Monday, 22 October 2012

Hills, Hills and more hills!

The goal for this week was to get into the hills and get some confidence back in the legs and know I am going to be sweet tackling the hills at the Great North Walk in a few weeks. Since the Glasshouse 100 I hadn't been able to train much due to a few niggling injuries so I was really excited about starting a week feeling good and with the body in much better shape.

Monday was a pretty quiet day as planned where I saw Nathan in the morning before heading to work for my first day since the holidays. The massage went awesome as usual and I ran a nice 7km after work to Burswood to meet Liz to go for a walk.

On Tuesday I left home early and headed out to Kalamunda to spend the morning out there on the Bibbulmun and Munda Biddi. I always love going out there and it is definitely a favourite spot of mine. I ran along the Bibb to where it joins the Munda Biddi and then took to the MB for just over an hour. Along the MB i had my first stack in a while. I was so zoned out that I clearly forgot to lift my feet and fell over. I first thought that I might have popped my camel back bladder, luckily I hadn't. However I had managed to scratch up and bang up my near brand new iPhone that I always use for the camera. After that I headed out to the Mundaring Weir which was the turnaround point. All up it was bang on 4 hours and 43km with just under 1200m elevation gain. I felt really solid throughout the session and ran the final few hills back up to the car really strong.

Wednesday morning involved meeting Dan at the Fire station where he works to leave from there. Looking back at this run it was probably one of the most enjoyable runs I have done in a while. Some new scenery, new trails and more road running than I have done in recent times. We went up a really cool path up to Kings Park called the Kokoda Trail which was pretty steep with some nice steps. Once we were up at Kings Park it was follow the leader as Dan seemed to find every hill imaginable up there which was awesome. The hill of the day would have to be this 1.2km grassy clearing that leads up to the DNA lookout tower. The hill itself was nothing too steep but so much different from most of the running I have been doing lately. And the view from the top was pretty choice too!

After catching up with Liz for lunch I was out to the old stomping ground at Lesmurdie Falls. I have spent so much time out here the last few months but seemed I hadn't been there in a while so was stoked I was going to be able to squeeze in an hour or so before heading to work. It was a bit warmer this afternoon which worked in with my whole 'trying to run in the heat' preparation. Just over 11km with a few nice hills was a great way to end the day training.

Thursday morning was back to the Bibbulmun with James coming along as well. The plan was to just go for a couple of hours but ended up being a bit longer. It was an absolute cracker of a morning to be running. The legs felt a little tired today but pretty good considering the week to date. Once again it was a tad warmer which was good weather to be training in.

I ended up taking a rest day on Friday with the intention of freshening up for Saturday's run. I also went in to see the physio today to get some more acupuncture done on my calf muscle and hamstring to loosen things up. Initially after the physio appointment I was a little worried as my calf muscle was feeling really really tight and sore. However this passed as the afternoon went on and I was hopeful that Saturday's run was going to be a good one.

Saturday was another relatively early start meeting James and an Irish bloke Thomas in Kalamunda. The plan was to meet there and then take one car south to start on the Bibbulmun around the Mt Cooke area. I was really excited about today's run as it involved running up and over three of the highest points on the Darling Scarp. Mt Cooke stands at 582m, not overly high but high enough that it is a decent climb up to the top. We parked on Millar Log Road and planned to do an out and back over Mt Cooke and then another out and back the opposite direction over Mt Vincent and Mount Cuthbert. The pace was relatively quick from the get go this morning for some apparent reason. Probably due to me having rather fresh legs after taking Friday off. I was also pretty keen to get a really good session in today and also do it in the forecasted 28deg.

What can I say about the run itself.... It was by far the most fantastic run I have done on Australian soil. The single trails leading up to Mt Cooke were fantastic and then the final grind up to the top was great also. The decent over the other side was truly awesome!! There were these amazing rock slabs that went on for hundreds of metres. For once on Australian trail there were no markers and just rock cairns to lead the way. I was like a kid in a toy shop running down there, just hammering it down the side of the mountain.

Once we got back to the car after the first out and back we headed off in the other direction along the Bibb to tackle Mt Vincent and Mt Cuthbert. The initial climb up the trail from the road where the car was parked was relatively steep but runnable. It was here I said to James and Thomas that they were more than welcome to push ahead on this out and back if they wanted to as I planned to take it a little easier. That plan didn't really last long at all. The main problem I have with running trails and in particular hills is that I hate taking hills easy. They are by far the most enjoyable part of trail running for me so love the challenge of a grind to the top. Once we go to the top of Mt Vincent, James decided to cruise back to the car from there. So Thomas and I carried on to go over Mt Cuthbert and then drop down to the Monadnocks Campsite which was just over 5km from where James left. The climb up to Mt Cuthbert and return was pretty tough. By then it had heated up to around 28-30deg and Thomas was definitely feeling the heat. I don't blame the poor guy, coming from wearing gore tex jackets, beanie and gloves to this was a huge difference!

