Brisbane runner Deb Nicholl ran her first stage race in 2017. It was Run Larapinta, and after 136kms of hot, challenging running in the MacDonnell ranges of Alice Springs, Nicholl triumphantly crossed the finish line first female and at the same time third place overall.
Nicholl then raced in the inaugural Margaret River Ultra Marathon in May, and despite calling it a training run, she won, and placed second overall.
She’s now got the Surf Coast Century 100km ultra marathon in her sights and when she crosses that line in September she will be one of the first runners to step into the Rapid Ascent Ultra Running Triple Crown hall of fame.
The Triple Crown is awarded only to those who complete Rapid Ascent’s three ultra running events: the Margaret River Ultra Marathon 80km solo, Run Larapinta Stage Race – Malbunka long course and the Surf Coast Century 100km.
Currently Nicholl is the only runner who has entered all three and may be the very first to achieve the Ultra Running Triple Crown.
It is the ultimate challenge for all running enthusiasts who are brave enough to commit to the three events, and succeed in reaching the finish lines.
As the Surf Coast Century looms in the not-too-distant future, we caught up with Deb to relive the victories and discover what powers her towards such sensational running feats.
Q) You’re soon going to be one of the first in an exclusive group of runners who can say they’ve run the ‘Triple Crown’ – all 3 Rapid Ascent ultras. How do you feel about that? Was this a goal of yours?
The Triple Crown has a great ring to it. I like it. To be honest I didn’t even know there was a triple crown until race director Sam Maffett said to me as I crossed the finish line at Margaret River – ‘Now you do know this is a series of 3?!” Nope I had no idea but when he told me that and mentioned the Surf Coast Century was number 3 I was totally signing up - even though I was in a world of pain at the end. I have not done the Century race before so it is perfect timing to round out my 2018 year of racing. It has been on my radar for quite a while. I’m super excited as I have done the Great Ocean Walk 100 which starts in the same place Anglesea and heads south whereas the SCC heads north. Anyway I’m super excited about the Century in September and have had the best time at the other two Rapid Ascent events so this one is going to be amazing also.
Q) Other than the victories, what were your most memorable moments from both Run Larapinta and the Margaret River Ultra Marathon?
The victories were both a total surprise. I still can’t believe how lucky I was to win either, let alone both; I’m still pinching myself today.
Both events were just amazing. I was very lucky to be able to go on a girls running week away to Run Larapinta. We had the most amazing 7 days away and the 4 days running in the most spectacular area was something I will never forget. I still remember how hot it was. Like I thought I could fry an egg on my arm it was that hot! But that didn’t take anything away from the most mind blowing beautiful scenery I saw. I absolutely loved meeting all the organisers and volunteers at Run Larapinta. Everyone was so super nice and the event was so well organised. This was the main reason I decided to sign up for Margaret River because of the fantastic experience at Run Larapinta.
I don’t take my running too seriously and if I am not laughing having fun with everyone then I probably would never return. This was 4 days of all of that non-stop. We got to meet so many beautiful souls at Larapinta over the 4 days especially at Glen Helen when it was really relaxed just mixing with old and new friends. I have done nothing but rave to everyone about it since I got back. My one piece of advice I was given from the male winner and good friend from the previous year Kieron O’Brien which was to respect Day 2. I don’t think I did in the end as Day 3 hurt badly but I absolutely loved the brutality of Day 2. It was my most favourite day apart from climbing Mt Sonder for sunrise on Day 3. SPECTACULAR.
My Mum and I had walked the Cape to Cape in April 2017 and were totally blown away by it. I think I had a bit more understanding of how much deep sand would be involved than many of the other goats that came over with me to Margaret River to be honest but I loved the sand sections as I ran them all and managed to claim a few placings along the way.
The aid stations had the best buzz to them it was like being in the Tour De France coming into them with everyone cheering for everyone and anyone. This is what I love about this sport.
Once again I could not fault the organising or the volunteers. They really couldn’t do enough for you. I met some amazing people along the way and enjoyed running sections with different relay runners. That was a highlight as in the end I got to run not knowing until the end with 3 different team members in the same team in 3 different sections. It was like a puzzle putting it all together each time I ran a different section. It was so cool. One again the scenery was breathtaking.
Q) How are you feeling now the Century is approaching? Do you have a goal for this one, and what are you most looking forward to about coming down to the beautiful Great Ocean Road region to race it?
I’m super excited and a little nervous about Surf Coast Century. Like I said I haven’t done this race before but it looks stunning and I love seeing new scenery and views when I am out running. I tend to take a few pictures along the way. My goal is to do the best I can as I would love to finish my year off on a great note. I can only train hard between now and then and see what the day brings. I know I will have a great fun day whatever the end result is. I have my partner who is super crew coming down for this event so also want to do well for him also. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the Rapid Ascent crew again to be honest, all such lovely welcoming beautiful fun people.
