Great North Walk Ultra #50miler
September 18, 2018
– What is pressure and what does stepping up mean!
The Race that was my longest run to date, both for distance and time. After the UTA50 my debut Trail Run in a long time since 2013, from Mt Stromlo in Canberra. But this event was on the list straight after the UTA. The choice was made to put aside the bike and swim training. With only a small build into UTA50, not having much time on trails, clearly highlighted that fact it I was going to really set up and get into trail running, it was a change I would have to make.
Beginning to coach with Runlab, was something that was meant to be, as Vlad and I had crossed paths and discussed ideas, but we finally connected, and the journey begun. Having the background as the “Triathlete” so the work was needed to be done. to step up and challenge myself, change my ways and dig deep to shift myself out of the common triathlete running style. Yeah, I could run and that was my weapon in Triathlon, known to run the competition down on the run. But I was no longer with Triathletes, running off bike legs, or fatigued from the multiple disciplines that a triathlete trains for. I was coaching runners, training with runner, track runners, marathoners, ultra-trail runners.
So yeah questions can be asked, doubts can be laid on the table/ or track so to speak, people do talk and question. Its normal and not a bad thing, feedback is a gift and you have to take it on the chin sometimes in older to grow and develop. Take on board the challenge to work and develop yourself. Coaching athletes is one thing and yes, I have done it for many years, when I first started it was in running, trails and road, from then to transfer more of a focus to triathlon.
This race, was a chance to prove to myself what I could do if I focused on something more specific. Running is something I have always loved, the opportunity was in front of me also, with the best support team available in Runlab, being able to train with Vlad, hitting the trails with Scotty and Blake. Getting schooled on the track by the other boys. Sean, Luke, Mitch. Seemed like whenever we hit the track, I was always hammered, been racing a lot since July and or big weekends on the legs.
But that as the point, training for 50 miles. need some fatigue to build and strengthen, plus the multiple strength session, Pilates, it’s always a fine line to manage, work, coaching and getting in your own training.
Hence why managing the body and recovery is so important. Having the facilities available made this more assessable being at The Concept Gym in Highfields. So, using the ice baths and inferred saunas for recovery, lots of strength work from the session I coach, including Runstrong at least twice a week, form rolling, Pilates and compression. Using cross-training with Spin Session, using the rowers and ski erg.
Wasn’t always ideal, but that’s life and balancing with what you can to your best, I had committed myself, my time to focus and build. So, the build for the race is probably the best build I could say to date that I ever have had, never ideal with work load, but I did the work, up every morning before 5am to either train or coach so I could get my own training in. Hours on the trails with the boys on the weekend, as that was it for the weekend pretty much, learning the course and time in the trails is what was needed. Training with better of a higher level, always forces you to step up, there were runs where I was beat up, dropped on a climb, fallen off on a single track, technical section. Having to do it solo, chasing continuous. But that’s the way it’s done. Know what is ahead of you and what can happen in the race, I needed to know what the standard is and what is required to step up. So, I knew where I was and knew what I could do on the trails. Put my plan together based on the training, time on the course to know when I needed to work harder, avoid losing too much time form the front pack.
Some of the important key tips I leant from the training were how to best use the course and terrain, to break the race down into sections.
How to run better on the trails, lifting my feet better, gaining more flexibility in my hips and hip flexors.
Running on the downhills and breaking up the climbs, using the legs in different ways to help prevent breaking down. Hiking better. Training, you have to train on the hills and in trails to develop. Continue to throw yourself in.
I know I still have to continue to work on all of those above, I can still learn more, building on technical skills, running in the trails, hiking better and letting go more and using the downhills. But that is exciting and a challenge, knowing I still have so much more to do and work on to develop. I have the engine to go long, now I just have to use it better and work on the other aspects to develop.
Race came, and the team were all in good spirits, normal race jitters, yeah, I put pressure and a standard on myself. I wanted to prove it to me what I could do, and I said I wanted to get on the podium. I know a few in the race that I need to watch. But bottom line is that is my race and have to race my race. Its 50 miles, a lot can happen and develop. All I had to day was race my race, see how it plays out from there. I knew who would go out from the start and needed to get in a spot where I could control that. So, took off and was running with the front pack for a bit, but backed off a little as its 50 miles and the distance is unknow, still help the pace I wanted to hold, but wasn’t going to get pulled into someone else race, I just know where the 50 miles athletes were and my place. So, I kept a solid pace, know I needed to get some ground before the jungle, found the jungle not as bad as I thought from the rain on the past few days, but got through it, know I would have lost a bit of time from the front 2-3 athletes.
Checkpoint 1, came in at 4thplace, closely to 5thplace. In and out within a minute, crew was great and looked after me well, we were planned and organised, knew actually what was needed. Knowing checkpoint 1-2 was going to me more runnable and hadn’t done that section, so was running at tempo. Uncomfortable but was use it from the training, plus I knew where I was in the field. Had another athlete come with me close to checkpoint 2. So, knew I was still in the top 4. My heart dropped when I saw Scotty at 40 odd kms. Having to make the smart choice and drop out to avoid down serious injury, but that kind of lifted me, know will I have to do this now, for the team. I ran up to him and asked if he was okay, told him to come with me. Can’t quiet remember what I said, he asked how I was going, Me “I’m focused getting this done. Just going to keep pushing it.”
Got into checkpoint 2, the team was super again, great to see the team and few other supporters for the lift and powered out towards Congwai Hill, know that Hell was ahead and just knew I needed to smash it! Leaving the checkpoint, I didn’t see anyone ahead and or behind once I turned towards the hill. I knew I just had to go, I was that focused I hiked up over the stairs to get over the gate (as we had in training) and realized that the gate was open oops… but up I went and pushed, knowing what was ahead, I had moments when I thought I was ahead of where I actually was on the course. But I guess running that long and not seeing anyone would do that, I had a bottom in the bottom of my pack to which I kept thinking someone was close behind, I didn’t even look behind though, as not that I know nobody was there but more that I didn’t care.
I can’t say I had tough moments, I knew what I needed to do and just embraced it, getting to run and in such a great place and to have great people around in support and to see at the finish. I did think the race was over at the 72km mark when I hit the last fire trail before to do back down to the basin. man, that was a tough section, but I thought I had gone the wrong way and came out the wrong side and looped back, so I pushed a bit harder to just follow and prey that I my head was wrong… everything looked the same, this looks the same. bugger, race over I have stuffed it … but turned back down and hit the sign for the the basin – 3km!! Phew!!! I had made it, finishing off the little fluids I had left to try and get the most out of myself for the finish.
Crossing the finish line, seeing the crew and some friends, I didn’t hear what place they said and just had some photos and walked to Scotty with some mixed feelings, but he is top bloke and I asked did I get 3rd? No, you got 2nd. so was a big surprise to achieve 2ndfor me in that race. Josh won the race convincingly. Was very welled play by him and the 3rdplace finished a fair bit back also.
Thanks for everyone for the messages in support and I appreciate the efforts by all, the course was tough, but we all knew what was ahead. Thanks to all the team in Runlab / Stroke No Limits, on the day, making it possible, the crew Ryan, Jen. In the build had amazing mates, training partners, Vlad, Scotty and Blake, been great to train and race with you guys and appreciate the support and knowledge from you all in the journey that was the great north walk ultra’