On the way back we ran pretty solid and I also managed to completely miss a snake I had jumped over top of. Just a small one but big enough that Thomas called out for me to come back and have a look. Really makes you remember that you have to keep an eye out as sometimes they are so hard to see.

It was such an awesome run and great to be running with two super fit guys to push each other along. Thomas is also looking to qualify and then run at the World 100km Champs in 2013 in South Korea, something that I am looking into as well so will be great to get many more training sessions in like this one. Thomas currently holds the Irish record for the 100km at 7hr5min so If I can learn as much as I can off him I will be in good stead.

It's now less than 3 weeks until James and I head over to run the Great North Walk 100. I'm really looking forward to this challenge and relishing the opportunity to get in the hills and have a tough task ahead. I have been reading through forums and blogs about the GNW which all mention how tough, hilly and technical the course is and also how hot it normally is. It seems like everything about this race is going to suit my strengths being hills and technical terrain. The more of that there is, the less flat fast stuff I have to run :)

It was fantastic to get some good quality training in this week with also having a few rest/easy days to keep the legs in good shape. I am now in preparation for the GNW and thinking about getting my body in the best possible shape for the race. The training build up has been no where near as settled as the lead up to Glasshouse, however my legs are feeling stronger than they did despite this. Only time will tell!

Total km's for the week was 155.2km
Total elevation gain was 4102m

The awesome rock slabs coming back up to Mt Cooke from the South

Mt Cooke hut is only 5.5km from the car park

Thomas doing an Irish pose....?

Thomas at the top of Mt Cooke (582m)


Thomas running some rocky downhill

James and Thomas on the top of Mt Vincent (486m)

Sunday, 14 October 2012

All aboard the Ultramarathon Roller Coaster....

The past few weeks have involved a lot of ups and downs. Since the Esperance Half Marathon on the 30th September I have been having a few issues with my hamstring tendon and popliteus muscle which has meant I have done very little training, and the training I have done has not had much quality to it at all. On the Thursday after Esperance I met Adam and James out at the Heritage Rail Trail to do an easy 1.5hrs along there. To be honest, the most exciting part about this run was trying out a new nutrition product from Hammer Nutrition called Perpetuem. Perpetuem as far as Ultra running nutrition goes is the bees knees from what I had heard so after completing the Glasshouse 100 I was pretty keen to try some of this.

The Perpetuem seemed to work a treat and my energy levels maintained consistency throughout the run, although it's hard to get a real gauge on such a short run. The rest of the run with Adam and James was pretty average. My leg wasn't too happy, not enough to make me stop or slow at all but enough to keep reminding me it was there. I decided after this run that I really needed to get things right before I even thought about running again. Back to the drawing board...

The day after the run along the heritage trail I went and saw a new physio to get his opinions and thoughts on what exactly was going on with this leg of mine. After a quick analysis he told me that due to having really tight upper hamstrings & glutes it was putting a lot of pressure through the hamstring tendon and in effect causing pain in the popliteus. So..... five minutes later I had a leg full of needles and was clutching at the sheet on the physio table.

The next day I was feeling the benefits of the physio treatment and was optimistic things were going to turn for the best. Liz and I were heading down to do the Cape to Cape for our honeymoon/one year anniversary which is a 135km hike from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin on the south west coast of WA. After 13km and 5 snakes we decided to pull the pin and take an alternative route down the coast. I was pretty happy with this decision also for the fact my hamstring tendon wasn't too happy being under the load of a 20kg pack walking along the sandy beach.

I didn't run again until the Wednesday with frequent self massage and icing during this period to try and get things to settle again. By this stage I was starting to get pretty annoyed with my current situation as it had been near on 4 weeks since Glasshouse and all I had really done running wise was the Esperance half marathon. So in the space of a little over 2 months I had gone from running near on every day and absolutely loving how things were going, doing Glasshouse and then seeing things slowly ease back to basically no running at all. It has mainly been so frustrating because my body apart from the mentioned injuries has been feeling absolutely fantastic, I started feeling much better even only 3-4 days after Glasshouse.

