Sunday, January 24, 2016

Australia Day 100K 2016

After Coburg 24 Hour in April 2014 I decided to retire from stupid long races and just do shorter ultras. (A week after this I may have bought tickets for Coast to Kosci). I toyed with finding a fun scenic trail race to focus on but after years of chasing times and distances in 24 hour races it didn’t really motivate me. Finally after much day dreaming I decided on having a crack at a sub 8 hour 100K the minimum qualifier for the Australian World Championships team. Back in the days before Facebook I had posted on Coolrunning in response to AURA releasing their World Championships benchmarks that the 24 hour mark of 200K was much easier than the 8 hour 100K. This appeared prophetic as over the next 7 or 8 years I ran 200K+ 6 times and the closest I got to 8 hours was a 8:59 for 100K. (Interestingly we’ve had some runners, even low 7 hour runners fail to hit 200K). Over the last 20 months I made a few changes to my training to get me ready for a crack at the 8 hour goal. My first test of progress was the WTF 50 Miler in 2014. I decided to race hard from the start and try and hang on. The result of 7:15 gave me an estimated 100K of about 8:15 which was encouraging. I then realised I had signed up for this 240K run through the mountains. I hadn’t done any walk or serious hill training in recent months so a crash course had me on the startline for one last long race. Unfortunately I picked up some injuries at C2K and was unable to race in the Australia Day Ultra (ADU) in its first year. My next chance was Kep 100K. It was never going to be an easy course for a sub 8 (though Josh Garratt managed to do it) but I gave it a red hot go and ran 8:37 despite 1000m elevation gain. Then it happened again and I signed up for another long race!!! This time the Bunbury 24 Hour drew me in to its vortex and I again pulled up sore. After a couple of months recovery I was back into training and snuck one of the last entries into ADU just as things started to turn around on the injury front. Training went well with 2 simple policies: run heaps of hills and try and do 100K a week. We were lucky to be coming off a holiday on the east coast leading into the race so when my alarm went off at 1am my GPS (still on Sydney time) told me it was 4am and just a normal long run day. I had a plan to run about 4:30min/k until halfway and stay with Rick Cooke if he didn’t go faster than this. This was going fine with additional company from Tony Smith, Ben Harris and Tina Major until Rick pulled out about 30K. After this I ran most of the next 20K to-ing and fro-ing with Tina. After halfway I anticipated a mentally hard lap knowing that I was running alone with the promise of an Ipod after 5 laps. Times show that I dropped about 4min on this lap. I resolved to keep a positive attitude which wasn’t hard as I was still feeling good and had been looking forward to this race for over a year. Getting the Ipod after 5 laps or 62.5K gave me a boost and I sang a few tunes as another lap got ticked off. I tried not to think about how far I had left and almost didn’t think about it all day. When I ran my quickest marathon I ran each K individually just focussing on the process and hoping to get good feedback with a positive number after each beep. I did a similar method at ADU, but with the importance of fuelling and hydration as the mercury neared 30C, I would miss a lot of splits especially when I was heading towards Aid 2 from either end carrying a bottle. Coming in to finish 6 laps or 75K I knew I was tracking close to an 8 hour finish but felt I was still running well and should just stay in the moment and see what I needed to do the last 5-10K for a sub 8. As I hit the grass for my second last turn I felt like I lost all momentum on the different surface softened by recent rain. I made my turn at a slow pace and then the 25K runners were heading past me. About 6 went by and I had no rhythm to go with them. Once back on the path my speed didn’t return and I clocked a 5:31K my slowest thus far and equal slowest of the race. I clawed my way up to the nearest 25K runners seeing my sub 8 chances slipping away and gradually pulled away as I got closer to 5min Ks. As I came to the close of my 7th lap I saw Mick Francis almost a lap behind. In his 100th ultramarathon it was great to have 3 of the ultra runners Mick has mentored over the years, myself, Nathan Fawkes and Tina Major in the same race. I thought how Mick has been there for all my breakthrough runs. Having met him during my first Half Marathon after seeing his Trans Australia exploits on GWN, Mick was also in Wales for my first national 24 hour team. Chasing the local heroes (Mick’s) WA record was my main goal heading into that race and I was very surprised to snag a silver medal along the way. Two years later Mick was at Rottnest for his 100th marathon when I had my marathon breakthrough finally getting below 4min/k average. So with all this in mind it seemed only appropriate I should go sub 8. As I turned onto the grass for my final U-turn I lost valuable speed again and knew the goal was starting to get tight. Concentrating on getting my fuel and fluid from Bel who was crewing for me I didn’t get an accurate final split but was encouraged that I had more than an hour to get through the last lap. Not long after though a piece of dodgy maths cost me any chance of sub 8 when seeing I needed to run sub 46 min for the last 10K I contented myself that anything under 8:10 would be OK. My GPS was initially reading a little long but seemed to get more accurate as the day went on. However on about the 6th lap I noticed a 3:51 K split and realised I would be out due to a GPS detour as I was barely running 5min/k at this stage. I later checked and was about 500m up on where I should be. Sometime later I double added the 500m thinking I was 1K up and wouldn’t finish until 101K. Under these circumstances I had a fairly relaxed last lap. I made sure I drank plenty of water as I was starting to get thirsty between aid stations and tried to keep everything in check and guarantee my race win and course record. There was to be no sprint finish because the numbers didn’t justify it, but with 1K to go my sister came out to meet me. I told her she would have to follow 20m behind as we weren’t allowed pacers. I then realised I might be able to go under 8:04 which was the winning time at Centennial Park last year and was able to lift the pace surprising myself as the GPS said 4:45/k whenever I looked at it. I felt very satisfied as I hit the park throwing off my Ipod to soak in the support and as I hit the grass I realised I wouldn’t go sub 8:04 but realised I didn’t know the seconds of the CP winner so aimed to get as close as possible. Finally crossing the line in 8:04:13 I later learnt I was 6 seconds quicker. Unfortunately my sister was unable to keep up and didn’t see me finish 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Coburg 2014

