My Life

Why I decided to get a Running Coach

I’ve always been stubborn, thinking I can do and figure out anything by myself with my trusty friend Google as my guide. I’ve never really had any issues to date with reaching goals and seeing parts of improvement, however only the other week, I realised that I was destined for greater distances which scared me. Instead of fumbling around in Google with slow progress, I wanted to fast-track my understanding and preparation to reach my newly established goal: to compete in true Ultra Marathons further than 100K. 

  • To compete and complete the holy grail of Ultra Marathons: Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) (171 km +10,040 m) in Chamonix, France
  • Run (one of) the most prestigious Ultra Marathons in my home away from home; Japan. Running the circumference of Mount Fuji 160+km and ~9,500m elevation.
  • Compete in the heart of Australia in what looks like a different universe: The Western Mac’s 128 km Ellery Monster on the Larapinta Trail

My longest run until writing has only been 50kms which took a bit under 5 hours. Looking at these races where the fastest elites run it in ~20 hours, saying I was concerned (but maybe to a more extent, excited) was understatement. Like when I first looked up protein powder, I was hit with an overload of information that I didn’t want to digest. I went googling for running coaches with the main aim to be information gathering rather than a typical 12 week training program. I found a few podcasts by Mile27 and listening to their podcasts on a long drive, I knew these guys had the breadth of knowledge I wanted. How to best prepare yourself to run long and run hard.

Review of Running Coaching

At time of writing I’m on my 4th week with my coach and I will not continue forward. I have gained a lot of drive and passion for running and specifically understanding how different training plans impact performance. 

As I mentioned, I went to a coach with the intention of learning and not to do simple weekly programs. I believe my expectations are actually that of hiring a running coach to become a running coach – not a runner. So probably my bad, but this has given me the drive to listen to most of the Science of Ultra podcasts (maybe 50 hours) and with what I have learned through doing these weekly session of which I’ve never really done before (intervals, hill effort repeats, recovery days, progression runs, etc) as opposed to just going out for a jog.

Another big piece of motivation I’ll take away from this is that running is hard, ultra marathons even moreso. If I’m able to learn all of this and self coach myself to successful ultra(s) then I’ll be even more proud of myself.

Final Thoughts

Running coaches can be a great tool especially for people wanting to get some variety in their game. You may be in for a rude shock if you want to be like me and learn so you can coach yourself, they are not too keen to share their coaching secrets! Many of the top endurance runners don’t have coaches (although they have had them historically and probably learnt what they needed from them to coach themselves @killianJornet). 

Running is hard. You are ultimately the best coach. Listen to advice and the body and learn from others to improve. If you lack discipline, coaches are probably amazing for you. If you are self motivated to get out running and also to learn, then maybe you’re better off alone.

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Home is not static but a transient thing that can change depending on your current place. Although for some people, there might only be a single home, some people have multiple and it’s not a single thing. For me, I have 2 homes; 

  1. Where I live now with my perfect wife and;
  2. Home, home aka My parent’s house where I spent the first 19 years of my life in Tamworth, NSW

Sometimes I look back through my photos and videos and notice that where I spent 99% of my time at home 1 or 2, I have the least amount of footage. The large amount of my collection comes from travel and trips away from my regular living place. I think this is such a shame because as soon as your home starts to shift and you move away from it you’re missing a lot of these nostalgic places because at the time you were living there the thinking is like “oh well, I live here so I can see and do that whenever I want”. But then you might never end up making the memories or any footage

With this revelation I spent some time in my home 2 ensuring I can capture some footage so I can easily remember these important places in my life.

Compiling My Home Movies

Tamworth Bike Ride 2021

Tamworth Trail Running - Flagstaff Mountain

Tamworth - My Favourite Childhood Tree

Tamworth - Old Rugby Videos

Coming soon…. Home 2

Why did I want to run 50K?

Why not? To be honest, being impressive is a big motivator for me. A lot of people have goals to run 5K or 10K, so why not just push for something ridiculous? Similar to what Goggins says ‘be uncommon amongst the uncommon’ is something that really resonates with me. Most people have goals – I prefer to have challenges, it makes them all the more rewarding when you achieve them. Other examples:

Why was this my time to run an Ultra Marathon?

