Ruth Croft will make her first attempt at the 100-mile distance this weekend at the Western States 100. In the following interview, Ruth talks about her racing and training so far in 2021, why she’s drawn to try the 100-mile distance, and how patience will be her biggest challenge on Saturday.
Ruth Croft Pre-2021 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Ruth Croft before the 2021 Western States 100. Welcome, Ruth.
Ruth Croft: Thanks, Bryon.
iRunFar: This feels totally natural but totally different because it’s been quite a long time to be here at a race.
Croft: So long.
iRunFar: It feels good, doesn’t it?
Croft: Yeah, feels like some normalcy is getting back again.
iRunFar: Totally. But you’ve been over in New Zealand for much of this past year and actually got to race a bunch, or some.
iRunFar: And ran really well at Tarawera Ultramarathons 100k. Tell us about that.
Croft: Yeah, I’ve been pretty lucky. I went back to New Zealand mid-December last year and yeah, COVID-19 in New Zealand, we’ve had pretty much normal lives. The races have been going ahead. I actually started focusing on the road, and in the middle of the buildup I did Tarawera 100k.
iRunFar: And had a really strong performance, yeah?
Croft: Yeah, I was super happy with it. I haven’t run that distance for a really long time, so it felt pretty long, but it was good to just test out nutrition and get back into the groove of doing longer ultras.
iRunFar: Would you agree that it’s probably your best ultra over 80k or so?
Croft: Um, I don’t know. I’ve done CCC before and was pretty happy with that to be honest.
iRunFar: Oh yeah.
Croft: I was happy with it.
iRunFar: And what was it like dialing in that? Did you feel like you dialed in the nutrition and pacing and whatnot?
Croft: Yeah. I think my biggest thing is I’ve come from doing mainly shorter races where you can get away with just gels. So there I just tried real food, and it worked well, so that was kind of the plan going in.
iRunFar: So no big changes coming out of that day?
iRunFar: Perfect. And then you were training for the roads before that and the roads after that. Didn’t have the race you were hoping for at the marathon?
Croft: No, I didn’t, and the marathon, it’s a pretty fickle event. On the day it had still aligned and it just didn’t. I was over in Australia so it was more of a time trial. It was the only chance to race. Didn’t go well. I pulled out. I was on pace halfway and then started dropping so I pulled out at 32k because I was at the point where all my goal times had slipped, and I wasn’t there to jog it in. I was like, might as well call it a day early and then start focusing on the trail. Then dug myself into a bigger hole.
iRunFar: And you were trying for a very specific time…
Croft: Yeah, I was trying to do 2:29:30 which is quite a bit faster than my personal best, but I was there to give it a shot.
iRunFar: So no injuries, nothing bad coming out of it. You gave it a shot and probably no regrets either.
Croft: No. And that’s the thing with like at the beginning of the year, when I found out I got a ticket for Western States, it’s, I just didn’t even know if it was going to happen. So I think what I learned from 2019 was, if you’ve got the chance to race, just race. So I had the chance in New Zealand to do this buildup and have a go at the marathon, so I wanted to do that in case Western States didn’t happen.
iRunFar: And how did you bounce back? I assume very quickly, from the marathon.
Croft: Yeah. Because I did 32k, a 32k time trial. [laughs]
Croft: I had a couple weeks and then I switched back over to trail and went and did Ultra-Trail Australia 50k and it’s been pretty much trails since then.
iRunFar: And you’ve spent some time over here, yeah?
Croft: Yeah, Martin [Gaffuri] and I got out the weekend before Memorial Day weekend.
iRunFar: So you’ve been on the course some?
Croft: Yeah. We stayed in Auburn for a week. Saw that part of the course. Then we did the first two days of the Memorial Day weekend run and then we’ve been based in Tahoe Vista so a couple of times we’ll go down to get into the heat.
iRunFar: Good training in that period?
Croft: Yeah, it’s been awesome. It’s been good to mix it up between the Western States course and also around Tahoe area.
iRunFar: Yeah. So you’re not getting burnt out on the course.
