Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Here Comes the Sun

There are two camps of runners, loosely those that run in the morning and others that run at night.

Last Friday the 9th of March I ran a marathon with Leah and Rodney, the full moon rose over Mt Archer and it was like I was on another planet. I couldn’t stop staring at it. It was breathtaking. It took me a week to work out why it was so intense – and it isn’t because I am half man half wolf like Teen Wolf!
You see I run in the morning for 99% of my runs, I get to see a sunrise at least 5 days per week. I am up and running in the dark and have the pleasure of watching the sun rise over Mt Archer, the very moment of day break. It is awesome, but you sometimes get numb to it. The moon rise the other week was so weird to me, because I hadn’t seen the moon for so long! Usually I am inside doing the daily dinner, baths, stories, bed for the boys – so I had forgotten what it was like to run at night under moon light.
Which gets me to last Saturday’s run.
Another 3.15am alarm and at the car park at 3.55am in preparation of the 50k double summit of Mt Archer. The butterfly’s about the distance I used to have are now long gone, replaced by a sense of purpose and concentration that comes with a lot of miles under the belt.
It is PITCH BLACK. I am using a head lamp to light the trail. Benny, Rodney, Gav and Raelene are joining me for the first 25km of the run – I am prepared for it to be slower due to the lack of light and if the trail is a little overgrown.
There is no moon this morning due to the cloud cover, its super dark and our 5 lights travel along the trail. Early on Raelene decides that the pace is too quick (or too much testosterone) and drops back to her pace. We take turns, fighting the massive spider webs and hit the first overgrown patch. I had run through it on Thursday but today it seems worse. Once we are through that the first 6k was pretty enjoyable, the trail is dry and the first creek crossing isn’t so bad.
The thing about running with a group of runners where you are the slowest is that you are always worrying about your pace, making sure you are running FAST enough and not slowing everyone down. I need not have worried, after 8km the “trail” became an impenetrable force, super overgrown. It was so bad we couldn’t sustain 8min pace. This was so surprising, the lantana was so overgrown I felt like I was in a jungle!
The next 40 minutes repeated: lantana, massive spider webs and falling hard on the dodgy trail.
Boom – Benny falls badly.
Boom – Benny falls badly again.
Boom – I fell heavily.
Boom – Gav falls and splits his knee.
Boom – Rodney falls on his bad arm.
Outwardly I am trying to remain upbeat and positive, the “adventure” is awesome I keep saying. Deep down I worry about Rodney’s arm and think about myself, writing a post on The North Face website selling my rego if I snap my ankle. This was a bad idea. Stupid. I hadn’t mitigated the risks well enough. F#$k this shit, I just want out and off the mountain.

The lantana clears and I find the 500 meters of climbing up Mt Archer to be much easier than the last time we ran, I cruised up in front of Gav and just behind Rodney, I pass Rodney – although he was walking. He has a lot on his mind after his fall and just wasn’t pushing at all now. I finish a couple of minutes behind Benny at the summit.
The sun had just come out, here comes the sun I thought. My friend. Just when you feel low the sun always recharges your spirits. The mist/fog prevented us from having a super sunrise, but it was sort of worth it. I switched off the head lamp and let the suns rays soak into my bones. My confidence up and my thoughts switched to the double summit, I felt it was still doable.
We filled our bladders at the summit, Gav had a Pepsi and said our good-byes to Rodney. Rodney had the right idea, he was running back down the road. Smart man. Ben, Gav and I had decided to head back down the trail. This was a mistake. A testosterone caused mistake. I wasn't prepared to tap out ,so the three of us proceeded to head down the mountain. 

It was worse underfoot on the descent. About a km down the trail where it becomes extra rocky,  I rolled my ankle badly. F*@K! What am I doing here?! Ben and I decided to take it easier from that point on. I was on the edge, I could go from hero to zero really quickly.

We found Raelene and all headed back to the car park. Moving as best as we could through the thick dense lantana.
By this stage Ben had enough. He convinced me that we didn’t need to do another lap. He was coaxing me, saying that I had enough in the tank for Nerang and The North Face. We talked a lot about it. Risk v Reward. Another 4 hours on my feet at risk of snapping an ankle, or pulling the pin. Will not finishing this run come back to haunt me?
We got back to the car. Pete was waiting, by that stage Gav had caught us, he had also rolled his ankle badly going through one of the creeks. I felt guilty telling Pete that we were bailing on the second lap. Gav and Ben said it was the safest thing to do, that the trail wasn’t runable and posed too high a risk for the upcoming races. Pete understood and went out for an hour by himself.
Raelene had joined us and we all had a great chat about The North Face, Gav and Raelene had been to the Blue Mountains the weekend before when 6 foot was cancelled so did about 80k training over 2 days to make up for it. I had this sinking feeling that I was missing a key session. But had to take the advice of the more experienced runners.

