28 January 2014

School is Back - Summer Training Block Review

Count:55 Activities
Distance:637.14 km
Time:56:58:50 h:m:s
Elevation Gain:13,486 m
Calories:42,862 C
Avg Speed:11.2 km/h
Avg HR:144 bpm
Avg Distance:11.58 km
Avg Time:1:02:10 h:m:s
Avg Elevation Gain:254 m
I went into the Summer holidays freshly cleared to return to training, all be it a gradual return to trail, but I could follow my normal program so to speak.  I had to be mindful of technical trail and monitor my ankle and how it responded to an increased training load.
I went into the period not trying to catch up on lost ground, I was still in position to build for April/May I just had to sacrifice a few races due to my lack of conditioning.  So the focus was to be on endurance, building my strength and development of technique. I was going to include lots of doubles as this would allow me to ease back into training and to focus on the family as well.
Another lap down
Training was good, I had only a few bad sessions and my last couple of weeks were good quality, I was happy with my legs progress and I was starting to run a little quicker, not super fast but there was noticeable improvement.  I have really been focusing on my pace control and the 2 races I contested were purely about finding a comfortable pace and holding it.  
The STS was a good test and I stayed at it throughout the race, sitting just below threshold finishing off well and sneaking onto the podium. This course was certainly a challenge and went a long way to building my confidence on technical trail at pace, particularly on descents.  All in all it was a positive trip to Manly and a race I took a bit out of to put into my training.
Sitting in behind Az (2nd overall) early days
About 3hrs in the middle was my best period
The hard rocky ground required loads
of concentration
Knapsack was a whole new beast, a 5k loop for 6 hours, in what could have been a stinking hot day.  It wasn't hot, rather cool, but still muggy, the loop however was the same and I was aiming to run for the 6 hours.  I started ok, slower than the front runners and after 3 or 4 laps found myself in a comfy spot just ticking over the laps at around 27min a pop.  I had to stop too much, my socks were causing a hot spot, refilling my bottle, etc. I took way too much advantage of the transition area and after a toilet stop on lap 7 I think I had given 10min already.  Laps 8 and 9 were solid but from 45km it became a challenge, Laps 10,11 and 12 slowed somewhat and I was happy to finish the 6hrs completely oblivious to the race that was unfolding around me.  I knew Matty had pulled and Marcus dropped at 3hrs but I seriously had no idea of where I was placed, I had been passed by Az (2nd overall) but didn't see anyone else other than the odd 6S on the back of runners legs.  I was treating this as a long run and really I probably should had got a 13th lap in but I just couldn't shake it along to get there before the 6hrs were up.  In the end I ran 12 laps (13 for NSWIB's total) and came 4th male, with all my stopping I figured I probably gave up between 10-15min and learnt a fair bit about lap racing and not taking advantage of having a cool drink and chance to stop every lap.

Kel had teamed up with Andrew and Alix, to form AKA in the 6hrs Teams event.  Coming back from injury it was the best plan to ease a longer day of k's into her legs.  All up they totalled 12 laps and beat me by a few minutes, coming in 3rd team overall.  Kel ran 4 laps with a even spread of times and will take confidence and fitness from the run.  All is now progressing for her to run well at 6 Foot and perform strongly in Buffalo and TNF50, hopefully her injury woes are in the past now.
Sky Camp was awesome, I wrote a blog on my experience at Bright earlier in the year.  But just quickly I learnt so much that is being incorporated into my training in the lead up to this event, the Buffalo Stampede Ultra. Hopefully we are able to get back down there in February with a bit of luck to run the course again.
So there it is, a pretty solid little period with a few good results and some valuable sessions offering much in terms of feedback and progress. The next few weeks will be high km weeks with an introduction of a sub-treshold run and weekly interval session building towards the high end sharpening required in the lead up to Buffalo and TNF100.  6 Foot will be a big race but my best time won't be achieved, I haven't been able to knock out enough 30km runs at a good pace and have not done the work on my anaerobic fitness that is required. I will be happy with a PB and am aiming for a sub 4hr time getting as close to 3:50 as possible. 

Photo Credit - Jo Brischetto, Darren MeClennan & Stefica Key

21 January 2014

Buffalo Stampede SkyCamp 2014

Group Photo
I was fortunate enough to be involved in another training camp on the weekend of the 17-19, this camp was being hosted by Mountain Sports in preparation for the Buffalo Stampede being held in Bright on April 5 and 6.  The trails were being toasted by a heat wave and the 28 campers were eagerly awaiting working with Brendan Davies and Hanny Allston over three days on the newly sanctioned Sky Running course from Bright to Mt Buffalo and back.

