Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fitzroy Falls

After a few easier weeks since returning from Europe I decided to enter the Fitzroy Falls Fire Trail Marathon, it's a race I won last year so I wanted to defend my title and also use it as a starting point for my build-up for Kepler. My family decided to come down for the weekend and also a few friends so we set up camp in the beautiful Kangaroo Valley, nice place but very noisy rooster so there was no problem waking up early for the race on Saturday. The conditions were amazingly similar to last year, light drizzly rain and pretty misty along the course although the water levels were nothing like last year and there were no major puddles out there.

The start was the usual relaxed affair and although I entered too late to receive a seeded entry it was pretty simple to just wander to the front which was nice. Barry Keem (race record holder) was in the race and from the start we went out to a lead. We were on our own pretty early and cruised through 5k running together and having a chat. The drizzle kept coming and it was pretty cool so it was good for running and the road surface was pretty solid. I drifted off the front at about 5k and just kept up a solid pace and I felt pretty good. My lead grew to probably about 30 secs and I wasn't sure if he was dropping off or taking it easy so just kept going on my own. It turned out that he was never that far behind and I could see at the turnaround points that he was running pretty well. I tried to up the pace a bit just after the 30k mark but didn't really have an extra gear. Barry caught me at 38k and I stayed with him until about 39k but then he took off and opened a big gap, I was still running OK but had no extra gear to go with him. Just settled in and ran strongly to finish in 2:48:59, about 40 secs behind and about a minute slower than last year.

Pretty happy with the result, ran a good time and it was good to have a race that is run a different way. I tend to start conservatively so usual have runners to chase but this time I had to think about leading the race and having a quality runner behind me and seeing if there was anything I could do about holding him off, turns out there wasn't.

Main plan now is around Kepler in early December, basically build towards that and probably do a few smaller races on the way.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Jungfrau marathon

Back home now and have had time to reflect on the Jungfrau marathon. I can confirm it's very scenic and very tough. I was in Interlaken for a week before the race and did some easy runs along the lake and through town and also spent time going to some touristy areas including the Schiltorn at 3000+ metres. It was hard to resist the temptation to walk up lots of mountains, I also thought about doing a tandem paraglide but thought I'd probably just hurt myself.

I met up with the other Aussies on the Friday and checked-in to the athletes hotel, I ended up having a room to myself because Gerard Robb was injured and didn't turn up. I was between the Russian and Polish teams, just across from Ukraine - not sure why. On Saturday I went to Lauterbrunnen to watch the Aussie women then went back home to take it easy.

No expense spared in the race hotel
Race day was sunny and pretty warm and I did a quick warm-up. Gerard Robb appeared and we had a quick chat before the race. The race is limited to 4000 people but because it was the 20th anniversary they had a Saturday and Sunday race with 4000 each with the elite woman and vet males on the Saturday and the rest on Sunday. Great atmosphere at the start but still pretty relaxed, I got away well and just sat in a big group while the leaders set a cracking pace. I think 5k was abut 17:30 then I dropped off the group and cruised through 10k in about 36:30 feeling pretty comfortable on the dead flat start to the race.

Permanent marker along the flat part of the route through Lauterbrunnen

I'd spoken to a few of the USA team the day before, good runners and a couple had run the race before and they said you had to be feeling pretty comfortable at half-way so that was the plan. The rolling hills picked up after 10k between Wilderswil and Lauterbrunnen, the course followed the river up the valley and we had a great view of the big mountains in the distance. Huge crowd at Lauterbrunnen was great, lots of noise and cheering, just like a big city marathon. Went through half-way in about 83mins so I'd slowed down more than I was planning but now I was just trying to keep it nice and steady and I could still see the guys up ahead including Galen Burrell from USA who came 5th here a few years ago so I knew I was in a decent position even though I was about 40th at this stage.

The main climb starts at about 25k and from there the course is basicall uphill to the finish with varying degrees of steepness. 25k is where the km markers disappear and are replaced by 250m markers, 25.0km then 25.25km,'s pretty scary especially when it's a few minutes between each one. It's about 3k of REALLY steep running, this is where I struggled and never fully recovered. I also had a steady stream of people pass me from here on, just ones and twos but there is such depth in the race you're never really on your own. I walked and ran while everyone else seemed to be running.

