Monday, October 28, 2013

Barefootinc has a new showroom!

Barefootinc are an Australian owned and run company and are the distributors of many great brands such as FiveFingers, UltrAspire and of course Inov-8. Their mission is simple; to help people reach their maximum potential for good health and a strong body - naturally. They believe in products that enhance training comfort and performance without compromising our natural movement. In short; they know what they believe in and they put it in practise very well! Some may call this a 'minimalist' outlook, but to me, stripping running back to it's most natural state is the only philosophy I will ever subscribe to and endorse in my own coaching.

I've been fortunate to have a relationship with Barefootinc for many years now, and they were instrumental in my early trail running career. Although they are a small company, they do an amazing job at the grass roots level; sponsoring many other athletes and events across a range of disciplines including road running, cross fit and obstacle course racing. But of course their heart and soul lies on the trails!

So it was exciting when I saw they were opening up a brand new showroom in Waterloo in Sydney to accompany their online store. In a time when online only shops and overseas sales threaten the existence of shopfronts it's great to see a company stand behind what they believe and give runners the opportunity to come in, try on the products, seek the advice and walk away with a smile. A couple of weeks ago I got to check out the new digs and it's looking great. There are plans for a treadmill so you can try on your shoes and a small crossfit 'box' for athletes to do some small plyometric drills.

The new address is:

Shop 1a, 52 - 54 Mcevoy Street
Waterloo NSW 2017

And now the good news! Anyone that purchases any products from the showroom will receive a 15% discount, simply by saying that I recommended Barefootinc!

With Sally and the amazing display of Inov-8s in the new showroom!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fitzroy Falls Fire Trail Marathon - 2013

Brad McGee opens up his property 'Twin Falls' each year
The FFFTM has a special place in the trail running part of my heart, and always will. It was the the first real trail event I entered in 2007 and it really sowed that lovely trail running seed that has continued to grow and blossom and is now such a big part of my life. Back in 2007 I was wide eyed and bushy tailed and full of anxiety about the mysterious sport of 'trail running'. 42.2km and 3h 24m later I finished, exhausted yet entirely overjoyed at the sensory experience that left me curious and eager to seek out new 'trail running' adventures. More than anything though, I remember the day as being incredibly friendly, no fuss and relaxed. I can vividly remember two things about the day; lounging around after the finish on the beautiful lawn with Nadine and some friends post race,and the burgers we all got to eat for free; food as a reward for finishing! I was in love.

Since 2007, I have been back twice. In 2008 I jagged a sneaky third behind two stars of the sport (and still are on their day); Tim Cochrane and Jo Blake. I remember talking to Jo after the race. I was a relatively new comer to the scene but I think he saw the enthusiasm and drive in me and he gave me a few training tips to take away. Fast forward to the following year and Jo and Tim would be my Australian team mates at the inaugural Commonwealth Championships. The following two years I pursued my road marathon goals; running for NSW both times at Melbourne which always seems to fall on the same weekend. The other year I ran this race was in a 2011; it was a wet, slippery affair. That year the field at the pointy end was super strong; Mick Donges, Andrew Tuckey, Tim Cochrane, Alex Matthews, Ian Gallagher and Ewan Horsburgh. Andrew and Mick smoked the field and I finished 4th.

These kept the kids (and me) entertained!
This year I had no expectations from this race except to knock out a solid long run. I've had a relatively light last 3 weeks with only a couple of short races and I think I decided that this weekend would now mark the start of my GNW100M big km weeks again. FFFTM was just the long run I needed to end a good training week of 80 odd km and, most pleasingly than anything, a couple of good speed sessions which have been put off since Surf Coast Century. Like always, I would run to my best ability that the preparation allowed me to and whatever place that got, well that is always the unknown but always a the bonus if it's a pleasing one!

Kick arse Wisteria in bloom
I only finalised my decision to enter the night before the race, and with race day entries allowed on the day I drove down and rocked up about 30 minutes before the start with my money and a smile. I said g'day to Max, the Race Director and he said I could enter but it was double the price! Of course he was joking but this really sums Max up. Just a friendly, relaxed guy. Although there's probably a thousand things he was thinking of he wasn't showing it one bit. The race HQ are on the property of Brad McGee, the former pro cyclist. He has an awesome place; the garden resplendent in gorgeous blossoming wisteria, dogwood and cherry blossom trees and there is even a few things there for the kids; a swimming pool, a sow with her half a dozen piglets and a friendly billy goat.

