Pacing onto the Kepler Podium

After my successes in trail running over last summer I wanted to chase the competition higher this summer and so lined up Kepler Challenge and Tarawera Ultra 60 km. Training has remained largely the same as last year and I still follow my calculated progression rates from week to week to attain consistency and reduce the chance of injury. The recipe is working and training has been pretty much perfect for 9 weeks out for the 19 to Tarawera Ultra. This half way point was the perfect spot in the training block to try out another 60 km race, to get a better feel for how to pace myself for 5 hours of running and how much to eat.

The addition of new sponsor Trailblazer Nutrition could not have been more well timed. Tom Shand from Trailblazer has learned about where I am at with my running and made me a race day plan for Kepler which I followed very closely and formed the foundation for this pacing exercise. If I didn’t get the nutrition right it may have been hard to know whether any slowing down at the end was due to incorrect pacing or just running out of fuel. Since I’ve only done races under 3 hours I am used to using only gels and it was good to get some clarity on how many carbs I will need for the intensity and duration of Kepler and what mix of products provide the right release of energy. I ended up using 5 SIS gels because I like how they are runny and easier to swallow, 2 Awaken Energy bars, which are mostly fruit and provide a slower, more sustained release of energy and are also very tasty, 1 cup of sports drink at each aid station and about 300 mL of water at each aid station.

The 60km course with its notable climb and long valley finish

The start was much faster than I expected, so I stayed well back from the action at the front and did my best to keep my heart rate around 165 bpm (86%). This was my estimated heart rate for a 5 hour race using my modified version of Jack Daniels’ formulae, although I expect 5 hours might be outside the range of durations on which he collected data. I needed to have a good reason to push above this intensity, and in the early stages of a 5 hour race on non-technical trails, with no risk of bottle necks, I didn’t, so I chilled. I would have drifted back to around 20th and took some interest in how heavily those around me were breathing. Starting a 60 km mountain race as a tempo effort? Ouch.

The bottom of the climb was also interesting. I dialled back my pace as much as possible without compromising my efficient climbing style which had my heart rate mainly in the range of 170 (89%) to 175 (91%). I justify this period of raised effort, clearly visible on Strava, to maintain a reasonable climbing efficiency – any slower and I would lose the bounce from my calves. As a bonus, I really enjoy this intensity, which is slightly below my race intensity for 2 hour races. It wasn’t until half way up the climb of Mt Luxmore that I began to reel in those who were in the process of reassessing the sustainability of their early efforts in this long race. Perhaps some were just having a bad day and weren’t on the form they were hoping for but I suspect many got caught up in the rapid start.

I was in 14th at Luxmore Hut, and still in my groove, only now this came with additional rewards as I pulled in the runners ahead of me who I assumed had been dropping off the small group I could see few minutes up the mountain. I tried to preserve my quads by not taking the downhills as fast as I would in a shorter race and I also held back a little on the climbs, satisfied I was slowly gaining and would catch the group ahead in due time if I kept to my strategy.

This mountain top section was definitely my favourite on the course. The trails were narrower and the short descents were technical. The view over the neighbouring valleys and mountains was magnificent and the powerful wind sweeping up the slopes and over the line of tiny humans dotted along the exposed ridgeline trail was thrilling. Despite this, I was very happy to drop out of the alpine tussock into the beech forest for some shelter from the elements.

Lonely on the stormy alpine ridgeline. Photo cred: Good People Run

On the long descent into the valley I caught up with the now splintered pack ahead of me. I was surprised to see multiple-time Kepler Champion Vajin Armstrong off the back of this pack, but he soon demonstrated his experience with this race once he was on the flatter sections of the course. He knew his current form wasn’t the best of his career and hadn’t cooked himself on the climb nor was he interested in shredding his quads by taking the descent any faster. This was also my approach for the descent and I was well within my limits with my heart rate averaging 150 (78%). Once we were on the flatter sections, Vajin set the perfect pace and we pulled in the rest of the splintered pack one by one. Robert Rawles was pulled in too but looked pretty strong and happily settled in with pace maker Vajin and I. We stayed together for an hour and a half just ticking off the kms. This was a new experience for me and I was somewhat apprehensive about what might be to come. My heart rate averaged 157 (82%) for this section. I would describe this intensity as moderate but slightly conservative for a race and this intensity was just below my average for the race. I was too far from the finish to risk picking up the pace.

At 4 hours the 3 of us came into the Moturau aid station. I did the usual cup of sports drink and filled my soft flask with water, Robert took on even more food as he was beginning to feel a little worse off and Vajin barely stopped, gapping us immediately. I left Robert at the aid station and didn’t look back. To catch Vajin, my valued pacer, I had to increase my own pace and soon found a nice rhythm, a little faster than that of the previous hour. I liked this rhythm so much that once I caught Vajin I just kept going. I felt just the same as I had an hour ago and with an hour to the finish I decided I was ready to take things into my own hands. My heart rate moved up to low 160s (83%) as I pulled away from Vajin, feeling empowered but also in well over my head and mindful that I was pushing into unknown regions as far as distance and duration were concerned.

The next 30 minutes were the greatest of my race; I was pushing, but I was in control. I was asking myself my favourite coach question: “Can you sustain this intensity for the remainder of the race?” My answer was yes, so I held on. At 4 and a half hours I downed my last gel and I felt I was on the finishing stretch. I took on more water and sports drink at the last 2 aid stations and kept drinking to minimise the chance of a disaster in the home stretch. I flew past 3rd place, he was done for and moving very slowly. I closed in on 2nd place just as rapidly; we were moving slowly too and I expected to slide on past with ease, but to my surprise he jumped on for the ride. Not only that, but 2 km later he then accelerated as I topped up at the final aid station. I wasn’t overly concerned at the time because he was looking fragile only a few moments earlier, but I was very wrong. Stuart Gibson earned his second place without a doubt and put over a minute into me in the final few kms. I was already on my fastest sustainable pace and had no room to move so have to be satisfied, even if I thought I had 2nd wrapped up. My average heart rate for the last hour was 161, practically the same as my average for the course. Sam McCutcheon was well off the front and posted consistent splits all around the whole course, well done Sam!

Happy top 3 at the finish line. Photo cred: Kepler Challenge

So once again consistency was key for me. And I’m happy with my approach to my first ultra marathon and expect to be back to the Kepler Challenge in the near future.

A breakdown of my heart rate on each notably different section of the course. Gradual downstream is all paced by Vajin and Flat to the finish is my move to go solo.

Thanks where thanks is due:

Trailblazer Nutrition for the consultation and race day plan, Sports Lab for the continued injury prevention support, Awaken for the bars that kept me fuelled on the course, Icebug for the shoes, GKO for the rest of the gear and Mum, Day and Imy for being the best supporters. Making things happen!


Increasing the Long Run

As part of my build towards Kepler Challenge and Tarawera 62km I will need to get a handle on how to manage my body over 5 hours, quite a step up from my previous area of proficiency in races around 2 hours long. Nutrition, pacing and cramp are the 3 main areas of interest for me as I push up the duration of my long runs to learn more about how my body responds. Here is a recap of today’s romp and what I have learned. Maybe you have had similar challenges?

Today I chose the Waitaks for my beating in the hope of learning more about my body just in time for Kepler in 3 weeks and I now sit here recovering and much wiser. I took a risk extending today’s long run beyond what my weekly progression had planned, which is a bit naughty, but just a one off and next week I’ll resume the planned progression rate designed to reduce my chance of injury. I’ve been comfortable with 2.5 to 3 hour long runs without nutrition earlier in the year and saw 4 hours with nutrition as a reasonable target for today.

Selfie #1 from bottom of Destruction Gully which runs straight into the sea. Now I’ve run every single track in the Waitakere Ranges!

The run started a bit rough with my energy feeling a bit low, unsure why, but the starting climb up Karamatura out of Hunia was a bit slow. I wasn’t phased at the time but once I got hungry only 1 hour in I decided not to take risks here and chowed down on half an Awaken bar and kept trucking on. Maybe I didn’t eat enough yesterday, or breakfast was too long ago, hard to say. I was still feeling weaker on the stunning but aggressive Omanwanui Trail, which was now concerning so I finished the Awaken bar and soaked up the fresh air on this stunning day, reminding myself to keep a steady pace and not push. It was about 20 minutes after this moment that I began feel better and much stronger on the hills, so maybe the energy was slowing getting to my legs, though much slower than the gels I’m used to using which hit me hard in 5 to 10 minutes compared to 40 minutes in this case.

Selfie #2 on the rugged ridgeline of Omanawanui

In fact, from here I was going quite strong for 2 hours, bouncing steadily up the long climbs and striding out well on the flat sections. At 3 hours I added a banana to the system and continued to tackle the climbs well, suggesting that today’s pacing was pretty good for longevity, although I was aware that race day would demand an extra hour from me. Close on 4 hours, and still on technical trails, I was relieved to notice no cramp setting in. This suggests that all the cramp troubles I have had in races, mainly in my calves, are more a function of intensity and less about duration.

It was here that I suddenly hit the wall, after feeling stable – not bouncing off the walls, but at least stable – for hours. The final decent down Fletcher was very rough, with me stumbling around like a drunk and feeling just as light headed. Glycogen had left the system! And I was reduced to a shuffle, how embarrassing! Although not far from the car, the technical nature of Fletcher had me down to a snail’s pace through concerns of pushing into a more trance like state.

I basically inhaled all my post-session food as soon as I got to the car, but I still felt light headed, a feeling I’m not used to even in the context of hard races like The Hillary 34km. My stomach was also unhappy with my attempt to get as much down my throat as possible and I was pretty uncomfortable for a few hours. I hear a lot about ultra runners having stomach problems, and this has sparked some interest to dig into other’s experience around this issue.

Now I sleep.

Introducing the Terrain Box

What if you could learn the skill of contour reading without leaving the house? What if you could play God and create your own terrain and map simultaneously? Introducing the AR Sandbox! But this time it’s the Terrain Box.

The AR Sandbox is a relatively simple augmented reality (AR) system which maps a small sandpit in real-time and draws the map onto the sand surface itself. In this blog I want to share just a brief overview, but later on I will go into more detail about how the whole system works.

My vision was to provide an interactive and intuitive experience for learning how to read contours. For me, reading contours is one of the hardest skills to successfully communicate when coaching and I believe a tool like this could be a huge help in making this process much easier for coaches and more impactful for learners.

