Friday, December 7, 2012

Running the Sunshine Coast Beaches - 80kms of Sand!


Writing up a one off ultramarathon challenge that's not a race has made me realise how much excitement and atmosphere an organised race generates.  The achievement is no less significant, in some ways it’s greater as you don’t have support crew, checkpoints or crowds of adoring fans!  It was an odd feeling at 9:30pm on a recent Friday night when Colin and I stood at the end of Noosa Spit, the northern end of the Sunshine Coast beaches, on what seemed like a normal training run, but this time we had a sleepless night and 80kms of running ahead of us.
We'd be making a few of these through the run

We had arranged one drop bag about 50kms along the route at a friend’s house, but other than that we’d have to carry everything.  This was good training for me with the Great North Walk 100 mile race only 2 weeks away, and event where I’d be carrying my full 3l hydration bladder and 2x600ml drink bottles. We'd also decided to make it an inaugural Local Ultra Challenge for our newly formed "Sunshine Coast Ultra and Trail Runners" (or SCUTRs) running group.

The going early was very heavy, with neither of us travelling particularly well.  On the bright side (in more ways than one) it was a clear sky with a near full moon, and for the time being the tide was out, we couldn’t ask for better conditions.  The conversation flowed freely, and the kilometers passed slowly. Our first stop was Coolum Beach Surf Club after about 30kms of running (all but a couple of kilometers on the sand). We topped up our water, and looked back towards Noosa and could see the lights on the horizon from where we had come. Turning south we could see other lights on the horizon, but that was Mooloolaba, Caloundra our end point was still out of sight.
Coolum to Noosa by day (obviously!)

Back on the beach, and we’re soon back into our rhythm.  Just plodding along on the wet sand where we could, thankful that the tide still had a few hours to go before we’d be forced up on to the steep soft dunes.  We’ve run all these long sections of beach in training before, but they seemed a whole lot longer tonight. 

It was around 1:30am and we still came across other people. We actually didn’t go more than an hour without passing someone for the entire run, but nobody else was running until after 6am.  We only had one potential bit of trouble when we passed a couple walking in the opposite direction.  We tried to exchange pleasantries but with no response, that was until we were about 5 metres past them and the guy shouted something threatening and aggressive, but neither of us could make out what he said. We were both looking over our shoulders for a couple of minutes, not all that confident that with tired legs we would be able to out run an aggressor! 

It did spark a conversation which lasted throughout the night where we invented an hilarious TV sitcom focused around the character that we had come into contact (watch this space for that one, coming to a TV station near you!).  You do meet some interesting characters when out running, and most are good natured and uplifting, and so was this fellow in a weird sort of way.

The end of this stretch of beach is marked by the Maroochy River. We were only about 200 metres from the next bit of sand, but a fast flowing channel lay in our way. Even in our slightly euphoric state the consideration of making a swim for it was never seriously considered. It did however spark more entertaining scenarios to keep spirits up and to pass the time.  This was a common feature of the run and one of the benefits of running with someone. I have the same sort of conversations in my head when running alone, but it’s not quite the same without someone to bounce the crazy ideas off!

We’d looked at Google maps to get an idea on our exit point which really was hopelessly inadequate, and showed how your expectations can effect your performance. I was expecting just a quick dash across the dunes to the car park and the road which would lead us around and over the river.  It turned out to be a long trudge through the soft sand until eventually we got off the beach. I was feeling pretty low at this point, and Colin needed to take a “comfort stop” so he encouraged me to keep going and he’d catch up.  This was actually the tonic I needed, as I put my head down and ran alone for about 20 minutes.  I got over the self pity and refocused on the job in hand.



The moon, which was close to full, was sinking on the brink of setting.  The recent bush fires and back burning had put plenty of particulates into the air to give the moon a surreal look.  A week before Halloween, and it had the appearance of an uncarved pumpkin with a light inside. Again we reflected on that experience being the sort of thing than millions of couch dwellers would never see.

Now on the South side of the river we knew that we would be at our only stopping point of the run.  We called ahead, getting Hugo out of what was apparently a very warm and comfortable bed!  15 minutes later we met with him at the front of the Alexandra Headland SLSC at 3:30am.  I’m still blown away by the generous and enthusiastic gesture of coming out to help us.  It came at a good time as both of us were low on fluid, and a change of energy in the group was called for.  
The one and only pit stop

We stopped for about 10-15 minutes, changed over drink bottles and snacked. As is typical with any ultra the clock seems to speed up when you’re at a checkpoint, but this was a good thing, as we wanted to keep moving and not stiffen up.  Refreshed and reinvigorated we headed out along the short stretch of Mooloolaba beach to the spit.  This section of beach is in a large gentle curve, the end point facing back North up to where we had come from.  The glow of Noosa was very, very dim over the horizon and I took pride in knowing that we were now well past halfway, and that in reality it wasn’t all that bad.

Again we had to take a diversion to avoid another river, a 7 km detour to cover the 100m from where we were to where the next bit of beach starts.  Soul destroying yes, but also great to know that when we had got back on that sand we were on the last homeward straight.

I took the every bit of sand a bit too seriously at this point, electing to run through a children’s play area on the side of the road!

We finally got back on the beach proper at Port Cartwright, and by now the sun was just peaking over the horizon.  We were on a pretty isolated section of beach just beneath the Light House, and the views were breath taking.  I did manage to get take a couple of photos, as did a professional photographer in the sand dunes taking what would have been impressive photos of a bride in the morning of her wedding. I say would have been impressive as we couldn’t resist the opportunity to “photo bomb” leaping and waving in the background! They were obviously in the spirit of the day as they waved back too.  
Colin powering on at Point Cartwright at dawn
In the same spirit there were personal trainers setting up their bootcamps on the beach, and we took the opportunity to show off our dazzling pace and nimble footwork slaloming through their courses. They may have been a little more impressed if they have known that we’d been running for about 8 hours at this point!

After the Lighthouse we were on the homestretch, and the motivation and physical lift this gave me was amazing.  I was comfortably running up the beach, chasing other early morning joggers, even catching and burning off a few too!  This was a beach that we hadn’t run on before, and once more it was a lot longer than we had anticipated. Well it just seemed longer; it was about 10-12kms long. The challenge now was that the tide was well on its way in, and wet feet which we had for the most part avoided were now inevitable.  Running on the soft sand was far heavier going, and the camber at the back of the beach was pretty severe.  My ankles were really feeling it at the end o the run.

