Lucy Bartholomew returns to the Western States 100 after placing third last year. In the following interview, Lucy talks about how she’s changed her prep and her approach for this year’s race, what she enjoys about Western States, and what she thinks of the snow on the course and cooler weather for this year’s race.
Lucy Bartholomew Pre-2019 Western States 100 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Lucy Bartholomew before the 2019 Western States 100. How are you, Lucy?
Lucy Bartholomew: I’m good, thank you. How are you?
iRunFar: I’m good. Welcome back to the U.S. You’ve already been here for quite a while.
Bartholomew: Yes, I’ve been here for a month now. I’ve been up in [Olympic Valley] for a week or so and it’s been good.
iRunFar: Awesome. I’ve been wondering: Australia is a huge continent, but how does the terrain and climate around here compare to where you live in Australia?
Bartholomew: It’s different. The heat is different. The humidity is different. Your diversity around here is incredible. We were running the Flume Trail yesterday. We were in the mountains and then we were in Auburn. We were in snow and heat. It’s just crazy that you can have that all within a two-hour drive.
iRunFar: Yes, or a 19-hour run.
Bartholomew: I’ll take the drive! [Laughs]
iRunFar: Until Saturday when you’ll have that experience. So last year wasn’t a record hot year, but it was a hot year for States. This year is not going to be. Are you looking forward to that?
Bartholomew: You know, I think I thrive off the heat. I love running in the heat and I’ve followed summers for the last four years [as I traveled]. So, kind of the hotter for me, the better. Last year I didn’t find it to be that bad, so I think that this year I’ll find it cold [laughs].
iRunFar: Speaking of following things, the previous couple years you raced–not an insane amount–but a lot of kilometers, a lot of miles, a lot of time, even leading up to Western States. This year was quite different. Why is that?
Bartholomew: Yeah, I think on reflection, I looked back and I felt that I raced “the race before the race.” You know, at all of these races you feel that you do well and it wasn’t too hard. But I think that I was already digging into that hole. To do that and then to follow that up with Western States was a lot. This year I just wanted to do the training and really just focus on it. Maybe I’m not the fittest, but maybe I can have a good day.
iRunFar: You also haven’t dug yourself into a hole yet.
Bartholomew: That’s what I’m holding onto. Yeah, I’m very optimistic that I’m a lot fresher this year. I think that will pay dividends in the 100-mile distance.
iRunFar: I don’t think it’s much of a surprise that right now that Courtney Dauwalter is a runaway favorite. She ran a great race last year. Do you think you or someone else can knock her off on Saturday?
Bartholomew: I think it’s awesome just to stand on the starting line with Courtney. She’s an idol of mine. I think, you know, she’s a hard one to beat. But if I can stay with her for a little bit, then that would be a win to me.
iRunFar: Last year, you ran great. You ran third place in your 100-mile debut. It wasn’t your longest race [in terms of time] because you ran TDS five minutes slower [TDS is part of the UTMB family of races in Chamonix, with a route that was 119k long when Lucy ran it in 2017].
iRunFar: A year later, how can you reflect back? What does that effort and that outcome mean to you?
Bartholomew: It means everything to me. Western States was something that I learned about when I was 15 and got into the sport. I really just wanted to tick the box and do it. To be able to do it twice is such a blessing, and to be able to have my family here–it’s even better to be able to share it with them. It means a lot to me, but at the end of the day, it’s just a race. I think what means more to me is the community. The month that I spent in Auburn before the race, hanging out with the race director, Craig Thornley, and all the guys and seeing what goes on behind the scenes and being part of the family… that means more to me than any buckle.
iRunFar: Nice! Did you learn anything from last year’s race?
Bartholomew: Yeah. Just a few things [laughs]. I learned that for 100 miles, you have to eat a lot. That was a big thing. In 100k races, I’ve gotten away with just eating watermelon and just drinking Coke. But for 100 miles, it really hits you. That was one thing I didn’t do well last year. I think it’s because I was in the excitement of the race, and leading the race at some points. You run through checkpoints and you just want to get back out there. You feel like stopping hinders your race, but it actually betters your race. That’s going to be something that I’m really focusing on.
I remember Tim Twietmeyer gave me three pieces of advice last year: “Don’t get to the top of the Escarpment first,” and I did that. He said, “Stop at Robinson Flat and eat something solid before going into the canyons,” and I didn’t do that. Then he said, “Get to Foresthill ready to race.” I got to Foresthill and I was, like, done. This year I’m like, “This year I’m like, Tim, I’m going to follow your advice.”
iRunFar: Nice! So, you’re changing up your eating plan. Does that mean more en route, or does that mean more at aid stations? Will you stop for a little bit and eat a sandwich?
Bartholomew: A little bit of both. Yeah, that’s something that I’ve been focusing on. I plan on carrying more things and I’ve figured out what works for me. I used to think that you had to have gels. You just don’t. I’m realizing that there’s other things out there.
iRunFar: You can eat gels. You can keep them in the mix, but it doesn’t have to 100%
Bartholomew: Yeah! Nineteen hours of gels is a lot.
iRunFar: It is a lot, but not a lot of fun. Does the change from a really hot year to a more moderate year change how you’re able to fuel?
Bartholomew: Yeah, I think so. I think that one of the things that really got me last year is that when you’re in the canyons and it’s warm, nothing really sounds appealing–especially a gel that’s at a really hot temperature. I think that will allow me to not be working as hard. I’ll probably have a bit more energy to spare for digestion. I think that probably with the snow slowing us down in the first half, I think that will allow for earlier fueling. Mother Nature will pace us through the first bit, so I think that will lead to a stronger back half.
iRunFar: Do you plan to force that first bit on the snow at all?
Bartholomew: Hell no. I’m Australian. I’m not good on snow. I’m just going to try to follow the person in front of me and stay upright.
iRunFar: It’s interesting on a year like this, you’ll be on the snow, and you won’t have a track to follow. You’ll team up with people and course-find, instead of competing during those first 10 to 20 miles.
Bartholomew: Right, I think Western States is always a special time to stand on the start line with friends, but I think people will be working together for the first bit. I think that’s the best way to start a race, especially 100 miles. Kind of having that fun aspect and working together and enjoying it for what it is: The beauty of the snow and the mountains, before we have to start running.
iRunFar: And when it’s 10 miles to the finish, then you’ll be racing.
Bartholomew: Oh hell yeah! [Laughs]
iRunFar: There’s plenty of time for that in 100 miles. Well, good luck, Lucy, and have fun out there.
Bartholomew: Thank you so much.