After finishing second last year, Ruth Croft returns to the Western States 100 ready to improve. In the following interview, Ruth talks about why she’s returning to run Western States again this year, what she’s changed in her approach to the race, and what adventure she enjoyed most in her 2022 Western States prep.
Ruth Croft Pre-2022 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar, here with Ruth Croft before the 2022 Western States 100. How are you, Ruth?
Ruth Croft: I’m doing well, thanks, Bryon. And you?
iRunFar: I’m doing all right. I think we’re both resting up for a big weekend.
Croft: Yep, sure are.
iRunFar: So here you are getting ready to run the Western States 100 again. After last year’s race, you were a little uncertain about running 100 miles again. What brings you back to the distance?
Croft: I knew that was going to be your first question.
iRunFar: [laughs] Of course.
Croft: What are you doing here? [laughs]
iRunFar: That is a normal response after a first 100.
Croft: Yeah. I don’t think you should make any decisions or verbalize them straight after a race because people have called me out on that, like, “What are you doing back here?” I think like, yeah, as you said, once it kind of subsides, that runner amnesia kicks in and you think of ways that you could do it better and, yes, that’s essentially why I’ve come back.
iRunFar: So, what are some of those ways you think you could do better?
Croft: Um, just the buildup. I’ve changed the buildup quite a bit. Well, I still kept the roadblock. And last year, I felt like it was very, I had quite a limited time in the States. Transitioning from the road, like recovering from UTA 50 [Ultra Trail Australia]. In the lead-up, of course, you’ve got to think about the taper on the other end, so I think I only had like three weeks. And so obviously I came over early to the States, beginning of May.
iRunFar: Yeah. So last time you were only out, it was like three weeks, was that three weeks of training or like a week of training and two weeks of taper, really?
Croft: It was three weeks of training but like I just felt like it was, because I’d done road pretty much up until it was like the middle of April or near the end of April. And so, to transition back to trails, it was just not enough time I don’t think.
iRunFar: So, it’s funny because you’re a pretty strong mountain runner as well and, like, you just didn’t have enough of that you think in your legs?
Croft: Yeah, I just felt like that was one thing I could do better if I came back was just … and that’s what I’ve done in New Zealand like normally. Yeah, do the roadblock. But this year, I did a lot more kinds of adventures and missions but also did a lot more trail as well as doing the road, too.
iRunFar: But you think you kept that quite advantageous speed and strength at speed, maybe?
Croft: I hope so. We’ll see. We’ll find out on Sunday.
iRunFar: As you let last year’s effort sink in, what positive memories do you have of that race?
Croft: I think just like with my crew, like Alex Varner and David Thompson and Martin, like we just had fun. Like that was the thing of the day. Like if they’re having fun, I’m going to have fun and not be a diva. And so that’s why I remember like, it was just a very positive experience from kind of start to finish. Probably minus the last like 30k.
iRunFar: Which is manageable; it’s not that many hours.
Croft: Yeah, totally.
iRunFar: I mean I don’t know David, but the other two, Martin and Alex Varner are two characters.
Croft: Yeah, exactly. And they’re the sort of people who like, all three of them are what you want on your crew. Yeah.
iRunFar: So, through 2021 and into 2022, you’ve had a really good stretch of running, at least looking from the outside in. Does it feel that way?
Croft: To be honest, I struggled a lot after States. I think it was the end of September until I felt normal again, like physically and mentally wanting to race. And I did Les Templiers, and that was kind of a good … it was a bit later and I felt ready to race by then. Yeah. And then I’ve been in New Zealand and we didn’t have too many races because of COVID. But I squeezed in Kepler 60k, middle of January, and then after that kind of races got shut down. And then I did Three Peaks in Dunedin, which was like a 55k kind of into March.
iRunFar: And that was more of a local trail race.
Croft: It was a local race. I didn’t taper but I kind of just went into it.
iRunFar: Felt strong?
Croft: Yeah. Felt good. It was a fun event.
iRunFar: Nice. What was your … you said you did a lot more adventuring going into this year’s Western States. Do you have a favorite?
iRunFar: Mission out and I mean, you were in the South Island of New Zealand the whole time?
Croft: Yeah. So.
iRunFar: It’s pretty epic territory!
Croft: Yeah, totally. Yeah. One of our favorite ones probably, we did Kepler, then there was a good weather window. So, the next day, a group of us packraft over to Mitre Peak. And then we hiked up Mitre Peak and Pembroke after. Yeah, so it was probably our favorite.
iRunFar: So, good training and good times.
Croft: Yeah, just good times. I think normally when I go back to New Zealand, I’m quite focused on training, but this year it’s been a lot more about just going out and having fun, as well as still keeping the training going, too.
iRunFar: Sounds like an even better balance this year in lots of regards.
Croft: Yeah, totally. It’s always a hard balance to find, but I think yeah, this summer, we definitely kind of nailed it.
iRunFar: Yeah. So, you were second here last year. Do you think you can top that podium if you have the right day? Obviously, there are so many variables at play.
Croft: Yeah, it’s like, I don’t know. I was second last year, but it’s a clean slate. It’s another year. Obviously, you want to take the experience from last year that I learned forward, but as you know, it’s 100 miles. It’s anyone’s race. It’s just about me doing my own thing and doing little things right, and then seeing how I feel at Foresthill.
iRunFar: Nice. So, you said you changed up some of your preparation going to this year’s Western States. Do you have any changes either mentally or tactically? Maybe going in on race day?
Croft: Um, I suppose. I think it’s different psychologically, I was saying like going into it your second time, because the first time you’re quite oblivious. You don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into. And I think it’s quite a nice position to be in. But this year, I think, yeah, just mentally. I don’t know. I’ve just been trying to, I don’t know, a lot of the times in my mind, you’re trying to control the outcome, which is totally out of our control. So, I think I’m just pretty relaxed and, yeah, just looking for a fun day out on the trails.
iRunFar: And with your skillset, which again, you’ve like run some really fast stuff on the roads, and that last 40 miles if you go into it feeling good and ready to go …
Croft: Yeah, totally.
iRunFar: Should be able to run pretty much …
Croft: Yeah, if you haven’t cooked yourself by Foresthill and I think that’s where I kind of, the last 20k is where I dropped the ball a bit last year. I think I kind of just checked out of it mentally. And then, so Martin said he’d be giving a bit more tough love this year.
iRunFar: Because that, yeah.
Croft: You can easily lose or make up time in that last 20k. Yeah.
iRunFar: Well, have fun on the whole journey, and best of luck those last 20k.
Croft: Thanks, Bryon.
iRunFar: Thank you.