Sunday, May 29, 2011

Punctuation to the inbetweens - or something else?

Set off with Mallani, Nic, Mandy and Matt Meck (as well as Macca and Bengal) for a casual 20km hike around Lake Manchester today.
Ended up being 35.5km with 1,215 vert. over 7 hours, including a few hill sprints and a very small amount of downhill running.
Unexpected, but not unwelcome.
The highlight was descending down an average gradient of about 45% for 300m of vert, running it with no small amount of fear, coming to an incredible creek at the bottom, then doing the same in reverse up the side of the next hill. Long-story-short: it was fun AND it hurt - probably the best combination possible.
Also had some great conversations.
More concerning was a catastrophic bonk during the last 6km which made me feel like I almost couldn't make it up a small hill. Eating little more two tins of beans and a few pretzels and lollies since waking was probably the culprit, or this odd head-cold, or the decimated quads.
Knee also played up a fair bit, but it seems related to the tightness in my left ab - nothing that a bit of a stretch wont fix (I hope).
Good times!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Inbetweens

The past twelve days since Cook's Tour have been, unsurprisingly, uneventful.
I have still been gyming and stretching as frequently as possible, have played touch a couple of times and have been on one hike and one run. I've been focusing on strengthening, stretching and activating my glutes and hips in an attempt to solve my perennial hamstring problems, and have been doing much core work to try to rehab the strained ab. So far, it SEEMS to be working.

It's been sort of nice to have a break, but I'm keen to get back into the swing of things; i.e. multi-hour daily trail runs, hairy day-long mountain climbs/cycling trips on the weekends and a few road races here and there. A few obstacles though - my quads are still pretty much decimated, my knees are a bit twingey and I got sick again.

Ah well, guess I should take the hint and wait some more.

Still, I can't wait to get into training for Glasshouse 100 mile.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cook's Tour 50 miler

You're running up a wide, dusty, yellow dirt road in the heat of midday. The air is still, and the sun is exposed, seemingly penetrating your skin. You look up from the metronomic motion of your feet to survey the horizon; the road rises and dips for kilometres ahead. All is quiet in the immediate surrounds, but far off a dog barks, the engine of a bike buzzes and the wind moves through the trees.
Your gaze shifts to the watch on your arm. You're binded by it, it makes the rules. Only one minute gone - in reality, it's been a day, a week, a month worth of pain. But that doesn't matter. What does is that if you endure 47 more of those minutes, you'll be done. You'll be done in good time.
It's about 74km into the race, the kind of geo-temporal situation that I live for.
What's more is that, unlike usual, I'm not stumbling along barely coherent, drawing wavy lines in the dirt, bleeding inside.
I'm running, balancing on the red line which separates a non-race effort and utter annihilation. I'm listening closely to the body; quads are bartering with calves to trade some strain, the right hamstring just woke up, shoulders are moaning. Everything is pushing hard, working in synergy to extract the utmost forward motion from each muscular contraction. Everything is strong.
It just feels 'right'.

But getting to that point was a different story.

Stayed the night before with Nic and Mallani, and we consumed a Mexican feast prepared by the man of the house (very impressed!).

Up at 1:08am, then Nic drove us up.