Anyway, I digress. Let's get to the run. The plan was to hit the first half of this course solidly; at a tempo pace without pushing the hills too hard early on. Although cool at the 8am at the start, the weather was warming up and I know the back end of this course is the business end and wanted to have running in my legs to kick me home. The event lives up to its name; it's entirely on wide fire trail from go to wo. The aid stations are pretty close together and I planned to have a drink at each one that were being manned by the friendly local bush fire brigades who would be receiving the bulk of the proceeds from this event.

I led the field out and didn't know how close anyone else was until the first little out and back in the course at the 21.7km mark. I thought Ian Gallagher and Paul Cuthbert would be close; other than those two I hadn't really had time in the morning to see who else had entered. Ian has been in smoking hot form of late, winning the Centennial Park 100k and then two weeks later winning the Glenbrook Marathon - breaking the course records in both events. A humble and fantastic athlete who will do great things in the years ahead. Paul, whom I coached to a terrific TNF100 and Sub 3 Canberra Marathon this year is also very much on the improve, recently finishing 2nd in the Canberra Centenary 100km event. I knew they would be hot on my heels and ready to pounce.

Indeed they were; as soon as I turned Ian came storming down a little descent and he couldn't have been more than 30s arrears. His cadence was cranking; he was in his road running rhythm and would have been going at least 5-10 strides a minute quicker. I knew if he kept that up I'd be passed in no time and then we would have a race on our hands. Paul came down soon after too and was looking very comfortable. With Ian's steam train like momentum halted at the U-turn, I decided then that I'd put in a big effort at least to the next out and back at around the 28km mark to try and snap the elastic. It was a bit of a make or break move very early in the race. If it worked and I managed to gap Ian and Paul it probably meant I 'd break their spirit a bit and things may be a little more comfortable for me. If I busted myself in the process and then Ian and Paul continued on the way they looked presently, I'd be pretty much resigned to losing to better men on the day. Things were interesting!

Yep, firetrail all the way!
After the first turn around, the surge commenced, pushing strongly on the flat and slight ascending fire trail towards the next little out and back leg. It's a tricky grade; push too hard and you'll blow a valve, but letting the slope dictate your pace is also a sure way of letting minutes slip by. So the limit is a fine line but I found it and pushed on. The second out and back is not as long, probably only 1500m to the U-Turn and by the time I had turned there was no sign of Ian and Paul. I was slightly relieved that the gap had grown. When they finally came down the trail the gap was probably 800m. I did my best to put on a relaxed and easy rhythm but c'mon...who was I kidding Ian and Paul have been around long enough to know that trick! Inside I was hurting.

I downed my second Hammer Gel and things started to improve. The day was getting hotter and the grade a little more douche like but I pushed on. I always try to concentrate on my technique in times like this. I was wearing the new coloured Inov-8 Trail Roc 235s; I've been gradually trying to transition down to zero heel to toe differential in the last couple of months as this is the best way to develop a strong and durable technique in my opinion. I'm not quite there yet for the full 42.2km but I'm getting there. The trail was hard and dusty; it was very similar to road running and I was saying to myself constantly 'road legs'. There is subtle differences to how I run on the trail and the road, but when you get on a trail that behaves like a road, it can be a hard training your brain to tell your body to do things in an instinctively different way.

Unfortunately Jane Trumper had to DNF. Didn't dampen
her appetite though! Best burgers around!
The last 5km are pretty tough but do bring some relief in the form of some short downhill sections to enable a bit of recovery. The big hill at 39km is no fun but that's trail running for you! I didn't know what time I was on for as I hadn't looked at my Suunto much all race, but I finished pretty strongly to sneak under 3 hours. At the finish I had a nostalgic moment and asked the marshall there for my little time ticket to take over to the recording desk as has been the custom in previous years. Alas, even technology has caught up with the sleeping corners of the Southern Highlands and they had electronic timing this year!

After the race I watched most of the other runners come home. Beth Cardelli once again showed her class to take out the women's race and her third FFFTM. There were many smiles on faces and it was clear that lots and lots had kicked goals in the race. There was friendly banter going on everywhere. Special mention to great mate and marathon tragic Jane Trumper, who, after thousands of marathons, had to succumb to a hamstring tear. It was her first marathon DNF in over 120! Get well soon Jane!

