My Life

Signing up for Noosa Tri (2021)

About 2 years ago I signed up for almost every race in the continent.  From a 2K Ocean Swim in Coolangatta to a 50K trail race in Warburton Victoria. Included in that was the Noosa Triathlon in 2021 which was actually out of normal tickets so I opted to run for a charity. 

Noosa Tri now lays claim as the largest Olympic distance triathlon in the world and is consistently ranked in the global top-ten triathlons by athletes. The 5-day festival – which includes 11 events in all – hosts over 13,000 competitors supported by more than 30,000 spectators on race day.

It was an easy pick in terms of which charity to run for as my niece has heart problems as a kid and HeartKids support kids like her and do all kinds of good research in that area. I raised just shy of $2.5K and actually topped the individual fundraisers for the Charity, something I never expected and very proud of.

2 years later after 2021 was closed for interstate travellers due to COVID19, the time had come. I had never set my goal to get a podium as that would be so unrealistic. I just wanted to complete the event and give it a good crack. Before race I was expecting ~30mins in the swim, 1.5hours on the bike and ~40mins in the run.

Race Day

Swim – 28 minutes

  • Went in not too nervous but also not completely confident
  • Started getting ‘tired’ and a bit more nervous after a few hundred metres but went away after I realised I was able to keep up with the people around me
  • After the halfway point I knew I had it in the bag and walked out 28mins
  • Key Takeaway: I should definitely train for ocean swims with real ocean swimming

Bike – 1h 21 elapsed (1h 18m moving)

  • The bike makes a real difference. I don’t care what each tradesman says
  • I was on a hybrid and thought I did very well averaging ~30kms/h
  • My biggest mistake was not reading the rulebook as I drafted someone after like 2mins of riding and copped a blue card and a 3minute sin bin. I actually think most people were doing this and it’s just luck whether you get caught or not
  • I was destroying the average riders uphill which felt good. But those good riders were just next level. Considering the bike is the longest leg, this is where a lot of opportunity is

Run – ~40mins

  • Did very very well here and made up a lot of time. I was flying and think there was only 1 guy on course who was running faster than me in my line of sight

Results

Final Thoughts

  • Great and fun event. Highly recommend doing it.
  • I think even for the non-podium people you can very easily get caught up in the competition aspect and forget to enjoy it
  • I’m not one for crowds and it was very annoying trying to get out of the area
  • I beat Spencer (my old colleague) and that was my only time goal. Accomplished.

BTU110

Leading into BTU110 I had done a few long runs on the weekend and started feeling some pains in my knee in the exterior of my left knee but just like under the knee cap. It only started to feel these pains when I bent it and only after maybe 3 or 4 hours of running. I thought I was just imagining and kept pushing on.

09 July 2022 at 5:00am the race began and I was in the top 5 or 6 people. I just happened to be running a similar pace with a legend – Alexi. I was feeling great even with the steep and constant undulation until around the 40k mark or ~4-5hour mark the similar dull but consistent knee pain. I tried to run it out for another 10Ks until it started becoming unbearable – I had made it to one of the larger aid stations and rested for a few minutes and downed some noodles. Started running again and within 2ks it had come back. At the top of a hill I decided to let my position slide and try to shake it out for 20-30 minutes with squats and stretches. It killed me just to let people pass. Similar to before, the pain came straight back but faster and worse than ever. I knew at this point that I was pulling out.

The walk of shame back to the aid station was the worst part as so many people were so encouraging and checking in if I was okay. At last I made it back to base and got a lift down to the bus stop with a nice support crew.

At the end of the day, I was sure I made the right call to pull out. It only kills me now as I look at the results to see and congratulate Alexi on coming overall 3rd. I still had a lot of gas in the tank and weirdly was walking fine, just couldn’t run. 

I steeled myself and knew I had something to learn from this experience. Sharks can only move forward, I need to channel my inner shark.

What's up doc?

