Naomi Eastment has been running trail for only two years. She has battled through back and Achilles injuries to run her first marathon to qualify for the 6 Foot Track. Naomi only a year later pushed the boundaries to run her first 100km event The North Face 100km (TNF ). Find out what has been the key to her quick succession through the kilometers to run her first 100km event.
Shona. How did you get into trail running?
Naomi. As a Kid I grew up near the bush. I spent a lot of time exploring with my dog and I had an overwhelming sense of adventure. This gave me my love of nature and trails and as I got a bit older I started to run. I think thats why I am confident on technical trails as I have been running on them since I was quite young.
Training for the six foot track for the first time really opened my eyes up to trail running though. I had to find some tough trails to train on so I was race fit and when I came across some fantastic tracks out the back of Wandandian I just fell in love. I have run trails pretty much exclusively since.
Shona. What was your first Ultra? What was your time and how did you go?
Naomi. My first ultra would be the north face 100 I have also run the 6 Foot Track but it is still kind of classed as a marathon.
I had a very bad lead up to the race with bilateral achilles injuries. I could only run one day a week for about 8 weeks leading in so I used that as my long run and just hoped for the best. I really didn’t think I would be able to finish and had almost pulled out the month before the race.
I ended up finishing in 15:35 and was very happy with my time. It was very hard as my legs were shattered early on in the race but I am very stubborn. I am yet to DNF no matter how bad I am feeling. The sense of adventure and excitement at being out exploring the blue mountains for 100k far surpassed any discomfort I had.
Shona. and how long had you been running for before you ran your first Ultra? Did you run it on your own or with a friend or running partner?
Naomi. I started running again about 2 years ago after severely hurting my back. I herniated 3 discs and strained my SI joint I could not run for 5 years and really couldn’t do much at all. I put on a lot of weight (25kilos) due to the inactivity and comfort eating. I finally found a physio who agreed to help me get back into running after all the specialists said no. It took 2 years from this point to running my first ultra, the north face 100. I ran this with my training partner Jodie, we started running together at the same time, and both went from running for about a minute at a time to start with to running 100k 2 years later. It was awesome to be able to run it together, we got to experience all the highs and lows together and it was a fantastic support to have.
Shona. What is your favorite race?
Naomi. Its a close call between the Coastal classic and The North Face 100. I love coastal due to the amazing course and it plays to my strengths lots of technical track and some nice downhills. I also love the constantly changing terrain. I think TNF plays more to my adventurous side though and I love that it is 100k . There is something about that distance, about pushing yourself to the edge and hanging on. It’s kind of primal. You really get in touch with a side of yourself you don’t normally see and I love that.
Shona. Which event have you learnt the most about yourself from?
Naomi. I think the King of the mountain was the first race I realized that I can really push myself out of my comfort zone. It was the second race I had run since i hurt my back and I was still carrying excess weight. I also realized how competitive I am. I found out at the top of Mt Scanzi that I was in 5th position for the girls and the girl next to me was in 4th. I was floored! I got so excited I dropped the drink I was drinking and took off like a bat out of hell. I battled it out all the way back into town, running at a pace I didn’t normally run for 5km’s and we ended up catching the girl in third. It was a close finish I ended up 5th missing out by about 5 secs for 4th and 20 secs for third. I have never been prouder of myself.
Shona. Awesome effort. the KOM is a tough event. More like a marathon then a 32km. Back to training methods. Do you like to train in a group or on your own? And Why?
Naomi. I like to train alone or with my training partner Jodie. I have Aspergers so I find small talk difficult especially with people I don’t know well. I also like to run at my own pace. I never know how my body feels from one day to the next especially with my back, so I push it on the days I can. This leads to rather unorthodox training but I have times where I cant run for a few weeks at a time, so when I’m feeling good I might just run an impromptu marathon.
Shona. What is your favorite training session
Naomi. Definitely Long slow runs. I love nature, I love exploring, so any time I can get out in to the bush and run all day is the perfect day for me.
Shona. How did you go about running your first 100km? How did you know you could run that far?
Naomi. My first 100k was a terrible lead up I was injured so my training was not optimal. I normally like to be over prepared for a race. I had a good base of 100k weeks for a couple of months but then a nagging achilles injury due to my back meant I could only run once a week for the 8 weeks leading in so I figured one long run a week would have to do. I didn’t know if I would make the full distance. I just had faith that my mind was strong enough, and the excitement of the day would be enough to get me to the finish.
Shona. What is your day job?
Naomi I am currently getting into a new field of work vet nursing, after my back injury saw the end to my career in the disability field. I also work as a commissioned artist creating mainly portraits and wildlife work.
Shona. I’ve seen your drawings, they are amazing. The detail is incredible. What is your life’s passion?
