Win, but No Record, at Tussock Traverse

I’m extremely happy, not just to come away with the win at yesterday’s furiously fast Icebug Tussock Traverse, but with my consistent improvements over the past 2 months. For this I really have to thank my coach, Michael Adams, for guiding my training so well and Sportslab for guiding my injury management as I built up to full volume once again.

This concludes 9 weeks of training after a period of total rest. I built up from only easy cycling to a consistent routine with 4 quality runs per week, and reached a climax with an overload week last week. This week has been slightly easier and I was able to recover from the overload just in time to attack the Tussock Traverse course with everything I had gained in this block of training.

Here is a quick look at the course; no steep gradients, no long climbs. The trail surface is firm and fast. Even the section from 2-9km, which was definitely just a marked route with no defined trail, was fast except for a few stony riverbed crossings. I chose to race in Icebug Zeals again; a low shoe with aggressive tread and enough protection and support to keep my feet comfortable for 26km.

The Tussock Traverse course. See my Strava[https://www.strava.com/activities/482218189]

The Tussock Traverse course. See my Strava

So on to the race! The uphill start went well, and I pushed off the front with running legend Craig Kirkwood who boasts a 2:13 marathon to his name. Training partners Tommy Hayes and Matt Goodall were close behind as we crested the hill, overlooking the baron volcanic landscape of Tongariro National Park under the majesty of Mt Ruapehu. This is where the real race began for me. I hit the stony downhill with urgency, immediately distancing myself from Craig. Tommy and Matt were also comfortable on the rougher ground and weren’t too far behind me as we went into the best part of the course. I raced very aggressively from here, attacking the short stony descents into the dry river beds, and attacking the climbs out of each gully. I was having an absolute ball already, and then this section was topped off by running down a large dry sandy river bed at 3:30 pace for about 1.5kms. Woohooo!!

The course gradually climbs from 9km, and after feeling so strong up until this point I didn’t expect anyone to get close to me, so there weren’t really any tactics to think about and I settled well into time trial mode. From here on was truly a lonesome struggle, where I simply sat on my suffer-threshold and tried to stay as relaxed as possible. There was nothing technical anymore, just me, the headwind, a gradual incline, and a potential course record.

In sight of the Chateau

In sight of the Chateau

I could feel my strength decreasing slightly as I pushed over some undulations before the final descent, a testament my optimal pacing. I didn’t need much strength for the long descent, just an aggressive mind set to keep my pace as high as possible. Seeing the Chateau Tongariro nestled in forest was a beautiful slight 3km out from the finish and reminded me how close I was. I wasn’t sure what the course record was, so every second counted.

I finished in a time of 1:59:43 (4:37 mins/km), 2 minutes behind the record of international runner Andrius Ramonas. Matt took 2nd place and Tommy’s 3rd made for and all AOTC podium! Jonty Oram was also not far behind, and Daniel Goodall and Jimmy Hayes performed excellently in their 13km races too! Top results for AOTC! Thank you to Icebug New Zealand for the support this weekend and the best shoes I could ask for!

Couldn’t be happier with a fast race in this stunning location

Couldn’t be happier with a fast race in this stunning location

Next up is a weekend of sprint orienteering in Wellington and The Hillary is now only 4 weeks away.

Post-SOW

So Southern O-Week was totally freakin’ awesome! The new terrains, the scenery, and the people! I’m busy getting my maps up on my DOMA page now and doing some analysis of my orienteering. There is a lot to look at as I was navigating relatively poorly in most races. It was my generally low level of concentration that was contributing towards bad bearings, not identifying good attack points and not planning ahead when I had the time.

I’m happy to finish on a high though, with a win on todays’ middle distance race on the stunning Bannockburn map, which was closely contested at the top. I had much better concentration and planning, and successfully slowed down in a number of places to maintain control. So I know I can do it, and I’ll be spending a bit more time orienteering before NZ Champs to sharpen up. I’m expecting to do a number of technical overdrive sessions, like control picking, to make the urge to maintain high levels of map contact more subconscious.

To summarise the week, I ran a total of 11:12 (hours:minutes), with 4:44 at race pace, 2:08 attributed to warming up and warming down and 4:20 in the mid-week “rest” day long run which was a mix of moving slowly up steep slopes, cruising down grassy meadows, running slowly though waist high tussock, and 1 massive descent on a trail. Close to 5 hours in one week at race pace is a lot and a week like this is definitely a type of overload week. This coming week acknowledges that my body needs time to recover and so is slightly lighter overall, but of course does feature a race, Tussock Traverse, next Saturday.