Everyone getting involved with the Terrain Box displaying a coloured height map

The research behind this project was done at UC Davis, California, with intended applications focused on geographic concepts such as how to read a topographic map, the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas and levees. While the water flow functionality is mesmerisingly cool, my focus was obviously on the contours. All the necessary software is publicly available and suggestions on the physical arrangement are also provided online, but these are dependent on how big you want the box to be and the specific projector being used. While the basic information provided is sufficient for making an AR Sandbox for a classroom or museum, I had some bonus challenges to overcome. I wanted to make my version portable so I’ve made the frame (the upper part that holds the camera and projector over the box) easily removable and my box has handles. Foam is also available to build up higher hills without needing to weigh the box down with more heavy sand. The sand it’s self is very white and very fine, perfect for displaying a vivid image and building smooth shapes.

Using the coloured height map as an introductions to contours

I gave the Terrain Box its first outing at NZ Champs a few weeks back, set up at the NWOC accommodation. It got a lot of use (80ish people) over the 2 evenings it was set up for. It was great to see all the juniors get stuck in, but I was most excited to see the engagement from the adults in our club, many of whom have been dragged into orienteering by their children and skimmed through a lot of the important foundational learning around how to read contours. I now see the Terrain Box’s best value in unwinding the habits of many senior orienteers and giving them a second chance to get the fundamentals right.

The clean look with colours removed makes the Terrain Box a navigation-specific tool purely for connecting contours on 2D maps to the land forms of the real 3D world

The next step is to make a progression of exercises, starting from very easy, like a single large hill, to very hard, like numerous small features on a slope, where the objective is to read the map and create the terrain while using the Terrain Box to check your work as you build the land forms. Setting up the exercises in reverse is also an interesting idea and should generate a lot of appreciation for the challenge professional mappers face in creating some of our wonderful maps.

Its second showing will be at a work event where people share home projects with their colleagues and then its third at the NWOC end of year prize giving. I aim to bring it to the forest next year and I’m open to more suggestions around how to get maximum use out of this new toy. Also get in touch if you are thinking of building our own.

NZ Champs Recap

Last weekend marked my return to orienteering since the secondary effects of my ankle impingement problem became clear 3 months ago. In fact I had only been doing running training properly for 3 weeks coming into this years’ NZ Champs in Hawkes Bay and wasn’t expecting to my on top form, but picked up my first NZ title along with 3 3rd places. Let’s take a look at how.

The unexpected break in training after my European campaign  was needed to rewrite some bad biomechanics, but I turned it into much more than that by developing a successful leg strength routine to help strengthen muscles and tendons for future injury prevention. Along with a few jogs and short cycles per week, this recovery-focused period allowed me regain control of specific problems while preparing to make a smooth transition into my current training block. Only 3 weeks into the block, with 5 and a half hours of running per week, I hit quite good form just in time for race day. To be on such form with so little running in the past 3 months reinforces the importance of maintaining what you can through periods of recovery. There are many components to one’s performance and many methods to train different components while allowing recovery of others.

I think this message is very important for those wanting to maintain consistency through a long season where disruptions are likely. Problems are not black and white and even a significant problem should not necessarily mean a full system shut down. If the problem is understood well then it doesn’t have to end a season or training block prematurely.

Finishing a lung burning middle distance with no recent racing. Photo cred: NZ Orienteering Champs 2017

On to NZ Champs, and I can’t speak highly enough of the quality of this event run by a talented bunch from Hawkes Bay Orienteering Club. The technical details of the sports were spot on with crisp mapping and interesting courses across all 4 disciplines. Event locations and commentary made it a pleasure to spend the weekend immersed in orienteering. I won’t share a detailed analysis of my 4 podiums, but I’d encourage people to check out my GPS routes for the long especially as there is some room to challenge yourself by critiquing my route choices. Success in the other 3 races was more about execution in the moment, but there are some interesting choices also. My one significant blunder of the weekend was embarrassingly the first control of the relay, where I set myself up for a painful chase just to regain the lead pack.

Solving Problems

In a follow up to covering my interesting problems last week I’m excited to report some progress on all fronts. I’ve come clear of the cloud of fatigue that has been hanging over me for a couple of months, my ankle impingement has received treatment and the procedure went smoothly and my pelvis is becoming better aligned after I messed up my gait while trying to protect my ankle during my big races in Europe.

After struggling with bad form for months, followed by trouble sleeping just before WOC I took a blood test which discounted a few possibilities such as low iron. By this stage I had not been training for a month and my insomnia was getting worse so the next step was to investigate supplementing my zinc intake and I immediately started having excellent sleep. Although the science around zinc’s relationship to sleep is spotty I had a number of suggestions to try it. The change was so immediate that I struggle to attribute all of it to the zinc tablets. I went from taking between 2-4 hours to get to sleep to 15 minutes literally overnight, I didn’t wake up every hour and I felt wide awake all day at work. I’m stoked to have a fully functioning brain again, and at some stage I’ll play around with the zinc intake to get more confidence around this strong correlation.

MRI scan of my left ankle showing some extra white stuff

Last week I also received a cortisone injection directly into the build-up of scar tissue between my talus and tibia in my left ankle. As the tibia slides forwards over the talus the scar tissue gets jammed by the shape of the two bones. The cortisone was injected using ultrasound to guide the needle precisely into the scar tissue, and aims to reduce inflammation and give my body a better chance to remodel the injury site.

Looking down on the cross section of my ankle apparently shows bruising marked by the green arrow. I’ll just reiterate what the experts say on this one.

What was also noted from the MRI scan was the bruising of the talus itself, perhaps from the initial impact one year ago that kick-started this cycle of positive feedback where more damage created more swelling and scar tissue making it easier for subsequent damage to occur. I’ve had no discomfort after the injection, but will not know the how well the remodeling process goes until I race in 2 months.


I’ve also made good progress with my stride mechanics and can now run up to half an hour without my TFL turning into a ball of tightness. More analysis at Sports Lab showed a subtle over-lifting of my pelvis when standing on my right leg, although much less than what I was experiencing a month ago. More activation drills and release work are needed to restore the proper activation pattern. Was it really worth it to push through all those races in Europe while trying to compensate for my ankle now that it has taken 2 months to overwrite my lop sided technique? Probably, Fin5 was epic!

So for now the off-season lives on.

Is this the Off Season?

Planning for the next progression starts with reflection of the previous progression.

3 distinct progressions over the last year, with training camps in dark blue, A-goal race weeks in green and unstructured weeks in red.

While my European campaign started well, it didn’t end on the same note and priorities changed as the complications accumulated. I was struggling to maintain good shape throughout the trip, most disappointingly at WOC, but my shape during my last week at Fin5 was especially bad. I’ve had a blood test and none of the results are indicative of anything sinister, although I’m still struggling with poor sleep quality and general fatigue. Regardless of feeling flat, I was not able to race Fin5 with full aggression as the ongoing problem in my left ankle has still not been fixed through mobilisation exercises. I had an x-ray, which didn’t yield anything useful, but the subsequent MRI scan showed an accumulation of scar tissue impinging the motion of the tibia over the talus. This means that when my foot reaches full dorsiflexion under load I feel a lot of pain as the scar tissue is jammed hard between the two bones. This increases swelling and sensitivity, compounding the problem. This is of no consequence when cycling, road running, or trail running for the most part, but such limitations on ankle motion are simply not compatible with orienteering on uneven ground. I have to concede that my future orienteering looks bleak unless we can fix this problem which reached its most severe at Oceania this year after orienteering on a weekly basis for many months. Since then I have done most of my training on the road where it would not be irritated, but orienteering every second day in Europe soon brought back the sensitivity.

The build up of scar tissue has got itself into the path of my tibia as it glides forwards over the talus in green.

This talus impingement problem was especially incompatible with the Finish forest and I chose to run very cautiously during the 4 forest races, especially in the more stony areas. In doing so I changed my gait to reduce pressure through my left ankle, which was essential to get me through the week, but these changes are taking some time to reverse and it would be unwise to do more than a little running until good movement is restored. So I’ll be focusing on unwinding the past 2 months by working closely with Sports Lab and maintaining conditioning through short road runs, drills, and strength training. It’s very important for me to keep moving as a large number of my past problems are related to sudden changes in routine, even inactivity. All this comes at a rather convenient time as I have no races looming, making this more of an off season than any other period in the year.

Once I have ironed out my gait and have a treatment plan for my talus I will be starting a progression towards the Kepler Challenge in December. This 60km trail run near Te Anau will be my longest race so far and I’m looking forward to chasing the competition in trail running over summer once again. I have also entered the 62km event at Tarawera Ultra and hope to take my experience at Kepler forward to a good result in this international race.

In the meantime there is plenty of fun to be had working on mechanics and riding.

I’ve also made a good effort to get all my maps from this year on my DOMA and would encourage New Zealanders to take a look at my races from Europe and foreigners to take a look at the cool terrain we have here in New Zealand.

WOC 2017

WOC this year in Estonia is now over and a lot of the team is feeling rough after a bad last day for both the men’s and women’s relay team. Some of the individual results showed some progress but there is also a lot of thinking to do about WOC and how to perform well at this event. I find it both useful and interesting to go over my races in QuickRoute so I’ve put my maps on my DOMA and expressed a few thoughts about each race and how I would like to improve. I would have liked to be able to post after each race but I didn’t have the time or energy. I hope you find them good viewing with plenty of mistakes in there!

All 3 forest races at WOC were true to their intention, with the long distance presenting some really interesting route choices and tough terrain and the middle and relay being the ultimate technical challenge at speed. I liked both areas, but didn’t care much for the last 3 controls of the long distance which where all for TV coverage and offered very little for the athletes. I would have also liked to have seen some of the marshes in the long distance area mapped as impassable marsh to help athletes avoid the worst parts.

A lot of energy has gone into preparing me for the long distance this year and although I was very motivated on the day, I started without the great physical shape I have become familiar with over the past 6 months. I was happy with most of my earlier routes but I was much less thorough with my planning later in the course and I took some less than perfect, but not disastrous routes. I had a few little mistakes, which are always a bit annoying, but given the length of the race these probably only dropped me one or 2 places. I was slowing significantly towards the end and began to battle some stitch and cramp, as did many in this hardest of races – hamstrings being the main problem for many. I finished in 37th place, New Zealand’s best result since Chris Forne in 2011, but I remain very hungry for a result that I feel better reflects my ability at this discipline. Nick Hann would have finished a few spots higher than me but unfortunately crossed an out of bounds area, so will have to return in future years to get the result he deserves.

