The Breaking of Bogong

She’s been pretty unstoppable these last few months, but for Lucy Bartholomew, the story began when she smashed up a highly regarded ladies record at Bogong to Hotham in January of this year in a brilliant 7:48, taking nearly 30 minutes off Beth Cardelli’s time. Since then Lucy as gone on to win the Northburn 50km and the recent Buffalo Stampede 75km ultra. But it all began back at Bogong and here she recounts her race and the stepping stone it was into her upcoming season in Europe.lucy-bartholomew-race-2-long-course-female-winner

“Two vertical kilometres followed by a marathon at altitude”. This was pretty much how I broke down the race and what I told Dad who was to take on this race as well.

This race has always been a goal for me. I had entered the race last year and came up to Bright to work and trained for four months hoping to be in good shape. I thought I was, but looking back now I know that I was certainly not race fit for this type of race. The race last year was cancelled due to weather warnings (a blessing in disguise?).

This year I had a good six months of mountain running in Europe; from the peaks surrounding the Mont Blanc massif to the tops of mountains growing out of the Fjords of Norway. I knew that the climbs whilst brutal were something I felt confident about as I had trained on bigger gnarlier slopes.

The flatter marathon following the climbs was where I knew i would struggle – I knew that I lacked speed.

The greatest difference this year was that I wasn’t training myself, I had a coach (Emelie Forsberg), we had a plan and I had the determination, I didn’t lack motivation. We had built the base of strength and endurance, so after a few weeks of resting and light running Emelie coached me as a track athlete to get some speed in me. With this i adopted a new mentality towards the harder, faster sessions.

At first, I pretended to enjoy the sessions and used to pump music in my ears to take my mind away while the legs burned, but towards the end of the period i actually enjoyed the sound of my heart beating in my ears and the feeling of my lungs exploding in my chest. I pushed past what i had thought possible and where I would have stopped. This is the true benefit of a coach. I had the motivation but maybe not the belief. I also joined Dad in a few Park Runs over 5K to test myself against some pretty quick guys.


My training consisted of 2 hiller runs, 2 speed session, a long run and recovery runs. I’m not going to lie, I worked my ass off; on the trails, on the track, up and down hills and in the gym. I got to the start line of Bogong to Hotham in the best shape i have ever been in. I even confided my times and goals to my Dad to keep me accountable. I had set times at certain check points, I had studied the course, I had reccied the route and I would visualize myself running and hiking up Bogong, falling down Quartz Ridge, wading across big river and suffering but smiling up Dwanes spur before giving everything to push along Falls Creek (lets note here that i left out a ‘small’ undulation on the course profile that indicated a small descent and climb – Swindlers!! this proved to push me to the point of tears).

I was confident in myself but I had no idea how others were feeling and was excited to literally put it all on the line.

My goals I spoke about where;

1) To run sub 8:30, 2) win, and 3) was to break the record. I know this sounds kind of arrogant, but I had this belief and felt ready.

Without sounding cocky my race went pretty much to the plan. If I could achieve my third goal I would succeed in the others.

I have never felt so comfortable climbing Bogong, so confident and sure of my footing descending and running the flats, pushing my way up Dwane Spur, I actually enjoyed the hiking sensation and passing men who I knew were good and strong runners.


I got to Langford’s gap 2 minutes under the time I had predicted and filled up with extra water as I knew it was hot even though it didn’t feel it up high. Here I was stopped for longer than I wanted as I received a new tracker because mine had stopped (much to my Mum’s distress in England). I left here unsure if the break had broken my rhythm but with the help of some tunes I picked it up along the Rooftop of Victoria, feeling in control and finding other runners on the horizon to chase down.

I got down to Derrick’s Hut and this is where I ran out of water and could feel my body starting to faulter. I power hiked up with my Suunto watch on elevation, knowing the elevation of this climb it, was a good way of indicating when the end of this final push would come. I watched every meter go pass and counted every step. This climb continued forever and appeared to grow in height as neither my legs nor mind were ready for this. I got to Dibbins hut and was told I was 2nd overall. I didn’t trust this information as i had not seen Stu Gibson or Matty Abel since early in the day climbing Bogong and assumed they were ahead fighting it out (only to find out Matty had got lost and had cramps).

I ran on up towards Mount Hotham village and looked at my watch. I had 30 minutes to run the last 1.5km, i knew i could walk it in and still achieve what i had set out to do, but I wanted to finish this off quickly and wanted to look like a runner at the end. I ran to the cairn on top of the mountain and finished in 7:48:00 beating the previous record by 21minutes and 2nd overall (well behind Stu) and becoming the first female ever to go sub 8 hours. It was a dream.

I was sad to hear my Dad had missed the cut at Langfords Gap by 2 minutes. He tried to get from Falls to Hotham to see me finish, but missed me by 30 minutes. Andy RD held off presentations until he got there which was great and Dad got me back down the mountain. It was a great drive back to Beauty talking about our races and looking at the incredible mountains dissolve in the afternoon sun.


I took a proper rest after the race, to the surprise of most people who know me and really just watched my toenails all turn purple. I actually pulled up really well and felt I could have or should have pushed harder, but this may have been my runners high. It’s a fine balance between the mental and physical recovery of the body and I’m still learning the signs. I rolled my legs over during the week and did a Body Balance class or two.

The following Saturday, just six days after the race i thought it would be good idea to run my local Park Run 5km as a way to wake the legs up and of course for a bit of fun. Low and behold i ran my Personal Best, 18:56. I can’t believe the strength of the body and the mind. I realise now that training I was doing was not only helping my ultra-racing but directly linked to the shorter racing too.

I do believe that my mindset going into Bogong2Hotham was an important factor. I trained solely to improve myself and didn’t worry about who was racing and what they were doing. I committed to do some gym work specifically core work which I feel has changed the way I run as I feel more upright, balanced and confident when running.

Ultra168 is paying our writers for their insights and helping the next generation of Australian trail runners. If you think this article deserves a dollar, then feel free to hit the donate via PayPal button below. You don’t have to use PayPal, you can pay by credit or debit card too via PayPal.


Lucy Bartholomew on FacebookLucy Bartholomew on InstagramLucy Bartholomew on Twitter
Lucy Bartholomew
Lucy Bartholomew is one of Australia's most recognised female ultra and trail runners. She's a member of Team SALOMON, SUUNTO, CLIF bar and STRAVA

Leave a Reply