I found this year's race probably harder than any of the other 8 races of 100 miles or more I have done. The first hour I managed to get 28 laps on the board which was the plan but I'd worked a bit harder than I expected. The weather was fine for the 1st 4 hours but the next 4 hours it got progressively more arduous as the sun came out from behind the clouds and the body heated up. The 2nd hour I put a full 30 laps in which was probably my biggest ever hour in a 24. I felt fine but by 4 hours my calves were in quite a bit of pain. I stopped briefly for a self-massage which didn't seem to do much. I was running well and generally enjoying the day but I seemed to be wasting quite a bit of time with regular toilet stops and slow walk breaks every 30 minutes. Throughout the race I made up a lot of my wasted time during the last 15-30min of the hour as I cranked my lap times down to sub 2min to try and achieve a minimum of 25 laps or 10K every hour. By 4 hours I had 44K but from here on it was a matter of just trying to keep my 4K lead on the 240K target. As usual it was a tremendous relief when the sun went down. I don't much enjoy running in direct sunlight but whilst the temperature wasn't hot by WA standards it probably took a greater toll than I expected and perhaps I should've taken it easier especially during the 4-8 hour period when the sun was out. I switched to my Hokas at 6 hours which felt better but I had hoped I would last longer in my lighter shoes and save the change until I put my tights on to save time. Between 8 and 12 hours was a great time to run as this was one short period where it wasn't hot or cold. Approaching halfway the temperature began to get uncomfortably cool so I switched into long compression tights and felt slightly better. I hit halfway with 124K. This was a mental boost as my previous best halfway effort was 118K. I knew now at least I didn't have to run a negative split to get to 240. Each hour continued much as the last. I would have my walk break on the hour and stumble around taking on a gel then gradually get running quite painfully until the 30 minute mark where I would repeat the process with some solid food usually chips or muesli bar. Whilst these foods have worked well in the past they didn't go down well on the day. I had a 4 meal fibre fast to try and avoid the toilet on race day and I felt low in nutrients. My body seems no longer happy to run on empty calories and I remember chatting to someone during this time and mentioning how well my regular smoothie would go down. Once the 2nd walk break was over I would start focussing on getting in some fast laps to get as close as possible to 25 laps for the hour. This was usually when I felt the best. The calves would stop screaming and I would enjoy running for a few laps whilst I tried to keep my race on track. This was working relatively well but each hour I felt more tired and more tempted to go and have a sleep. At 14 hours I couldn't believe there was still 10 hours to go. Around this time Rick my Aussie team mate of the last 3 years mentioned retiring from 24 hour races. It sounded like an amazing idea. Why hadn't I thought of that? I retired almost instantly. All I wanted now was to get my 240 so I could go out on a high. I realised I now only needed 24 laps an hour to get to 240K. This should be doable. I had done it before and I was still running relatively fast when I got going. The 15th hour went to plan but the 16th hour I seemed to lose my way. As I came around to pass 100 miles in 15:51 I had run a 35 minute PB. However I knew I didn't have it in me to keep going. I walked/ran for a few laps before stopping for a massage. I have never had a massage during a 24 before but I had to try something as I was feeling awful. Whilst losing a bit of time on the massage table I re-assessed my goal and decided that I would be happy with a 5th 220K effort in a row. This required a mere 8K an hour but after a couple of hours of this I decided I didn't care anymore I needed a sleep. I would walk through to 200K and then go and sleep. At 19:11 I called it quits and didnt run another step. After an hour of walking I decided I would have my sleep first before walking through to 200. I asked Cheryl to wake me after an hour and went and lay in the beautiful warm club rooms under a table. After 15 minutes I woke up and Cheryl told me I had 45 minutes left. I lay back down for 15 minutes but was feeling really uncomfortable and nauseaous. It was time to get back out on the track. It was very cold but I managed to warm up enough to get to 200K just after 23 hours. I had my promised sit and and enjoyed spectating for about 40 minutes before getting out and walking the last 20 minutes. It was an enjoyable way to finish. I wasn't going to vomit as I usually do and I got to congratulate all those who had done well which was 14 other people over 200K. Probably 13 of those happy with their efforts. What went wrong? I know I went in a little under-done but at no stage