GPS of WOC Long on DOMA and gpsseuranta

WOC longs are always the hardest orienteering race of the year. We don’t get many tough long distances in New Zealand so it’s a massive step up running WOC with the winning times set up for the tops Europeans. I love the challenge, but I’m rethinking my plan of doing well at this race from New Zealand. With only 2 weeks of specific preparation in technical terrain I’m not sure how far up the rankings I can go.

The middle distance was a very different race for me, and I know that I haven’t trained my orienteering enough to expect a good results in this discipline. I also haven’t done anything at speed in this terrain before so I started with very conservative route choices. I was quite clean through the first 7 controls and although I got more confident at this stage I also got more distracted by other runners around me and lost concentration a number of times. I had a moment when I took control, but this was short lived as I struggled to feel flow through the greener areas and lost the other runners around me. I was a bit annoyed about this and never regained my flow, although in general I did have a lot more confidence to carry into the relay.

GPS of WOC Middle on DOMA and gpsseuranta

The relay went badly for both New Zealand teams and I feel a lot of responsibility for starting us off on the back foot with my mistakes early on in the first leg. I can’t really say what happen on that first control because it was all just a big blur. I wasn’t pushing hard physically but I never gained contact with the map and made a significant parallel error with a number of other runners, including some of the worlds’ best first leg runners. I lost more time on 2 and made some smaller mistakes later in the course, but after losing the pack on the first control I was destined to finish well behind the leaders.

GPS of WOC Relay on DOMA and gpsseuranta

I was never focused during this race and I regret my earlier confidence in my preparation. If I am serious about getting better at orienteering I need to sleep more and have more down time to prevent my mind from being overloaded and getting into this frantic noisy state. Right now I have too much on my mind to have the clarity of thought required to perform well in orienteering. I achieved this well in 2014 and 2015 but have since become excited about many other things and have been on the productivity buzz for too long. Although the signs have been there for weeks; restless sleep, tired legs, more injuries, easily distracted at work, I didn’t have a good way to get out of other commitments and had always been relying on my 2 weeks in Estonia before WOC as a chance to rest. This strategy worked before Oceania Champs, but not at all before WOC where my sleep quality was at its lowest point. I haven’t come close to practicing what I have preached and as a coach this feels rather silly.

My WOC preparation

Tim had a nightmare on 3rd leg that dwarfed mine and we finished a long way down. There were disasters for many teams and I have never seen so many men crying at the finish of a race before. I’m sure this provided great entertainment for the spectators but this was a race many athletes would like to forget.

Photo from the middle distance. Photo cred: WOC

I’ve now returned to Finland to race Fin5 and spectate at JWOC. I’d like to practice more orienteering and I’m looking forward to some quality competition in good terrain, not to mention watching the top juniors perform at JWOC.

The team minus Tommy. Photo cred: Anna Robertson


2 days to race day, and I’m feeling pretty relaxed. When I was younger I would allow myself to get quite worked up before big races, but I’m happy to avoid this now as it doesn’t increase the chance of me performing well while hugely increasing the level of disappointment if I perform badly. The other guys over here are great too, plenty of jokes and resting is ideal for me pre-race. It’s also been nice to sit back and watch the first 3 races as a spectator.

Steering my legs towards freshness on race day has been as problematic as ever, with more running in terrain than usual making my legs feel heavy. I’ve run mostly on the road in the past week and I’ve started to feel sharper as of yesterday, although not as sharp as earlier this year. This has been a little disappointing to realise –  although I have been training as hard as ever in the past 2 months, I haven’t been about to replicate the form I had leading into Oceania in April.

The terrain we can expect for the WOC long distance

Regardless of not being in the shape I have been dreaming about, I am still in better shape than in my 2 previous World Championships which were plagued by injury and sickness and I’m optimistic about getting some notable results for New Zealand

The long distance race on Tuesday will be a physical battle the whole way. I will need to navigate finely at times, but most of the map reading will be to identify the best routes. The terrain is going to have many tracks and open fields, and piecing together these speed boosts will be everyone’s goal.

Happy enough with the Estonian Forest

Impressions of Estonia

I’ve now been 1 week in Estonia, staying with 2 new friends in Tartu and finding my old friend consistency. Kaupo and Heinar, a multisporter and a marathon runner, have been great value and very kind to let me into their apartment. Although we have been mostly doing our own training,  it always feels like a training camp when we regroup for stretching and rolling each evening. Estonia appears to be a nice country and everybody I have met has been friendly, although the scars of soviet occupation are everywhere.

View from my window – the evening sun over the university grounds

View from my window – the evening sun over the university grounds

This week I’ve been out to 3 maps for 2 long sessions and one shorter one, with another hard interval session on the road and some easy runs around town. My body seems to coming into some better form again after 3 sluggish weeks, possibly with too much racing and not enough resting. Knocking off 7 races in the last 4 weeks has of course been fun, but with 5 of them long distance races, I’ve always felt like my fitness-fatigue balance has been lopsided despite my best efforts to calculate and correct for these races within the greater training progression. This week has corrected for that, keeping the intensity low for all session except for some flat and fast intervals – a recipe I know my body responds well too. It was also important to get some descent time orienteering on maps relevant to WOC and clocking in over 5 hours across 3 runs sees that box ticked also.

Kaupo and I after our first long run

Kaupo and I after our first long run

The 3 sessions are up on my DOMA so be sure to check them out and see what kind of terrain awaits us for WOC, with my first race now 8 days away. I would describe the terrain here as messy, with small patches of different trees and different undergrowth always breaking the flow that the smooth contours suggest is possible. In places, a lot of branches on the ground demand high levels of aggression and micro-route choice becomes important for maintaining high speed but an additional challenge for maintaining directionMap 1

Map 2

Map 3

Although there are clearly mistakes in my orienteering so far, I would describe the technical difficulty I’ve faced so far as on the easy side and I’m only really concerned about the one mistake I made today where I can’t put the pieces back together. The others have been due to out of date mapping and distractions such as talking to training partners or thinking I’ve seen a bear. I really don’t want to see a bear!

Hooning through one of the nicer patches of forest

Hooning through one of the nicer patches of forest

I’m looking forward to 2 more orienteering sessions, one at higher speed, and a few sessions cruising around on the road or trails, one also with intervals, and then I think I’ll be as ready as ever to face race day.

First Jukola Run Down

After many years of waiting, I have finally experienced the Jukola mass start. This outrageously big race has never been at the right time of the year for me to compete in, but with WOC earlier than usual this year the opportunity arose. I ran for the Finnish club Hämeenlinna Suunnistajat, not a super star club but a really nice one with some young and older talent which reminded me very strongly of NWOC back home.

The Team

The Team

I have always loved running the first leg of relays and I aim to be a reliable first leg runner for New Zealand at WOC. Experience has shown me that I am able to pace myself well earlier in the race and then use other runners to increase my speed later on, and also know when to concentrate more on the navigation. My strategy at Jukola was no different, I knew that I would be fast enough to be close to the front, but probably not fresh enough to be on the front. I started in 75 place (out of 1600) , not so far back that I would get stuck behind slower runners. The pace from the start was as furious as expected, but I didn’t feel the need to push forward through the pack, instead I stayed relaxed and waited for the pace to slow. The first leg was very long with two possible route choices and I was happy to follow the pack either way. I tried not to get caught up in any bottle necks, and only moved forward through the pack when it was easiest. I see this as my characteristic style, aiming for high efficiency.

I never saw the pack split coming into the first control which was forked quite widely, so when the lines of runners crossed mid-way to control 2 I was very confused, and all around me was total chaos. I was very careful not to get into the wrong train. I ignored everyone and spiked 2 on my own before putting the map away to do some more blatant following for the next few controls. I was passing people quite easily here and started to navigate on my own again at the perfect time coming into 6 and strangely found myself completely alone. I find it unlikely that I was the only one around me with this split control and suspect a lot of people followed too much here. I rejoined the train at 7 which was beginning to fracture, and I wondered how far I was from the front. Turns out I was just over a minute off the lead, but this was too far to see in the forest. I wanted to push the pace of those around me to stop gaps from forming in the line, but it was too late and naturally a bunch formed before the long leg to 12. This was the second bunch. I wanted to run the road wide to the right for this leg but no one around me exited in that direction so I decided to follow again and not risk being alone.

After a lot of track running we arrived at some very tricky controls, in totally dark forest and there was a lot of action here. The first bunch (which was split across 2 route choices) was slow here, and the bunches merged to form a super bunch. 2 control later this turned into chaos with trains crossing through another double split. I could see a number of people make mistakes here. I was trailing on the back of the bunch and after being a little slow to 15 I did not have the legs to rejoin on the very physical leg to 16. The first bunch pulled away and then shed a number of runners again on the final hard control. I also made a small mistake and I was feeling pretty burned here and just held on to this second bunch to finish in 29th, 2 minutes down.

Formation of the super bunch, 31 runners (not all with GPS tracking)

Formation of the super bunch, 31 runners (not all with GPS tracking)

Full course can be found here:

Given my training and travelling to Europe there was a good chance I wouldn’t be in great shape, but to give the Hämeenlinna team a stable first leg was a previlage, and they went on finish in 58th, their best result in recent years. As expected this was the most fun I’ve ever had with all the elements of sport I love thrown in together and I look forward to starting Jukola, or maybe Tiomila, in the near future. Now I need to recover from another race and get in some consistent training and recovery before WOC.

And here’s the money shot from KopterCam:

European Campaign for 2017

Here I am on the eve of my first Jukola surrounded by orienteering in another European summer. I’m feeling pretty rough after the travelling this year, possibly not helped by being very busy in the days leading up to my flights. Sleep deprived but not able to sleep. I did some training this morning in Hämeenlinna and another one here in Eno, which was good value, but I’m quite fatigued and a little worried about Jukola, in which I am running first leg for Hämeenlinna Suunnistajat. This will be a pain train like no other!

The iconic start of the Jukola relay

The iconic start of the Jukola relay. Photo cred: Jukola

Jukola has never been at the right time to me to compete in, but with WOC earlier than usual this year I took the opportunity to experience this iconic relay. I’m a first leg fiend, loving the intensity that pack running brings, so to be runnning first leg here is a dream come true.

