Ngaire van der Jagt is one amazing woman. She has shed 65 kilos of fat from her body between 2002 and 2008. She took up running, is now a passionate Trail Runner. But not all has gone smoothly for Ngaire van der Jagt. She has dangerously low iron levels in early 2012 an ITB injury and is now only just finding her groove again. Ngaire van der Jagt has just run Mt Solitary for the first time on Sunday in a time of 7 hours 58 minutes. She’s back on the trails and here is her inspirational story.
Shona: How did you get into trail running?
Ngaire van der Jagt: I started running four years ago, and heard about trail running through completing a few adventure races and really enjoyed being out in the bush as opposed to on the road. I then heard of Six Foot Track for the first time in 2009 from a few friends who were training up for it. At that point, it sounded way too hard core for me as I was still just focussing on road half marathons, but I was still interested, so I decided to get out on the Manly to Spit trail and see what all the fuss was about.
Shona: What characteristics do you think go into being a trail runner?
Ngaire van der Jagt: Passion, determination, perseverance and a sense of fun and adventure. One of my favourite quotes is: persevere and push through to do your best, even though you’re scared, even when it’s hard, even when you’re exhausted and especially when it hurts.
Shona: I know that you lost an incredible amount of weight from running. Can you please tell our readers how much weight you lost and over what time period?
Ngaire van der Jagt: I’ve lost 65kg altogether since 2002. I actually lost most of the weight prior to taking up running in 2008 through choosing better eating habits and exercise (mainly cardio and weights at the gym). I’ve probably only lost the last few kilos through running itself. The running has helped in terms of boosting and maintaining fitness, and developing a little muscle tone.
Shona: How long had you been running for before you ran your first Marathon?
Ngaire van der Jagt: I started running in 2008, first off by tagging along with some friends who were doing the Bay Run (7km) as an after work thing on a Tuesday night. I could not run the whole thing (ok, I couldn’t even make 3km without stopping), but really enjoyed it, and saw some ads on television for Can Too, and thought that I would like to learn how to run and maybe escape some crazy work hours as well as raising money for a great cause. I did the half marathon program with the wonderful coaching of Sheena Polese, and was amazed at how much I enjoyed the running. From that point, I ran about six half marathons in 2009, plus some adventure races, before deciding that I was ready to take on a full marathon. The Gold Coast Marathon in 2010 was my first full marathon.
Shona: What was your motivation to lose the weight?
Ngaire van der Jagt: Ummm, long story short, a bunch of guys drove past me while I was waddling along the road in the small country town I was living in at the time and yelled out, “you fat f***”. Awful as it made me feel, I just decided at that moment that I didn’t want to live the rest of my life being morbidly obese and feeling horrid about myself all the time.
Shona: What was your first trail run? What was your time and how did you go?
Ngaire van der Jagt: Other than some adventure races (run, kayak, mountain bike) I think my first proper trail run was the 30km Lightning Strike at Stromlo in 2010, then I worked up to Mt Wilson to Bilpin that year and then to Six Foot Track in 2011.
Shona: What is your favourite race?
Ngaire van der Jagt: Can I have two? To date, Six Foot Track and Coastal Classic have been the stand outs.
Shona: Which event have you learnt the most about yourself from?
Ngaire van der Jagt: Probably the weekend of Six Foot Track 2012, although it wasn’t an official event. I went along with yourself and a bunch of others who had decided to do the Narrowneck run instead that Sunday, and I had been feeling pretty terrible in the training leading up to it, but I just put it down to fatigue and being a little “underdone” training-wise. I found the run itself really tough (we did 46km in total); my left knee (subsequently diagnosed as ITB related) felt like someone was jamming a knife in behind my patella from about the 26km mark and I just felt completely drained of energy the whole time. I realised at about 30km point that given the shape I was in that my dream of doing The North Face 100 in May was over, which was pretty devastating. Going back up Nellies Glen was awful, I was nearly crying from the pain, disappointment and an overwhelming sense of failure. Despite this I desperately wanted to prove to myself that I could get through it. I kept reminding myself that if that was the toughest thing that I had to do all day, that I could get through it, and that there were plenty of other people going through much worse things that day than my silly little run. I learned that I should have listened to my body a bit better by observing the signs in the training leading up to the race, and also learning to deal with fairly vibrant pain and managing yourself when things don’t go to plan.
