Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Binge training

It's that time of the year. The winter is long gone, the last winter storms didn't happen and no sheep perished under a snowstorm in the South Island. As I write this at 8 o'clock there is still about 30 more minutes of daylight. University ended and work is crazy busy, but only for three more weeks.
Summer… ladies and gentlemen is finally here and we're up for half a year worth of good stuff. 

We had our first sea swim of the season, and then the second one and a couple of swim races too. I'm at a stage of my training life where my gains in swimming are marginal or almost none when it comes to speed. But I am getting better in my navigation and enjoying more the races.

I am still to do a brick session, I've been lazy to turn up and opted to go for long rides instead. All of a sudden, all that free time comes very handy to catch up on the ol' triathlon training.

On top of all that, my better half is going to be away for three weeks, which means that the house will be empty and silent. What's my antidote? 1. go for a ride 2. go for a run 3. go for a swim 4. go out with mates for a ride, a run or a swim. 

I've entered a half ironman, so it's about time to do some triathlon specific training. More of that in the next post

Monday, November 4, 2013

A view from the top - Auckland Marathon (half) race report

I had a great race last Sunday. The Adidas Auckland Marathon is established in my calendar as a race to do more for training reasons than for actual performance. This year I decided (last minute) to challenge myself and see where I could go. There were two objectives, the first one to go between 1:16:00 and 1:18:00, the second one was to be in the top 25 finishers. Considering that the race is two weeks after a tough 60km ultra race, the objectives were challenging enough.
I can’t say I did a lot of threshold training, and the speed work on the track has been less consistent than in previous year.  I did, though, have a huge base, and a good set of strategies that could help me be efficient come race day. Eat lightly the day before, do a long warm-up, start fast to avoid the congestion of 10,000 people on the road at the same time, pace with the front bunch, where the guys in running club singlets should be hanging, which I knew where about the 1:15 to 1:20 finish time area. Luckily enough there was photo finishes of the last 10 races in the registration area, which helped me to learn that the first women would be running pretty much the time I had in mind. Nat was also racing, which is good to deal with the anxiety and prep of the day before.
The race
It started fast, but not as fast as I was expecting, which help me stay calm and save energy. The pace continued for the first 10km and all along I was where I wanted to be, with a couple of other guys who were running quite steady too. I had a double serve of gels for the race, not my favourite food nor the brand I like the more, but I forgot to buy my favourite gels before the race and had to make do with whatever was in my foodbox.
The 10k mark went unnoticed, as I did not look at my watch too often. The idea was to err on the side of calm on the first half and then let go at the second half. When I looked at the watch it was 11.5km and just over 41min, life is good.
One of the guys took off and I suck to him, we passed two other racers and then it was time for the harbor bridge, I didn’t follow the guy ahead’s punishing uphill pace, and when I got to the top I could feel my quads giving up. I gelled up and carried on, but the pain was there to stay.
The last 5km was where I could go for a fast finish, and it would have gone if I had less pain in my leg. My gait shortened, and although I had a few heartbits left, there was no muscular response to accompany, which sucked. I may have lost almost a minute on those 5km, but I didn’t let that turn me down and soldiered through the finish.
The result

I achieved one, and failed on the other of my goals, a  1:19:02 got me to the finish in 23rd position and I am happy with such a great result. There are areas of improvement, but overall, it was the best run race I’ve done this season in terms of planning and execution. It feels good to go fast, it is great to go fast for a long period of time, and it's a huge satisfaction that the legs deliver on the day. I am a happy Valen today

Monday, October 28, 2013

Waihi - Kaimai Killer ultra race report

A year ago I dipped my feet into the river of ultra. Both in a metaphorical and literal sense, I got into the ultra world by taking on the Kaimai killer in the middle of a weather bomb. All I remember was cold rain and surface water on the track, to the point where running (at least for me) was not possible. Let’s say that it was a steep learning curve, all of a sudden I learned about my shortcomings in the training to the race, in my nutrition strategy and the overall toughness of a race where you have to be focussed for over 5 hours, which is the time a half ironman race takes. It was fun, character building fun. 

