Monday, 3 July 2017

A Reflection on the Gold Coast Marathon and Failure

The Gold Coast Marathon: my first A race for the year and my first DNF. This is what happened.

I turned up to the start area an hour before the gun went off, did my usual warm up run, then half an hour before the gun was set to go, ate a banana, then 15 mins prior, ate a gel. All normal, and everything was feeling good. I then made my way to the start line, wearing clothes I had worn during training feeling confident with my ability to succeed in my goal. I put myself near the 3-hour pacing bus, which was at the front of the runners, only second to the elites. That meant it only took about 5 seconds to cross the start line after the gun went off, where I pressed start on my watch and I had begun my journey.
On this run I carried 1L of Trail Brew, 5 Vfuel gels and a double shot expresso Clif Shot, with the goal of drinking a mouthful of water at each aid station (which were situated about every 2ish km’s), maybe more if it got warm. Luckily for me, race morning was the coldest yet for the Gold Coast winter, and I didn’t have to worry about the heat.
The first 1.5km’s were quick, after being pushed a little bit by the runners behind me when everyone was still congested. I ran over a bridge and turned a corner that made us run along-side the beach when I finally realised that I was running too quick, luckily only about 2km’s had passed by and it was a lot less congested, so I slammed on the brakes and waited for the 3 hour bus to catch up, and was then able to get into a rhythm. Every half hour eat gel, swish it down with Trail Brew, drink some water at each aid station, see bitumen, see buildings, hear spectators, repeat. I’ll admit by kilometre 15 I was bored, this is the point I probably would’ve put headphones in, but unfortunately I left those back in Brisbane. By kilometre 16, just 4 and a bit minutes later, my glutes and hip tendons were starting to hurt from the constant pounding of the bitumen. Each new step from this point onwards was also new territory, I had never ran this far this fast before. But by kilometre 18 my race started going downhill. 
Gold Coast Marathon pace
 The ache of my glutes had been pushed to the back of mind, replaced by the much more painful ache of my feet. My peroneal tendonitis had returned. This injury usually only flares up on uneven trails, and is helped by doing some strength exercises and taping up my feet. Before this race I had done a 2 hour 40 mins training run in the shoes I was to race in, with no issues with my feet. This meant I went into this race without taping up my feet. Perhaps not a smart decision. Up until my 18th km I was maintaining about a 4.15 min/km average, by kilometre 20 I had slipped to 4.30min/km. From then on I slowed to a crawl, before finally at kilometre 24 I accepted defeat, took off my shoes and made the decision that I wouldn’t make it to the finish. I then walked in my socks for the next 5km’s seeing pacing bus after pacing bus pass me, when my feet felt a tiny bit better. I tried putting on my shoes and taking a few steps, before the pain returned to its previous levels. I then took my shoes off again before walking another kilometre back to the start-finish area. Race over.

Easing the pain in my feet by putting them in icy cold water after the race
I’ve been running competitively since I was about 14 when I joined my local athletics club and since then I don’t think I can say I’ve ever experienced failure. Disappointment? Sure, there’s been plenty of times when I didn’t quite get a time or position I wanted, but failure? I don’t think so.
Hindsight is one of those great things that I wish I could have before a race. I mean looking back on this race, should I have taped up my feet even though I was confident they wouldn’t be a problem? Yes. Should I have perhaps been doing the strengthening exercises that my physio has given me more often then I did? Yes.
I was lucky to have a supportive friend at the finish line who reminded me that (hopefully) I’ll be running competitively for the next 10-15 years of my life, and that I’ve only been doing these sort of distances for the past year and a half. This has definitely put things into perspective for me. While this is my first DNF, I’m sure that going forward, it won’t be my last.
After the GC race I’m pressing the reset button and trying something new. I’m taking a bit of a break this week, but will be finding out a few crucial bits of info. What my heart rate max is and what my one rep maxes are for a number of different strength exercises. I’m doing an exercise and sport science degree, and what I’ve learned over the past semester is that a training plan has to be tailored to an individual. I.e. From here on out I won’t be using a training plan found off the internet (what I did for this marathon). I’ve also found out that all aerobic training intensity should be based off heart rate, not off pace. So for this first time ever, my training plan won’t feature pace but percentage of max heart rate. And lastly I’ve also found that strength training can boost performance, and with my next race being a 50km ultra featuring 1500m of elevation, I figured getting a bit stronger couldn’t hurt. So over the next twoish months, I’m hitting the gym, a lot, and trying to maintain my current running fitness. It may work, it may not, but I’m excited to give it a try!
And finally to all of you who are reading this, liked my running posts and commented your support. I thank-you. It really does mean a lot to me having a great number of people backing me, through the thick and thin.
The TRN.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Race Report: Brisbane Trail Marathon