Q) How did you find yourself running and winning ultras, have you run all your life? And did you imagine your running journey would take you to such great heights?
I used to be a pretty heavy smoker and bit of couch potato about 15 years ago. I was always loved a bit of hiking and did quite well at school cross country so my Mum and I decided to train up for a few 10km runs. I ran 7 road marathons which I did quite well in but I found them to be a bit too much like a sprint, so just progressed to the longer lengths so I could just run slower for longer. That I did start to enjoy a lot more. I am not a natural runner at all and have to train really hard to put in a good performance. I think just training hard and having fun and always being positive and not taking it too seriously has been a good thing for me. When the fun goes I think that’s the day I will give it all up.
Q) Other than the Surf Coast Century 100km, which other run events have you got your sights set on?
I have just less than 2 weeks ago run the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail 100 miler. I was fortunate enough to come 1st female and 4th overall. It was a fantastic 19 hours out with my crew. So resting for a bit now just doing a few social runs. I have the Rainbow Beach marathon in two weeks but that’s just for fun then the Surf Coast Century is next. I try not to do too many long events per year at my age or I will be injured for months. I have done H2H100k in Feb, MRU85k in May, BVRT100 miler in June and SCC100k to finish off the year. I have a trip planned for February to do Old Ghost Road with my training buddies. I’m super excited about that one also.
Q) You hail from the running group – the Mountain Goat Trail Runners – a massive contingent of Mountain Goats headed west to run at Margaret River Ultra Marathon – you all had a lot of fun together, how long have you been a member, and how has it added to your love of running and racing?
Yes I was stoked to get 17 goats over to Margaret River. After my Run Larapinta experience and all the raving about it they soon got on board. It only takes 1 goat to have a good idea the rest just follow. They are a great fun, talented bunch of likeminded peeps who do it all for the same reasons as me. I have pretty much been a member from the very start over 2 years now since the club formed. We all had the best trip over to WA. Some for their first time too. Everyone was super impressed by the race organisation, how friendly and helpful everyone involved was. They all said we can see why you choose Rapid Ascent events now Deb. We also got to spend at least a week all travelling to different parts sampling at a lot of breweries along the way. Rottnest was overrun by wild goats on bikes for a few days. So much fun. WA sure is a special place.
I’d love to give a shout out to the Goat Family. I love them all as it’s a club not just about running. It’s about looking out for each other, encouraging, supporting each other even when it doesn’t go well. Truly awesome beautiful bunch of people. I am so proud to be a part of the Mountain Goats.
I’d also like to shout out to two very special friends and awesome training peeps Jess Schluter and Brad Bartsch. These 2 very talented runners deserve the awards I have been lucky enough to have won as much as I do for pushing me harder than I ever thought I could go in all our training sessions. They truly have been the best friends you could ever ask for and support me in the lead up, during my races and in my recovery. Love these guys!
Last but not least my partner of 4 years Rob Wingfield (Wingy). He’s a masters swimmer and not a runner BUT embraces all my crazy ideas like meeting me on his bike every Monday night so I can run home from work, riding countless weekends on his mountain bike beside me on the rail trail for 85km stretches to support me in my lead up the The BVRT miler. Hiking mountains in miserable weather, 6 hour rogaining events all in support of my crazy sport. He deserves more than a medal maybe a new partner who’s a little less crazy. But he loves it as much as I do. I sure do have some special people in my life.
The Surf Coast Century ultra marathon takes competitors on an extraordinary journey below towering sea cliffs, along remote beaches, and through the captivating wildflower hinterland of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road region.
The seventh edition of the Surf Coast Century will start and finish in Anglesea on Saturday 15th September, with over 1,300 runners from around Australia and overseas expected to participate in the 100km and 50km, solo and team events.
The Surf Coast Century has built a solid reputation as one of Australia's must-do trail running events; there’s no other 100km course like it in the world - it features spectacular scenery and remote wilderness; competitors run past lighthouses, waterfalls, tall tree ferns, and along renowned surf beaches such as Bells Beach.
It is also regarded as the perfect event for first time ultra marathon runners with great on course support, accessible trails, and flat and non-technical terrain.
The event is organised by Rapid Ascent, an adventure sports event management company that is based on the Surf Coast and well-known for hosting challenging off-road events.
To register or find out more about the Surf Coast Century visit www.SurfCoastCentury.com.au
• When: Saturday 15th September 2018
• Where: Start/Finish in Anglesea, Victoria - Great Ocean Road
• What: 100km and 50km ultra trail runs
• How: Do the 100km or 50km solo; or the 100km in a Relay Team of 2, 3 or 4 people
• Who: Australia's elite runners through to those tackling their first ultra marathon, groups of friends and corporate groups - you're all welcome.
• Entries: NOW OPEN - www.surfcoastcentury.com.au
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