A slight injury setback 

Posted by Nick Wednesday, November 02, 2011 5:51:00 PM

After Fitzroy Falls, the plan was to focus on ultra-distance training leading into Cradle Mountain in early February.  The week after Fitzroy felt great, with a quick recovery and the legs not feeling too bad.  The following Sunday, I did one of my regular routes from home down to Kurnell on road (18km on pavement) after which the cliff-top platforms and sand-dunes of Kamay Botany Bay National Park make for an excellent 12km run  back to Cronulla.  The right  hamstring tightness  that had bothered me at Fitzroy Falls really seized up, and this tightness caused secondary issues in the ITB.  Traveling on the rough trails around Kurnell with a tight leg made for very slow progress - reminiscent of struggles in the closing stages of Bogong to Hotham and Cradle Mountain from earlier this year, and it was apparent that a visit to the physio was in order.

Upon describing the grabbing of the hamstring at Fitzroy Falls and testing the flexibility in both the left and right hamstring, the physio (Hayden Latimer  - an excellent, pragmatic physio who I can really recommend if you work/ live in the Sydney CBD) diagnosed a low grade hamstring tear.  While subsequent research and self-diagnose attempts have me wondering if high hamstring tendonitis might in fact be the problem, the treatment for either condition is so similar that spending money and time on specialists appointments and MRIs to differentiate between the two is not worth it.

The hamstring is manageable, and a combination of icing, stretching, Voltarin gel and Voltarin tablets can allow me to race OK, but recovery is generally slow, speed work is difficult and at some stage doing a more significant injury is a possibility.  With all this in mind, I've made the decision to close out the current 2011 schedule (which was 2 short races and the 70km Kauri Ultra) and then take 2 weeks off followed by 2 weeks of light running.

The significant gap in training in late November and early December means that backing up for another run at Cradle Mountain in 2012 wasn't a good idea, and plans for the race were shelved to allow me to focus on hamstring (and general) recovery, then some speed training (which is more shorter in duration and suits the summer months well) followed by an autumn focus on finishing TNF100 is under 12 hours.
Unlike many others that seem to prefer warmer weather training, I'm a huge fun of winter training.  I don't struggle with getting out of bed in the dark and cold, and am happy to run for extended periods using a head-lamp.  In contrast, summer training, particularly for ultras, is bloody hard.  Even starting a run early (say at 5am) means that you're still going to be out there after 10am when its getting super hot, and I don't  find training in these conditions that much fun.

Once the rest and easy weeks are complete, I plan to start a 10km sub-40 minute program the week before Christmas (19 Dec) leading into a sub-40 hit out at the end of January.   I haven't run a 10km time trial in quite a long time, but I'd estimate I'm a 42 minute 10km runner at the moment.  The added speed will be a great boost in the shorter cross-country races I really enjoy, as well as being important for the longer events.  Looking at the top runners in short ultras (100km and less), and they're all very gifted and competitive runners at events of much shorter duration - all the way down to 10km events.

I'll be doing regular weekly postings of my 10km plan progress, and I'm really looking forward to trying out some new sessions that include track work over the summer months.

Fitzroy Falls Interviews 

Posted by Nick Wednesday, October 19, 2011 5:36:00 PM

In my dual roles with EnduroExplorer and Trail Run Magazine, I caught up with some of the elites after Fitzroy Falls to talk about their race and what’s coming up next for them.  Thanks Andrew, Mick and Louise for your time – it was great chatting with you.

Trail Runner Magazine 2.0 

Posted by Nick Thursday, October 13, 2011 11:06:00 AM

Chris, Mal and Pat have done a stunning job on Issue 2 of Trail Runner Magazine.  To put together 90-odd pages of quality content as an independent publication is a wonderful achievement.  Well done guys - a great magazine and wonderful read.  Looking forward to working with for many, many more issues to come.

Fitzroy Falls Fire Trail Marathon 2011 Race Report 

Posted by Nick Tuesday, October 11, 2011 8:16:00 PM

Its an old proverb that you never forget the circumstances about the loss of your virginity.  Standing on the start line of the 2009 FFFTM, my marathon virginity was about to be lost in a flurry.  The first race brings back special  memories - the stupid rookie mistakes, the excitement of the race, the thrill of being out there, the finishing stages when it was clear that a marathon completion was within reach, and the exhausting but satisfying climb to my first marathon finish.

Two years and dozens of races later, a return to Fitzroy Falls feels like coming home.  At the start of any years running schedule, Fitzroy Falls goes on the calendar first.  In fact, I even managed to convince my wife that running my first Fitzroy Falls on our 10th wedding anniversary was OK.

For those that have read the slightly weird but nevertheless entertain running bio What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami 's use of the spring and autumn Boston and New York marathons as channel-markers in the passage of time resonates really well with my TNF100 and FF experiences - going and running these events marks the change of seasons from winter to summer and back again.

