Awesome Aussie Adventures

Now having been back in Wellington for a few days I can start to reflect on what has been a great experience for me. Having the opportunity to learn more about myself, visit some cool places and have lots of fun while doing it is something I am grateful for.

 

Opera house
Sydney Opera house really looks more gand in real life!!

 

Meeting so many new people and at times putting yourself in new surroundings out of your comfort zone I think is really important for personal development and growth.

Running has provided me with an opportunity to do this and I hope this continues to be the case. One day I may be able to think of myself as a wily old traveller having discovered the world through running and it is that connection with the land and the outdoors that I truly love and the opportunity to explore is something that I crave everyday.

 

darling harbour at night
Darling Harbour at night

 

Ultra Trail Australia provided all this and more for me and I really hope that I will be able to attend the event again and capture the magic of the blue mountains sometime in the near future.

On the racing front, to be delighted with my result is a modest understatement.  I put my heart and soul into the process of getting myself in the best physical and mental shape possible and it all came together, as one could only envisage before race day, when the gun fired.

 

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Calm before the storm. Getting in that zone

 

I had faith in the process of what works right for me and what I respond best to and it worked well for me so I will continue to do this in the future.

There was a stacked field and I had nothing to lose so I went off from the gun and made sure that I tracked anyones moves at the front while not exerting any more effort than necessary.

I was sitting in 4th place for the majority of the 8km downhill section where I quickly settled into my rhythm and tried to let gravity do the work for me.

Soon after hitting the Jamieson Creek Crossing, Vlad and Blake took off and I knew that I would be working to catch them. I focused on my own pace and continued to keep my cadence going up the hills fast.

Before the aid station at 12.8km I caught a few glimpses of Blake in 2nd place and it was just the motivation I needed to crank the pace up a gear to try catch him. By the 15km point I had drawn level with him and decided that I needed to try get a big buffer before the brutal Furber steps.

After this we hit some single track was where I felt most comfortable with the terrain and I started to quicken further with less gradient to tackle than the wide and often steep 4WD tracks beforehand. Fortunately there were km markers counting down 5km from the finish so by now I was just running for them and trying not to think about those darned steps.

Vlad had 2 min 30 on me at the bottom of the steps according to the guy with the go pro (sorry I don’t know your name!) and I had 2 min on Blake so I was really digging deep wanting to hold on for dear life.

 

Nothing could have prepared me for those steps. I had to give everything I had and I was reduced to walking up some of the steps and soon lost count of how many steps I had come up as I was gasping for air to get some O’s to the legs which felt like bricks by this point.

When finally someone said that I was at the last set of steps I was refilled with some optimism as if I had any breath left I would have been cursing the stairs!!

It was definitely a moment I will never forget seeing all the people lining the finishing strait. The euphoria that rushed through my veins got me to that finish line in 1:46:04, a time which I was very happy with, 3 min behind Vlad and 1 min in front of Blake.

Receiving the finishers medal and getting put in front of the mic is a very cool feeling and one that I truly savoured. The result didn’t sink in for quite a while but the content of knowing that I achieved both my goals, (podium finish and run 1:45-1:50) is something that I take pride in.

On reflection it left me with very happy memories of the Ultra-Trail Australia, Katoomba and the Blue Mountains.

 

blue mountains lookout
The blue tinge of the clouds gives reason to the ‘Blue Mountains’

 

I was quite surprised about the amount of people who congratulated me afterward and the praise that I have received motivates me to want to better myself everyday. It makes me appreciate the sport that I love and all the people who make this possible. The volunteers, officials, sponsors, marshalls, race committee and anyone else who helps make it all happen should be applauded, without your dedication and sacrifice you would not be able to change people’s lives, much like I feel UTA has for me.

On the trail front, I will not be racing again for another 5 months. This is going allow me to have a comprehensive build up to my next main race. Trail Running Nationals in Waihi. After not being able to run in 2016 due to injury, I have some unfinished business and I would dearly love to upgrade that 2nd to a 1st!

For now, stay healthy, eat well and happy running.

Niam

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Xterra Trail Running World Championships.

This post is a race report I have done from my adventures in Hawaii in December 2016.

A big Thank you to everyone who helped me achieve this great success including my sponsors:

  • Don at Phiten NZ
  • Robert at Purebread NZ
  • Marewa at PURE Sports nutrition
  • Rob at New Balance NZ
  • Nina at GU Energy NZ

Xterra Trail Running World Championships 21km, Kualoa Ranch,  Kaa’awa, Oahu, Hawai’i

  • 4/12/2016
  •  6th Place Overall
  • 2nd Place 20-24 age group
  • Time 1:33:08

  rego

 Leading up to race day I tried to stay as calm and relaxed as possible, going through the similar process again helped me take my mind off the race, knowing that I had done all the preparation and now I just had to transfer that to the race.