did I really feel that I had run out of fitness. My calves were my biggest issue. I was in a lot of pain from about 3 hours. There were a few other niggles including my quads which rarely hurt during races these days. I suspect changing my running style to deal with the calves caused problems. Both my wife and ultra guru Martin Fryer mentioned that my technique wasn't as it normally is. With the calves screaming out in pain I was much more tired than normal. Caffeine and panadol didnt seem to do their normal magic. I also made the mistake of not wearing sunscreen. Although I didn't get badly burnt often sun burn leaves you feeling quite tired that evening. With the tiredness and calf pain I didn't care enough to put in the effort needed to run 220K + but I know I could've if I had the motivation. I don't often have calf issues and in hindsight I attribute this to not being able to do my usual barefoot training this year due to a foot issue. Anyway it's quite a relief to now find myself run out of the 24 hour team. There are plenty of other options in ultra running and whilst I'm sure I'll do another 24 at some stage, now it's great to recharge the batteries and run some trails, road and hopefully Coast to Kosi.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Each of the last 3 years my running focus has been on the 24 hour Championship. Commonwealths in 2011 and Worlds in 2012 & 2013. Unfortunately after a great National Team debut with a Silver Medal in 2011 I have gone backwards the last 2 years. So as is my habit I've spent the last few months since this year's race analyzing what went wrong and comparing each of the races. So here it is: Wales- 3x 50K training runs 100K/wk on bike for ~10 weeks Time since last 100K run = 7months No weeks over 100K running Race surface 100% bitumen. Tune up race 5 days before =6K Distance at halfway = 118K Poland- 3x 50K training runs Some cycling whist injured 12- 5 weeks out Time since last 100K = 4months 3 weeks over 100K Race surface 50% bitumen and 50% pavers, 50% of these pavers were on an uphill section Tune up race 13 days before =12K Distance at halfway = 118K Holland- 7x 50K training runs (3 over 40miles during the preceding 4months) Some cycling pre-specific build up (about 4months out )& ~ 30min/week til taper Time since last 100K = 8months (previous World 24 - 228K) ~3weeks over 100K Race surface flat 50% pavers and 50% bitumen Tune up race 20 days before =47K Distance at halfway = 118K So what does all this mean? Reading between the lines of my previous post (Holland Race Report) it is obvious I wasn't a fan of the concrete pavers and cobblestones both much harder than bitumen. However race surface isn't really a controllable. I must race on whatever course is presented. Was 7 50K training runs too many? Interestingly I planned a similar number the previous years but injuries and colds prevented me getting them in. I think there is a real tendency to break the body down in preparation for a 24 and I'm not sure a 3 week taper is enough to refresh the body. My mid-week 20K runs were much faster this year suggesting I had recovered from my long runs quickly but during the taper I needed a few trips to the physio as the body started to feel the effects. Average weekly mileage didnt vary greatly but I had a much more consistent build-up this year. Virtually everything went to plan and I was no doubt fitter. However the setbacks the previous years may have been a blessing in disguise. How important was the cycling I did before Wales? In retrospect I think training twice a day with a bike and run session most days was physically and mentally an advantage. Sporadic cycling the last 2 years didn't achieve the same results. When I ran my 6K race 5 days before Wales I thought it was a risky policy but I had to earn some spending money and I would have done a similar session in training if the race wasn't on. With a good result in Wales I thought a hit out a little earlier was safer and chose the 12K City to Surf 13 days out. I ran well and recovered quickly feeling confident for the main event. This year with a 50K ultra scheduled 3 weeks out I traded my usual last 50K training run for a hit-out in a 50K race. The race though a few K's short was a good run and I recovered well enough and was hopeful of a PB. Alas it wasn't to be, which brings me to what I think is the most important factor. Each year I reached 12 hours with 118K. If as some say the first half is run with the body and the 2nd half the mind or heart you could theorise I was in similar shape each year. However when I reached 118K in Wales I had the rather juicy carrot of the WA record in my sights and despite being in an uninspiring 17th place within hours I was fighting for a medal. The following years 118K looked less and less inspriational and my main goal next time I race will be to get myself a total at halfway that will let me dream big. Till next time.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Are we having fun yet?