With excellent conditions over the last few years, a damp and grey race morning suggested similar conditions for 2011.  A fairly heavy overnight shower had left everything very damp, and in pre-race conversations with Race Director Max Powditch, he said there was a lot of water in the creeks and lots of standing water on the fire trails.  I'd opted for a fast and mid-range grip shoe option with the Pearl Izumi Peak XC Trail (check out Andy Hewat's excellent review in the 2nd Edition on Trail Run Magazine), and seeing the familiar racing-reds of Talon 190s around the registration area, I began pondering if maybe a grippier shoe would have been a better choice.  The Talons were 150km away in the garage, so all thoughts of footwear were banished as I got the race number and mentally prepared for the race ahead.

The start was moved a bit back up the Twin Falls Cottages drive-way this year to give the spectators a bit more spectating, and Max had us lined up for the 8:00am departure.  I was pleasantly surprised that my race number of 26 meant that I was officially seeded - a first for me - and I moved into the second tier of the start behind guns like Alex Matthews, Ian Gallagher, Mike Donges, Andrew Tuckey and Brendan Davies with some pride.  With a very brief briefing we were off, running down a very wet and slippery trail past the Twin Falls cottages and past white-out conditions at the Twin Falls look-out.

With a descent carbo-load, the first couple of kilometres of a marathon always feels sluggish.  2000 calories of glycogen (stored carbs) weighs 500g and holds two liters of water in the body, so combined with the 6 gels I was carrying, I was up to 3kg heavier than the start of a mid-week run.  I made peace with the sluggish feeling, knowing it would pass soon, and fairly content that it was a positive sign of a good carbo load.

The first 28km of FF are almost junk miles in terms of physical effort - you want to get through then with as little effort as possible while staying on goal splits.  I did some detailed analysis of my 2010 race splits, and found that I was about 15s slower per kilometer over the final 14km, and my goal for 2011 was to be 210s ahead of goal time at the final turn-around.  This was a pretty easy task - run close to 5.00 min/km pace on the rises, and put 15-30s into the bank when the course profile was flat or downhill.  Running at this relatively easy pace kept the pulse even around 160-165bpm, and with the running  on auto-pilot, it was simply a case of making sure that I had a gel every half hour, kept the hydration up at the aid stations and enjoyed the day.

Coming off the gentle, well-maintained dirt roads onto Gunrock at the 8km mark was a bit of a jolt - Gunrock seems to get worse each year (RD Max is of a similar opinion), and on a wet day, the steep descent over loose rocks was tackled with some caution.  Its such a small part of the race that a slow descent doesn't adversely impact race time, and a spill in this section would be really ugly.  As with the early creek crossing at the 1.5km mark, the creek at Gunrock was much deeper than previous years, with water probably knee deep and  splashing up to the waist as you charged through it.  The Peak XC Trails dry extremely well, and with a seamless construction, they treat the feet with plenty of care.  I also wore CoolMax Injini socks, and these are excellent in wet conditions.  At the end of a hard 42km with constantly wet/ damp shoes, my feet were in excellent shape - no blisters or even hot spots, and very little water-induced wrinkling of the skin.  Why anyone would ever wear anything else apart from Injini Coolmax is a mystery - short of titanium-cladding your feet, these  are the next best thing.

In 2010, I went with 3 gels for the race (15, 25 and 35km), but  bumped this up in 2011 to 6 gels with one every half hour.  My energy levels fell of considerably after the 28km mark in 2010, and 300 extra calories compliments of the extra gels would help combat this.  The recommended High5 Gel consumption rate for a race is one every half-hour, and these seems to work very well.  High5 gels rock - they are cheap, tasty, easy to swallow and have the same quality ingredients as higher-priced alternatives.  Compared to the mucky toothpaste consistency of Gu and Endura gels, High5 gels have the viscosity of hot honey, and can be consumed in one or two quick swigs.

Around 15km into any marathon, the field has settled down and the folks you're running with then are going to be with you for a while, so you may as well have a chat and make some new friends.  There were a few familiar faces - Shona Stephenson (female champ from the Coastal Classic 2011), Adam Carter  (who I had raced with at the 2010 DirtFest event), and Matt Nicol  (who had streamed past me on the Mt Scanzi descent at this year's KOM).  I ran and chatted with Shona and Adam for a while, but spent most of the middle section running with Matt.  Matt's taller frame and longer legs had him pulling away on descents but my ascending speed was slightly faster, and we moved back and forward, swapping places without bothering to put any effort into actually racing each other.

The climb out of the first out and back was much steeper than I remember, and Matt and I power-hiked this section.  Going into the next decline on the final out-and-back, my right hamstring grabbed tight and I began to worry that it might be a slow walk home.  I go through an interesting mental process when a muscle or tendon tweaks slightly during a race – something along the lines of “if you just make it to the end, no running for a week.  No – damn it.  A month.  Maybe an extended break and do some kayaking.  Whatever.  Just make it the end”.  By the time I finish, I've broken the in-race rest-for-a-month deal and are busily mentally preparing the training ahead.