The real purpose for me being in Europe though, is WOC in Estonia. This week (22-16 days out from race day) was planned to be my biggest in terms of training load in this build, but travelling and jet leg has made that unlikely to be the case. Next week in Estonia will also be very important, as I will try to get many hours in relevant terrain before using the next week to freshen up before racing. My 3 races at WOC are not until the end of the program; long, middle and relay. Long and relay have had my explicit focus for a some time now, and to good affect, but I am still somewhat unable to demonstrate consistent middle distance performances.

After WOC I’ll be shooting back to Finland to spectate JWOC and compete in the accompanying Fin5, which will be a very tough competition in the elite grade and I aim to perform well over the 5 races, also with a lot less stress and pressure than at WOC. That will round of 9 races over my month in European summer.

You can follow Jukola at – I’ll try to get a little TV coverage.

3 Out Of 3

My longest and most successful training block ever of 22 weeks has just come to a close, so it’s time for some reflection. This block was a smoothly increasing progression with 2 overload weeks and 3 goal races. I took course records in my 2 B-goals, Tussock Traverse and The Hillary, and won my A-goal race, Oceania Orienteering Champs Long Distance. This is most exciting because the orienteering often doesn’t go to plan and good fitness can easily go to waste with bad navigation on the day.

My pursuit for consistency successfully delivered me to race day on good form, but perhaps most importantly, experiencing fewer frustrating disruptions has kept me more positive throughout the training block. Early in the block I felt like my training load was too easy, but I stuck to the plan and ignored the usual urgency and 11/10 motivation to train harder. Eventually I was at my peak week of 16 hours including a number of high intensity sessions, without ever having one week noticeably harder than the previous (except for the 2 overload weeks which took advantage of training camps).

To focus in on last Saturday’s long distance a little more, the splits show that I was running very strongly and my navigation was mostly smooth but with 4 mistakes totalling about 4 minutes. Although I find it hard to be satisfied with this amount of time loss, considering the very challenging navigation and the number of mistakes others were making this was on par with my close competition. The biggest factor spreading names down the results board was running speed. I didn’t start particularly aggressively, but still took an early lead as my running speed was really good. This lead was taken away after a small mistake, but up to control 9 I was quite satisfied with race. It began to fall apart in some challenging legs to 10 and 11 and dropped to 4th place at this point, and could feel a degree of frustration.

I left these mistakes behind me and attacked the next legs hard and began to pull time on my competition. I focused on safe routes and fast lines and pulled time on my competition, except for Matt, who was still maintaining his commanding lead. The last quarter of the race sealed the deal, and I flipped the 2 minute deficit into a 2 minute lead. Perhaps Matt started too hard, as he began to fade in the last quarter of the course while I had the endurance to keep my aggression very high. I posted the fastest time on 6 of the last 9 legs, and was only narrowly behind the fastest time on the other 3. The terrain ramped up in this section and I was putting 30 seconds into Matt on most of these hilly legs. Simon Upphil had also run a solid race to this point, but slipped away similarly to Matt to finish 3rd, 5 minutes down.

A quick course breakdown with Matt at the finish. The NWOC 1-2!

A quick course breakdown with Matt at the finish. The NWOC 1-2!

I was both surprised and thrilled to hear the commentary announce that I had the fastest time at the finish, but I couldn’t stand the nervous wait watching the clock for the other top runners to finish so I left the event centre to warm down.



This race reinforced my decision to focus on long distance, as strongly as it reminded me that I still haven’t addressed my often sloppy navigation. But with very little focus on orienteering training this was always going to be the likely case. So now with 2 months until WOC I really do need to focus on navigation, but with a serious problem in my left ankle running in terrain is risky and I’m not sure how best to approach this conflict. I have been working with Sports Lab for a few months on this problem and although we did make progress, this has been more than undone by all the racing in the last 2 weeks.

I will relight the fire in 2 weeks, but for now I sleep satisfied.

Training on the Knife Edge

A lot of exciting improvements have happened in the last 3 months but one thing has stayed the same; my body’s tendency to develop tendonitis.

With the exception of 2 overload weeks, I have been running only 4 times per week and seen substantial benefits in my running speed and endurance with my 1km interval times coming down to an average of 2:59 in recent sessions, an improvement of about 3% on the ceiling I have been bumping against for years, and times on longer races such as Tussock Traverse improving by an even greater margin of around 4%. I expect all my training paces have improved by a similar margin but haven’t done any tests to reassess them yet. So this is exciting with Oceania Orienteering Champs coming up, and very encouraging for my new training strategy, where I ditched the commonly used 4-week mesocycles and opted for a smoother, less disruptive progression prioritising injury resistance and consistency throughout the training block. As usual though, I have used cycling to add volume to my training load not achievable in my 4 weekly runs.

“…less disruptive progression prioritising injury resistance and consistency…”

I have continued to work closely with Sports Lab to help manage my body in response to 3 main issues; a peroneal tendonitis which has been heckling me for almost a year, a hamstring tendonitis which has come and gone for years and a patella tracking issue which made a lively comeback over summer after a yearlong hiatus. Getting to the root causes of these issues has not been straight forward, and constantly tests my perseverance, but I’m happy to have strung together 3 months of consistency and I have been rewarded with some encouraging race results. I’ve continued to use light strength and condition to work on pelvis stabilisation and myofascial release and stretching to keep muscles as tension free as possible. This marks another paradigm shift, similar to that of my approach to managing training volume, and I now I do strength and conditioning to increase the load bearing capacity of key tendons, and not to increase the muscular strength of the muscles. The exercises are not revolutionarily different but the change in mind set leads to different intensities and frequencies.

“…I do strength and conditioning to increase the load bearing capacity of key tendons.”

I’ve also played around a lot with my diet over the past year. This field of interest started a few years ago but I’ve finally committed to making the changes I concluded are best for me and the environment. By reducing the size of my dinners I’ve lost 3kgs in 6 months, which I wasn’t even sure was possible, but this is very noticeable and now most of my pants don’t fit me! I expect this has had a significant contribution to my increased speed across all distances. I’ve also upped my intake of unsaturated fats and used “train low” strategies for long runs for over a year now. I’ve also learned a great deal about farming of livestock and I’ve minimised foods that come from the most environmentally damaging and ethically troubling sources. This is still a work in progress and I’ll continue to be very cautious about making changes.

So it all sounds very good on paper, and despite a few close calls during this block, I’ve never let an injury reach a self-perpetuating level. Maybe I got to every potential disaster just in time, by making it back to the car just in time or luckily having a massage with Sports Lab booked for the next morning. Whatever the case I’m thrilled with the progress and optimistic that my training methods are a significant part in my recent success.

If you are interested in my training methods and want to learn more or want to try one of my training plans I would love to work with you. I’m developing a number of services and building up a small group of clients is proving to be extremely rewarding. I’m not sure where all this will lead but it’s exciting and I have no intention to slow down my involvement in other runners and the wider community.

Love a good pain face

Love a good pain face

Rewards of Giving Back

Giving back has always been a big part of what drives me, and over the years the projects I’ve been involved with have continued to grow in magnitude. I helped organise my first orienteering event at the age of 15 as course planner for a local rogaine for 200 people, and since then I’ve worked my way through different sized events in orienteering. The Auckland World Masters Games held next month provided another step up, where my role as a course setter had me testing courses over a year ago, making it by far my biggest project I’ve been involved in as a volunteer. It’s incredible how many people have mobilised to make this happen. While we often celebrate the success of an event based on the enjoyment of competitors, I’ve also come to celebrate how projects like these grow those who commit their time and up their game to deliver the event. It’s clear in my case than my own growing up has much less to do with the educational system and more to do with taking on real world projects which threw me in the deep end far more regularly.

In the past few years I’ve led my club’s training, run an NZ Development Squad camp, and coached the New Zealand team at Junior World Champs, but course planning at World Masters Games has been the biggest undertaking. My role here contributes to orienteering on the international level, but the other important benefit, as eluded to above, is the experience of seeing how a larger group of volunteers with different skills can work to develop each other and come out with more proficiencies than they went in with. I think this is worth celebrating but often gets shadowed by the relief of completing such a project.

World Masters Orienteering Champs as part of World Masters Games

World Masters Orienteering Champs as part of World Masters Games

Although I’ve really enjoyed my involvement in these areas I definitely feel the urge to spend more time on my own projects, and to get the most out of myself it makes sense to follow the stronger motivations.

I spent last weekend in Taupo racing at Katoa Po, otherwise known as all-night relays. This event is small, but an important display of club culture with 7-person teams featuring orienteers of all levels. It was great to see equal energy brought from the juniors as from the die-hard old timers, and this reassures me that the vibrant club culture will continue to thrive. It was great to defend our title and impressive to see all the juniors taking on the challenge of racing orienteering at night-time with such confidence and enthusiasm.

The magic of night orienteering with Taupo in the back ground, captured by Thomas Stolberger in 2015

The magic of night orienteering with Taupo in the background, captured by Thomas Stolberger in 2015

Icebug New Zealand and I had a great opportunity to give these energetic juniors something more to get excited about by giving away a whole bunch of shoes to future stars who provide a lot of positive energy to the club and we hope to see their progress as they move up through the grades. I have to thank Icebug for this great contribution to North West Orienteering Club, and for giving me another reason to engage these juniors in a running context where they could learn about different shoes and where best to use them. I also love to demonstrate why NWOC is the best club to be a member of, so a great success there too!

Icebugs for some of our fun and talented junior orienteers

Icebugs for some of our fun and talented junior orienteers

Another project I’ve had on the workbench for some time now is the AR Sandbox. I gave revision 1 a test last week and I’m now confident about realising my original idea of using this as an innovative tool for teaching certain aspects of navigation. It still needs to be properly calibrated, but the end is in sight.

Another Course Record at The Hillary

From Piha to Muriwai up the West Coast

From Piha to Muriwai up the West Coast

My 3rd and final race trail race this summer was The Hillary 34km from Piha to Muriwai up Auckland’s beautifully rugged west coast. These are my home trails and although I don’t run them all that frequently (since there are so many to choose from in the Auckland region!) there is a strong sense of nostalgia coming back to these trails in a race and revisiting the hills I learned to suffer on when I was younger. The finish, especially, delivers overwhelming nostalgia as I practically spent my youth at this beach.