I got a short run in on some really nice trail in Margaret River on Tuesday 9th October, only 30mins which went pretty well, no pain as such but things didn't feel 100% still. No snakes so pretty stoked with that too!

On Wednesday, I managed to get a 2hr run in when we were in Augusta on a relatively warm day. The Great North Walk 100km in November is likely to be very warm so I was pleased to get a run in and also in the heat. The run went pretty well, apart from forgetting to take any food or gels (I'm pretty good at forgetting that!). I ran some really cool trails in and around the air strip and then headed out towards Cape Leeuwin. It wasn't until about 3km from the house that I started feeling the leg again. Nothing too major but definitely that same pain. A pretty good run and saw a really cool Monitor Lizard which was pretty awesome!

When we returned to Perth on the Friday I was feeling good and optimistically hoping I could go for a run. I headed out to Kalamunda aiming at around a 1hr30min jog/run along some of my favourite trails. FINALLY!!! I managed to get through a run with NO pain at all. I was so happy running along and just loving being back on the trails. If anyone was watching me I would have looked like a real loose unit gallivanting around the bush with a massive smile on my face. I just couldn't get enough!

Saturday morning involved an early morning run around the Swan River with fellow Hoka lover Dan. We did an easy 14km with the final few km pushing into a fresh breeze. Dan has just been getting back into running since footy finished for the season in preparation for the Anaconda Adventure Race and is already running pretty well with a month or so to go before the race!

Saturday afternoon was a catch up with James on the Bib again for 2hrs of great trails. Once again I finished this run feeling really good and stoked with the progress I was making and how the body was pulling up after each run.

Sunday morning involved meeting James at his place in Kalamunda and then we headed to the Bib again but much further south in search of some new trail. The run started off with a bit of drizzle but that soon passed. We just planned on doing an out and back to keep things simple. I tried the Cafe Latte flavour of the Perpetuem in a 3hr bottle today which was interesting. I based the mixture off the directions online and then soon found out that there were new directions based on body weight and I had put too much powder in. Whoops! Long story short, I was thankful for the huts along the way and more so the long drop toilet facilities that they had. Rookie error number one with the Perpetuem, fingers crossed there aren't too many more. It was great to get out on a new trail and explore a new part of the Bib. I also managed to convince James it was a good idea to run back up a few hills just off the Bib which was real fun too!

So basically the last week of running has been going really well! I have managed to put together a pretty solid week and I am really happy with how things are going. I am seeing my massage therapist Nathan tomorrow so looking forward to giving the legs a good shake out.

The other super exciting, absolutely awesome news that has happened in the past 2 weeks is that I now have RaceReady Australia taking me on as a sponsored athlete. I am stoked to have their support and am really looking forward to seeing where things go with it as they have some truly outstanding products, mainly their super pocket shorts. I have been running in these shorts religiously since moving to Australia so I was over the moon when they approached me. Go to if you would like to check out some of their gear. The shorts are outstanding and really awesome for carrying gels, tablets, gloves, cell phone etc etc and as I have found out this week the shirts and singlets are really comfortable to run in as well!!

The last couple of weeks as you can see have been a real roller coaster of a ride and I am so happy to be where I am now, 4 weeks out from the Great North Walk 100 and starting to feel like I am getting back to normal and I am excited about the next few weeks training and getting some really good hills in.

Total distance : 116.7km
Elevation gain: 2,184m

Running along the Bib with my flash new RaceReady gear :)

Some colourful flowers :)

The trail I ran along in Margaret River

The Blackwood River in Margaret River at sunset

Along the Airstrip

Running alongside the Airstrip in Augusta

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse viewed from the scenic route

Amazing coastline in Augusta

Monitor Lizard on the scenic route to Cape Leeuwin

Brookton Hut on the Bib

Some nice fast Bibbulmun trail

Top of Mt Dale

Monday, 1 October 2012

Esperance 1/2 Marathon - 2012

This past week has been another week of ups and downs as far as how the body has been feeling. After having a recovery week last week the plan was to do much of the same this week in hope I would feel ok heading into the Esperance 1/2 Marathon. This hamstring tendon niggle I have is getting a bit tedious now, it decides on a daily basis of how it is going to feel. 

I had a couple of massages from Nathan at Massageworks HQ this week. It's great having so much confidence in someone who seems to always work things out regarding any niggles or tight muscles. I made an executive decision early this week that I wasn't going to get a hell of a lot out of pushing it too much and running this week before Esperance. 