After another power-hike back to the drinks station after rounding the witches-hat at the 28k mark, I had the planned 210s in the bank, and the hammy wasn’t too bad.  I settled down into a steady rhythm, running comfortably with Matt until a giant bug zapped him in the eye.  He stopped dead, and after pausing and confirming he was OK, I took off expecting him to be right back with me soon.  After that, it was a run in the mist and rain by myself.  I set myself a goal of 37km with more than 120s ahead of a goal 3:30 finish, and blocked everything else out.
The only drama in this section was trying to extra the final High5 from the rear pocket in my tri-singlet.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it out, and after 5 minutes of made reaching to the rear, I gave up and focused on running.

The 37km marker came into view, and the 120s were still there on the Garmin, so with the 10km race signs now in sight, I felt great knowing the goal time was achieved.  I knew there was one female runner ahead of me somewhere, and I scanned the track ahead for her (nobody likes getting chicked :) ), but she was nowhere to be seen, and I only picked off one runner who was fading badly.  He was crossing the final creek crossing, and I made a pretty decisive pass that indicated that I wasn’t going to be re-passed (it is a race after-all), and began the charge to the finish line. 

While I still had plenty of time in the bank, the course was a bit long according to the Garmin (42.51km), and I received some frantic encouragement from Linda to hurry up to make the 3:30 time.  I responded badly to the encouragement, and was pretty buggered making the final climb to the finish.  To make a complete dick of myself, I got confused about where the actual finish line was, and kept sprinting way down the finishers shoot until I was almost in the hamburger queue, all the while asking where the finish line was.  The finishers photos shows my crossing the line precisely at 3:30:00, but sprinting past the time keeper caused a slight delay in clicking the timer to record the official time, which was  3:30:04.  Stuff it – it’s a marathon PB, close to 10 minutes quicker than 2010 and over 30 minutes quicker than 2009.  I’m very happy.


Unlike the Sutherland Half and Coastal Classic where I was so happy with the result that I didn’t eat enough, I made a conscious decision to get plenty of calories down-range.  One Anabolic injection shake (40g protein, 40g carbs), one Endura Optimizer (60g carbs, 10g protein), the famous post-race burger and 4 Snickers cookies.  After that, I had 4 protein pancakes over the afternoon, a big dinner of pasta and rice, and a big plate of ice-cream. 

With a gentle 5k recovery run on Sunday and an easy 9k on Monday, I was feeling great by Tuesday and back into regular training at a nice fast past and a 30km run-to-work knocked off on Wednesday with no dramas or tiredness.

As always, a big thanks to the race organisers, volunteers and supporters for a great day.  Great running with all the wonderful trail runners out there, and a huge thanks to my family that put up with the 10+ hours a week of my running.  Great seeing many friends again like Ian smashing out another great run and Jodie blitzing the race off very limited training for an awesome 6ft qualifier (and Naomi making the very wise choice not to run after awesome B2B2B performance at the Husky Half, Coastal Classic and Sydney Marathon).

Next year: 3:22:00

Fitzroy Falls Marathon Prep 

Posted by Nick Tuesday, October 04, 2011 7:15:00 PM

Saturday will be my third Fitzroy Falls marathon and two years since my first marathon outing.  Unlike 2009 when I went in without much expectations and with a simple goal of finishing in a time that wasn't too slow, this year I'm really keyed up after an excellent autumn and winter of training behind me and four great races (TNF100, King of the Mountain, Sutherland Half and Coastal Classic) really preparing me well for Fitzroy.

The last months training hasn't been as intense as I'd like, with a good 10 day recovery required to get everything right after a very hard race at the Coastal Classic.  Just when everything looked good, a brief case of viral gastro interrupted training again for a few days, but the up-side of the interrupted preparation is that the legs got plenty of time for rest, and on Sunday I had a hard marathon-effort 17km run that felt great.  The abbreviated month of training meant there was no accumulated fatigue in the legs, and with all the hard work in the 15 weeks between TNF100 and the Coastal Classic, I’m confident that I’m going into FF in excellent shape.  The yearly distance for 2011 has already gone past both 4000km and my 2010 annual total, so there is plenty of quality training in the bank.

I’ve only run the regulation marathon distance four times – twice at FF, once at Glenbrook, and once in Idaho, enjoying a PB of 3.33 on a net down-hill course at the Mesa Falls marathon last August.  Last year at FF, I ran a 3.39.48, and smashing this time is a given (barring injuries).  I’ve done the analysis of runners with similar times to mine in KoM, which gives me a stretch target of 4.52/km pace (3.25 finish), with 3:30:00 and 4.58/km pace being the main goals.  The trick with pacing FF is the long climb from 28km to 41km.  Having this climb kick in when the legs are tiring is brutal, and I remember the legs slowly turning to concrete on this section in both previous runs.  Last year, I got to the last out-and-back turn around with a big smile, and finished the 13km climb with a big grimace.  Looking at pace splits from last year, I was 15s slower a kilometer than average pace from this point on, so assuming a similar pace hit on the climb, I want to be at least 210s ahead of the 4.58 goal pace at the 28km mark.  This should be pretty easy – the first 12km are largely downhill, and there isn’t a huge amount of climbing in the middle section (course profile below).  Realistically, with a pulse of 160-165bpm, the average pace should be around 4:35 on flat sections and I’ll get to the 28km with plenty of time to spare.