And a year makes a lot of difference. I was a year fitter and a year wiser. This means that I did not enter the race until 1 day before, once I was absolutely sure the weather was going to be OK. It also meant that the preparation and planning were a lot more sparse, my training must have been somewhat more ‘smart’. We stayed in a DOC campground a few metres from the race HQ, just perfect for the 5am race start. My nutrition strategy was less overprepared, it was fruits (fresh and dried), nuun water and a couple of bars. There was a big bottle of mountain dew waiting for me at the marathon point, to avoid last years’ bonk at 45km. And that was about it. 

The race
The early start means that 1.5 to 2 hours of the race are done in the dark. These are technical stretches where I lose ground to mountain runners because I am somewhat more risk-averse that these bastards. I hung on to my headtorch and said to myself that I needed to stay in touch with the front bunch for the first 8km, where last year I lost a lot of ground. It didn’t quite happen and I found myself isolated again, running through an empty field with two quite intimidating bulls for company. I was somewhere in the 8th or 9th place, though, and that was spot on where I wanted to be. Remember, I had a plan for the long run and many of the guys ahead may not. There are a number of river crossings, and I managed to fall or slip on all of them, the first one brought me a small cramp-like feeling that didn’t ease until the end of the race

The middle of this race is where I feel the best. The two big hills are behind and the terrain flattens to a rolling sort of track. It i also when my breakfast finally settled and the energy is flowing well. Besides the little cramp-like feeling I was on a high. To top that up I met a guy, Matt, who had to make a toilet stop in the bush and we sort of got on with each other after checking he was OK. He was a good runner (or so I thought) and we worked for each other. I learned who was first, second, third and fourth and we were somewhere in 8th and 9th place. Talking and running we struck a good pace and caught and passed 7th and 6th and we would eventually catch 3rd and 4th Alistair and Steve. We formed a good group and ran for a good couple of k’s until 3rd placer upped the pace on a hill. I followed and made sure I stuck behind and didn’t do any extra work. All of a sudden I was with a chance of placing :-) that motivation alone got me through the final 5km back to the race HQ and the point of the marathon. 

Alistair was having a big feed as I walked into the marathon point, my plan was to be a bit faster and have just the mountain dew and pack something for later. I had to take my shoes to remove some debris and I was good to go. Matt caught us at this point. Three of us left together, and I was on a plan not to set the pace, but to follow attacks and conserve energy. My nutrition plan is gentle on the stomack, but it is not so energy dense that I can overspend, therefore the next 19km were about conserving energy until 3k to go and spending all of it in the good downhill to the finish. Whatever happens happens. 
We lost Alistair, he needed his body to do the digestion stuff for him. I took careful note of that, as he would definitely feel much better towards the end of the race. Matt and I carried on for not much longer, as he set a crackling pace up a 5km, 400m vertical hill and I cracked. I was now running for fourth, not ideal but not too bad, and just about 1 hour better than last year if I kept the pace. The next hour and a half I run by myself and tried to limit my losses. The final dash to the finish was OK, but I made sure I kept a steady pace, because Alistair is a much better climber and he surely made some ground on me. As I was on the 59th kilometre, I began to relax and plan the rest of the day. I was saying to myself ‘I got this in the bag, I’m gonna be fourth overall and 3rd open mens’. 

And it was a case of  ‘it’s not over until the fat lady sings’. Alistair blazed past and pushed me aside in a nice steep downhill. I stuck behind and waited until the terrain gets flatter, I may had a chance at a long sprint in flat terrain. I put my head down and didn’t look back until I crossed the line. I gave it all I had on those 600m and it paid off. I crossed 1 minute and a bit ahead. 

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good: I stuck to a plan and it worked. 
The bad: I was somewhat short on the energy front. Could I have run better uphill with more sugar?

The ugly: the last 15km of this race are tough on the mind, real tough

Friday, October 11, 2013

Do you have it in you?