Happily though the seemingly endless beach did come to an end, and we then just had to negotiate the cliffs around Caloundra and the short dash along Kings and Bullcock beaches.  We could hardly complain about a few hills at the end as the majority of the run had been pretty flat, the beauty of if was that it meant we’d be on a downhill run to our finishing point.  

It was almost 7:30am by now and it was amazing the number of people out and about, as we had to weave our way along the last two beaches.  The mini goal of 10 hours just slipped past as we reached the old SLSC at Caloundra, and the end of the Sunshine Coast Beaches.

No round of applause, no finishing tape, just an agreement between the two of us that we had done enough and shook hands.  Somewhat anticlimactic, as these fat ass event can be, but it was very satisfying to have put a line in the sand so to speak!  Maybe some other local runners would like to get out there and have a crack at it and notch up a better time, we may even have another go ourselves.

All done! Colin takes a recovery dip.
It is something we will definitely do again, but before that there are a number of other long trails that we’re going to take on. More on that soon on the SCUTRs page.

Thanks Colin for putting up with my nonsense for most of the night, and to Hugo and Benji for sacrificing a good night’s sleep to come out and cheer us on.

While organised races are a great experience you can take a lot of satisfaction from getting out in your own back yard and having a crack at something out of the ordinary.  All good fun.

Run Happy!
Andy

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put in to it” – Oprah Winfrey

Monday, November 19, 2012

GNW 2012 - 175kms of fun!


As Ultramarathons go, for me there is no better atmosphere than that of the Great North Walk 100s. If has a certain folklore in Australian ultrarunning circles, and attracts some of the toughest competitors from across the country and overseas.

The race briefing and pre-race banter is subdued as each of us has the occasional moment of clarity about the size of the task ahead of us. This feeling is the same if it’s your first time, or 4th time, although I must say for me this year I was in a far better place mentally than in previous years.

This event has a history of being stiflingly hot, and one where your heat management is the difference between running up the beach at Patonga and having a DNF against your name. It has about a 50% completion rate for both the 100km and 100mile events (actually 108 miles, 175kms) which is in part due to the severity of the terrain, and part the heat. This year though things were very different.

Tall and Small!
Before the race I was cold!  I even had to put on my event t shirt to keep from getting hypothermia, and was looking forward to getting moving so I could get my internal furnace going.  Fortunately we weren't kept waiting, and before we knew it we were on the road and for the first time ever I actually hear the race director say “Go!”

I find the first few 100ms of an ultra the most amusing, as onlookers seem disappointed at the pace (or rather lack of pace) we show. It doesn’t take long to get into a rhythm, and I am determined to keep my pace in check, it’s a long way to go.  I team up with a few running friends and we chat away the first 15kms.  Notable mentions go to Rob Mattingly who declares it’s “my fault” that he’s there after encouraging him to join me on lunchtime runs when we worked together!  I spend some time with Aussie ultrarunning royalty Jane Trumper,  Kirrily Dear, Ron Stevens and chat briefly with Dave Graham, who I had met at the Glasshouse events a few weeks earlier.  Little was I to realise that Dave and I would end up chatting quite a bit more over the coming day and a half.  When the field is bunched up there are some great exchanges, especially as the adrenalin of the start is still pumping, and most runners sense of humour are still intact.  There’s nothing like polite encouragement when you’re taking a nature break on the side of the trail!

Crossing the road at Heaton Gap signifies the start of the first of the big climbs, and for a change I decide to run within myself, by not running at all and just engaging a steady plod up the steps and climbs until we get to the communications tower signifying the top of the hill. Sadly the low cloud, and showery rain put pay to any opportunity to enjoy the scenery, which was probably a good thing as it helped keep our minds on the job in hand, as well as keeping us cooler than normal.


The field is still relatively condensed and I found myself in a group of 3 or 4 runners at any time.  We’re just holding our place in the race order, and enjoying sharing running stories.  I wasn’t so popular for reminding some of my fellow runners for upcoming hills, but I did make the point that I didn’t put them there and not knowing about them wasn’t going to make getting over them any easier!

So it’s into Checkpoint 1 and I’ve very comfortable and relaxed.  Jaci, my support crew, has an incredibly professional approach to her role, and she didn’t miss a thing.  We agreed what fluids and fuel I’d need for the next section, and all the while I’m tucking into the homemade cakes, potatos, and fruit on offer at the checkpoint.  Jaci’s efficiency made it easy for me to stay relaxed, which is so important especially with 150kms of running still to go.

Leaving the checkpoint around the same time a group of 4 of us merge together, with Dave and Lise and another guy who’s name I didn’t get, but his story I’ll never forget. At the checkpoint he had applied some deep heat/dencorub to his thighs to help keep his legs warm. He had also taken to opportunity for some natural relief at the CP, and had forgotten to wipe his hands between the two actions.  Needless to say he was “enjoying the warmth” and was recommending that we try it sometime.  I accepted on the principle that he warm his hands first!!

A few ks into the section our group splinters and Dave and I are left running together. We’re moving well and well within ourselves, and both of us are very conscious of keeping within these boundaries. This was Dave’s first 100 miler, and he had a great approach, but the challenge was going to come later when the mental resolve would be challenged by tiredness, energy depletion, and sleep deprivation.

As we dropped down towards Congewai road, we were in a convoy of about 7 runners. We chatted with Todd, Lise bolted off and we caught up with Rob again.  The trot along the road was a pleasurable experience compared to previous years, about 10 degrees cooler.  I was loving this section, talking non-stop (sorry guys) and running very much within myself.

There was plenty of high fiving of those runners heading out of the CP on the out and back section, and it gave us a good appreciation of where we were in the field.  I don’t know how I looked, but I certainly felt a whole lot better than some of those in front of us looked!

Thanks to Jaci the CP transition was smooth and slick, kit checked, and even time for a chat with Darryl, before Dave and I headed off together down the road.  There were more pained faces coming in the opposite direction, and I did my best to make them smile.

I was and wasn’t looking forward to this section. I was because I wanted to get my own back on it for the pain inflicted in previous years, but wasn’t because I knew how punishing it can be.  Rob caught up at the bottom of the first big climb and we shared some great conversation, which made it hurt a little less, and before we knew it we were at the communications tower.  Rob decided to take stock here, and Dave and I pushed on.

