The BTU team get personal with Karen Barrett

The Brisbane Trail Ultra Festival (BTUF) team were fortunate to have the opportunity to catch up with one of our amazing race ambassadors, Karen Barrett.

Check out Karen’s stunning achievements below;

  • 1st Place 150km ANZAC Solo 1st Female 2015
  • 1st Place Buffalo Stampede Grand Slam 2017
  • 2nd Place Gilpin Short course 2017
  • 1st Overall Dungog 1/2 marathon 2016
  • 1st Age Category 45-50 Blackall 100 2014
  • 3rd Place Gilpin Long Course 2018
  • Silver Buckle UTA 100
  • 135 Down Under Race Ambassador 2019
  • “Kids in Care” a trail running coaching program helping kids get out in the bush.
  • Riverwood Downs Trail Run-Dog Friendly Trail Running Event
  • Tail Runner Founder

Karen Barrett will be racing the Brisbane Trail Ultra 100 Mile which will give her a rare 6 ITRA Points and is a UTMB qualification event.

Brisbane Trail Ultra 100 Mile 6 ITRA/ UTMB Points

We wanted to dissect Karen Barrett’s thoughts on everything trail running, and find out what drivers Karen Barrett to achieve her goals on the trails and in the community.

How did Karen get into trail running? “Quite by accident really, I was running in the bush cause that’s what I love but entering road races as I didn’t know there was such a thing as a trail race. It was only when I had heard about the North Face 50 in 2014 that I found out that there was a whole different world out there”

“I 100% believe we are meant to maintain a connection with nature for our own mental health and wellbeing, our lives are bombarded with technology, concrete, fake or biased media, synthetic everything and consumerism.” Karen Barrett

Attributes of a trail runner. We all can identify Karen as a trail runner, but what does this typecast mean to her? “Trail runners are those who love adventure, a challenge and one who can handle change. The best thing about trail running is no matter if you have run the same trail a dozen times it is constantly changing and moving, from the trail underfoot to the vegetation with wind, rain and season, so no two steps end up the same.”

Karen Barrett in action with her trusty training partner.
Photo Credit: Paul Roberts

First trail race and your thoughts. Karen ran her TNF50 in 7hr 38min and absolutely loved it. “I took it fairly easy because I had this person tell me the night before how hard it was and that I wouldn’t be able to walk when I finished. I finished with heaps in the tank and wondering where the hard bit was, yes granted the stairs at the end are a bit of a bugger but I realised that I had so much more to give.”

Favourite trail race. “My favourite will always be the Anzac Ultra 150km solo this was a one off event, but I found out that with my mind and training my body, my potential is damn near endless. So an event that is still running my absolute favourite would have to be Blackall100. The scenery is amazing, the course is a challenge and the humidity saps your energy right from the start but what makes that particular event are the people, not just the ED’s RD’s, participants but the vollies.  Especially Checkpoint 4 those guys are the bomb, make my run every time I go through there.”

Training partners. Karen has two main training partners that don’t ask questions. They are always there for her regardless of distance, speed or terrain. Their names are Cadence and Pace and are beautiful kelpies. “They run with such joy and that is infectious” Karen will also break up her longer training runs to accommodate her training buddies “If I need to go on longer training runs I tend to break them up into blocks because of my dogs. The longest Cadence has done is 100km in a day and the longest Pace has done is 130km ( 50km then 2hr break, 50km then 4 hour break finish with 30km)”

Shoes. It is clear Karen is a fan of Inov-8. “X-Talon 200’s are my go to favourite shoe, I pretty much wear these for all Ultra Trail Events. Trail Talon 250 great all-rounder training shoe. Terra Ultra 260 absolutely loving these at the moment for long fire trail. Recently wore these when pacing at the Alpine Challenge 100miler and they were absolutely the right choice of shoe for that terrain.”

Race Kit. Karen has mentioned her favourite running shoes for races. So what other kit works for those long races? “Injinji Socks, Lululemon “on the run” shorts, Lululemon “All Sports” bra, Tail Runner racer-back singlet, Tail Runner visor, pack is either Inov-8 race ultra pack or UltraAspire Alpha 3.0, Ay-Up Headlamp, Inov-8 storm shell rain jacket and pants, Suunto watch, Tail Runner drop bags”

Nutrition. Hydration and nutrition are very individual. Karen follows a nutrition plan based on the distance she is racing. “For a 50km I really pretty much rely just on Tailwind, for a 100km its not much different but I will probably have some watermelon and a coke somewhere in there. If it’s a 150km/200km+ then I will add real food in there such as dates, watermelon, potatoes drowned in butter with salt, don’t mind a vegemite or peanut butter sandwich will still have tailwind but I really need just plain old water as well as a few more cans of coke on these ones.” How about nutrition and hydration for training runs? “10km I don’t tend to take anything, 20km I will take some water, 50km is the same as a race I will take some tailwind, water, dates, dried mango or a banana.”

Recovery tips? “Sleep in your compression gear, elevate your legs, maintain good clean diet, hot salt baths and walk, jog or easy bike ride just turning legs over”.

From smoking to running. Karen, like many others had a very difficult time trying to give up smoking. She is now an ambassador for Nicorette stop smoking aid. We wanted to find out a bit more about her previous habit and what made her decision to quit smoking has changed her life. “Firstly I wish I had quit a lot sooner, I wasted so much time and money on smoking. I was a 2 pack a day smoker, not only a heavy smoker but also cigarettes with the highest nicotine per mg. On the weekend it was easily double.”   

After trying a hoard of pharmaceutic anti-smoking aids with no luck, she went on to try Nicorette. “So I used the Nicorette patches and gum and started walking in the bush, which then grew into me trying to jog after work in my steel capped boots. Slowly but surely I started jogging a bit further and feeling so much better. From there I was hooked and bought a pair of running shoes.”

“I found I couldn’t run and smoke at the same time so I just kept on running” Karen Barrett

Giving back to the community and charity events. Karen is a very caring and passionate person and this really shows. She has raised a substantial amount of funds to charities and rescue organisations. “Riverwood trail run is a dog friendly trail running event that I put on once a year to raise funds for Herd to Homes working dog rescue, I support this rescue because over 120,000 dogs are PTS in Australia each year (and that number is climbing), over 60,000 of those are from the working dog breed. I will also be using the Riverwood event along with Down Under 135 Miler to raise money for Backtrack Youth Workers. Thankfully I have met the founder Bernie Shakeshaft a person with experience, knowledge, intuition and foresight to see that the system is broken when it comes to troubled teens and to do something completely out of the box and main stream that actually works rather than accepting the easy answer to lock them up or medicate them up to their eyeballs. He and his team are doing incredible work and I can’t wait to be involved and support an amazing friend in bringing the formula closer to home.  The Tail Runners combined Birthday and Christmas run will be used to raise money for Ruff Sleepers, this charity helps the animals of people who are homeless by giving the animal’s veterinary care and grooming. Samaritans help kids in Foster Care and Out of Home Care, taking them out trail running with my dogs, I recently found out that this is also called Wilderness Therapy.”

“The natural endorphins from trail running is not only amazing for mental health and well-being but it helps give kids concentration skills, because if they don’t they fall over, pretty simple really.” Karen Barrett

Karen has such passion and drive for everything she does. The BTU team can’t wait to see Karen achieve all her goals for 2019.

Karren Barrett will be racing the Brisbane Trail Ultra 100 mile on July 6-7th 2019.

Feature Photo curtsey of Paul Roberts, photography