Standing on the start-line, the hamstrings were twingey, and everything else felt stiff and heavy.
Deb, Nic and I started down the road shoulder to shoulder, bantering and laughing, opening up a large gap on the rest of the field reasonably quickly. I was trying to stick close to Deb, because she had a headlamp that could blind the sun. Soon enough, Nic started to fade, while Deb and I chugged along chatting. One thing that I noticed about this incredible running woman was her quick stride rate - she must have been taking about 200-220 strides per minute, compared to my measly 170-180.
As such, after little over an hour, I had to take a pit stop.
As Deb's luminescent glow bobbed off into the distance, I looked down at the ground, and came to a crushing realisation. My headlamp was as good as useless; I had zero depth perception on a patch of light about one metre squared. So I ran hard in an attempt to catch up.
I could've breezed through Checkpoint 6 and ran with her, but I knew that my bottle needed refilling, so I took the smart option, also bolstering my gel-lined stomach with some real food.
Deb became the course marshall for me, as I was unable to follow the markings in any way other than by fixating my gaze on her lamp in the distance.
At some point, while descending a seemingly flat road, I strayed into a 1.5-foot-deep rut without noticing, and before I knew it, I was on my knees and chest, screaming expletives (to some extent, in the vain hope that Deb would turn around and help me with her flashlight - no such luck). Pretty soon after that, I wiped my hand across my knee, and realised that there was a fair amount of blood. I then fell over again. It was around this point, some 16km into the race that, mentally, I let Deb go. The way she was running, there was no way that anyone could pass her later on, unless by divine intervention.
After falling into more mud puddles and generally stumbling around the technical trails at the base of Tiberoowuccum, I saw a headlight behind me. Nic!!!
I slowed and slowed, eventually stopping to let him catch up. With a stronger light, we were back in business. The miles rolled by, as we chatted away - traffic, race tactics, and bodily conditions were the main topics of discussion. Before I knew it, we were at Beerburrum, and just under 24km into the race.
I picked up some food, water, and abuse from Geoff about not wearing a shirt, and we were off again, running shoulder to shoulder, the way we came, into the dark.
After about ten minutes, we passed a pack of four runners coming in the opposite direction: Walter (who is usually a strong contender in the mens), Suzannah (National team 24-hour runner), Tymeka (winner of a few ultras), and this other veteran dude who was battling some intense foot pain. At this point, we had atleast 3km on them.
The race was starting to take shape: Deb was unassailably in the lead, Nic and I would be battling for second overall, and the rest would be jostling for position behind us.
New strategy: stay with Nic.
And that I did, even when on some flat and downhill sections it looked like he would open a gap, and on the uphills he faded. I could have run away from him in a few places, but I wasn't looking forward to another 50km of running alone, so I played the waiting game and stuck to him like gum on a shoe.
Approaching CP 6 for the second time (about 42km), the pesky hamstring tendons flared up, and I was dreading the prospect of dealing with this issue for another 40km. I tried frantically to get the two ibuprofen pills out of my back pocket, but the zip was broken. Damn it to hell!
Eventually, I was able to extract them, but had no water so I waited until we rolled into 6.
The people there were really friendly and gave us all we needed; biscuits, fruit and WATER - the pills could now be washed down.
My inner-junkie rejoiced as they slid down my gullet, and almost immediately, the pain started to fade. It would continue to do so progressively over the next 20km, until it wasn't there at all.
Pretty soon came the famed powerlines section. Nic had been talking about how horrible it was, but I fell in love with it immediately. I was a series of 20m long ups and downs with 20-40% gradients, huge puddles, ruts, roots and rocks. Again, I could have pulled away here, but restrained myself. Save it for later Zac, you don't want him catching you at the end!
The next 7km from to CP 8 was relentlessly flat, and I really struggled to keep with Nic. I couldn't count the number of times that I coerced him to slow down, and was starting to feel a bit guilty. Then again, we were working well together - the advantage was mutual.
Coming into 8, we were greeted a reasonable crowd, led by Mandy, who ordered us onto the scales and then sent us to the aid table. Libby was there too, and she doted on our every wish, bringing drop bags and filling bottles.
"Come on Zachariah, let's go", said Nic, as he ambled back onto the trail.
The next section - the first of two loops beginning and ending at 8 - was a combo of flat single-track, and very steep ups and downs on technical 4wd tracks. We passed Mallani (who was running the 50km race) while crossing a creek, and both noted how fresh and happy she looked. At some point, I ate my first coffee flavoured gel (I had been taking two gels per hour before this), and was instantly wired.
I started singing very loudly, much to Nic's annoyance, until he decided to add some wicked air bass solos. Who said running isn't fun?
I then decided to break the strict one-gel-every-30-minute regime and put off taking another one for a little while to avoid the risk of a deep crash later on - all I had left in my handheld were two more coffee flavoured GUs. Well, my blood sugar plummeted with impeccable timing - just as we started walking up the longest hill of the race (that we would meet again at the end of the next loop). I felt low and sad and destroyed. So I was indescribably happy when Libby came down the hill with one of Mandy's sons, and accepted my request for a hug.
Into 8 again, I grabbed my second handheld; full of gels and energy bars; and did the usual restocking. Nic and I were out of there quickly, climbing up a steep hill.
Then came the most talked-about section of the course: Cook's climb (or Cook's descent, in this case). We went downhill at a slow pace, but I started to pull away from Nic a little. And then I fell over again.
"Zac, I need to shit"
"Well, tell me when you're going to," I said, fully intending to wait for Nic. There were still about 18km to go, and I didn't want to make my move yet. Nic faded and faded and faded, until I was descending entirely alone, with his skinny figure out of sight.
Okay Zac, time to go.
Reluctantly, the training wheels came off, and I went.
I hit the flat, and turned it up a notch, frequently checking over my shoulder, fearing to see the imposing bald man breathing down my neck. No such bad luck. I passed a few 50km runners as the small hills rolled on, then after a few kms of dead flat came the game-breaker. That big hill. Thinking of Lance Armstrong, and how he always busted the tour open in the mountains, I knew that if I was going to seal the deal it would have to be here.
Run it Zac.
Those mornings running up Mount Cootha on the steepest tracks, barely eeking out 8kms per hour in the hardest sections, lungs and legs searing, came to mind. I passed Fitzy (50k) and asked if he wanted to come with. No was the answer, so I trucked forward and up.
I arrived at 8 for the last time, in a world of hurt, got weighed, stocked up, hugged Mallani, and then set off on the most painful/enjoyable/incredible 13km of my life. I had 1:10 to play with if I wanted to get in under 8:00 - I would have to run everything.

