Monday, January 28, 2013

Knapsack 6 Hour Lap Race

It was a typical stinking summer's day in the Lower Blue Mountains at Glenbrook for the annual Running Wild Australian Day Knapsack Lap race. I really like this race; while a Lap race may not be every trail runners cup of tea, I love the new challenges it presents.

Last year in this race, the weather and inadequate nutrition and hydration broke me and I was determined to make amends and ensure the same thing didn't happen again. I was confident with the volume I've been putting in over Summer that the endurance base would cover the time on feet needed. I made sure I prepared for the weather too; planning and readying my nutrition and hydration, crucial when going solo without crew.

No, not the Karate Kid!
Bombing down a little tricky descent.
With the singing of the National Anthem by the runners, led by a stirring rendition from Rod Thehornet, all runners were on their way. The lap was about 5km, looping around Knapsack reserve, known for its MTB tracks that we were now to run on. It was great to see lots of runners out there, Running Wild made it very accessible to all runners by offering a 3h option as well as the 6h for the hardcore solos, with pairs and teams categories also offered for those just wanting to run a lap or two with their mates or partners.

Not me though. This was a programmed in as a fast long run. With me returning to my day job next week, it was time to put down something solid on the trails and 6 hours seemed like an ideal time on feet at this time in the Tarawera build up.

The day progressively got warmer and reached the mid 30s with massive humidity, so much so that it felt like the heavens should have opened. My main fuel for the day was Hammer Perpetuem, mixed in a small bottle and carried in my UltrAspire Spry vest. As the course is a mixture of single track and firetrail, and with the incredibly dry state of the Aussie bush at the moment, I chose to go with the Inov-8 TrailRoc 235s. These are the 0mm drop shoe that I have progressively been easing my way into wearing them in a long ultra. I was confident that they would do the job and keep my technique solid and efficient over the distance.

On a day with conditions like they were, it was crucial that my hydration took utmost priority, but as the day progressed it was important that I listened to my body and was willing to change the plan accordingly.  My initial plan was to have 500mL Perpetuem every 2 laps and drink cups of water at the aid stations every 2.5km. However I soon realised that I was sucking down way too much Perpetuem, not for the fuel, but for the liquid replacement and so quickly realised more water was required. So it then meant that as well as the Perp, I'd  have to carry a 600mL bottle around with me just for water. Not a big deal, I don't usually like carrying a handheld but today I had to.

My feet were well looked after by the Inov-8
TrailRoc 235s and the Injinji Toe Socks
This proved to be more than adequate, with water intake around 300mL every 2.5km. The rest of the water in the bottle was usually squirted over my head which kept my core temperature stable. Of course with drinking this amount of water and losing salts and minerals through perspiration  I also needed to increase my electrolyte intake. I ended up having an Enduralyte capsule every 20 minutes, which kept cramps at bay and kept my systems evenly balanced. I ended up also handing out quite a few to some other cramping runners out there. There was a little bit of carnage out there, particularly towards the end of the race.

In the end, I ended up running 14 laps in just under 6 hrs which entitled me to run another lap as long as I started it before the 6h mark ticked over. I hardened up and ran a very slow last lap to bring it to 74 odd kms in 6h and 20m and some change. A good hit out. I won't bore you with a blow by blow account of every lap as on the whole it was very controlled, uneventful running which responded well to the changing conditions of the day. But for the data nerds among you (and I would be one of you!) my Garmin Connect stats are below.

I was really happy to see that Wes, a friend and an Ultra Training Australia client, took out first mixed pair and second overall in the 3h pairs category running with his wife Kellie. Watch out for Wes to make a storming debut at 6 Foot Track. There were other great runs out there too. Jess Baker was super strong and obviously was quite attuned to the hot conditions after all her epic desert runs and won the womens solo 6h. Big kudos to fellow Blue Mountains stalwart Anne Mackie to get 3rd. Look out for Anne to go sub 15 at TNF this year.

Of course, thanks to Running Wild, the committee and Ben Berriman for the faultless organisation of the day. We are very lucky to have this trail running series in the beautiful Blue Mountains.

From now on until Tarawera, it's going to be a lot of training back on the road to sharpen up my speed. I feel as strong as I've ever been on the trails and from all accounts Tarawera is a pretty 'flat' course so in my thinking speed should be given a little more attention than strength from now on.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tarawera Build Up

My build up continues for the Tarawera 100k in NZ in March. I'm basically still in the base building stage, and the weeks' volumes are now starting to build up nicely. I'm again upping the anti on myself for this one - I have to. Some of the world's best ultra runners are there including Tim Olson, Anton Krupicka, Sage Canaday, Francois D'haene and Vajin Armstrong. The female field is as strong, if not stronger and not being 'chicked' in this race will be a tough ask! The full elite field is here.