Another huge crowd was waiting at Wengen at about 30k, it's here I realised it was only about 12k to go but I still had a long time left. The sun was up now and it was pretty hot, I'd read somewhere some marathon tips by Frank Shorter, he said never to use sunscreen in a race because it affects the ability of the body to regulate temperature. Probably shouldn't have listened to Frank today though, I could already feel the sunburn starting. That was the least of my worries though, the course is a lot better after Wengen, lots of flatter sections amongst the steep hills but no real let-up. I was drinking a lot now and from here on it was just a mental battle. I was reminded of my first 6 foot track race, similar feeling of just running on empty, I also thought how easy 6 foot seemed compared to Jungfrau. The aid stations were pretty good but I couldn't really understand what they were saying, water and energy drink were available, sometimes Coke and sometimes Bouillon, weird, not great downing some soup when you think it's water.

The view of the mountains was amazing at this stage, the whole wall of Junfrau, Monch and the Eiger was climbing directly ahead. The scenery gets better as the real killer of the race comes in the last few km, a stupidly steep rocky path heads up and up. I was talking to an American after the race who finished a few minutes in front of me and he said it took him 35min to run the last 3k, it was crazy. I was barely moving here and starting to feel a bit sick, really just trying to keep moving. There were still some guys going past but everyone was dying. I saw some footage after the race of the leaders and even they were looking pretty bad at the end. I accepted some coke off a random spectator (wouldn't normally advise this) and plodded to the highest point of the course then amazingly started running really fast on the final 1k downhill to the finish. I even sprinted past the 5th American on the line before collapsing. I was handed an energy drink and a beer straight away, tried hard but couldn't even finish the beer, that's how bad I felt.

Nice downhill finish
That was it, 62nd on the day I think, amazing race, great atmosphere, scenery, organisation, support but extremely tough. I think the flattish first half makes it hard to pace as well. One of the Welsh guys was just behind me at 25k and ended up about 12th so it shows if you can push the second half there is much time to be made up.

I had a swim in the hotel pool afterwards and had some beers with the Aussies and the US and British guys at night which was great. DJ Otzi was playing in the main tent at the after party but I wasn't in the mood for dodgy Eurotrash pop music so just had the beers then off to bed.

Towards the end of the final climb, much steeper than it looks

There are some good runners in the field, quite a few sub 2:20 marathoners up front, met several other guys who are around 2:20 for the marathon so plenty of speed going around. How could I do better in this race? Could probably start off even slower, I felt comfortable enough in the first half but even a few minutes slower might make a big difference towards the end, the women's winner on Saturday was about 87 min at half-way then finished in 3:22. Find a 15km steep hill to train on, the first steep hill is tough and there is just no chance to recover afterwards. Interestingly I had no muscle soreness at all in the days after the race, I guess it's because there is virtually no downhill running at all so the legs don't get smashed so much, I did a couple of easy runs in Hyde Park in London during the week and felt great.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Off we go

I'm writing this while looking out of my hotel room at where the snow-capped peak of Jungfrau is but is currently hidden by clouds. Sydney, Seoul, Franfurt flights then the train brought me to Interlaken yesterday and I immediately went out for a 1 hr run along the riverside and lake. Amazing scenery, huge lake surrounded by mountains, I was last here about 10 years ago so it's been good walking around seeing what bits I remember.

This week is supposed to be an easy taper week, my last session in Sydney was the HuRTS 10 by 400m at Rushcutters which I pushed hard and it was probably the best I've done. Was stuffed afterwards so that's a good sign I pushed it. Link is here 400s.
Woke early today so went out for a run even though it was still pretty dark. I was going to run easy all week but decided to do a crazy hill run instead, I blame the hotel owner for thinking disparraging thoughts about Aussies running in the mountains. He may well be proven right after next Sunday but I had to make a point. The climb is about 3.5km long and rises about 800m so it was tough, took me about 35mins and I managed about 12km all up. It was a tough descent too so I'm sure I'll feel that tomorrow.

I caught the train out to Lauterbrunnen and walked up to Trummelbach falls, spectacular. The race goes this way up the valley before the main climbing starts so it was good to see some sections. The course and start area are being setup in town, just in front of Hooters, another part of the great scenery the course is known for.

