Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Out of Two Bays

Yesterday I sent a message to the Two Bays Trail Run RD informing him of my withdrawal from the race in January. This has been very disappointing, as everything I have done this year since April has been based around performing well in this race.

So what happened? Well, a week and a half ago I headed down to Arthurs Seat for a 42k long run on the hilliest part of the Two Bays course - the 7km section between the Dromana Information Centre and Waterfall Gully Road. I do three out & backs on this section, which allows me to change bottles at my car, and gives me a great hills workout.

After bombing the downhill near McLarens Dam the first time at about the 6km mark, I noticed some pain developing in the front of my shin on my right leg. At first it only hurt on the downhills, but by the end of my second lap, it was very painful, and I was unable to even start my third lap.

The leg got progressively worse all week, with the pain extending from my foot, all the way up to just below the knee. By Thursday I was hobbling around in agony and got an x-ray thinking there was almost certainly a stress fracture. There was no fracture, but my doctor was able to diagnose it as inflammation of the tendon/muscle sheath of my tibialis anterior, the muscle that runs along the outer side of the tibia.

It can be caused by different factors, and my view is that there was a number of things that all added up, and created a perfect storm for the condition to develop. Namely:
  • Doing a hard 33k run in lightweight racing flats that probably shouldn't be used on runs above 20k.
  • A limited training week due to work travel where I tried to do too much, at too high intensity, to make up for missed runs.
  • An inadequate recovery from the 30/50 Challenge that put me over the top once I resumed normal training loads.
  • Tightness in my calf muscle causing an imbalance in the leg.
  • Ongoing achilles tendinitis in my left leg, causing me to put more stress on my right.
Whatever has caused it, the fact is I have to rest for a couple of weeks minimum at a time when I should be putting in my biggest mileage weeks, so there was no way I was going to be able to perform at a decent level.

So all I can do is suck it up and keep it in perspective. While it was my main race target this season, my last two races have surpassed anything I could have hoped for when I set my goals down in April, so I have to be thankful for that.

I will start running again on Christmas Day (in my new Adios Boosts!), and work towards a start at Maroondah Dam 50k in March.

Merry Christmas to you all!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

30/50 Challenge 50k - Race Report

I woke at 3am on the Saturday race morning having a mild panic attack, and thinking that getting out of bed in 2 hours time to go race the 30/50 Challenge 50k was the last thing I wanted to do. I wasn't prepared, the beach sections would be too hard, & I just wasn't up to it.

Fortunately, I was able to get back to sleep, and when I woke at 5:00, I was in a slightly better frame of mind. The beautiful drive down the Mornington Peninsula Freeway, where the early morning fog lay like a blanket over the valley, further improved my mood.

I arrived at Rosebud about 45 minutes before the 7am start, and was getting myself organised at the back of the car, when another runner pulled up and parked next to me, and we started chatting. His name was Oliver, originally from Germany, and he had recently run the Melbourne Marathon in 3:09. Oh well, I thought, that's at least one runner ahead of me!

The 50k start line at Rosebud

I signed in, did my warm up, then dumped my outer clothes at the car and headed to the start line. I knew last year's winner Simon Marcus was running as he had commented on the event Facebook page, but had no idea of what other competition was in the race. Simon had put in some pretty good performances during the year, including a 12th at the Australian Trail Championships at Maroondah Dam in February, and a 12th at Surf Coast Century 100km in September in 10:10.

Race Director Sam Rowse sent us away on the stroke of 7, and we headed up the hill into Arthurs Seat State Park, and then quickly dropped into a steep downhill past McLarens Dam. Straight away, Simon went to the front with another runner that looked familiar, while I settled into third closely behind them. The pace was fast, and already I was breathing hard trying to keep up, and when we left the park and started the short road section, the first two started to pull away.

Soon we were back on the trail, which was quite overgrown, and dropped sharply into a tricky descent, and by the time we crossed Browns Road they had gapped me. The next 2km on Hyslops Rd was a straight, gradual uphill dirt road where I could get a good look at the distance to the two ahead, and also see that there was already a good distance back to fourth. At this point, Simon started to pull away from the other runner, who I in turn started to make ground on.

As we reached the entrance of the Mornington Peninsula National Park at 6km, I had caught the runner in second, and we introduced ourselves and started chatting. His name was Andy and I had recognized him from the Two Bays Trail Run photos. He always stuck out because his name in the results was Andy "Snake Man" Turner, which I always thought was funny. Turns out he is a qualified snake handler - a very handy man to have around on the Two Bays Trail! He was also a mate of Simon's and had finished close behind him at Surf Coast Century.

The first section of the park is known as Greens Bush, and is simply beautiful single track. Andy and I ran solidly together, enjoying the scenery before I decided to pick up the pace and see if I could get a glimpse of Marcus, but he was flying out in front, and Andy soon caught back up and we resumed our tempo, occasionally swapping the lead.