I got home early, Bel was really surprised wondering what had happened and why I was home at 8 o'clock. I was in a funk. A really bad mood about bailing on the session. It took a whole day to get over.

Half of me (the sensible "Safety Sean" half) knew it was the righ decision. I have run over 1000km in 10 weeks, heaps of hills, lots of quality. The other half (the nervous rookie Ultra runner) wonders if I would of benefitted from another 4hrs of mountain slog.

I used to always take the easy option, cut long runs short, miss sessions, sleep in. The old me had turned bad habbits into an art form. I was never worried about missing a session or not running enough. The new me hates it. It certainly is a weird feeling to have 24 hours of guilt by missing half a session. At the end of the day, I am fit, healthy and able to run. Who know's what would of happened had I slogged back up the mountain - maybe I would of enjoyed it, maybe I would of snapped an ankle or an arm. Maybe I would of been selling my rego like a heap of others on the North Face site. Safety first won out, which is good considering my day job! Ha!

I am starting the taper for my next Ultra, the Nerang 50km on the 1st of April. The next 2 weeks are lower km's so less running not more. I am going to refrain from writing a pointless taper blog, so the next blog will be a race report.

My most awesome sister and Crew Chief Mon will be looking after H.U.R.T (HRE Ultra Race Team) at Nerang. Gavin, Raelene, Benny, Rodney and I will all be running for H.U.R.T in our HRE jerseys. I've included a photo above of the Gav, Raelene and Ben in the gear from Saturday. We are going to rock!

Gav, Benny and Rodney will be up the pointy end, I am planning on running close to Raelene. Save some in the tank for the second lap. Oh and drink plenty of water!

PS - Luke is making his Ultra debut at Nerang. I expect him to smash it and run hard from start to finish. His training runs have been unreal, some blistering times over some crazy elevations, so I am really looking forward to watching him run. It will be great to see him realise some of his running potential.  
There are a heap of Rocky athletes heading away this weekend to swim/bike/run. This is a quick shout out to them all to wish them the best of luck, I hope they race well and crack a PB. For those that are going to Melbourne for the Ironman - I wish you all the best for your Kona qualifying attempt. I hope I havn't missed anyone!

Melbourne IM
·         Scott Lawton
·         Kelly Spottiswood
·         Rohan Smith
·         Leigh D’Arcy
·         Josh Bell

Mooloolaba Olympic Tri
·         Chris Pollock
·         Raleigh Wallace
·         Ronan Foolkes
·         Aiden Trevan
·         Leah Cheal
·         Sasha King
·         Morgan Wass
·         Penny Bryant
·         Jim Griggs
·         Emma Townsend