Naomi. Exploring! and getting other people as excited about nature and running as I am. I get very excited about exploring new trails and all aspects of nature. My training buddy has been known to tell me to shut up on numerous occasions whilst training together as I get so passionate about what I’m doing and I don’t stop until I’m sure everyones as excited as I am. He ha.
Shona. What characteristic do you think go into being a trail runner?
Naomi. Probably my love of adventure and exploring, with trail running you never know what you are going to see, or find on that day. Every day it can be something new. From whales, to seals, snakes, wombats, black cockatoos, gang gang cockatoos, hidden pockets of rainforest. Trail running makes you feel alive!
Shona. What sport did you play as a kid?
Naomi. I played soccer. That didn’t work out too well as I was always competitive and didn’t like sharing the ball. Ha, ha. After that I got into running. I ran my first City2Surf when I was 12.
Shona. You ran the City2Surf when you were 12 that is amazing. You were a child endurance prodigy! So how many road races have you completed? Or has your back injury kept you from running in the past?
Naomi. I ran a lot of fun runs with my dad when I was a kid. I think I did the City2Surf 3 or 4 times. I even won my age group for the kangaroo valley 10k when I was about 12. I also won my school cross countries through primary and high school, and was on the regional cross country team.
The City2Surf was the longest race I did until my first marathon a year and a half ago. The 4 races were after I hurt my back. I guess I didn’t include the runs I did when I was a kid.
I had a lot of family problems growing up including foster care and limitations due to having Aspergers and kind of retreated from life for a bit and this included fun runs etc. I Had just started back into running and was training for my first marathon on the gold coast when I hurt my back at work 4 weeks out.
Shona. Man I was lucky to do 2 cross country races as a kid. You did so many. That’s amazing you are a real natural. And you have worked through a back injury on many occasions. That shows true mental toughness. How old were you when you did your first marathon?
I loved fun runs as a kid.. My brother was the real talent in the family so i guess i never thought that i was any good.. he was a state cross country runner. I was 34 when I ran my first marathon in 2010 at the sydney blackmores marathon and was still in the middle of trying to lose weight. I was lucky enough to qualify for six foot.. and after six foot i was completely hooked.
Shona not sure if it matters but i came 2nd in my age group at coastal classic, and 1st in my age group and 4th outright at the husky half marathon the weekend before coastal last year
Shona. What is your hydration and nutritional plan when you are racing? Is it different from when you are training?
Naomi. It depends on the length of the race. On the shorter races under 30kms I rely on the aid stations mainly for water and sports drink, and carry endura gels with me. I have one gel every 30 minutes during a race. During training on my long run days, I drink a lot of water as I sweat a lot, so I need to carry extra fluid depending on if my back can hold the weight. I also take salt tablets. I tend to eat more real food during long training runs as well, such as lollies, salty chips, banana etc. During TNF 100 I used hammer perpetuem as my main food with some gels thrown in, and endura for electrolytes at the aid stations.
Shona. Have had to work through injuries, how does that effect your training for an event?
Naomi. Having such a chronic back problem, I am constantly working through injuries. It can be very hard and disheartening but at the end of the day I am just relieved that I can run at all. It an be hard sometimes to not push through pain as I’m used to doing that with my back. I think thats why I can usually run well on race day I can block out pain, but i always pay for it after the finish line, Ha ha ha.
Shona. What is the biggest recovery tip? Food? Rest? Ice Baths? Recovery Jogs?
Naomi. I think rest is the best thing after a big race. I usually take a week off, and do something different like kayaking or walking on the beach. Let your body dictate when its ready to run again and at what pace. I think if you push things to early it is easy to get injured even if you are feeling good. I also Ice any niggles I have for a week after a race, and especially when I start to run again. Ice baths are great. So is a swim in the ocean when its really cold. Taking a protein drink or something like a low fat chocolate milk and a banana after a long run is also great for restoring your body.
Shona. Did your injuries change how you approached you running in 2012?
Naomi. I try to listen to my body more, I don’t push through pain in training. If I feel a niggle I will back off and see if it returns, if it does I go straight to the physio to see what the problem is. Usually its my back and some physio will set it straight. I have finally learned that one race is not worth a long term injury.
Shona. What mental games your tricks do you play on yourself when you are out running an Ultra or racing to keep your mind focused?
Naomi. Being competitive I usually focus on someone ahead and try and catch them, or I run to a certain pace. If I am struggling, I think about how far I have come and about all the people who have encouraged me, this makes me push harder as I don’t want to let anyone down. I also break up the distance in sections, for example at TNF I didn’t focus on the 100k I broke it up into mini races between aid stations. I thought about what I needed to do for each section and focused on that.
Shona. What are the standout improvements you have made to your training, nutrition, or hydration and recovery in 2012 that bought you be able to run you first 100km, The North Face 100km? I know you had to work thought Achilles tendonitis, back injuries and you are also studying to be a Vet Nurse.