Without ranting too much about how long and drawn out the process was to see doctors / physios / radiologists / etc…. I decided I should get some specialist medical assessments.

  • BAD: MUST see a GP to get a referral. Seems to take longer than a week to get a booking…
  • GOOD: Opted in to get an MRI scan ($500 cost but $380 returned through Medicare)
  • GOOD: MRI report comes back with a lot of detail. but quite complex. Google and youtube help diagnose
  • BAD: GP is supposed to interpret the results but literally has no idea so just reads back the report word for word and suggests seeing a specialise.
  • GOOD: Youtube / Google doctors and physios have lots of remedies which I was following most of the 3 weeks prior to finally getting the MRI report.

The words ‘Chronic’ and ‘ACL’ scared me to see them here – however I know they’re most likely from previous injuries and I was running with them earlier. So ruling them out it’s surely ITB syndrome and Google diagnosis suggested.

Rehab = Stretching and Strengthening

A few of the materials that really helped me.

  1. Stretch ITD with towel/belt
  2. Quad stretch
  3.  Strengthen for 1 legged squats
  4. Ankle / shin flexibility and mobility
I try to do most of these every day even if it’s short – better than nothing.

1 month later...

I rested for almost 4 weeks and maybe 5 cancelled physio appointments before deciding it was time to test it out. The stretching has really helped and no pain although I’ll admit I’ve probably overdone it with almost 60ks in the last 5 days.

The Race

Preparation

  • Run, a lot
  • Buy all the gear you need – ensure mandatory kit
  • Bag pack – make sure it all fits
  • Eating bulk food leading in and during
  • Preparing listening materials
  • Walking Kelli through the plan – start hard, consistent throughout the night
  • Get to the start line EARLY

Start 9am Saturday 21 May 2022

  • Very happy with the starting first 30Ks. Blitzed it and got out in a solid leading pack.
  • Kelli said she saw me on the tracker in first place at one point, yay
  • The trail disappeared and terrain very tough
  • Literally one point saying ‘this can’t be the way, it’s too insane’. Turns out it was the way and my hesitation cost me ~20mins
  • Razorback ridge AMAZING

Aid Station 1: Standley Chasm around 630pm and dark

  • Currently in 3rd place
  • First time seeing Kelli ~8-9 hours in
  • Maybe in darker spirits knowing it was almost certain I was running all night.
  • The next 40 to the aid station weren’t as difficult as the previous 60 but I struggled to keep a running rhythm.
  • Cain (4th) caught up and boosted me through a Canyon. One of the legends last races as he gives back time to his family.
  • Once he left it was just myself… Bit daunting, so started LotR 1 audiobook. Scary witch kings, orcs, forest, barrow downs, willow.
  • Lost on the track then mr Speed Dealer (5th) overtook me. He was on speed big time. The aid station person put his condition down as ‘Hungry’

Aid Station 1: 103K and around 3am

  • Currently in 5th or 6th place
  • Kelli was asleep in the car
  • Final big aid station I did a shoe change and caught a 2nd wind then lost it. Then caught a final in the 10k end.
  • Views probably would’ve been amazing and that’s the real loss here. Esp. near the end on euro ridge where I could see nothing.
  • Kelli paced me the final 5 and almost took me down the wrong road lol
  • End at sunrise. Wasn’t completely dead.
  • Good time but feel I left a lot out there with the lost running
  • Results

Post Race

  • Snuck into a campground to shower – that was hard
  • Smashed a huge KFC feast
  • I slept in the car as Kelli drove us to Uluru for our flight back to Sydney the next day – what a legend she is!
  • Ankle / shin muscle or tendon issues plagued me for the next few weeks, next race is BTU110K in ~6 weeks post race!
WMM 2022 Final
Thank you Support Crew Dinner

Day 1, Mon 11th of April 2022 - Planning: 1 part strategic 1 part stupid

First international travel for ~3years. April 2019 we were in the north island of New Zealand.

