Vajin Armstrong pre AR50 Interview and Saucony Shoe Give-away

We caught up with Vajin Armstrong, 2 x Kepler Challenge winner and 2x runner up at the Tarawera Ultra, before he heads off to the US and we also have an exciting  shoe give away courtesy of Vajin’s sponsor Saucony. Vajin is running at the top of his game at the moment and is arguably the top ultra runner in NZ at the moment, so we here at BCR are really excited to see how he stacks up against the top N.American ultra runners- read on!

Backcountry Runner- Hey Vajin, thanks for making time to chat with us again. We just talked less than 2 weeks ago after your solid 2nd place finish at the Tarawera Ultra Marathon 100k, but already you’re packing your bags and on the move for your next ultra- American River 50 miler (AR50). Sounds pretty exciting, can you tell us more about it? 

Vajin Armstrong- Yeah I am pretty excited by the opportunity to race again so soon after the Tarawera. Sometimes I think you need a couple of races just to help get you back in the zone for racing. I had a good long block of training after the Kepler but didn’t get a chance to race much, so it kind of feels like it is just the start of the season for me now. I will be racing the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run which starts in Sacramento and finishes in Auburn, California. It follows the American River pathway as well as having some sweet single track, and for fans of Johnny Cash it does pass near Folsom State Prison.

BCR- How has your recovery been since the TuM? You have had these 2 races planned for a while now, any special training/build up to prepare for 2 hard ultras within 3 weeks of each other?
VA- I have been super happy with how my recovery has been since Tarawera. I had a few days off followed by a few days just jogging and then I kicked everything off again by running the City to Surf here in Christchurch. That went super well, much better than I expected, I was up racing with some of the top local guys we went through 10km in 32min high and then I finished super strong over the last 4km. So that was really good and since then I had a good long progression run with Mick Donges out at Bottle Lake Forest on Tuesday morning and a nice 30min tempo followed by a 30min climb on Thursday. I am happy to be able to be back training so quickly as I need to keep getting some good workouts in to help prepare for TNF100 in May. Today (Saturday) I have a Vajin Special Session where I got in 25km at 4min/km pace this morning and will head out and do the same this afternoon probably with a bit of a climb near the end. This will give me 50km for the day at 4min/km and is a great specific day of training for American River as that is the sort of pace it will be heading out at.
With regards to preparing for 2 ultra’s in a short space of time, a lot of it comes down to the size of your base. I have been training at a high level for a number of years, plus getting in some big mileage, and this allows you to bounce back and recover much quicker than someone who has only just got into Ultra’s.
BCR – It’s got a history of being one of the “Spring Classics” of the US Ultra running scene and always seems to draw a very solid field- who’s your competition likely to be?
VA- I haven’t seen a start list so I’m going into this one without any preconceived ideas. I am just getting myself ready to race hard against whoever turns up. Historically this race is one of the oldest, deepest and biggest Ultra’s in North America, it sold out really early so it is going to have a full field of 850. Over the last few years you have had guys like Dave Mackey, Geoff Roes and Anton Krupricka win it, so it definitely draws in some big names. For me this is going to be my first big US ultra so I am just focusing on trying to perform to my potential and I’ll just let the result take care of itself.
BCR – How is the spring time weather in N.California going to compare to autumn in NZ? You haven’t given yourself a heap of time to adapt to local conditions- not too worried?
VA- The spring weather looks great over there at the moment, it’s around 20C most days so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Coming out of summer here makes it much easier, going over in the middle of June though for Western States, that is a whole other story. Personally I enjoy racing in hot weather, I have spent a lot of time in Asia and really enjoy running when it is hot and humid
BCR – I am guessing you’ve researched the course a bit, how’s it look, do you think it will suit your strengths?
VA- The course looks like it will suit me really well, it’s about half wide bike path and half trails so it’s definitely going to be fast. You stick to the bike paths until about 27miles before heading off on some nice single track and most of the climbing is in the last three miles. I think there is just over 1000m of climbing over the course with about 300m of that over the last three miles. So it could definitely be interesting if there is a group together over the last portion of the race. I feel like I am climbing really well at the moment so I would back myself to finish well on that last climb. It is definitely going to require a high tempo early on though as often the leaders will go through the marathon split in under 2.50, so I have been getting ready to head out at 4min/km pace and try and hold that as long as possible. I really like the 50mile distance as well as it is the sort of distance you can really race the whole way so I am looking forward to that.
BCR- You chatted with Anton Krupicka, who won the AR50 in a slick 5hr42min (5th fastest time ever) at TuM. Did he have any advice for you regarding American River?
VA- Anton was really nice and he was genuinely excited for me that I was coming over to race it. He didn’t give me any specific advice but he thought I should go well. He won it in 08 in a super fast time, but I think the course has been remeasured and is now slightly longer. I think anything under 6hours is now a super solid performance, last year Nick Clark and Ian Sharman were both just over, so that is a good barrier to aim for.
BCR –Now this might be giving away too much considering the nature of our competition below, so answer carefully, but what are your goals for the race? Do you have a time/placing in mind?
VA- That is a tricky one, my main goal is to race hard and feel like I left it all out there on the trail. It’s a great feeling when you know you pushed it as hard as possible and you know you couldn’t have run any faster. So I will leave this quite open as I don’t want to influence the competition too much, I feel that if I run up to my potential I will be up near the front and will be able to run a really solid time. What that is only the day will tell I suppose……
BCR –You mentioned a pretty cool adventure you had planned after the AR50- please tell!
VA- I am lucky as after the race my wife and I have the chance to take a classic American road trip. We will be hiring a car and heading out to the Grand Canyon where I am going to have a go at the classic Rim to Rim To Rim (R2R2R). Basically you start on the South Rim drop down to the canyon floor cruise along the Colorado river for a while then climb up to the North Rim. From there you basically retrace your foot steps, all in all it is 67kms long with 3260m of climbing so should be a good long day out enjoying one of the most beautiful places in the world. That is one of the greatest things about trail running, the ability to really experience some of the beautiful parts of our world in a much more direct and intimate fashion, rather than just looking at it from the top.
BCR- And what shoes are you going to be rocking for the AR50 and the R2R2R?
VA- As you may know I am lucky enough to be sponsored by Saucony, who make a whole stack of excellent shoes.  For pure trail races and epic trail adventures like the R2R2R I always wear the Peregrine. They are light enough and low profile enough to really race hard in plus they also have enough traction to handle almost any trail conditions. My main training shoe is the Kinvara which are on the same 4mm drop as the Peregrine, but are just that little bit lighter and have a much less aggressive sole. These make a great racer for any ultras that have road sections or any less technical trail ultras. I wear these for most of the trails on the Port Hills as they work really well on these types of dry non technical trails. So I will probably wear these for the American River due to the large amount of pavement. One shoe I am super excited about is the new Kinvara Trail which will be coming out soon, they take all the great features from the Kinvara plus they have added a super grippy looking sole to them. These will definitely be one of the shoes to watch out for over the next few months and I am sure you will start to see some of the top trail runners out there starting to rock these.
BCR- Great stuff Vajin- wish you all the best for American River 50 and the R2R2R!

