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Hi guys. I hope you are all enjoying the website and the stories on here so far. This is a great opportunity for all of you to share your knowledge and experience. We would love to hear what you are up to, you can send in your stories or blogs to blog@nztrailrun.com.

Hopefully your winter training is going well and you are on track to accomplish those goals. Most importantly I hope you are having fun out there on the trails ☺

The last entry I wrote covered my goals for the year, also a little about my background and family. I had not long since finished my first Ultra the WUU2K, a 60km trail run with some epic climbing in Wellington. This was a fantastic weekend away with my family and a really well organised race for its first year in existence. I learnt a lot from the process and I thought I’d share a few key points that will hopefully help you guys in the future. At the end of the day race experience goes a long way, we all want things to “click” on race day.
The small things really do make a difference so here are a few tips that may seem obvious but will hopefully help some of you out. ☺

The Recce

Also known as the reconnaissance. (Excuse my Army terminology).
If you are wondering what I am getting at here it’s basically just getting out there and having a look at the course prior to the event. I had plotted a weekend on the training calendar where I was going to drive to Wellington and run/walk the back half of the course. Needless to say given our crazy weekend lifestyle of training, family time and renovating it didn’t happen! I realise this isn’t always possible as some events are far away from our home locations but in this case an hour and a half’s drive was totally possible and it ended up costing me dearly on race day.
During the race I had very little knowledge of the course, even with time spent looking at the course map and Google Earth it wasn’t the easiest to find my way through the trails. I spent a large part of the race with a local who knew the trails like the back of his hand and was happy following his footsteps, however later in the race I was on my own and spent around 6-7mins backtracking and looking for course markers, not having any clue where I was. This was pretty frustrating and in hindsight really easily avoided.
There is nothing better than running a course when you know where the summit of a big climb is or when you will need to take that sharp turn onto another trail. Just ask Jim Walmsley if you ever get to meet him! Lesson learnt.

Downhill of doom

Sounds strange right? Downhills are EASY… Not so much… the downhill’s killed me on this race!
A race with over 3000m of climbing was a little intimidating so during training I obviously did a lot of hill work and really focused on my climbs. While descending during training I would often cruise and use it as an opportunity to take on board fluids and food. This was a huge learning point and something I have already worked into my new training schedule.
Don’t be afraid to let yourself go on those technical downhill’s, not only did I loose time descending during this race but I also over used the braking muscles causing some painful cramps along the way.
Its important to understand a course before you get out there on the day, the biggest challenge can be the one you least expect from the course.

runele andy1
(The downhill at the 35km mark was nasty)

Need a Pacer? Nah she’ll be right…

Gotta love that Kiwi mentality! Like a lot of Ultras a pacer was allowed for the last 20km of this event. It’s something I didn’t even consider in planning and a big learning point for the future. A pacer isn’t allowed to carry your gear or give you any of theirs, but they can give you a lot of much needed encouragement and also help break down those sections as you work your way through the course. They also have a fresh set of eyes, so they can help you spot those tricky trail markers and help keep you on track with your nutritional requirements as well.
Never again will I fly solo when the opportunity is there for some company during a race.

and and tim1

(Myself and the race winner Tim Sutton at the 20km mark)

Get on the caffeine Buzz

My wife and I are avid coffee drinkers and a big portion of our precious free time is spent chatting and enjoying a good cuppa together. I have only recently started using caffeine during races and have had some really positive results.
This probably isn’t the case for everyone as I have heard mixed opinions on the topic. There are heaps of options out there; I used caffeinated gels for the last 2 hours of this event. In hindsight I wish I had gotten stuck into it earlier, more like closer to the halfway point. I fully recognise this is a fine line. You don’t want to have a caffeine crash mid race so like all things try and get this locked in during those long training runs.
I have been using the new caffeinated Tailwind lately and find it to be BLOODY good. Because I’m sipping it constantly it prevents big energy spikes so I would totally recommend using a sports drink with caffeine already incorporated into it. Follow the link below if you want to look into a quality all natural option.


Plan it out

Sounds simple right?
The night before a race if I’m lucky enough to have a crew I always talk through the race with them. For this event my Wife Julia and Father in law Ken were my crew. We covered a whole lot of content like plugging in the GPS coordinates for all of the aid stations to make getting around the course as easy as possible for them. We also covered nutritional needs; this was really helpful because my Wife would basically give me the hard word if I hadn’t finished my required calorie intake by the time I reached the next aid station. We also covered time splits and gear options should I require a change of any equipment during the race. Its really comforting toeing the start line when you know you have put in place a sound plan, all you have to focus on is putting one foot in front of the other.

andy and juia1

(Julia my #1 Supporter and taker of no nonsense)

In summary

I could go on for hours, you will probably read this and think these are simple points but it’s easy to be complacent and in this case I learnt a whole lot. I hope this doesn’t read like a negative post as I had an amazing experience during this race, I simply wanted to pass on some hard earned lessons. As we all know events and racing can be expensive so I like to give myself as good a chance as possible of coming across the line in the fastest time that I can do. I’m all for enjoying a new trail, taking and in the surroundings while chatting with friends but when its race day I’m all business.

I hope you wont hesitate to contact me if you have any questions you’d like to ask. I’m by no means a guru but love talking running.
Hopefully I see you out there on the trails in the near future and if you see me at an event please come up and say hi.
My next race is the Taupo Ultra (50km) in October.

That’s all for this entry, talk soon.


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