At about the 10k mark, the trail headed downhill and became more technical, and Andy cranked up the pace. At first I tried to keep up, but twice nearly fell, so I had to let him go. This was obviously his preferred terrain, and I wasn't going to wreck my race trying to match him. I almost resigned myself to trying to just keep third place, but as the trail headed uphill again, I gradually began to reel him in.

By the 15k mark at Boneo Road, we were back together again, and for the next 5k along the Bushrangers Bay track, settled in to a pattern of him making a break on the descents, then me catching up on the climbs. With 1k to go before Cape Schanck, I finally broke away and ran into the 20k aid station with a small buffer. I quickly filled my bottle, grabbed a couple of gels, and booked out of there, running hard past the famous lighthouse and up Cape Schanck Road.

Coming in to Cape Schanck at the 20k in 2nd

Here, the course left the Two Bays Trail, and joined the beginning of the Coastal Trail, following it all the way along the ocean side of the Peninsula to Portsea, where the race would finish. The 30k runners had left Cape Schanck at 8:30, only minutes before our arrival, and the next 5k of single track was crowded with runners, all of whom were terrific in moving aside to let me pass. In truth, I was slightly appalled at how quickly I had run the first 20k (1:36), and was happy to slow down occasionally where the track was narrow.

I didn't know how far Andy was behind me though, and now I had second I wanted to keep it, so I kept pushing as I ran on to the sand for the first beach section at the 26k mark, race half done. It was soon apparent that we were in for a tough day. It was nearly high tide, so it was either soft sand, or risk getting your feet wet as the waves crashed in over the harder stuff. I took a risk on the latter, knowing I had a change of shoes waiting at 32k, but it wasn't much help. Even the wet sand was pretty soft, and my shoes and socks were soon soaked and  full of sand. There was brief respite at the Gunnamatta Life Saving Club check point, but it was soon back on the beach for another 5k slog.

Andy "Snake Man" Turner

At St Andrews Beach at the 32k mark I finally saw two little blond heads sitting on the beach with their Nanna, and I ran smiling towards them, giving them both high fives, before running up to the CP, where their mum was waiting for me with change of socks and shoes, and a fresh drink and gels. I quickly changed, grabbed my bottle, and Allie gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, told me I was about ten minutes down, and sent me back down the steps to the beach for the toughest leg of the race.

The next 8k of the race was a mixture of soft sand beach running, and sand dunes or cliff-top track , and was without a doubt some of the toughest conditions I have run in. By the time the course finally headed slightly inland, I was still passing the 30k runners, but my legs felt like they were barely ticking over. But as I started to enjoy being on the single track again, I gradually increased the pace, and by the time I rolled into the Koonya CP at 43k, I felt like a new man. Surprisingly, Allie and everyone was there, as I hadn't expected to see them again until the finish, and after I refilled my bottle and downed my last gel, she came up and quietly told me that I was only five minutes down.

Runners make their way along one of the long beach sections

Up until that point I had been running scared, with a view to keeping Andy at bay for second and thinking Simon was untouchable, but for the first time I started to believe there was the slightest possibility of catching him. Still, 5 minutes sounded like a lot with only 7k to go, but I decided to give it everything, and ran hard out of the CP, and for the next 2k lengthened stride, concentrated on my breathing & cadence, and was fully focused & totally immersed in the race. And then finally, at around 45k, on some open dune trail, I rounded a corner and was rewarded with my first sighting of Simon since the 5k mark of the race.

He was about 200 metres ahead uphill and about to follow the course back into the bushland, so I lost sight of him again almost immediately, but the effect it had on me was like a shot of adrenaline. It was race on, and I ran up the hill and followed him down the track, preparing myself for one final push. At 46k, the trail dropped down to the Ocean Beach Road crossing at Sorrento back beach, where there were quite a few spectators. As I crossed the road, I heard someone say "looks like we've got a race".

I looked up ahead, and there was Simon, barely 50 metres up the trail, and not travelling quickly. I took a few seconds to compose myself, and work out a plan of attack. I know there are some who say ultra convention dictates that the passer runs with the passee for a time, exchanging pleasantries, before politely saying "do you mind if I...?", but the hell with that. I hadn't won a race since 1985, and this was going to be my day. I wanted to make it a quick kill, so I powered up the next hill, gave Simon a semi-apologetic "hey mate" as I passed, and then ran like I just stole something.

The course had a few teeth left though, and straight after clocking a 4:49 split for kilometre 47, it spat me back down to the beach for another 2km of sand. The tide had started to go out, so there was some harder sand to run on, but the slowing pace still had me looking back over my shoulder. As I approached Portsea Life Saving Club, I started to cramp, and slowed down to a walk through the soft sand that took me to the bottom of the steep stairs up to Back Beach Road.

In the lead on the final stretch of sand at Portsea back beach

I could only walk up the stairs, and it was a slow ascent, constantly looking back down along the beach seeing if I could spot Simon, but when I got to the top, I was told I had a big lead, so allowed myself the luxury of a slow jog up the hill, still wary of the ever present cramp. The final 2k was a straight downhill road section, and I ran steadily down it, knowing I had the race won, and buzzing on the feeling.