And that's how I got to the situation described in paragraph 1.

Then came the final checkpoint; they told me the finish was 5km from there. I had 30 minutes to do it in. Well, it was certainly longer than that, as I couldn't have been averaging less than 10.5km per hour, but it still dragged on and on and on. Turn left, turn right, into the forest, into the open, onto the grass, onto the dirt, and then... onto the road. The Woodford Pool, the finish line, was in sight. I ran hard up the final hill. Sub-8 was gone, but I wanted to finish strong.
Over the line - 8:01:49 for 82km total. Second overall, first male.

Although a few things went wrong in that race (headlamp, hamstrings) I think that I made almost all of the right decisions in regard to pacing, food, and hydration (well, carrying a bit more water would have helped). Because of this I'm really happy with the race, and I know that with a year of training under my belt, I'll be able to cut quite a bit off of that time.

Nic had some serious stomach issues and ended up finishing about 20 minutes later - I sort of would have preferred to cross the line by his side, but it just wasn't his best day out I suppose (unlike a few years before, when he ran sub-7:30!).

Friday, May 6, 2011


21:05 for 5.8km at sherwood.
That was unexpected - legs felt like turd beforehand, and I started out the race way too fast. Managed to finish fairly strongly though
Must be all of the foam rollering and stretching that I've been doing.
3:38.1 per km, 16.5km/h.
Now, the hard part - tapering for the week before Cook's tour.
I've been reading a bit about muscle tension, and how it needs to be tweaked before race-day. As a result, I think this week I will do a couple of sprint sessions and a couple of slower runs, as well as touch footy on Tuesday night, that oughtta sort it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Entered Cook's tour 50 mile. Now all that's left is to taper and hit a incy bit of speed work.
In other news, the nine people that I said would be contenders at Wild Horse made up the top nine exactly! How cool is that! Maybe I should retire from running, and just commentate on it...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Border Ranges

Squelch, slap, squelch, slap.

The Border track is soft underfoot, and provides a range of sounds not heard on the usually dry trails upon which I run.

After having stayed in Beechmont for four of the last seven days, sampling some of the beautiful tracks around Binna Burra (Dave's Creek, Lower Bellbird, Gwongoorool Pool), seeing some great sights (Egg Rock, Ships' Stern, and a bunch of waterfalls), and picking up eleven leeches; we decided to go for a longer outing.

Dad and Benno would walk the half mara from O'Reilly's to Binna Burra, but I was racking my brains to figure out the best way to get in a long-run at the same time, without inconveniencing anyone with awkward pick-up times. Best option ended up being to run over to Binna Burra, and then back to Dad and Benno, finishing up with a walk from where they were to Binna Burra again; the out, half-back, and out again.

Setting out with confidence and a new pair of shoes (Salomon XT Wings) both courtesy of the race at Wild Horse the weekend before, I was thinking that I could get there in sub-2, maybe 1:50. Hopes were quickly dashed, as I got to 10km in just over and hour, and started to deteriorate thereafter. It was a combo of the heavy shoes, a 5.8km race the day before (underwhelming PW of 21:59, by the way), and the ridiculous(ly awesome) amount of mud. Despite those minor details, squelching through the forest with sheer drops and sweeping views on either side was incredibly fun. The single-track makes you feel like you're flying all the time, evading leeches and shrugging off the mud. After ten k, however, it felt alot more like crap, with a serious bonk to keep me honest. As a result, the turnaround came in 2:07, right on 6 minute kms. Could have ended the run there happily, but knew it would be a dick move, as Dad and Benno would be wondering where I was. Back we go. Blood sugar then proceeded to plummet even lower, culminating in an embarassing stumble into a creek in front of a group of hikers. Meh, who cares. It ended in an agonizing run/crawl up the hill to the Mount Merino turnoff, just before which, I ran into Dad and Benno. Relief! - about 3:15 for 30.5km with 300-400m of vertical That was not smooth by any means, but it was still a great run. From there, Dad power-walked us back to Binna Burra, where we removed our 1kg shoes, took some great photos, and met up with Paula (who, in an incredible effort, had spent about four hours in a car, half of which driving, for our sakes! Very grateful).

It was a great way to end a great trip into the Hinterland.