Stay safe catch you in 2 weeks


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Training Partners

It’s funny how you go through training partners. I’m not talking about group running (which I’ve blogged about previously), where we all meet on a Saturday and do XX distance and you end up running with someone because they are the same pace as you. I am talking about the training partner which you semi regularly run with. I can tell you from experience that some people are better suited my “style” than others. 
When Jason and I first started to run together in January 09, we shared a number of similarities. We work in the same profession, we have the same degree, we listen to the same music etc. So when we ran, it was like there was an instant connection. We really gelled and from our first run and from there our friendship grew. Our personalities are also pretty similar; we are “all or nothing” type trainers, which for rookies is a recipe for disaster.
 At the start our paces were similar but Jason just kept improving, so by the start of last year, my “hard” runs became his recovery runs. Our marathon PB’s are separated by 31 minutes! By that stage we just didn’t run too much together, but the miles we did run were awesome.
When you run with a regular buddy you learn a lot about what makes them tick, what motivates them, what drives them to be out logging the miles. You learn about their partner or family and how they fit it all in. With Jason I learnt about Type 1 Diabetes and saw firsthand how hard it is to do endurance sports with it.  Over the running years we also shared a lot, it seems like yesterday when Jason’s shin “snapped” – his shin pain was so bad that he couldn’t run any longer, or walk. You have the good with the bad you share positive moments like when Jason and Vik got engaged and not so positive when Bel’s dad passed away suddenly.
The other thing is that you share in their success and failure. Massive PB’s at the Brisbane Marathon last year were so great, because we both did well on the same day. Sharing that moment is very satisfying.
Over the past 31 weeks during my TNF training I have also run with a few people, mainly for long runs to break it up. Most of them have been great and selfishly have suited my needs more than theirs.
Some of them haven’t worked, so I will start with those first.
Paul – Running with Paul always feels like you are running with an Olympian. Paul is so super nice and has asked me to run a couple of times down the beach, but honestly I get nervous about running with him and Alice. They are so much faster than I am, and it is so hard for me to talk and keep up. Plus I always feel like I have ruined their session. I know that is dumb, but I feel like I am the running retard. The other difficult thing about running with Paul is that he lives in Yeppoon, logistically it is super hard as I am a morning runner that means I lose an hour getting to the beach and back. Maybe one day if I get good enough, I will be able to run with them both a bit more.
Nev – Nev is great for a laugh and at various times provided me with a good measuring stick for my progress. I call Nev the “Anti Masters Athlete” – every piece of guidance Pete would say about nutrition, hydration and training Nev would be doing the opposite. We did a 30k trail run one Saturday morning in 35 degree heat, Nev brought nothing. Not a gel, no water, nothing. He ran with no hat, or shirt in his Dunlop KT-26ers. I couldn’t believe it. I was sure he was going to die. BUT he made it back with some generous help from Benny, who gave him some water and a gel. Nev is great for a laugh, but I couldn’t train with someone so opposite to me! I am a planner, I need to be sufficiently prepared for the long run!
Dean – A couple of weekends ago I ran with dean and it was an eye opener and really is the catalyst for this blog! Dean is 20+ Ironman finisher, accomplished runner and tough as nails trainer. Last week Rodney and I were running with him for a couple of hours and I realised he just isn’t my cup of tea. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but to me Dean just came across as too negative. I don’t mind bagging the shit out of someone if justified, but Dean pretty much just was negative about everything. He was dismissive of The North Face, saying he is doing it as a “training run” and saying that I will be crushed and walking up hills backwards. When I really think about it though, the main difference has been our alternate lives. I am married, 2 young sons, work full time and have HRE on the side. Dean works part time, trains full time and lives at home with his parents. Besides events, there was little that we had in common. I know I am guilty of putting the shutters up on someone because I don’t understand them, maybe I could work harder at getting to know him but as training partner Dean’s off the list.
For the positives there have been 3 major training partners who have shared the load the past 30 odd weeks. These are my “Jason Replacements”! Seriously though, without them I simply would not have improved as quickly as I have.
Rodney – I have known Rodney for ages from the gym, where we both “worked our pecs and delts”, I knew we had sons around the same age but that was about it. When he won the 5km at the Spring Classic we touched base via Facebook and started to run together. Rodney was just keen to do a bit of trail running, get out of Gracemere and do a few longer runs to prepare for his half Ironman this year.
As it turns out, he is a gun runner, and went from the longest run being 21km to finishing top 10 for the 54km Hares and Hounds! I couldn’t believe it! It was great to share his success, and although I had a shit day it was so awesome to see him progress from struggling to do 10k of trail to smashing 54k! We have a similar pace, although he pushes himself a bit harder than I do, so in training he makes me “work” a bit more, which is good. Our lives are also pretty similar, young kids, mortgage, work etc. We are both so proud of our kids that we can spend hours just talking about the crap they do or say. It is great. When he snapped his arm recently it was tough, I was worried that he might drop off the face of the earth (which you normally do when you are injured). No he kept training. It was inspiring to see him keep running with his arm in a cast! He is as tough as they come!

Pete – Running with Pete is like playing backyard cricket with Ricky Ponting. Initially I expected it to be done at an insanely fast pace (which it never is), I also expected Pete to know all the answers. Pete never comes across as the guru, never makes you feel like your methods or knowledge are inadequate. His advice is always from the point of view that “experience is the best teacher”, you need to try things out for yourself, experience it, learn from your own successes and failures. An Australian Age Group Ironman Champion – Pete is extremely modest. He never talks up his achievements, always trying to keep a lid on it. Pete has been so generous with his time, and advice, my current improvements are a direct result of his expertise.   
Benny – Benny has been my main source of info for my The North Face trip. He ran last year’s event, so has been 1000 times better than trying to find out from online forums. Ben has been running Ultras for the last couple of years and so has given me invaluable guidance with the training which I would need to be doing. He has been so super honest and where I am making improvements he is giving me feedback which really spurs me on. As a wannabe Ultra runner I had a million questions for him in the beginning, shoes, bag choice, fuel etc. It has been great to bounce ideas off someone and get direct honest feedback regarding your progress. Yesterday morning for example I was asking about the mandatory gear check-in, what the process was, how long it takes etc.
Ben’s son and my eldest are at school together so we have heaps to talk about, similar to Rodney some runs we just crap on about our kids. Other times it is about the races and places we want to go, and the planning and logistics of how to get there. I have a great respect for the racing he has done, he is super modest and as a Hawaii Ironman finisher, he has been there and done the work. He has had his ups and downs with ultra’s and I am very lucky to have him as a Jedi Master guiding me through this journey. The more running we do, the closer the connection. Like with Jason once connected I share the ups and downs of Ben’s racing.

