The 2013 Buller Marathon was my first year lining up for this event. This wonderful race starts deep inside the heart of the Buller Gorge on the West Coast of New Zealand. Heading up the river for the first 8km, the course then turns around and takes you back down the Buller Gorge, finishing at the quaint town of Westport.
For those of you who haven’t run at this event before, to be honest – you’re missing out. The setting combined with the community atmosphere, of which you can only experience in NZ’s smallest towns, contributed to one epic event. To see everyone sprawled out on the Westport Domain after they’ve competed, drinking a beer or two, added to the fantastic mix.
Don’s (my coach) perspective for this event was that we’d treat it as a stepping stone; a race to get back my confidence and to become more familiar with the marathon distance. Going into the race I was relatively confident I’d run somewhere close to 2:30 based on workouts I was doing…
So, as the gun sounded a small pack of Vajin Armstrong, Nelson’s Simon Mardon, and myself pushed to the front. Vajin’s recently become the three time Kepler Challenge winner and is becoming one of New Zealand’s top 100km specialists. Although, I do vividly remember breaking 9 minutes for 3km, when I was 17, for the first time tucked in behind Vajin, before I sprinted past him with a couple of laps to go… Moving on, Simon was the previous year’s winner with a strong time of 2:30. Therefore, from the gun I knew the tone of the race was set and everyone’s intentions were made clear.
As the race progressed through the first stages I felt really comfortable and relaxed, which is always a good sign when racing. Don’s advice was to enjoy as much of the early stages as possible (the most scenic), and to relax through these stages too. We were averaging just over 3:30min/kms which was bang on what I was aiming to run.
After 10km or so, Vajin planted a few surges up the hills, which broke Simon and let Vajin and myself push on and widen the gap. We continued to push the pace and went through half way in 1:15:15, and at this stage I felt incredibly fresh. However, at around 27-28km the legs and body started to feel heavy, as we climbed a few more hills. Vajin kept the tempo strong and I felt myself drift off the pace once or twice, I pushed hard on the down hill to get back on Vajin. At this stage I remember thinking to myself that I could probably stick with Vajin to around 35km, however, a stupid lapse in concentration going up the next hill broke the bungey cord that was keeping me on him.
As I went through 30km, I was about 60-80m behind Vajin, trying to keep rhythm and focus. But at this point, we hit the biggest hill yet, and half way up I got struck by chronic stitch – obviously I’d taken on too much fluid at the last drink station. At this point I knew I was done, and pretty much stopped as the stitch was crippling. I did manage to push on averaging around 5min/kms for the next 10mins, battling through the stitch, waiting for third place to pick me up.
At about 6km to go, I was still suffering from a little stitch and was now batteling a heap of fatigue too. I just focused on trying to run each KM as even as I could.
Running down the main road of Westport I was glad to be nearing the end of the race, but having enjoyed so much of it, felt that I wanted to do it again.. but better.
I crossed the line in second with a time of 2:36, 4-5mins behind Vajin who had kept up the same pace going the whole way. Simon came in third with 2:39 and from what he said after, had been suffering the whole race.
Being able to reflect on this race has again helped to point me in the right direction with my current training; realising what I was doing well, and also highlighting the few critical aspects I need to improve on. For one, I can probably count on my hands the number of times I’ve run further than 35km, and to be a good marathoner you need to train your body to keep going and pushing during these later stages – and from what happened at Auckland Marathon at the 23km, and here at Buller at around 28km, I simply don’t have that top level endurance yet… But to be honest, at 24 I’m not too bothered because I know that the strength will come with time.
Overall I was happy with the day. I suspect Don was a little disappointed by the effort, as we’d both hoped for a time a heck of a lot faster – but hey, that’s marathon running. They’re bloody tough races no matter how much training you have done, or how much talent you’ve been gifted.
Getting up at 4:00am is an experience in itself, but getting up at 4am to run the Auckland Marathon was a totally different kettle of fish – the excitement, the dread, the sleep deprivation – all smooshed together.
Auckland was my second marathon attempt after a failed first attempt at Christchurch Marathon back in June of 2012. Before Auckland I was happy with my training, as I’d consistently hit most of my mileage targets and had managed to string together 15 weeks of predominately solid training.
As indicated above, I woke on the day of the event at 4am. With a quick bite to eat I made my way across the road to the ferry. At that time of the morning, it was hilarious to see two distinct types of people; the partygoers were still out in-force rampaging the streets of downtown Auckland. And on the other hand all the marathoners were making their way through the streets too, to get to the ferry. I vividly remember two girls approaching me in their drunkn’ state and slurringly asked me if I was running a marathon. I replied, ‘yes, are you not???’
So, after a brief ferry ride and a short walk, I arrived at the elite start, and managed to sit down and rest before the start of the journey at 6:10am.