The next big climb seemed easier again, more mentally that physically, which I put down to having company, and company of a person who never complained or moaned about how hard it was. Dave is one tough character. I was looking forward to the unmanned water stop at the top for a refuel and a breather.  I sat down on the log for about 2 minutes while refilling my drink bottles, and that was enough. Something happened that I thought was possible at GNW, I was cold, actually bloody freezing. My sweat soaked shirt and the cold wind was chilling.  So there was only one solution...to keep moving.

Refueling at the Basin
Since the Communications tower I’d been feeling a bit off, guts weren’t 100% and generally not feeling right.  Normally this would last around an hour and things would stabilise, but not today.  I still felt groggy getting into the Basin, but again the super crew had me turned around smoothly, even though we did steal a couple of minutes sit down.

I wasn’t as enthusiastic leaving the Basin, as I still wasn’t right, but it was great to head out along the out and back section to see that we were still travelling well. Before we headed back up on the GNW turning was passed Jane and Kirrily, looking great, smiling, and who were well ahead of their schedule. I’d travelled up with Jane the day before and had a good idea of her plans, so this was great to see.

Dave and I caught up with Mallani next and we were all glad to use our combined navigational skills to keep us on the right track.  I was still feeling pretty flat, when we were greeted at the track junction but Dave Byrnes.  He commented on how well we looked and that we were travelling well.  I thought to myself that it’s been a long day for Dave too. He probably was as deluded as we were by this stage!

Meeting up with Dave Byrnes on the course I find an uplifting experience. So with that a two salt tablets, I start feeling normal again.  It’s been about 4 hours since I felt like this, so I just put my head down for a bit and find my rhythm, there was a time when I considering how unpleasant the rest of the run would be if I didn’t get out of this low.  Rationally I think it was mainly an electrolyte imbalance, but I think there is a bit of magic in being spurred on by the race director as darkness fell.

We stopped chat with Daryl as we hit the road, somewhat disappointed that we didn’t see any fireflies as I had done at this point in previous years. The fact of the matter was, it was too light for them, and previously I’d been 2-3 hours further back!

The road section passed quickly, plenty of chat of future racing plans were the main topic of conversation. We both appreciated the ease with which you can run on road compared to the trails, and were happy with the change.

Into Yarramalong in 14:52, 103k’s down.  We would have been happy with that as a 100km race time, and I noted that it was over an hour faster than my first 100k, for far less effort.  Rachel Waugh came in just behind us and she was pulling out.  We tried to talk her out of it, but she’s experienced enough to know when to stop and when to keep going.

We both had a good refuel here.  Fresh Drymax socks, fresh shirt, a load of soup and noodles, we left the checkpoint feeling really good.  It’s amazing how a change of clothing can make you feel some much different.  The Ay-Ups was doing the business, making it seem like we’re running in daylight. The runners in front would know we were coming for sure.

This is never an easy section, but Dave and I had a solid strategy, run the flats and the downs and power walk the hills. We caught another runner on the way to Dead Horse Creek, he had gone about 200m past the turn (off the road) so we saved him any more back tracking.  The track through this section was challenging, as numerous trees had fallen across the path, making it look as though you had hit a dead end.  Thankfully Dave’s GPS had the course loaded into it, so we knew we were still “on the right track”.  

At about 20 past midnight I remembered what day it was and said a little happy birthday to myself, thinking what a way to spend your birthday. Most people would go to a nice restaurant, or have a relaxing day on the beach!

We caught up with Lise again on the road section, and it wasn’t until was got back on the hills that we opened up any distance. I later learnt that she was injured, but with her bubbly persona, you’d never know it.

Somersby, and it was still dark, another novel experience! Fresh shoes, socks and shirt this time, the Hoka Mafates were great, and I only changed them because they were getting a little heavy with all the sweat I was pumping into them. More soup, and a coffee and we were off again.  Leaving here I feel like we’re already on the beach.  The next section is short and mainly downhill, and then you’ve only got the last section to go, so if you start it, you’ll more than likely finish it (although there are many cases of people who haven’t).

There is some nice easy sand running, and before long we’re passing a group of four who look to be in a bad way.  Andy Dubois was using a stick to help himself along. Obviously suffering, but cheerful enough to blame himself for lack of the right preparation.

We were engaging our aggressive walking strategy along much of this section, and it gave me the time to do a few quick calculations.  If we could get into Mooney Mooney in the next hour, we’d have about 6 hours for the last section to go sub 30 hours.  With this in mind we pushed on, and made sure that we had a quick turnaround at the checkpoint.

I had an unusual experience at the CP. When weighed, I’d actually put on a kilo since the previous weighing (still 2kgs down on my start) which is an achievement I’m quite proud of!  The cooler evening, good fuelling and smart running had enabled me to keep hydrated.

Sporting latest in ultra fashion 
Jaci was ready to pace us for the final section, and she was clearly up for the task!  I’d never had a pacer before and was lucky to have someone who had taken the role so seriously. She had been out on the course, learning the route, and it was great not to have to think about navigation this late in the day. We did have to pull her back a bit early on, as we weren’t quite as nimble as we may have been with 150+kms in our legs.

She knew we were well inside that 30hour time, and was keen to get us home in under 28, even mentioning 27 at one point.  The 28 would certainly have been achievable up until about 15kms from home.  On the steep sets of stairs where you have to lift your foot above your knee height I strained my right calf. I don’t recall it actually happening, but the leaping down and climbing up the steep rock steps was aggravating it with each step.  So about 10kms out I’m reduced to a walk.  

I’m processing the time and distance calculations as it was looking like all the hard work would be undone.  This isn’t helped by being on what feels like a never ending fire trail, and the sensation that we’re running in the wrong direction for where the finish feels it should be!

Jaci is reassuring and takes advantage of my situation for a few photos, trying to capture me at less than my best! It was also getting hot now, and much more like the GNW we are familiar with.  Still we plod on. Dave and I had been about 20 m apart, for most of this leg, and it was really to enable us to focus on our own forward progress.  

About 6 kms to go and I’m still not convinced, although Jaci says we have well over 2 hours to go sub 30! We were passed by Mark Redding and Martin Price in this last section and they both looked to be travelling strongly.  These were actually the first people to pass us running since we dropped down on to Congewai Road at about 50kms. The steady early pace had really paid off, and without the injury I believe we would have maintained that to the end.

