Wellington Marathon

Oh lordy! I finally did it.  11 years after my only other (non-Ironman) marathon finishes (a 1:20 first half; 1:50 second half capitulation at Rotorua and a 3:03 at Wellington) in 2006, I finally managed to run with my head and not some other part of my body and achieved a sub-3hr, negative split marathon.  Stoked, chuffed, made-up, all understatements.  I was beginning to think the marathon distance was my achillies heel; the thing I’ll never nail.

This year’s Wellington Marathon was a bit of an after thought.  I entered 3 weeks before the event, albeit with a bit of a plan in place beforehand and a decent level of endurance after the build up for Tarawera Ultra and Rarotonga Triathlon in the Summer and Autumn.  Kerry at Squadrun had given me an awesome 9 week marathon plan and I incorporated some of those sessions into my Rarotonga Triathlon build-up and then chucked in some specific work in the last 4 weeks to get myself marathon ready.

Race morning was a stunner.  Clear, light (for Wellington) winds and perfect temperatures.  I had a 3-stage plan – pace for 2:52, be happy with 2:55, but by god just get under that 3 hours!  With that I mind, I set off clocking a perfect 4:05/km pace.  I hit halfway bang on the money at 1:26.  For the first 25km I ran with two others, our pace was pretty much aligned.  I was waiting for the hurt to come.  But it was me that started to pull away from them.  At 28km my Garmin lost signal so I started my stopwatch at 30k and clicked the lap marker at every km marker.  I was getting faster!  A couple of 3:55s, some low 4s, and I was passing people with less than 5km to go.  What mythical feeling is this?!?  The negative split!  The hurt finally came with about 3km to go, but by then I was in a really happy place.  I gritted my teeth, dug it in and finished hard.  2:51:11!  Oh boy did that feel good.

In all honesty, I’ve never felt so comfortable in a long-distance run.  I ran within myself and stayed focused and strong for the duration.  At 37 years old, I think this was my coming of age performance for marathoning.  I’ve run a 1:15:20 half before, and a 3:03 marathon PB was not something I was particularly proud of.  Although the online calculators suggest, based on a 1:15 half, I should be capable of a 2:35-40ish marathon, for now I’m taking this 2:51 and I’m cherishing it.

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National Marathon Champs bronze medal!

As a bonus, this was the NZ Marathon Champs and I scored a bronze medal in the 35-39 age group!  Very cool.


Once again, massive thanks to Kerry at Squadrun for the awesome training programme, pep-talks when I’m ready to quit and general all-round amazing support.  This guy not only knows his stuff, he knows how to dose it out in a way that gets maximum effect.

As always, final (and biggest) thanks to Natasha and the kids for their endless encouragement and support and for keeping me grounded when I get home (“cool medal Dad, can you make me some toast?“).

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Autumn fun

fullsizeoutput_43dAn awesome Autumn of training and racing has come to an end.  Here’s the recap:

May was all about the family trip to Rarotonga for the Rarotonga International Triathlon.  A couple of firsts for me with this one – first time to the Islands, first 18556761_1624698727572652_6385134888115328505_onon-wetsuit swim for an Olympic distance triathlon, first time I’ve been accompanied on the swim by rainbow coloured fish (bit different to the carp of the Cotswold Water Park…)!  We had an awesome holiday in Rarotonga, staying in Muri Beach and doing heaps of snorkelling, swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, eating, drinking and generally hanging out on Island Time.  The racing was cool too.

I finished 4th in the triathlon, 10th in the Boiler Swim (earning myself a scratched up torso in18527060_1624711307571394_211338164072045240_o the process by straying too close to the reef), and a DNF in the Tour de Raro bike race through a couple of punctures.  I was rescued by a good Samaritan who strapped my bike to their soft top convertible with an inner tube and drove waaay out of their way to drop me back.  Thanks Trish!

Finlay won the Beer Mile (partly through not having any beer and partly through just running really fast).  Very cool trip indeed!

Back in cold NZ, I took part in the In the Footsteps of the Marines trail race, looking tUntitledo reclaim my crown from 2015.  This is a great little 13km trail race in Whareroa Farm, Paekakariki, with 6.5km of uphill and 6.5km of down…  After 2km of sparring with Sean Eaton, I pulled away on the hill, running solo for the rest of the course and winning by about 6 minutes in the end.  Pretty happy to have the crown back.

Next up is Wellington Marathon next weekend.  Feeling pretty excited, although the marathon distance has always been my achillies heel so I’ll admit to a bit of trepidation about it too!

Back in the tri-game

Over a year since my last triathlon, I lined up in the wet and windy southerly at Scorching Bay on Saturday for the Wellington round of the National Triathlon Series.

