Stu Adams is a 48-year-old landscape gardener from Queensland. He’s also a one-man wrecking machine, having won both of the past two Red Bull Dune Dusters competitions (the first with a severed tendon in his thumb, the second with a black Sambuca-induced hangover) against professional athletes and competitors half his age.
As you’ve probably guessed by now – Stu’s a bit of a legend. And, as he’s going to be on the line again for Dune Dusters 2016 on November 6 (with or without a hangover is anyone’s guess), we thought it was only fair for us to catch up with him to try and get the scoop on his winning formula. Take notes, kids.
OK Stu - who are you and what do you do?
I'm Stu Adams, a 48-year-old self-employed landscape gardener. I love exercise, drinking way too much at music festivals, and Denise, my partner. We’ve been together for 25 years and I couldn't have done any of this without her love and support!
Give us a bit of a background about yourself and your athletic endeavours to date...
I started at an early age – mum used to drag me around to every sporting event possible. That's where my love for exercise came from.
I competed in the Uncle Toby's surf ironman series in my early 20's - I think it was the last year they ran the Coolangatta gold. I still remember how painful that race was. From there, I’ve taken on numerous triathlons, heaps at ironman distance, (including Kona). I’ve represented Australia at the Exterra World Champs in Maui, placing second in age group (a flat tyre robbed me of a win!).
I've won multiple sand, mountain bike, adventure, multisport, cyclocross, off-road running events…and the occasional game of Scrabble. Anyway, enough said. I don't do it for the glory, I do it all for fun.
You won the first Dune Dusters comp in 2014 and then the second in 2015 - how did you do it!?
Well, they were very different. In 2014, I had a severed a tendon in my thumb and was advised not to compete in the event by a specialist. “Whatever,” I thought. "I usually use my legs to run, not my hands." So I ente I was stoked to have won.
In 2015 it was a much longer course and I only found that out on the day. I went in to it tired and over-trained – I had way too many MTB races in my legs – so I was totally surprised to win again. Both the course and the competition were much harder.
What drew you to enter Dune Dusters? What about the event appealed to you?
What drew me was the proximity of the event to home. Being able to punish myself running up and down sand dunes so close to home is a rarity, plus having Red Bull as a major backer of the event gave it some notoriety. And the name, Dune Dusters, I thought “I gotta get myself a piece of that action.”
Did you think you had a shot at winning it going into the event?
Not a chance! There were some pretty good athletes on the line and given my finger was still sore from surgery, I hadn't intended running so I went out partying the night before. There was a mini music festival straight across the road from where I live with two of my favourite bands from my youth - I couldn't miss that. To cut a long story short, I was pretty relaxed on the line due to a lack of sleep and way too much black Sambuca.
Who'd have thought the old bloke stinking of alcohol with no shirt and a plastic bag on his hand even had a chance?!
What’s the toughest thing about the event?
2014 was pretty easy considering my ailments. Having competed in races that go for hours all my life, I really didn't think the short Dune Dusters course was that hard. Maybe all those cans of Red Bull I drank prior to the run eased the pain. That said, it was tough having the chopper recording the race, flying so low, blowing sand and my blonde locks in my face. Then in 2015, the hot sand was a killer.
What’s the best thing about Dune Dusters?
Beating the celebrity runners, the dunes, the hot sand, my hangover (not), the sausage sangas post-race, the numerous beers my mates shouted me…who can say?
Are you entering again this year?
Hell yeah! I’m hoping just to finish – I’ve too many injuries, some from overuse and some self-inflicted (I had one too many falls whilst skiing this winter, each one most memorable). Fingers crossed I don't break anything else before the event…
Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for those thinking of entering Dune Dusters 2016?
My advice for runners is: don't have a big night out (or do) prior to race day; don't run in shoes, it’s way too hard - train without them; start out slow, the race ain't to the first dune; don't look at your watch each kilometre, it's nothing like running on the road, your pace is much slower, it only becomes a distraction; and finally - enjoy the beauty of the dunes!
It’s fair to say you’re not the youngest pup, but you seem to be outpacing folks half your age. What’s your secret to staying at the top of your game?
Well Ollie, you know what they say, if I told you my secret, I'd have to kill you.
For the record though, most IPAs or a good boutique Pale Ale.
Last but not least - and this kind of follows on from my last question - how important, in sport or life in general, do you think it is to be continually challenging yourself?
Life's too short to die wondering. I love staying fit and healthy, competing in events is just a bonus. I have my mum to blame for that.
I’ve been punishing myself solid for over 30 years and I’m always on the lookout for an event with a twist. I’m guessing the bubble will burst someday, so I’m looking forward to more of the fun stuff and less of the tiring stuff!