Turning onto Point Nepean Road, my feet barely touched the ground, and when I crossed the road to the foreshore reserve and saw my family there going crazy, it felt like it was a pretty good day. I crossed the line in 4:38, a new course record by 35 minutes. Simon came in 6 minutes later, and Andy was third in 4:58, also under the old course record. Jane McMillan was first female home in 5:24, breaking the old record by a matter of seconds. My new German friend Oliver was 4th individual male home in a terrific 5:33.

Full race results at:

Race finish & post race interview

When I look back at the race now, it's weird I woke with such a feeling of dread, as I can't imagine having a better day. Absolutely everything went right, from pre-race taper, fueling, hydration, and pace. I felt strong pretty much the whole day, and never had any stomach issues, or any really low points where I wanted to stop.

Men's podium - Andy Turner (3rd), Me, & Simon Marcus (2nd)

Many things played into my hands, especially Andy's fast pace through Greens Bush which kept me within striking distance of Simon. And while the seemingly endless sand was torturous, it probably suited me more than the others, as I am light, and my mid foot strike gives me better movement over the surface than those who dig in with a heel or forefoot.

While I am over the moon with the win, I am far from deluded about where it sits in the grand scheme of things. The next day there was a 50k trail race at Marysville where I would have been lucky to run top 6. And I will have to improve even further if I want to make the top ten at Two Bays, if the normal high class field shows up.

Still, a win is a win, and it was certainly a day I'll never forget. Sam and his team put on a great race, which was especially suited to people new to trail & ultra running, with pre-race training days and an evening briefing session. I certainly plan to be back to defend my title next year!

What I used

Adidas Adios 2 shoes - 0-32k
Adidas Lite Arrow shoes - 32-50k
Adidas Response 7" shorts
Adidas Climalite Cap
Ventou Elite Singlet
2 pairs Thorlo Experia Coolmax Socks - changed at 32k
500ml plastic drink bottle

6 x Shotz Gels
1 litre Torq lemon carb/electrolyte drink
1 litre Shotz electrolyte drink

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

30/50 Challenge 50k - Preview

The 30/50 Challenge is a team or individual trail race held on the Mornington Peninsula on November 16th. I will be competing in the 50k individual event, which starts from Rosebud Golf Course, and runs along the Two Bays Trail until Cape Schanck, then continues along the Coastal Walk, finishing at the Portsea foreshore.

30/50 Challenge Course

Up until a week ago I would have said I was in better shape than before Yurrebilla, but the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival has taken its toll, with plenty of socialising & imbibing taking place. On Saturday, we hosted our 8th straight "Derby-Q", which started at 1:30 in the afternoon, and finished up around 3:00am.

Needless to say, it has set me back a little in my fitness, but I had a good tempo hit out today, and will probably go in to the race around the same form I was in prior to Yurrebilla. And with 6k less to travel, I'm hoping for a reasonable performance.

The race will have some challenges. There is no drop bag service, or transport from finish back to start line, so it really does rely on you having some assistance - at the very least to drive you back to your car! They supply both gels and electrolyte along the course, fortunately the brand I use, so nutrition isn't the biggest issue.

The major issue is the 15k of sand that is interspersed along the back half of the course in 1.5-3k sections. I don't mind beach running, but with that much of it, I'm worried the sand will get into my shoes and tear my feet up a bit, requiring some blister patching & probable sock/shoe change at some point.

So instead of my original plan,  which was just to meet my family at the end, I will have a rendezvous with them at CP4 at the 32k mark. A drink of coke and fresh socks might make all the difference!

The biggest upside is the finish near the famous Portsea Hotel, where we will no doubt have a few celebratory drinks at afterwards. As there is also the Marysville 50k on the same weekend, which is likely to attract most of the top runners, I think if I run up to my Yurrebilla form, I might be a chance for a top 6 placing.

Portsea Hotel

Monday, October 21, 2013


Since the excitement of Yurrebilla a month ago, it has been difficult to recapture the intensity and focus of my training leading up to that event. My next event will be far less significant to me, and I have become a bit slack with some of my efforts.

Additionally, achilles tendinitis has returned in my left leg, something which has plagued me on and off for several years now, and has left me limping my way through my recent runs. I am gradually getting it under control through eccentric heel drop exercises, while as my training load ramps up again, it tends to lessen as well.

Overall I have felt a little unmotivated, injured, and just not on my game. Things turned around for me a little on Friday night, when a went for an epic 43km run in which I covered sandy single track, beach sections, some rocky technical trail, stairs, and some fire trail. There were lots of climbs to stretch out the achilles, and the beautiful evening and setting sun had me finishing very tired but happy.

On Saturday Allie and attended the Caulfield Cup, which was great fun, but basically put me out of action for two days, as our absence meant spending some time with the kids was the priority on Sunday. I was still able to rack up a 92km week though, but it's time to get serious again if I want to perform well in the 30/50 Challenge on November 16.