Before the start of the race I was pretty excited to see how I’d cope with the race. As the gun went there was a relatively conservative initial sprint, and as always with races like this, a punter went to the front. Their short lead lasted about 500m as what I can only describe as realisation set in that they have to run 42kms!
Anyway, I knew the first 15-17km of the race was gong to be ‘hilly’ as numerous people, including my coach, had described it to me. But I wasn’t physically, or even mentally prepared for just how ‘hilly’ the first half really was. Rowan Walker and Scott Winton went to the front after a few KM’s and stated their race intentions. I was in a pack of 5 about 100-200m back where we were averaging around 3:30s over this section of the race. I was feeling okay, not fantastic, but was looking forward to getting the hilly sections done so that I could focus on running even splits and pushing the pace on the flat back half of the race. As the hills became larger and more common the pace started to become slightly more aggressive, with Pannett getting a mini breakaway with a serge around 13km.
We finally progressed to the start of the flat section. Tony Payne and I were racing in 3rd and 4th at this stage, going through half way in around 1:14:00. I was feeling pretty strong, and was encouraging Tony to go a little faster, however, this was short-lived. At around 23-24km my legs started to seize up and become really tired. My breathing and energy levels seemed fine, however, the cramp in my legs started to take control. I dropped off the back of Tony and soon the others were on me. I tried a desperate last serge to get back on the pace, but this was short lived.
From here my race deteriorated really quickly. I remember, thinking that all I wanted to do at this point was finish, and I knew I was going to do what ever it took to do so. I found an equilibrium pace around 4min/kms that wasn’t too fast where my legs were going to fully cramp and stop, or that wasn’t too slow so that my legs didn’t seize up completely. I was desperately trying to minimise the impact pain, and took to running on the white lines on the road as I felt the impact was slightly less than the black hard tarseal…
I ended up placing 9th, which overall was a 6th place in New Zealand, as there were a couple of international people racing. I ran 2:39 which is a surprisingly oaky time considering how slow my last 17km was.
I leant a lot from this race, and most importantly finally understood the importance of long tempo training for this distance.
So, my Auckland Marathon experience was disappointing disaster, but at the same time I was stoked to finish and to get my first, of hopefully many, marathons competed.
It’s here, the moment 2433kms, 186:54 hours, 4.5 months of training goes toward; the Christchurch Marathon.
It’s mid afternoon, on the 2nd of June, the day before the race, which so happens to be my 24th Birthday also. I feel relaxed, rested and ready for the big race tomorrow morning. The fields for all the events are some of the best they’ve ever been at any NZ Marathon event. And as a result, I’m expecting a fast pace from the gun as the packs will be surging and jostling for position. Overall, it will no-doubt be a fantastic event, with such classy runners about.
My game plan is relatively simple; I’ll aim to run 1:13:00-1:14:00 through half way, and hopefully (fingers crossed here), my niggly Hip Flexor and cold don’t hold me back and I can push on to run a negative split and get close to my personal goal of running 2:24:59. My coach and I both agree on this plan, as Christchurch will be my first marathon, so I’ll be learning and feeling my way though most of the race and have no real idea regarding what to expect.
I’ve been around the course today and if the conditions are fine, the flat roads will pay dividends to fast times all round.
So, until next time – who knows what will happen… game on!
I’m between a rock and a hard place/marathon. A place some of you may have been before. It’s this place affecting the status quo; the smoothness of my final training prep before I race the Christchurch Airport Marathon, June 3rd.
The set backs initially started four weeks from race day, after the New Balance 15km. I had a niggle with my Hip Flexor, and only managed to run 79km for the week. In my schedule I’d planned to run close to 200km, so I was already forced on my back foot for the final few weeks.
With extensive help from my massage therapist, and lots of rest and stretching I managed to come right three weeks out. I actually had a pretty good weeks training, including two longish runs and two workouts, but by the end of the week I only manage 7km for Sunday. On the Saturday I tempoed a 10km at marathon race pace (approx. 34min). I felt utterly crap for the tempo, heightened by wearing brand new racing flats, which gave me pain through my feet.
By the time Sunday rolled around, I was completely exhausted and had come down with the flu too… brilliant.
So here I am, two weeks out from the marathon, with a slight niggle to my Hip Flexor, sore joints and a stuffy flu.
Running fast is all about confidence, confidence allows you the mental capacity to push harder on race day and attempt the daring. So understandably, with these slight disruptions to my final prep, I’ve been questioning my confidence somewhat. But what I’ve come to realise is I’ve just completed 20 weeks of over 140km per week, including my best workouts and best mileage ever! Yeah, the last two weeks haven’t gone completely to plan, but if I can recover to 100% by race day, then who knows what will happen.
