Interview with Badwater 135 (217km) Ultra Marathon winner
Known as Badwater 135, the gruelling 217-kilometre ultra marathon race winds its way through Californian valleys and mountain ranges including the famous Death Valley, reaching altitudes of 2500m above sea level where the air is thin and runners struggle to suck in enough oxygen and temperatures in the mid 40’s. According to organisers, “it is the most demanding and extreme running race on the planet.”
MPC: What was different about your preparation over the last twelve months that helped get you over the line in first place this year?
N: Reflecting back on the past 6 – 12 months compared to last years’ race prep I definitely was going more quality rather than quantity this year. I was doing 3 key speed sessions per week, combined with 3 hot yoga sessions and lots of 2nd sessions that were spent hiking in the Dandenongs.
MPC: Did you do anything different in preparation for the race once you landed in the United States?
N: Not really. As we had left a cold miserable winter we really made sure we got out in the middle of the day and trained. So I am sure it looked quite funny for people driving down the strip in Vegas to see David and myself running along at midday in 45deg heat.
MPC: Last year you talked about including more cross training and resistance training into your program, did this happen?
N: Ha ha, yes well I do remember saying this to you however I didn’t manage any resistance training but I did start doing hot yoga 2-3 times per week and the odd reformer pilates class. I had a pretty busy 6 months at work so I didn’t have as much time to train, however I think looking back I trained smarter.
MPC: This year the race actually travelled through Death Valley how did you find it, and what kind of temperatures were you dealing with this year?
N: It was so exciting to finally be on the original course. I LOVED IT. To be running through Death Valley was quite surreal and as silly as it might seem to some people I actually kept reminding myself during the race just how lucky I was to be there. Only 100 people are invited to do this race, the best of the best from around the world and WOW I was one of them. When the race started at 11pm at night it was (110 farenheit – 43 deg) and the hottest it got to during the middle of the day on the 2nd major climb the 12.2 mile climb up Panamint Pass was (118 faranheit – 47.78 deg). I was pouring water over myself and it was evaporating within minutes.
MPC: You managed to cover the enormous 217km trail in 27hours 23minutes and 27 seconds! How many stoppages did you have over that time and did you manage to get any sleep in at all?
N: I stopped twice during the whole race. The first time was for 4 minutes to deal with blisters and the second time was for about 10minutes when I was having trouble with the blisters and my shoes rubbing. My race plan was to never stop and I had a race strategy of running for 13 minutes and walking for 2 minutes just to break up the race. The walk was enough to energise me and to give my legs enough of a break to keep running strong. Looking back I didn’t sleep from 10am Tuesday morning until 1am Fridaymorning because I was on such a high.
MPC: A huge part of this kind of racing is the mental strength required to just keep fighting, how did you train for this part of your preparations?
I think the mental strength comes from years of racing and competing and I think being confident in your training. I knew going into the race I had done the training, I was fresh, I had tapered well, I was well rested and I knew the distance wasn’t a problem. I try to be in the moment and enjoy every aspect of the race, even the tough times I try to embrace as its all part of it and I know that everybody out there is hurting. I was actually lucky that I didn’t hurt that bad so had a really enjoyable experience. I kept my garmin watch on Melbourne time so during the race I was thinking about my son back home who couldn’t be there this year, thinking of him going off to school and then going off to footy training etc. I thought of my family and my friends and all of this distracted me when I had a few dark patches.
MPC: Has there been a change in your choice of shoes this year?
I wore Hoka’s again at Badwater this year and once again they were amazing. I was smarter this year and purchased two pairs of Hoka’s that were a size bigger than I normally wear and this helped later in the race when me feet were quite swollen from the heat and were badly blistered.
MPC: Have you been lucky enough to stay away from injuries outside of the occasional blistering?
N: Touch wood, I have never been injured. I tend to listen to my body and I do have regular Physio & massage and I definitely think the pilates and hot yoga helped to keep me injury free. As for the blisters, well I still haven’t mastered not getting them – maybe I need to get some advice from you Jackson for next years race???
MPC: What are the next big things to complete on your list of achievements? Will you return to in 2016 to badwater to defend your title?
I will be competing in the Australian 100km team going to Amsterdam for the World Champs on the 12th September. Then after this I hope to get a start in one of my favourite races in Australia Coast to Kosci. At this stage my amazing partner David and I would both love to go back to Badwater in 2016 and complete the race together. I feel if I can get my feet and blisters sorted and all the planets aligned during the race then I could take another 30mins or so off my time from this year, but that is a big ask but it’s so exciting to dream big and that is one thing I encourage everybody to do.
I still can’t believe I am the 2015 Female Badwater winner, it just goes to show that with hard work and dedication and daring to dream big that your dreams actually can come true………
MPC: Thanks for talking to me Nikki all the best!