Kiwi Trail Runner. Issue 8. October/November 2016
Article: Chasing Antelope
Written By: Matt Rayment
As my deadline draws nearer (or if I’m honest, further away) I’m stuck with the good problem of which of the awesome races I’ve done recently to focus on; namely the Riverhead XTERRA Super Long or the WUU2K Marathon (Wellington Urban Ultra, the 2k relates to the amount of vertical gain).
Those last sentences may sound a touch dramatic, but the 2012 edition was a lesson in humility. I showed up, having no respect for the distance or conditions. I was 15 kilos heavier than I am now and sporting a brilliant white pair of Nike road shoes. It was July. I was competing in the super long course. I rumbled over the line three hours later, tired, cold and embarrassed.I’d had a real beating. The best lessons are hardest learned I guess, and I became determined from that point on to become stronger, more efficient and to better my initial starting time by as close to an hour as I could.
Every subsequent year I became stronger and faster, crossing the line 25, then 35, then 45 minutes faster. With the increased training, skill and speed came an increased sense of satisfaction and a deep enjoyment of the sport. This year, having partnered with Kiwi Trail Runner magazine and James Kuegler Coaching to document the effect that consistent training and coaching would have on an otherwise average athlete I felt both better prepared and more nervous than I have previously. Better prepared because, well..running. You know, a lot. More nervous because I’d written about my desire to succeed in this race in this magazine. Want to feel a sense of pressure and (self) expectation? Publish your goals.
So we fast forward to the morning of the event. It’s been RAINING for the last 10 days and I’m ready to get amongst the Super Long course. At registration, a crowd had formed. The time honoured pre race rituals of BS and sandbagging that runners undertake were in full effect. This always increases my anxiety so I avoid it as much as possible. I met some friends before the start who commented kindly on the amount of training I’d gotten in prior to the event. This only served to increase my anxiety further. I found myself standing on the start line, nearly beside myself with nerves.
Off goes the gun, 150 people start their watches and we’re off up Barlow road. I’m guilty of starting most races a touch too hot and guess what? A 4 minute km out the gate possibly wasn’t the smartest idea. So it goes. As we hit the first of what felt like many climbs I focussed on the advice I’d been given by James before the race “Run smooth, the pace will look after itself”. Thinking about my form and running efficiently calmed me greatly and I began to enjoy the experience, not pushing myself too hard on the ups (climbing isn’t a strong point) and descending as quickly and elegantly as I could. The gravel sections provided an opportunity to push the pace as well. I found myself locked in a passing battle for most of the course with a group of guys who were marginally faster than me on the fireroad but slower than I was on the rough stuff.
Things played out largely as I’d expected, however with the inclusion of some spicy trail and climbs that were not present last year I became aware that it would be unlikely that I’d meet my goal time of two hours. This knowledge that I would not meet my goal time didn’t distress me as judging by the amount of people I was running with, the lack of Super Long course bibs I was seeing I knew that comparably my performance was stronger than in previous years. And, just like that, we’re running across Barlow Road into the field where the finishing chute is. Done. 2.11.52 for 14th open male (for the last time), 20th male and 22nd participant overall, which is a satisfying result.
Before we move on to my experience at WUU2K I’d like to take this time to address Wellington, and it’s topography directly. Ahem..
Oh Wellington. You’re good. You know I know you know you’re good. Chris McDougall rhapsodized about your scene when he came to visit. Every time I’ve been down you’ve put on a superb show, what with your next level beauty, your go-home-you’re-drunk vistas and smashing trails, all filled with a bunch of fleet footed, cohesively organised and friendly reggae loving bastards. I want to sneer, to shout for my home town, but gosh, you’ve got me. I get a bit het up when think about what you put me through just a couple days ago. I’m still twitching and lurching around home, the butt of my children’s jokes as they engage me in endless games of tag. I think you need to share with the world how good you are, and with Gareth Thomas making the WUU2K a reality, you can expect a bit more foot traffic on your hills as the race rightfully puts other events in New Zealand (and the world) on notice*.
Hope to be back in you see you soon, Matthew.
*Especially if you include that rad marshall on the back of Tawatawa who lifted my spirits with her kind words...
The seven weeks between XTERRA Riverhead and the WUU2K were a block of training that I would come to name “GET SOME GO AGAIN”. The lion’s share of the training was specific in nature, that is, closely matched to the nature of the upcoming race. That meant hills. My weeks were filled with two and half hour long trail runs, broken up with threshold hill reps or road runs. I wanted to fully respect the event and the marathon distance, so those longer runs were laps of the endless 4WD tracks in Riverhead, as I had nothing near with the elevation of the course. The first 10 days I was exhausted, by two weeks out from race day I was energised, loving the structure of the training and relishing the multiple long run weeks. I arrived at race week stronger, fitter and more focussed than I remember.
Two days before I flew out I spoke with James, whose instructions were clear. This was a persistence hunt. I needed to get to the place where my race would begin, this was approximately 35 km into the race, at the top of the Tip Track. I was to run comfortably until then. Not crack my eggs on the first climb. We agreed that I would run to heart rate not pace as this was an accurate reflection of effort. I was not to chase early, I was not to start too hot, thus ensuring an inevitable blow up. At the Tip Track I was to marshal my reserves and run as hard as I could, trying to chase down anyone who had the misfortune to go off too quick. We discussed my fear of being caught in the mob on the narrow trail up to the first summit. Again James reassured me, discussing that if I played it right, It would be ideal to be in about 20th spot when I got to the top of Kaukau.
Funnily enough, that was exactly what happened. My race went according to plan. At the top of the first climb I could see 19 other headlamps winking their way into the distance. I ran 34 more beautiful, rugged, taxing kilometres throughout the wonderful Wellington hills, sometimes with the best people (and their dogs) and at other times by myself. I arrived at Tip Track mildly careworn but not blown to pieces, from there I sped up, managed to reel in three people and arrived at the top of Mt Victoria in 5.20.19. 18th place overall in the marathon and very, very tired. If I had 2000 more words I couldn’t adequately describe the amazing course, the great atmosphere and the enthusiasm of the volunteers who provided marshalling, aid station parties and Star Wars Cantina music (Barrett!!!).I could go on and on about the generosity of my hosts, Chan and Orsi. I could rant about how cool it was to hang out with Vicki Michelle and Steve from KTR. Suffice to say my experience at WUU2K really was that great.
The biggest progression between XTERRA and WUU2K was executing a race plan. I’ve never really stuck to one before. Having a structured and disciplined approach to the run didn’t reduce my level of enjoyment, it enhanced it, greatly. Being able also to draw from a deeper base of specific training was greatly beneficial as well. It sounds simplistic, but seven months in and I’m really starting to get somewhere. Reflecting back on what has been my second marathon, I’m struck by a sense of accomplishment at my result coupled with a happy determination to move forward. November has me lining up at the Taniwha trail Marathon, my ‘A’ race for the year. I’m genuinely excited to see what I can achieve.
Copyright © 2016 Kiwi Trail Runner Magazine. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Kiwi Trail Runner magazine.
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