From Trails to Triathlons: Pro Ultramarathoner Lucy Bartholomew takes on Kona

From Trails to Triathlons: Pro Ultramarathoner Lucy Bartholomew takes on Kona

Lucy Bartholomew is a force of nature. 

Off the back of a 10th place finish at the grueling 170km Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) –often regarded as the most competitive trail ultramarathon in the world–Pro Ultramarathoner, Lucy Bartholemew is gearing up for her next challenge: the Ironman World Championships in Kona. 

Over her years in the world of ultramarathons, Lucy has inspired countless people to lace up their trail running shoes, and now she’s inspiring a whole new group of people to throw on their swimsuits and jump on a bike as well.

We caught up with Lucy to find out how she’s recovering from her last big race, what she’s doing to prepare for her second triathlon, and how the 27-year-old plans to tackle the transition from trail to triathlon.

First off, congratulations on your incredible performance at UTMB! How’s your body feeling post race? 

Lucy: Thank you! It is always such an interesting process to recover from a 100-mile race. 

During the race, I had battled a weird shin/ankle flare-up that had impeded my ability to run downhill fast for the last 10+ hours and was worried about how that was going to react once I stopped. It did get pretty fat and swollen, but I was relieved to have it checked and cleared that it was as simple as “you tendons were pretty pissed off at running on steep terrain for 20 hours”

Everything else feels pretty amazing given what I put my body through. I am still always hungry and easily fatigued, but that's all part of the body going through the recovery process.

That’s incredible. How’s the transition from UTMB to Ironman World Championships prep going?

Lucy: You’d think the transition was bigger than it actually was. To prepare for UTMB, I took a lot of what I learned from training for my first Ironman, where I realized how much my body appreciated sharing the load with two low-impact sports and how the variety in training only enhanced and protected my deep love for running. 

I was cycling in the mountains of Europe, swimming for the stretch and mindfulness and spending some big days hiking and running. 

Since UTMB, I have been harnessing the power of cycling and swimming to move the body without impact, and of course, I am not too worried about a marathon along a coastline after 160km in the mountains, but I know that my cycling and swim legs need some work and my body is loving that change!

A marathon should hopefully feel easy! It sounds like you’ve already had some really good learnings, are there any lessons you’ve learned from ultra running that you have brought over to triathlon?

Lucy: What I am learning is that endurance events are just a lot of problem-solving with a little bit of exercise, haha! I have so many amazing tools in my toolbox of experiences that help me navigate the highs and lows of pushing myself in these types of events, and my biggest one is focusing on what I can control: my effort and my attitude. It is so easy to get stuck in your own head and forecast what the rest of the day/race will look like when the best thing you can do is remain present, grateful and open-minded to learning something new in the moments to come. 

I think for a lot of folks, the swim can be one of those moments where things feel really tough – especially in Kona where the conditions can vary greatly. How have you been preparing for the open-water swim?

Lucy: Great question – I have done nothing so far [laughs]. I haven’t had much chance to get into open water with my locations in the mountains and schedule, but I hope to get in once or twice before heading to the island and seeing what this swim course is all about. 

Please send recommendations my way!

We can do that! Switching gears here, what does your fuelling and hydration strategy look like for Kona, and how does that differ from how you fuel during an ultra?

Lucy: Fuelling was one of my biggest faults in my first Ironman. I had greatly underestimated how hungry I would get on the bike but was able to make up for it on the run as I know what my body can handle while running. 

Fuelling for Kona, I plan to use more liquid calories due to the heat and some bars on the bike before hitting gels and coke for the run! It doesn’t differ much from ultra running, except there will be no mid-run pizza that I enjoyed on the UTMB course in Italy. 

No mid-run pizza, but hopefully some finish line pizza! Can we talk about the mental aspect of triathlon? How are you approaching this? 

Lucy: I am most curious about how deep I can mentally push myself so soon after a big race like UTMB. My mind is the first thing that wants to get back into training, but when I begin to train and maybe do a harder session, I don't have the same strength to dig deep. 

Kona, for me, is a very fun experience. It wasn’t on my schedule until December last year, and I am seeing it as such an exciting way to end a big trip of traveling and racing. I am not a professional triathlete, but I want to find my potential out there on that day and what that looks like… who knows? 

I will remain grateful for this opportunity and this body that is letting me line up the pinnacle of two incredible sports and share in the celebration of everyone participating. I think this mindset will carry me a long way, and I don't feel that I can lose out there.

Outside of finding your potential –best goal ever– do you have any other ambitions for race day? 

Lucy: My goal is to soak it all up, enjoy the experience, give my best out there and learn as much as I can from everyone who has worked so hard to be on that Island at this race. Also, I want a picture with Lucy Charles-Barclay – that's a lofty goal!

Lucy, if you’re listening – please keep your eye out for the other Lucy B! You’ve shared some really beautiful mantas for races in the past. Is there a mantra you plan to turn to in Kona when things are feeling tough?

Lucy: My mantra for UTMB was calm, confident and curious. I think the three C’s will follow me to Kona. 

Amazing – I might need to put that one in my back pocket as well. Last question: what advice would you give to other athletes looking to make the transition from running to triathlons?

Lucy: Do it. Try it. Either way, you’ll learn something, create memories, have a laugh, and add to your own personal toolbox of skills and experiences. You don't have to be put in a box as an athlete. I am a professional ultra runner, but that doesn’t mean that I won't get on a bike or in the pool (without it being due to injury). Lean into the community, and don't be afraid to ask. I have loved being a student of these sports, taking on people's advice and ideas and creating my own story. You only get your first time once for these things, so embrace it and back yourself. You’re stronger than you’ll ever know.

We’re so excited to cheer Lucy on at the Ironman World Championships on October 14th in Kailua-Kona. As Lucy said earlier, as long as she remains grateful for this opportunity and her body, she can’t lose. With that mindset, we don’t think she could possibly lose either. 


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