Two-time Tarawera Ultramarathon champion Ruby Muir is returning to the 2018 edition. In this interview, Ruby talks about why she’s returned to Tarawera, the cross-country and road racing she’s been doing, and her recent go at the longstanding Kepler Challenge course record.
Ruby Muir Pre-2018 Tarawera Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m with Ruby Muir. It’s a couple days before the 2018 Tarawera Ultramarathon. This is my first time interviewing you, but you’ve been interviewed by Bryon a couple of years prior at Tarawera. How’s it going?
Ruby Muir: Good. I’m feeling really healthy.
iRunFar: You’re a two-time champion of this race. You’ve run the second-fastest time. Only a woman by the name of Camille Herron, who was last year’s champion, has run faster than you. The course is going in a different direction this year, but are you motivated by last year’s time in part for this year?
Muir: I think in the opposite direction it’s going to be slower, so I don’t really know how well times can be compared. [Pause to watch a vehicle drive by] But, yes, I was pretty motivated by Camille to come back because I watched her here last year and saw her do, what, she was about five minutes faster than me–it was quite a similar time–and then I watched her season, you know, winning Comrades [Marathon], and her awesome record at the 100 miler, so that was one of the reasons I wanted to come back. I heard her talking about coming back and it’s great. Because I don’t travel so much, so for athletes of that caliber to come to me it’s a cool opportunity. I was pretty gutted when I saw she pulled out a couple of weeks ago, but I’m still excited to race.
iRunFar: Yeah, it sounds like she got a little beat up doing Bandera, getting her Western States Golden Ticket a few weeks back and wasn’t ready to come.
Muir: It’s understandable. She’s had a huge season.
iRunFar: Yeah, good to take a little rest. As I understand it, you have been taking some time away from ultrarunning specifically and running some flatter, faster, quicker stuff?
Muir: Yeah, I guess. I haven’t been taking some deliberate time away. It’s all running. I guess the races I’ve been choosing to do have kind of been shorter. But I haven’t been travelling as much and I’ve been studying, so it sort of fits in with my lifestyle more as well.
iRunFar: What are you studying?
Muir: I’ve started physics and environmental science. It’s just been one year now. I’m on holiday.
iRunFar: Awesome. So as we were chatting before we started this interview you said you won the New Zealand Cross-Country National Championships last year?
Muir: Yeah, in July last year. We moved to Wellington for me to study and joined a Harrier club there, an athletics club. And that’s been good. So, like, there’s a good group of people to train with. Through them, I’ve raced the cross-country champs, and the road champs, and some of those shorter, fun races.
iRunFar: And won the cross-country one?
Muir: Yeah, won the cross-country and came second at the road champs.
iRunFar: Excellent. When you joined the Harriers club, was that intentional? Were you like, “I want to meet people, I want to get faster.” What was the drive?
Muir: It was kind of all of that. Moving to a new city and having a hobby like this is a good way to meet people because I’m quite introverted. So it’s a good method.
iRunFar: So we’re two introverts having an interview right now.
Muir: And my husband is targeting, working on his marathon training. That club is quite a long-distance club, so there’s a lot of people to train with for that. So I’m kind of tagging along with him a bit, as well.
iRunFar: But you have been racing some longer distances. About two months ago you raced the Kepler Challenge track.
Muir: Yeah, it was my fifth year at Kepler.
iRunFar: And your fifth win.
Muir: Yeah, I have to keep coming back. I’ve been chasing the record there and I’ve finally gotten closer, but I’m going to have to go back again next year, I think.
iRunFar: So your personal record on the Kepler Track was bettered by a lot this year. I think 13 minutes faster you ran?
Muir: Yeah, I’ve just been fit and healthy and had a really good year in training. I finally got to the start line of Kepler in a shape I was happy with.
iRunFar: I got a note from some New Zealand friends during that race. They said, basically, “Ruby is on course-record pace and she’s sticking it. You have to pay attention to this.” The Kepler Track course record is a pretty strong, feisty one. So I was paying attention. I think you were trying to run at or under course-record pace. You were making a go for it.
Muir: Yeah, I was deliberately targeting it and I had a race plan to go after it. It’s been a goal of mine for quite a few years. I ended up being about a minute and a couple of seconds too slow. Which is exactly what I didn’t want. I was like, “If I don’t get it, I want to blow up. I don’t want to be painfully close.” Because afterward I was thinking about that time I stopped to go to the toilet, or the time it took too long to fill up my bottle, and you’re trying to work out how I could have grabbed a few more seconds here and there. I guess I have to show up fitter again so that no matter the conditions I can, you know, have a few minutes of flexibility.
iRunFar: I think you lost most of your time on the course record in the final 10k or 9k. How did that work?
Muir: I had an even pace that I wanted to run it. I was already a little bit behind pace, because the first half is quite mountainous and the tops were a bit windy. I got halfway about two minutes behind my race plan. But the record pace judging by, it wasn’t run that evenly. The woman who ran that ran the last 10k ridiculously fast. So I knew I was never going to close that quickly. So the first half I was well ahead of her run and, then, towards the end, I fell off.
iRunFar: Got it. So, let’s talk Tarawera. You’ve been at this race a number of times. You’ve been its winner twice before. What brings you back? Was it the competition mainly?
Muir: Yeah, to be honest, I was thinking of doing a summer of track which was going to be an entirely new thing for me. I was a bit anxious about it because I hadn’t done any of that in high school even. But I thought it would be really good for my running.
iRunFar: What type of distances are we talking about?
Muir: Well, I did like a 3k and I was going to do a 5k, a 5,000-meter and a 10,000-meter. But I think they’re next month, so I might not be too fast for them now. It was truly seeing Camille [register] that changed my mind and want to do this. Also, the shorter distances have been easier on my stomach. But, then, I did Kepler and my stomach was pretty good, better than it had been when I tried to do marathons. I’ve had a long practice run a couple of weeks ago and managed to eat really well and I thought it’d be safe to give it a go.
iRunFar: You’ve been here multiple times, you know what Tarawera is like. But the race has been turned around, so it becomes strategically a different thing. The flatter stuff is pretty quick, but, then, you’ve got a grind to get up to the lakes.
Muir: Yeah, I think the first 40k of kind of flatter, forestry roads is net uphill, as well. And, then, the technical stuff is later on when you’re tired so I think it will slow you down more. I think it will be a harder race. But I haven’t sat down and really gone over it and made a plan. I’m just going to run it and see how I feel.
iRunFar: And there’s a slightly urban adventure race to get from the redwood forest to get to the finish line through downtown Rotorua.
Muir: I haven’t looked at the map of the route they’re taking us there.
iRunFar: Through the thermal features…
Muir: Oh, so they’re taking us around the lake there.
iRunFar: I think so.
Muir: I think I’ve jogged around there before.
iRunFar: Thanks for the interview. Best of luck. We look forward to following you around the course on Saturday. Good luck, Ruby.