There are of course some honourable mentions, including Leah for her awesomeness in getting me to a sub 3.50 marathon last Friday night and Jen who I have run with a couple of times, Jen provides me with a kick in the arse if I take it too easy! Both ladies are much better marathoners than I am and are a great source of inspiration!
Running buddies provide that fuel on slack days to get you out the door and committed, if you plan it right and run with someone a little better you can push yourself that bit harder than you normally would on a run by yourself. I owe a lot of my improvements to them.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

When Day Dreaming Becomes Reality - The North Face 100

I’ve had this orange folder hidden under the bed for a long time. There are coffee cup stains hidden under the dust and cobwebs on it. On the front, it has written in black pen in capitals THE DREAM. Inside there are 20 or so pages of information regarding a race, not just any race but THE race. This aint no fun run kids.....
It’s been 3 years since I first learnt about The North Face 100 (TNF 100), at the time I had just read an article in an adventure magazine called The Outer Edge, the article was written by a runner who ran part of it with Dean Karnazes http://www.ultramarathonman.com/web/ - The year was 2009 and I was bitten hard by the runners bug. I had just read a book about Karno (50 Marathons in 50 Days) and here he was in Australia running a 100km race – I had to learn more about it.
At that time running 100km seemed like the most extreme thing for me to even dream of doing. I was new to running, I had just survived a marathon, my second ever race and finished in just under 4.40. I had never met any Ultra Marathon runners, thus had no idea about races greater than a Marathon in distance. To me, at that time and like others 42.2km is long enough!
I became a little obsessed with the idea of training for this race, I collected articles, photos, and website info and placed it in an orange folder. It became the secret race that I was training for. This was in 2009, many many months ago.  
If you are unfamiliar with TNF, it is a 100km Ultra in the Blue Mountains NSW. It is run over parts of the infamous 6 foot track and mostly in heritage listed national park. What makes this tougher than your average 100km trail race is the elevation. There is over 4500m of ascent and descent over the course – for those in Rocky that’s 9 trips up and down Mt Archer!
The climbing up (and down) hills and mega stair cases make this Ultra unique, it has a reputation of  smashing your quads to pieces on the downhills and smashing your soul to pieces on the ups. Because of the elevation changes, it is a long day at the office for most people, there is a very generous cut off of 28hours – and for those willing to push a silver buckle for a sub 14hr finish and bronze for a sub 20hr finish.
If you get your training right and do the work, it is one piece of the puzzle, the other is nutrition. Due to the length of time you are on course for, nutrition and hydration plays a bigger part than any other Ultra. The longer you are on course the more likely you will fail at your nutrition plan, gels, perpetuem, coke, powerade, noodles, pizza – it all tastes like crap eventually. And don’t even get started on managing calorie volume, and water and electrolytes, making sure you get enough but not too much to shut things down!
TNF is also Australia’s largest Ultra. Most Ultra’s are quiet little races with less than a couple of hundred (for the big races). TNF this year has over 950 solo runners. Benny tells me it is the closest Ultra he has been too that feels like an Ironman.