The other improvement from 2010 is consuming more gels during the race.  Last year I went with 3 gels only, and with no sports drink on the course, I probably ran very low on glycogen by the end.  With an increase to 6 gels (one every 30 minutes), more energy to combat the last climb should be available.  Finally, I’ve got a very new pair of Pearl Izumi Peak XC Trail shoes freshly unboxed and with only 20km break-in running in them.  The Peak XC is a great racing shoe – essentially a racing flay with a light trail outer sole, and with the likelihood of a wet creek crossing early in the race, the fast drying of the shoe will be an advantage.

Looking forward to reporting another successful race outing after the weekend…

Inov8 Coastal Classic 2011 Race Report 

Posted by Nick Thursday, September 22, 2011 9:40:00 AM

The rescheduling of the Coastal Classic from the original June 18 date to 10 September worked well with my 2011 race schedule.  After the TNF100 in early May, I had some swelling and soreness around the ankles, and being able to have an easier training and racing schedule in June allowed the legs to recover well, and by early July I felt great and had a really pleasing run at King of the Mountain.

After another great outing at the Sutherland Half Marathon on 20 Aug where I ran 92.38 on a muddy, slow track, I felt really confident that the Coastal Classic was going to bring the good race tally to four from four, and a sub-three hour finish was possible.  The weather in the weeks leading in looked a bit dodgy, but I ran the full course 2 weeks out (footage here and here), and while there were a few muddy patches, the track was in OK shape, and with only a few showers the week before the race, the race got the go-ahead.

After a rough outing in the 2010 event where I felt I had a poor run despite the OK finishing position (30th), I made a few changes - the Camelbak was ditched in favor of my trusty Nathan Elite V2 Plus  (2 by 600ml capacity) and I resolved to take it easier in the early parts of the race, leaving enough energy to take advantage of the really runable sections are Garie.  A further change was going for a pair of Inov8 Talon 190s for the event that I was trialing for Trail Run magazine  courtesy of Australian Distributor BareFoot Inc   (thanks Max!).  I took the Talons out for two break-in runs prior to the race, one of which was a 4 minute PB over the Heathcote Loop  on the Monday before the race, so I knew my form was looking good and I had 100% confidence in a 3 hour time if I could run a smart first 10km and not blow out (or have a nasty spill).

The Saturday morning of the race dawned clear and very cold, with the temperate around 7 degrees as we arrived at the Otford Primary School for registration.  Everything felt great on race morning, and I eagerly anticipated the 8:30 start.  In contrast to the 2010 staggered start where there wasn't much competition for a spot in the early waves, this years event saw a very congested start line, and it wasn't until three minutes after the first starters (around the 35th wave) that I finally made it to the start line.  As usual, many folks were way too eager to get going early and pushed themselves too hard early on, and I was glad to be in a later wave where I wasn't going to be pressured too hard early on.

The first 2km of the race was the bit I was most concerned about.  In 2010, I had pushed hard early on, spiking the pulse to an average in the mid-170s, and I had a crappy race plagued by stitch and trying to recover my legs and lungs for the remaining 28kms.  This year, I dropped down into a first hike when the trail became very steep, and had 5.46 and 6.48 minute kilometers splits over the first 2kms, but with a heart rate I was very happy with (165bpm, which I knew I can hold for a 3-4 hour event), and I was confident of getting back under the 6 minute pace required for a 3 hour finish.  The 6 minute pace was dialed into the Garmin as a virtual partner, and I had a race plan of getting to Garie on the 6 minute pace, drop back to somewhere around 5 minutes back of this pace on the beach and big climb out of Garie, and then slowly peel back the deficit to finish bang-on the three hour mark.

The open fire-trail after the climb allowed for some nice fast running (4.44 min/km), and with the confidence of the Talons great grip, I flew down the steep descent into the Palm Jungle passing heaps of other runners, and only coming to grief once when a vine got wrapped around my following leg.  The landing was soft in the damp soil, and the only damage done was cosmetic.

The rest of the trip into Garie went by fast, with any concern about the aggressive, lugged grip of the Talons on the raised metal walkways proving unfounded - the shoes performed really well on the metal, and I reached Garie with plenty of the High5 mix still in the waist-belt bottles, the legs feeling great and the time bang on the required 6 minute pace.  I race that is going well tends to pass by very quickly, and that was certainly the experience for me - the run to Garie felt more like 15 minutes than an hour.

The location of the drink station at Garie during the 2010 event was a long way off the course at the back of the beach, and I planned my hydration to avoid this drink station for that reason.  For 2011, the drink station had been relocated to just where the runners come off the path under the cliff that separates Little Garie from Garie - a great example of race organisers listening to post event feedback and adjusting accordingly.  I grabbed two snakes for the great volenteers at Garie and quickly ate them.

