Amanda Basham starts the year off well with a second-place finish at the 2018 Tarawera Ultramarathon. In this interview, Amanda talks about why she’s happy 2017 is over, how she managed to climb out of a life rut and back into training, how the race played out from her perspective, and what else she’s looking toward this year.
For more on what happened at this year’s race, read our 2018 Tarawera results article.
Amanda Basham Post-2018 Tarawera Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m with Amanda Basham. She finished second at the 2018 Tarawera Ultramarathon. Congrats, Amanda. It’s the day after. How’s everything feeling?
Amanda Basham: Well, I didn’t sleep much last night, so my legs are hurting pretty bad. I just stayed up groaning. I actually laid in bed for a couple hours trying to convince myself to get a burger, but I couldn’t fall asleep, and I couldn’t convince myself to get up, so I just kind of laid there.
iRunFar: Do you ever question ultramarathons when it’s all over and it’s all painful for a little while?
Basham: I usually do, but actually, I was really happy with this one. I felt like it went really well. I’m hurt and everything is sore, but it’s kind of normal. It didn’t make me angry like, Why am I doing this? It was just kind of fun.
iRunFar: At the elite question and answer session on Friday, you said something that was interesting to me. You said that 2017 was hard for you in a lot of different ways—your body, personally. You were just ready to let 2017 go and move onto 2018. You had an excellent run yesterday. Do you feel like last year is gone and this year is here?
Basham: I do, and I think I kind of needed that to finally feel like that’s out and that’s gone. It happened. This is a really good start to this year.
iRunFar: Are we talking about injury or things just holding you back from running last year?
Basham: It was a mix of everything. I had moved to Utah and got a new job. I rolled my ankle, so I had some injuries. I had a lot of personal issues that really it was just hard to be motivated to run. I’d do anything to just get out the door. Speed work was not a thing—no structure really. It was just so far from ideal. Especially for something like doing UTMB last year, you can’t go into that race half-assed at all. You need to be primed and ready to go. It just chewed me up and spit me out. That’s when I just needed to be done with 2017 and start over.
iRunFar: We are breaking up with the whole year.
Basham: Yeah, it was rough.
iRunFar: Having rough patches in life is not an unfamiliar thing for any human, but getting out of it and moving on can be really tricky. How did you actually become able to let go and get past the physical issues and move into where you are now, obviously quite trained up?
Basham: I think it kind of takes a few years of experience sometimes to really realize to listen to your body and realize that… I love running. People ask me all the time, “Don’t you ever get so sick of running?” My job is about running. I coach people in addition to my full-time job, and then I do this in my free time. People always think I’d get sick of it. I really don’t. So when I do, then I realize I need to step back and chill out and take a mental break, but it’s taken a long time to get to that point to be comfortable with it. Whether it’s injuries or personal stuff making me really unmotivated, it’s taken a long time to realize I can chill out, and it’s definitely going to be better in the long run. But it definitely has paid off.
iRunFar: You just have done some specific training for Tarawera. When did you transition from survival running to actual focused training?
Basham: I took a big break after UTMB—so I’d call that my off season, at least for a month. Then it was really unstructured for another few weeks. Then I decided I was doing this race, so it was about the time I felt like I was pretty recovered. I usually give myself an outline of what my off-season would be, but if I get to that point and still feel kind of tired I’ll just take another week or two and go with how I feel. I just did that, and it was probably around November, late November maybe, that I started really training again. I feel like this is really good, because I really didn’t have a bunch of training going into this. It was really good. All the training I did was solid, really good. I feel refreshed and very mentally here now, but it really wasn’t that much considering how many training blocks you could get in for it to be ideal. I think it’s a really good sign that the year should go well.
iRunFar: I think that is a good sign, too. Let’s talk about the early part of the race. You and the other leading ladies took things out kind of fast would you say? I think you came through 41k in 3:17 which means a 42.2k marathon has to be 3:22 or 3:23… opening up a 100k that way?
Basham: Yeah, and we had actually at that point slowed down just a little bit. From what I remember, I think we did the half marathon in 1:30. I remember looking and like, Man, we are flying!
iRunFar: “We just went really fast.”
Basham: It actually felt really good. I figured we were going to hit points that were going to be slower. I felt really good. We were all running together for a little bit, and then I backed off just slightly, maybe 20 seconds off of Ruby [Muir] and Kelly [Wolf] just so I could be a little bit further under my threshold yet still see them. I felt like I could still catch up to them, and it would still be fine.
iRunFar: Contact but in a comfortable place for you?
Basham: Yeah, because if I pushed it that few seconds harder per mile, I just felt like I was redlining way too fast. It worked out really well. Kelly had a phenomenal day. She didn’t back up as much as I was hoping.
iRunFar: “Come back to me please.”