We decided to book our trip the day after the most difficult race of my life (to date: 10/04/2022); The Tamworth Trail Blazer 60K with ~3,800m elevation gain. After pushing 165 heart beats per minute for 531 minutes pushing out ~5,700 calories and taking home both the course record, first place and days worth of pain to follow, maybe it was 2 parts stupid, 1 part strategic… 

It was a great day and I was too high on adrenaline to feel it but I was chafing and cramping so much that the next few days on planes I thought would be a good time to recover. The worst part was the chafing… definitely going to fix that for my next ultras in May and July – it actually formed a scab on the flight over the Singapore. 

Post-COVID Airports

This was actually the time when domestic airports were absolutely insanely understaffed and security lines went outside the terminals – mayhem. Luckily the international terminal wasn’t so bad (LINK). After flying strictly domestically the last 3 years you forget some of the procedures going international: taking out liquids (100ml max), passport photo not looking like you, 3hr check-in rules, etc. But you also forget the glamour of the lounges, luxury shops, duty free (~50% shops open).

The Flight

Actually not that bad… and we were flying economy on Scoot. Worst part was the screaming babies but sitting down for hours on end, watching F1’s and Kimetsu no Yaiba S2, really not that bad. It probably helped that I was still exhausted from the run that I could actually sleep every few hours.
Total rest time: 24.5h
Tamworth to Sydney: 1hr
Sydney to Singapore: 7.5hrs
Singapore to Athens: 11hrs

Places and Maps

Planning Map

Highlights from each area:

Athens

  • Acropolis – especially the Erechtheion. Private tour guide was great. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey YouTube video guide just as good!
  • Food – Mousakka, Anchovies, bakeries, everything
  • Acropolis Museum was a bit of a let down. The Greek inventions museum was awesome though.

Meteora

  • Literally everything; Monasteries, food, people
  • E-Bike Sunset Tour
  • Hiking, turtles, tracks, photos
  • Via Cordatta
  • Hotel – buffet breakfast

Kefalonia

  • Cycling up Mt Ainos
  • Melisanni Cave
  • Shipwreck beach – although we had average weather

Rome

  • Appian way run
  • Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is everywhere. Borgia tower, Mausoleum of Augusto, Coliseum, etc 
  • Food – Pasta has never been so good. Gelato – Wasabi chocolate
  • Disappointment: air quality from street smokers

Naples

  • Pizza and portion sizes
  • The Tunnel Tour followed by the Catacombs
  • Pompeii was huge
  • Disappointing: trash and rubbish everywhere and Visuvio was covered in fog. Japanese food was also horrible. 

Santorini

  • Sunset hike from Thira to the north
  • The Lost Atlantis
  • Disappointing – roads are not made for walking or cycling. Need better infrastructure. Prices also very high, recommend going to Lidl. 

Set Your Ultimate Goals

By setting your race goals first you’ll be able to plan your calendar and races to achieve these. It’s usually best to set goals into Priority Tiers (A/B/C 1st /2nd/3rd). 

For myself, my (current 01/01/2022) goals are:

  1. Priority
    1. UTMB – Ultra Trail Mont. Blanc
    2. UTMF – Ultra Trail Mount Fuji
    3. Western Mac Ellery 128K
  2. Priority (or Qualification Races)
    1. BTU 100
    2. Tamworth Trail Blazer 60K
  3. Priority (if it won’t impede my other events)
    1. UTA (50 or 100K)

Race Requirements / Entry Process

There’s not much point in looking further into a race if you can’t even enter. Look at the official website and find out how to qualify.

My example is UTMB (170K) and from my research thus far it’s one of the most difficult races to qualify for (for the general public). So if I qualify for UTMB, I should be pretty safe for all other races (still worth checking each race though).

UTMB 2022 Entry Process lists multiple criteria just to enter the lottery.