Firstly, the plain definition of an Ultra is a long-distance running race that is longer than a marathon (42.2K). My definition is more like Trail Running for any distance 42.2K or longer. Some people think you need years or months of training to run this length. There are plenty of stories out there saying otherwise and I tend to stick with the belief that almost any semi-fit person can complete an ultra – the manner or time in which you complete it is to your own standard. It may take someone with next to no training 10 hours to walk the whole thing, but they will have still completed one!

With this belief, one late night I finally made the plunge onto the internet to find some challenges. I found this one: Warburton Trail Festival – Lumberjack 50K.

As I read through it, I thought I had seen it before. It took a while, but I remembered the Beau ‘Bean’ Miles ran this same one in his video: The Human Bean: 40 days on a tin-bean diet

As a giant fan of Beau, I knew this was the one. With next to zero training, I signed up there and then, locked and loaded for my first Ultra. Upon signing up, I just wanted to complete one in a decent time without walking – i.e not first, or at 5min/km pace. The goal / challenge of 50K was enough – or so I thought. 

My Preparation and Training

Checking through my emails, I signed up at: 

Date: 28/01/2021
Time: 11:17 PM

The race was on Saturday, 6 March 2021, so that gave me a massive 36 days to train up. After looking at my Strava history, it was clear that I had not put in the training yet to get anywhere near 50K. I knew that I would have to really start upping the KMs to even have the confidence to get down to Melbourne and to the starting line.

Extract of longer runs from sign up date:

It was clear that over the next few weeks I would have to put in a lot of time into running. I would usually write up a plan for these things, but I just knew I needed to put in the time. In hindsight I would suggest POST TBC: How to prepare for an Ultra Marathon. I had a look at the elevation profile and type of running that would be expected and tried my best to mimic my training around that.

Weight

Pretty simply, it’s easier to run long distances when you carry less weight. At registration I was around 78kg. I thought anything under 74kg would be good and that would naturally come through more running. I ended up coming down to 72kg.

Diet

Food provides you with energy. I needed energy so I was eating a lotttt. Breakfast usually consisted of muesli with some fruits (banana, mixed berries). I cannot stress how important bananas are for me. Lunch and dinner was usually 1 part vegetables, 1 part protein (meat or vegetable protein) and 1 part carb (flat bread). So 67% of my meals were a burrito mix 🌯.

Listen to your body

This is the most important. Listen and learn. I found that bananas really gave me energy. I made my own energy gels using bananas, BCAA capsules, caffeine pills, frozen berries, cinnamon, muesli, etc. I stored it in a chilli bottle

I went out the first day and ran 21K on trails. Knowing that’s not enough, I thought running on tired legs would help build strength. I think I pushed too hard as my knee started to feel pain towards the end of the 21K footpath run. In hindsight I should have stopped but being around 18K in, I couldn’t do it to my pride. It wasn’t anything serious, but to recover I had to keep it to the elliptical machine.

Training types and environment

I’m a firm believer in training in the environment you will compete in. Luckily for me, Lane Cove National Park is basically my backyard, so it was easy to run trails. I would recommend mixing it up to incorporate hills, long distance and short speed (maybe not sprints though).

Study the map

Load gps on watch.

Pre race

Probably better for another article – Working Holidays – making the most of COVID changes in workstyle.

  • Collect your bib! Day before if possible
  • Charge your GPS watch
  • Prepare your gear the night before
  • Prep your breakfast
  • Eat big eat early
  • Arrive with time

Race Day

The hardest part of the day was waking Kel up early to drive me there and back! We arrived early and I couldn’t believe my eyes, Beau ‘The Bean’ Miles was there, as the Lumberjack again! I walked straight over and introduced myself and wished him good luck with the race. 

As with anything that means a lot to me, I felt nervous at the starting line getting the racing brief. Unlike most races, the starting bell for this one is not a horn, but when the Lumberjack cuts through the log (see video). 

The run started well and I was probably towards the middle/front of the pack which was unexpected as the athletes looked very fit. Started at roughly 5:00mins per Kilometre until we hit the wall of elevation – roughly 700m of 20-30% incline. I had often thought of myself as a downhill specialist, however I was powering past my initial group and took off once we got to the top. 

