Ruth Croft, 2021 Les Templiers Champion, Interview

Ruth Croft of New Zealand won the 2021 Les Templiers, her second win of this event. In the following interview, Ruth talks about how her race played out, whether her 2017 win gave her confidence or too perfect a comparison, if her season’s now done, and if she’s considering running the 2022 Western States 100 after her second place at this year’s edition.

For more on how the race played out, read our in-depth results article.

Ruth Croft, 2021 Les Templiers Champion, Interview

iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar, here with Ruth Croft after her win at the 2021 Grand Trail des Templiers. How are you Ruth?

Ruth Croft: I’m good, I’m feeling good.

iRunFar: You’ve run Templiers twice, and you’ve won it twice. This is a good course for you.

Croft: Yeah, I really love it. It’s pretty flowy for the most part and I think it kind of suits my strengths.

iRunFar: You didn’t go out in the lead.

Croft: No.

iRunFar: I think I saw you around 10k and were roughly in fourth, it was dark you might not have even known. You weren’t pushing the female race pace.

Croft: No, I don’t think there’s much point, that first 25k is really runnable, you can actually go pretty fast, I think if you go too fast, you pay for it later on. So I was pretty comfortable to sit back for a bit and make those other girls go off.

iRunFar: And then relatively quickly, by 20k, you were in second behind Gemma [Arenas], like at times you could probably see her. Probably had a sense you are within…

Croft: Actually no I only saw her coming into the aid station at 34k, but I had been told at the 21k that she was three and a half, 3:45 ahead of me. And then by that second [aid station], I started hearing 30 seconds. I started to make a bit of a move at the 21k.

iRunFar: And where did you catch her?

Croft: Right into the aid station I think, I got out of the aid station slightly quicker than her.

iRunFar: Were you feeling harried at all then or were you just kind of, I’m going to move strong, what was going through your head?

Croft: I was feeling good there. It was when I saw you at the 45k, when you told me that I looked good.

iRunFar: You did look really strong.

Croft: I did not feel good, I was like, well at least I look good.

iRunFar: At the previous checkpoint where I had seen you, Gemma looked fine but she had been working and you looked like you are ready to throw off your jacket and make haste.

Croft: Yeah, I was ready to get to business I think.

iRunFar: But you weren’t feeling totally fine at 50k?

Croft: Yeah, I really had a low patch I think from 45k to 54k, my legs felt absolutely dead, where I was like, I don’t know if I could run another 25k. I fell over and then I just ate my way out of the hole pretty much and then I kind of, things started to turn around.

iRunFar: And you are able to fuel your way out, like your stomach didn’t turn or anything like that?

Croft: It’s like, I had stuck to my nutrition plan but sometimes you just need a little bit more. So I just got some more calories on board and it turned around.

iRunFar: And then you took off. Did you kind of feel like at any point, you got pretty solid control at the front, were you feeling confident?

Croft: Not really. It’s tricky when you compare your races to 2017, like I felt a lot better for the majority of the race in 2017 and I think what showed for me today is I didn’t quite have the long runs in my legs because I think that was the first thing that we cut out of my program when I wasn’t feeling good. So I noticed that a bit. And then I just couldn’t get comfortable because the split for Gemma was four minutes or five minutes and so for me that’s not much at all.

iRunFar: So you were, not worrying but not relaxing on the last climb.

Croft: I couldn’t relax, not at all.

iRunFar: But not panicking either, not like you had to fight furiously?

Croft: No, not really and it’s also in the back of my head that Gem has raced a lot as well in the last month. So that’s kind of a good thing.

iRunFar: I was thinking that, she had run second at Ultra Pirineu [100k], at Penyagolosa MiM [60k], and I think something else in between there.

Croft: Yeah, which is a lot.

iRunFar: Like you are going to run CCC [UTMB], didn’t run it, so you had a clean slate since Western States [100]?

Croft: Yeah, pretty much, I did [adidas] Infinite Trails.

iRunFar: That was probably a low-pressure event. So you felt fresh I guess, right?

Croft: Yeah, definitely. I think so. So I have that in the back of my mind. I felt good on that second to last climb, which was where I remember last time I felt absolutely awful so I was expecting that again so it was good to be able to get work on that climb. And then I think I got another minute, six minutes I think at the top of there.

iRunFar: Now, having that wonderful performance in 2017, something you could objectively look to, that was a great race. Does that give you confidence those last 20k or are you looking back and being like, I don’t feel as good in some places? Is it a blessing and a curse?

Croft: I think if anything today it was just, for me it was just good to blow away the doubt I think that I’ve had these last few months and just put together a good race. I felt like my old self again. Something that gives a bit of confidence.

iRunFar: Were you worried after Western States because it was your first 100 miler, were you worried that you were just done? Cooked?

Croft: Kind of and it just hasn’t been smooth these last few months so yeah, I knew that my training had been decent and mentally I was back in the game, there was still that element of doubt.

iRunFar: Did no one tell you that that happens after your first 100?

Croft: Yeah, probably.

iRunFar: Recovery gets a little easier. As time goes by.

Croft: Hopefully.

iRunFar: Hopefully, yeah. Does this wrap up your season?

Croft: Yes, definitely. Yeah I’m ready, that’s a wrap on the year and have a break.

iRunFar: Can you start thinking about maybe going back to that silly long 100-mile thing next year, maybe?

Croft: Are you saying I’m not the smartest person?

iRunFar: No, we’ve all made that – or many of us have made that mistake before.

Croft: I think I will probably be back at Western States. Like I was saying to you earlier I learned a lot this year, and I think going into it again, knowing it’s not my first 100 miler, it removes that whole mental aspect of it.

iRunFar: The unknown?

Croft: Yeah, exactly.

iRunFar: But hopefully still have some of the, the good mystery or the good, this is new territory.

Croft: I think sometimes, yeah, your first 100 miler, ignorance is bliss.

iRunFar: So what do you do in terms of training because you had Western States and presumably a break.

Croft: Yeah.

iRunFar: And then one relatively short race for the rest of your season, do you kind of easily roll into a winter training plan or will you take a concerted break?

Croft: So I’ll probably take, I don’t know, two or three weeks. Like no running. And then I’m heading back to New Zealand so it will be summer. And the plan, I think I want to do some road races just to mix it up again. That’s kind of what I did for the buildup to States and I think it complements States pretty well. So I think I’d do something similar to what I did this year.

iRunFar: Nice. Well congratulations on another win here.

Croft: Thank you.

iRunFar: And enjoy your break.

Croft: Yeah, cheers.