Derek Waterman does awesome photos of the event, and he captured me motoring along the sand at Garie

In most race photos I've seen I've myself, I always look a bit bent at the waist - almost like I'm getting ready to pack a scrum, but I don't feel bent over or hunched when running, and with close to 4000km run this year with no injuries and plenty of time improvement, I've got no plans on tinkering with the current style.

There were plenty of blue-bottles blow onto Garie, and I was careful avoiding them - having a trail run go badly because of a blue-bottle sting would be a weird way to go!  As with the rest of the race, the climb out of Garie to the cliff-tops was surprisingly easy, and I got to the top with a consistent effort, power hiking most of the way and reached the top only a few minutes back of 3 hour pace.

The trip past Eagle Rock and into Wattamolla went smoothly, and with the field spreading out, I was running comfortably by myself, which I really prefer in races.  While a social run is nice, being able to stick at precisely the pace I was comfortable with was great, and having a clear track in front made avoiding any potential tripping hazard easy.

Linda was on the climb up to Wattamolla from Curracurrang, and it was good to see her and say hi.  I caught up with a few runners around here, and we ran into Wattamolla together.  One guy asked if we were almost finished, and was pretty disappointed when I said that we were just over half way.  I felt like we'd just got started, and was now super-confident the race was going to be a great one.  I sucked down a High5 gel at Wattamolla, and still had enough fluid left to not need a refill.

One of the great advantages of running with a Garmin virtual partner set to goal time is that you can reach a point where you're so far ahead of the virtual partner that a good finish is all but guaranteed.  Traveling along smoothly to Marley, the time in the bank grew to over three minutes, and with a pulse rate comfortably around 160bpm, everything was going great.  In anticipation of the aid station at the end of the Marley fire trail, I drained one of the bottles completely in preperation for a re-fill, and also sucked down my second and final gel.  I managed to cross the creek flow out of Marley without getting wet feet, and the refill was very quick.  I'm convinced that waist-belts are the best option for trail events - bladders are very slow to refill, and hand-helds deprive you of the use of your hands to climb and soften falls - both important elements in trail races.

Coming into Bundeena it was great to see Kevin Tiller manning the last aid station, and as I took off on the final 3km section around Bundeena headland, I was extremely conscious of the tree roots that had caused a nasty spill in the 2010 event.  As with the rest of the race, there were no dramas, and I burst through the foliage onto Jibbon beach feeling great.  The sand on Jibbon was great to run on, and with a five minutes over the virtual partner, I relaxed and enjoyed the final phases of the race.

Running up the path from Jibbon, I noticed my hip flexors were tight, and the legs were starting to give some indications that they'd be happy to be done for the day.  The final few hundred meters into the finish at the RSL weren't overly taxing, and I crossed the line in an official time of 2.54.52 - a result I was absolutely stoked with.  While its a bit of an arbitrary comparison, I'd slowly been creeping up on the lead female racer in many of my 2011 events (excluding super-starts like Beth Cardelli who are way quicker), and as I relaxed on the lawn, it was satisfying to be able to watch the first female cross the line for the first time in a major event I'd run (Shona Stephenson won in a time of 2.57.30, a female course record).

The elite male field had been extremely strong - Andrew Tuckey continued a dream introduction to trail races with an incredible 2.17 finish, smashing the old course record.  Young Kiwi racer came across in second place in an awesome 2.20, and it was great to see Brendan Davis (who seems to be in the top 5 in every NSW trail race) agsin make the top 5 with a 2.27 finish.

Many of my mates also had great days - Denis Martin took close to twenty minutes off his 2010 time with a 3.41 finish, and Naomi Eastment (recovering from both a flu and an awesome run at the Husky Half Marathon the week before) had a great run with 3.10 and a 2nd place in her category.  Justin Low (who often accompanies me for my CBD runs for Miranda during the week )volunteered as sweep, and did a great job bringing the field home safely and ensuring the Coast Track was left in good shape after the race.

The Coastal Classic has secured an early September date for 2012, which in a great outcome.  Winter in too wet, autumn is dominated by 6ft, and summer is way too hot.  Having the race a couple of weeks before the Sydney Marathon and a month out from Fitzroy Falls works really well both weather- and race schedule-wise.  With a family trip to Canada planned for August 2012, I hope to make it back for the third running of this wonderful event.

Well done to Gary and all the crew at Maximum Adventure for another great event!

Linda produced a really great video to cover the event. Filming as a one-person crew, she captured some great video, and the final product really shows the beautiful nature environment the event is held in.

Inov8 and the Coastal Classic 

Posted by Nick Thursday, August 25, 2011 10:00:00 AM

I caught up with Max DeLacy last week - Max heads the Australian distribution of Five Fingers and Inov8, and is a super-keen runner to boot.  After a 10km with running legend Keith Bateman (they both kicked my ass on a 10km run from the Kent St headquarters of BareFoot Inc over to North Sydney - watching Keith glide along in his Vibrams at a sub-4.00 min pace on concrete surfaces is amazing - you'd swear he doesn't make contact with the ground), we did a quick video interview talking about the awesome Inov8 trail shoes and the upcoming Coastal Classic.  Results are here:


Sutherland Half Marathon Race Report 

Posted by Nick Sunday, August 21, 2011 7:53:00 PM

The Sutherland Half Marathon is the main winter trail event of the Sutherland Districts Athletics Club and after running various shorter cross-country events with them all winter, I was pumped for this season finale.  The Half Marathon is a 'truly beautiful out and back course running along Lady Carrington Drive in the Royal National Park', and is pretty flat and fast for a trail event.  Lady Carrington Drive  runs along the Hacking River from the weir at Audley (20m above sea level) 9km up to McKell Drive in the southern section of the Royal (60m above sea level), and while there are no real climbs, there aren't flat sections either and its a undulating course over the entire distance.