Me and Allie at the Caulfield Cup

So no more slacking off! 124km are booked in for this week, including some punishment at Arthurs Seat on Sunday, when I will revisit the training run that prepared me so well for Yurrebilla.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Yurrebilla Trail 56k - Race Report

The 800km drive from Melbourne over to Adelaide with my son Sullivan was pretty uneventful, leaving Friday lunchtime, staying overnight in Horsham, and arriving at my parents house early Saturday afternoon. Sul sat down to lunch with Granny & Poppa, while I headed out for an easy 5k to shake the legs out.

Sunday morning I left early, and headed to the race start at Belair Railway Station, arriving just in time to see the second (Group B) wave depart at 7:30. Runners at Yurrebilla are sent off in 3 waves at hourly intervals, with the fastest (Group A) runners departing last, which limits the time volunteers are out on the course, and allows greater interaction between runners of all abilities.

Group B ready to roll

I hooked up with my brother TJ to offload the crew bag, gave my niece & nephew a big hug, and TJ headed off to drop his kids off with my parents and Sully, who would all be there at the finish. I then checked in, dumped my drop bags, and had a look around while warming up.

My hopes for a top 10 finish had faded in the last couple of weeks before the run, as they continued to announce some high profile entrants on the race Facebook page. There was former TNF100 winner Stu Gibson, top Victorian trail runners Kevin Mannix & Toby Wiadrowski, and leading endurance athlete & coach Andy DuBois, who writes what I consider to be one of the best ultra running blogs out there -

Still, as I stood on the start line for my third ultra, I was feeling surprisingly relaxed, confident in my preparation, and sure of my race plan. And when Race Manager Sadie Cranston sent us away on the stroke of 8:30, I was quickly into stride and on the back of the leading group.

Soon though, the heavy artillery in the race powered away off into the distance, and I settled into a position about 15th behind two other runners, as we headed downhill for about 1.5k, before heading up the first minor climb. At this point our small group joined the one ahead of us and I made maybe the most important decision of my race. Not happy with the slowing pace, I asked to pass, and swung around the 5 other runners, and continued to climb quickly but within myself.

After the first climb, there was a downhill of about 6k, including a longish road section that took us down into Brownhill Creek, and on this section I was passed by three tall eager beavers, using their long loping strides to fly down the hill. Although I ran three low 4 min k's through this part, I held back, just running easily down to the 10k drink stop, where I topped up with water, and then went to work.

The next section I had identified as the most crucial of my race - a long 8km climb up to Cleland Wildlife Reserve, where I would use my relatively fresh legs, and my hills training to bank some time. I felt great through this whole climb, and quickly picked off two of my beavers, before catching the third at about the 14k mark, and then ran well up to the drink stop at the 15k mark where Sadie informed me I was in 9th place. I filled my water bottle, popped an electrolyte tablet in it, and crossed onto Mt Barker Road to continue the last 3km of the climb along the road section.

Still feeling good at the 14k mark

As I crossed the road, I could see 7th & 8th place running together up ahead, one of whom I recognized as elite female runner, Steph Gaskell. I was still feeling great at this point, and ran a couple of sub 5 min k's, even passing a cyclist as I made steady ground on the two ahead. Shortly after I turned off the road into Cleland, I caught Gaskell, although her companion had seemingly dropped her and was nowhere to be seen!

We started a tricky little descent down into the park, and Gaskell offered to let me pass, but I politely declined, seeing how easily she was skipping over the rocks in her grippy, minimal trail shoes, while I was trying not to trip over my own feet. I held back a bit to give her a bit of space, and before long we reached the bottom of the descent, and headed up the hill towards the 20k major aid station.

Trying to keep up with Steph Gaskell in Cleland

I passed Gaskell almost immediately on the climb, but as soon as we hit the aid station, I stopped to restock from my drop bag, while she ran straight through it as she was running with a hydration pack. I took off pretty quickly after her, but made my first major mistake. Stupidly, I had chosen to freeze my drink bottles, and the one I grabbed was still frozen solid, but thinking it would melt quickly, didn't worry about it.

For the next 12km Gaskell, and I traded 8th position, but my biggest worry at this point was my water which was not melting as quickly as I had hoped. I was only able to top it up at the 27k drink station because it was still too frozen to mix electrolyte, and I wasn't getting enough hydration to help digest my gels.

Finally, by the 32k drink station at Woods Hill Rd, the ice had melted, and I refilled my bottle and dropped in my electrolyte tablet. This delay in getting electrolytes into my body was to prove near disastrous towards the finish, but more on that later. Meanwhile, Gaskell ran through the drink station, took back 8th, and I didn't see her again as she powered through the field for a Female Category win, and a brilliant 6th overall. What a runner!

The next section of the race was a steady downhill run to the 37k Morialta Cottage aid station, including a road section past the Scenic Hotel in the picturesque town of Norton Summit. I didn't enjoy much of the view though, as it quickly became apparent I was in a bit of trouble. For the first time in a race I was having stomach issues. Normally I have a very strong stomach, but I think training on minimal nutrition, then taking a gel every 5k with insufficient hydration had caused a mini rebellion.