The past month has been good for me, with an overload week at a training camp in Central Otago followed by 2 weeks back in the routine to deliver me to today’s performance. A massage at Sports Lab earlier in the week was also crucial to improving my mechanics as my back and hamstrings had tightened up big-time after my overload week. I’m a big fan of their work and looking forward to my next visit. I was open minded about my chances of tickling Andrius’ course record because I knew my form was good, but with no specific taper I could have just as easily been too tired to deliver on the day.

Lovely spot, but that’s not what I had on my mind at the time. Photo cred: James Kuegler

Lovely spot, but that’s not what I had on my mind at the time. Photo cred: James Kuegler

I chose the light and grippy Icebug Zeals again, my favourite shoes for longer races and firm but technical trail surfaces. I started this race, pre-soaked and with soft flasks for easy refilling at aid stations, determined not to dehydrate like last year. I started conservatively along Piha Beach, as I usually do at the start of a long race, and I kept my intensity dialled back up White Track out of Piha too. It was clear I was going faster than last year already and that no one was going to join me at the front so I knew from pretty early on that I was just going to have to wait until Bethells Beach to know what would become of me in the latter part of the race.

A very varied profile can make pacing a challenge

A very varied profile can make pacing a challenge

The 2nd and 3rd climbs in this race are steep ones on the Kuataika Track and I was sure to listen carefully to my body. I knew I felt good and wanted to push harder, but at the same time the memory of bonking so far from the finish last year was still quite raw, and I found a happy balance. My heart rate was also creeping up a bit higher than I expected and it’s hard to say how much of this was as a result of the heat and how much was from me running faster than expected. I knew I was up on the record and this was hard to not get excited about. I took the time to wet my face and head from streams where it was possible, and took on 1 litre of water at the Bethells Beach aid station on top of what I drank during my half minute there. 4:56 min/km was my pace up to this point

I was still feeling strong on the first hill of the Te Henga Walkway, but any excitement I had about been on a record breaking run was silenced as I struggled to maintain my bounce up the next climb out of O’Neill Bay. I felt like the record would slip from grasp for sure and I watched my average pace drift out with each short pinch, of which there are many on this aggressive section of trail!

The stunning Te Henga Walkway (on a previous run) suits and an aggressive runner, but not one who has started too hard

The stunning Te Henga Walkway (on a previous run) suits and an aggressive runner, but not one who has started too hard

The last climb on the Te Henga Walkway is a very steep set of stairs and I could feel my energy fading, despite taking 4 energy gels during the race. I took on more water at the aid station here, and stopped to stretch a few muscles which were cramping periodically – this is a technique that seems to work for me and I expect it has the effect of reducing the residual activation level of the muscles. This allowed me to use my calves a little more to improve my efficiency along the road towards Muriwai, but being unable to lift my pace faster than 4 mins/km was a little disappointing and I was constantly redoing the maths to predict if I was still below record pace …and I was!

At some stage, after feeling relatively relaxed for the first half of the race, I had really begun to suffer. I wasn’t sure when this started, but along road towards Muriwai I was really hurting. I was going slower than I should have for the effort I was putting in, but it was still enough to get down to the beach and to the finish in 2:44:54. I’m very happy with this time, and putting 3 minutes onto the race record was a confirmation of my recent improvements.

Stop the clock!

Stop the clock!

Once again, Icebug NZ and Sports Lab, stoked I could land the result for you guys! And special thanks for my parents for coming along for the day.

I now have 7 weeks of training with no long races to maximise consistency before my A-goal of Oceania Orienteering Champs.

Local race means Mum and Dad at the finish, and it was very cool to see them at half way too

Local race means Mum and Dad at the finish, and it was very cool to see them at half way too

The Icebug Tussock Box Grind Sufferfest

Some call it the Tussock Traverse, but last Saturday was more like Tussock Transcendence for me. The 26km trail race in the epic setting of Tongariro National Park is one of the fastest courses around. It suites me quite well, and I was psyched for a hard slog to defend my title from last year and break the previous record held by Andrius Ramonas.

I have been doing some good training recently, although with much more cycling than planned because of a knee issue from December. Swapping most steady runs for cycles has been seamless, and preserving my weekly sprint rep progression has maintained a good level of conditioning, and possibly even improved my top end speed.

The course profile with pace (blue) and heart rate (red). 176 bpm = 91% max HR, ouch. STRAVA

The course profile with pace (blue) and heart rate (red). 176 bpm = 91% max HR, ouch. STRAVA

After running a very satisfying 1:59:43 last year, I believed I had a good chance at beating the record of 1:57:26, but I knew everything was going to have to fall into place. I felt good warming up, and this helped me relax and get into some pre-race banter before the start. The starting pace was a little faster than last year, reaching the top of the Tukino Access Road climb 20 seconds faster but back in 6th place. It was clear the field was stronger this year and I had to think not only about the record, but also how to ditch the competition. Matthew Battley made a strong start and I was happy to sit back with a small pack of Tommy Hayes, Florian Attinger, Tom Reynolds and Peter Bakah and wait for him to slow. But instead I felt the intensity of those around me reducing slightly as Matthew scampered further ahead, so I decided to make the jump and bombed 2 of the technical descents to catch up to the lead.

I learned a lot running behind Matthew for 5 minutes. He was prepared to push hard on the climbs and was also very fast on the flat, but I was comfortable sitting on his pace when running on the gradual downhill sections and I was definitely faster when the trail was narrow and twisty. So I relaxed and waited for the perfect chance to attack; a long section of soft sand, gradually sloping downwards before the trail turns narrow and twisty again. This worked perfectly, and I opened up a gap faster than I expected. This is definitely my favourite part of the course and the outstanding flow makes it one of my favourite sections of trail EVER to race.

Burning hot on a scorching day

Burning hot on a scorching day

The rest of the race is less technical, and although it felt much shorter than last year, the 10km false flat was a long mental battle. I describe this section as the grind. I was really hurting here, and I thought about how far I have come in the past years and how this was a chance to do something special. An old memory dwelled up from cycling at school, when our coach Jon-Paul Hendriksen described the box within the box, and the box inside that one. I’m not sure how many boxes deep I got, but this is the highest intensity I have ever held in a race of this distance, and I wasn’t sure if I could maintain the aggression.

After cresting the highest point at 21km I knew I was on a good time and had the fuel left to burn hot all the way to the finish. I stayed aggressive on the long descent and into the beautiful beach forest for the final uphill push. This last km was tougher than I remembered and I left nothing on final stair cases. The finish line couldn’t come soon enough, and when it did I was stoked to confirm the new course record and finally give in to my body’s requests to stop.

Relief that the sufferfest was all over

Relief that the sufferfest was all over

This was probably the best running performance of my life and I had pushed harder than ever before simply because I could. I was fit enough to burn hotter and not run out of fuel. Matthew also had a long solo time trail and finished 6 minutes down on my time with Tommy almost making the catch coming into the finish. Florian held fourth and Tom fifth.

Congratulations to everyone who completed the course, especially those who have been working hard and achieved their goals. It never gets easier, you just go faster. Thanks to Icebug for the unwavering support, and Sports Lab for their guidance as I trained through a number of injuries over summer.

I’ll stick to doing more cycling over the next 5 days before 3 orienteering races in Queestown, followed by 6 days on an ONZ high performance training camp.

Tom and I satisfied with our performances

Tom and I satisfied with our performances

U23 Camp Overload Week

I spent the past week in the wonderful escape of Castle Hill as a coach on the ONZ U23 Squad Camp. This was a great opportunity to interact with the up-and-coming elites of NZ orienteering and bust out some quality hours for myself.  An overload week to kick off the new training block has some bar-raising stats which will be useful to gauge future weeks off. The 14.5 hours of running over the 6 days (4 full days and 2 half days) of this camp had me running a total of 121km  with 4700m of elevation; 7:40 hours in terrain and 6:45 on trails. This estimates a flat road equivalent distance of 210km. Based on the intensities of the sessions I can work out the overall TRaining IMPulse for the camp to be 1500, compared to the toughest week in my last plan which scored 1200 TRIMP points. So this is certainly an overload week and my legs will agree completely – I have a few sore spots beginning to develop.

This week has confirmed to me that my peroneal tendonitis is no longer the limiting factor in my training, although I will remain vigilant as a big week like this one could be the one to flare it up again.

A view from Helicopter Hill back towards the lodge on our long run. Strava.

A view from Helicopter Hill back towards the lodge on our long run. Strava.

The training camp routine is one of my favourite ways to live, although not sustainable, it is highly addictive and a few such weeks per year can have big advantages to the greater training progression when timed well. My favourite times for such a week would be either the first week of a training block (to blow out the cobwebs and get your body up to its previous level before returning to a sustainable progression) or 4 weeks out from race week (as a big push to extend your fitness towards a specific race with enough time to return to consistency for a stable taper).

What a spot for a morning jog!

What a spot for a morning jog!

On this camp I settled into a rhythm of sleep, eat, train, repeat, knocking off 3 hours of running per day for the 4 full days we spent at the Mt Cheeseman Forest Lodge. Any extra time was spent on the rollers, stretching or talking about training plans and nutrition. Full immersion into a performance focused environment!

GPS Route from the Camp Champs course on the final morning of the camp. DOMA

GPS Route from the Camp Champs course on the final morning of the camp. DOMA

As usual after a hard week, I feel very speedy and highly motivated, but will have to channel this energy into planning, as injury free 2017 starts now! From next week I start a solid 17 week training block taking me through Tussock Traverse, The Hillary and finishing with Oceania Orienteering Champs and hopefully another ticket to WOC! Once again, the theme of this block is “Consistency is Key”.

Years of Goat Progress

This beast of a race takes runners from Whakapapa Skifield to Turoa Skifield via the savage Round the Mountain track, which is mostly either a boulder field or an eroded rut, and occasionally a track. The 19.4km of this race feels more like 35km once the 1000m of vertical assent and rough terrain is taken into account. When things go wrong, the time lost on the steep finish of this demanding course can be staggering and it’s always interesting to see how these tough races unfold.

A fantastically challenging profile – note the concentration of climbing in the final 5k

A fantastically challenging profile – note the concentration of climbing in the final 5k. Follow on Strava.

