Lucy Bartholomew Doesn’t Want to be Put in a Box 

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Herbert Krabel

By: Herbert Krabel

Herbert Krabel grew up in Southern Germany but now resides on the East Coast of the USA with his wife Amy and his 11-year-old twin sons. He raced mountain bikes professionally in the early 90s and then explored triathlon for a few years. More recently he found a passion for trail running, unique ultra-distance races and locations, and SwimRun. He also loves art, architecture, and European chocolates.

All images from Kona provided by Korupt Vision

Many of us know Lucy as the 22-year-old blonde Aussie who showed up and lit the 2018 Western States Endurance Run on fire, finishing third. Heck most of us know Lucy because she grew up in the sport, right in front of us. The year before that she won both the Ultra Trail Australia 100-kilometer and the Ultra Trail Cape Town 100-kilometer, and took 2nd in both the Marathon du Mont Blanc 90-kilometer and TDS by UTMB. She hasn’t slowed down since. This year Lucy finally got her chance to run UTMB where she went onto finish 10th place in a time of 27:39:23. A race a long time in the making since she first became inspired to run and compete at UTMB after watching her dad, a passionate ultrarunner, complete the race in 2015. 

“It was such an incredible experience. He finished in 42 hours and I followed him the whole time by bus to each aid station. I remember seeing the people around him doing this crazy race and they were all different shapes and sizes. I knew I wanted to do it one day after seeing him run through Chamonix mid-morning on Sunday with the crowd going wild. We both slept for a week after that.”

Lucy hug's her dad at the finish of the 2018 WSER.

Growing up Lucy joined every sports team possible as a way to get out of school more. Her coaches back then often used running as punishment, a commonality in many team sports, and she and other athletes were made to run laps for any infraction. Lucy however recalls preferring the punishment over the actual training session. That natural love for running and her dad’s shared passion for the sport spoke to her before many of us knew trail running existed.

“My dad had always been running marathons and I helped him train for his first 100-kilometer when I was 14. He would run and I would ride next to him carrying the snacks and talking about everything and anything. As he got more into trails the bike began to get too difficult, so I ditched it and decided to try and run with him. We loved it, sharing so many camping trips, miles and memories. I ran my first 100-kilometer race with him at 15 years old, my dad was 50. We spent 12 and a half hours running along the coast from sunrise to sunset and it was probably the best day of my life. The next year I ran without him by side and ran 3 hours faster and finished as the 2nd female. That was when we thought we might be on to something.” 

Fast forward to earlier this year, Bartholomew won the Bandera 50-kilometer and finished 3rd overall. She then followed it up with a win at the Tarawera Ultramarathon by UTMB 100 miler in early February, and then went onto to finish runner-up at Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB 100-kilomter in May. After that gears shifted to her dad’s Western States 100-mile and  getting ready for the big dance in Chamonix.  

“My training was a little all over the place, you’ll learn this is pretty normal for me. I was sprinkling in triathlon training in the build-up and it wasn’t until I hit France for the Salomon training camp on the UTMB course that I got my ass locked into gear. After those 4 big days we relocated to another chalet in the French Alps and I trained there for 3 weeks which put the vert and time on feet into me that gave me confidence that I could actually complete this race and if I was smart I could compete.” 

Before this year’s UTMB Lucy flew very much under the radar, no hype pre-race, and that trend continued into the race itself.  It wasn’t until she reached La Fouly, 113 kilometers or 70 miles into the race, where she was told by an iRunFar “spotter” that she was now in the top 10.  

“It was a really beautiful way to race because I wasn’t trying to hold or chase a place – I was impressing myself by getting through this beast of a course. I moved up through the field not because I was getting faster but there was a bit of movement at the front of the race. I remember running along the river to Les Houches and very quickly saying this is not sustainable. Don’t get sucked in. I let the girls go and not long into the night I passed a big group of them. I focused a lot on eating, being reasonable and enjoying the experience until Champex-Lac. I then started to have some ankle issues and after the race I learned that I had a small tear in the muscle and tendonitis. I wasn’t able to go down[hill] very fast at all but could hike and run uphill totally fine. I used that to my advantage and on the final downhill I was willing to pay the price of pushing for that 10th place.”