Holland World 24HR Champs

It's not often you get to run for your country and this year's race my 3rd I was hoping for something big. My training had been better than ever and there was no doubt that I was fitter than ever. A few injury concerns had me worried in the last few weeks but a trip to Nicky Goodfellow for a massage, the physio and my sponsors at Falcon Chiro had me put back together and ready to run. Race day dawned wet and windy. I'm not sure I've ever written those words before. The one ultra I remember starting in the rain I didnt make it to halfway before pulling out. Anyway it would be the same for everyone and I was well prepared with full wet-weather gear. I decided to start in my long skins and would therefore possibly make it through the race without needing to change my bottom half (requiring the removal of shoes and a sit down). It was cold when we made it to the start and I quickly mixed up some drinks and got into my shoes and long sleeve top which I decided to wear under my Aussie uniform. Unfortunately with 15 minutes to go I was pushing it to get to the start, about 500m from our aid station tent, in time. I skipped the final toilet stop I was planning and resigned myself with the fact I would need to go in the first few laps. After a brilliant pep talk from captain John Pearson the Aussie team were go. However in the throng of 300 people we had lost Bernadette. Sure enough approaching the urinals about 3K in I did the inevitable and stopped for a toilet stop. The race organizers had employed a system of semi-private 4 man peeing poles. I was perhaps the first to use these unique contraptions and when the Aussie men past me whilst I was about my business I received a loud cheer. The race went virtually to plan during the first 6 hours. I would alternate between liquid and solid food every lap. My liquids alternated between Perpetuem and ginger beer and for the solids I started out on muesli bars before switching to alternating between half a gel and 4 Pringles about 3 hours in. Starting with ginger beer had my stomach feeling good and even confused Rolf, my crew man, as I told him I would probably ditch solid food for a few hours around this time. These races are run on your stomach so a sound stomach during my usual troublesome hours was a real confidence boost. However these races are also run on your legs and before I hit 6 hours spot on the required 63K my legs were feeling much worse than I would have liked in these early hours. I had hoped to save the painkillers for the 2nd half and was quite keen to avoid Neurofen all together unless requiring anti-inflammatories. The course which consisted of pavers for half of each 2.3K loop was beating my legs up. What was I to do? I wanted to pull out but that wasn't an option so I prayed. I decided just before 9 hours that some caffeine and my Ipod could get me through to until 1am and Panadol o'clock. Putting the Ipod on I lost a few minutes but the inspiration was immediate. I shed a few tears as I worshipped God to some great Christian tunes. I was so grateful to be out of pain and back in with a shot of 240K. My 2nd lap with the Ipod was my first lap under 12 minutes. I was flying and with my new wings and perhaps the effects of the caffeine I was no longer even hurting. And then the rain came. Looking at my lap times graph it is obvious when I put the Ipod on. There is a small valley of significantly quicker times. Looking at the graph though I can also see where I decided to take it off rather than risk drowning it. With walk and change breaks it's hard to see exactly how long I had it on, between 3 & 5 laps. Once it came off my times slowly started to blow out. I went through 100K in around 9:44, from memory about 5 minutes quicker than Wales where I ran my PB. The next couple of hours I soldiered on. Happy in the knowledge that I was still on track for 240K and knowing that when the rain stopped I could get my magic music back. Then I got my usual 12 hour split of 118K. I have now done it 3 times in a row. Throw in one fresh in a 12 hour and a 119 in the back half of Wales and I'm thoroughly sick of this number. I was despondent. Gone in my opinion was any chance of a 240K run my "C" goal and I couldn't get excited about running a negative split for even a tiny PB. Slower running because of my lack of inspiration had brought me back to my pain cave and it didn't even seem the team needed me with 3 Aussie men still in front of me and running well. With the rain pouring down after a few laps of run/walk I started walking. Normally I am very disciplined in a 24 and will only walk on my scheduled laps or times but I was spent. I no longer had a plan except waiting for the rain to stop. A few times I attempted to run feeling embarrassed at my pathetic effort but my rain hood pulled down on my head irritating my neck. I tried some Panadol and a caffeine tablet. It was little use. I walked in the rain grabbing a cup of soup from the aid station each lap to try and ward off hypothermia. Although I would've probably welcomed it at this stage I could sense that soon it might turn around. My despondency was such that I even ate some foods I would never normally touch in a race, sultanas and bananas. Their fibre and fructose, often my nemesis, could see me needing to make unwelcome toilet stops. Finally after 5 cups of soup and feeling quite thirsty from all the salt Allison got me running again. I think we did about 2 laps together before Ewan came past and I decided to pick up the pace and run with him. I managed a couple of laps before nature called and I was forced to let him go. Then came the moment that changed my race. When I arrived in Bergen op Zoom, where we had our accommodation 15K from the Steenbergen race course, I was wondering around trying to find where to commence my 3K walk to the Athlete's Village when I spotted a fit looking guy in a team USA tracksuit. We chatted for about 5 minutes whilst he waited for some teammates and I liked his enthusiasm. His name was Jon Olsen and as a member of the US 100K team the previous year he would be one to watch. Come race day Jon lapped me a number of times early on and I said Gday and one time suggested I might do a few laps with him later on. One time as he flew past I was in a world of pain and he cheekily asked if I was up for a few laps yet. I could barely force a smile in response but when he came past about 3:30am or 15.5 hours in I was ready. I quickly tacked on and suggested I take at least some of my allocated "few" laps with him now. I didn't think I would last long as he was leading and still running strong but I hoped to use him to drag me up to Ewan and help him through a rough patch. Almost immediately I was back at my early race pace of about 5:30/k. It