It was cold which helped keep the heart rate down as I raced onwards through the more technical and wetter terrain. I had skipped past the first few aid stations as I wasn’t drinking as much water in the cold as I would during my Sydney training. I eventually caught up to a few others on the trail and actually made somewhat of a trail mate as we paced well together. At the 30K mark I had to let my running buddy go as I started to feel ill, a first. I quickly realised I hadn’t had anything at all to eat, so squeezed down my whole chilli bottle of Banana energy. After 10-ish minutes I was ready to roll and hammered down hill, barnstorming the next 15kms.

With only 5-10K’s to go, I realised I had this in the bag! From roughly 45kms, the course was mostly gravel. I kept looking back to ensure no one was trying to pip me towards the end. I had originally told Kel I would be roughly arriving after 5:00hrs assuming I was running a solid time. I had to text her mid water crossing to let her know I was ahead of schedule. As I was streaming down one side of the river I saw her running towards the finish line. Crossing the line I thought I would feel something – all I felt was exhaustion. Asking the officials for my place, they had surprised me to the extreme. I had come in 10th out of 152 athletes – for my first Ultra Marathon. There it was – that sense of accomplishment and jubilation that I had way overachieved on my expectations. 

www.strava.com/activities/4897209180

Post Race

Celebrated with an ice bath in the Yarra River. The freezing water I think helped with recovery and muscle soreness as I wasn’t completely gassed the next few days.

I never really started running until I went to Uni. I had always thought of myself as too stocky or thicc to ever get into long distance – ‘it’s just the way I’m built’ I would tell myself. After years of mediocre attempts at running around the neighbourhood (just 5km or so in 25ish minutes) I started living with a guy who was actually good at running, Carl Puchner. Even though the guy ate a full pizza every night for dinner and KFC for lunch he had the perfect runner’s physique.

We’d often go on short jogs together on concrete around Chatswood where I’d just be slowing him down. One fateful day I was exploring the neighbourhood and found a nice little jungle path and thought to take it at some pace. I took Carl back here and thought we could do it together and found out I was actually able to keep up (or even slightly ahead) of this milo fiend. He even mentioned it after the run saying I was flying and he was struggling to keep up. Not sure if this is yet a law but I’m going to claim it

Ross’ Law - You find more enjoyment in activities you are good at

And I think this is where it all began. Next thing I knew my brother Thomas sporadically asked if I wanted to try the Tamworth TrailBlazer in 2019 (15K +900m elevation) back in my hometown. Obviously I signed up, and didn’t put in near the effort required for a decent time, worst of all my knee starting playing up about 10Ks in, so I ended up walking / hopping the remainder of the course – still coming in a respectable 14th, I knew this could be the start of something. 

Realising I gained so much enjoyment and accomplishment from the race, I started more recreational running around my local tracks – Lane Cove National Park, Boronia Park to North Ryde and more. I finally decided to buy a Sports GPS watch – however that was more for my Japan Trip

The Benefit of Running & Trail Running

  • Fitness (or you can basically eat whatever you want guilt free!)
  • Time saving vs walking
  • Health – heart training
  • Amazing views – more trails
  • Explore places you wouldn’t usually visit
  • Something you can do by yourself or with friends
  • Meet plenty of great people out there with the same hobby and interesting stories
  • ‘Find that place in yourself’ – I find this happens any distance over 30 minutes where you find a comfortable rhythm, you’re in like as Sherlock Holmes calls it – a mind palace. Where you think just what you are thinking and nothing else really matters. Like a moment of calm or clairvoyance. 

In 2021, I really started picking up Trail Running as an enthusiast (one day I hope to call myself an athlete), signing up for multiple events every month and even winning a few. 

Get out there, explore and enjoy it!

One of the main things I wanted to get out of creating a blog was a way to autobiograph-ise my life. I like dates, timestamps and visuals – so I went in search of something of the Timeline variety to record, remember and relive my life. After all, my biggest fear is to look back on my life and regret not doing enough

I stumbled upon an amazing, innovative site Knightlab which is all free to use their templates on Storytelling – Timelines and Storylines being my 2 favourites. 

Hours upon hours of my time went into the creation of this:

  1. Planning – design, template dates, highlights, databases, storage, naming conventions, etc
  2. Scouring my Memories – Looking through photos (Google Photos is a great tool), memories, talking with friends for memories, old photo albums and others to pull out the moments in my life that I want to look back on and remember. Those critical moments where I achieved or learned something amazing. Or just something funny happened.
  3. Putting it all together – writing the memoirs, making the short highlights videos, uploading everything, ensuring everything works and the main point, redoing it all every (year?) to keep it up to day.