At last we can see the beach, and we’re on the single track that leads to the sand.  My calf wasn’t enjoying this downhill section, so Jaci fashioned me a walking stick to deal with the steps. Approaching the sand Dave’s talking about running up the beach, running!  I wasn’t so sure, but with the smell of the fish and chip shop in the air and the ringing of the bell, it’s amazing what resources you can draw on.

We assault the beach together and get drawn in by the magnetism of the famous GNW finsh post. Dave and I had completed the distance in 28:48.  A 4 hour pb for me, and an incredible maiden 100miler for Dave.  I feel so privileged to have found such a great running companion for the day, and to share in what is always a special event.  Congratulations Dave that was an inspiring performance.  


The rest of the day was as enjoyable as the running scene gets for me.  I had a snooze for about an hour in the medical tent (after taking about 10 minutes to hobble across the road!) and then hung around the finish post watching all the other amazing athletes complete something special.

I obviously didn’t look too good as Paul Every gave me his seat on the basis that he thought I needed it. I hardly moved from that seat for the next few hours. It was great to be in the company of such a great group of people, all celebrities of the ultra running world. So thanks Paul, Di, Blue Dog, Jane, Kieron, Joe, Daryl, and everyone else for making the afternoon so enjoyable. 

My birthday card from Jack!
So at last a few other thanks, Dave for putting up with me for a day and a half and pulling us through those tough hours, Jaci for exceptional crewing and pacing, Dean for lending me Jaci for the weekend when I know she was needed elsewhere and by no means least Angie and my boys Jack and Harry who once again have had to put up with me being away for my birthday! I think it was all worth it.

Run Happy

Andy

“Enjoy when you can, endure when you must” – Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gear Review - Source Hydration 1.5l Dune Race Pack


With the Australian Ultramarathon season getting into full swing, it’s the right time to be testing and checking your gear, to make sure you have the ideal combination for the specific events you’re participating in.


Light, low profile and very comfortable
I was sent a Dune Race hydration pack (with a 1.5l bladder) from Source. You may be more familiar with their range of hydration bladders which the supply to North Face, Salomon, and other high end brands, and this is where I had my first experience of them.  Of all the hydration systems I have tried the Source valve is by far the best.  

The cylindrical valve can be used in any orientation, and a gentle bite is enough to get the fluid flowing freely. It also has a simple twist lock system, sealing the valve shut when not in use.  The standard pack also comes with a dust cover with clips over the valve keeping it clean. For me this is more of a hindrance than a help as the cover bounces around while drinking, so you need to keep hold of it.  I was thinking of taking it off completely, but it is great for running on the beaches where sand has the ability to find its way into all those places you don’t want it.

The tube is insulated helping avoid that horrible warm first mouthful, and apparently stops water in the tube freezing on colder days (not that something I’ve experienced recently!). One of my favourite features if the magnetised clip, which holds the valve right where you want it on the sternum strap, and keeps it there until you need a drink. The magnet is so strong that you can pretty much drop the tube and it is magically pulled back into place, without any flapping around.


The bladder itself has a wide opening for fast refilling of water and ice. This then folds over and the clip slides across to make an airtight seal.  For warmer races I find having the option to add ice essential.  The bladder is made of a plastic which inhibits bacterial growth and doesn’t flavour the water at all, so all the good scientific stuff is covered too.

The pack itself is the most comfortable I have worn.  I’ve done over 200kms in this pack without any hot spots or rubbing.  It is fully adjustable, and the design is such that if you tighten one side it doesn’t pull the pack to one side, but instead makes it fit more snugly. I put this down to the shoulder straps being positioned in a cross shape across you back. This is especially effective if you have asymmetrical shoulders or sloping shoulders, where a conventional pack doesn’t sit evenly.

The loose ends of the shoulder straps are attached so you don’t get any annoying flapping of webbing. The hip strap is adjustable and elasticated, and could probably do with being a bit longer, as for more on the longest extension it is just on the limit of what I would prefer. That said I’m larger than the average skinny ultra runner, so it wouldn’t be an issue for the greater majority of runners.  

I also found that the pack sits quite high on my back, leaving enough room beneath it for a bottle belt.  I have a very long body, and this is typical of all packs I have tried, however having the capacity to carry a couple of extra drink bottles is essential for me on hot runs with a long distance between checkpoints.


The waist belt has two pouches with ample room for all those essentials, keys, gels, phone, etc, all easily accessible whilst on the move. I found these to be very comfortable and no bouncing around, even when fully loaded.

The main storage area is at the back and is concealed to some degree by the cross over shoulder straps, so getting a friend to access this without taking it off may be tricky.  This is a race pack, so the storage space is quite limited. You could get a few snacks, a first aid kit and spare pair of socks in the main compartment (which also has pockets to keep your kit in place) and then an external bungy criss-cross for storage of a rain coat.  Personally I’d prefer a little more storage space, but then I have always been one to take too much with me, rather than just what I’ll need. So maybe this pack is ideal to force me to reduce the load I’m carrying!


Another feature I do like is the low profile design. Not only does this keep the pack close to your body for minimal bounce and sloshing, but it has a very small “footprint” of contact on your body. This maximises the cooling opportunity for exposed areas of skins and clothing, whilst minimising the area warmed by having the pack against your body. 

So overall I was very impressed with this pack, and it’s definitely one I will use in upcoming races. As a heavy sweater, I would have preferred a 2l or 3l bladder, and whilst you could fit one in it I’m not sure it would function quite as well.  Only for those ultra races with over 20-25kms between checkpoints would I think this could be an issue.

The only downside for me is the lack of storage space for mandatory gear, but again this is only for those races where they have an extensive kit list (most frequently experienced in colder climates or winter races).

The pluses are many. The comfort and fit (I would forget that I was wearing it), it very light weight, the valve delivery system, and the lack of bounce and sloshing.

From reviewing this pack I have learnt that I don’t believe there is one pack for all races, and that different distances, terrains and conditions favour different packs. The Dune Race is well suited to warmer conditions, with checkpoints no more than about 2-3 hours apart (depending on how much you sweat!)

Run Happy
Andy

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Paleo Snacks - for the Ultra Runner who simply doesn't have the time.