actually felt ok too. After 3 or 4 laps I caught Ewan who was having some problems in the tent. I told Jon I hoped to see him soon and went back to run/walking, directionless without someone to run with. After a couple of hours of up and mainly down laps Jon came past again. I was now feeling strong and quickly realised I now had the ability to stay with him for awhile. The rain had finally stopped and as we ran a series of quick laps I started to warm up. Jon needed a pit-stop and I took advantage by surging ahead racing into the tent and quickly removing my waterproof pants. I emerged just in time to join him and we were away again. After about an hour this stint I fell off the back wishing Jon luck as he continued to increase his race lead. Between 20 and 22 hours I was very up and down running some fast laps and some slow ones. When I took a walk break at this stage rather than losing 30 seconds as I did in the first few hours I was losing 3 minutes plus even though I was usually walking the same section as earlier. I had increased my revised goal from 200K to 210K. Whilst I was running with Jon I had even mentioned pushing on for 220,but I didnt think I could push that hard for that long. I was enjoying belting out songs singing along to my Ipod and also having chats to my friends from previous years. There was a lot of carnage on the course. The brutal conditions taking their toll. I had another run with Jon but he was now tired and conversation was difficult. I spent some time with him and fellow American Harvey telling them about the dangers of drop bears. Then with little fanfare I started pushing the pace. Initially I was hoping to get 210K in the bag so that I could enjoy the last hour. At 22 hours though I was worried. 220 was too close to ignore. What's more though it would take my biggest 2 hours of the race to get there. I resolved to just run. I could re-assess with an hour to go and hopefully just cruise in to 210. With little over an hour to the finish though I was given a rude shock. Stopping for a brief pit-stop Bernadette roared past. I saw her in the distance and as we approached the timing mat the scoreboard informed me she was now less than a lap behind and obviously finishing fast. I was going to get beaten by plenty of girls but this was personal. Bernadette is a friend and we both live in WA. First West Aussie was up for grabs. As I chased her down I went through 5 laps to go to get to 220K. I had 65 minutes. Even when I was running with Jon most of our laps were outside 13 minutes. I dropped a 13:18. Quick but not quick enough. It was time to fly. To an endless soundtrack of great songs I gradually whittled my times down to sub 12 minutes. My last 2 full laps being my fastest of the whole race. I didnt ease up even when it looked like I had it in the bag for 3 reasons. Firstly I couldn't believe I had made such a mockery of what seemed like an impossible challenge at the time. Secondly I needed a few extra metres for the 220, at one stage I thought this would be as much as 300m, another 1.5 minutes of solid running and third I was actually enjoying myself. As I grabbed my number stick and a small Aussie flag for my last lap I celebrated a little losing 1 second on lap 94 my fastest of the race. I crossed for number 95 waving my flag and still hopeful of getting a bonus K and 221. I celebrated down the tunnel of supporters and crew at the feeding station, turning off my Ipod to lap up the atmosphere. I didnt really want to stop I was just getting going. I kept my strong pace going after the feeding zone and was keeping a look out for the 1K marker hoping to hit 221. However my maths was a bit ambitious. Having required an extra 160m after my last lap to get 220K I was never going to get there. Finally the countdown started I kept up my current pace of about 5min/k. The gun went off and I dropped my number. It bounced forward 2 metres with momentum but I retrieved it and took it back. I was very happy I had done 220 after so many hours of pain and walking. My nearest competitor a Russian girl I met at drug testing broke down and cried. She knew no English but I congratulated her anyway. Just 40m up the road I spotted my friend Torill from Sweden. Torill has run all but the first of the 10 World 24 hour championships. She had had a great race. I asked her what distance she had done. She had just passed 220K. She had beaten me by 38 metres. Post race I felt good but almost instantly cold. I wasnt sure if we were to leave our numbers or wait for our partial lap to be measured. After a few minutes another competitor said it would be ok to go so I started heading back. I ran into Rolf and Bernadette congratulating Bernadette and thanking Rolf for his help before stealing the coat off his back. Such is the selfless nature of crew. (He did have another jacket underneath though so it was ok) I made it back to the crew area feeling good with a can of non-alcoholic beer in hand I had been given whilst walking back. I had a few chips and thought about a sleep to prevent my inevitable post race vomit. It was too cold though and we were heading back to our hotel straight away. I took the front seat knowing I wouldn't make it back. Sure enough before we had left town I was leaning out of the window emptying my guts. A job well done. Without my help as the 4th Aussie and a non-scorer the Australian men's team took 7th place with our biggest ever team distance at the World Champs for the 2nd year in a row. Mal did a huge PB for 1st Aussie and Jon also ran a PB to lead the team with distinction. Ewan was our 3rd scorer and had a very tough last 10 hours after looking set for something special before the rain hit. Our women's team can all hold their heads high. Bernadette was on track for much more but her 216 was a big Pb still. Sharon has fought back from years of injuries to once again top 200K and Allison was consistent as ever clocking 193K and another qualifier. In summary what can I say? As I said on facebook it was a race of incredible highs and lows. I have run another qualifier but with the number of quality athletes getting interested in 24 hour running my place on the team isn't guaranteed. I could and many would give myself a theoretical extra 10K having faced the conditions that we did, however I know that there is plenty more I am capable of. I would be reluctant to call it quits without hitting the magical 240K mark or sub 6min/k having been so close early in my career, but I dont want to think about going around again next year at this stage. I have focused so long and intensely on this for too long. I will attach a link to a graph of my erratic lap times. Reading this I was able to pinpoint where I was up and down and it helped me put cause and effect together.