Yesterday I took the start line of this iconic race for the 4th time with the dream of winning and going under 2 hours. Also racing was my closest training partner and friend Matt Ogden, who would provide a great test as we have been performing at a very similar level this year. Although my build up to this race wasn’t great, some really good periods of training earlier in the year had put my fitness on a new high, and I would rely on that to pull me through. So my strategy was to stay relaxed for the first half and then gauge how my under-conditioned right calf was feeling, and pick up the pace if I felt it was sustainable.

Early days in the race as we leave the road and onto the Round the Mountain Track.

Early days in the race as we leave the road and onto the Round the Mountain Track.

Nothing can be won from the first 2km which is all downhill on the road, but I knew that I didn’t want to get caught amongst other runners so made sure I moved forwards as soon as we hit the trail. A group of 7 of us pulled away on these early stages, and although I would have liked to set my own lines on the rough terrain I felt it was best not to accelerate to the front at this stage and instead wait for and easier opportunity to get ahead. Matt took a more aggressive approach here, and moved from the back of the pack to the front, and set his own blazing tempo, which no one was interested in holding. I made my move at 4km into the race on a broad downhill section where it was easy to slide past the 3 runners in front of me.

A view from the road as the front bunch headed out over the battle field

A view from the road as the front bunch headed out over the battle field

And so, the long time trail began, with Matt already a minute off the front and Dan Clendon slowly slipping away behind me. Matt’s lead an hour in was impressive, but closing and I felt a surge of motivation to catch him. I picked up the aggression from here on, hitting the stony downhills harder and pushing just that little closer to the limit over the top of each steep ridgeline. I could see that I was reeling Matt in slowly. I focused hard and threw everything I could at the final tricky descent at 14km but did little damage to Matt’s lead. It was in fact, the uphills where I was gaining and with almost exclusively uphill to go, all I had to do was hurt.

I was really excited to hit Mamas Mile at 1:53 because I knew a sub 2 hour race time was on the cards, but looking up the road at Matt’s arms pumping strongly, I didn’t expect him to falter on the final stretch. Matt finished in 01:58:25 and I in 1:59:17. We were both thrilled at the result, and also thrilled to hear that another younger orienteer, Tom Spenser was in a battle for 3rd, but narrowly missed the podium after a strong finish from Dan Clendon.

Looking back on the previous years (2:17 in 2010, 2:11 in 2011, 2:04 in 2015 and 1:59 in 2016), I have improved close to 6 minutes between each attempt, and with 2012 and 2013 being mostly a write-off through injuries these improvements have come at a relatively consistent rate.

I’d love to thank Icebug New Zealand and Sports Lab for their support this year. I raced in Icebug Zeals yesterday and the aggressive tread pattern paid off on the slippery surfaces and steep descents. Sports Lab has helped me through a very drawn out recovery from a seemingly simple tendonitis 6 months ago, and have assessed me very thoroughly as we worked through the layers of the complex biomechanics. With the physio’s guidance I have adjusted my running-cycling balance at different times and hit race day with the best combination of aerobic capacity and muscular conditioning possible given the injury’s history.

The prize haul

The prize haul

Time for an easy week now!

Alpine O Weekend

Any chance to run on a new map in New Zealand is not an opportunity to be missed. My motivation for doing focused orienteering training in Auckland has dwindled over the past few years, as the repetitive terrain is not challenging the skills I really need to work on. Take a local race from a few weeks ago, where I wasn’t all that focused but still managed to put together an almost perfect race. It’s better than nothing but the good visibility and runnability only challenge a small part of my skill set.

This is why Alpine O-Weekend was extremely appealing and extremely beneficial. The 3 races based near Castle Hill in Canterbury gave me a hiding day by day, control by control. The dense beech forest and steep hills are the total opposite to my speciality, and force me to up my game, or die, or both!

The short distance on Saturday was a hectic blast through some very dense and very tricky terrain adjacent to Castle Hill Village (Map on DOMA). I was getting my ass kicked from the start and I tried to maintain full aggression but my navigation suffered. High levels of complacency were obvious, a side effect of most of my orienteering training in Auckland being in high-visibility pine forests. I was surprised to finish in second place – it was clear that many people had trouble – but I was not satisfied with the sloppy performance and I looked for tomorrow for another chance to prove myself worthy.

Original plan in red compared to actual route.

Long Distance: Original plan in red compared to actual route.

What the **** is going on?!

Short Distance: What the **** is going on?!

I started strong in the long distance (Map on DOMA), and was close to perfect until control 9, which felt too high at the time, and my GPS agrees. 10 was the first big challenge of the course and I failed to meet my expectations, losing contact early in the leg and unnecessarily running through multiple dark green areas before relocating off the river. I tried to salvage the leg by changing plans and getting myself to the track, but screwed up the approach into control 10 by hitting as much dark green as possible. All up I lost more than 2 minutes, but I refocused and got back into the game, executing 11, 12 and 13 well and moving aggressively into the long leg to 14.

Once again my lack of care around the dark green areas punished me duly, and I lost a minute and a half getting stuck in head high bushes descending into the large valley, despite the map clearly showing a clean way down the slope which I ran straight past. Here I was passed by Matt and Chris, making me 6 minutes off Matt’s leading time at this stage in the course, and a little deflated. I pushed hard and caught the speeding pair but shortly after this Matt made a big mistake and put himself out of contention leaving Chris and I together. I had the belief that I could drop Chris and knew that putting him under immense pressure to force a mistake was my best shot at winning, but we were too well matched physically and I never got passed him, nor did his navigation seriously falter. Another second place for me, but I remained disappointed by my foolish actions leaving 9, approaching 10, and descending through the dark green midway to 14.

The final day was a middle distance, albeit a rather long middle distance (Map on DOMA). The intensity of the course was high and I was hungry for a win, but a poor start with a mistake at number 1 was not what I needed. My main fault here was relying on the vegetation too much, which appeared obvious from the map but was patchy in the terrain and led me astray. I was very precise from here on, and knew that I would have to push well into the red zone to stay competitive with Matt, who was just as hungry for a win. The forest section from 14 to 20 was the main challenge for me and I had a lot to prove to myself. I was thorough and focussed here and only made a small mistake approaching 15. I was physically reckless but navigationally precise and for the first time over the weekend felt true mastery of the skill of orienteering. My aggression was fading quickly down towards the finish and I was absolutely rekt on the finish line. I was narrowly beaten by Matt giving me 3 second places over the weekend, but most importantly for me, a tough test on challenging terrain to complement my good physical training over the past 2 months since my returning from Europe.
Happy to get through this section at full speed with no major issues.

Middle Distance: Happy to get through this section at full speed with no major issues.

Europe Over for Another Year

Although this feels slightly delayed (My last few days in Europe were too hectic and heading straight back to NZ to work hasn’t given me the time) I think there is a lot of value in summarising some key points about this years’ trip to Europe. Again, 6 weeks was a good amount of time to knock off enough races to realise that my shape isn’t where is needs to be. The trip culminated with 3 races at WOC, the pinnacle of orienteering competition.

For me the disappointment of underperforming had been and gone before my main goal, the WOC long distance, came around. I had been struggling with sickness and injury at a crucial time in my training block and my running ability had seriously regressed after a single week of hard training in Norway. I hadn’t experienced this degree of overtraining in many years because I control my training progression so tightly now, but with the inconsistency from alternating weeks of hard and light training, my body lost the plot big time.

Still, there was much to learn from the racing I did complete on this trip. 10 races in total, (5 at O-Ringen, 2 at Nightwawk and 3 at WOC). My favourites were Nighthawk, racing the night time mass start, and the WOC Relay in front of a crowd of 8000 with an overwhelming presence of media and TV cameras.

Standing on that startline at Nighthawk, in the still of the night, shoulder to shoulder in absolute silence before the calm is broken apart by hundreds of spiked shoes stampeding on gravel was the most intense experience I have known in race. Obviously I haven’t done Jukola or 10Mila yet, but for now Nighthawk remains the biggest mass start I have done. Maps below!

WOC 2016 was the most high profile event I have competed in. The day of the relay had 8000 spectators in the event arena and 200 000 TV viewers in Sweden alone. There were TV cameras hidden all around the course and a very long spectator run-though emphasised the scale of this event as far more than just a competition for the athletes. After racing internationally for many years I am now very relaxed with the crowd and the TV cameras don’t concern me anymore. In the relay I barely noticed them and I suspect that in future years I may not notice them at all. Maps below!

So now I refocus, taking all the positives and negatives I can from my time in Europe and building these into my plan for the next 6 months before Oceania Champs in Auckland next year. I hope to be back in Europe next year and I see the next 2 WOCs in Estonia and Latvia as good opportunities to achieve tops placings.

When WOC Training Goes Well

Here is now a 3rd video fresh from the forest as the NZ team prepare for WOC. The forest is always challenging here but even more rewarding now that I am navigating much smoother than when I first arrived.

I’m feeling a lot more confident in the terrain after these successful training courses. Loving the terrain here!

Training with GPS from Råsshult

Training with GPS from Råsshult

2016-08-11 Training Kasen

Training with GPS at Kasen

WOC Build Restarted

17 weeks ago I started my big 20 week build for WOC and now 2 weeks away from race day I can make some assessments on what has worked and what hasn’t. Consistency has worked! This has involved a lot of repetitively steady running but I now love those 90 minute night runs in Maraetai Forest – knocking off 700m elevation on a Tuesday night makes for a fun and interesting session and builds strong legs. No weeks in this build had excessive volume, and the slowly increasing durations were unnoticeable week to week. Follow me on Strava for some good training ideas!

The WOC build was all going great until 1 month ago when a tendonitis in my right ankle flared up in and Xterra race and caused enough damage to require a 2 week recovery. This was just after I had a big fall trail running, which left a large wound on my knee, preventing me from cycling. In fact this wound is still shedding layers of skin/scab, 5 weeks on, and I can feel from the scar tissue that it was more serious than I gave it credit for at the time! =O Anyway, no running and no cycling was not a good combo for me and these first 2 weeks of my 5-week speed block passed with no significant training. The O-Ringen week was next and with 5 races I think it’s safe to say that my body got a good amount of stress for this strategically placed hard week. Last week was also an extremely important week, where I was supposed to get in some high quality speed work and spend many hours getting my legs used to the heavy terrain I will be facing at WOC, but that was far from what happened.

I spent 6 days being sick with a nasty cold that has been going round over here – half of my house mates have been out of action with this mucus-fest too. 6 days with no good sessions was a big blow to my training at this crucial time and it has been tough accepting that I can’t make the most of my time here in Halden after planning for it so far in advance.