Firstly I will warn you, this will be a longish blog, I have so many angles to look from on this one, why I was there, whom we were with, the course, my expectations/goals, Sky Running and Bright.  So I will start with Sky Running and go from there.

Sky Running

Officially, Sky running is any race that meets set criteria, criteria is based on length and vertical gain as well as terrain.  Essentially a race must gain a large amount of ascent within a set distance and the gain is massive.  A vertical km race, which is the accumulated climbing time on selected steeper sections of the course must achieve 1000m of elevation within 5km, so it’s tough going.  As well as massive climbs, the race must be on trail, go up a mountain and have something unique about it. This is something that until now has not been held in Australia.

Mt Buffalo
Climbing Mystic

I have watched many clips on YouTube from Europe and America.  I can’t wait to see a few from home start to pop up, I will be heading back to the net for study time on techniques and styles when running the steep and technical trails similar to those overseas.

To me it is finding technical and beautiful trails, massive hills and linking them together in the craziest and most challenging manner possible.  There were times I was cursing Race Director, Sean Greenhill, over the 3 days, possibly the most was when I had a threshold effort up Clearspot Hill, 2.1km and 600m up in around 26min with a continual gradient of around 30%.  But it’s more than a challenging course, it is the ambiance of a town, the nature of the bush, the aura of a race, it’s just got that something and the Buffalo Stampede in Bright to me has it.

Mt Bogong
Sky Camp

I was at camp as part of Team Mountain Sports, along with Mark Lee, and we were there to check out the course, plan, prepare tactics and push each other on the trails.  Mark is a more experienced runner than me, only by a year though, and is quick, bloody quick.  I rate him very highly as a runner and as a bloke and Mark is going to set some trails ablaze this year.  As a team we are aiming to do well in the Team Event at Buffalo and with Jo Brischetto and Ingrid Donald on board as well I feel we be quite strong.
A top of Buffalo

Kel a top of Buffalo
I was so keen to learn, absorb, run, enjoy and climb at camp, this was my motto in my training log, my goals for the week.  I was so happy to have Kel with me and for her to be back running again.  I knew she was going to benefit from the weekend and it was good to immerse ourselves in this beautiful little town.  Places like the Ovens River, the Velo CafĂ© and the Brewery were regular hangouts for us over the 4 days we were there.

The camp was modified and manipulated to fit in with heat wave that was sweeping the Southeast of Australia.  We ran at night and early in the morning to beat the heat and tackled the toughest of tough trails that I have ever run on (more on the course soon).  We were given amazing and expert info on training, diet, nutrition, programing, racing, night running and gear from Brendan and Hanny, both in seminars and on the run.  Most importantly we were waited on by Mel Parry and Sean Greenhill, the excellent preparation of food, provision of transport, aid stations, encouragement, and wisdom were just a few things they provided campers with.

Another switch back on Mt Buffalo 
From camp I feel all campers would have went home more confident, knowledgeable, eager and excited about the Stampede in April.  Yes slightly intimidated but massively informed, it was a bit like getting the answers to a test, except these answers can only be achieved with consistent, dedicated and specific training.  I hope everyone can remain committed in the buildup to the race so they all take their place at start line able to use the advantage from being on course.
Switch back on Buffalo

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with everyone at camp.  So many people were there, all for their own reasons but with the same goal, that is what makes running so unique, some run to win and some run to finish, but both will celebrate their victories the same.  I enjoyed meeting new people, reaffirming past friendships and developing a network of fresh Sky Runners.

Buffalo Stampede Course

It is epic!  Marathon – 42km with 3000m of elevation gain.  Ultra Marathon 75km with 5000m of elevation gain and loss!

Partway up Clearspot
Seriously there are two major hills in the first 15km of the 35km journey to Mt Buffalo.  “Mystic” is massive, up 500m in a short space of time from Bright then down a descent that is so steep and loose.  A gentle 2km between the Mystic descent and the start of “Clearspot” allows you to very quickly settle yourself into the next up and down which is in my opinion far steeper and tougher than Mystic and is in fact the toughest climb of the race  If your in the marathon, well done it only gets better from here, if your in the ultra you have to do this in reverse after 60km!  I think it is slightly easier going in reverse but after 60km and over 3000m of climbing and descending in my legs I might have another view come April.

Clearspot to Buffalo
Close to the Chalet looking back track

The next section is relatively runnable track from “Buckland” to “Eurobin” via Keatings Ridge.  Sean Greenhill described it as “3/4 pluvio” so it will be reasonably tough and if you’re struggling it will be very tough indeed.  The ascent of Buffalo via “The Big Walk” is 10k long gaining 1000m of gain, all on single track that changes as you rise up the mountain.  It starts steep, a little like the decent into Jenolan on the 6 Foot Track, then it flattens out and becomes a little winding through beautiful woods that line the middle belt of the mountain.