TJ had my drop bag ready when I hit Morialta Cottage, but I took my time there, staying three minutes while drinking some coke and trying to get myself together. Poor TJ had to jump quickly out of the way as I twice emptied the meagre contents of my stomach near his feet. I then made another error. I wasn't silly enough to take the frozen water again, but as I still had half of my last electrolyte mix, elected to carry on with just that rather than fill and make a new batch, reasoning I would be able to fill up at the next drink station.

Eventually I took off, and the next part of the race is the highlight for me. Even though I wasn't feeling great, I kept rolling at a reasonable clip, pushing myself forward, knowing that I would come good. At my first ultra in January, I had hit a bad patch and fallen in a heap, and was determined not to let that happen again. 

It was a truly magnificent part of the course as I descended down into Morialta Falls, then began the long climb back up towards the Deep View Lookout drink station, with beautiful views looking back over the gorge. About half way up the climb I heard a runner approach from behind, which wasn't surprising given my recent travails, but surprising that it was Andy DuBois, who I had assumed was somewhere up ahead. I moved aside to let Andy past, marveling at how steady, rhythmic, and in control he looked at this stage of the race. Pacing himself beautifully, as you'd expect from such an experienced runner.

Looking back over Morialta Falls

As I reached Deep View Lookout at 42k, I was in for another surprise. My water bottle was empty, but they were unable to let me fill it as they were running low on water. I could have a cup though. So I drank some of the offered coke, then poured the cup of water into my drink bottle which half filled it. Again I made an error. Instead of breaking a tablet in half and getting some electrolytes into me, I ran on with just the water. The next drink station is only 3k away I said. I'll take some then I said.

I didn't much care though. I had turned the corner, and attacked the rest of the climb with purpose. Running everything runnable, and power hiking the pinches until I came over the hill and started the long downhill run to Montacute Road. I had made the decision before the race that I was going to trust my quads on all the downhills, and not baby them, believing that the trashing I had given them at Arthurs Seat 2 & 3 weeks out from the race had hardened them sufficiently. So I let go on this section, striding out and letting gravity take me down, passing another few early group runners, and hoping any chasers would be running a little more gingerly at this point.

I was at Montacute Road before realising that the Fox Dam drink station at 46k had either not existed, or I had flown past it with such a head of steam I hadn't noticed it. No matter. As I turned on to the road, I knew it was only another k until the final station, and I cruised strongly down the hill, clocking a 4:47 split before arriving at the base of Black Hill at 49k. I stayed a couple of minutes drinking some water, and then mixing some electrolyte, before heading up the hill and into a world of pain.

The hill was pretty steep, with lots of hiking and only a few runnable sections. I was pretty tired and sore by this stage, but a possible top ten finish kept me motivated to keep driving forward until a minor complication developed. About three quarters of the way up the hill, both legs started cramping in the calves. I kept trying to stretch it out, but then the muscles at the front would cramp, until just short of the summit both legs seized up and would carry me no further. Fortunately an early group runner I had just passed was able to stretch my left calf to a point where I could stand, and I hopped over to a tree to steady myself while I dealt with the right leg.

I managed to hobble over the summit then tried to relax my legs as much as possible as I began the final 4k descent. Apart from the cramping I didn't feel too bad, and should have been charging down the hill, but the cramps made the descent almost comical. Every few hundred metres I would have to brace myself against a tree to stretch, then when I was nearly at the bottom while navigating some rocks, both legs seized again and I found myself lying face down on the rocks unable to move!

Finally though, rocky single track gave way to fire trail, I crossed a small bridge, and a couple sitting in deck chairs rang a bell to announce my arrival to the finish line. I ran carefully  along the final section, then a huge smile came over my face as the finish came in sight and I heard the cheers of my family. The announcer confirmed me as tenth place finisher as I crossed the line in 5:37:35, and the hug I got from my 80 year old Dad made me feel like I was 15 again.

The video my brother TJ took of the finish

I high fived my brother & hugged my son, and my sister and her husband were there as well, and their kids were wearing the "I Love Frankston" t-shirts I had bought them on their last visit to Melbourne! Coming home to run this race and run it well was incredibly fulfilling and emotional for me, and the only thing that would have made it better was to have my partner Allie and daughter Indiana there as well. I guess I'll just have to bring them along next year!

With my son, and nieces and nephews

It was a well organised race on a tough, beautiful course. Stu Gibson won in 4:41:31 (course record) from local Nick Muxlow, while Toby Wiadrowski finished third. It was much harder than I had imagined, and I was elated to run as well as I could have hoped. From an inglorious ultra debut in January, I feel like I have come a long away and I have the motivation to keep improving.

