Updated: Apr 4, 2019
Jessica Schluter, 37, nurse, Brisbane
Jess represented Australia at the World Trail Championships in Spain in May. She loves training around Brisbane’s trails with her energetic kelpie Sidney.
How were you selected for the Australian team?
To be selected you have to be a member of AURA (Australian Ultra Runners Association) and place in one of their qualifying events. I came second at Blackall 100 last year but with Chrissy who came first not being a member of AURA meant that I got lucky. I was encouraged to apply for the Australian team and was selected. It was fantastic but I was also petrified to be honest. The race at Penyagolosa in Spain was 85km with 5000m of elevation and I’d never done anything with that much elevation before. I’m also not a technical runner and on top of that it had really tight cut offs – 15 hours to finish and cut offs at 30km and 40km.
What was it like competing in the World Trail Championships?
I’m was never going to be competitive in a field like that, my main aim was just to make the cut off, especially after putting in the training. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting; I think I made the run into Everest in my mind. It was really open trail where you could see views of mountains for kilometres and kilometres. There’s a lot of history in the area and the trail followed a pilgrimage trail that went past many churches and monasteries. The Spanish people go mad for trail running and there were thousands of people on the side of the road. The Australian women’s team (there were four of us) placed 12th out of 37 teams. It really was a fantastic experience, one I will never forget.
What did you enjoy most about the experience?
The other Aussie runners definitely made the experience for me. They were all so experienced and excellent runners and even though I felt out of my depth at no point did they ever make me feel like I did not deserve to be there.
How do you train for events?
My coach is Ben Duffus from Mile 27 and his philosophy for the long run is to simulate the elevation of the event you are training for. So with the Penyagolosa being 5000m over 85km I was aiming to get about 650m of elevation per 10km on my weekly long runs. It can get tricky to get that elevation but I did a lot of my training at Camp Mountain, Mt Nebo and Mt Coot-tha. I would find the steepest, longest hills for my long runs and then I would do hill repeats on other days. If I wasn’t going up, I would be going down. I run for time so the longest I would run was about six and a half hours.
When did you get into trail running?
I did my first marathon in 2009 and I think I did my first trail event the year after in 2010. I just prefer being in the bush than on the road. I also like bushwalking but you see a lot more when you run!
What inspires you in trail running?
I like to run in new places; what’s the next overseas event to do? I’ve always wanted to do Old Ghost Road in New Zealand. I was also talking to people in Spain who were telling me about events in France and Italy. There are so many trails to see and travel to be done. But I also love local events like Rainbow Beach – it’s just incredible – and Blackall. We are so lucky where we live.
What’s your running philosophy?
I definitely run for my mental health, that’s for sure. The turning point was when I was doing my Phd and spending a lot of time at the computer writing and doing data analysis and I started to go stir crazy. My partner said ‘Just go for a run’ and everything started to make sense. I’m probably an anxious person and running helps calm the mind for sure. I don’t run every day though. I love running but I do other stuff as well like yoga and strength training.
What food do you eat on a run?
During events I eat every 45 minutes alternating between a gel, half a banana and half a Hammer bar. I have water in my pack and I have Hammer electrolyte capsules every half hour. As a bit of a treat I’ll have a coke or ginger beer at an aid station.
Do you get injured?
I’ve had the odd bit of tendonitis in the foot – I had about six weeks off last year – but that’s about it. I haven’t had any really bad injuries. Touch wood.
Do you ever get sick of running?
Not yet. Some days it is harder to get up and out the door but once you do then everything feels better after a run.
How do you juggle life and training?
I’m a nurse so for about 16 years I was a shift worker and it was a killer on training. A year ago I started a Monday-to-Friday job so now I get up at the crack of dawn to do my training before work. I’ll do a mid-week long run with friends so I set the alarm for 3am and we’ll run from 4am to 6am. You have to be motivated, you have to have a goal.
What’s on your bucket list?
Everyone wants to do UTMB (Ultra Trail Mont Blanc) don’t they? A few years ago I hiked a lot of the trail and UTMB just happened to be on then as well. I’ve never run a ‘miler’ so it’s nice to have a dream. I’d also like to do the Glass House miler because it’s an iconic event in Australia that’s on our doorstep.
What’s your favourite event?
Blackall 100, because it’s local and so well organised and everyone is so friendly. It’s beautiful and I always have friends running which makes that the trail chats even better along the course. What are your goals? To keep having fun and to stay active and healthy. Being a nurse you see what happens to people who are sedentary and who don’t have hobbies and passions in life. I would like to be a 75-year-old runner who still has their own hips and knees!