After a quick crossing of the road you begin to hit the exposed rock sections that can be seen from afar on Buffalo, switching back and forth over technical rocky terrain.  The trail begins to head towards the “Chalet” and becomes more sheltered for a 1km or so, once at the Chalet the loop section begins.  A small out to Lake Catani, involving a stair filled descent and ascent (think Leura Cascades in length) followed by a loop that is quite technical and highlighted by the pass through “Chalwell Galleries”.  You then retrace your steps back to the Chalet for the long journey back to Bright or the short sprint to the Chalet depending on what event your in.

Seminar time

On the return trip back to Bright the decent into Eurobin is long and could be quick and potentially quad busting!  The section after Eurobin to Buckland may be easy on the way out and may feel as though it got longer on the way back, especially as we will all know what lays ahead. The last 15km will be make or break at the pointing end, with massive time gained or lost if people can’t run/hike or descend effectively.  For those aiming to finish it will be an adventure, they will take so much from this section if they do.  I remember in a post I wrote on the TNF50 about the Sublime Climb where I said if you don’t have a good reason for running then this section may break you, well this is 10 times worse.
Looking back towards the finish

The course is what it is, the profile shows it’s severity and Sean Greenhill has outdone himself on this one. There are a few spots where jaws will drop, people will question themselves and these sections will be balanced by the beauty of the environment, the glorious single track, switch backs on Mt Buffalo and the atmosphere of the race.  I love the course and the challenge it sets me, I just love it!


I took them all - tested and Talons
are my pick come race day
I want to train well in the lead up.  I will be aiming to replicate the course in my training, specific preparation to a plan will be key.  I know a few locations that have similarities (but on a much smaller scale), in my opinion, places like Hassans Walls, Mt York, Mt Canobolas will make great training grounds.  I will use these areas to assist with my preparation so when race day arrives I will be ready to do my best at this point in my career.

I have no goal time, it is too hard to tell.  I just want to run up well and back down well, walking away satisfied with my performance and happy that it reflected my training.  Obviously if I do well then that will be a bonus.  Ultimately I want a strong team showing, I want my team to do well, and I will be doing my best to help achieve this.

Bright on dusk from Mystic
I also want to see Kel prepare well and run strongly in the marathon.  I know she has the ability and I really want to be apart of her Buffalo Stampede buildup and race.  I think she is heading in the right direction after her injury and know she is going to build in momentum in the coming months ready to peak on race day.

With Kel before the night run
I don’t think I will push the pointy end, I will be towards the front but not like an STS event or local race.  This is the real deal and with the best of Australia and overseas just testing myself against these athletes will be an eye opener that’s for sure. 
I will finish off by giving a bit of time to Bright.  A town surrounded by mountains in Victoria, which has a great atmosphere and laid-back attitude.  Highlighted by nature and its beauty with hangouts that are warm and welcoming.  It is truly a special little place as mentioned by Sean and Mel, and I will back many times in the future.

At the brewery - made it there a few times.

14 January 2014

Getting Back Into It

After suffering a serious injury there is always the initial concerns regarding loss of fitness and form, so I was very cautious regarding where I could end up after the rehab phase of my ankle injury.  The end of the year was scheduled to be the beginning of my base building phase of training, a time I was aiming to develop endurance, strength and focus on my technique in preparation for the upcoming 2014 season.  Now it was to be a time of focus, to focus on my recovery and complete my rehabilitation in the quickest and most efficient way possible.

So the plan that I had been given by Mark at Bathurst Physio was fast tracked and aimed towards repairing my ankle in time for Buffalo Sky Camp in mid January and the chance of racing at the Sydney Trail Series at Manly Dam the week before.  It was to involve gradual progressions of stretching, movement drills, resistance and the slow introduction of grass running on a day on day off basis.  I was to work from 5km with 50/50 run walk to a 10km run in this manner, focusing on how the ankle responded and if my knee to wall improved I should be able to introduce some trail/hill running at the completion of the 10km run.

The rehab plan basically looked like this;

5km 50/50  •  Day Off  •  5km 75/25  •  Day Off  •  5km  •  Day Off  •  6km  •  Day Off  •  7km  •  Day Off  •  8km  •  Day Off  •  9km  • Day Off  •  10km.

I was doing a series of other movements daily, things such as calf raises, straight leg calf stretches (gastroc), bend knee calf stretches (soleus), elastic band work, calf raises, walking patterns, balance beam, bosu ball, hopping, landing on foam mats, calf raises, wobble board and did I mention calf raises.  I was spending around 30min plus a day focusing on my rehab.