Friday, March 29, 2013

It's Time

My toenails have finally grown back to a length where they now need trimming. That means that it must be getting close to my next 24 hour race.
The gap this year is only about 9 months and I super-excited to hit Europe again for the Emu's latest battle.
Ewan has won C2K again and should go beyond his Pb, set on debut, of 235K.
John has gone wheat-free and has his energy back proven by 130K on a tough course at night at the Caboolture 12 hour Dusk to Dawn.
Mal has run over 130K in 12 hours twice this year. I think he will grow wings with the Aussie uniform on at the 24 hour distance.
That leaves me and Rick. I haven't done much racing since last year's Champs but have put together the usual solid summer training block and hopefully that will translate into a big total with the race closer to our summer this year.
Rick had another DNF at C2K but I think he is learning about his body all the time and I expect him to go sub 6min/k this year which will be great cause I like company :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Poland World 24 Hour Champs- Katowice

Poland Race Report 2012

PLACING View photo.JPG in slide show



KM’S/HRView photo.JPG in slide show



Six weeks out from the race I would have defintitely taken 228K, so I can’t complain. However I like to quote an old lady from “The 4 Minute Mile” though and say “That doesn’t stop me though does it.”

When I was bedridden and had my first ever 0K week due to injury I wondered if I would even make it to the startline and I’m very thankful I got to experience the week that was the  Katowice World Championships. I suppose though you don’t make it to this level if you are satisfied just to be there. The desire to be competitive and improve is still strong. When my back got better and I was able to do 3 50K long runs I knew that there would be no excuses for not making my goal of 240K.

AURA decided that we should get over 2 days earlier this year compared to the Commonwealth Champs and I wasn’t particularly happy to be away for the extra days but decided I’d do some touring and met up with fellow Aussie teammate Allison Lilley when our flights both took us through Guangzhou.

After about 40 hours travelling including 3 flights, a bus and a 3 hour train trip we arrived in Poland’s oldest city, Krakow. After 45 minutes walking around we decided to return to the place next to the train station which no longer seemed as expensive. Having both missed a day travelling we were super keen to get a run in and headed out into the smoggy streets. Afterwards we had a quick dinner and we were already in sync with the time zone cause by 10pm it was time for sleep.

We woke up the next morning having slept through the night and ready for a trip out to the Tatra Mountains. We met a friendly local on the train from Warsaw and she had given us directions for the best way to get there. Unfortunately we had forgotten the instructions but I remembered well enough to get us through.

Plan at the Tatras was to catch the cable car to the top ~2000m, have a run along the ridge and then walk back down past the hut. Unfortunately after waiting 40 minutes in line for the cable car we’d only progressed to about halfway to the front so we gave up and headed off on foot.

 I was very excited to see a sign warning about bears in the area. I don’t think bears when I think Poland. Anyway we didn’t run into any bears but it was a nice 1hr 40min hike from 1000-1986m. When we got to the top I headed off for a 30minute run which was amazing. During the ascent we hadn’t been able to see anything except fog but within minutes of starting to run the clouds lifted and it was stunning. There were heaps of people out walking but most moved out of the way as I headed for a distant peak. 30minutes goes very quickly in the mountains so I chose a small summit as my turnaround and scrambled to the top. The views were even better than New Zealand. Allison decided it was too risky to run the rocky ridge and after a quick tag of a 2012m peak (my first time above 2000m) we began the walk back to town.

The descent was the hardest part and I was wishing I’d taken the cable car for the next 3 days as I was quite sore. Fortunately that cleared in time for race day. The halfway “hut” was really a mountainside pub but after 2 months without a drink I wasn’t going to have one this close to the race.

Well I’ve written a lot and we haven’t started the actual race yet. I know for some running in circles (or even rectangles with rounded corners) for 24 hours is akin to watching paint dry, but it’s actually quite exciting. Anyway I better hurry things up a bit.

On the train to Katowice we met a fellow competitor in Vilnis (or Vinnie) from Latvia and had a great time chatting to him and a Polish guy in 1st class where we’d accidently positioned ourselves. It was good to finally be where we had travelled half way around the world to race. We met some of our other teammates and I parked my bags in Ewan and my  room before heading down to dinner. After dinner Ewan had a spew and it was decided I should move out and I moved down the corridor to room with Justin.