When it comes to taking your running seriously there are almost as many diet options as there are shoe options, but one, the Paleo diet has really taken hold in recent years. I put this down to the training methods of high profile ultrarunners such as Dean Karnazes, and the back to our origins ideals promoted in books such as the hugely popular “Born To Run”

I've not been unaffected by these, and when I started running longer distances realised that if I could lose a few kgs it would mean I could run further and for less effort.  I don’t however follow any specific diet, but instead have cut back on fat and heavily processed foods, as well as including more salad and veggies in my meals.  I think it’s just because I like too much of the naughty foods, and when you train a lot, you feel you've earned the right for a little treat.

Recently I was given some samples of a new product, Paleo Hero from Function Well Foods, to try and this was something I was interested in.  I had it in my head that the options would be bland, high in fibre and similar to eating a carpet tile!  I was wrong.

The concept behind the range is cater for those of us who have good intentions about diet but all too often are time poor. To follow any diet can be more time consuming in food preparation time, making sure you have all the right ingredients in the cupboard, and require mental discipline to stick to it which for some is not a feasible option or simply not convenient.  The Paleo Hero products provide an easy solution to this, offering tasty snacks which follow the Paleo diet regime.


Paleo snacks in their natural environment!
I tested two products, the Primal Mix and the Primal Slice, with different flavour combinations in both.

The Primal Mix is a combination of beef jerky, nuts and organic berries.  Once I opened this packet I couldn't leave it alone until it was finished, especially the spicy version. The combination of spicy beef jerky and cranberries is fantastic.

The Primal Slice comes in three varieties, Peanut Butter Choc, Nut Crunch and Coconut Berry.  Again these were really tasty, and surprisingly filling.  They make a perfect snack between meals with a decent portion size, and if you were being particularly careful and disciplined you could use them as a meal replacement (if you weren't quite so hungry as me!).  I did find the Nut Crunch to be a bit on the oily side, and when you look at the fat content it’s clear why.  But this is a feature of the Paleo diet, plenty of protein and those “good” fats, coming from vegetable sources like coconut oil.

I tried testing the slices as a mid run fuel, but to be honest these didn't work for me. They didn't sit well on my stomach which is probably a result of the higher fat and protein content, being less digestible under those conditions.  However, both the jerky mix and the slices worked really well as a recovery food, either immediately after a run, or the next day. Often when my training volumes are high I feel quite flat and lacking in energy through the day. The Paleo Hero products, as a between meal snack topped up my energy levels, and clearly are providing all the right stuff to aid recovery and the repair of the muscles.

I was pleasantly surprised by these products, and it’s great to know that they are the right thing to eat, and they taste great. All too often it’s easier to reach for the chocolate bar, or biscuits, and yet you know deep down that you shouldn't  I’ll be keeping some Paleo Hero snacks in the cupboard for those moments of weakness!

Run Happy!
Andy

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go, they merely determine where you start”

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Glasshouse 50km – it’s amazing what you can do if you try!


Family commitments are such that being available for a race on a Sunday is a rarity, so the opportunity to run in the Glasshouse 100 was out for me, but it was suggested that I run in the 50k with a sensible 6:30am Saturday start.  It was an odd feeling to “only” be running in the 50k, when so many friends would be heading out an hour earlier for the "real" Ultramarathon 100s.  Still it was great to catch up with so many familiar faces and wish them well as they took on the main events.

What it did create was the opportunity to see how my training was progressing, especially given that I have dropped off in volume of Kms run and increased the intensity.  The mainstay of my training has been a regular 21-22km run where I run fairly hard the entire way, never taking my foot off the gas. During these sessions my heart rate is around 150bpm, compared to my easy training rate of around 125-130bpm, and whilst I finish pretty well done after about 1hour 50min of this, I still feel able to continue.


Ready to run
The Glasshouse 50 has plenty of checkpoints, so there was no need for a backpack, and I could get by with just a couple of drink bottles (one with water the other with sports drink). So with my familiar Linebreak red shorts and Hokas I toed the line and we were off.  Within about 400m I was running on the shoulder of the guy in the 3rd place and the front 2 were only a few metres up the trail. This is a situation I have not been in since school!  I was already thinking how good it would be to be in this position come the finish line, and whilst I felt good at the time, there was a long way to go.

My strength has always been hammering hard on the downhills and at the 7k mark I pushed on and into 3rd place, not sure if this was a smart move with so far still to go.   I was running like I was in a 10km race and not sure how long it would be before I started to run out of gas. I did rationalise at this point that it was forecast to be a warm day, and given my propensity for sweating, I was best off pushing on hard early and then to just hang on when it heated up.

Through the first check point and all was good, just topped up one of the bottles I had emptied to that point and kept on pushing. One of the guys in front was stopping at the checks the other just motored on through.  A couple of k’s further along and there is an out and back section up one of the mountains, and this gave a good indication of how the runners behind were doing.  In short the 3 of us were a long way in front as we had almost completed this section before the 4th placed runner started the hill.  All good.

Another 10 kms down the trail and it’s a reasonably technical section of single track. I hear a group of people coming back towards me and it’s the 100 competitors. This isn’t supposed to be an out and back section, we’d all gone the wrong way. About 1km extra on the total.

The two guys in front of me had also missed the turning, and by the time we’d backtracked and found the turn, the 3 of us were running together, not sure if the runners behind had passed by or not.  During this section of the race I found the frustration of the detour, and potential to have lost race position while exceeding my expectations, gave me an anger induced adrenalin rush. All three of us run far harder than we had been to that point, to make up for lost time.


25kms down - Photo Tylana
This probably wasn’t that smart as it was heating up by now.  The next checkpoint was a few kms down the trail, and my running buddy, Tylana, was there ready with a fresh bottle of sports drink. No pleasantries, just grabbed the drink, found out I was in third place, smiled and kept on going. I’d past the guy who was in second, and the one who was in 4th must have leapfrogged me while we were on our detour.

The second half of the race was done in my head.  It was getting hotter and the course is far harder.  I knew that I was in 3rd, but I also knew that I was hurting, and could not afford to ease off. I made a promise to myself that I would not look back, but instead try and focus on pulling in the guys in front. I was also wrestling with thoughts of “well you were 3rd for most of the way, and you did take a detour, so that’s pretty good” as some sort of rationalisation that to put in the effort for two thirds of a race was good enough.  I also tempered these thoughts with the appreciation that it was also the same for everyone else and they would be hurting too.

