I met Nic when at the Tribe 10km Race back in August, and after hearing about his story, I knew he would definitely be featuring as Athlete of the Month one day…
Nic was born in Australia, and was always active from a young age. A state ranked swimmer in primary school, he remained competitive in high school, as well as playing water polo and hockey. Growing up in Western Australia, Nic was always exposed to the outdoors, and loved being outside. When he finished high school, he remained active, but never really ran. Hiking, swimming and martial arts were his key forms of activity, and he didn’t consider himself a runner until he moved to London in 2013.
1. Let’s start with the basics: what does a normal training week look like for you?
2. In addition to your running do you do anything else to help improve-like for example circuit classes, yoga, meal plans or massage treatments?
3. Nutrition is obviously key during those longer races: so what are your go-to foods and drink?
4. Throughout your history of ultras, what has been your hardest most gruelling challenge?
Lavaredo was my toughest race this year. Ever, actually. It was 119kms, with 6000m of elevation. Running through the Dolomites. I finished 125th, in 18 hours 19 minutes, and whilst physically I felt fine, mentally the entire race was a struggle. We started at 11PM, and a storm had just come through. Thunder and lighting, and tons of rain. I don’t know what happened, other than it was just a struggle. It was the first time racing alone, in that I had no friends either racing the same race, no crew, or no one at the finish waiting for me (one of my closest friends was supposed to be there, but a situation out of her control meant I was on my lonesome). It was such a beautiful course, but it was brutal. Whilst I handled the physical aspects fine, I just at times felt like lying down and having a nap. At the 95km aid station, I think I sat down for 20 minutes or so, trying to convince myself it would be ok if I quit. I have never had to deal with mental issues like that before, so the fact that I still got on with it and finished (and raced competitively), was absolutely my biggest and proudest finish. I felt broken at the end, and turns out a lot of the elites had rough a day too. I still don’t quite know what it was, but I learnt so much that race, about my capacity to endure, to suffer, and to persevere. I finished and was in bed within half an hour. But I woke up the next day, and felt great, and raced a 51km mountain race in Switzerland a few weeks later and just loved it!
5. Here’s the classic question: Why do you run?
My relationship with running has grown so much, in such a short period of time. I guess the simplest answer is, running is an opportunity to express myself, in my rawest and purest form. I love that I can be free, be wild, be connected and be communicating through movement. I am in love with the mountains, and It is such a privilege to be able to explore and experience mountains, forests, and this incredible natural world, through running. If I didn’t run and get to experience all that I have, I truly believe that I would not have grown to be the person I am today. Whilst people think its crazy doing what I do, in all honestly, these ‘crazy’ races are the what keeps me from not going crazy! In a world where it is so easy to get caught up in negativity, and things that have absolutely no positive impact, running strips away all of that ‘garbage’ and just brings me back to earth and what is really important. The mountains are very good at humbling you, and every time I am out there, I am reminded of that fact. Nature is one of our greatest teachers.
6. Would you say you prefer ultras over the common 26.2? A normal marathon must seem like a walk in the park to you now!
Well, I just love the mountains, and the trails. I love the wilderness, and love the idea of pushing far beyond what is considered normal or achievable. I never really doubted whether I could finish a marathon, but doubt and fear and so many emotions are present thinking about running 100 miles through the mountains. I am drawn to things that are almost impossible. Almost. That knowing and willingness to embrace suffering and know that a finish is never guaranteed until you cross that finish line. And then there is the part of me that likes the racing side. A bunch of runners just pushing the pace in big mountains, knowing full well how reckless it is to be running that fast and pushing the body that much, and that at any moment it could all come crashing down. Just being able to find that place where you care so much that you don’t care at all, and you just go for it, and just keep fighting even when you are so drained and fatigued. The camaraderie and relationships that are forged both racing and supporting, are unlike anything else I have experienced. You have such ah high ratio of volunteers/supporters to runners, and for some 100km and longer races, you are allowed pacers from 60km/miles, which is a new element. My debut 100km, I had a pacer, plus a team of 3 others assisting me at all the allowable crew points (set places on the course where runners are legally allowed to have crew give them food, new gear etc). I have also been a crew and a pacer, which is such a rewarding experience, and something that I feel could not be replicated in a standard road marathon. Saying that, I ran the Amsterdam marathon 2 days ago. It’s a very different style of racing, just hard and relentless for as long as you can, whilst an ultra is so much more diverse in how you race.