Basham: I was hoping she’d just slow down, and I’d just speed up a little. I did speed up, but she just kept on trucking. Ruby had a rough time. She ended up dropping somewhat early, so I just started chasing Kelly. The first part was super fast, but the middle part with all the mud was so slow, so it’s was really good that we actually went that fast in the beginning or else we would have been out there forever. The last part was pretty fast, too. I think it worked out pretty well. I don’t think we necessarily did that on purpose, but it could have been probably pretty terrible, but it worked out well.
iRunFar: This race is a net uphill race going in this direction. Could you feel a grinding aspect to it? Could you feel you were gently coming uphill?
Basham: The whole time. It felt like the whole thing was uphill except the last 10k. Finally. It felt so nice to go downhill at the end especially because your pacer is with you and you’re almost done. Literally, the whole thing felt like uphill. I haven’t looked at my watch, but Kelly thinks she got 14,000 feet of elevation gain. I wouldn’t be surprised.
iRunFar: I heard a couple people talking at the finish line about their altimeter saying 3,800 meters, so that’s about the same or getting there.
Basham: It was supposed to be about 10,000 feet.
iRunFar: There is some hidden vert in the rain forest out there.
Basham: There is. It’s hard to know because it could have just felt really hard, harder than 10,000 feet because it constantly goes up, down, up, down, up, down.
iRunFar: No rhythm.
Basham: Yeah, especially with the mud. You kind of would get in a rhythm and then you have to stop really quick, and then it’s another up, and then it’s a down… it’s rough.
iRunFar: Let’s talk for a minute about the weather because I feel like that played into the story line. You think you’re coming to summer in New Zealand, and you run in a downpour the entire time.
Basham: That was one of my main things. It’s New Zealand. It will be summer. It will be nice. I do fine in the heat. I can do whatever weather, but I prefer heat. I would prefer a hotter day over a colder day. Coming from Logan, Utah, where it’s cold, I wanted to have a nice sunny day. It actually wasn’t bad because it’s so humid here, I was actually very hot. The rain felt really nice. I think maybe the rain kind of saved me a little because…
iRunFar: To cool you off?
Basham: Yeah, and I have been training in 20 to 30 degrees [Fahrenheit] max. I also did some sauna training, but I think the rain kind of helped because I’m just not used to such humid weather.
iRunFar: Keeping your body a little cooler by actual cold drops being on you.
iRunFar; Yeah, I asked Kelly the same question because you two come from similar climates—dry, super low humidity, cold, Rocky Mountain West. To me, just running around the forest chasing you guys yesterday, the humidity and the dampness just felt oppressive. Could you feel that knocking on your body systems at all or were you adapting okay?
Basham: In the beginning I actually got really nauseous because I felt so hot. I had this headband on, and…
iRunFar: It was keeping all the heat in?
Basham: It was keeping all the heat in. I had a headband on over my headphones because they’re wireless, and then I had a running hat on over that. I didn’t realize why I was so nauseous. At first, I thought it was the gels, so I stopped eating gels. It just kept getting worse. I finally took off the headband, and I felt great about 10 minutes later. It was definitely like… there’s a fine line.
iRunFar: Too hot versus just right?
iRunFar: Last question for you—you’re starting a new year off on the right foot. What are your racing plans for this year? What do you want to do now?
Basham: Well, like usual, because I have such bad FOMO and I want to do everything, I have quite a few things planned. But I rate them in A, B, C races, so I’m not just all-out effort every time. I think you can do it. If you can control yourself at the race and not actually run too hard, I think you can do that and still be okay. I’m going with Sally McRae to Italy to do this small one called Sciacche Trail.
iRunFar: Along the Cinque Terre?
Basham: Yes, that will be awesome. I think Clare Gallagher is going, too, so that will be fun.
iRunFar: Girls’ trip? Women’s trip?
Basham: Yes, but that one is just for fun, and it’s a shorter one. I think it’s under 50k. The big one after that is UROC… I think is next after that.
Basham: Again. I’ll do some small local races like Zion 50k, but the big ones are UROC and Western States and Speedgoat 50k. Yeah, I’ve done that once, and it was not a great day. So, I’d really like to do that one again.
iRunFar: Yeah, but you’re a Utahan now. You’ll be well-adapted.
Basham: I know. I’m going to do all the local races. So, then I’m going to Transalpine-Run.
iRunFar: This is August we’re through now.
Basham: Yes, and, then, Bear 100 [Mile] since I live in Logan.
iRunFar: And then is that the end of your season?
Basham: It should be the end. I was going to do The North Face 50 instead of Bear, but I just committed to Bear recently, and I just figured it was kind of my town now, so I might as well.
iRunFar: Congratulation on your second-place finish. We’ll see you somewhere Stateside. I’m not sure which of those races yet, but somewhere. Congrats.
Basham: Thanks. Thanks.