Second run back into training
On the last visit to the physio I was given the all clear to resume training, hills, trails, back to back days and the introduction of some technical stuff by the end of the year.  From that point my focus shifted back to the bigger picture of getting the body, mind and spirit ready for the year ahead.  I had been focusing so much on the short term and it was now time to broaden my view.  I started with back to back 10 mile hilly fire trail runs, this gave me an indication of where I was and what I needed to do.  I had been riding alot to maintain as much as possible and this had been beneficial, it did not however have the same bang as running so I was a little ginger on the ups and downs.

With school holidays just beginning I was lucky to have a big period of time to get some quality training in.  I have been following the plan that I had developed with Brendan and utilised doubles to allow my km count to build up without taking that much from the tank or causing any problems upon return.  I can not make up lost time, that is impossible and flirts with danger, I just need to maximise what I do and benefit as much as possible through proper recovery and planning.  My main aim was to have "key runs" that I would use over the summer period.

At Narrowneck with Benny, Hamish and Wayne
I started these "key runs" with a Narrowneck out and back, 26km and 1000m plus elevation gain, a relatively simple run and one I had done before.  I went out with Brendan, Wayne, Hamish and Ben, not bad company really, all sub 3 marathon runners, and one Olympian.  I attempted to hold onto Brendan and Benny for as long as possible, this was about 5km and then they slowly drifted away getting about 5min on me by the end of the plateau, I was happy with this but knew I had to get back and it was a tougher run back than it was out! So I ran home, slowly but I made it back, it was tough going but a needed and valuable run.

Early on at STS sitting in 4th here.
Another "key run" occurred at Hassans with Bren and UE.  Another 25km with 1000m plus climbing, but this had single track and some proper ascents and descents to complete.  I thought if I could push my ankle on the downs in particular I would be ready to run at Manly in the STS.  I completed this run strongly, running well across the 2hrs and worked well on the ups and pushed the downs, nearly too far as I had a near miss on one downhill track! I left this run with the needed confidence to tackle Manly Dam and its flowing single track and newly included loop section in the manner I expect of myself when I race.

The STS was successful, Kel and I had travelled down early to mark the course the day before and camp out to look after the gear at the dam,  this allowed for a few extra minutes sleep and little bit on convenience on the race morning.  I ran well within myself, finding a comfortable effort level and finished off in a steady manner, coming in 3rd in a tick over 1hr 40min, I was gifted a spot on the podium after the leader Dave Byrne had a navigational issue, but that's all part of racing.

The Start of the STS at Manly Dam, I managed a podium with a 3rd place.
The next fortnight has a few more important events on the calendar, Sky Camp from 17-19 January and Knapsack 6hr Solo on Australia Day being the stand outs.  These are the last major "key runs" in my build phase and I am looking most forward to hitting them head on.  

The last drop into the finish at STS, pretty happy.
Sky Camp at Bright will be a massive weekend and I am so excited to be down in the mountains for a few days.  I will be able to get out on the Buffalo Stampede Ultra course and begin my race planning properly based on my take on the track.  I will be paying particular attention to the climbs, both up and down, and what sections are runable, etc. from this I will formulate my tactics and refine my training accordingly.  It will also be good to get into the camp atmosphere and challenge others while training, something I miss out on being in Bathurst at times and I will also have two great coaches in Brendan Davies and Hanny Allston at my disposal which will be great.  Kel and I are both going, so it will be good to get away with her for a bit and I am looking forward to the time we will have together over the few days. I plan on doing a more detailed blog on Sky Camp next week.

Unfortunately for Kel her stress injury in her foot has been a pain in the butt and is taking longer than expected to mend. She has been very committed in what could only be described as a crap situation, cross training daily in the gym and aiming to get back to running as soon as possible.  She is slowing building up again and it looks as though at camp she will be able to do the base amount of k's each day, and she will benefit from this training.  Her goals are shifting as a result of her injury but I am sure by the time June has passed she will have achieved all she has set out in the first half of 2014.

Some numbers since the all clear has been given to shed a light on what I have been doing.  This time last year I was happy knocking 100km weeks out with around 1500-2000m of elevation, its fair to say this requires an up in difficulty if I am to continue progressing the way I aim to.
Progress Summary Report for WesGibson981 21/12/13 - 14/1/14
Count:40 Activities
Distance:489.07 km
Time:40:36:39 h:m:s
Elevation Gain:8,752 m
Calories:31,947 C
Avg Speed:12.1 km/h
Avg HR:144 bpm
Avg Distance:12.23 km
Avg Time:1:00:55 h:m:s
Avg Elevation Gain:237 m
Looking down to the valley from Mt Buffalo

Up to Mt Buffalo
Better not forget this, the gain and loss is massive.