7. What has been the favourite moment of your career so far?
Placing 19th at my debut 100km was definitely a highlight especially with such a world class field of runners, but if it was one race it would be Transvulcania. 73kms, with 8000m of elevation, where you run from one side of a island to another, over a volcano. It has so much elevation in 73kms, and is just brutal. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever run, and considered one of the toughest and most competitive races in the world. The sheer elevation profile is horrendous and the final descent scares even the best runners. It was a huge test, and my first real experience with anything that big. A true sky-running race, I just raced with my whole heart and ended up running to 110th place (after being 600+ at 7kms), in such a stacked field of incredible runners. I was wrecked when I finished, but I had such a beautiful day out there racing, and proved to myself that I can still compete even living in a city without any mountains or technical terrain to run and train on. I am going back to race again next year and can’t wait to get out there again.
8. You mentioned you’re a Nike Pacer- what does this involve?
So Nike London have a free run club, now running 3 sessions a week. RSG (Ready Set Go) is a run designed to get people into running, if they are new or haven’t run in a long time. We then have a weekly Speed Run, which is on track a lot, or other locations in London, and as the name suggests, is a Speed session. The final session is what we call Home Run, offering 5, 7 and 10kms, with various pace groups, and is a tempo/recovery run. As a pacer, I along with the other pacers, help facilitate these sessions. We have a Nike Coach lead, and we as Pacers support from start to finish. Every run has a range of pace groups (we cater for everyone ) and Pacers are mixed in with each group, and led the way, maintain the pace, and make sure everyone is enjoying themselves, safely. Nike put on lots of other events, so we are supporting them with all of those too, which is always lots of fun. This is where I first started running with people when I moved to London, and because its free, its accessible to everyone. We have an amazing community, and Nike have run clubs all over the world. I have run in different counties and through the Nike community, have running partners across the globe.
9. In the future, what are you hoping to achieve? Are there any races that you really want to tick of your bucket list?
Western States 100 is my DREAM. It was a youtube video of this race that changed everything for me. I qualified back in February and will be in the ballot for the 2017 race, so fingers crossed. UTMB (Ultra Trail Mont Blanc) is on my list for 2018, and I plan to run CCC (the 100km sister race) next year. Other than that, the Bear 100 in Utah, Hardrock 100 in Colorado, are just some of the races I want to do. I am planning to run the entire Wonderland Trail around Mt Ranier next year, but not as a race. Just run the full trail for a different experience. There are so many places that inspire me and I have a lot of goals both racing and running, which all involve challenging myself, and experiencing as much of this incredible world as I can. Moving into other areas of alpinism such as climbing, skiing etc are also on my radar. I just love being out in the mountains and the wild, and there are so many options. But the 100 mile distance is where I feel I will be best at, so that will be my focus over the next few years.
10. The final question (the one everyone wonders), what do you think about during those super long races…and how do you motivate yourself to keep going when you’re really hurting?
Food. Lots of thoughts about what I will eat, what I want to eat, what I should eat, what I could eat. That for sure. It does help that lots of the places I run are just out of this world beautiful. Mountains, lakes, waterfalls; If I am going to suffer anywhere, at least the view is good. I chat to people if I am racing too, if we end up sharing and working together in sections. Other times I am in race mode and just put all my energy into racing. When I am descending from big mountains (kms and kms of steep, technical running) It is literally thoughts like ‘don’t die’. In many cases the paths are such that if you did fall, at best you would go to hospital. So there is plenty of times when I have nothing else in head other than watching and measuring every step. And other times, It’s a serious question of why on earth I thought running 100kms through the mountains was a good idea, and what would be a good excuse to let me stop running.
Ultra marathons, especially the 100km + races, bring the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Life in a day in many cases. There are times when I am just so happy with life, and everything feels magical. Minutes later I could be in the deepest pain cave, and barely able to think about the next 10 minutes. let alone anything else in life. It really does vary, but when it gets really really tough, I just remember that I chose to be here, and that in life, it is such a privilege to CHOOSE how you suffer. I have this incredible opportunity to do things that many people can barely comprehend doing, and I always manage to keep putting one foot in front of the other. And whilst the nature of intentionally pushing oneself to the point of breaking will mean that at some point in my running career, I won’t finish a race, I want to find out how far I can go until that happens. So when all is said and done, I always have that final choice, and I just think about all the things and people in the world that mean the most to me, and just keep moving forward.
I would just like to say a huge thank you for answering all of my questions, and I hope that you get that Western States place.
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