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.

Success!

Success!

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.

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

Auckland Ultra-Sprint

Last Wednesday Martin Peat and Counties Manakau Orienteering club set New Zealand’s first ultra-sprint orienteering race at Barry Curtus Park in Manakau. It was a fantastic afternoon of high speed racing and a great way to enjoy our ANZAC day in the sun.

The format of the afternoon consisted of 3 heats which could be run in any order before 3:00pm and the top 4, based on accumulative time, would race in a mass start final. Others who didn’t make the final would start afterwards as they pleased.

The special point about ultra-sprint racing is the extremely close together controls which require very quick map reading to get through cleanly. Planning ahead and sighting controls in advance on longer legs was a great technique to conquering the tricky parts. The other major difficulty was the maze which we visited twice on every course.

The start and maze on course A. (GPS in the maze is pretty useless)

The map include a maze enlargement which I found useful on most occasions

I missed out on the final which was won by NWOC’s Tom Reynolds closely Followed by Matt Ogden, Toby Scott and Jourdan Harvey. Places 5th to 8th formed an unofficial B-final which I finished 2nd in after losing my lead with a spectacular series of mistake while going through the maze.

I can’t wait for the next ultra-sprint and hope that this high standard is retained.

The Nugget

The Nugget Multisport Festival took place this Saturday in Waihi. The Premier event was the Full Nugget Multisport Race but the festival also included The Half Nugget Duathlon, and 3 trail runs, 21km, 10km, and 5km in length. I kept focused on my running goals and chose to race the 21km run. Alistair McDowell, who travelled with me from Auckland, was more adventurous and took on the Full Nugget as his second multisport race to date.

This weekend we teamed up with Vitasport, a supporting sponsor of the race, to help refuel competitors on the finish line and to do some promo stuff around the event centre. It was a great experience, and having to keep Vitasport stuff in order before and after the race lead to an intense day with some very tight timing.

The early morning Vitasport set up just past the finish line.

Alastair and I were also given the mighty Vitasport Landrover for our journey which made everything much more epic. Turns out it has many secrets and is a tricky machine to drive, but it’s a quite a beast once everything is figured out. We travelled down on Friday evening as we had to be at the event centre early to help set up and Alastair had to drop his Kayak and bikes off at the transitions before his race.

The Beast

The 21km featured a hilly start around the coastal track north of Waihi Beach, There were some stunning views and some very dramatic terrain where one slip could easy be your last. As the course turns away from the sea there is a big climb finishing through some farmland and giving a clear view of the finish, which was deceptively far away. The rest of the course was mainly on tracks and was very fast. I was guttered when I heard someone start their Garmin before the start as I realised I had forgotten mine. The race route off the website will have to do this time.

Course map - I think there were a few differences to what this shows

I started the race very easy and waited for my body to warm up before I decided how best to tackle the race as I was unsure how I would feel. I hadn’t put in any preparation into this race as I didn’t want it to interfere with my training. I had a few easy days after ANOC but I still hadn’t fully recovered and Friday’s 90 minutes in terrain was still sitting heavy in my legs. Kerry Suter took the early lead and once I warmed up after 5 minutes I picked up the pace and caught him quickly. We stayed together for most of the costal section but I wasn’t quite as aggressive on the last few hills and lost about a 30 seconds. I intended to make to catch on the big climb before the fast farm land but a few stitch problems arose and I took it easier than planned to prevent my stitch from worsening. I was feeling good after a Leppin at the drinks station and hit the next few kilometres quite hard and got to within 30 seconds again but Kerry was too fast along the flat and widened the gap again. After 2km on the road we had some more farm tracks which I tackled aggressively and got close to the lead once again. I was happy to see Kerry as he left one of the last paddocks but I was running a bit low on aggression and the gap widened by more than 3 minutes in the last 3km. I did lose a bit of focus towards the end but was impressed to see the final time gap so big. I finished 2nd in 1:42:25, 4 minutes off Kerry’s time of 1:38:30, and 5 minutes ahead of 3rd.

My body felt ok after the race and the next day which is encouraging for my current training block and I’m hoping my legs will develop some race-worthy aggression soon. Thanks again to Vitasport for keeping everyone at the race hydrated, especially Alastair and I, and thanks to Total Sport for another great event!

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.