Tomorrow we’re going out on a very long bike ride with a mate. The idea is to complete it. I am nowhere near in need of such a long ride at this stage of my training, but it will be good as a fitness test, fat-burning exercise and start of a taper period before the 60k ultra a week after.
The reason for the ride is to carry on with a classic ride from Auckland to Coromandel that has been happening for the last 4 years. It is also a good way to help my friend who’s got a 200k ride in 3 weeks time and needs to do the distance to know he has it in him.
Which gave me a new take on another reason why we go out training that I hadn’t thought before. Some times we go training just to know we can finish an event we haven’t done before. I remember my first triathlon to be quite a long day in the office. I had never combined a 500m swim, 20k ride and 5k run in the past. And even thought I completed it, there was a few moments of doubt during that race. With time I learned to work around the doubts and voices that come upon.
If we split the race in three, we have hope, doubt and belief. The start of the race is full of hope and good anxiety. The middle of the race gets a bit more serious, and at some point or another there’ll be a bit of doubt, which seems to be the way the body whines about the hard times we’re giving to it. Then there’s belief, the end of the race is all about getting all that self confidence back and pulling ourselves together to get to the finish knowing we’ve given our best. Post race there will be another three stages, but that’s the subject of another post.
So, back to the long ride of tomorrow, we’re doing it for the moment when the voices and the doubt come knocking at my mate’s helmet: 3 hours into the race and going up a hill, mildly dehydrated and hungry, and probably a bit uncomfortable already by being on a small bike seat. The voices will say, do you have it in you? If all goes to plan, he’ll say “hell yes!” I did it two weeks ago and finished it. And I can do it again today.
Whether you need to do it all before to know you have it in you depends on one’s self belief, number of years training and the length of the race. My take on it has been usually towards the other side, keeping a bit of doubt has worked as a motivator to show up at every training session, as each of them increases the probability (but not the certainty) of getting the successful outcome.  Let’s play an example.
You’re running neck to neck with another competitor for a long bike/run/swim, it’s close to halfway and you’re already above your sustainable effort mark, you’re tired, a bit thirsty and maybe hungry. You’re all focused on the task ahead and all of a sudden doubt starts to creep. DO YOU HAVE IT IN YOU? what would you prefer? To know you have it in you because you’ve done it before or because you’ve trained mind and body well enough?
Keep training wise

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Breaking it into chunks

Another guy breaks the Marathon World Record. How crazy is that?. There have been already hundreds of analysis of the race, I liked this one I like the chart breaking the race into 5k splits and eigths or quarters.

The chart got me thinking on my own performance. The idea of breaking races into chunks is not new, and I have had a few races planned like that.

The problem is the implementation of the strategies come race day. If it is a triathlon, there's always the chance that the plans go out de window due to blowing up on the swim, or too early on the bike. On one occasion I went all as per plan, only to find myself getting hypothermic during the run and not been able to execute what I wanted. Another time it was the weather.

If it is a run race, there's the issue of having the competition dictate the pace and forgetting about listening to my own breathing. A few weeks ago I turned into a 18k trail run. I wasn't meant to be there, but someone offered me a spot and I would not refuse a chance to get out with the wife and friends. As it turns out, the early pace was set by guys that slowly disappeared and I found myself sitting somewhere in the front of the field following a very good climber up a hill. I soon realized that a wall was going to be hitting me at a very high speed. Then I slowed, gathered some strength and hit the last 4k's like a ton of bricks (sub 3:45 pace). It took me a while, but I passed the good climber, and I ran out of field to catch the guy ahead (15 seconds anyone?).

Back to the marathon, it takes a lot of self confidence to slow down in order to break the record. But being such a complete athlete, Kipsang knew that it would be all within reach. And the two sub 2:50min/km pace made up the 15 seconds of light between his glory and the former record. It is very small margins, and nailing it as he did is a commendable thing.

What's up in life? Uni finishing soon. Tri sieason starting soon. Sea swim season starting soon. Ultra run in 3 weeks!... with my hands full at the moment.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Hillary Trail - Second time lucky

The Waitakere Ranges are a premier regional park at a handy distance to home. The Hillary trail winds through the park in and out of the bush and coastlines of the Manukau Harbour.
Designed as a 2/3/4 days trek, the track has been run by many in the short time since it was created. There is even a website that lists the finishers, records and so on. 