In Katowice I went for another amazing run in the bush near our hotel and went shopping once for a few supplies. Apart from that I read, ate and popped into the pool each night for a quick dip. The day before the race we had the opening ceremony and pasta party. I’m not a big fan of ceremonies but it was good to see Yiannis and the Kiwis.

The pasta party was pretty poor for a vegetarian who doesn’t eat wheat (or fibre the day before a 24hour) so I had some cordial and a chat to the kiwis before heading back to the hotel for a dinner of cornflakes and soy milk. In hindsight I would’ve bailed with John, Rick and co and gone to the restaurant.

I woke up the day of the race feeling sore and tired. I actually woke up at 5am but thought it would better to try and rest up. After staying in bed for the extra hour I felt like I’d overslept and my neck was sore.

It was good to finally be able to get down to business. We took the bus provided out to the park where the race was taking place. It looked really nice and there was plenty of shade. Not that we needed it as it had been raining most of the morning. After setting up getting changed and checking out the porta loos before long we were on the startline.

I started near the front with Jon and Rick and the first K saw me relatively close to the lead. There was a bit of tape on the ground at the 1K mark so when I got to this in around 5minutes I consciously slowed it down. Yiannis Kouros had just gone past and I looked forward to catching up with him later but for now I wanted to stay as close as possible to 5:30/k.

The first couple of hours went like clockwork. Getting my 7 laps in and taking on plenty of food and drink. Each lap was 1554m so I was aiming to run 8-8.15 per lap to get me to half way with 130K on the board. During the 3rd hour the Japanese went past running as smooth as silk. Mike Morton had flown by twice during the first hour and there is no way I would’ve considered running with him, he was on about 350K pace and I thought he was going to blow up. However when the Japanese came past about half as often it looked easy so I fell in and decided to run a few laps with them.

I probably ran about 4 or 5 laps with them before stopping for a scheduled food and walk break and apart from the last hundred or so metres it was very comfortable. By this time it had accelerated to sub 5min/k with each lap slightly faster than the last. This was all very well as I don’t like to get stuck into a slow rythym during 24 hour events and will often throw in a surge to run with someone faster or when a good song comes on my Ipod. However once I stopped I started to get some nausea and this threw me mentally. It was going to be very hard to get 130K in the first half.

The next 8 hours are very hazy. I think I spent much of the 4th hour running with Ewan but when we split up with different feeding strategies I didn’t hear from him until about the 6 hour mark when I heard he was taking a nap. Around this time Sharon pulled out for good with a recurrence of hamstring issues and when Susannah collapsed “Team Australia” was decimated. Such is the resilience of ultrarunners though as shortly after Susannah and Ewan were back on their feet and competing again.

Before the race I had asked for updates on the Fremantle Dockers AFL final versus Geelong. Reading back through the updates on facebook I was reminded someone told me the Dockers were well up at ¾ quarter time but after the race I would have sworn no one had mentioned it. Also during this time I made a change into 2XU tights and put the Ipod on. I also changed into an old pair of Mizuno trainers I had borrowed off Rick. My ankle was beginning to play up in my racing flats and despite the Mizuno’s rubbing on my left foot the ankle felt better almost instantly. The rubbing finally lead to a sizable blister but hey “It was only a flesh wound .”

My forgettable few hours were broken around 11:15pm with stabbing pain behind my knee. This came and went a few times before bringing me to a halt. Walking wasn’t hurting so I decided if I walked hard the 2nd half I could still get 200K. I walked the remainder of that lap and another 2 in about 12minutes each but the lack of running was making me tired. I have discovered in the past that running is a good stimulant but unable to run I went for the next best thing in a No-Doze tablet.

When I sat down in the aid tent just before halfway the plan was to have some caffeine and food and get back to walking. When I told team manager Rob Boyce about the knee he suggested taking some Neurofen to see if it fixed it. So shortly after I popped a No-Doze and 2 Neurofen I was out there again but no longer in first Aussie as John had just passed me. Within about 1 minute Allison came by still running strongly and I pushed off to give her some encouragement. Surprisingly the knee felt fine and after chatting with Allison for a little while it was obvious she was slowing me down so she sent me on my way.

The next10 hours were quite enjoyable as I searched out some English speaking companions to share the time with. I spent maybe an hour with Macca from New Zealand and a similar time with Sharon from Scotland before she too sent me on my way. I was still only trudging 9K/hour but everyone around me was slowing down. There was a scoreboard that updated the results when you ran over the timing mat. Unfortunately the mat was too close to the scoreboard so to get your own result you had to walk across and crane your neck to the top of the screen. I came up with a plan to get Sharon’s result by letting her get a few metres in front and then surging to catch her. Unfortunately her eyesight wasn’t up to making this a reciprocal arrangement but from the walking across method I was fairly sure she had one lap on me.

