Monday, April 23, 2012

Northern Crossing, 2012

Build up:
I've slowly been building up my training volume for this race, peaking with 2 10 hour weeks. The 3 months prior to this race has been by far the most consistent training that I've ever done. So all had been going well... Unfortunately, during a brick run on Monday in the week of the race, I felt an all too familiar sharp pain in my right calf. I had re injured myself just before the event. So I scaled back my taper to almost nothing (no runs at all) and hopped for the best come race day.

Pre-race routine:

For the first time, a beautiful day for a race!
Breakfast, of 2 pieces of toast, some muesli with yogurt and fruit at 5:30. Arrived in time for the briefing at 6:30, and then set up transition, before getting on the bus at 7:10 to head off to the starting area. Warmed up with a quick jog and a bit of a stretch and a pre race GU before being off on my way at 7:45.

Run 1 19/23 9.4km, 1:03:37 GPS here

The run started with a section through the rolling hills of a west coast farm, descending over the first 2km of the race down to sea level. Where, in a change from previous years, we had a section along the beach before re entering the farm and heading to the main road. Once the farm section was dealt with there is a steep climb up and over the hill, followed by an easy section along the road towards Opononi. There is a final 1km section along the beach before reaching transition. 

Not a bad spot for a run... 

For the first 5 minutes or so of the run I felt the worrying pain in my calf, but after then if faded away and I felt fine running. I tried to run within myself to conserve my energy for latter in the day. The changes section along the beach made the run longer, and harder, resulting in a slower time than expected for  everyone. I walked up the hill, as was my plan. It's just too big, too steep and not worth destroying your legs over. The final section along the beach was particularly tough, the tide was quite in so the only sand there to run on was soft, which is never easy. And part of the beach there was no sand at all resulting in having to get around the rocks, without rolling an ankle. 

What would you do differently?:
I haven't run enough this year. I've said it many times before, but it still holds true. Seeing as I ended up injured the week of the race I wouldn't have run anymore, as I was obviously close to the line of what I can handle. But I would like to have been able to. And hopefully by the next time an 'A race' rolls around I will be able to.

End of run 1


Pretty smooth, had some water, changed shoes, helmet on and off on my bike.

What would you do differently?:
As always, more practice!

Bike: 17/23, 82km, 3:47:17, GPS here.

The fun part, coming down a hill.

The bike began with 3 decent climbs, of about 100m each in the first 23km. The course then turns into a long, relentless climb for about 40km, (and 350m gain in elevation) across the country. The ride finishes with a fast 20km, descending 270m to the 2nd transition. All this was done into a head wind which build as the day went on.

The plan for the bike was pretty simple, when its easy (down hill/light wind) drop the hammer and try to make some good time, and when the going was tough (up hills, into strong head winds) keep it easy, keep the cadence high and try and spin my way to the finish. And that's pretty much how it played out. The first few hills sucked, as expected, but had some awesome rides on the way back down. At times I felt that I stayed in 'easy spinning' mode too long, and should have pushed harder, but looking at the data after the race I was shocked at how high my heart rate was... much higher than my training. So maybe I was pushing harder than I realised. 

Nutrition during the bike consisted of 2 bananas, 2 bumper bars (about 150 Cal ea), 2 snickers bars, 1 GU and a bottle of watered down powerade. 

Starting the long climb towards Kerikeri (yes, drafting was legal)

What would you do differently?:
Looking back I'm honestly not sure where I would have found more time, at the time I thought I cruised too much, but the heart rate data suggests otherwise. I would have taken in more electrolytes. I had some worrying signs of cramping starting to develop about 3 hours into the ride.


Quick and easy, had some powerade, a banana and off on my way. Had planned on putting a GU in my pocket for the run, but didn't remember until 5 minutes into the run.

What would you do differently?:
Have a GU ready and waiting, harder to forget. And more practice!

Run 2: 14/23, 7km, 53:57, GPS here

The 2nd run began with another run through a farm, for a few km's before enetering the bush and running along the Kerikeri river. The course featured fences to be climbed and streams to be jumped, before reaching the trail along the river, at which point it became a trail run. 

Out of the bush, heading to the finish

I started the run fast, running initially at a 5min/km pace, which would be fast for me at any stage, let alone after 4 hours of work. After the first 4-500m I got my pace under control and settled into a pace around 6:30/km. However, the tough off road nature of the course, and the fact I was hurting after so long on the move meant that I couldn't maintain that, dropping to around 8-8:30/km for most of the run. Towards the end of the course I allowed myself to walk up some hills, but the encouragement of an older guy I was running with got rid of the walking and I was able to finish relatively strongly.

What would you do differently?:
I would have taken a GU, and possible chocolate with me, the energy boost may have helped me keep the pace up. Other than that an increased running volume is the best thing I can do to improve my run at the moment.

Over all     19/23   5:48:33, 14 minutes faster than last year. 

Post Race:

What limited your ability to perform faster:

1. Weight, as with every race report so far this year, I'm to heavy to do well at this. And a particularly hilly bike course shows that up.
2. Running. I'm not running enough yet, and an injury in the build up really set me back. 
3. A lack of hill training. I should have been in the hills at least once a week in the months leading up to this. Much more than the 2 dedicated hill sessions I actually did.

Event comments:
I love this event. It's challenging, but achievable. And I'm able to see my progress from 7 hours 17 in 2010, t0 6:02 in 2011 and now 5:48... 
Its a well run event, heaps of marshals, and everything runs on time. 
My only complaint is there were a lot less individual duathlon competitors this year. Hopefully the good weather will encourage more to sign up next time. 

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