Croft: Definitely not. That’s something I didn’t want to do, and I also haven’t seen the first 30 miles of the course because I want to have a bit of a surprise on race day.
iRunFar: I think that’s a really great way to do it. You can dial it in and know where each rock is or you can have the joy of the experience.
Croft: Yeah that was what Paul [Lind] learned, also said. He recommended not seeing the whole course too much.
iRunFar: Sometimes when people come from, not just overseas but out of the region to be in an area before a race, it can be tempting to do too much. Did you keep yourself in check a little bit?
Croft: Well I’ve got a coach for that. [laughs]
iRunFar: And you listened to the coach?
Croft: Yeah, I did. I’ve just got to have faith in what I’ve done. I was a bit concerned from the road, switching over to the trail, that I hadn’t had enough long runs, but I’ve had six weeks and I’ve done all I can. I’m happy with where I’m at, and I definitely don’t feel like I’ve overcooked it or anything.
iRunFar: Yeah, and if anything, transitioning from that, this would be the mountain 100 miler to transition from that road background.
Croft: Yeah, yeah. It would be totally different, but I think Western States, it’s better suited. And also I’ve been training consistently since December, so there’s definitely plenty of miles in the legs.
iRunFar: But you’re still pretty fresh?
Croft: Yeah, yeah. Definitely, yeah.
iRunFar: Right on. So this would be your first attempt at 100 miles.
iRunFar: What makes you want to step up to 100-mile distance?
Croft: The past three years I’ve kind of just been doing the same races that I’ve set around the kind of marathon/50k distance, and really for a change I did start going down the longer route when I did Lavaredo Ultra Trail in 2017 and had a horrible experience and found that I was chasing the high more than what I was really being drawn to myself, so yeah. I feel ready to step it up, and for me Western States is the most logical step, just timewise compared to going from what I’ve been doing compared to say UTMB. So I’m here.
iRunFar: Carry over that running background and base. So it’s a sincere, you want to try the 100-mile distance.
iRunFar: What draws you to that?
Croft: Well it’s just the unknown for me. I haven’t been this intimidated or excited about a race since the first time I ever tried 50k. Or remember the first time you do a 100k. It’s just going into the unknown and that’s the exciting part about it I think.
iRunFar: What do you hope to get out of the race, out of the weekend?
Croft: Who knows. I’m not sure, just give it my best and go for the ups and downs and see what the day brings.
iRunFar: So you did Lavaredo, you ran 14 hours and some change. Not that huge a difference from Western States necessarily. What would you change, or what did you learn from that Lavaredo experience to bring to Western?
Croft: Yeah, definitely learned I went out way too hard. My stomach went south early on. I think it’s because I went out too hard, too. And just the buildup to Lavaredo as well. I was pretty, I can’t say I was that experienced as a trail runner and I used to come over from Taiwan and go to Europe and just run long days every day in the mountains and not stick to my training program, so that’s another thing that I took away from that experience as well. So I think on Saturday the big thing for me is going to be patience because I’m used to running such shorter races.
iRunFar: Yeah, you have to be, with the stronger fields you kind of have to be aggressive to be on the podium.
Croft: Oh you do. With the shorter races you do. I think with this, the hardest thing for me is going to be patience.
iRunFar: Do you have any techniques or thoughts about enforcing that on race day? It’s easier said than done.
Croft: Well I’ve got a good crew out there. They’ll be telling me if I’m too fast. But I know I won’t be going out hard.
iRunFar: You can control yourself.
Croft: I can. It’s going to be a sufferfest no matter what at the end, but it’s going to be worse.
iRunFar: Better to enjoy 70 miles of it than 17.
Croft: Yeah, exactly.
iRunFar: Right on. Well best of luck out there.
Croft: Thanks, Bryon.
iRunFar: And enjoy your first 100-mile experience. Good luck.
Croft: Cheers. Thank you.