As the body starts to get tired you need more mental stimulation to keep you motivated. Each hour a timesheet would be printed out with the distance and place of each runner. These became great motivators as I sought to improve my place each hour. After 3 hours and a 12K+ hour running with the Japanese I had peaked at 47th place. I had then been in freefall to 12 hours and 87th place. This had all been a mystery to me until I asked for an update at 12 hours. The other game I was playing was splitting the race into time until my next painkiller/No Doze tablet. After Vitamin I at 12 hours I had Panadol at 14 hours, Neurofen at 16 hours and then Panadol at 18 hours. On all of the odd-numbered hours I was having a No Doze. Then heavily influenced by Scott Jurek’s “Eat and Run” I had been reading prior to the race I went all hippy turned the Ipod off and stopped taking pills. Fortunately the knee-pain never really returned.

The track was busy. A 1500m course with 250 runners is an average of 1 runner every 6 metres. Turning the Ipod off made me more aware of my surroundings. I was still running but lacking the motivation or companionship to really push the pace. I’m guessing 2/3rd’s of the runners didn’t speak English but even those who did, some you’d fly by and rarely now they’d fly by you. Every time I saw Mike Morton he seemed to be going to the dunny. In a peculiarity of timing I must have seen him duck in 4 times during the race. All reports were that Rick was now flying. However I hadn’t seen him in hours.

When an ultra doesn’t go to plan you have to change your goals. After aimlessly trudging for most of the day I decided a “B” qualifier was an achievable goal and should allow me to enjoy the last hour as many runners already seemed to be doing. The plan was to get this in the bag and then enjoy the atmosphere  whilst knocking off a more sedate 6-7K an hour. However with 2 hours to go Paddy Robbins came by at a sustainable pace and I jumped on for a chat. Pat was really keen for some company as he closed in on his goal of 150miles so I now had a goal and we started to tick off 10K/hr fairly comfortably.

Things got a little more interesting with about 30min to go when Rick came past. We were now on the same lap. I considered I was pretty safe as he’d have to be going 3K/hour faster to catch me. Then with about 3 laps to go something went pop on the top of my foot. I asked Paddy what I should do. He said just keep running. I tried to change my gait to stop it hurting and was quite successful. Then we started to wind it up. We caught John or John caught us and Paddy started chatting with him and the pace eased off. With only about 8 minutes to go I keep the momentum going and took off on my own. I went through the aid station for the last time and the atmosphere was great, the Kiwis in particular were going off. With 4 minutes to go the only goal left was staying in front of Rick. I know the guy is fast so I kept up a pretty good clip.

Then the gun went off. I had run the last 2 laps with a big grin on my face. Not because of my achievement but because the ordeal was nearly over. When you think your race is going bad at 3 hours, 21 more is a lot of time. One of my goals when I could no longer hit the PB or 240K was not to be a one hit wonder. It motivated me last year as well. My first race was 179K, then 223K, then another sizable jump to 237K. This year’s 228K now gives me an average of 229K for my last 3 24 hour races. I think I’m actually quite good at this thing; but hopefully there is plenty more to come.

 Never try new shoes in a race kids. (or toughen up)

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Poland World 24

Sitting and laying around waiting for the big race to start. The German team has arrived (they are very strong) the French are here too, they are virtually unbeatable (by us at least). The Canadians are here (we should have them covered) and I've been reading Scott Jurek's book. Nothing much to do.

For nearly 7 weeks I've been waiting for a chance to put my feet up and relax. Now I'm a bit bored. Been here a bit long. Maybe it's because I don't travel much but I usually find myself hyperactive whilst overseas. At least at the beginning. Starting to lose that. I do favor my 3 nights before strategy I used before Wales.
It's interesting being surrounded by runners, talking about running, waiting, buying special foods and hoping for miracles but worrying about ailments.

If truth be told I may have overdone it in the mountains a few days ago. We climbed from 1000m to 2000m then I went for a 30 minutes run then we walked down. We were going to catch the cable car but we got sick of waiting. We waited 40minutes and we would have waited another 40 so we walked. Absolute highlight was seeing a sign warning about bears. Probably the only time I regret not travelling with a camera. I tried to imagine that there were bears about and I should be scared. I wasn't (see previous post FEAR).

Anyway this morning I ran near the hotel. I can find trails even in cities. It was amazing. So despite feeling quite sore yesterday I'm recovering and felt great running. Still a little sore sitting around. Also when we arrived I walked about a K with my backpacks and it really hurt. We walked from the station to the nearest accomodation. We thought it was too much. After walking around for 45 minutes it no longer seemed expensive. Wish we'd stayed there originally. Strangely when we left despite cramming more in my heavy pack it felt heaps better. I think I was severely weakened from the 40 hour trip.

So putting things into perspective. My back is a bit sore, my hips are a bit sore and we have one teammate with gastro. (He was my roommate so I moved). I have had a great time so far but I need to get into the right frame of mind to hurt and hurt bad. It's a shame everyone is down on form or fitness. We're ranked 12th of 23 countries who have sent full teams. Quite a way from my long term goal of a medal and short term goal of top 5. The underdogs from Down Under need to take out some tall poppies.