Here’s a picture of me in my play ground on the “rest” day long run

Here’s a picture of me in my play ground on the “rest” day long run

And here’s a picture of me narrowly missing some kids at the last control of the Cromwell Sprint

And here’s a picture of me narrowly missing some kids at the last control of the Cromwell Sprint

Pre-SOW

After 2 days of easy training in Wanaka my attention turns to the inaugural Southern O Week, 8 races in 7 days based between Wanaka and Alexandra. A good mix of race formats and terrains has made this event something to look forward to for some time now. Although this does come at a strange place in the season for me, the promise of tough competition in quality terrain is too good to turn down. I aim to work on my mental and emotional performance during this week by putting pressure on myself and channelling that pressure into process focus – the skill of staying focused on only your orienteering technique and not being distracted by physical or mental stressors.

Yesterday I did a recommended training on the Hikuwai map nearby Wanaka yesterday to help get my head back into an orienteering space after focussing on solely running for so long. Building the technical intensity was hard at first, but eventually I subdued the urge to boost and focused my energy more on navigation. The course was really tricky (the map really says it all) and without flags it was difficult to know if I was in the right place for a number of the controls.

Training course on the very tricky Hikuwai map

Training course on the very tricky Hikuwai map

I topped off the session with a boost around the trails in the area to make the run more of the subthreshold that it was supposed to be. My pace was good and the twisty MTB trails through the low kanuka trees – soft leaves brushing my arms as I leant into the corners – made me feel extremely fast and pumped to race!

Today I did another enjoyable training run on the side of glistening Lake Wanaka under a clear blue sky. I started with a cruisy orienteering course which was more of a park-style course with nothing tricky, but the location made very enjoyable. I finished the hour of running with a cruise along the water’s edge over grass, marshland, sand and stones. My Icebug Zeals were getting pretty excited but I had to hold them back and just cruise knowing next week will bring plenty of opportunity to go fast!

An alternative view of today’s run (photo obviously not taken by me) showing the stunning scenery, and justifying why I spent no time looking at where I was putting my feet. Run along the water’s edge approximately marked in red.

An alternative view of today’s run (photo obviously not taken by me) showing the stunning scenery, and justifying why I spent no time looking at where I was putting my feet. Run along the water’s edge approximately marked in red.

SOW starts tomorrow!

2015 Favourite Moments

It seems only right that at this time of year we spend some time reflecting on the year that has been and taking those thoughts forward with us as we go into the new year. 2015 has undoubtedly been the most successful year of my life, the major highlights being attaining good results to my name at the World Orienteering Champs and also taking my most serious coaching position yet at the Junior World Orienteering Champs. But these mile stones haven’t just happened because of my efforts in 2015, they are a product of gradual accumulation of ability and knowledge over many years.

The 2015 WOC Sprint Relay team in Scotland

The 2015 WOC Sprint Relay team in Scotland

At WOC this year I raced 3 races, and while I didn’t have the top end speed to deliver the results I dreamed of in the sprint and sprint relay, the longer and more physical relay suited me better and I, along with a young but talented team, pulled out a performance to be really proud of.

Coaching the New Zealand team at JWOC was another obvious highlight with the amazing group of talented athletes and fun individuals in the amazing setting in Rauland, Norway. I was obviously fantastic to see Tim Robertson take defend his gold medal in the sprint distance, but I don’t want to let this overshadow the other amazing performance our team achieved. Shamus Morrison’s 9th place in the long distance is outstanding and makes him a big hope for 2016 in both middle and long distances. Also the general results of the young team we had in Norway bode extremely well for the coming years.

Erecting the tallest flag on our chalet to show the other countries what’s up.

Erecting the tallest flag on our chalet to show the other countries what’s up.

I also have to thank all those who have helped me in 2015, starting with Icebug New Zealand for helping me get more of my favourite shoes, Trimtex and GKO for keeping me kitted out while orienteering, running and cycling, Sportslab (who has recently come on board) for helping to keep my body operating as I want it too, NWOC for the hard cash to help me travel, Good People Run for helping to open up many opportunities and of course everyone that I have trained with both in NZ and Europe. Thanks you, and I’m looking forward to another exciting year working with you guys!

Thanks for helping me work closer to my dreams!

Thanks for helping me work closer to my dreams!

I would also like to give a special mention to the randomest moment of the year, which I think was making the most of my time in transit in Hong Kong on the way home from Europe. I was physically exhausted after 8 races in Scotland, very little sleep on the previous flights, and according to my body it was still the early hours of the morning. After I worked out that I needed a bus to get out of the airport I ran up to 600 meters, into the clouds, in 30°C and close to 100% humidity. This 14km was pretty tough given the circumstances but very rewarding.

View from half way up the mountain. GPS on Strava.

View from half way up the mountain. GPS on Strava.

2016 here we come!