In my previous attempt I cut short at just over 25km. There were races coming up and in my assessment  I found that I would be doing more harm than good by finishing. There was no unsavoury quit, just a sense of unfinished business. 

Being over 70km in length, the logistics are vital to get a good run. I was lucky enough to be in company of a bunch of crazy people who organized Midnight Madness IV (MMIV) with the August full moon. The name says it all, it was a night run, and it was a crazy one. This time I finished, and the tale of that run from Muriwai to Arataki follows:

1. The cake
I had missed MMIII last year, and thought it was a cool idea. It is usually done on the winter solstice, which gives much more night to keep running fresh. This year the date was moved to August, and my birth day to be more specific. I made sure I took cake to with me and after checking my list of NASA proportions, I left to meet the rest of the crew. It was a shocker of a week weather-wise and a number of candidates had to postpone. Seven of us started. After sharing a bit of the cake we left in a drizzle that would die within minutes. It was 6 past midnight. 

2. The cliffs
The first part of the northward run goes alon one of the most beautiful parts of the trail, the track hugs a series of cliffs and bluffs and the Tasman sea lashes its energy on the bays below. The view during the day are spectacular. On a full moon night they're even better. I was kitted with a single layer of merino and a waterproof jacket which kept me in perfect temperature for the very cautions start. We formed a group of 3 that would go 50k together. every now and then we would look back and see the headtorches spread over in the distance, among the dark cliffs.

3. The cows
The first 15km took just over 2 hours,  a bit slower than expected, but making it from A to B without falls was worth the effort. Two nice guys (Jo and Mark) took the responsibility of caring for us, and they waited in a car at several points to help us refuel, clean some blood and give us good vibes. Quick bite and drink and we were off. The next section goes inland round a lake, up a massive hill and into farmland before descending to the beach again. Running through a field of spooked cows who looked at us was quite an experience. We got to stop #2 in just under 4 hours, which was nice. There was a bit of a problem halfway through, with one of the guys falling and cramping, but nothing too serious.

4. The dunes
The next section took us through a very charged waterfalls (streams responding to the rainy week just passed), another sight to remember. Then we went inland and back onto a beach. Below 6 hours and within my secret target of under 12 hours. Lack of sleep was not showing yet, but I knew the mind is pretty good at playing tricks. I downed a Mountain Dew and a scone to keep the happy mood.  We carried on to the best part of the run, it is flat, the sun was starting to light and we were running among a dune field with our torches off. The air was fresh and I was as happy as I've ever been while on a run.  I regretted not having brought the camera with me. 

5. The hills
Stop #4 was an eventful one, we lost one guy that took a wrong turn. I went back a couple of k's and shouted to check he was OK. As I heard no answer I mentally played different scenarios for 15 minutes untill I saw he coming from the wrong part of the track. I waited for him to have a quick snack and we carried on 10 minutes in arrears. The12 hour mission was out of the picture, but the mood was happy nonetheless. From the beach we go up a bluff and carry on on a hill crest upping and downing among the rocks and the gorse. Then we carry on climbing to the highest point of the trail. On a good day is a tough climb, on a day with no sleep and 50km on the legs is a character building run. 
Maybe that's the whole reason why one does this things. Head donw and carry on... until the next stop. 
If anything, I underestimated the nutrition for this part of the run, I took note for future runs. 

6. Noon
By the end of this part it was well into the morning, I stopped for a change of socks, a new tee shirt and I ditched the waterproof jacket that was probably not helping at this stage. I also tasted a great ANZAC slice by one of the fellow starters who was now crewing with Jo. 10:32 hours and 60 km done. It was all downhill from here... NOT
There's 2 200m hills to be negotiated, and the legs ain't running uphill anymore. As I was thinking how much I missed my wife and a good eggs on toasts breakfast, I found a stick discarded by a fellow tramper at the start of a track. I adopted it for good measure, and decided it was only a matter of getting there. 
And there I got. It was just before 12:30pm and I've done it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Reflection (or not)