Often when ‘the plan’ doesn’t happen the way you expected, you start to loose confidence. But here’s a solution; having the ability to be adaptive with training and planning give you even more benefit. I believe this is one of my strengths, every time in the last few weeks that I’ve been hit with a set back, I’ve been able to readjust, and have been able to figure out another way of training… That ultimately gives me confidence.
For the second year in a row, the annual New Balance 15km road race was held out at Greenpark – Tai Tapu, on a two-lap flat course.
Going into this race I was confident I’d run well, with the past 18 weeks of training going smoothly with no real hiccups. I did however have a slight niggle, where on the Saturday (day before the race) my glut stopped firing and I was getting shooting pain through my Hip flexor. Obviously, I chose to ignore this, and turned up to the start line regardless.
Racing in New Zealand is often a weird phenomenon, as you have no real idea regarding who’s going to turn up on race day – how much better could it be if we arranged for top athletes to compete at the same races? Anyway, it was a good surprise to see Sam Wreford warming up. He’d been away in Kenya for the last 6-7 Months training at Iten, which is at about 10,000ft. Sam had been training specifically for the Marathon, so I knew he’d be in fantastic shape and would provide me with the perfect opportunity to run a quick time.
As the gun went off, I quickly learned that the first few kms were going to be fast. According to my GPS I ran 3:56 through the first 1km, and 8:58 through 3km. At this point there was a tight group of four runners: Sam Wreford, Blair McWhirter, Nick Rennie and Myself, and about 20-30m back Matt Ingram and Luke Hurring.
At about the 4km mark I knew I needed to consolidate and slow down as not to pop too early, as going out at 44:50 pace was a bit stupid. However, this turned out to be a stupid mistake, as I was about to find out… At about 6-7km Nick Rennie had popped and was going backward fast. As I ran past Nick I could see Blair 200m in front dropping off Sam, and indicated to Nick that I wanted to try and catch back up to Blair. Nick, however, was too far-gone, which left me in no-mans land, running directly into a headwind… At this point I turned off mentally. I was feeling great, strong with energy in my legs, but I didn’t have the confidence to try at catch Blair and risk my current 3rd position. So, for the final 7km I essentially tempoed, making sure Luke, who was now in 4th wouldn’t catch me.
I ended up in third running 49:31, which was 10sec slower that last year. But I honestly only run at 85% of my max. I’m frustrated I wasn’t able to push harder, and was too risk adverse to risk popping. As an athlete, the feeling you get from pushing through the impossible, gives you an addictive buzz. So coming out of this race, I had nothing. I’d essentially wasted a good opportunity to run fast, all for 3rd and $100 in prize money… Stupid.
Looking at the positive side, I’m certain I could have run much faster, and I’m glad it was this race I was soft in, not the Christchurch Marathon in a months time. I’ve learnt that to be satisfied from racing, It doesn’t matter what place I ultimately get, but if I’ve run as hard as I physically can, I’ll ultimately be stoked.
I need to risk more, to be more!
The last week’s training was big! – Easily over 110 miles combined with my best ever workout.
Don scheduled a 10 x 1km workout on Tuesday with a 2min recovery between each rep. Warming up for the workout I wasn’t feeling fresh, and overall a bit sluggish. But it’s weird sometimes before workouts and races, when you’re feeling a bit off; sometimes you do your best workouts.
So as the first few reps flew by, I became more and more relaxed. I was running about 3:06 per km for the first reps. At this point I vividly remember smiling to myself and chuckling as I knew I was floating and managing to run the speed easily.
As it’s winter now in NZ, it becomes dark early and very quickly. But weirdly, as it became pitch black on the course I was running, I started to run faster, finishing the last rep off in 2:56.
The best thing about the work out was Don’s response; “you’re not a pussy anymore.” To give some context, in the 80s Don ran numerous sub 2:15 marathons, and achieved a PR of 2:13. So obviously hearing Don’s classic feedback has given me definite confidence going forward for the final few weeks before the marathon.
The rest of the week was good too, as I travelled over to the West Coast primarily to run some large k’s but also to catch up with my sister too. I ran around 60km in 2 days, with two staggering runs. The first was a 20km tempo next to the Paparoa River, over a ridge and back out down the Punakaiki River. The trail was off road, but I used it as a ‘light(ish)’ tempo.
The second run was my Sunday morning run, which took me up to Hokitika’s Trigg station, with an elevation of about 400m and complete 360degree views; beautiful!
All in all, a very good week, both in-terms of workouts and long runs. Over the next few weeks, I’ll compete at the New Balance 15km race, and will continue to build my kms per week too
With seven weeks until the Christchurch Marathon I’m starting to turn up the heat with my training. This last week was focused toward recovering from the 180km the week prior, smashing a session of 800s, maintaining another 150km+ week, and racing well at the annual Hagley Relays… too much? Surprisingly, I’m still able to walk and although the legs are completely shattered, I’m getting by.
