. It’s incredible how you go through three seasons in a day. And, then, what did I do next? Oh, Comrades [Marathon]. I went over to South Africa did the Comrades. In 2016, it was two or three years back. That was amazing. The amount of people and energy in that place, it’s so cool. And South Africa’s amazing. After that, not last year but the year before was the Great Ocean Walk 100k in Australia. That was my first real trail ultra and it was insane. There was beach, animals, koalas, echidnas, flowers. It was just beautiful. You got to see a really good part of Australia.
iRunFar: The animals are one of the reasons why I haven’t come to Australia yet. I’m slightly afraid of some of your stuff.
Lori: That reminds me because it’s quite spaced out, there’s only a few hundred people who do this run, so you don’t see many people. There was a guy and me who were running together and there was a slope and we see this snake, it drops down basically onto his heels, right in front of me. So I scream and run the other way. He runs over there. [Gestures] I think he basically had a heart attack. Luckily, the snake kept going, but it was massive. So they are around. We often carry compression garments just in case. At one point I was like, “Oh, I wouldn’t mind a snake bite right now because it’s tough.”
iRunFar: “I could drop from the race if I got bit by something poisonous.” [Laughs] One more question for you outside of running: what do you do for a job, or where are you at in life right now?
Lori: I’m a physiotherapist. I work in a hospital with head-injury patients.
iRunFar: So, let’s talk about yesterday’s race. The first 40k or so are pretty flat, runnable forestry roads. You and the other ladies at the front of the race took the pace out hot.
Lori: Yes, the first kilometer I think I was chatting with another guy from Australia and I was like, “You realize we’re running at 4-minute-per-kilometer pace.” My watch beeped and it was at 4:04 per kilometer. I was like, “Oh, this is not going to be nice at 90k.” It was fast, very fast.
iRunFar: We saw you at a couple different places on the course. You looked fine.
Lori: Yeah, hourly I was feeling fine. My legs weren’t into the climbs on the day, but it ended up being just great.
iRunFar: After 40k the race gets… the course changes significantly. First you spend about 20k along a couple lakes. Reportedly that was really tough yesterday.
Lori: Very technical, very tough. It was clambering over trees. The mud made it really hard, because it was on steep banks and narrow tracks. I imagine on a nice, dry day it would be beautiful to run through there, but the mud kept sending you downhill. It was good. Then after that there was a big hill.
iRunFar: As we’re doing this interview, your dad is here in the background. I believe he was crewing you all day. Were you getting updates from him or anybody else in terms of where you were in the field competitively?
Lori: I think at one of the first ones he did say where I was. After that I was, “Oh, that’s great, but I’ve kind of hit a wall right now, and I’m just going to do this to finish right now.” I was happy just to get through it.
iRunFar: You were smiling the whole time.
Lori: It’s just so beautiful. When you see all these people out there cheering for you and out there giving their time in the rain and with it being so cold. How can you not be happy when they’re so happy? Usually when I get to those things they’re the high points, because there’s so many people around. If you’ve just been going through a tough time mentally, that just lifts you up.
iRunFar: Following the women’s race I found it interesting that there were some fast women from outside of this continent, this region who came in but mixed it up. The local women, regionally, mixed it up just fine. Does that give you the idea that, “Maybe I want to go out in the world and try to compete at a higher level?” Does that get you thinking at all?
Lori: It’s mainly the days leading up, I start to get that competitive edge. The reason I started running longer was to take that feeling away. I guess if I had the time I would commit to it then I would love to do it, but I don’t like doing things by half. I think it could be a thing, but for me right now I just like doing it for the traveling and the fun of it.
iRunFar: Well, I think that’s plenty of reason to do this sport.
iRunFar: Your dad told me I had to ask you how you trained for Tarawera. You had a special training mechanism?
Lori: Yeah, in the last few months haven’t been ideal. I was in Japan on a snowboarding trip and I was snowboarding for 10 days. It was 10 days of snowboarding, so my quads and my ankles got quite a bit of a workout.
iRunFar: No running during that time?
Lori: Yeah, I jumped on a treadmill for 10k, 20k. Just staring at a gray screen, it was not so much fun.
iRunFar: That’s dedication.
Lori: Yes, well I thought so.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your third-place finish yesterday. It was fun to get to chase you around the course.
Lori: Thank you so much for everything as well, for being out there. I saw you and it was great to have the cheering. Thanks so much.