The juggle of all other non-running aspects leave me as quite an anti-social type of runner. There is only one window when I can train and organise a trail run. It’s great when I can bring along people for the longer ones, but if it doesn’t happen, then it’s me on my own.
The same for the city training, there’s groups I often train with, but when the opportunity arises to start half hour earlier, then I do it. It is half hour that will go onto something else later on. Or more recovery time.
So, here I am running (biking too) on my own most of the time. With no music device hanging, I am left to thing. Or the complete opposite, to get all thinking and organizing mechanisms out of my head for some time. I was trying to pencil down what I thought on a 2hr city run last week. Result: I could not remember a thing.
It is funny how one has dedicated time to reflect on things yet nothing much happens. The usual routine goes as follow: start run, feel good, check form, think of the run nutritional needs, think of the post-run schedule, chill and enjoy the views, check form, think of future running plans, think of the current programme, assess how they are going, get tired, start thinking how to overcome tiredeness (or how to increase it), check pace, check average pace. Chill.
Then there’s the deadspots, things that I don’t remember and never will. At points I would try to think of a post to keep this log alive, and a plan would materialize. Then I forget.

Running is cleansing the scheduling machine

Monday, June 10, 2013

The race switch

Tend not to race often. But when I do I don’t seem to be able not to fully commit to the race and ‘race’ it. Even in a ‘training’ race I’d go a bit faster than I should have.

Last weekend I got to visit one of New Zealand’s premier multisport locations for a ½ marathon trail run. It was the usual NZ bush run in a great super-scenic setting .

I didn’t have any ambitions, as it was at the end of a busy week. We travelled 200 odd kilometers on the day, which meant a 4:30am start. We didn’t have a lot of time for stretching or warming up. But it didn’t matter, it was good to be out in the trail ready for a bit of action. I’ve been unable to go out of the city for over a month and was keen to get back in the soft surface.

A bit underdone by lack of hill-specific training, I thought I still had a chance to do well. All of a sudden it was less than 2min to go. I placed in, and for the next minute and a half I enjoyed the effects of turning the race switch on:

The heart rate slowly raising, the muscles tensed and alert. The breathing getting lighter and the head thinking on the past weeks training and how every session was clinically placed to produce what would be today’s outcome. The eyes scan for the competition, look for familiar faces and the ones that look to make the front pack. The chest broadens and the arms get into swing.

And then we’re off.

A shot of adrenaline shoots through the muscles, we all go hard for 100/200 metres and then harder, sorting the field as we advance. The mind gets focused on the road ahead, any obstacles and a check of form, of the self and the people around. The eyes move 5 to 7 metres ahead and start looking at clean paths that the body will follow.

It is not aggression, is the alertness, determination and synch of it all that makes the turning of the race switch an exhilarating experience.

The fun continues for a few minutes and then is back to business, another check of the form, tactics, banter and the other more mundane aspects of racing.

As for the race itself it was a great result, 3rd overall. I paid for my lack of climbing, but I was proud to hang on to the two tough guys that beat me. I was even prouder of my downhill running.

It is good to be reminded of another reason why I race. I race to turn the race switch. And what a great feeling that is.

Stay safe out there, and get muddy.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Two weeks and two races

Yeah… time flies when you’re having fun. It was some time since the last post, in that time I managed to get myself into a run and a cycle race. Both of them were fun and I will report both of them from the point of view of the questions the race throws at me.

Stride for success running race (5x2km loops up and down):
Pre race: How are you feeling? Those calves ready? Will it start as fast as last year?
Start: Why is it not going that far this time around? Shall you stay with the front pack? Shall you hurry the front pack up? Will you hang on to the this front pack for the rest of the 5 loops?
Lap 2.5: Ooops, eat a gel or hang on to front pack? Catch the pack or wait in no-man’s land?
Lap 4: catch the guy in the front up the hill or run him down the hill? Pass him or stay?
Lap 5: long drag or sit and wait for the sprint?