  • ‘Unique’ to UTMB: Runners who have collected Running Stones by participating in the UTWT circuit. One Running Stone will provide one entry in the lottery. You can have up to 9 stones. They must also own a valid UTMB  Index for the distance of their choice (To enter the UTMB® lottery, runners must own a valid UTMB® Index in the 100K or 100M category).
  • More Standard: Runners who have acquired the requested qualifying points. UTMB: 10 points acquired between 01/01/2019 and 31/12/2021 (in 2 races maximum). 1 Entry for the lottery.
  • Charity: making a 2,000 donation to one of the charitable associations supported by the organization
  • Be an Elite (800+ ITRA score)

My UTMB Qualification

So it’s pretty clear that I will not be able to qualify for UTMB 2022. I have 0 stones, I’m ~120 points short of being ‘Elite’ and I only have 1 qualification point.

I will airm to qualify for the 2023 event.

The most efficient way to gain entry is through Running Stones as you can have up to 9 entries. I will opt for gain as many Stones as possible but also aim for qualifying points (as this will ensure I qualify for other events such as UTMF). 

I have organised my races as below:

       
1
Race DateCategoryPurposeLocationNameStones / Points
2
9 April 20223rdOtherTamworth, NSWTamworth Trail Blazer0
3
14 May 20223rdStonesSydney, AustraliaUltra Trail Australia (50K)3
4
21 May 20221stGoalAlice Springs, NTWestern Mac Ellery (128K)5
5
9 July 20222ndPointsBrisbane, QldBTU 1005
6
27 October 20222ndStonesChang Mai, ThailandThailand by UTMB (54 / 110K)9
7
18 November 20222ndStonesCheng Du, ChinaPanda Trail by UTMB9
8
26 April 20231stGoalFuji, JapanUltra Trail Mount Fuji3
9
22 August 20231stGoalChamonix, FranceUTMB0

Finally, just because a race is not in the list now doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Just ensure it fits into your goals and plans.

Timing and Registration

Don’t miss registration dates!

  • UTMB registration: January 6 to 18: pre-registration for the lottery & registration for priority runners
  • UTMF Registration: January 7, 2022 – January 14, 2022 Lottery.
  • Western Mac Ellery Monster 128K: Online Registrations for personalised bib close: April 30th , 2022

Where you have a race that may impact performance of another, rethink and maybe cancel the lesser priority race.

Resources

Why did I choose to cycle Japan?

I have always had an interest in Japan from a young age, I assume it’s from watching all the Dragon Ball, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, etc when I was young. This is my 3rd visit to Japan and I wanted to improve my Japanese mostly, especially the speaking component as it’s the hardest to practice when you study alone. Although I do believe taking actual Japanese classes is a better way to improve… I also enjoy hiking, so with all the mountains in Japan this was easy pick.

But I chose to cycle as I would be able to meet many people and experience many things that you would usually miss if you were to take public transport or a car. Many people I could talk and interact with. I also would gain a massive sense of accomplishment by completing something so seemingly impossible.

Where did I go?

Journey Statistics

Journey Statistics - Japan Bike Tour 2018

Highlights of the Trip

Other

Future Trips

When I was asked ‘would I do it again?’ as soon as I arrived back home, I was ready to put the bike down for a while and have a rest. It’s been over 3 years at time of writing and I’d definitely be keen to do another bike trip. I had started planning a Taiwan bike trip, which would only be a few weeks and hope to try it in 2022.

I would also like to try something in Europe, maybe in Spain and also cycling from Sydney to my home town Tamworth over a week.

In November 2020 I decided it was time to tackle a goal I always had wanted to try: Learning the Piano. I don’t think there could have been a better time, partially locked down with COVID, plenty of time at home, working from home. These are not the memoirs of an empress, nor of a queen. These are memoirs of another kind. These are the memoirs of a maestro.

Why did I want to play piano? Linking back to what drives me, my goals and then plans:

Looking back on this now, I think the links are quite weak, which is why with sadness I admit that Piano defeated me. I gave up, I quit.