What Went Wrong
  • Electrolytes - I wasn't disciplined enough in getting these into me, and paid the price at the end. Next race I am going to premix all electrolytes  and will only drink plain water when convenient. My strategy of alternating didn't work. Post-race the severe cramping continued painfully for an hour in every muscle of my legs until the 2 litres of electrolyte I guzzled settled them down. Hopefully that will reinforce the lesson.
  • Flexibility - I didn't think well on my feet when things went wrong. There were electrolyte drinks available at the stations, why didn't I just drink them when I couldn't make a mix?
  • Gels - One every five km was too often, particularly with not enough hydration. Next race I will switch to one every 45 mins.
What Went Right
  • Training - my 42km quad trashing / climbing sessions on consecutive Sundays 2 & 3 weeks out from the race before tapering perfectly conditioned my legs. I was really careful in my weekly mileage increases, which allowed me to stay relatively injury free.
  • Race Plan - although I went reasonably hard early, apart from my back & forth with Steph Gaskell early in the race, I was only passed once from the 10k mark. And that was at 42k by a very experienced runner.
  • Mental - Reading the top runners blogs over the last 6 months it was encouraging to learn that they all face issues in their races. When I hit my hurdles, I accepted them, and kept moving.
My Last 10 Weeks (in kms)

Yurrebilla Trail 56k Website - South Australian Road Runners Club

Next Race
The 30/50 Challenge is on November 16th from Rosebud to Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula, quite close to where I live.

Monday, September 9, 2013

I'm Ready

OK, so maybe it's not the biggest hill going around, but Arthurs Seat at Dromana on the Mornington Peninsula has played a big part in getting me ready for Yurrebilla in two weeks time. And let's face it, any hill is tough if you go up it enough times.

Arthurs Seat rises about 300 metres (approx 1000 feet) above sea level and the steep trail that runs to the summit, and then over the back, forms part of the Two Bays 56k Trail Run, which was my first ultra back in January.

For the past two Sundays, I have used a section of the course as my training ground, running up the summit and then descending down the other side to Waterfall Gully Rd, which is about 7km, and then back again. I do this 3 times. This has given me a 43km long run with approx 1700m (5600 feet) vertical gain. It has followed a 25km on the Saturday, so on tiredish legs.

The first week I did it my quads were absolutely trashed, and they were still sore 5 days later. Backing up yesterday, my legs felt very heavy from my fast mid week tempo runs, but I ended up running about 10 minutes quicker than last Sunday, finished strongly, and today my legs don't feel too bad at all.

Hopefully now, as I head in to my taper, my legs have been suitably hardened to the hills I will face at Yurrebilla. I feel very ready to take this race on, and can't wait for race day to come around!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Yurrebilla Trail 56k - Preview

My next race is the Yurrebilla Trail 56k which will be held on September 22, and winds its way through a series of national parks on the western face of the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. Already acknowledged as one of the most beautiful ultras in Australia, runners pass gorges and waterfalls as they make their way from Belair Railway Station to Linear Park, Athelstone.

The course is point-to-point and has 10 aid stations, with major stations at 20km & 37km, where drop bags can be delivered to. An interesting aspect of the race is that they start in three waves, with the fastest runners going off last at 8:30 am, two hours after the first wave.

This is my first time running Yurrebilla, but a look at the course profile tells me I am in for a grueling race. It climbs 1785m (5856 ft) and descends 1972 m (6469 ft), and that last drop looks like it will be murder on the quads!

Adelaide is my home town (I moved to Melbourne in 1996), and I am looking forward to having friends and family there at the finish. I will be driving over with my 6yo son, Sullivan (Sully), which will be lots of fun as well. We will stay overnight in Horsham on Friday, then complete the drive on Saturday morning, so I will have plenty of time to rest before the race on Sunday.

My brother TJ will be crewing for me, and Mum & Dad will take Sully and my niece Poppy to the various spectator spots along the way, and meet us at the finish. I am super excited to be running a race back in Adelaide. It will be my first organised run there since the 1984 Greenbelt half marathon, when I ran 1:21 as a 15yo.

I have trained really hard for this, and while not quite at my peak yet, If everything goes right, I may be a sneaky chance for a top ten finish. 24 days to go!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mini Taper

After six 100km weeks out of the past 7, I am starting to feel a little weary, and was pretty spent at the end of a hard 40km on Sunday. The image at right shows the last 5 weeks training, with the Tue-Thu runs mostly being hard tempo hit outs, leaving me fatigued for the weekend long runs, which is the way I have planned it. The red 0's were my abductor injury.

This week I am going to have a mini-taper down to about 75km, with no long run on Sunday, and my mid-week runs will be just above easy pace instead of tempo. Following that, I will have two more hard weeks of training at 120km+, before my two week taper into the Yurrebilla 56k on September 22.

I have no idea if this mini taper fits into standard race lead up, but I can feel my body needs it, and I am hoping the freshen up will give me an idea of where I sit pace-wise on my first long run back. Constantly running on fatigued legs has made it difficult to determine what my race pace could be, and I want to go into Yurrebilla with a clear idea of how fast to start.