With Uni assignment deadlines looming and exams just around the corner, unfortunately I don’t have the time to make this race report as detailed as I would like. That being said, everything I’m going to include I feel is important to me to remember for future long distance races.
Every race I seem to do that involves the trails always has me waking up at a god-awful hour. For this race, it was 4.30am. I went through me usual pre-race breakfast of golden syrup on toast (2 slices) and an hour before the race, a banana. My parents drove me out to the start line, I collected my bib and I was ready to go.

This race was a training race, in preparation for the Gold Coast Marathon in about 4 weeks time. I wanted some confidence for the GC marathon that I would be able to make the distance. This race is only the second time I had ran the marathon distance, the first time was back in January as part of the Two Bays Ultra. In my training, my longest run is only about 2.5 hours in length. That’s not a lot of long distance experience. So any extra confidence I get is bound to be helpful in breaking 3 hours for GC.

Since my major race is only about a month away I couldn’t afford to be totally wrecked after running this, otherwise my road training would be impacted. As such I didn’t do any research on the race, I didn’t know where the aid stations were. I didn’t know where the major climbs were (or major descents). The only thing I knew was that there was about 2000m of climbing/descending. This meant I went to the start line with an estimated goal of finishing in about 4.5 hours, which was the time I crossed the marathon distance in during my ultra. I had no placing goals (I thought a top 10 might be nice, but didn’t think I would get it), and I was prepared to let that 4.5 hours blow out if it meant I would cross the line feeling fresher. I had another reason in crossing the line in about 4.5 hours. If I didn’t my parents wouldn’t be able to see me finish because they would miss their flight.
Elevation profile
Enough of the pre-race context! I started the race conservatively, using the first 30 mins as an effective warm-up. Which was good as the first 20 of those 30 mins was a gradual climb, gaining 100 metres along fire trail. We then dropped back down into a fairly technical single trail section around a lake, which was my favourite bit of the course. Lots of short, sharp climbs, lots of twisty goodness, and a few dry creek crossings for good measure. During this the pain I get in my right foot due to peroneal tendonitis reared it’s ugly head, but this wasn’t too unexpected as I haven’t done any weight training for my stabilising muscles (road is flat, so don’t need it!). However, once that section was done the pain went away as the rest of the race was fairly non-technical fire trail and I had my feet taped up to give that tendon some more support.
Coming out of the single track section I was probably sitting in about 7th and feeling good. There was another long gradual climb which I went up at a pace that felt comfortable and managed to grab another couple positions, before heading into a nice descent and coming across ‘Hellhole Break’. Working at a trail running shop I’d heard of this climb from customers, but had no idea what it would be like. Luckily its bark was worse than its bite. It was fairly steep, but short and early on in the race (about 15km in) which meant that I had plenty of energy to climb it. This was also the point I caught up to 4th, and we ran together for the next 6 or so kays.

Following Hellhole was a fairly long consistent climb and at the top was aid station 3, 27km into the race. At this point I was feeling good. Nutrition of consuming about 250 calories an hour with Trail Brew was on target, I wasn’t feeling dehydrated. No cramping. Just enjoying myself. So I asked the aid station people how far ahead 3rd was, contemplating increasing my pace a little bit to try and catch him. They answered with a few minutes. I made the decision then to keep on with my easy pace. Feeling good the entire way of the race was the original goal, I didn’t want to cross the line feeling wrecked. I didn’t want to enter the hurt locker.