Heavy overnight rain closed the weir at Audley, and there was some doubt early Saturday morning whether the event would go ahead.  The southerly wind was howling, and further showers threatened.  Luckily the skys cleared as the morning went on, and a CoolRunning post confirmed that the event was going ahead.

I'd adopted for a mini-taper for the event (2 easy days leading in), with a mild carb depletion early in the week before stocking up on the carbs after Thursday's easy training run of 10km.  With a long 30km CBD on Monday morning, 16km on Tuesday and a hard 17.5km trail run on Wednesday morning, the first half of the week was pretty hard and combined with lower carbs, I was pretty drained by Wednesday night.  The intersting thing was the Wednesday morning run, which result in a 3 min PB over the 17.5km hilly Heathcote loop course.  Running on pretty empty legs doesn't usually result in a PB, and its hard to explain where the fast run came from.  One thing I did notice was that I was flying over the gnarly technical stuff and that was the main reason for the PB.

The race starts at 1:00pm, which is a pretty weird time and makes getting the pre-race nutrition difficult.  My pre-race favorite is Coconut Pancakes in Caramel Sauce topped with some Cookies and Cream icecream, and I decided to double-up on this with 3 pancakes for breakfast and 3 more for lunch broken up by a small bowl of muesli for morning tea.  The pancakes worked well, and I arrived at the start feeling well-fuelled but with no bloating or heaviness.

With an extra 30km of travel due to the closed weir at Audley, the race start was delayed 15min, and competitors were still checking in right up to race start. An out-and-back along Lady Carrington is only 18km, so a 3km circuit along the roads around the Audley picnic areas starts the race before the runners hit Lady Carrington.  A big crowd gathered as 1.15 approached and by the look of some of the entrants, there was some pretty serious 10km and half-marathon runners turning out for the events.  I tucked in behind the elite pack, and aimed to stick with the second pack for the first few kilometers.  Linda spoke to the club president after the race, and with a turn-out of something like 138 runners, the club was very happy with the big turn-out.

The first three kilometers on the paved roads flew by for me - I normally run to pulse rate, but the cool conditions meant that there wasn't enough sweat to form a contact with the pulse monitor, and I ran to feel, pretty alarmed at the pace I was setting (4.06, 4.06, 4.05 km splits for someone with a ~41 min 10km PB) but felt fine so stuck with the runners around me who all seemed to be breathing harder than me at that pace (is the runner beside you always breathing harder or is it an auditory illusion?).  Its ironic that I always struggled with the 13.45 pass time of the military 3.2km fitness test, and I'm now going through 3km in 12.17 in a 21km event.

Going onto Lady Carrington Drive, the field was still pretty bunched around me, and getting through the less muddy sections of the puddles was a bit of a crush. I was running in a tight bunch of three runners, and it was a bit of a surge/ drop-back for each of use to use the same path through the big sections of mud. I'd set a goal pace of 4.30 on the Garmin, hoping to get about 2 minutes ahead of that for a 92.30 finish. The HRM was still not working, so I stuck to a comfortable 4.25 pace, putting more time in the bank and reeling off the kilometers comfortably.

After a muddy and sticking for couple of kilometers, Lady Carrington was a bit drier as elevation increased.  Its hard to say what time impact that mud had, but the Garmin recorded a 20s/km pace drop as soon as we left the pavement.

I was starting to feel a bit tired leading into the turn-around, and sucked down a High5 gel at the 8km mark, as well as grabbing a Gatorade at the 12km turnaround. Gels in a half-marathon aren’t a necessity, but getting used to being able to down a gel every half-hour even when running hard is great digestive training for the longer stuff, and having a gel does seem to help.  High5 gels are so light and smooth that they don't need any drink to wash down and are down with two easy swallows.

An out-and-back course is great to see how other runners are doing, and seeing the elites flying past me going the other way before the turn-around as well as many familiar faces from the club after the turnaround makes the race much more social.  Denis from work (who had got me into running in the first place) was running, and seeing him soon after I made the turn indicated he was having a good race despite a lack of training since King of the Mountain in July.

The back-course is slightly downhill (Google Earth shows the turn-around at 60m above sea-level with the finish at 20m) and I started to increase the pace, with each kilometer going by in around 4.20. To compound the dicky pulse rate monitoring, increased cloud played havoc with GPS reception with a 6.12 km follow by a 2.50 and a 3.27. When the satellite reception settled down, the Garmin was reading about 400m extra distance compared to the blue witches-hat markings, and I decided to ignore it entirely. Thankfully I was running with a good runner (Klaus Heil ) and we dueled well along the way back, with his longer legs giving him an advantage on the slight downhills and I took the lead on the slight uphills.