But Why?

I like must be black or white with everything I do. For most of the important things I do in life, I’ll subconsciously have thought why I am doing something. For example; why buy a house? Investment opportunity, stability, making commitments and building a life with my future wife (at the time), etc. Once you throw together the pro / con list, you should be able to make a decision that you resonate with.

When I signed myself up to piano, I thought that I would enjoy it due to my ‘understanding what drives you’. The more I played the more I really started to understand about myself ‘you are more likely to enjoy things you are good at’. I enjoy listening to good classical style music however when I stepped up to the piano, it was just a hot mess of keys and sounded awful. The most frustrating part of all though was even if I practiced every day for a month. If I missed just 2-3 days without training, I would forget it all and be back at square one.

After losing basically all the minimal progress a few times, I’d lost the motivation to continue. I realised that I would never have the motivation to commit thousands of hours into something I was so bad at and not making progress. It was too hard and makes me respect how these pros can play so well, songs 10,000 times harder than what I was struggling with.

Ross & Kaworu Playing Evangelion's Cruel Angel's Thesis

So what now?

It’s not like I’m gaining heaps of time back (maximum 30 minutes per day). But some projects myself and Kel have been thinking upon;

  • Planning a move to Hong Kong
  • Setting up an official training schedule (done)
  • More blog posts
  • Editing / creating memories and video content
  • Getting back into languages
    • Getting decent at Japanese again or;
    • Chinese (Mandarin)

I got into the more serious side of running in late January (28/01/2021) when I signed up for my first 50K ultramarathon. To say I did any real research or planning would be a huge overstatement. My longest run to that date was around 20K – I knew I had to start running much longer distances to

  1. Mentally prepare myself to KNOW that I could do 50K in a day
  2. Physically prepare myself to run my ultra best

My training plan was simple – run more and run long on the weekends. Here’s a simple time series of my training via Strava:

Some time in mid 2021, I set myself a more far reaching goal – to compete and complete the holy grail of Ultra Marathons: Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) (171 km +10,040 m) in Chamonix, France. When I decided this sounded fun and right up my alley, I started to again feel similar to that time in January – inadequately prepared by such an overwhelming test of physicality. I wanted to get good and set myself up for my ultra-best with more of a plan than ‘I’ll just do longer runs’. I set out and decided to hire a running coach as a shortcut to learn what I needed, however that didn’t turn out as planned so here I am, learning and training myself to become an ultra endurance runner. I am no expert and only a few months into ultra endurance training and still learning, but from my learnings I want to cover these areas:

Planning & Learning

  1. Training Schedule (Weekly / Monthly Google Sheet) – I set up a training sheet which I update weekly or monthly. It will include ideas and locations for hills. It’s also good to tally up your training if you can be that dedicated.
  2. Race Planning: Find the races that really interest you. Ensure you know how to qualify for them. Train for the race as close as you can. E.g UTMB is 170K with 10K elevation. Break it down – how much do I expect to run, hike, uphill, downhill, etc. Try to base your training around this.
  3. Coach – consider getting a coach, running form assessment and understand how different training techniques can improve your body and mind.
  4. Podcasts – Good to listen to while running for all running topics. My favourite: Science of Ultra and also Mile27
  5. Friends

Physical Training

Types: variety is the spice of life. If you do anything too much it’s surely not good for you. Mixing up your runs (from what I understand) will improve overall versatility and ensure your muscles are prepared.