Cycle for life cyle race (1x107km lap)
Pre race: have you done enough hill training? Have you done enough interval training? You sure you want to race in the elite group?
Start: can you hang on to this fast pace and the upcoming hill? Can you catch the peloton 200m ahead down the hill? Are you able to time trial your way back to the bunch or will you wait for the next bunch?
Middle: do you really want to risk a fall in this rain and wind? Are you able to sustain this rate of exertion for another couple of hours? Have you eaten enough? Do you have enough water till the end?
End: do you want to sit and wait for the sprint or make this peloton work hard? Will you let those guys go or catch them up the next hill?

Races keep throwing us questions and the answers open a series of paths that one can’t return from. If the front pack is gone… it’s gone, there’s no way back. Similarly, if one commits to a hill 100%, then it’s useless to stop ¾ of the way there because the damage is already done, the ticker will be at a high work rate already. Interestingly, though , the mental answers to the questions and the ability to physically back up the replies with action depends a lot on the way we prepared for the race, how we rested, what we ate, what we drunk et cetera.

Another race to go in a bit over a week and then into hibernation, exams and who knows… maybe a bit of mountain action.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Euclid, pizza toppings and Sabina

What do a greek mathematician, a Spanish songwriter and a lot of veggies and cheese have to do with anything?

But they occupied my ‘eadspace over the last workouts. Not in sequence, more like three recurring themes over and over during a long run or a long ride. Thankfully it doesn’t happen in the swim. We’ve got a beeping machine put in our heads for our swim workouts (true, annoying little beepers).

Reading a book about Euclid’s “Elements…” got me back into filling my day with abstract thought of the purest quality: Points, lines and polygons. So much that I found myself revisiting theorems and formulae learnt 15 years ago.

The Spanish songs are always there, this was a good classic that I haven’t listened for a while and filtered into my head via some random electric pulse.

And every Saturday is pizza day @ my place, so there is always the worry to keep innovating on the toppings front. This weekend was prosciutto and rocket for pizza 1 and potato and teriyaki infused red onion for pizza 2. Both were outstanding successes.

I purposely put the pizza last because the reason of this post was to raise awareness of the importance of mind drifting, it helps dealing with the chaos of everyday life and training. It also helps to think of scenarios for a given race, or training goal or the day ahead.

Some people call it visualizing, I call it mind drifting, it’s that process of having a movie played in your head, and, on certain great occasions, getting that movie to play in real life. Exactly the same movie. Some people call that success. I call it bliss.

I value mind drifting as one of my best allies to succeed in a race. Playing up falls, dehydration, food stops, flat tyres, rain, heat, GI distress and all sort of scenarios in my head helps me find a way out of them. Sometimes it even works in real life too!, The latest example was during the Tarawera ultra, when I had to switch to fruits and coke diet. I’ve done in my head a few times. Doing it in real life was not the end of the world?!, was it?

The pizza scenario and the fruit and coke scenario are not too distant.

Keep dreaming everyone

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

To "see the point"

A very good friend of mine has been pestering me for years to get into mountain biking. For some reason or other I can’t seem to find the time for a new hobby and I’ve kept passing from the invites. Last weekend I said yes, as I thought it was good to have the chance and, as I said, he’s a good mate and the MTB is just an opportunity to catch-up and have a good time.

The experience was fun, great views, nice scenery and good climbs. It all came down pronto when I had to go into a singletrack grade 2 hill and lost any ability to coordinate the descend. I overshoot one corner, slipped and hit my privates with the bike’s seat. Then I got too tense to even try and keep a good balance. Hated it for some time.
I went a bit more comfortable on round 2, but still not OK.

Then it was time for me to park the bike, and follow my make while he went for a couple of more shots. I could run the same speed up and down the technical descents, so overall it was still very good training.
But not my thing.

What’s different?
I just couldn’t see the point on purposely putting myself in danger of falling over trees or roots to go down a hill and not even going fast or going point to point. I’m unsure about the fitness or bike-specific gains for me.

It felt a bit of a pointless exercise.