After a second gel at the 14km mark, the last few distance markers flew by, and the pace picked up. Klaus took a lead that I couldn’t peg back, and we were both chasing down another runner that was fading. Based on the GPS, a 91.xx finished looked likely, but the GPS and distance markers weren’t agreeing, and the end was a bit further along than I expected. Finally crossing the line in 92.38, I was very happy with the time and the 27th place. Linda was at the finish handing out drinks, and the kids were happy to see me and swipe the finisher’s medallion as soon as I was awarded it. I'd only ever run once before at the half marathon distance (first ever race in 2009 with a 1.41 finish), so it was a pretty cheap PB :).

Overall a great event despite the weir issues and the wet track. The hamburgers and cakes at the stalls were awesome, and the kids had a great time at their 2km race and playing around the river. An added bonus was the $50 Bunnings voucher I won right at the end of the day in the lucky draw. Well done Sutherland Athletic on an awesome day, and looking forward to next week’s season finale at Woronora.

Marathon Preperation Going Well 

Posted by Nick Friday, August 05, 2011 8:31:00 PM

Some weeks of training turn out crappy - you go out and do all the sessions, but the legs feel like concrete and the kilometers go by very, very slowly.  Other weeks turn out magic, with the beep of the GPS signaling the completing of another kilometer flying by.  This week was one of those magic weeks, with 2 PBs on long-standing training runs and a great 5km race on Saturday.

The Sutherland Atheltic Cross-Country meet last weekend was over a 5km course at Grays Point (5 and 10k events are usually run separately, but on some weekends when NSW Athletic events are also on, a combined event is run).  The race is over an out-and-back course that features a steep climb over the first kilometer followed by a flatter 1500m to the turn- around.  I warmed up before the race by running the 1k and 2k events pacing my 4yo son followed by my 8yo daughter.  Both kids enjoy their run, and its great running with them.  After the kids races, the 5k field was very big - the great weather bought out a big crowd, and 40-50 folks toed the line for the 2:30 start. 

I took it pretty easy for the first kilometer of the race which features a 60m climb, and wasn't too disappointed to run it in 4.38.  After that, the speed was quicker, with 4.24, 4.17, 4.22 and 3.52 split times for a final time of 21.34 and 8th place.  I was running hard for the final 400m with another runner right on my heels, and I enjoyed playing around with racing strategy - letting him catch up while I took a breather, and then surging ahead to break him.  Coming across the line we both came close to throwing up, with the pulse racing at 180bpm.  It turned out that the guy on my heels was the same guy who had just pipped me at the last Heathcote race, so it was great to hold him off and beat him.

Sunday was a family day at the Rock's Aroma Festival, and as we wanted to get there early, it was up at 5:00am to get the 30km training run in.  With heavy legs from the 5km race 14 hours earlier and a hilly course down towards Cronulla and along Bate Bay before returning along Captain Cook Drive, the pace was pretty relaxed, and I completed the 30km run in 2.39 (5.18 min/km).  The first half of the run was under a really nice starry sky with very few other folks up and around.  As I got to Cronulla, the sun rose over the horizon for a gorgeous sunrise. 

Monday is normally an easy 10km recovery run, but I felt good and wanted fresh legs for a hard run on Wednesday, so took on a 16km run from Lady Macquiries Chair along the water through to Pyrmont.  The goal was to run at or below 165bpm and I had a 4.45 pace dialed into the Garmin as a virtual partner pace to keep an eye on how quick I was going.  Despite a pretty heavy weekend, the legs felt great, and I finished the run with a 4.35 average pace (1.14 total time) and an average pulse of 161bpm.

After a great three days, Tuesday was an easy 10km trying out a new pair of Inov-8 Road-X 255 .  All my road running this year had been on Asics Kayanos and moving to a minimalist road trainer feels very different.  I'm taking it very easy transitioning to these shoes, wearing them only 20km a week on easy runs, and they are starting to feel more comfortable and normal.  The final time for Tuesday's run was 52.13 for the 10.2km.

Wednesday morning was an early start again - up at 5.00am again to hit the Heathcote Loop.  I ran a fast time (1.45) on the course last week to equal my PB, and was sure that with the drier track this week a PB was a certainty.  The run went great, with my feet dancing along the rough and overgrown sections of track around Kangaroo Creek, and the hill climbs going well.  At the top of the last climb, I was about a minute off PB pace, but the last 2.5km is along smooth, open fire trails, and I hammered it on this section, finishing the run in 1.43.29.  Taking 90s off my best time, particularly this time of year where a lot of the run is in the dark using a head-torch was great.