Shona: Do you like to train in a group or on your own? And Why?
Ngaire van der Jagt: I love training by myself as my work situation is fairly hectic so the joy of being out in the bush alone without the phone ringing etc is complete bliss. Saying that, I do particularly enjoy running with a few mates of mine, as it’s a good way to push yourself to train harder.
Shona: What is your favourite training session?
Ngaire van der Jagt: Favourite training session is my long runs on the weekend, normally over on the Northern Beaches, Spit to Manly return or adding in North Head for a few extra kms. Cross training wise, my favourite session is boxing.
Shona: I know you have struggled with your health this year. You are dangerously low in iron. How have you combatted this deficiency to be able to run again?
Ngaire van der Jagt: I had been struggling with low iron levels since May of last year, but I thought the fatigue was just due to my training load. Turns out the iron levels were much lower than I thought (I went and got them properly checked after my SFT replacement disaster run and found out they were at 3 when they should have been around 400). I had an iron infusion recently and have started to feel a bit better and now have to have the infusions every 3 months. The return to running has been fairly slow and frustrating, especially as my fitness feels like it’s back at square one, but I’m excited to be back, albeit super slow.
Shona: You just ran the Woodford to Glenbrook, and now The King of the Mountain in quick succession, how have you bounced back after these two races with your iron deficiency? Or is your iron deficiency under control now?
Ngaire van der Jagt: I wouldn’t say that I bounced back. Both runs were much slower than I had hoped, but I just decided once I started to feel a bit better to get back into it, by re-introducing a few training sessions back into my week and then slowly but surely returning to the Manly/Spit return weekend training runs.
Shona: What is your day job?
Ngaire van der Jagt: I manage the Program Management Office for the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse (cancer hospital currently being built in Camperdown).
Shona: How do you manage your training alongside your day job?
Ngaire van der Jagt: I’ve had to switch a few things around since working in Camperdown (I was previously working in the CBD), so I train early mornings before work and a long-ish run on the weekend.
Shona: What is your passion?
Ngaire van der Jagt: My passions are definitely trail running, boxing and seeing other people’s lives transformed by learning how to look after their health and wellbeing properly. I think the key to this is learning how to nourish your body rather than overfeeding it, and discovering the joy of being fit and healthy by finding the type of exercise that suits you. I can’t believe how alive I feel now in comparison to being morbidly obese 10 years ago. The amount of people who come up to me after races and say to me, “sorry, I’m not sure if you’re the right person, but apparently you used to be really fat” and then share their own story is so inspiring and encouraging to me.
Shona: What sport did you play as a kid?
Ngaire van der Jagt: Basketball! I lived in a tiny town of 300 growing up and the only sport played in the town was basketball. My sister and I were on the same team and we both played point guard. I was a massive fan of the Chicago Bulls as a kid (when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were playing) and used to get up late at night to watch the games on TV when Steve Carfino and Bill Woods were hosting. I can remember my Dad driving my sister and I up to Robina to watch the Robina Rollers play the Perth Wildcats (NBL). Andre La Fleur (one of Robina’s star players at the time) tripped over me after the game and I can remember re-telling that story over and over to anyone that would listen (this was a very big deal when I was 12 in a very small town.
Shona: What is your hydration and nutritional plan when you are racing? Is it different from when you are training?
Ngaire van der Jagt: I’m a bit unsophisticated with the whole hydration/nutrition thing on races. Normally I just sip water and have a GU every hour or so. Same thing as when I’m training. I haven’t run any further than 50km, so I don’t really consider myself as an ultra runner. I think that if I ever get fit and brave enough to run longer than this, I may have to look at managing this a bit differently, but this works for me at the moment.
Shona: Having had to work through injuries, I know you have suffered from an ITB band injury back in March. How does your past injury effect your training in the lead up to an event?
Ngaire van der Jagt: I think the break that I had from the iron deficiency probably helped a great deal with the ITB thing too. I saw a sports physio at Sydney Uni and have since been working on stretching properly and re-strengthening my glute muscles. I’m definitely not back to full fitness but I’m just plugging away at it and trying to be sensible about not trying to do too much all at once, just because I’m starting to feel a bit better (both iron and ITB).
Shona: What is the biggest recovery tip? Food? Rest? Ice Baths? Recovery Jogs?
