Ben Duffus is a fresh talent breaking onto the Australian Ultra Running Circuit. He has just won 2 Australian Ultra’s the Surf Coast Century and he was on the winning team at the 96km Kokoda Challenge all this while studying physic’s uni. This 21 year old’s name is one to remember. He was kind enough to spare some of his time to chat with me about his trail running adventures so far.
Shona Stephenson: You have a few memorable wins under your belt – what was the hardest (and why) and do you have a favourite win?
Ben Duffus: It’s very difficult to quantify a “hardest win”. I would say that the races I DNFed were the hardest! Having said that, it is hard to go past Pomona King of the Mountain in terms of shear “pain per second”! It’s only 4.5km long but involves going up and back down the 439m high Mt Cooroora. The burn going up was incredible and while the downhill was an absolute blast, it left my quads feeling like they had just lost a fight with a meat tenderiser! That feeling was probably also partly due to having run the Kokoda Challenge two weeks beforehand. Sharing the Kokoda Challenge win with my Kokoda Spirit Racing team mates was very special so it would have to be my “favourite” win.
Shona Stephenson: What’s a favourite training session or run (that most advances your fitness or abilities)?
Ben Duffus: Long runs of course! As Killian would say, “More km, means more fun!” I suppose it’s also probably the most important training session when preparing for ultras.
Shona Stephenson: What’s your biggest goal, competition-wise, in 2014?
Ben Duffus: I am really looking forward to the Buffalo Stampede in April. Thinking about that race gets me more excited than a 14 year old girl at a One Direction concert. The course looks spectacular and it will be a fantastic opportunity to race against many of the top Australian mountain runners.
Shona Stephenson: What made you step up to running Trail Running Ultra’s?
Ben Duffus: In high school I was always more of cross country runner than a track runner (this may have partly been due to me being badly injured every track season and the fact I have a terrible sprint finish!). Since my favourite training sessions were always long hilly runs, I decided to give mountain running a go once I was out of school. I was fortunate enough to make the Australian mountain running team and travel to Europe to race at the World Championships. I loved those races but wanted more; 8km just wasn’t enough! So once I wasn’t a “Junior” anymore (i.e., under 20), I stepped up to running ultras. Last year was a VERY steep learning curve and I still feel very new to it all!
Shona Stephenson: You just recently won the Surf Coast Century. What’s your plan of attack for an off-road race of that length?
Ben Duffus: It’s kind of funny, I am physicist and thus real “numbers person”, but I actually avoid planning my ultras too much because otherwise I will just over think them. There are simply too many variables to account for, so I will run by feel more than anything else. It is a little tricky to know what an “easy but not too easy” pace is for the first 30km but after that I find I will start to naturally slip into a sustainable rhythm (at least, it’s worked so far!). I will sit down and estimate what time I expect to arrive at various checkpoints based on my target finishing time, but this is more for my support crew than it is for me!
Shona Stephenson: Who are your mentors or role models that have influenced you in racing and training?
Ben Duffus: The first people who spring to mind are the coaches I have had over the years. Having Andy DuBois share his wealth of knowledge with me over the last year has been incredible and has completely changed my perspective on racing and training. My high school coach Dave Smith was the one who first got me into running and taught me to never be afraid of hard work. I also really look up to Brendan Davies not just for his ability to perform over such a variety of distances and terrains (I will admit to having watched videos of him finishing TNF100 this year several times over!), but also the way he is so supportive of the running community (including myself!).
Shona Stephenson: What songs would get you up and dancing at a club? (I hope you like dancing).
Ben Duffus: The songs are irrelevant. It’s the people I’m with that will determine whether I’m dancing or not!
Shona Stephenson: What was your hydration and nutrition plan for your win at Surf Coast Century?
Ben Duffas: I kept things fairly simple, consuming a gel and washing it down with plain water at regular intervals for the whole race (I get my watch to beep at me so that I don’t have to think!). I would also have some Red Bull and Endurolytes Fizz at checkpoints where I could see my support crew.
Shona Stephenson: Do you cross train? What other sports or training methods do you incorporate into your training program?
Ben Duffus: I actually cross train quite a bit with strength work and cycling. Lately I’ve also dabbled with a bit of pool running.
Shona Stephenson: Whats your favourite pre-race meal and post race meal?
Ben Duffus: Before and during ultras I stick to liquid calories, so my pre-race breakfast is usually a carbohydrate and protein drink. After a race I tend not to feel like eating much but usually 4 hours or so hours later my appetite returns with a vengeance. Typically I’ll be craving the opposite of what I’ve been eating during the race: solids food full of protein, good fats and veggies!
Shona Stephenson: What was your gear set up for the Surf Coast Century?
Hoka One One Rapa Nui
Compressport R2 Calf sleeves
Hoka branded shirt
Injinji Run 2.0 Crew Socks
Compressport branded visor
Compressport Trail Quad sleeves for post race recovery
Ultimate Direction AK vest
Ultimate Direction Jurek Essential Belt
Pre-race: Hammer Recoverite & a strong cup of black coffee
During Race: Hammer gels (I like fruit flavours), Red Bull and Endurolytes Fizz
Immediately post race: Hammer Recovery bars and Endurolytes Fizz