February will be a month of tough discipline. Although I maintained good volume over Christmas, it was mostly all pretty relaxed running and definitely not much speed work. The beer and trimmings that I indulged in heavily over the 'off season' will be gone, and I'll be consistently hitting the track and altitude chamber 2-3 times a week to sharpen up and lean up for the race. Hopefully I will be time the peak perfectly.

In other news, Shona Stephenson and I had our first Ultra Training Australia camp on the weekend. All the clients were so positive in their feedback of the day. There were lots of things Shona and I will learn for the next camp as well. I really enjoyed being able to instruct my group 'on the trails', giving tips and tricks on how to tackle certain sections and legs of the course. I was very impressed how engaged the entire group were in the seminar too. I hope they all took something valuable out of the day. 

A 'teachable moment' with the UTA gang  cruising into Dunphys

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sydney Trailrunning Series

Well nothing much to report from a performance point of view! Nearly exactly the same time as Race 1, got my butt kicked and to be expected really given the break I've been having. A good field for the second race, great to see the big numbers. This really is a very tricky little 10km course that Sean and Mel from Mountain Sports have put on!

About the only cool thing from my perspective were these photos that Shona's husband (and professional photographer) Michael Leadbetter took. What brilliant work from Mikey! He takes and gives out these photos for free at his site. So next time you see Mikey out on the course, or see Shona, make sure you thank them for this wonderful service they do for everyone.

All gearing up for the inaugural Ultra Training Australia camp this Saturday. It's going to be great! As well as Mikey being out there to take photos of the participants, and a Hammer Nutrition goodies bag for all to take away, Shona and I will be chucking in our prizes that we won from the race on Sunday as lucky draw prizes too, just another great reason why our camps rock!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

2013 - The Year Ahead

2012 was such an amazing year. I had a really good run with form, consistent training and lack of injury through the whole year which led to some very pleasing results. It was the year I really focussed fully on ultra running and I learned so many new things about this tough discipline of running.

I recently received some very good news from AURA (Australian Ultra Running Association). It seems my results in 2012 were good enough to earn me the Australian Male Ultra Runner of the Year. It is a huge honour to get this award, considering the outstanding results achieved by many ultra runners this year. Clarke McClymont ran a fantastic time and 35th place at what is arguably the most competitive trail ultra in the world, UTMB. Mick Donges put in some outstanding performances, particularly early in the year both here and abroad and Andrew Tuckey had a brilliant debut race at the TNF100, pipping me to being the first Australian home and running a sub 10 hour time. And these are just the top performances from the trail ultra runners! I guess the fact that I put in a good performance on the road at the World Champs and then on the trails later in the year got me over the line. Congratulations must also go to Beth Cardelli, winning the female award. She also had an outstanding year, and I thought her course record at TNF100 was the outstanding performance of the year. Right on her tail must have been Shona Stephenson who took a giant leap forward this year and these two ladies are going to achieve amazing things in 2013.

Some other great news too came too just before Christmas but it has been something simmering away in the pipeline for a while. I have been chosen to be on the Inov-8 International Trail Running Team next year. I've been wearing Inov-8 shoes on the trails for since 2009 and I believe have been crucial in all the success I've had. What this means is that I will have the opportunity to go overseas and race some of the big European mountain races with the Inov-8 team. Included in this will be a week of gear testing and meeting the rest of the team. At this stage, I'll definitely be running as part of the Skyrunning Series the Mount Blanc Marathon, the Chamonix vertical challenge (eek) and possibly the Ice Trail Tarentaise Ultra two weeks later.

Well how does the rest of my year pan out? Well being on holidays this time of year is traditionally a really good way to put in a massive block of training leading up to 6 Foot Track. This year I've done things a little differently, giving myself some much needed R & R after the GNW100 miler and just giving myself some time to rest, eat and drink and do, well, not much at all over the Christmas period. My training is now starting up again but this year it will not be for what is usually my big first race of the year 6 Foot Track. As much as it pains me to say it, I won't be racing my favourite race this year. Instead I will be running the Tarawera 100k in New Zealand. One of my big running aims this year is to see how I go against the World's best. Unfortunately I missed out on getting into Western States, but Tarawera is not far behind in the competitiveness of the field. There is a list of the elite field here. Tarawera is only one week after 6 Foot Track, and it will be foolish to jeopardise my performance at Tarawera by racing 6 Foot.

After Tarawera it will be time to focus on TNF100 where I hope to improve on my time of last year. I believe with much more specific training, I can cut my time down under 10 hours. After this, there will be the European trip and then towards the middle to end of the year I'll probably focus on a lot more road running, for what will hopefully lead up to another crack at the World 100k. I say hopefully because unfortunately the hosts in South Korea had to pull the pin on the event due to lack of sponsorship. The IAU, meantime are trying hard to find an alternative venue around the same time of year.

Of course, in between these 'A' races, there will be a lot of local racing and of course there is also my coaching partnership with Shona at Ultra Training Australia. Busy year ahead!