While I was sick I did manage to trundle around some short courses to get some navigation practice without stressing my body too much, and I am mostly recovered now and back on my feet again. So it could be worse and I am back in control again. Yesterday, Tim Robertson joined us in Halden and we knocked off a nice sprint training in the centre of the town. I kept the pace down while Tim did some intervals through sections of the course, while he too is battling a bit of sickness. This was a great confidence boost for me because my body responded positively to running again, feeling much better all afternoon and evening compared to before the run. So it’s all go go go for WOC again!

Here’s a shot from a week ago from a session I did with Lizzie. Forest!

Here’s a shot from a week ago from a session I did with Lizzie. Forest!

For ways to follow the team and I for the rest of this trips subscribe my blog and also my YouTube Channel where I will be creating more videos now that I am training again and actually have cool things to talk about! Please like and share these videos!

Pacing for Running

Wooo! What a blast! The Xterra race at Totara Park on Sunday almost counted as 21km of speed work! Under 4 minutes per km on moderately hilly trails thanks to the hard-pack surface and good conditions. And also thanks to good pacing, which cannot be said about everyone’s race. In fact I saw and heard of some crazy things going on out there so I decided maybe it’s time for a quick rant and a few tips on pacing. I’ll go through 3 simple guidelines which I hope will help keep your races under control.

Firstly, pace as evenly as possible. The toll that intensity takes on your body in disproportionately larger as you increase your pace. Unless you are doing a tightly matched track race or know your fellow competitors’ weaknesses well, any intentional variation in intensity should be out of the question. Treat the race like a time trial and pace as evenly as possible. This means your level of suffering will increase slightly as your body runs lower on more easily available fuels and intracellular process get disturbed by changes in muscles biochemistry. A good sign you have paced well is when you notice your physical shape is deteriorating just as the almost finished boost kicks in. For me this was about 1.5km from the finish when I hit the final climb.

Secondly, don’t max out on the hills. Trail races are often characterised by their hills (the elevation profile) and as a competitor it is your goal to choose how to pace them. Once again, the key is that the higher intensity has a disproportionate effect on fatigue. This is made worse on hills because most runners will tend to use fewer muscle groups while climbing, favouring quads and calves and forgetting about hamstrings and glutes with shorter and more vertical strides. So we have more work through fewer muscles, and your quads are going to fatigue faster and will be the first thing to let you down before the finish. A good sign you are doing this right is if your heart rate (or breathing as an approximate indicator) is similar when you are climbing a hill to when you are running on the flat. If it’s not, then slow down slightly on the hills and speed up slightly on the flatter sections. If this means you should walk, good, you may find it easier to engage your glutes and hamstrings this way. After hearing some people’s stories from the race I wondered if they were out there to do hill reps or the actual race. I do not fear the hills any more than the flat because I am running at the same intensity on both.

Thirdly, start with a more relaxed and less aggressive mind set. This is mainly a mental exercise, where you have to show discipline to not go with the mad rush off the start line and trust in your pacing to bring you home strong when others are fading away. Obviously perfect pacing is best (by definition), but we have to accept a margin of error on our pace estimation early in the race. The motivation for conservative pacing is based on, once again, the disproportionate effect of higher intensity on fatigue. The cost of over doing it is much greater than the cost of underdoing it. If you start a bit slower than what would be considered perfect pacing, assuming some running experience, you will know by half way how you are feeling. If you are feeling good then you can increase the pace slightly for the last half and finish in a close to optimal time with any fatigue only catching up with you late in the race. However if you start too fast by the same margin you are going to be out of control by the half way mark, and ultimately lose more time than what you have gained from your fast start. As you get fitter you will find this balance shifts, but there is always a balance, and on average you should start just on the safe side and prepare to adjust upwards throughout the race.

Boosting around Totara Park. Also my first run in the new Icebug Zeal2. Excessively grippy for this even, dry surface but still light-weight, so no worries!

Boosting around Totara Park. Also my first run in the new Icebug Zeal2. Excessively grippy for this even, dry surface but still light-weight, so no worries!

[Running][Boosting around Totara Park. Also my first run in the new Icebug Zeal2. Excessively grippy for this even, dry surface but still light-weight, so no worries!]

With all that said, remember to experiment in racing and training, and remember what your main objectives are. If your goal is to hurt the most, then go for it! Start wayyyy too fast! But if your goal is to finish in the fastest time for your body, then settle down at the start, find yourself a sustainable intensity, and don’t use the hills as mid-race interval training. Race smart.

Success with New Training Strategies

With the extended base phase done I am now looking at the addition of hilly tempo efforts done on trails and in terrain to my schedule. These high intensity sessions will complement the slower running that has dominated my training for the past 10 weeks and will still be a big part of my training right up to WOC.

The Australia-New Zealand Elite Test Match over the long Queen’s Birthday weekend has given me a chance to gauge my fitness at this clear midpoint in this training block. I attribute my strong performances primarily to 1 factor, consistency, which I have achieved through 3 different methods.

Firstly, I have reduced my weekly rate of progression and modified my progression pattern. Previously my training has progressed with 4-week cycle of 3 progressively harder weeks and 1 recovery week. This is a common progression pattern, but I have now abandoned that in favour of a smoother long term progression which smooths out these fluctuations between overload and recovery. My weekly progression has averaged 5% for most of this block, reduced to 4% last week, and will continue to reduce. This is compared to around 10% (but with 1 in 4 weeks being an easier “recovery” week) in previous training programs. I suspect that 3 weeks with a 10% increase per week as seen in my previous training is enough to cause me to train harder that I should giving my level of injury resistance, and so a smoother progression could be desirable to prevent these peaks.

This is what a long term progression based on my numbers looks like. This is a shift in thinking for me and one way to look at it could be captured in the phrase “training to train”, emphasising that we are improving injury resistance first and foremost. This contrasts to the overload and recovery strategy that I have been exposed too most of my life.

This is what a long term progression based on my numbers looks like. This is a shift in thinking for me and one way to look at it could be captured in the phrase “training to train”, emphasising that we are improving injury resistance first and foremost. This contrasts to the overload and recovery strategy that I have been exposed too most of my life.

Secondly, I have better quantified the additional stress on my skeletomuscular system of higher intensity training, and have assigned different values for the different intensities I train at. Michael Adams did this for me in some of our last work together in 2015 but I have taken this 1 step further by making it the primary measure of my training. So instead of progressing in term of training duration (measured in hours) I am now progressing in terms of training impulse points (TRIMP). So the 5% progression I see each week has taken into account additional stress from higher intensity sessions, such as a race on Sunday. From now on the presence of tempo runs will cause a step down in weekly duration because those sessions are worth more points per minute of running. It also provides motivation for me to run slower because I know exactly how much extra stress the higher intensity is putting on my body compared to a lower intensity, most of which is unnecessary during a base training phase. I’ve kept my heart rate zones the same as the previous year.
My training plan full of easy running. Boring? No way! Most of these sessions are very adventurous and often social too.

My training plan full of easy running. Boring? No way! Most of these sessions are very adventurous and often social too.

Thirdly I have been working a lot on my running mechanics with Sports Lab starting with pelvis stabilisation and then moving into foot placement. We have done a number of analysis sessions using their 2-camera set up to view my running and assess the improvements. Comments from my training partners who are used to seeing my bum bouncing along have also provided encouraging feedback – and without me even posing the question, which brings more reliability to their comments. A major advantage of working with Sports Lab was finally seeing a physio who finally explained core activation and how to recruit my deeper abs properly. I can’t believe I saw so many physios who told me to do more core strength work without explaining how tricky it is to activate the deeper of these many muscles. All I got from years of core was a 6 pack! Now I have been doing a new core routine with lower load, more precision, and a lot of thinking to get exactly the right muscles to turn on at the right time. I have been doing this with Sports Lab for 6 months now and for the first time in 5 years I have seen any improvement in my pelvis stability, despite the hours I have put into it.

Some of the tools available to use at sports lab to make assessment easier and more reliable.

Some of the tools available to use at sports lab to make assessment easier and more reliable.

So overall, a successful year so far in terms of my development as a runner, especially the past 10 weeks, and this gives much needed confidence that perhaps I can break this barrier I have found myself stumbling on every year.

Strong Performances at QBD

The Australia-New Zealand Elite Test Match over the long Queen’s Birthday weekend has given me a chance to gauge my fitness at this clear midpoint in this training block leading up to WOC. I have completed 10 weeks out of my 20 weeks and focussed entirely on improving my endurance and injury resistance. As a result, I attribute my strong performances over the weekend primarily to 1 factor, consistency, which I have achieved through 3 different methods, and I will discuss these in my next post, but for now I want to reflect on my technical performance at these races.

The first race at Kuku Beach was my poorest performance of the weekend, with around 4 minutes lost through mistakes, but certainly many others made more mistakes than usual in this complex sand dune terrain. I was fast of the start line, spiking the first 3 controls. This gave me a great buzz and I was feeling focused and running aggressively. The first seriously challenging leg was 3 to 4 with the control nestled between some small hills across a flat area. I didn’t understand the hills here and struggled to relocate wasting 80 seconds, and my 2nd place. I got into a good rhythm again but did notice that I was navigating “on the edge” and being a bit risky in favour of running faster. This caused me to make a small parallel error at 8. I was also on the edge coming into 14, where the mapping of the trees was sub-standard and my reliance on them came to be my undoing. Keeping in contact with the contours here would have prevented this error. I finished strong and pulled myself back into 4th place, 4 minutes down on what I would have considered to be a clean race.

Back in black: Racing for New Zealand for a the first time Europe last year. Photo cred: Matt Ogden

Back in black: Racing for New Zealand for a the first time Europe last year. Photo cred: Matt Ogden

Kuku Beach map and GPS. Link to DOMA.

Kuku Beach map and GPS. Link to DOMA.