After another easy run Thursday (9km in 46.51), Friday was run-to-work day.  The 29km course is pretty flat and by following the coast-line from Captain Cook Bridge all the way to the Princess Highway at Tempe, there is plenty of great running without the disruption of any traffic lights.  My fastest time for this run had been a 4.45 pace run in the lead-up to TNF100, and feeling good after Wednesday's great hitout, I was keen to give the PB a shake on this run too.  After a slow first 6km in the dark getting through Taren Point, the pace picked up well as the sun came up, and I was peeling off 4.30 min/km with ease along Botany Bay.  The great pace continued as I hit the slightly hillier section along the Princes Highway through Newtown, and after a brief stretch on Broadway, I ducked through to Darling Harbour and hammered the last 2km for a final pace of 4.43 min/km (2.18.05) for the 29km. 

The total distance for the week was 117km, with 3 really good hard runs, 2 moderate intensity runs and 2 easy recovery sessions.  With a high-intensity, high-quality week like this that also included plenty of distance, recovery is really critical, and I've been keeping the fish oil up, wearing compression tights after each hard run, spending 20+ minutes a day stretching and core strengthening, and have got in plenty of quality sleep.

Two weeks to go until the Sutherland Half on 20 Aug, and next weekend is a very hard 12.4k Temptation Creek run with Sutherland Athletic, so theres plenty of racing fun to sharpen up the speed leading into Fitzroy Falls.

New Spring Race Schedule 

Posted by Nick Friday, July 29, 2011 12:12:00 PM

With only 10 weeks to go until Fitzroy Falls, sharpening up the speed and endurance for spring racing is definitely the focus.  I’ve made a few slight modifications to the race schedule, with it now looking like:

20 Aug: Sutherland Half
10 Sep: Coastal Classic
8 Oct : FFFTM
19 Nov: Kauri Ultra (NZ)
The races are nicely spaced apart, with two sharpening events leading into FFFTM, and then a 70km ultra in NZ to flip the switch back to the long stuff.  It will be the first running of the Ultra event at Kauri, and I’m really looking forward to the run.  There are only 13 entrants at the moment, but I’m sure that will swell to at least 40 by race day.  The 70km event looks to have plenty of opportunities for support, with 4 distinct stages and the longest at 23km, and I really hope to have the soon to be released Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 pack for the race to trail it for potential use if both the Cradle Mountain and TNF100 ultras next year.

Back to the marathon first - in 2009, FFFTM was my first marathon and I came in 40th out of 95 finishers with a time of 4.01.  After a lot of training, 22 minutes came off the time in 2010 with a finishing position of 24th.  My FFFTM pace was 13s slower than the King of the Mountain equivalent in 2010 (5:00 vs 5:13), so with a good run at this year's King (4:46 pace), I'm really confident of coming in under the 3:30 mark, with a stretch goal of 3:25.  Looking at previous KoM/ FFFTM pace deltas, everyone is slower at FF, which isn't surprising.  FFFTM is flatter with a total climb of 580m (Google Earth figure) versus 811m at KoM, but KoM is cooler, shorter and with better road/ trail conditions.  At the elite end, Alex Matthews won both events in 2009 with a pace split of 3.53/ 3.56, David Hosking’s 2006 result's were 6th (Kom) vs 3rd (FFFTM) place with a 4.10/ 4.15 pace split, and in 2010 Scott Martin was 19th at KoM with a 4.45 pace and ran an 8th place at FFFTM with a 4.52 pace. 

I’m very much looking to replicate Scott’s 7s delta for a pace of 4.53 and finish time of around 3.26.  Other than the very fast 2007 and 2009 events, 3.26 has been enough to snag a top 10 finish, and continue cutting my position in half (40, 22, 10).  Looking at the great Andrew Lee’s 6ft place improvements, he worked over a decade to go 66th in 2001 followed by 75th, 34th, 20th, 10th, 13th, 7th, 6th, 2nd, 3rd and then finally breaking through for a win this year.  Its inspiring to see hard training leading to continuing and significant improvement, and it would great to at least partially replicate the improvements Andrew achieved.

To keep an eye on progress, I’ve been running cross-country most weekends as part of the Sutherland Athletics Winter Series, with the best race so far being a 6.08km event out at Heathcote on 9 July with a finishing time of 25.25 (4.11 pace) and a finish position of 6th.  The Heathcote course is flatter than FFFTM, but the pace was much quicker than required for a 3.25 finish (as calculated by the Runner’s World Race Time Predictor.  Last week I struggled with the 10km event at Bangor (including getting lost at one stage), and I’m looking forward to some good running this weekend at Gray’s Point with a hilly 5km course on offer. 

The weekly training schedule at the moment is around 130km a week:

Mon:10km easy road run (5.00 pace)
Tue: 17km max effort trail run
Wed 16km general aerobic road run (4.45 pace)
Thu 30km run-to-work run (4.55 pace)
Fri 10km easy road run (5.00 pace)
Sat 5-10km cross-country race
Sun 30-40km long trail run

Running every day hasn’t proved very stressful – I’m really focusing on recovery – sleeping well, 9g fish oil a day, compression tights for the 24 hours after hard runs and plenty of stretching and core strengthening.  Hopefully al this number crunching and analysis delivers those precious minutes of improvement coming 8 Oct.

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