So my dream has been bubbling along for 3 years.
Why am I doing this? Why spend a shit load of money on 1 weekend? Why keep a stupid folder under my bed for 3 years? What is the attraction to THIS race?
I think I just wanted a challenge that seemed unrealistic. I really just wanted to set a goal for myself that seemed so farfetched from my fitness and experience level that it was plain stupid to imagine doing it. When I told Bel about it doing it she said no. Thinking back it was partly because she knew that I wasn’t fit enough, the other reason was it seemed scary and unsafe to her for someone to be running for 20hrs in the bush.
Now this is going to sound stupid, but my folder is filled with a heap of articles about gear and stuff. I know I have already blogged about gear, but that was my major concern back at the start. I needed a cool backpack and rad trail shoes and an awesome headlamp.
There are no bits of paper with training plans or anything resembling nutrition plans! Pretty funny really.
Thinking back I was in love with the idea of being a 100km finisher, being like Karno with cramping quads with every step, the romantic idea of suffering for hours on end in the bush walking up steep climbs powered by pizza and pain. Dreaming about the finish and never about the journey.
To be honest training for TNF has been bloody lonely and hard. As a certified extrovert (one psych survey I did puts me in the 95th percentile of all extroverts!) – who has used running as my "alone time", logging not only over 12-14 hours of solo running but 3-4hours of gym work each week hasn’t been easy.
I had dreamed about the finish and never about the daily 4.15am alarms.
I had dreamed about the sub 20hour buckle and never about the perpetual tiredness, hunger and irritability.
I dreamed about the bragging rights on the facebook page but never about the constant battle to get back home before the kids woke up and all hell breaks loose every morning.
I dreamed about the cold beer at the Sydney airport wearing my TNF shirt and never about the prospect of a DNF.
The old me was part wanker part dreamer, the reality of it is that there is a lot of hard, long, lonely work required before you even get to the start line of an Ultra. Then if, and it’s a big if, everything goes to plan and you have a good day, the Ultra Gods will allow you to finish.
The dreamer in me has long gone, beaten into submission by the sleep deprivation and countless kilometres of solo running, maybe with it a little bit of the illusion that this Ultra game is fun.
"The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights" Muhammad Ali.
Find your limits, redefine them, repeat - Jason Paull Team HRE


PS -Its my 31st Birthday on Saturday the 10th of March - feel free to donate to The North Face 100 Trip! Its been very expensive getting all of the mandatory gear together!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

I'm a Runner - Just Like You!!

Benny had built a couple of recovery weeks into my program, which I have really been looking forward to. I have been working in blocks of 3+1, 3 harder weeks then a recovery week. But I had 5 weeks for a total of 520kms, so it has been good to refresh a bit over the last few weeks by doing some “lower” km’s. Lower now means 80km and 60km for the past 2 weeks! Weird cause that used to be massive before this craziness started last August.
So last weekend we had a little family holiday where Bel and I had the pleasure of attending Miriam and Mark’s wedding on the Sunshine Coast. Miriam has been Bel’s friends for about 8 years or so, she was at our wedding sitting on the “Sizzler” Table. I mostly spent the 4 days in the pool with the boys, which was great!  
The wedding was absolutely beautiful – the rain held off and as Miriam made her way down the stairs and onto the beach, everyone close to us commented on how beautiful she looked. It was a really beautiful wedding, and at the reception the happy couple had a book with photos from their childhood etc. There was a photo from 2004 when Bel and Miriam were hitting the clubs for a night out, I couldn’t believe how much weight Miriam had lost!
When I asked Miriam proudly said she had lost about 30kg, and then she said “I’m a runner just like you”! Wow! I never knew Miriam was a runner! She said she had been doing mainly 3km treadmill runs and was trying to get her 3km time down. What an inspiration. I love it!
I love hearing stories like that, it reaffirms my view that nearly all of us are runners and if we put our minds to it, can enjoy running and all the positiveness it brings to your life.
 I’ve spent the past 3 years trying to convince Bel to run a little bit on her afternoon walks. She walks 4-5 times a week and I’ve been trying to convince her to run a little bit, just a couple of minutes at a time then maybe sign up for a race. So far she has refused and given me a long list of reasons why she can’t, it is one of my goals for the remainder of the year to get her to toe the start line at a race somewhere! All of us runners know she will love that finish line and be hooked for life once she crosses it.
As I scheme up a plan to get Miriam and Bel to register for a race it got me thinking about first races.  Last year we had a lot of “race virgins” at the Spring Classic, there were heaps of people (mainly ladies) who had signed up for their first 5km race. They had never seen a race bib before, didn’t know what pace runners were or had ever used an electronic timing chip. From the feedback we received it was an awesome experience for them, a really important achievement, it gave them immense personal satisfaction. I wish you could bottle that feeling you get when you finish a race.
I remember my first race, it was the River Run Half Marathon in 2009, my second race ever was a Marathon at Gold Coast. Weird now when I think about it, that I had never even done a 5km before that! I knew nothing about pacing, fuel or aid station etiquette. I believe you should race often, even if its not for a PB, just to enjoy being out in a race with other runners - oh and enjoy the finish line :)
This year’s Spring Classic will be bigger and better (lock in September 16th at CQUni Rockhampton) – I think this will be a great place for Miriam to test her treadmill legs and maybe, just maybe I can get Bel to run her first race!
Quickly in other news, my sister Mon and my cousin Cath have been tearing it up at the Brisbane Road Runners over the weekend. It’s so great to get their race reports about new 10km PBs! Keep up the great work ladies J
Oh and YES I was made to get a “real” haircut for the wedding!
Run Hard