I was checking my watch more and more frequently, as the kms seem to pass far too slowly. My heart rate was up around 155-160bpm as it had been for most of the way – which I took this as a good sign suggesting the body was still functioning normally even though I felt decidedly abnormal.

As I got into the last 10kms I was relating to where I would be 10kms from home in training, and then 8kms, and 5kms and reminding myself how easy those distances are.  I had caught up with the 30km racers at this point (they started an hour later) and they gave me mini targets to aim for to keep me pushing on. I had to walk some of the hills at this stage, but I was still moving forward at a reasonable pace.  I knew I could not afford to walk for long, as I had no idea how close behind the 4th place guy was.

With only about 1500m to go I felt sure I had secured my position, but didn’t dare look back, I wasn’t going to tempt fate at this point.  What I did was look down and just as well as I almost stepped on the biggest Eastern Brown snake I’ve ever seen about 3 inches from my right foot. I leapt about 3 feet in the air and was thankful that I was wearing my snake bite defending Hokas (fortunately they didn’t get field tested for that on this occasion).  Nothing like a massive jolt of adrenalin to give you a boost all the way to the finish line.

Turning the corner to the finishing funnel I was amazed to find I had enough energy to do my skip and heel click over the line for a podium finish.  


Looking a lot better than I felt - I couldn't stand at that point!
Before the race I had looked at previous results and thought that based on my training I could get a top ten finish. I would never have thought that 3rd was an option.  The thing is, if I hadn’t gone out hard from the start I may never have found out. 

So the lesson for me has been to give it a go and find those limits, you may surprise yourself.  If you end up failing as a result of trying this you then know where to focus your training so that you can improve next time, even if it’s your mental fortitude. You can achieve so much more than may think.

Huge congratulations go out to all of the competitors who raced hard under tough conditions, and yet so many came home with a PB.  Well done!

Run Happy
Andy

"Don't limit your challenges - challenge your limits"

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Stronger Ankles for Trail Running (Inspired by an egotistical Podiatrist!)


I stood in for a friend of mine in the recent Anaconda Adventure race in Noosa, who had to withdraw through injury. I did the 14km trail run, although it was actually 16kms! It was an unusual experience for me competing over such a distance, but fun nevertheless.

Sensible shoes :)
As I was only running one leg of the race, it was fair to expect that I’d be going faster than those around me, many of whom were competing individually.  I was lucky enough to pass quite a few, one of which I heard mention to his mate my “shoes” as I raced past. I smiled to myself as this is not uncommon as the awareness of Hokas has not spread to everyone yet.

At the end of the run I waited around to watch the other competitors come through, and one in particular caught my attention – well actually he caught mine.  “I’m a Podiatrist, you’re going to do some serious damage to yourself in those shoes!”  he shouted (at me!).

After I’d got over the shock of this, I asked if he’d worn a pair. He didn’t answer my question just repeated “I’m a Podiatrist” (I was thinking he was something else too!).  I find it amazing how a health professional could introduce himself in such a way, and how he makes a diagnosis based a fleeting glance as I ran past.  There was some divine intervention though as he got into his Kayak and promptly capsized! What I didn't get to say to him was that I have run over 5500km in these shoes and not had a single injury.

Thinking back to the run I realised that he was the guy who spoke about my shoes to his mate on the trail, and I recall mildly rolling my ankle as I passed them.  I then thought about it and can recall rolling my ankle on multiple occasions, and it’s actually fairly common for me to do so. The thing is that I haven’t injured myself from an ankle roll in as long as I can remember.

This wasn’t always the case as before I got into trail and ultra running, stepping off a curb awkwardly could be enough to take me out for a week. It got me thinking that perhaps this is an adaptation from running many kilometres on the trails. 

In my last few runs I have been paying particular attention to the motion of my ankles and feet, and have noticed that they are very relaxed and soft over the ground. As I feel a roll from an uneven surface, my ankle tightens gently to control the roll. So rather than a sudden harsh tensing of the muscles around the ankle to fight the lateral movement, my ankle seems to roll with it (excuse the pun). Without wishing to tempt fate, it would seem that this prevents injury from increased flexibility, stronger support from the soft tissues, and by allowing some movement to absorb the stress of the lateral roll.

In my experience injuries result from an uncontrolled stretch of the tissues, exacerbated by the muscular contraction, hyperextending beyond their limits and tearing the muscles. Obviously muscle strength plays a big part in this too.

I would have expected any adaptation would be a super strong ankle, which would not roll and instead maintain a regular position. However, it would seem that I tend to roll with the terrain, and control the action, so controlling the forces involved rather than fighting them.

Be happy on the trails!
Whatever the reason for this, the result is that you can run hard and fast on those rough downhill sections of the trails with confidence.  After all you’ve had to work hard to get to the top of the hill, so you don’t want to be holding back on the downhill and not take advantage of having gravity on your side!

Have fun out there!

Andy

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Quality Ultramarathon Training – Running with Purpose


Prior to the Kokoda challenge my motivation to train was lacking, and it hasn’t been great for over a year now. While this isn’t a good thing for my running (and life) in general it has led to the discovery of the benefits of different training volumes and techniques, which I perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise learnt.

Whilst I have put in a lot of kilometres in the past couple of years, my training for the past 6 months has, by ultrarunning standards, been minimalist.  Up until about 3 months before the Kokoda Challenge I was running about 20-25kms twice a week. From then on I increased this to 2 runs of about 20kms and a 25-30km run on the weekends. (I certainly wasn’t running junk miles, and this post is an evolution of my previous thoughts on that topic.)

So 60-70kms a week was a little over half my normal ultra training weekly distance, and involved no runs of less than 20kms. This gave me plenty of rest between training runs, and unintentionally avoided back to back runs (my preferred session for building endurance).

Given that I was only running infrequently, and as I only had a limited amount of time available, the intensity of these runs was very different to the preparations for my Nullarbor run. In that case I was training to run comfortably at lower intensity, and to be able to back up day after day, and often backing up within the day.  By contrast the Kokoda training runs were nearly always run as a tempo style run, over the 20+km distance. I rarely just trotted along comfortably, but was almost always pushing the speed, or effort over the terrain (including a lot of sand running). My heart rate would be elevated about 20bpm over my normal levels, and I would be finishing each run with little left in the tank.

I was concerned before Kokoda, firstly because I didn’t want to let the team down, and because I was concerned that my training hadn’t been sufficient to get me round. As it turns out the 96kms of tough trails didn’t pose much of a problem, and as ultras go I was relatively comfortable. So my deduction is that the reduced volume/increase intensity training regime may actually give a better performance per training km.