This event has a friendly and relaxed feel about it. It doesn't promise anything spectacular but delivers well above what you would expect. Thanks Max, his team of vollies, the McGees for giving trail runners a lovely little event and the firies for serving us drinks.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Daylight Savings is here!

The beginning of the 'Festival of the Light' as I like to call it always brings about a fresh beginning and a time where I can be a lot more choosy and flexible with my training. No longer do I have to try and cram my training into that small window between when I leave school and before I get home, usually between 4:30pm and 6pm. With the shorter days, I'm often restricted to road running, or the treadmill on the work days. Not that I'm complaning. They both play a big part in my training. But now I can do what I love after work, play on the trails and get home before the sun has set!

It also heralds the thoughts of  the Great North Walk 100 miler that I'll again be competing in. It is Australia's only true A to B 100 mile trail running course (the way they should be!) and is tough as tough can get, expecially when the expected average temperatures and humidity play their part. Will we get another day like last year where conditions resembled a mid Winter's day? Not likely. In fact I would say that it's possible that we will never get a day like that again in the history of the race!

It's been a big month or so of racing, with the 'A' race result at Surf Coast Century just a little off what I would have liked, but under the circumstances I have to be happy with how everything has gone. I've decided to knock the distances back a bit in racing and so two weeks ago ran the 25km option of the Running Wild Glenbrook Marathon.
Running the 25km at Glenbrook in the 235s
and using the new Inov-8 handhelds

Although it was only 8 days after SCC, my body felt stronger than it has been in a long time, and I managed to get around the beautiful Lower Blue Mountains National Park in a very pleasing course record time. I wore the new model Inov-8 Trail Roc 235 zeros. These were perfect on the mix of fire trail and loose leafed twisty single track (and they look great too!). You may also notice in the photo that I'm using two little hand held collapsible flasks to ensure I carried the mandatory water requirements. These are a great new product from Inov-8 and are very suitable for this type of race.

The weekend past I went down with my friend Wes and his family to the Western Sydney Marathon. Originally when I was putting dates into my calendar earlier in the year I had penciled in this one as the marathon where I would have a crack at the elusive sub 2:30 marathon. Having trained at the Regatta Centre  A LOT over the years (it's half way between work and home) I have a strange affinity with the 5km looped track around the rowing lake. I feel like it is a PB course if the variables like wind, heat etc don't play their part. On a still, cool day, it's fast and predictable. You can really get a sense of your pace and rhythm very early on and use the looped format to really hit your pace and lap segment times.

However, with all the big long trail races I've been doing in the last month or so I decided to drop it down, watch Wes in the half and then myself run around for the 10k; in the process supporting a great Western Sydney event and get a sense where I am exactly with my speed in a good tempo paced run. By 10:30 the temperatures had begun to nudge over the 25 degree mark and were climbing. It was hot, but I had nothing to complain about seeing that there were lots of marathoners and half marathoners who had been out there, and were to be out there much longer than I.

With Australian Marathon Champion and Inov-8 Australia
team mate, Alex Matthews.
36 minutes flat later and I crossed the line in a surprising first spot. I did not expect it nor deserve the win; but one I'll take as 'just getting lucky'! I can only think that all the fast track runners had decided to go surfing or something else much more suitable to the weather! There were some positives to take out of the run, it was pleasing to run under 16 and half for the first 5km. The second lap however is probably best not spoken about. It was also my first 10k win in over a year, my last being at the Bathurst 10k in 2012. Pleasingly it means I've won at all the major distances this year; 5k, 10k, 21.1k, 42.2k, 50k and 100k . Only the 100M one left to get now!

Alex Matthews just continues to continue on. Only 2 weeks after being crowned the Australian Marathon Champion, he again ran a great sub 2:30 (2:28) marathon in conditions that were far from easy. He is in really good form and I hope next year he targets a race to nab an Australian B qualifying time for the marathon and gets himself in the green and gold. Wes and Kellie also tasted success, both coming across the line in 4th in their respective half and 10k. These two are rapidly improving and watch out for both of them at the Mountain Sport's 50K Kanangra Trail Ultra.