Only 4 weeks after pulling out of the Tarawera Ultra with a bung achillies, and with very little swimming and biking under my belt, I opted to compete in the Sprint event (750m/20km/5km) to ease back into things.  The wild weather led to a change in the swim course (shorter but more laps) and we thrashed out through the surf three times to

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Beyond the surf, sea conditions were actually pretty good. Photo credit: AT Photo

complete a 250m triangle 3 times.  But once out beyond the surf, the sea conditions were pretty good and I found a reasonable rhythm and popped out of the water down in 4th or 5th place.

A quick transition saw me up into 3rd and I set about grinding out the two laps on the bike.  Tough one way, fast the other.  Back into transition, still in 3rd and out on to the run, I ticked off a 17.40ish run split to finish in 3rd.  Less than a minute behind 1st place and with the fastest bike and run splits of the day, I was pretty happy with the performance given my absence from the multisport game and how little swim and bike training I’ve squeezed in of late.  No pain in the achillies was an additional bonus.

I’m now about to embark on a reasonably intensive 8 week build up to Rarotonga Triathlon, in particular I’m slotting in a 4-week swim-focussed block to hopefully see some noticeable gains in my swim performance.

Moving on…

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Having fun on the Western Okataina Walkway before the pain really came.

Well, Tarawera Ultra didn’t go to plan.

A DNF is always a difficult thing to swallow, especially at an event you’ve been building towards for the best part of a year…  For me, a pre-existing achillies niggle hit me at about the 2km mark and got progressively worse for the next 4 hours.  I finally decided to pack it in at Humphries Bay (which turn out to be the optimum DNF spot because I got a boat trip over Lake Tarawera).

After working my way through the 7 stages of grief, I’m now I’ve now come to terms with the whole thing and am looking forward to the end of the season, a bit of rehab on the achillies and some planning for the autumn and next season.

At the moment, the race plans look like something like this:

I still be working the awesome Kerry and Ali at Squadrun for the run work but am shifting the focus back to the triathlon scene for the time being, for the variety and the injury prevention.

Peaking

It’s just over two weeks to go to the Tarawera Ultra Marathon.  I’m fatigued, I’m feeling flat and, I’ll be honest, I’m more than a little bit grumpy…! I reckon those are all perfect symptoms of a good, strong build up.  If you ask me, anyone that feels great a few weeks out from a big race is either lying or under-trained.  At this stage of race prep, you should be ragged, knackered, not particularly keen to train and craving bed more than is normal.  Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!

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Enjoying the taper at Kapiti Coast Parkrun

 

I’ve been clocking up some reasonable hours over the last couple of months on the Squadrun training programme.  Nothing sensational, and definitely nothing compared to the big boys and girls, but enough to fatigue this old body.

So this is where the next piece of the puzzle comes in – peaking and tapering.  The time to sharpen up and rest up so you arrive on the start line loose, limber, eager and feisty.

I love the taper.  You will probably hear so many athletes saying how frustrating tapering is, how restless they get and how they just want to go out and train.  Not this soldier.  Tapering is my natural state.  I love the ability to sharpen up with speedwork and spend more time with my feet up watching Crocodile Dundee, Heat, Die Hard, Top Gun and all the other great latest releases (have I missed something…?).

So over the next couple of weeks, you’ll find me in my happy place – smashing out a few Parkrun 5kms and catching up on the golden era of cinema.  The optimal preparation for the big race day.  All those other dudes frustrated about the lack of training just don’t know what movies to watch…

The stresses of sedentariness

The lower North Island’s excitement this week has been well documented.  On the Kapiti Coast, we evacuated from our place on Sunday night as a precaution against the tsunami threat.  Sat in the car with one kid in the boot with the dog, two kids and Tash in the back and Granny in the passenger seat was 15055709_10154472292220932_8443208421394935955_na real adventure!  On Monday night, we camped out in the living room, reassuring the kids and staying close to each other.  Unfortunately, I was up all night with my own personal evacuation of a different kind…!  The floods hit on Tuesday, img_0512so while I was off work sick, supposedly convalescing, I spent the day pumping flood water out of our garden.

Of course, we’re the lucky ones.  We got to go back into our house, we’ve been able to keep loved ones close the whole time, the flood water came no closer than the driveway and my previously robust constitution has returned following a rather dodgy 48 hours!  So many people have had it so much worse, and my heart goes out to them.

But what’s all this domestic triviality got to do with a blog about endurance sport, you probably didn’t ask.  Well I’ll tell you anyway.  The upshot of all this adventure is that my training has taken a hit.  I’ve done no form of physical activity (other than running around in the garden/pond and back and forth to the toilet) since Sunday.  And I’m grumpy!  Truth be told, a little break from training is probably no bad thing.  My body was already pretty fatigued, but the forced break is not on my terms and that’s what hacks me off.