After the aid was station was the biggest descent of the race, dropping down into a valley. Along this way a couple things happened.
1. I came across a friend of mine, Mike, who was out marking the course, telling me that 3rd was only just ahead of me.
2. My favourite part of the race, turning a corner and seeing a layer of cloud covering the fire trail. Spectacular. Just thinking about it now brings a smile to my face. This is one of the many reasons why I love running out on the trails. Completely unexpected moments such as that.
3. Passing 3rd and somehow putting myself into a podium placing.
So cool dropping down into the cloud!
Unfortunately what goes down must go up. In most cases that would be a bad thing, but for me I used it as a chance to catch my breath as I walked up the entire hill. Unfortunately my calf cramped once during this, but while super painful it went away quickly which I was thankful for. I also spotted 2nd a good 100 or so metres ahead of me during this climb, but when I reached the aid station at the top (33km into the race), where I got told that he was about 1 minute ahead of me I just reminded myself that I wasn’t to enter the hurt locker, and didn’t set off chasing him. However, it’s crazy just how much can change in 10 minutes. I went from feeling fine to feeling dehydrated and very hot, and the only thing that changed was I went from running in the shade to into the sun. My body wasn’t telling me it was thirsty at the aid station 10 minutes earlier. And I’m very much a fan of going off thirst ques my body gives me, rather than drinking a set amount of water each hour and risk over-hydration. I still wasn’t quite in the hurt locker yet though. I entered that at a climb at about 38km in. I knew it was coming, due to turning onto a trail that I ran on a couple weeks earlier during the Pinnacles Classic, but it didn’t make it any easier. This for me was the hardest climb of the race, and I had to pause for a good minute halfway up it to catch my breath. But there was a person marshaling there at the climb and I’m forever grateful for his encouragement in keeping me going. Without him there I could’ve be standing around not moving for a good period of time.

There was an aid station just after this climb which I was soo thankful for. With only a few kays left of the race I thought for sure the next time I would see some cool water would be at the finish line, but to my eternal gratitude there was one last aid station. I used it to pour water all over me to try and bring my body temperature down, and that was when I left the hurt locker and started to feel good again. I mean that and the fact that the rest of the race was pretty much all downhill. I ended up crossing the line in 4 hours 17 minutes and 43 seconds, and feeling pretty good, and into the congratulations of my parents. I had made back before they had to leave for their flight! It’s been a little while since my parents had seen me finish a race, so that was a special moment!
Thanks to the amazing people who volunteered and to TRAQ for putting on a great event! This course pretty much had everything and I enjoyed every moment, even the parts where it hurt.

Gold Coast, I’m coming for ya!


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Race Report: Pinnacles Classic

The dam the course runs around
This race report’s going to be short and sweet as I don’t have much time, and it goes something like this…

So two weeks ago I was fairly sick with the man flu, aka a cold, and didn’t do much training all week. In the week leading up to the race I had a few college and uni requirements that meant I couldn’t do the full week of training as specified by the plan, but the stuff I did do I was really happy with. And if you’ve been following me along on Strava you would’ve seen that I’ve been having a niggling quad problem. But after seeing the physio and getting some dry needling done they felt fine on race day, and I went into the race feeling confident. I had done the course before as a training run so I knew what I was in for, 18(ish) hills in 18km with halfway being the highest point of the run. However, as part of the marathon training I’ve been doing I haven’t been doing much climbing. Maybe one hill repeats session a week and bit of easy running around Mt Cootha, but certainly not to the extent that I was doing early in the year. Hence going into the race I was looking for at least a podium and hopefully even a first. Hahaha well....
Elevation profile of the run
I started off quick, taking the lead with no-one coming along with me. The idea I had since I was feeling good was take the lead from the beginning and try and hold it, taking the climbs relatively easy and smashing the downhills as fast as possible. What I didn’t take into consideration is just how unfit I am in relation to climbing. I held onto the lead until about 3km where 2nd and 3rd overtook me on one of the climbs, and then about a km later I fell into 5th where again I got overtaken on a climb, it made me feel like I was going backwards! I didn’t lose any ground on them on the downhills, but every time there was a climb I slipped further and further back. By 8km my calves were cooked and my race was all but over. By 9km I lost sight of 4th and it felt like every climb I did in the second half of the course lost me another place. And to top it all off my peroneal tendonitis came back with vengeance at about 12km in, and as I’m writing this (a few hours after the race) my foot is hurting like crazy. All this road running I’ve been doing made me think it might be gone because it hasn’t flared up in months, but unfortunately not. I ended up finishing in 8th in a time of 1.33.06 which was about 10 minutes slower than I had wanted. Oh well, in the scheme of things not finishing on the podium at a training race such as this isn’t the end of the world, but still a bit disappointing. Especially since at no point in the race did I feel aerobically tired, I could’ve done the ‘talk test’ no problems. It was pretty much my legs that let me down. I’ve learned my lesson, don’t expect big things from a race that you’re not specifically training for. 
Happy to see the finish line! Photo courtesy of Laura from The Trail Co
Next up on my calendar is the Brisbane Trail Marathon in 4 weeks time for a bit of fun and to try out a few different strategies in preparation for the Gold Coast Marathon. Until then this novice is out.