My brother TJ in Adelaide has offered to crew for me, which should really help. I am using drop bags for the first time, and have been worried about what will happen if the bags are not at the major aid stations when I arrive. TJ will be able to carry spare gels, etc in a backpack, which will give me a lot of peace of mind.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Treadmill

Moving to the new serviced office has been great, not only because the onsite showers allow me to run at lunchtime, but the gym has a couple of treadmills which I can use when the weather is too crappy to run outside.

I have learned quickly though, that the treadmill is also great for experimenting with, and adjusting running style. Running at a constant pace lets me fine tune my technique where I can now cover ground more efficiently, and expend the minimum amount of energy.

I don't want to get into any debate about the various merits of bio-mechanics, minimalism, or forefoot striking, other than to say that forefoot striking seemed to use more energy, and I have settled on a mid-foot strike, and try to move with quick, light feet.

This seems to cover the ground for me in the most efficient way, and I try to keep all parts of my body relaxed, except for my core, which I keep strong and stable. Keeping the legs relaxed, while maintaining a high turnover, I feel is the one of the keys to seeing out an ultra distance.

On the injury front, I resumed running last Tuesday after 4 days off. I still had some pain, so was very careful to ease into it, only running at 6:40 pace on my first run, then gradually increasing tempo later in the week.

By Saturday, the pain was nearly gone, and I ran 21km at 5:15 pace, then backed up pain-free on Sunday for 32km at 5:39 pace. With a solid base behind me, I will now start to bump up my Sunday long run distance. 34km this Sunday, then 40km the week after. 7 weeks until Yurrebilla!

Friday, July 26, 2013


Just when I was patting myself on the back for managing my mileage increase so well and so carefully. Just when I was marveling at how great my body was feeling, and how I just needed to stay in one piece to run a seriously good race at Yurrebilla...

After hard tempo runs of 13 & 17km on Tuesday & Wednesday, I stepped out yesterday for an easy 15km, then bam! A sharp pain suddenly materialized in my left upper thigh at 12km. Bad enough that I couldn't keep running and had to do a very slow jog back to the office.

At first I thought maybe I had just pinched a nerve, but as I cooled down it was apparent there was a muscle strain, or maybe a slight tear. A search of the internet this morning has revealed the culprit to be....the...ABDUCTOR LONGUS!

So, what do I do? Well, I iced it last night, and it feels a little better this morning. Common sense would suggest rest for a few days, but as we know, ultra runners aren't sensible! I'm going to try a slow 5km on the treadmill at lunch time and assess how serious it is, and whether I can keep training while it heals. I'm supposed to do 20/32km on the weekend, and if it looks like I can maintain a slow jog, I will still do that.

I still can't believe I did it while on an easy run, and not when I was running my 17km tempo on Wednesday, during which I ran my first sub 4min/km split since high school. Oh well, these things are part and parcel of distance running, so hopefully I can manage it without too much disruption to my race preparation.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Planned Races

I have pretty much settled on my race schedule for the coming 7 months. I have decided that all my future racing will be focused around a 4 Race "Summer Season", and will be planning my training accordingly.

This is partly because I prefer running in the heat, which does not seem to affect me as much as others, and partly because I am a bit soft, and have very little desire to stand on top of Mt Macedon in the middle of June at fuckthisshit o'clock!

So my schedule will be:

Yurrebilla Trail 56kmSeptember 22 (Adelaide Hills)
This should be a lot of fun. I am from Adelaide originally and I will be treating it as part race-part road trip with my 6yo son. We will stay at my parents, and there will be friends and family at the finish. Although the same distance, it looks a slower course than Two Bays, with lots of big climbs and descents. Not knowing the course means I will have to race this one smart.

30/50 Challenge 50kmNovember 16 (Rosebud to Portsea)
I was originally going to do Marysville this same weekend, however it is predominantly on the road and I prefer the trails, so chose this instead. It covers a lot of the same trail as Two Bays, and is on my home turf, so should suit. I will be nearing peak fitness by this stage hopefully.

Two Bays Trail Run 56km - January 14 (Cape Schanck-Dromana-Cape Schanck)
This is my main target, as it was my first ultra back in Jan this year, and I am hoping to significantly lower my time. Again, being close to home will be an advantage in terms of travel and sleep, and I learned some valuable lessons the first time around.

4th Race either:
Maroondah Dam 50km - mid Feb
Rollercoaster Run 44km - mid Mar
Razorback Run 58km (unlikely) - mid Mar

At this stage, I am leaning toward Maroondah Dam, although that will depend on recovery from Two Bays.

As for next year, well I'm hoping to kick off my 2014-15 summer season with my first ever 100km race - the GOW100 in October.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Quick Time

Since my last post, I have had probably my best training run since I resumed serious running back in '10. I had missed my Sunday long run due to a late night out, and wasn't expecting too much for the week's training given the 4am finish.