The advice from coach Don, was to keep the miles high, but to ease back on the pace as to recover further, with the intention of trying to hit quality times in my 800reps and running a good race at Hagley.
Overall, I’m happy with how the week panned out, achieving all of the above! Both the workout and race are the shortest workouts I’ll complete in this build-up. Hopefully, the injection of speed will help to wake up and speed up the legs.
I’m looking to wind the miles back up to 160km + next week with two steady state aerobic capacity workouts to help with the base…. Should be interesting!
The Christchurch City 2 Surf was held on a new 14.5km (approx) course, stretching from Pioneer Stadium, along the winding roads next to the Heathcote River, and finishing at Ferrymead Park.
Having run the old course a few times, from Christchurch’s square to QEII, I was interested to see if the new course would live up to the hype and drama of previous races… Overall, I must admit I prefer the new course, as running along the base of the Port Hills provides a nice backdrop for the race, coupled with the fantastic day of weather, the event was near perfect.
For me the Christchurch City 2 Surf was the start of my 3 race buildup phase before racing the Christchurch Marathon in June. Having run 40km the previous Sunday, and completing a very fast rep session of 600m on the Wednesday before the race, it’s safe to say that there was no taper for this footrace.
As the gun went off, Mark Bailey form New Brighton Olympic Athletics Club took the lead, with me following behind in second and Tane Cambridge sitting on me in third. Mark led the pace off extremely fast, going through the first km in close to 2:55. At this stage I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sustain the intensity, as my previous week’s running and lack of taper was racing through my mind. After 5km Mark had established a good lead, running through 5km in just over 15min. Tane was about 30-40m behind Mark, and I was sitting in third 30-40m behind Tane. At this stage I wasn’t feeling too comfortable, but knew I needed to focus on my breathing and rhythm to ensure I didn’t fall off the pace too much. Over the next miles, nothing too exciting happened, the gap between the three of us opened up ever so slightly, but we pretty much kept the same distance apart until the end of the race.
I was stoked that over the last 5km I was sitting very comfortably in third, and was maintaining 3:18s per km easily. I finished third in a solid time of 47:42:00, with Mark winning in 46 flat.
As the City 2 Surf was my first proper race in my build-up I learnt a lot about where I was physically in my build-up cycle, and it helped to reinforce some of the areas I needed to work on.
I’m confident I could have maintained the same pace to 21km on the day, which would give me around a 69min half. Although you often hear athletes rambling about what they ‘coulda’ ‘shoulda’ ‘woulda’ done, I am fairly confident I could have achieved this.
So overall, I was impressed by the event, the quality of athletes, and of-course proud that I was achieving some good results and the hard training was starting to pay off.
Onto the next goal!
Cloud 9’s the euphoric state of absolute happiness. The last three weeks of training have really felt like this. At the end of February I knew I was in good shape, maybe the best shape i’ve ever been in. But, I knew I needed to step up and find another gear; aiming to run larger miles and faster and more disciplined workouts.
Over the last three weeks I’ve really ticked all boxes. I completed my first 40km training run, in just over 3 hours feeling pretty comfy, I’ve completed a set of solid 5 x 1 mile reps and completed a 16km tempo at marathon race pace. I’ve also boosted my kms per week to just over 160kms and I’m still including a full Friday off to recover.
I’m planning on racing the Christchurch City 2 Surf over the next few days, with the obvious aim of winning the title, but i’d still be happy just to have a solid race and find some form after all the running I currently have in my legs.
Lets hope hope the wheels don’t fall off…
Month two (February) of marathon training is done! In short, the last month has been exceptional, I’ve been able to increase my miles, better my workouts and mentally feel stronger and more confident.
So, how’s the training looking? Well, I’m still very much focusing on my aerobic endurance, and top-level aerobic capacity in the phase of my program. This has obviously meant the lengthening of my workouts, and focusing on hitting speed targets in my workouts.
Typically, without giving too much away, this is how my weeks have looked:
80 -90Min easy
Workout – either long tempo, or long reps
Workout either long tempo, or long reps
Approximately 130 – 145km per week with two workouts and two long runs.
In March, the game plan is simple. I have to slowly increase my KMs, to around 150-160km. This will result in the inclusion of doubles on my workout days i.e. Tuesdays and Saturdays. My Coach, Don Greig, has also recommended running 40km easy at some stage, and I’ll also race the Christchurch City 2 Surf later in the Month.
If I were to suggest a theme for February it would have been “Foundation.” February has set a great benchmark of solid miles, and good workouts. In fact, I’d suggest I’m in the strongest shape I’ve ever been, I’m just lacking the top end speed as of yet.
March’s theme will be “building”. It will really be the benchmark month of long miles and long tempos. Simply, what I decided to do over the next 4 weeks, will directly result in how I’ll be able to handle running 3:25s for 42Kms!!!