Naomi. Running double days saw my fitness and speed increased dramatically, it also helped me lose some weight. I also created a more structured training plan, every run had a purpose whether it was for speed, hills, endurance or recovery. When my training weeks were big (over 100k) I made sure I employed lots of recovery strategies these included, no junk food, cutting out all diet soft drinks, eating protein and carbs after every session especially on a double day or after a long run. Hydrating well and taking an electrolyte supplement. I also saw a naturopath and took supplements for b12 as I was anaemic and a good multi vitamin. I made sure I iced after every run as well. The achilles issue I had leading in to TNF came about from back strain due to the workload at the vet clinic, driving to classes and the weight of a heavy pack during training. Since the injury I have worked closely with my physio to alleviate the pressure, and I’m happy to say my achilles are fine now.
Shona. How did you manage your training along side your day job and your studying? I think you even had to move house too.
Naomi. I definitely found it hard, mentally mostly, having Aspergers I can find it hard dealing with change, and stress from being around people at work and study. Moving house came at the worst time and my achilles injury flared up then as well. I think I am only just coming good mentally from the last few months now. Training is my release though, running is the best way to deal with anxiety and stress. I think it is important to have balance and it is a lesson I am still learning. Some days I couldn’t run as my back was so sore from moving etc, so I made up for it by having double days or longer runs on the days I could. I also tried to do my hardest run in the morning when I could, as my back was usually too fatigued after a long day at the vets to put in a quality workout.
Shona. What would you say is your biggest strength when you are racing?
Naomi. Definitely my mind set. I am very stubborn and will throw everything on the line during a race, my competitive side usually makes up for the fact that I am not the fastest runner. I am best on technical tracks especially steep technical down hills. I find this kind of course second nature, I actually do my tempo runs on this kind of terrain, as I run faster there than on a flat road or track.
Shona. What are your best achievements so far?
4th Outright in Huski Half Marathon 2011
5th Coastal Classic 2011
5th KOM 2011
Shona. What shoes do you like to wear? You can have a list if you like with different shoes for different terrains. I know you have a few favorites.
Naomi. Ha ha yes you are right I am lucky to have a few pairs of shoes. I think its important as each shoe has a purpose.
I have three main favorites:
Inov8 xtalons 190 – I love this shoe as a fast racing shoe on races up to 45km’s any more than that and my back will get unhappy! I feel like a mountain goat in these shoes, they stick to wet rock like nothing else, they are so light and drain water really well. This is my perfect coastal classic shoe as they are great on the beach as well!
Hoka Bondi b – These shoes have been a god send for my back. I don’t wear any other shoe on the road now or on hard packed fire trail as they really take the impact out. They are so good that I wear them all the time walking around and for work. The difference In my back since I have worn them is amazing! I don’t feel as stable on them on really technical stuff though.
Salomon Speedcross 3 – These are my work horse shoe. They are not as light or as fast as the xtalons but they provide more cushion over the 100k they also give me some heel lift when my achilles is not playing nice. The grip on these are good as well. I run in these for technical runs over 45kms.
Shona. You are about to run the Coastal Classic in September. You ran it last year and finished 5th with a fantastic time of 3:10:41 seconds. Can you give your readers any tips or tricks of the technical single man track event?
Naomi I was very surprised with my time last year. I had the flu on the day and put myself up towards the back at the start line as I didn’t want to get in anyones way. I was also really intimidated by the look of all the other runners this was only my 4th race and I thought for sure I would be left behind. Even though I got caught up for a long time behind people walking in the single track I was so excited to finish in the top 5!
For those planning on doing Coastal Classic, make sure your training leading in is specific, sand training, technical single track, hill training. Coastal Classic is a diverse course and you want to prepare as much as you can. On the day, take it easy through the single track if you are not confident, it is easy to sprain an ankle, there are some good fast runnable sections so don’t wear yourself out early. Don’t be afraid to power walk up some of the steep hills as you can make up time later.
5 Tips for anyone wanting to compete in their first Ultra Marathon.
- Believe in yourself - You really can do anything you want to! visualize yourself doing well on race day during your training.
- Train hard but smart – listen to your body, back off if you are tired or have any niggles, but push yourself if you are just being lazy!
- Plan Ahead – Try out different nutrition, hydration, clothing etc during training. Don’t leave it to the week before your race. Plan for anything that might go wrong so it wont be a problem during the race
- Make your training course specific, for example if you are training for TNF 100, don’t do all your training on the road. You will need stair sessions (preferably bush stairs) hill sessions, single technical track runs, and long hilly trail runs.
- Prepare yourself mentally. There will be times during your first 100k when you might want to give up. Think about what you can do and think about to pull yourself through.