On the Friday after we arrived in Esperance I decided I should probably test out this damn hamstring tendon and see if he was going to play nice for me. The plan was a short 8km along the Esperance sea front with a 2km interval at race pace. The whole run went really nicely. Liz my wonderful wife came along on the bike which was fun. The 2km at race pace went awesome and the hamstring felt fine. Stopping about 300m from home and walking the last wee bit was good to shake the legs out.

I find it really interesting running fast for such a short time. I think that is the ultra runner/trail runner coming out in me but I find myself questioning whether I enjoy running fast or not. I appreciate all forms of running being 100 metres or 100 miles, and I think it's great that there is a distance for everyone. 

The forecast for race day was near on perfect and Esperance certainly delivered! The forecast read 23deg and sunny with the wind not coming in until 11am. I am pretty naive in general when it comes to warming up and for most of the running I do I tend to plug in the headphones, crank on some crazy fast dance music for a couple of minutes before the race and pretend like I know what I'm doing. As far as warming up for a half marathon, I wasn't too sure what to do. Thankfully I remembered Nathan mentioning something about stride outs at race pace or something similar so I rolled with this. 

I got on the start line feeling quite chuffed that the body was really warm and feeling pretty good. I was pretty nervous before the race started as I really had no idea how this was going to pan out. I had a rough time in mind but no idea if this was really achievable based on my current training and also coming off the Glasshouse 100km 2 weeks ago.

We started and quickly there was a lead group of around 5 runners cruising along at 3:30 pace. Almost instantly we were feeling the wind as it had picked up in the last half hour before the race. After the first lap of 7ish km (22:46) the 5 soon became 2. A couple of young guns had pushed the envelope a little too hard early on. Starting out on the 2nd lap I worked out I had about a 5 sec lead on 2nd place who was breathing down my neck and appeared to be running strongly. The main issue with the wind was heading out to the Castletown turnaround point which was a mere 3.5km so I was pretty happy to push a little harder to maintain a reasonable pace. By the time I got to Castletown I had extended the lead to about 30 seconds.

The tail wind on the way back to the start finish line was awesome. It certainly made maintaining pace a little easier than on the way out. I ran pretty cautiously on the way back as I knew I still had another stint into the wind coming up which I wanted to run strong. A quick swig of water at the start/finish turnaround and I was off on the final push of the race. As I headed off on the final lap I soon realised I had a pretty comfortable lead which was pleasing. I still wanted to run well into the wind as anything can happen. The final km before the turn was where I think the memories from the Glasshouse 100km came back to say hello. The quads pretty quickly became heavier and I was quite thankful that I only had a km or so before I got to bring it home with a nice breeze at my back.

The final 3.5km to the finish was really fun. Seeing second place a wee bit behind enabled me to ease back slightly and really enjoy the final few kms. Running past the 5 & 10km runners as they were heading out was fun and good to say hello to a few people as they went by.

I crossed the line in 76:42 to win and beat my only other half marathon time of 84mins. I was really stoked with how the body held up after how the last few weeks had gone and considering Glasshouse was only 2 weeks earlier. After a quick dip into the ocean to cool the legs down I headed back to the start finish area where a good mate of mine Grant Wholey came in at 93mins. A PB for him I believe and well under the running calculator time of 97mins. Good luck to Grant at the Melbourne Marathon in 2 weeks time.

I had new shoes on my feet for the race being the Hoka One One Stinson Evo Tarmacs. These shoes arrived on Thursday before the race so I wasn't going to have weeks to wear them in and soften them up. That didn't really bother me in the slightest as I had pretty much done similar things when I got the Bondi B's. I was able to do my quick 8km on Friday in them to at least see how they felt. WOW! Talk about comfort. It literally feels like you are being propelled forward with every step! I'll do a full review of the Tarmacs once I have put a few more km's in them but they were outstanding as far as performance goes and I was really happy to be running in them on race day. They made running on bitumen fun ;) A huge thank you to Roger at Hoka Australia for organising those for me. 

A big thank you to the race directors and all of the aid station volunteers for running such a smooth race. Your smiles and cheering was awesome! It was great to race in Esperance this year, as last year I was busy getting married! A pretty good reason to skip a race ;) Thanks to the number one cheer-squad in WA - Livy, Madi, Amitty, Faye and of course Liz for cheering me along on the way.

I'm almost glad in a way that this race is over now so I can get back to the trails and back to a part of running that I really love. It was really cool to run a relatively quick time and know I still have speed despite my current training regime being a bit slower and longer to get ready for 100km races. I cannot wait for the Great North Walk 100, bring it on!!

And we're off!


Running along the sea front

Stretching that damn hammy!
Cooling the legs down after the race

Before the start