The second race on the weekend was a long distance (although slightly short for a long) and featured more complex open dunes, but this time balanced with a large area of fast flat-running forest where straight was great. We all knew the complex open dunes and adjacent low visibility strip would be a great challenge and could end someone’s race in and instant if they were not careful. I ran hard off the start again, taking the early lead and navigating very well through the low visibility strip and out to the open dunes. I made some key simplifications in the open dunes by using the thickets and highest hills to great effect. I came out of this first part of the course with a with significant lead of almost 2 minutes over 2nd place and feeling very fast. I quickly got up to full speed in the flat forest and was prepared to sit on my physical limit for the rest of the rest.
I did push very hard and my speed was good, but a few small mistakes cost me crucial time. The first issue was coming into 12 where I was first confused to pass some unmapped tracks and then found the detail in the control circle hard to work out – I was not the only one to find this confusing. I was generally a bit hasty through for the rest of the race and you can clearly see a number of small mistakes on my GPS throughout this technically easier, but high pace, half of the race. I felt under some pressure to out run everyone else through the flat forest and lost concentration on too many occasions, eventually costing me my 1st place by only 3 seconds to Australian Leon Keely.

Osligiath map and GPS

Osligiath map and GPS. Link to DOMA.

The 3rd and final race was in a similar area to the previous day, but included more slower running forest, and less flat fast running. This was another day to be aggressive, but pull back at just the right moments in the low visibility forest. This was my most satisfactory race of the weekend but I still made 2 parallel errors, one early on at 4 and another towards the end at 23. This was also my first race using my Silva Race Zoom magnifier, which was a benefit coming into some of the detailed control sites where I could read the map more precisely without having to stop running or use both hands to hold the map.
The route choice to 11 proved to be crucial and I quickly identified that the beach was going to be faster than the longer track option, and faster than straight through the open dunes, although riskier with no features to read from the beach. I mitigated this by intentionally coming up off the beach early to do a quick relocation and then back to the flat beach to regain the high speed surface. It was here where I took the lead from Nick which I held until the last few controls where my navigation was a little messy. I opted for wide route choices on 8, 12 and 15 also. Nick did very well to win this race as I was running very fast it was another 2 minutes down to the previous days winner, Leon.

Walda Map and GPS. Link to DOMA.

Walda Map and GPS. Link to DOMA.

So no doubt a challenging weekend, and Nick is clearly still top dog in New Zealand and it’s a shame that he isn’t racing WOC this year. I’ll drop another post in the next few days on my physical training up to this midpoint in my build to WOC.

Long Weekend at NZ Champs

It’s always tough dealing with the difference between expectation and reality when you perform well below your potential. Although I consider my first training block of the year to be quite successful, it was not without some disappointments, the most major being in the long distance race at NZ Orienteering Championships 3 days ago.

NZ Champs started with the sprint race in central Nelson on Friday. I was in contention for the lead most of the way through the fast race, but a small mistake – a common one not seeing an impassable fence – dropped me from 1st to 3rd. I finished 9 seconds from the leading time of Nick Hann, with Matt Ogden in second. I enjoyed the sprint, and although it did not have the toughest navigation it was very rapid, and had some traps which caught a few people out. We then moved on from Nelson to the stunning setting of St Arnaud for the forest races.

Icebug NZ teammate, Nick, and I stoked with the setting of this year’s NZ Champs

Icebug NZ teammate, Nick, and I stoked with the setting of this year’s NZ Champs.

Saturday’s middle distance was a very interesting in some very dense beech and manuka forest. The vegetation was mapped very well, although it did take some getting used to in order to interpret the light green properly, which often felt like rough open. This was noticeable at my first control, where a large portion of the elite field had trouble, including myself. I was very disappointed after losing too much time to be in contention for a high place but did manage to get my focus back and race quite well from 3 onwards. This was the thickest forest I have ever orienteered in, but the quality of the mapping meant that it was much more enjoyable than I would have initially thought.

Next up was the long distance, my favourite! I had been pretty clear that I have wanted to win this race for a few years now, finishing in 2nd place for the last 2 years. The terrain this year was very hilly and slow underfoot, so not my ideal conditions, but I knew that I had done the right training and was fit enough to win. My start was ok, losing a bit of confidence on the first control but quickly regaining it and getting up to full speed through to 4 and then attacking the first long leg to 5. It all went wrong on the way to 5, where I somehow got 2 course lines mixed up on the map and accidentally navigated most of the way to 11 instead of 5. This was a big emotional blow as I knew I would never be able to get back in contention after this 10 minute error. This was NZ Champs, and I still wanted to race, so I got my brain back into gear. Unfortunately, after 2 more legs I had a big fall through some dense undergrowth on the very steep hill side descending to control 7 and lost my nerve on the steep hills. This was frustrating, and along with breaking my Garmin GPS watch in the fall, it made it difficult to maintain focus. I completed the course, but without the motivation to push for the win I was a long way off the impressive time set by Chris Forne.

The long weekend wrapped up with the relay – a race I always look forward to. I love the pressure of head to head racing in these mass start events. I started calmly as usual and waited for those around me to settle down and let the intensity of the race take its toll. Nick Hann broke away and I found myself in second place, leading the first main bunch until a small mistake put me to the back of the bunch. The last km of the course had much harder navigation, and I made 2 small mistakes here with Matt Ogden, putting us in 5th and 6th. Matt’s team went on to be our top NWOC team, finishing 2nd once again.

So my results are a much lower standard than that of previous years, but I will continue working hard in the hope that next time will give me the results I want. Firstly though, I will be having 2 weeks off training to allow my body some time to recover completely and then I will begin my next training block. I’m also looking forward to working more with Sportslab on my running mechanics and injury prevention and with Icebug in the trail running and orienteering scenes.



Going Hard

Today I had a race. A race against my own body and mind. A race of will power.

I had 7 and a half minutes in which to prove myself. To prove that either I’m either up for the challenge of becoming a great runner, or that have to concede that I am a slave to my own hardwired predispositions. These 7 minutes were broken into 6 75-second hill sprints. Lactic hill reps, my coach calls them, while I call the death reps. It’s a pretty simple session; you try to run harder than you think you can up the hill and then walk back down, 6 times.

I get nervous about these session 2 days out and I don’t even batter an eyelid at my 3 hour long hilly runs. The concern that bubbles up inside me is natural, but not to be listened to because success in this session is about being aggressive and pushing past boundaries, especially mental boundaries. For me it’s boiled down this; the difficulty of a run is more to do with the mental effort, the concentrated power of will, than time or distance. The longer the run, the more you pace yourself, especially if the training is prescribed at a comfortable intensity. As you get tired you may get slower, but here the decision is simple and you just keep the rhythm flowing, you keep sitting on that threshold. This hurts, but not in the same way these sorter efforts hurt. In these hill sprints I am straining my brain to tell my body to shut up because I am way out of control, far past the threshold. Here there is no rhythm. There is urgency like nothing else and much more screaming. My consciousness is having a screaming battle with my body louder than in any endurance race.

8 reps next week.

Getting Rekt – The Hillary

The Hillary 34km has been a race that I have been looking forward to for some time now. Racing in my own local training ground against the best local and some international trail runners has always been a very cool idea to me. Today’s 34km race definitely didn’t go to plan, which was initially disappointing, but these emotions and energy can be used to generate fire and determination for the next race.

I sussed the course in long runs over the past few weeks, and so knew what times I had to do on different sections of the course. From training in the Waitakere Ranges most weekends for years I knew what paces I was capable of both at a relaxed pace and at race pace from my sub-threshold training. So I was feeling pretty comfortable going into the race. I chose to race in my Icebug Zeals, light but just enough support to protect my feet on the gravel and downhill sections, and of course traction was never going to be a problem with these bad boys!

The field heading out at the start of the 34km. Photo by Ranger Stu.

The field heading out at the start of the 34km. Photo by Ranger Stu.

Getting into my rhythm off the startline. Photo courtesy of James Kuegler Coaching. All rights reserved.

Getting into my rhythm off the startline. Photo courtesy of James Kuegler Coaching. All rights reserved.

I felt fine at the start, setting a good pace along the beach and onto the trails for the first hill, a solid climb out of Piha Valley. I chose to hold back slightly here and left Aussie Daniel Green to create a small gap back to Andrius Ramonas and myself. I came over the top of the climb feeling as expected and in control. Andrius looked in control and slowly edged away from me on the steep hills of Kuataika Track, where again I chose to pace myself a little slower on the up hills, intending to catch him on the technical descent down to Lake Wainamu. This is where I began to falter slightly as I realised I didn’t have any kick on the flat patches, but I was still moving at a good speed, just not great. I was relieved to have the flat section around the lake, but I could feel my usual strength was not there on the climbs.

The Te Henga Walkway from Bethells to Muriwai was an absolute killer for me. I was weak on the first hill and here I re-accessed the strategy. A change to from race mode to survival mode was in order. I last had to bust out survival mode on a 42km trail run in Rotorua where we ran out of food and water half way. I never expected I would be struggling so much today! I gradually got slower and slower, resulting in a lot of walking and Aussie Majell Baukhausen came past me with 5km to go. I averaged 6min/km for the last 5km which was all downhill and should have been blazingly fast, but not this time.

I can’t explain how relieved I was to finish! I was absolutely rekt! Which in a crazy way makes it all the more powerful thinking back on it. I survived! A quick comparison on Strava shows that I ran Te Henga Walkway at a very comfortable intensity last weekend 7 minutes faster than I could manage today. What the heck happened?!

Huge congrats to Andrius for taking the win and setting a record that will be hard to beat. He caught Daniel and put 9 minutes into him in the last section of the race – really impressive. I definitely have unfinished business with this race, and will be ready to get my vengeance on this course next year!

Thanks to Icebug, for the continued support for these races and Sports Lab for helping manage my body. I love working with you guys!

Top 4 at the finish. Photo by The Hillary

Top 4 at the finish. Photo by The Hillary

Good People Run!

So what’s with Good People Run? What are we doing and why are we here?

Good People Run was founded by Paul Petch who’s a family man, professional photographer and designer with a love for running. As well as working as a creative for more than 15 years, Paul has also been involved with volunteering to support others for most of his life. In 2013 Paul saw an opportunity to connect his three life focuses of running, giving back and creativity, so the Good People Run brand was born and launched in 2015. Good People Run is starting out with a key focus of connecting people and organisations with the same vision of giving back through running and its culture, while sharing incredible running centric stories, people, events, art, creativity and news.

The success of Good People Run lies within our collective of inspiring athletes, business people, story tellers, event organisers and creatives, who work together with volunteers and supporters to enable events, fundraising, donations and acts of kindness.

So join us on for your daily dose of running geekery and inspiration!

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

Forest Runner – A magical image capturing me in my training environment and on sale here.

Forest Runner – A magical image capturing me in my training environment and on sale here.

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[]

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.