My next race is the Great North Walk 100miler race in November, and I’m going to add what I have learnt to my training.  Whilst on a training run this weekend I discussed this with my training partner Tylana, and it is apparent that these sort of intense training sessions are similar to the Macmillan training methods. The idea is to push hard at the end of each run so that you are completely spent by the time you finish.  

I’ve not looked into these methods myself, but here is my theory behind the benefits I have experienced from doing something similar.  

From a physical perspective you are putting your cardio vascular system through its paces, which you would expect would lead to a higher Lactate threshold, improved VO2Max, and provided you are still doing the longer distance runs, getting an endurance benefit. By training at a greater intensity than you would race, you can reasonably expect to have a significant endurance gain. In simple terms you should be able to run faster and longer, but more comfortably – the reason why we train.

There are also important psychological benefits. By running at a far higher intensity, especially in the last 5kms of a longer training run, you simulate the mental stress and urges to slow and stop that you get at the latter stages of an ultra (and sometimes in the early stages too!). One of the hardest things about an ultramarathon is being prepared for how you will feel after 6, 8, 16, 24+ hours of running, as most people wouldn’t engage a training run of that duration. If you’re pushing hard for the final 20-30 mins of a 4 hour run, you’ll at least be getting closer to that feeling if you really put in.

What I have also found, is that pushing hard late in a training run distracts your mind from potential boredom, and by giving it purpose, focuses your attention on successful completion of the run. I’ve also noticed during these uncomfortable minutes, I become very conscious of my running form, trying to avoid running like a giraffe on drugs! So in turn this has a physiological benefit in strengthening those muscles you need most when you are tired.

For those of us who are time poor, or perhaps not disciplined enough to get up early to run, by having a purpose with each training session, and running with an ever increasing level of intensity you will get improved results when compared to just running lots of miles.  I’m not suggesting that every run should be a sprint, and that you shouldn’t have rest days, but that by having a purpose to each training session and putting in a little extra effort you can make your training more interesting and more effective.

Run Happy,
Andy

“It never gets easier, you just get better”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kokoda Challenge 2012 - a 96km Muddy Fun Run!


Last weekend I took part in the Kokoda Challenge 96km team trail race which had a number of firsts for me.  Not only is it the first time I’ve participated, but it’s the first time I’ve run in a team event.  It is a similar format to the Trailwalker events where you compete as a team of four, running together in the spirit forged on the Kokoda track in 1942 of mateship, endurance, courage and sacrifice.


I was invited to join the “Rocksolid Challengers” team through a running friend of mine, Colin, but I didn’t meet two of the other team members, Rocks (who was sponsoring the team) and Burge, until the morning of the race. I was a little apprehensive about this as spending 15-16 hours with someone the first time you meet them, knowing I was going to have all my normal social filters stripped away through the ardours of running an ultra.  I needn’t have worries as the guys were great fun and very welcoming.  They seem to think that I’d breeze around, and that I was going to be the one to pull them round in under 15 hours (the team target given last year’s 15:23 time).
The Challengers fresh and enthusiastic before the start


The planning was meticulous from the team with a breakdown of our split times calculated using a complex algorithm based upon the encroachment of tiredness, hills, last year’s times and how long we stopped at Burge’s Dad’s house for soup and a sit down (as it was conveniently on the course)!


What we didn’t know at the start that the course had been significantly altered from previous years with an addition 500m climb thrown in, to increase the “fun” level!


At the start line by chance we were standing next to a group of runners who I had bumped into in Ikea about a year ago, who had sparked up conversation because of the t-shirt I was wearing for my 33 Marathons run. I’d kept in touch with Marlene and Glen, and since I’d last met them, they had run MDS and Comrades.  It’s a great feature of running in ultras that you do meet up with friendly people, each time with new inspiring stories to tell.


It was raining from the start and had been for much of the week leading up to the event, so I wasn’t expecting the course to be in good shape.  With our sub-15 hour goal we were towards the front of the field and I was grateful for this as I didn’t fancy running over mud following 2000 other competitors.


The early part of the race is fairly gentle with a few road stretches, and this was a good thing to spread the field before we hit the single tracks. It was also good for me to get to know the guys in the team, and get a feel for the right pace to run at.  It was a concern before the race to be sure to run at a pace that works well for the entire team.  What I found was that we were all fairly similar on the easy tracks and then we’d all adjust on the more technical or steep sections, where we’d spread out a little, and then merge back together as the trails levelled off.


I always find it interesting in those early stages where you’re running close quarters with lots of runners. There are as many different gaits as there are people. There seemed to be two main categories of style displayed  on the steep hills, especially when it’s very muddy, which I put down to those who had come from a road running background and those who trained more on the trails (this may be a big over assumption, but it seemed right to me at the time).


Yet another muddy track to deal with
What I noticed is that the “road runners” tend to push as they toe-off (as you would on the roads) and their foot then slips back in the mud. This is wasting a lot of energy for no forward gain. The trail runners tend to lift their foot off the ground, without sliding, and hence run more efficiently (also they seem to have a short stride).


The Kokoda Challenge has plenty of checkpoints, typically about every 10kms, but most are just to check in and only have water and a few lollies available.  This helps break the race down into mentally more manageable sections. As ever the volunteers at these checkpoints were great with words of encouragement, and updates as to where you were in the field.  I was surprised to hear that we were in the top ten and we seemed to be travelling well.


The hills were severe and relentless, and they really test the team as a whole. I’ve always been pretty comfortable with hills, especially when they’re so steep that running is impossible. I put my head down, disengage my brain and power walk with brisk short strides until it flattens out. It wasn’t discussed, but I had it in my head that from a team perspective we’d run together where we could and on the more challenging sections we’d run or walk at our own pace and then regroup. This seemed to be the way it was going with most groups, at least early on before the tiredness kicked in and reserves got low.


The challenge with having a variety of paces in a group comes at the regrouping stage. When the slower members of a group catch up it’s all too easy to start running again not giving them the chance to rest. The problem is made worse because the faster runners who got to the top sooner are refreshed and feel able to run on faster. We were very conscious of this, and would always allow the slowest paced runner to dictate when a rest should be taken. The danger is that the slower team members getting pulled along quicker than they are comfortable, even though they think they are Ok. It’s a long day at the office in any Ultra and although you may be thinking checkpoint to checkpoint, you need to be cognizant of the bigger picture.