Win a pair of Saucony Peregrine trail running shoes!
Vajin’s shoe sponsor, Saucony, has be nice enough to put up a pair of their Peregrine trail (men’s or woman’s) for the person that correctly guesses Vajin’s time at the American River 50mile! Add your predicted time in the comments section below- closest time wins. Also add a placing as we will use that as a tie breaker in case more than one person guesses the correct timeSaucony Peregrine- “Trail runners helped pioneer the minimalist movement, so it was only “natural” to introduce the ProGrid Peregrine. Built on the same foot-form as the Kinvara and featuring a 4mm heel drop, the Peregrine is a must-have for any trail running enthusiast. Multi-direction lugs provide a sticky grip, so you can focus and feel your way through any terrain.” * • The trail blazing shoe that’s a must-have for the outdoor runner
* • Minimalist, low profile and incredible responsiveness on uneven surfaces
* • Multi-directional lugs and sticky rubber for amazing traction and grip
* • Weight: 258grThe Peregrine also won the Runners World Editors Choice award.
Huge thanks from to Saucony and Vajin for making this great little competition happen.
Note- 1) Competition closes midnight NZ time, 7th April, comments posted after this will not count, 2) ONE guess per person, 3)  we will posting the Peregrine within NZ only.

About GTG

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37 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Go the KiWi……5:57………………..2nd

    you are an inspiration

  2. 5:53 3rd…….love free stuff. 8-)

  3. 5.53 2nd…

  4. Solid 6:03 5th,not enough red-meat to break 6 hours !

  5. 6:08 4th

  6. 6.04 – 5th

  7. 5.51, first place

  8. 5.55 3rd

  9. 6.01 for 4th.

  10. 5:52 2nd

  11. 6.04 for 3rd

  12. 5.58, good for fourth

  13. no pressure…5:49:)

  14. 5.59, 3rd. Good luck!

  15. 6.00 2nd place

  16. 5.55 1st place

  17. 6.07 2nd place

  18. 6:10 – 4th

  19. 5.54 2nd place, good luck Vajin, looks a great race

  20. 5.59.58 – for 1st. We’re all right behind you Vajan.

  21. 5:56 1st Place. Go get it Vajin.

  22. 5.52 1st place

  23. Maureen
    Go Vijan
    3rd place

  24. 6.13

  25. Yea boi! Go for it.
    1st 5.58.07

  26. 6 :09 and 5th

  27. 5.57.07 1st

  28. 5.57.08 1st

  29. Go kiwi go…
    5:56:45 2nd.

  30. Go Vajin! We are with you
    3rd place

  31. 6:15 for 4th

  32. 5:58:35
    3rd Place

  33. 5:55:27 1st Place Go Vajin!!!!

  34. 3rd place in a time of 6hrs 3 minutes and 28 seconds!! but im hoping for him to do a first place under 6 hours!! :-)

  35. 6.03 for 3rd place

  36. Huge thank you to all that left comments of support for Vajin and had a go at guessing his time.
    If you haven’t hear Vajin run a very fast 5hr53- for first place!! We are super happy for Vajin and this great result!
    We had a few people guess 5hr53 for Vajin’s time, with sudgrrl saying 2nd place, which was the closest- congrats, we will be in touch.
    Thanks for the support of this give away- the more support we get, the more of these kinds of give away’s we can hopefully do!
    Big thanks to Saucony for there support! Make sure you go out and support them.

  37. 6:12:32 (picking some wild weather)

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