This year the competition was going to be very strong, in my opinion better than that of 2015 made me a muddled combination of nervousness and excitement which made sleeping the night before the race somewhat challenging. It’s not every day that a kid from Scottish gets to race against the elites with some very impressive credentials such as: Joesph Gray, 2016 World Mountain running Champion, Patrick Smyth, 3x defending champion and 10th place getter at NY marathon. Chad Hall, younger brother of Ryan Hall, 2x Olympian & the fastest American ½ marathoner in history but an impressive athlete in his own right. Nick Arciniaga, holder of a 2:11 Marathon PB and Thomas Puzey, who finished 14th at the 2016 IAU 50km Championships to name a few.  

 Returning to such a magical place is hard to describe but it is really picture perfect, funny that seeing as many movies have been set here, such as Jurassic Park and Pearl Harbour and the opportunity makes the experience all the more memorable. After the pre-race Hawaiian blessing I am standing on the start line and next thing we are all in one big mass taking off down the road like it’s a 5k.  

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Tearing off at a blistering pace, not sure how long I can keep this up for!! behind me, Thomas Puzey (USA Singlet finished 8th)

A quick glance of my watch at 1k and I see 3:47, which can either mean I have gone off too fast or I am feeling really good and I’m ready to run hard. After this stretch of the legs I settle into my rhythm and find myself in 9th place. This continues from about 2km until about 16km. During this time, I find myself lost amidst my own thoughts or my heavy breathing running on my own. At times I’m finding it difficult to keep with my early pace but I simply remind myself that it is just one foot in front of the other. The undulating and at times muddy nature of the course means that I always had to be 100% focused which can be very taxing but I just broke it down into small chunks and felt a sense of relief every time a mile marker appeared.

 

I caught sight of a runner in front of me at about 14km and was just the motivation I needed to try chase him down. I knew with the ‘death march’ hill coming up at 15k that this was an opportunity to dig deep and catch him. The closer I got gave me more motivation to push and I was within touching distance by the summit of the hill, which was followed promptly by the ‘mud mile’ which can be best described as thick ankle deep mud while running downhill with the option of ropes to assist you. I took my chance and passed him as he slipped over and try to best put as much daylight between us. Now passing over the Kaa’awa valley for the 2nd time, it was so slippery from all the other runners who had gone after us, this made it very difficult to stay on my feet.     

 

xterra-race-1
Grinding it out, Trying to get into that zone.

I heard another runner closing in behind me and I tried my best to hold him off but he shot passed me as I myself slipped in the mud. I recognised him and his white t-shirt as he shouted out ‘keep it up dude, you’re going well.’ He was in front of me at the start so now I was a bit bemused as to how and why he had come up and passed me. Despite this seeing the finishing line in sight on the horizon kept me pushing all the way. He did not get any further in front and was still in sight so I decided that I should give one last kick for the finish. I closed the gap to 10 seconds, then 5 as we ran off the switchbacks and down to the finishing chute but it wasn’t enough as he finished a whisker in front of me, a mere 2 seconds. As I saw the clock at 1:33:08 as I finished, I was overjoyed as I had ran faster, in tougher conditions than last year. It took a while for me to catch my breath at the finish and the realisation that I had been able to finish and leave everything out there flooded me in something that can only be described as crying with joy.

xterra

After this I talked to the guy who finished in front of me, Jacob. It is only at this point that I realise what unfolded during the race. As it turns out, Patrick Smyth who was in 2nd at the time got DQ for taking a wrong turn and behind him Jacob, along with two other runners took wrong turns, and consequently lost time finding their way back onto the course. This had meant that when I was in 9th I was actually in 6th, and when I was briefly in 8th, I was actually in 5th before he was the only one who managed to catch back up and pass me. Although I felt sorry for them, as an athlete you have to take your luck when it comes and that is simply the nature of trail running and that anything can happen on the day.

 

I was initially a little disappointed when he had beat me and finding out that he was in the same age category as me, then thinking that maybe I could have pushed harder in that final run for home, but then I reminded myself that my goal going into the race was to get top 10 and that if I ran a time close to that of last years or better that I would be very happy and managing to achieve both of those was very satisfying. From then on I just tried to soak in all the day and the atmosphere of the race. As it turned out it started to rain, which is quite rare in Hawaii but very much like Wellington which reminded me of home.

 

 xterra-race-3

 

 So luckily for me, my 6th place effort resulted in me winning US$250 which was cool and some sponsor freebies which I somehow had to find room for in my luggage. After my 2 seconds of fame on the podium and being presented with my 2nd place medal, what I will treasure most about my race experience is the people, who really make the sport of running, regardless of the discipline one that unites people together, with a shared understanding of the joy and freedom. This being a feeling, location time and place that I plan to return to one day in future.

 To find out more about the Xterra Trail running series:

http://www.xterraplanet.com/trailrun/

 Xterra Trail Run worlds website including links to full results, photos and race report & video http://www.xterraplanet.com/trailrun/worlds/

May you go where the path leads you.

Happy Running

Niam