Ngaire van der Jagt: To be honest, my recovery strategy is normally a massive steak and a beer, plus a very big sleep.
Shona: Did your injuries change how you approached you running in 2012?
Ngaire van der Jagt: Definitely. It actually knocked me for six in terms of fitness and confidence. 2011 was such a fantastic year of running for me and with the anaemia and the ITB, I felt like I would not ever be able to have the health, fitness and strength to ever run properly again. It’s just been a very slow and steady build back up, but I still don’t feel at full fitness yet. I think it’s probably going to take most of the rest of this year to get properly fit again.
Shona: What mental games your tricks do you play on yourself when you are out training or racing to keep your mind focused?
Ngaire van der Jagt: This is going to sound silly but when I’m tired I tell myself that a great big spider is chasing me and in most cases suddenly find the strength and energy to keep running. As you can probably tell, I’m not a massive fan of spiders.
Shona: To be able to lose as much weight as you have I’m sure you must be one of the most disciplined people I know. Does that mental toughness come into play when you are racing?
Ngaire van der Jagt: I think so. While the spider thing seems a bit silly, I actually do remind myself when it gets tough that as hard as it feels, that it’s a hell of a lot easier than being back at that moment where the guys decided to yell out “you fat f***” driving past me that day. I never ever ever want to feel like that again.
Shona: What would you say is your biggest strength when you are racing?
Ngaire van der Jagt: Dirty hills and technical trails. I’m definitely not a quick runner or even slightly fast up the hills but I actually love the challenge of getting to the top of the hill and feeling that sense of achievement at the top. I also like the technical single trails, navigating my way through the rocks and boulders.
Shona: What are your best achievements so far?
Ngaire van der Jagt: Best achievements: surviving Six Foot Track in 2011, coming 3rd (female) in my age group at Coastal Classic 2011 and 2nd (female) in the 2011 Washpool 50km. I’m not likely to repeat any particularly good results this year, but very much just enjoying being back into it.
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 favourites. Trail….Road……Trail Ultra.
Ngaire van der Jagt: I bought a pair of Asics Nimbus when I started running and just rebuy a pair of those every year, and have the Asics Trabucos for trail. I won a pair of Inov8s at Coastal Classic, but I haven’t had the time to pick them up yet! I’m pretty happy with the Nimbus for the road stuff, but I’d like to try something a bit different on the trails at some stage.
Shona: You are about to run the Coastal Classic in September, knowing that you have run the CC in the past. What will your lead up training like? Are you planning on heading out to the Coastal Track to prepare for the event?
Ngaire van der Jagt: I won’t switch my training around too much, other than bumping up the distance on the long runs on the weekends a bit, and hit the track at least once before the day. I have the ARA adventure race (it’s around 5 – 6 hours) the weekend before, so I’ll just see how I go, but I’m really excited to be out on this run again. It’s definitely the most beautiful run that I’ve ever done.
Shona: 5 Tips for anyone wanting to compete in their first Marathon.
Ngaire van der Jagt:
- 1: I would definitely recommend completing a few half marathons first; for me it was important to learn how my body performed in a race situation multiple times before taking on the “big one”.
- 2: Sign up for a training program. I trained with Can Too for the first two half marathons that I did and the techniques and training that I undertook as part of the training was invaluable. Whilst I didn’t follow a formal program for my first marathon, I have a few friends who are running coaches who helped me out with some tips and training suggestions for my first full marathon.
- 3: Cross train: this is a key one for me. I love feeling strong, and the cross training is a great way to help build up strength as well as giving your legs a rest from the running.
- 4: Be prepared for pain and fatigue. If it is your first marathon, you will not believe how tired and hungry you will feel for a lot of the time (although this shouldn’t put you off, the happy endorphins you feel from the running will help alleviate this somewhat).
- 5: Learn to listen to your body. Although there will be pain, do not ignore your injuries. If you feel that something is wrong, get it checked out. There’s no point in trying to push yourself through an injury (despite a lot of actions contrary to this, injuries do not necessarily fix themselves by ignoring them).
- 6: Lastly (I know I’ve gone over my allocated number of tips, sorry): enjoy it. Running is supposed to be a joy and a pleasure, and although there will be times where you will ask yourself why you thought it was a good idea, crossing the marathon finish line is an unbelievable feeling and absolutely worth all the effort, pain and fatigue.