© Guillem Casanova Photography
It takes most ultrarunners decades of hard graft and consistent mileage to work up to completing a 100km distance race, but ultrarunner Lucy Bartholomew ran hers when she was just 15-years-old, alongside her dad, before she even realised the magnitude of the distance or her achievement in completing it.
Since then the Aussie, now 22, has enjoyed a slew of wins at ultra-long distance races, including the 100km Ultra-trail Cape Town and Ultra-trail Australia, and last year took on her first 100 miler in the shape of one of the world’s most notorious and respected races: the Western States 100, where she came third.
We cover this, lessons learned during last year’s Western States 100 and more, below.
You started running as a means to spend more time with your dad. Did you enjoy it right away or did you persevere in order to spend more time with him?
For sure, I didn’t fall right in love with it right away! It’s hard work! I started running with my dad to spend time with him and first it would be just a run around the block after work and school, and it was usually the last thing I felt like doing. But I remember I used to have to stop and I didn’t like my dad being stronger than me, so I used to pretend my shoelace was untied so I could stop and get my breath back. That day I decided I wanted to run this loop non-stop, and get stronger. I liked the progress and the feeling of achieving small goals.
Incredibly, you ran your first 100km aged 15 with your dad. Can you remember how you felt running this distance?
I think for me, being 15, I didn’t quite comprehend how far 100km was. I’d seen my dad prepare for and run a 100km race four months prior and so it didn’t feel too crazy. It was only when I went to school and was asked what I’m doing that weekend that people made a big deal about it. I really believe that this run was no different to every run, just a long day with my dad and buffets of food along the way!
Fast-forward to now and in two months you’re back for your second Western States 100 mile race. Are you taking any learnings from last year into this year’s race? Anything you’ll do differently?
I learnt a lot last year. It was my first experience at this distance and so I went into it with a theory that everything was a PB, blissfully unaware of what this race and this distance can do to you. I was given heaps of advice on the lead up and that all went out the door about 3 miles in! Maybe this year I’ll listen.
My biggest focus going into this [year’s race] is getting more nutrition in early in the race and taking a little longer at the aid stations to make sure I have everything I need for the next section. Last year I was like, “I can’t stop, I’m winnnnnning!”
In the canyons during Western States the temperature can be crazy. How did you find it and had you prepared specifically for it?
I truly believe the heat at Western States is blown up a lot. Yes, it’s hot but you can’t change it and people stress a lot about it – it’s everything everyone talks about. It got up to 46 degrees in the bottom of the canyons last year and it was more about trying to do things that I could control to not make that feel like an oven – eating, drinking, ice, splashing river water. I’d done a little bit in saunas but nothing proven to really help, it just felt good to be doing another step in preparation – more for the body than mind.
You’ve done a lot of 100km races. Does your training differ ahead of a 100 mile event?
Not really. I always aim for consistency. People think that the training must be crazy, but I really don’t push the limits too much for what I’m used to. The long runs stay the same but I might have two long runs back-to-back to replicate running on tired legs. Mainly, for me, it’s about practicing my nutrition and just getting the running legs back after doing some more mountain events in between!
I saw you raced around 1000km and ran 5000km in 2017. Is that mileage typical?
Generally I run about 5,000km a year according to Strava. [In] 2017 I raced a lot of longer races so the mileage was higher but the load is about average… and that’s nothing compared to some athletes!
Do you have such a thing as a typical week of training?
It varies so much. I’m not very good at doing the same thing over and over. I get bored and need variety and also flexibility with my lifestyle.
Usually in a week I have two faster sessions, two mid-long runs, and 3 easy runs with some strength training and cross training in there.
Do you run mostly on roads or trail and do you just run long or do intervals or sprints?
Where I live in Australia is rolling roads. So I train mostly on them when I’m home, then when I travel I hit the trails of where I am. I like to think of it as blocks of training; when I am home and it’s not so interesting to run, I do short and fast; and then when I fly to amazing mountains and trails and I feel good to do long and slow missions!
For sure I add intervals, sprints but I always just listen to my body for these sessions.
Mentally, how do you approach the enormity of running 100km and 100 miles?
I break it down. Aid station to aid station, one step at a time. It’s overwhelming to think of 100km or 100 miles but when you say, “Let’s run 10k to the next aid station” it sounds reasonable and the mind doesn’t start fearing the future too much. I think I have a very positive outlook on just focusing on the ‘Now’ and not letting things I can’t control stress me.
Do you get nervous before an event and/or have any pre-race rituals?
I sure do! I think it shows respect to the distance and how much this sport and these races mean to me. Pre-race rituals; not really, I need to keep it pretty flexible because it’s hard with all the travelling, but I like to eat a bowl of sweet potatoes the day before and if it’s a big race I like to have my hair braided.
What goes through your head during a 100km race – does your mind wander or are you in the moment?
Both. There is this time in running that athletes chase, a feeling of ‘flow’, like a meditative state where time and distance and effort seem easy and swift. Then you have times where you feel totally awful and tell yourself you’re never doing this again, and then sometimes I’ll be trying to do the maths of the distance and pace for about 1 hour because I can’t remember where I get to each time. It’s really nice to just focus on what you’re doing, where you are, who you are with and feel grateful for all of this feeling of being alive!
Do you use any mental strategies or use mantras during tough moments in races or training?
“Make each step count and trust the process”. I try to focus on how I am taking each step and know that nothing lasts forever, so do what you can do now to move forward.
What kind of recovery routine do you have after a big ultra?
Eat and sleep. It’s really simple and nothing too special, but I try to eat really well and in abundance after an event, and sleep is the best recovery for the body! I also try to do some other light activities; swim, cycle, yoga. Really, I use the recovery time to put my time and focus into the things I neglected whilst training for an event – family, friends.
How important is core work and yoga in helping keep you injury free?
I think it’s super-important! You’re core is your trunk like a tree; it’s your foundation. For running, your core allows you to keep good form and be strong! Yoga helps for building this strength but also for recognising weaknesses, imbalances or tightness that could lead to injuries so you can make changes from there!
What are your favourite items of kit for racing and training?
I love training and racing in my Salomon Sense 7 shoes. They’re red so they must go faster.
Who are you sponsored by right now?
I run for Salomon, Suunto, Le Bent, Julbo and CLIF bar.
What’s on the horizon for you for the rest of the year? Any stand-out events, hopes or goals?
Like you mentioned, I will run the Western states 100 mile on June 29, then I will run CCC 100km, which is in France in August, and then Ultra Trail Cape Town 100km in December.