Off for a massage soon, the sign strictly says "No erotic", does that mean they don't offer it or they aren't capable?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Quarry Rd TT

Quarry Rd, popular training route for anyone attempting a hilly trail race like six foot track. It's basically a fire-trail with steep downhill then steep uphill then flattish to the end then return, about 12.5km all up. This has become a regular testing track for me to see how I'm going, the start is less than 2km from my house so it's nice and easy to go for a hit-out once in a while.

With Jungfrau marathon 3 weeks away I figured it was time to try it again, my C2S race wasn't as good as I'd hoped so I was looking for a confidence boost. Quarry Rd is a tough run to get right, having run it so many times I know you have to go hard the whole way to get a fast time. That means going hard on the descents and also on the steep climbs while managing to keep the pace up on the flat section on the Dural side. The hardest thing is probably mental, every time I go for a fast time I know it's going to be a painful run so it's difficult to be in the mood to go hard.

I started fast down the hill and pushed hard to the bridge, on the climb i felt like I was slowing a bit so made sure I ran hard on the flat section to the other gate. Turned and started on the return leg but I felt like I'd lost too much time, tried to pick it up on the descent to the bridge but was struggling a bit on the last climb then pushed it to the end. I reached the gate in 50:43, scraping a few seconds off my previous best of 50:50 so really happy with that and a little bit surprised because I thought I'd lost too much time. Some of the time improvement can be attributed to the recent work they've down re-grading the surface, it's definitely a bit smoother and probably a bit faster, but to get even close to my best time means I'm going reasonably well.

Garmin connect

Start of the pain

Bridge at the bottom

Thursday, August 16, 2012

City 2 Surf

Officially finished 41st in 47:15. Was really hoping to get about 46:30 or better so not entirely happy with the time, also got chicked by Lara Tamsett but it's fair to say that I'm getting used to that. Pretty windy conditions out there especially over the last 4 kms. Went through 10k in 34:00, 6 secs ahead of last year's time but finished 15 secs slower overall.

It was a good hit-out, not great conditions at Bondi so ran back to the city with Richard, and the Truscotts before continuing on to St Leonards for the train home. 28km all up for the day then had an afternoon nap...nice. It was interesting to see the last group still lined up on the starting line when we got back to Hyde Park, makes you realise just how many people do this race.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Training Camp

Apparently Kenyans have training camps and they seem to go pretty well so I thought I would copy that approach. The chosen campsite was the cox's river campsite on the six foot track, the first challenge was to see if the Subaru could handle the drive in via Coxs river road, I was a bit concerned about the difficulty of the road but it was pretty straightforward. We arrived at the site and the only other guests were a bunch of middle-aged ute driving VB drinking campers who we were to find out had a passion for the musical talents of Jimmy Barnes. I was there to run some big long hills while my mates were going to head downstream to catch some trout in the freezing waters of the Coxs river.
Training camp

I was in two minds as to how I approached the run, I wanted to do 2 reps of pluvi but I knew that would be tough mentally, I was thinking of heading down Moorara Boss fire trail but wasn't sure about that and didn't want to carry extra water so in the end I did 1 lap of pluvi  then back to camp for some refreshments then back to the cattle yards and up the road we drove in on, here it is Pluviometer run

I was surprised to see the track had been graded (the day before apparently) from just after Alum Creek all the way to pluviometer, pretty good surface now and will definitely make for some faster times come six foot track race next year.

The clear waters of the river enticed me in for a post-run ice-bath, this was a big mistake. I walked into the river up to my knees and I was in pain after a few seconds, the water was freezing. My feet and legs began to ache so I scrambled out and put on lots of layers to warm up and prepare for the cold night ahead. That night around the campfire was freezing and even a few sausages and beers couldn't warm me up so I went to bed early just to keep warm and dozed off to the sounds of some early 80's Cold Chisel...could be worse.

In the morning we went downstream looking for trout, didn't find any so we packed up then I ran back to the explorer's tree while the guys drove the long way around to pick me up. I felt pretty good running up Nellie's Glen, I'm usually in a terrible state when I run this section Explorer's tree

Familiar sight

Should be trout in there somewhere

All up it was a good training weekend, I feel like these long hill runs are getting me ready for Jungfrau. My speed is improving too and I can see that with the recent HuRTS sessions, here are a few of them
Looking forward to the city 2 surf now, it should give a good idea of how I'm going then it will be a few more weeks until Switzerland.

Seeded entry, trying to hang onto one these