I can’t pinpoint the exact moment running become so habitual. I don’t think anyone really could. It’s like anything, I guess. If you do it enough times and regularly, your body accepts what’s happening and your mind wills for it to happen again. Over time our habits become so ingrained in routine you can’t ever remember a time where you didn’t do it. For me that’s where I am now.
Staring back at 42.2km of the hardest flat road I’ve ever run on.
If I’m honest I feel a little lost on what to do next. It’s easy to say, “go again”. But after asking some fairly decent questions of myself physically and mentally it is safe to say I’m beaten up. Shrek and his onion analogy possibly best sums up running. Layers upon layers of running, eating, strength work and sleeping.
So here’s how it went down
We [Katy, Matt and I] knew before last Christmas I was going to run the full in Christchurch.
Which didn’t mean we started training for it then, but it was always in the back of my mind.
Although track session never hit the heights I had hoped. It had its intended effect and I ran a pretty handy 29:30 in Wanaka at the start of April. Which in hindsight was when I really hit my straps in training too.
For anyone interested this is how Matt and I started the conversation on the 14 weeks training block that got me into the best shape of my life.
From there we tossed ideas around and what followed was around 2200km in 12 weeks.
I probably did push the limit a little some weekends, but for me training means these key things.
- Can I run as fast as I need to?
- Can I run for as long as I need to?
- Can I stand up for as long as I need to?
- What is the limit of my body?
- How far past my bodies limit can my mind take us?
Remembering to, that although training is a stress that our body adapts to when we allow it to recover. It is also made to build us up, not tear us down. Every investment has a risk, every decision a conscience. Do too little and don’t get the intended outcome. Do too much and don’t’ get the intended outcome. The problem in planning is running is accumulative and the goal post of “perfect” shifts daily. But if you haven’t gone to the limit you will never find the sweet spot between fucked and perfect. For me (in this block) settled in around 12 hours of running a week. You’ll notice we almost always use time as our training gauge, at least until we start sharpening at race specific stuff. Time is a constant - Energy/speed/GPS are not.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that 3 or 4 workouts or days stood out. I had plenty of good days, and even more average days. But everyone needs confidence boosters.
5 weeks in a row I ran around 2:40-2:45 which was roughly 40km on a Sunday averaging around 4:00-4:05min per k.
My favourite workout surprised me, it was one Matt and I text each other back and forth about. Which ended up being a Tempo/Fartlek. You can find the strava link here.
We also did a 90 min effort and covered around 28km which gave me the confidence that 3:15 pace wouldn’t be an issue, as well as practiced a few drinks and gels etc.
But possibly the biggest asset was shifting all my bigger and longer workouts to the morning. 85% of my running was done before 9am each week. With only a few easy doubles happening after work. We also found a new structure of moving the Tuesday night workout to a Wednesday morning. This meant I essentially had 2 weekends Wed/Thu and Sat/Sun. Which made up 80% of my weeks volume and meant I could recover well on the other 3 days while still hitting the 12 hours a week. All this also meant I was home for Katy and Indi in the evenings which was important for life balance. Under some guidance from my Nutritionist and S&C we also added x3 gym sessions over each 2-week period. Mostly made up of bigger heaver Olympic style lifting. Squats, Deadlift etc.
We followed a pretty simple structure, stay healthy, get strong, get robust, get fit, get fast, get fresh, race…
I’ll note now and thank Dawn and Wayne from NZBMA for keeping me going while I did push boundaries and Caden at Sportsmed who got silver in the half) for putting my foot back together.
Race day? (and my best mate Vasaline.)
I don’t remember a lot. People complained about the weather. But sometimes we rise to a bigger challenge. Maybe I could have run faster on a dry day (I could have). But you can’t say that. Quinny always said control what you can and accept what you can’t.
I had coffee with Matt Smith and Sam Mclean the Thursday before and Matt said, “that the second you run through 21.5m faster than you ever have. You are having the best day of your life.” I was through half way in 68ish and 22k in 71. Meaning I was having the best running day of my life. Regardless of what I could or couldn’t control. All I could control was my attitude towards the situation that was in front of us.
I’ll take a break in the action to thank Jamie and Anastasia for sorting all my race day nutrition. There is no way we could have done it without them. I used SOS Rehydrate electrolytes at each station and 4.5 Maurten Gels.
I had some sort of tendonitis in my left ankle that had developed a week out which was incredibly painful after around 8km. I knew the first 13km was the best running so made a decision to bank time early. Knowing the course would slow me down rather than my ability. After we split from the half at 16km it got pretty tough. Hard SW wind, sideways rain and puddles up to my knees.
Matt kept popping up with encouragement. Small things like "finding a rhythm" even in the madness. It’s crazy, if you try hard enough you can indeed find rhythm if you let the pattern run long enough. Go back to your own personal mantras. Relax, swing your arms and breathe.
After 30km my left ankle was on fire but running past Katy and Indi with 9km to go, got me home. The last 5km I remember nothing of, I was freezing by then, losing a little vision and just trying to stay upright. In all the chaos it would have been easy to throw the towel in, but I felt like I really owed it to myself and the girls to give it everything and see what we could do. After running 2200km in 12 weeks I certainly didn’t want any regrets and that’s the way it finished.
When people ask me how it was? They only way I can reply is by saying, “I ran my guts out for as long as I could.” That’s all I wanted to do. People will talk about times and the weather. But for me it’s relative effort. We all move at different speeds. But if we all run as hard as we can, for as long as we can. We’ve all done as well as each other. I can look back on that day and be proud of the effort that I and the people around me put in.
A huge thank you to Matt for being out on the bike that day. As well as guiding and encouraging me for the last 4 years. We’ve managed to get a NZ medal of some colour from the 5000m to the Marathon (including cross country) with the exclusion of the 10km road champs (hint hint). This year we ran 3 pb’s 10,000m track, 10km road and the Marathon. I’d say we did a good job.
Key take homes.
1. The more you do the more you have to rest.
2. Your body is amazing when you give it what it needs
3. Running makes me the best version of me
Katy and Indi, I love you guys. You make me want to be the best I can be every day, for you and for me. Thank you for your patience and I promise to remember to put the bin out on Monday night ;)
PS : Thank you to New Balance for your continued and ongoing support with my small obsession. For those interested I used the 1500’s on race day.
See you round the road team