But hang on a minute?
What about bike or running hill reps?
Or swimming up and down a 25m pool 150 times three times a week?
Or running like a madman for 5km down a hill to a point where stopping is not guaranteed?
Or waking up and going to work every day to have money to pay the bills to continue to live to go to work everyday to have money to pay the bills

It is another case of “a matter of perspective”.
This is how I felt

This is what I wouldn't mind

Moral of the story for me?
Always try something new, but don’t stick to it if you don’t like it.
And moral number 2:
Close the ‘new hobbies’ account for a few months and get great marks at Uni.

A few days on the mountain should come handy. Stay dry out there

Monday, April 15, 2013

One year un-coached

It was about 1 year ago that I moved from being a coached triathlete. I realized that the old “crap in/crap out” saying was catching up on me. I wasn’t able to get all the bang I wanted from my buck, basically because I didnt have the time to fit in the workouts. The result was that I still had a swim squad which I go and a run squad that I aim to go as much as I can. I play around in the middle filling spaces here and there according to what events are up and coming.

After a year, there’s a few pro’s and cons that I’d like to share:

The half empty version:

There’s a perception of loss. May be top-end run speed, or race ability or something. I guess this is caused by the big void of not having a programme that comes to you. You are the programme and have to keep on your toes otherwise there’s plenty of room for distraction.

There’s the less social-more business side of training too. But that’s easily overcome.

The half full view:

There’s a bit of extra money for doing other stuff. Like buying kit, or going to the gym or doing more events or coffee.

There’s a lot of learning to be done. Finding out what and how and when different stages of a periodised training should be fitting in my world.

There’s the satisfaction of a good outcome. Each race finish takes a new meaning. I am as proud as an athlete as I am as a coach. Double brownie points!.
Results so far have been good. two PBs and a smooth switch to ultra running, all injury free.


The bummer of it all is that this is soooooooooo particular to each individual that I would not advise anyone to do it or not to do it because I know for sure that it would come and haunt me. But if you’re out thinking you might give it a try, all I can say is go for it. There’s plenty of pride to be had by being your own master.


Happy training for the wet week coming!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I like to think myself as an endurance beast, although the reality is that I am more of an endurance puppy. This came out of the realization that I’ve been ‘in the sport’ for 5 years. 5 fun years of pounding the asphalt, threading the water and rolling over all sort of terrain in all sorts of weather. From the time when I swam in the sea-year round, to the wettest cycle tour in history with my mate Gordon, there’s so many stories to tell. I will sound like an old man, but there’s so many snapshots of different training rides, or races that provide plenty of motivation to get out there an do it all again.

A common treat of these endurance mutations is the moments of solitude and isolation (even when around a lot of people) and the moments of lots of laughs in good company. I don’t remember feeling more alone than when racing against 3000 others in Budapest, a day to remember for the wrong reasons. Both extremes (solitude and great company) are the backdrop of some learnings I took from these 5 years. On the one side, I’ve learnt a lot about self reliance and resilience, backing myself to achieve a given goal. On the other side, I’ve enjoyed many winters with great people with common goals and great races with lots of camaraderie.

Someone said that the only thing constant is change. And while I continue to enjoy change, I’ll enjoy these endurance mutations.

This is comeback 3.0

I guess comebacks are another constant too : )

Stay safe out there.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Race report – Tarawera Ultra 100km solo - Race report - Even splits my arse!

making sure it's all going to be allright

I got to the Humphries bay aid station thinking about a spreadsheet that was doing the runs on facebook with split times for each aid station. The spreadsheet was calculated on even splits, which I thought was weird given that there was a decent amount of climbing to be negotiated. I still naively adopted it in the hope that it will make me faster.

How did I get to the Outlet thinking that? here’s the story

I signed the Tarawera Ultra by Christmas, which was about 14 weeks out. Since my sporting interests are many, the proper race training wouldn’t kick in until I got the Auckland 70.3 triathlon out of the way which was right after  3 weeks holidays tramping in the South Island. I made an attempt to do the Hillary trail with the Huia bush runners in early Jan, but had to give up at 30km to save the knee for later races.