Tomorrow, I will go for a run and a swim.  And it will be good.  So what’s the story here?  I reckon we should take the opportunities to get out for a hit out whenever they come along.  Don’t put it off until tomorrow.  Because you never know what might come along tomorrow to stuff up your plans!

 

Still poked…

Over two weeks since Taupo Ultra and I went for my first proper leg stretch last night.  I’m still a little bit poked…  It may have been the Melbourne Cup beers but I’m sure the body is still fairly weary from the pummeling it received in mid-October.

I huffed and puffed round a flat and easy 10km loop through down the beach, through Queen Elizabeth Park and home.  I was pretty spent when I got home.

Similar to how I felt post-Ironman, you just don’t know quite how deep your body went until you try to do some exercise.  I’ve read some interesting articles on how to recover properly from serious endurance events but in my view, you cannot underestimate how much these sort of events take out of you.  The secret to a long and enjoyable athletic career has got to be avoiding burnout and I reckon one of the primary causes of that is not letting the body bounce back fully from those really depleted places you put it in during these events.

The older I get and the more I value lifelong participation over flash-in-the-pan success, the more important I think this is.

The moral of the story? Go easy in the post race phase.  Recoup, take stock, drink some wine, make some plans, cook your partner dinner, play Lego and snakes and ladders with the kids.  Your body (and probably your soul) will repay you tenfold when you start asking those tough questions of it in the next build phase.

100 is a lot of kilometres David (or the Taupo Ultra race report)

The first running of Taupo Ultra looked like a fine introduction to my ultra-running adventure for a couple of reasons: it’s 4 months out from my primary goal for the season (Tarawera Ultra Marathon in February 2017); it’s located in my old hometown and the course runs over some of my favourite tracks round the western bays of Lake Taupo.

My build up for the race was not ideal, aggravating an old calf injury on some gnarly hill reps up the Akatarawa Road in late August forced me to back the training right off through September.  But I fixed myself up well enough to toe the line at 6am race morning round at Waihaha, scene of some of my dafter exploits from the old Great Lake Relay in years gone by.

fullsizeoutput_21e.jpegI was under strict instructions from coach Kerry Suter to hold the pace at a seemingly pedestrian 6:00/km for the first section, let others go and run to my own schedule.  As hard as it was to watch 20 or more runners disappear off down the pristine trail, the advice was sound.  The early morning views around the western bays were absolutely stunning.  I loved the trail and the feeling of running within myself.

At 25km or so, we popped out of the bush and trail, onto a section of farmland.  After the 33km aid station, things got wet (underfoot and from the heavens) and I pushed quite hard and picked up some places.  Onto the road section from 40-50km and I hit a looooow point.  I was expecting to enjoy the road section but the combination of that expectation and the recompense for pushing over the farmland meant I struggled and started questioning just what the hell I thought I was doing running such a stupid distance.  13268266_1628540740804458_7614937705580325105_o.jpgI was carrying a picture of my old mate Grant with me on the run.  Grant died earlier this year and I will admit to invoking his memory, and his awesome endurance, to get me through that tough spell.

Back onto the single track down to Kawakawa Bay and things were looking up again.  I’d got myself back into a good place mentally, was picking up a few positions and was over half way through.  The ebbs and flows of ultra running are a strange sensation, quite how you can feel so good after such low points is beyond me.

Into Kinloch and I picked up my pacer, Sam, my boss from work.  At the aid station, someone told me I was 3rd open male which was a good boost as I was feeling pretty poked again. Sam dragged my round the endless mud and hills of the Whakaipo Headland.  Without him I reckon I’d have been running more like 8:00/km than the 6(ish) I was still holding.  His support was immense.  We picked up another place or two as well.  IMG_0593.JPGHeading out of the bush for the final sprint across the paddock, just like the allies in Too Late the Hero, I was giving it all I had.  Natasha and the kids were at the 99ish km mark and I had the pleasure and honour of running with two of my kids, Finlay and Amelie, while Sam and Tash shouted encouragements in the background.

We crossed the line in 10:03, 5th overall and 3rd open male. An almost perfectly paced effort from start to finish (something I couldn’t have done without Kerry’s tactical advice and Pacer Sam’s encouragement over the last 25km).

A quick Speights and sausage at the finish, a truly unique medal from the glass blowers in Taupo and a hug from Kerry was a fine way to end my first 100km.  It’s given me confidence to push on and hopefully have a injury-free build up and awesome performance at Tarawera in February.


Huge thanks to Kerry and Ali for getting me in decent shape for the run and for the spot on tactical advice and to my pacer Sam for dragging me through the last 25km of mud and switchbacks. As ever, the biggest thanks go to Natasha, Finlay, Sam and Amelie for their amazing support before, during and after the run.

Taupo Ultra was an awesome event put on by Will and the Total Sport team and I’d love to head back in years to come.