I started back up on Monday with my usual 10km shake out at 5:20 pace, then surprised myself on Tuesday with a 15km tempo run that felt quite easy at 4:47 pace. Come Wednesday and it was perfect conditions for my 19km tempo run. Cool, no wind, and I felt very fresh.

I took off quickly but running within myself and was a little shocked when the first km ticked over at 4:33. After going through the second km at 4:30, I knew I was in for a good run, and decided to push hard the whole way. I felt strong right to the finish, and my fastest split was a 4:16 at km 17. In the end, I had run 18.69km at 4:35 pace.

Obviously missing the 26km run on Sunday had left me with a bit extra in my legs, but most importantly it has shown me I am on the right track with my training and am getting faster. I ended up logging 110km for the week, including a 21/26km weekend. That workload has left me a bit heavier in the legs and I haven't been able to match last week's time. Also, this week my sister was over with her family & I have missed two training runs, so will drop back to about 90km this week.

It will be interesting to see whether the lighter load this week will help my back to back long runs on the weekend.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Enforced Break

Well, I ended up easing off quite a bit more than I planned. A combination of a weekend away with friends, followed by a trip interstate to see my client, then picking up a head cold from the kids, meant that my mileage dropped right off over the past two weeks, running only 37 & 28 kilometres.

Ultimately though, it seems like this has been a blessing in disguise, allowing my body to freshen right up. So much so, that I might make this a regular thing. Maybe not two weeks, but a week of low mileage every 4 weeks or so could work well.

When I resumed my normal program this week, I easily broke my 14km course record yesterday, running it in 1:09:54, my best by over two minutes. And today I ran a little over 18km at 4:52 pace, so I am definitely getting quicker.

I need to rein myself in a bit though. I have a 20km on Saturday, and a 32km on Sunday to get through, so tomorrow's 14km will be run at easy pace instead of tempo.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Easing Off This Week

After 313k in 3 weeks, my body was screaming ENOUGH at the end of my 28k run on Sunday. The last 6k were very slow and pushed my average pace out to 6:11 which was nearly a minute per km slower than my 24k run the day before where I felt like I was doing it easily.

I also pulled up quite sore, with some pain in my hip flexor, which took a couple of days to disappear. I still went out for an easy 10k on Monday, but took yesterday off, and will have an easier week than planned. Instead of 112k, I will drop back to about 95k, and ease the tempo a bit to give myself a rest.

The weather is also looking a bit nasty for the rest of the week, so it may even end up being less than that, with some time indoors on the treadmill.

Friday, May 31, 2013

First 100km Week!

Last week I hit my first 100km week, landing exactly on the ton at the end of a 24km long run on Sunday.

My runs for the week were:

Tue - 12.73 km @ 5:07 min/km
Wed - 17.40 km @ 5:18 min/km
Thu - 12.8 km @ 4:49 min/km
Fri - 12:00 km @ 5:10 min/km
Sat - 20.88 km @ 5:13 min/km
Sun - 24.28 km @ 5.09 min/km

This week my legs have been feeling a bit heavy, particularly at the start of each run, but I have been able to push through and maintain a reasonable pace.

As we have a function to go to tomorrow (Sat), I won't be able to run, so I have had to make up my k's with 3 x 18 km runs from Wed-Fri. Surprisingly, today's was the fastest of the three @ 5:05 min/km.

26km run on Sunday, hopefully at around 5:20 or under pace, which should take my weekly total to 104km. Even though I have been feeling a little leg-weary, I don't feel over-trained, which is in keeping with my strategy of training close to, but not at, the edge.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

New Training Program

One thing I noticed when I started looking at the way the better runners trained for their races, was that I clearly wasn't running often enough, long enough, or hard enough.

During the week, I would usually get in two runs of 14km and 20km at medium pace. Then my weekend runs were a 10km easy run on Saturday, followed by a long, slow run on Sunday, which topped out at 44km in the lead up to Two Bays. Often this long run (shuffle) would be up around 7:00 min/km which was getting me in the habit of running too slowly.

At the start of May I moved in to a new serviced office which has access to a gym and shower. This means I will be able to run each day at lunch time which will help me get my weekly km's up.

The other thing I decided based on research was that my weekend runs will be back-to-back long runs. I will start at 18km & 20km and gradually increase these so that eventually they would be 28km & 56km. They will be run at a consistently faster pace than my previous long runs, hopefully around 5:20/km

My weekday runs will be an easy 10km recovery on Monday, followed by 14km, 18km & 14km tempo runs Tue-Thu. These tempo runs will be run hard against the clock, attempting to constantly reduce my time. Friday will be my rest day, although I may do some cross-training in the gym.

Well after three weeks, this program is already showing significant benefits. My time for my mid-week 14km has already dropped by nearly a minute per km. I ran my two long runs on the weekend easily under 5:20/km, and felt comfortable while doing it.

To run Two Bays in January in 5 hours and 10 minutes, I will need to maintain a 5:32/km pace, so as I increase my long runs, I cannot let my pace drop. Hopefully the additional hills on the course and my training taper will cancel each other out.
So far, so good.