OK… awful pun of a headline… but Nikki Wynd is a very well-known runner on the ultra circuit in Australia, winning a whole host of events, as well as representing Australia at the 100km World champs too. But it was her result at Badwater a few weeks ago that pricked up many eyes and ears. Having previously finished third last year, there was always a sense of anticipation that she would go a few steps further this time round if everything went right for her – and we’re pleased to say that it did.
Nikki won Badwater in a time of 27hrs 23mins, beating her time from last year by well over two hours. So what did she learn last year that has seen such a dramatic increase in her performance? We caught up with her to see what she did differently, how her race went and at what stage she really felt like she was on course to take out the honours.
You previously came third at Badwater, what did you differently this time round that seen you move up two places on the podium to win Badwater?
This time around I did far less volume, but more intensity in my training. It wasn’t necessarily planned that way but mainly due to work schedules, but in hindsight it probably worked out very well for me. I managed a few 200km weeks in June, but really the focus would be on three key sessions a week, mainly speed sessions. It was about converting the speed over long and longer distances, which for a race like Badwater is perfect. I’d start with mile reps, building up to two speed reps and with a long tempo run on a Saturday. Basically, it got me quicker and quicker, with the ability to hold that pace for longer.
I was also helped by training with Dave (Eadie), my partner, so he was able to push me along a bit too!
What’s special about Badwater that saw you return two years on the trot?
When I started running it was the ultimate and pinnacle of racing of racing for me – whether it’s the toughest race in the world or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s about as iconic an ultra as you can get and there’s a real sense of community about the race too. I’ve done pretty much all the biggest ultras in Australia, so with Badwater I really wanted to test myself further afield and against some of the best international competition.
Did it get really hot out there?
When we started at 11pm it was 42 degrees and the hottest it got up to was something like 47.8 degrees so I heard. But I do love the hot weather, so it was OK as it’s more of a dry heat than we experience here in Australia. But to give you an idea of how hot it was, I would tip water over herself and within minutes it would have evaporated.
What tactics did you take into the race?
I did plan pretty meticulously I looked through the race book, race records and other competitors’ times from previous years as to be frank, I wanted to put it on the line a bit for this one. one record I did pay attention to was Pam Reed’s over 40’s record which i think stands at 27hr 42mins, just so I could aim for something.
I then started to pull together some splits, picking out people I knew and records from previous splits. This enabled me to work out splits for each section. I’m a pretty conservative starter, whereas you see a lot of people who go out quick, so key to being successful with this was to also pick someone who was very conservative in previous years too.
In terms of how it went in the race, I couldn’t have asked for more of a dream race to be honest. I knew that if I went through the first 100kms in around 12 hours that I would be close to the record and that I could negative split the second half. Indeed, my split from Darwin to Lone Pine was second quickest in the entire race.
I never went out thinking I was going to win. I mean, in a dream world, I would always hope to win, but with someone like Aly Venti, who is a class runner, my realistic head was saying top three again.
Did you have many low points? And if so how did you manage them?
I didn’t really have any low points in the race. On the last climb, the crew could only stop in certain areas and I did run out of food and water at one point, but it wasn’t a serious low. I felt strong, throughout the entire race and my walking was strong too, particularly on that final climb. Without sounding arrogant, the race felt easy. But that is all down to the preparation I put in and the cut back on volume too.
At what stage did you feel like the win was within your grasp?
I remember passing Aly with about 50kms to go and all my crew were getting very excited about me winning, but in my head I still didn’t think I was capable of winning. What really helped me in those final stages was having my crew read out messages from people at home, it really helped to push me, but I never let my guard down until I finally crossed the line.
Aussies in the last few years have done very well in this race, why do you think this is the case?
I think it comes down to the right people going there and being 100% prepared for the heat and the elements. The selection process for this race is pretty rigourous in that you have to do three x 100 mile races just to qualify. You need to have a big background of running and prove your fitness, so it’s not like ou can decided six months out that you’re going to do Badwater. For many it’s a two-year plan to even get to the start line, so in that respect, you have some highly prepared athletes heading over for this.
Will you be going back next year? What else do you have planned for the rest of the year?
I might go back, I think it’s too early to say. If I’m honest, I still think I can take a chunk out of my time from this year and g under 27hrs. But it’s probably a little early to say right now. But next for me is the 100km world champs in September, then I’m heading back to do Coast2Kosci. Like Badwater, that’s such an epic race, and it has a similar community feel. When I was over in the States, so many people I or met and ran with want to come out and do C2K or GNW.
Many thanks to Nikki for her time and a big pat on the back too for a job well done.