Lucy B on the bike in Kona during the World Championships in October in 2023.

While most who raced at UTMB that week took some time off after to recover from the physical and emotional effort that comes with running 170 kilometers, Lucy had to get ready for one more big effort, the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona. Lucy qualified at IRONMAN Western Australia in Busselton in December of 2022. This year the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii would be extra special as a female only event with the men competing separately in Nice, France about a month earlier. How does an ultrarunner end up at Kona? For Bartholomew it turns out she stumbled upon triathlon in 2020 when travel abroad was shut down because of COVID-19.

“I was looking at events that inspired me and I had done most of the trail races locally so I looked outside of the box. IRONMAN was always a one day – some day bucket list event that I wanted to do, but I never expected the journey it has taken me on. Before that first IRONMAN I had never done any triathlon, so it was a steep learning!” said Bartholomew.

With an ankle “souvenir” from UTMB Lucy was a little worried about having another event with a tight turnaround time. Luckily two of the three pieces of triathlon are considered low or no impact, swimming and biking. In prep for getting on the Kona start line Lucy leaned into time spent on the bike and in the pool which allowed her to recover while honing her skills in the two sports she felt less confident in. From the outside, the trail community was broadly impressed with Lucy racing and finishing Kona – however in her mind it did not go as she wanted or had hoped. 

“I had a rough IRONMAN in Kona. I had never done a deep water mass start, and my gears wouldn’t shift on my bike, so I ended up riding between super low and super high. I mostly rode in the high gear and was pretty worked coming into the run. I ran ok for the first part but got really hot and knew I was carrying a lot of fatigue from the bike. I am aware from a sweat test that my electrolyte loss is minimal while sweating so I carry that with confidence into hot races. I didn’t do much specifically except using a sauna a few times but probably not enough to have any difference and I only arrived 2 days before the race, so it hit me hard. I was pretty happy with my mental ability to hold on and maintain focus even with all these hurdles – this was my biggest question mark for UTMB, if my mind would allow me to dig.” 

Bartholomew thinks that maybe her bike was knocked around on that long trip to Hawaii and that was possibly the source of the shifting problems. Interesting to note, she opted to race on a Cannondale Supersix Evo road bike, as opposed to a TT bike, because she was more comfortable on it. 

“I got given a TT bike to try but found that I couldn’t run super well off it and felt so uncomfortable on it. I was really new to riding at this point so that probably had a lot to do with it, but I fell in love with Cannondale roadie and figured that I should protect my run and surrender a little speed on the bike for comfort and enjoyment.” 

For the gear heads, Bartholomew ran in the new Salomon Phantasm2 carbon shoes, likely the only athlete with these shoes on the island. Her very stylish triathlon suit is from Atohi and she swam in a Roka swim skin. Despite enjoying her time in the multi-sport world of triathlon, don’t expect Lucy to leave the trails any time soon.

Lucy takes to the run course during the Kona World Championship in October of 2023

“I want to make this pretty clear. I wasn’t doing triathlon as a new career. It was to try something new, learn some skills, embrace a new community and shake things up. My heart does and will always be in ultra-trail running and that’s my profession. I never want to be put in a box and always want to be trying and learning.” 

After three and a half months away from Australia Lucy is excited to return home, and is looking forward to being part of some local events but nothing with pressure. She will definitely take a few weeks to reset, recovery, adjust, and absorb 2023 before turning her focus to the Black Canyon 100-kilomter race in pursuit of a golden ticket to Western State. When asked about the most meaningful race or adventure to date and reflecting on the year she has had Lucy said,   

“UTMB was special because it was a race that I saw my dad do back in 2015. I’ve been back for the shorter sister races, but I have always been intimidated by the course. So to stand on that start line next to Courtney Dauwalter and Amanda Basham who are my friends and idols, and then chase them to the finish line was very special. I felt a lot of love out there. Kona offered a completely new experience. I got to be in a race with some of my triathlon idols like Lucy Charles Barclay and Taylor Knibb and got to cross the same finish line as them on an island that is the spiritual home of triathlon. Both are pinnacles of their sport, and I still can’t believe that I got to enjoy both!”

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