Monday, 20 March 2017

Race Report: Twilight Run 10km (and Uni Life)

Hey look, I’m back! This ol’ blog site hasn’t quite gone 10 feet under yet, but without a doubt my posts will be few and far between. The reason that I'm back is the fact I ran my first 10km race in about 2(ish) years last night.

The finish line. Photo Credit Meng Li
The reason for running in a ‘road race’ (yuck, what an awful term) is to see where I'm at in terms of training. For the past 2 months I’ve been in my ‘base building’ phase. A lot of easy k’s within the aerobic zone (for me that’s around the 5min/km mark on flat), just trying to have something I can work off for the rest of the year. And I get to finally start specifically training for the Gold Coast Marathon next week, so exciting times. But as part of the base building, I haven’t really done much speed work and if I want to achieve my goal of breaking 3 hours for the marathon, I’m going to need to be speedy. This race was all about that. Speed. So the goal was to break 40 minutes, as I’ve only ever done that once a few years ago when I was still doing track work. But since this race means nothing to me in the grand scheme of things, I needed to try and do it without destroying myself, so I could jump straight back into training the next day.

3 days before the race I jumped onto the UQ track to do a 2km at 4min/km, then with a 5 min break, a 3km at 4min/km and during that race-pace session the signs weren’t good about me breaking 40 mins. The first 2km were easy but I really struggled with the 3km rep, only just making the required 12 mins. Not good. The only thing I hoped that would change come Sunday is the fact I’d be running with other people, and this would help me get across the line in the desired time.
Sunday rolls around and it rains, a lot - putting the humidity through the roof, but since the race was held in the late afternoon, at least it wasn’t too hot (in Brisbane terms, it was still 26°C, I’m sure I’ll get used to the heat eventually 😜)
The course
 My race plan was this; as I didn’t know how long I could hold out for pace wise, start out and try and hold 3.50min/km for the first 3km and try and have a 30 second buffer, then drop back to 4min/km, save some energy for the short climb at the 8km point, then depending on how I’m going time wise, either push hard to try and break 40min, or take it cruisy to get across the line. Not quite what happened. I didn’t anticipate the first 3km to be the twistiest of the course (have a look of the course map, you’ll understand what I mean). So I was about 10 seconds behind schedule at the 3km point. But what I also didn’t expect is to have such a strong 4th, 5th and 6th km. I was really happy being around the 3.50 mark and it feeling easy. There was a bit of a head wind that picked up for the final 4 km’s, but when I crossed the bridge and hit 9km at 35.12 I knew that unless I injured myself, there would be no way I wasn’t going to cross the line over 40 mins, so I took my foot off the pedal and cruised home, knowing that training would start again the next day.
I ended up coming home in an official 39.16, which got me 31/1569 and 3rd in the 18-19 category. So happy! Thanks to the vollies at all the aid stations whom gave out water so I could douse myself and not die from the humidity, and to the race organisers. A great event!

On a completely separate note, uni! Most of you who are reading this would realise that I relocated from Sale, Victoria to Brisbane to continue my education and that I’m currently studying Exercise and Sport Science at the Uni of Qld, while residing at King’s College. How’s it going so far? Yeah, pretty good. O-week was hectic, but it terms of stripping the freshers down and building us back up again, a similar program run by Lord Somers Camp and Powerhouse probably does it a bit better (then again, LSC&PH also does have over 100 staff to support the 100 people going through the camp compared to 40 or so King’s leaders to the 140ish freshers, the King’s leaders did a good job!) O-week helped me to create a lot of new friendships which is exactly what I needed moving to a completely new area, not knowing anyone. And life at the college since then has been great, there’s a real sense of mateship amongst everyone that resides here. Everyone is proud to get around each other at all the sporting events and represent the ‘Wyvern’ (the college ‘mascot’ as it were). And there’s always something on, which can get in the way of studies. Speaking of which, studying. I thought going back to hit the books after a year off would be fairly hard, but for me it isn’t, especially since the content is so relevant to what I do as a sports enthusiast. It also helps that a lot of the content that’s been covered in these first few weeks across all my courses is stuff I’ve already learned in year 12 (except for the chemistry, god how I hate chemistry). Almost everything is sweet, my only bugbear is the hierarchy within the college. 1st years are at the bottom of the pile, 3rd years at the top. Which for all intents and purposes I’m happy with, the longer you’re here, the more respect you’re given. The only issue is that I’m (for the most part) 2 years older than most of the freshers (so many 17 year olds, I thought I left that back in high school haha), which means that I’m the age of a lot 3rd year college students. I’m still trying to figure out how I fit into the scheme of things, but I’ll get there eventually!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Race Report: Kilcunda Half Marathon