    1. Long Runs: Up to 40% of overall weekly time. Less than 5 hours unless you are training mentally or gut testing. Probably want to do a big one (8+ hours)  around 6-8 weeks out in case you get injured. This is a good mental boost and test gear, gut and mind.
    2. Speed (Intervals, progressive, Fartleks, etc): Usually 1-1.5 hour sessions. Want to be doing minimum 30 minutes of actual speed running when you go out. Remember to be specific, Usually don’t want to be doing 100m sprints when you are training for a 170K race. Longer efforts will be more effective: 
      • e.g 3min * 10 efforts or 8min * 4 efforts. Etc. My pace for this training will be 5-10km 
      • pace (3:00 fastest)
      • Fartleks can be fun when combining with Strava segments. You don’t need to do consistent times / repeats. Effort is the main factor. E.g Segment 1 ~6mins, Segment 2 ~12mins, Segment 3 ~5mins, Segment 4 ~5mins.
    3. Hills / Hiking: UTMB will have a lot of climbing (roughly 5.9% overall course (10K/170K)). Although not always possible, best to try to replicate near this in your weekly schedule. I.e 100K per week = 5.9K elevation. Similar to intervals, I want to get in ~20minutes of actual climb time as well as descent time. I.e 6 * 4mins, 3 * 7mins
    4. Comfortable Runs: These are the usual runs. Comfortable (talking) pace. These are to put some more mileage in the legs when fatigued or to impede further fatigue. These will usually be in between the harder (speed, hills, long) sessions. 
    5. Strength & Mobility: 
      • Personally, stretching after running works for me. I have a sauna so it’s my place. I’ve never been flexible and something I want to properly try. After (almost) every run.
      • Strength has become more important as I’ve done more running although I still need to put more emphasis on it. Hip flexors (slide 5 & 6). Also don’t want to have runners arms, so it can be good to fit in some upper body through F45 or the like. Core is also very important so put in some situps with focus on obliques. One F45 per week, each walk (usually every 1-2 days) do a few situps. 
    6.  Rest: something I’m not very good at but a quote I like to paraphrase – when you are training you are hurting / tiring out your muscles. When you are resting they are recovering and becoming stronger. Like a senzu bean.

Nutrition & Gut Training

  1. Consider hiring a nutritionist or at least researching…
  2. Training and prep
    1. For runners, carbs are good. Low GI is best. Eat more wholemeal
    2. Eat 1-2hours prior to a run, test and see if you can bring this down
    3. Eat less sugar
    4. Get to an efficient weight
    5. Eat more fiber
    6. Try glycogen depleted runs 
  3. The Long runs
    1. You shouldn’t need food top ups for less than 2 hours
    2. Take food for anything longer than 2.5hours
    3. Good idea to nibble every hour instead of large amounts
    4. Test food and gels, gels also expensive, you can make your own and test your own foods

Other

  1. Mental – you won’t know if you don’t attempt something tough. Chafe is still the most scary thing for me… something I need to further test. If you can test something before the big day it’s best to try it and give yourself that confidence boost

Final Words

Everyone is capable of training themselves with the right commitment and learning. Like a diet, find something that works for you, if you can’t stick to your training plan, look at changing it up to make it fun – strava segment seeking and weekly planning can actually be fun. I have shared some of the things I have started reading, learning and planning to improve my running to achieve my goals. I’ll test and improve this as I go through the stages to see what works and does not work for me.

If you’re to take one thing from this, think to make yourself Training Schedule (Weekly / Monthly Google Sheet)

Running Form Assessment

One of the things I was most excited about when I signed up for a running coach was getting my form assessed. I’d never really seen myself run before even though I do it all the time so it was good to set aside some time and record and analyse my form.

In truth, I not-so-humbly admit I thought my form was pretty good, so I was a little surprised when I had received quite a few pointers.

I made a quick summary of my form assessment and where and how I could improve:

My Running Form Assessment

I made this set of slides myself. I filmed it, sent it to coach. He drew the wireframes then analysed it. We then we went through it together where I took notes so that I could quickly put something actionable together.

Final Thoughts

My takeaways from this whole process was that

  1. There is no perfect way to run
  2. If you are comfortable and free of pain you will go far
  3. You can (easily) make (slight) corrections to make yourself a more efficient runner by conserving energy if you plan on going far (probably +21K)
  4. You can probably do your own running for assessment with the help of Google & Youtube (see final slide)

Other Reading