Without further adieu, the Timeline of Ross Michell until the end of 2020 (as of time of writing).

Again, I would strongly recommend everyone to find your own way to record, remember and relive your own life. This last few weeks has been a saviour with COVID lockdowns coming back into Sydney, it has helped me reconnect with people and myself looking back on these memories and learnings.

“…After all, these are not the memoirs of an empress, nor of a queen. These are memoirs of another kind.” – Memoirs of a Geisha

I’m raising money for my niece Imogen who has a rare disease called ATS. She has been supported through HeartKids over the last few years and I want to give back.

I’m doing a triathlon in November (The Noosa Triathlon) with Heartkids and looking to raise some funds for the charity so they can continue supporting kids in need.

Just in time for Tax Season, any help would be appreciated and fully TAX DEDUCTIBLE!!!

I never had planned to build a website let alone do it. Every year (for the last maybe 10 years) I’ve set my goals or as most people know them new years resolutions within the start of January. This year was like any other where i had them split into long and short.

Placeholder link – writing goals

On there for 2021 was the usual get fit, Run this, start that, etc. Only after I started chasing on of them – running events did my goal expand into this beast of starting a website and blog.

See the quote above from one of my favourite Anime: Hunter x Hunter 2011. “You should enjoy the little detours to the fullest. Because that’s where you’ll find the things more important than what you want”. I understand this as, even though you may have goals, sometimes the side tracks are where you really find meaning to the goals. 

It all came about as I was training for my link: 50k ultra first lumberjack, where mid-way into a 40K run I thought this is amazing, I want to:
1. Notes for my own records
2. Share my learnings with a wider audience and hope to inspire

For me personally, when you’re out there running for up to 6 hours alone with a flat set of earphones, you have a lot of time to thing (Link to: Japan Bike Tour). So many things are going through your mind but there’s no way to write them all down. 

For me personally, I want to be able to look back at my life and easily see what I’ve done. Not dissimilar to a diary or scrapbook but in a digital and interactive format. I want to see my triumphs, failures and stagnations. Learn from this and go forward.

Leading into the 2nd part, when listing all of these learning, why not share the learnings I have with a wider audience. I always thought things like the school curriculum and life lessons you learn to be almost irrelevant in shaping someone into a future success. Hopefully my way of living “live the life you want to live / live your own life / You are accountable for your own happiness” will inspire others to seek better in their own lives. My wife has taken this own board and just (as of 20/04/2021) posted her newest PB for a park run 29 minutes which she largely attributes to my enthusiasm for running and other hobbies motivating her to get out there.

Finding this website as a detour on my life path has inspired me to further mature and pass on whatever wisdom I can.

After almost 2 years and 6 months my Garmin Forerunner 935 seems to have finally clocked its last activity:

What I Need a Sports Watch For
I do a fair bit of outdoor activities (From Jan to March 158 hours) mostly Running (trails 80%, Road 20%), CyclingGolf and Swimming. I NEED a watch with the ability to track all of these and I WANT one that will also include Music, GooglePay and Triathlon Functionality. It’s also important to consider future goals, I’m considering doing an Ironman (Full or 70.3, tbd), so for this I will need strong battery performance and triathlon sport function is preferred.

Here’s the breakdown in a (simple) table: Garmin Compare March 2021

The Selection Process
seemed difficult at first, but once put in an orderly spreadsheet, it becomes a simple process of elimination.

This simple process put me down to 4 watches (non-greyed lines) which then I had to determine if the additional features of the more expensive watches was worth it. A simple way of doing this is allocating each (useful) feature with a $ value and then using a more comparative price. The additional features (additional to the more basic and cheaper Vivoactives) were – Full Map Functionality, GP accurate, Extra battery life, Triathlon ability and ‘future proofing’. These are very subjective and up to each individual to allocate the $ values. 

An honourable mention to the other major brand – Suunto. A really great watch (Suunto 7), however let down severely in Battery life.

Conclusion
In the end, I went with the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro. It houses everything I need and then some. I’m also wary of the value I gain from having such an important tool to my health, fitness & Goals, so even though I would consider it a significant price tag, it will be a worthwhile investment.