I feel like I need to start this off with a warning. In you, ‘the reader’s’, opinion some my previous race reports may have been a little boring to read (where as I am super-biased and have loved reading back on all of them) but this so far will have to take the cake. I’ve had long runs which have been more interesting. So, with that mind, this race report is mainly for me, as a chance to look back on what is my first planned ‘b-race’ (or training race).

So, I went into the race not knowing anything about it, apart from the fact that it was a half marathon and run along the coast. I usually try to research a race before I run in it so I can have some sort of plan, but since for this one I didn’t care how I went, I didn’t do any. But I tell you what, I probably should’ve. And my race day went a little something like this…

Wake up 3.30am Sunday morning, have breakfast, grab my stuff, jump in car, drive over 2 hours, get out at Kilcunda, watch epic sunrise, look left, look right, right seems good I’ll go right to do my warmup, warmup run is dead flat and on rail-trail, assume all of run is going to be flat, decide that I’ll try to have an average pace of 4.30min/km and go to the start-line ready to run. At the briefing we runners are told that it’s an out and back course, first running in the direction of my warm-up, for 2km before turning around and running back past the start line and then in the other direction for another 9ish km, then turning around and heading for home.

Epic sunrise
The race starts and I, as per usual, start out faster than intended running a 4.07 first km, but surprisingly this didn’t put me up in the pointy end. I was sitting in around 10th position and here I would stay until around 9km, where I climbed one spot to end up finishing in 9th overall. In the first 4km’s nothing interesting happened, if anyone has run on a rail trail you know what I’m talking about. But hey, at least I had the ocean on the right side of me heading out, and on the left coming back, that was pretty cool. And there was a good group of 4 of us (leading female and 3 dudes) that were running at the same pace as each other, and it’s always better running as a pack then individually, but this only lasted until the 7km point where we either sped up or slowed down. I suppose I should also mention that I had a bit of pain on the left side of my left foot but it was minimal and went away at around 5km (I was wearing my Speed Instincts). This run, for me, went from boring to really, really good about 6km in where I discovered there were in fact, hills, and single trail and epic cliffs to look at! This was the start of the George Bass Trail and boy, was it good. The sea views though, were the highlight. The trail twisted and turned, dropping down to sea level then climbing to be on top of cliffs. It went from grass, to gravel, to dirt and a lot of it was single track, but the killer that I wasn’t expecting was soft sand 9.5km in that lasted for 500m on the way out, and the course changed slightly so that on the way back it lasted about 800m, and this for the most part is where my training race was derailed.

Up until this point I was still on an average pace of 4.30min/km but after the sand I wasn’t able to get another km under 5min. The sand just knocked everything out of me, and I wasn’t willing to push myself from 10km onwards as I knew I still had to train the next day and the next week. So I changed tactic, instead of focusing on overall pace, I would focus on my transition from running uphill to downhill, downhill to uphill, etc. etc. because as you can see, this course is super undulating. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done a run prior to this that is so up and down so frequently. Apart from the first 4km, there is barely a section that is flat. And I know from previous experience in other races, a weak spot of mine is going from climbing or running downhill back to running on relative flat. So this race was the perfect opportunity to try a few different things, such as feeling like I’m lifting my knees up higher on the flat after I’ve just finished climbing. Or trying to get my legs turning over quicker. I’m still not sure what does work best, but at least I’ve got some idea, which means this training race was useful!

Up and down, Garmin tells me I climbed 299m

Thanks goes to Running Wild and all the volunteers who helped make this day happen! And special mention goes to everyone at Marriot Support Services who participated, well done 😁. I can’t imagine a better way to finish my racing season in Victoria (though hopefully I’ll be back in 2018). Onto to QLD!