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.

ANOC Day 2

The second day of the Aftermatch Northern Orienteering Carnival featured a long distance style race on the recently updated Slater Road map north of Parakai. The courses were set by Matthew Ogden himself and were extremely testing. I have run on Slater Road many times in the past 3 years and often find I can use my memory to my advantage but Matt’s courses had be thinking the whole way.

Initially the elite field was to have a chasing start based on accumulative times from yesterday’s 2 middle distance races but after a gentlemen’s agreement it was decided we would use an ordered start with small start intervals to add pressure and first across the line would be victorious.

The course began with 4 short legs in a small area of technical sand dune detail. I had a small hesitation at 3 but was stoked to get there ahead of first starter Tom Reynolds. Our partnership in this technical area was a bit dangerous for me as I am capable of running faster than my navigation and we started pushing each other quite hard. I noticed Nick Hann was also behind me at 4 which meant I was leading!

Technical start – classic course setting

4 to 5 was a massive leg (totalling 1800m in a straight line) and presented obstacles like hills and dense vegetation and had many tempting tracks. My route, which I think may have been the best, is shown in red and there are many other variations shown. Click to see it closer. It was cool to see both Tom and Nick take different routes even though they were just behind me and could have easily put the map down their pants and followed me. Nick’s deviation from my route is shown in orange and Tom did something similar to the purple line.

Long leg to create route choice – classic course setting

The race ran into a pivot section which made good used of a very cool area of sand dune detail. There where a lot of felled trees on the ground as shown by the green stripe, but they were all pretty rotten and didn’t make anything unfair. I think this area was great for a long distance race as  the rotten trees increased the physcality of the forest and made route choice decisions more crucial. I chose to use the track from 5 to 6. Tom caught and passed Nick and I through this section and had about a minute lead heading to 15.

Pivot in technical area to condense runners and increase pressure – classic course setting

Leg 15 to 16 features a massive slope. The elevation graph from my Garmin shows that almost all the climb during the race happened on this leg. Nick dropped me towards the top and my brain to jelly shortly after my legs contributing to the 3 small mistakes at 16, 17, and 18. I lost sight of the leading 2 but I had a big gap back to 4th and maintained good flow through the end of the course to finish in 3rd.

Technical controls after massive uphill leg – classic course setting

The cool stuff that my Garmin Forerunner 610 does

NZ Orienteering Champs 2012 Long Distance

Firstly, I am stoked to be running again after having 8 weeks off due to my ITB related injuries. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to get my body ready for nationals. I managed 3 runs in 6 days leading up to nationals but I knew it would take about 2 weeks to develop some race-ready form. My goal at the start of this year was to win the long distance at Nationals but I realistically lost sight of that goal month ago when my injuries turned nasty. My goal approaching this weekend was navigate cleanly and I knew I would have little control over how I performed physically.

The second race at NZ champs this year was the long distance held on Waioneke, a map last used 7 years ago for Oceania. I remember it being extremely hard and have been looking forward to the challenge since the race’s location was announced.

Waioneke - NZ Champs 2012 Long Distance

I wasn’t up to the physical level to be competitive in such ruthless terrain but I still loved the challenge of being shattered half way through the race and still having to hold it together mentally. I could spend all day talking about the race but here are some interesting parts and a quick evaluation of what I did well and not so well.

Technical challenges early on in the long race

2 – 3 presented route choice opportunities as shown by the 3 colours. My choice is in red, another choice is in blue – I think Tom Reynolds chose something similar to this, and Matt Ogden’s choice is in green. The main decision to be made is “how long should I stay on the track for?” Leaving the track as early as I did meant that I ran a shorter distance but I had 2 ridges to cross and these slowed me down too much. Matt’s choice to stay on the track to the last possible moment was best and he was about 1 minute quicker than me on this leg. Tom mentioned his pre-race plan was to use tracks as much as possible and his choice utilise the track as he did was good, but he was not quite as quick as Matt.

4 – 5 is a leg I did very well and I was happy to find that I posted the fastest split time to control 5. I simplified the map well by identifying the line of positive detail (hills as opposed to depressions) that made a very straight line between the controls. I kept the line of detail close on my left hand side and used the good visibility to identify the highest point in the line of detail, which my control was immediately after. The red line shows the exact path I ran along the flat ground avoiding the sand dune detail and gaining no height at any stage during the leg. Perfect!

Important choices to be made between 7 and 8

Leg 8, 1500m long, was a challenging route choice leg and I have shown my route in red. I aimed for a straight approach to run less distance and to reduce climb. I was not physically aggressive enough to justify my decision and runners who chose track options were rewarded. Matt Ogden ran a route similar to the green line and had the fastest split time between 7 and 8. This was a very challenging leg and deserved more thought than I gave it during the race. There are many possible routes on this leg as shown by the different coloured lines above.

My body broke after I had been racing for about an hour and I my hip flexors and hamstrings began cramping up the hill from 18 to 19. Tom caught me in time for the final 8 controls and I had to dig deep to hold onto him. I was impressed that I ran with him for as long as I did as I was lacking aggression through the physical terrain on my own but having Tom’s heels to chase made it much easier to get up to speed. I eventually lost him 2 controls from the finish and had to drag my body across the line by myself in a time of 1:39:25.