So… by late January I was ready to dive into the lore of running. The preparation included lots of running at some speed in net downhills, to prepare the quads for the 40km dash from Tarawera Falls to Kawerau. It also included new nutrition strategies which involved ordinary food (burritos, ham and cheese croissants and my very own chia bars) both the speed running and the nutrition worked great in training.

happy trails
Came race day we had to adapt to the fire course, so I thought I’d use some speed to start out relatively fast and enjoy ‘clear track’ between the start and Okareka. Paul sent us off in style, and a bit of a drizzle. Surprisingly, though, the track was dusty from the speedsters up the road and I coughed my way out of the first couple of k’s. Keeping the gas on but the ticker at low bpm’s I reached the Blue Lake aid station 10min ahead of schedule my chia bars proved a great success for nourishing me through the first leg. That was part of the plan, now it was time to slow down a bit and get to Okareka within the 1:45 mark. There was chocolate milk and croissants waiting.
Okareka was a flash, so much of a flash that I forgot to drink my Milo. Got the pack on my back, loaded with chia bars and burritos for the road ahead. The idea was to get through the savory stuff before mid-race and then switch to sweeter stuff from aid stations. I didn’t count on the 3km uphill to Millar Rd aid station, whatever I ate at Okareka was now trying to come out to daylight. It all got better at Millar and a nice group formed. I made a point to stay with this group, as they were pacing to get to Okataina in a similar time as me, somewhere in the 2 hour mark. The group was the lead 60km woman and a Darren, a guy I knew was much faster than me in the only other trail race I did. We chatted a little during this leg, Darren tipping Steph about the steep descend from the western Okataina track into the lodge and aid station. She flew down the last 5km and I decided to take the foot off the pedal and not to race wildly to the aid station, used the time to get half a square mea.l down the trhoat. Got there in 2:03 wich was OK but not great.

Nat being briefed about the race ahed
My wife, love of my life and the greatest crew ever was arriving to the aid station as I stepped out of the bush. I did get my chocolate milk and ½ burrito and  was off. I struggled a bit in the technical trail with unsettled stomach, and lost the plot for a few km, which should had been run faster. That was the first turning point of the race. I realized that I could not continue to slow down to digest the food that Nat and I put so much love and attention to prepare. I cogitated about what to do for a couple of km and it became overly clear that I could run the next 6 hours the same way I did the Auckland 70.3 race: Gels, sweets and coke and electrolytes to stabilize. I started with oranges and apples at Humphries. I also realised that the splits were getting waaaaaaay our of the plan, and not in a positive way. That’s when I though “even splits my arse” I was not letting a spreadsheet get in the way of my good mood and the finish line.

When I got to the Outlet aid station I was already in a different mood. Not only have I passed the halfway point in a relatively good time. I was already much lighter, clear in my mind and sure that I’d get to the end even if I had to walk. What is more, I was hanging on relatively comfortable to a guy that I knew was much more experienced than me. This leg was 2:08, a good 15 minutes over the planned time.

The next leg was for me to run free. I left my pack at the aid station, ate a few pieces of nectarines and left for the trails. This is where I would start counting the pros coming my way. Sage went in and out in a flash. Tim followed a good 12 min behind and Vajin was running happy 20min from Sage. All of them cheered us back, which was uplifting. The turnaround at the Tarawera falls was another milestone. My plan was to start with coke from 60k, and what a difference that sweet shit makes!.  I was back to Okataina in 2:18, again, a few more minutes than originally planned. But it was quite clear at this stage that not only my planning had been optimistic, but everyone was going slower than usual. The pit stop at Okataina was very long, I realize in hindsight that I was losing a bit of concentration and should plan better for those moments. Left the aid station as fast as I could, knowing that a- I was 14th overall and b- It was a matter of 2 hours to get to the finish. I also knew that the steep downhill of this morning was now a bitch of a hill to get through and that I would have to walk it as fast as I could.
Finishing in style
It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty, but once it was over, there’s a net downhill to the finish and a 3km downhill on the road to the aid station. I was doing the same kind of pace in the last 3km as I did on the first 3km. Nat ran the last 600m with me, and we crossed the line just below 11:50. Not the grandiose sub-11 I had planned for, but still within my top 15% target (just)

A few days later the itchy question of what would have been the story on the faster course is stuck in the back of my mind. Can't wait for next time.