The downhills were a lot of fun and in my case a lot of fun for those around me. The track was so thick with mud that it was difficult to remain upright, something that I failed at twice within the course of a few hundred metres. The second spill, right onto my backside in thick mud was right in front of a handful of spectators who had clearly identified this section as one where they would be entertained. I’m sure there will be some video on YouTube to document this as they all had cameras in hand.


The team were quick to point out that it looked like I had had an unfortunate incident caused by a dodgy curry the night before. Luck was on my side though as at the bottom of the hill there was a ford, which I chose to sit in and wash my backside!  I was very grateful for this as the prospect of running for a few more hours with grit and sand in my shorts was not appealing.


Early creek crossings were taken with great care trying to keep feet dry. This was effective for the first 6 but then there was no other option than to wade in as the normal stepping stones were well underwater. I didn’t count, but there must have been at least another 10 crossings after that.  All of our feet were pretty well pickled but I managed mine by putting on fresh socks every 20-25kms. This was a great tactic as it felt as though I had new dry shoes on, and the Drymax socks actually help dry your feet out. At the end of the day I had no blisters which I put down to my Hokas and my Drymax socks, under what must have been the toughest of conditions.


Another benefit of the Hokas was that the lovely big sole helped keep my feet dry and above the water on occasion when those around were getting wet feet!  My kit for the day performed incredibly well. The Linebreak compression shorts and calf guards kept me running and cool, and the Ay-Up head torch turned night into day and allowed me to run with confidence on technical trails.


At the 35km checkpoint Rocks, our team captain, was really suffering and told us he was withdrawing.  We as a group and independently tried to talk him round with different motivations, but he had made his mind up and didn’t want to hold the rest of us back. It’s a tough decision to make, and when you’re depleted it’s difficult to rationalise when your brain is telling you to stop. It was disappointing to lose a team member, mostly because we felt sure he would come back and feel Ok and then regret the decision.  So we then had to use this as our motivation to do him proud.  He stayed with the support crew and was a tremendous help for the rest of the day, never did he indulge in self pity, he just focused on all of us reaching that 15 hour goal.


We had two teams running, and while we were a group of non elite class athletes, the other team, "Rocksolid Raiders" were made up of world class Triathletes and Ironmen.  I don’t know if it was a tactic of the support crew but with each checkpoint they were giving us updates on how far apart we were. Every time we were told we were gaining on them, and that they were tiring!  This gave us something to think and fantasise about, and being a competitive lot it helped push us on into the night. It’s amazing what reserves you can find when the motivation is there.


Another interesting benefit of team running was around nutrition. Personally I rely on remembering when to eat and drink, which on occasion has let me down.  With the team we were all reminding each other all the time, sharing foods, salt tabs, fluids, whatever anyone needed, and throughout the day I only felt a little nauseous once (which I quickly rectified).   This doesn’t just work within the team, but between teams too.  


Does exactly what it says on the packet!
At the halfway point we met with the leading team at a checkpoint (we weren’t up with them, it was an out and back section and they were 13kms ahead!). Andy Lee, a former TNF 100 winner was suffering with some chaffing, not something you want with 40kms to go.  As a team we had been provided with the 2Toms Sports Shield (which I’ve recently reviewed) and we gave Andy some which must have worked well for him as they went on to win by a big margin. Our team used it, and there were no reports of any hot spots or chaffing even under the wet conditions we faced on the day.


Later in the race we were running with another mixed group, and the lady on the team was suffering with a knee injury. Burge came to the rescue with some pain killers, which was more help than the rest of her team offered!  It’s this sort of spirit that you see at every ultra race, and one of the reasons why I love the sport so much.


The team planning was derailed by the course changes this year, as we were about 25 minutes ahead of schedule for our sub 15 hour goal when we started on the extra hill climb, and then about 15mins behind by the next checkpoint.  It was quite comical listening to the others saying “I don’t remember this” and “this is the last hill”, but no matter what was said the hill was still there and still had to be climbed.  You can moan and complain, but that will only make the task harder.  By choosing to stay in the moment, and focus on the job in hand it passes more quickly and with much less discomfort.
The "extra" hill
Although the slick trails were challenging to run on, especially on the steep and dark sections, I found it actually helped take my mind off the “hill” and made me concentrate on where I was going to put my foot to get the most traction, the bail out route if I did slip, and what I could grab hold of to help me along.  Looking back on the race the hills didn’t seem that bad which I put down to my mind being absorbed in the task.


Leaving the final checkpoint we were told that our other team were only a few minutes ahead, so we pushed as hard as we could as a team, being careful not to go too hard.  This motivation was again a great distraction from the physical stress of the event, and in the first 20 minutes of this section we passed the two other teams that we had been leap frogging all day.  Every time we caught up with anyone we were asking if they had seen a team of super fit looking guys in black, and they were not too far ahead.  


The final few kms were downhill, and pretty steep. Very nice if you’re out for a short jog, but after 15 hours of trashing you quads on the trails, it was a far tougher proposition.  The conversation got lighter as we saw signs of civilisation and we knew we were getting close to home.  We enjoyed some spectacular views across to the Gold Coast, and thought what an alien world the bright lights of Surfer’s Paradise were to where we had been all day.


The finish line beckoned with the sound of the announcer. We crossed the line together, and enjoyed our rockstar moment of camera flashes and the presentation of our certificates and military style dog tags on the stage.  Not knowing what to expect from the day, I did thoroughly enjoy it.  The good times far outweigh the bad, and the company was first class.



The guys in the team did a tremendous job. Rocks having to withdraw after all the training and planning he had put in was a sad moment for us, but I hope we did him proud in our efforts. Burge was a machine in more ways than one, telling jokes for most of the day, and putting in a huge effort to push on when we knew he was hurting. Colin, for never really looking tired (and he had also done the 6 hours track session 2 days before when her ran over 70kms) and doing it all on couscous and lettuce leaves – a Scott Jurek’esque performance. And I can’t forget the support crew, Brad and Aaron were slick and organised, I didn’t have to think about anything at the checks, they just did everything that needed to be done with minimal fuss and a sense of humour.


So all in all a great day, which truly lived up to the ideals on which is was based. 


Run Happy!
Andy

"It never get's easier, you just get better"