Mt Lowry Extreme Challenge event recap

Today was not my day, today I got owned by the trail, nevertheless it was a great experience. Onwards and upwards!

The Mount Lowry challenge consists of two events, The Bridgedale classic mountain trail run (11km) & the Vasque Extreme challenge (22km) mountain run with about 1000m of height gain on the course, the Extreme challenge was limited to only 50 participants. I entered the Vasque Extreme event & this is how it went. This event is known for it’s hilly terrain & has it’s own legendary status because of champion mountain runners Melissa Moon & James Coubrough.

The event location is about 30mins drive from where I live in a small sea side town called Eastbourne in Wellington, New Zealand. My event was scheduled for 8:30am with registration & race number pickup from 7:30am. I got there around 7:45am to pick up my number & check in. There were a few of my buddies from Wellington Running Meet up group who were doing the event as well. So I had some company to have a bit of pre-race banter.

Buddies from Wellington Running Meetup. - Kathy, Me, Dom and Ash

Buddies from Wellington Running Meetup. – Kathy, Me, Dom and Ash

There is a great community feel to the event because it’s locally operated, they even have special prices for local participants. The event HQ was in a little park so there was plenty of people gathered to cheer the runners.

Start of Mt Lowry Extreme Challenge

Start of Mt Lowry Extreme Challenge

We had a race briefing at 8:15am then we were off at 8:30am sharp. I felt pretty good going ino the race, no sign of any niggles & I’ve been running pretty well for the last three weeks as part of my overall 16 week marathon training plan. This was an event I wanted to use to get some decent hill climbs into my schedule. My goal was to run most of the hills & try to run the 22km under 2hrs 45mins which was achievable in my mind.

The first 3km was pretty flat along the coastal road to the start of the trail head. I eased into a steady pace without pushing it too much around 4:30 per Km. From the start of the trail it climbs steadily for about 200m straight up, I was doing well around 6:00 per Km up to about 2km into the climb & then my legs just felt completely dead, like someone just hung two 100kg dumb bells to them & my calves were hurting like hell! This took me completely by surprise, I’ve run enough hills & never had this effect before! I was reduced to a painful but steady walk & about 4 people passed me, I was a bit mentally drained but just kept power walking up the hill. It was a painful climb but eventually got to the top. Stopped at the top & did some stretches, the pain was still there but since I was at the top, the trail evened out to being flat so I started a slow run. Eventually the heavy feeling on my legs subsided & I was able to run the next bit but much slower than I anticipated. At this point I realised I needed to forget about my time goal of 2hrs 45, ain’t going to happen!

Around the 6km mark is another steady climb, it wasn’t easy but I went on & in a weird way I was getting used to the pain & the heavy felling was getting lesser. The next 3km is along the top of the trig with a narrow trail which is full of tree roots, you had to watch every step but it was runnable. There was a cut off time at the halfway point at 11km where if you didn’t make it within 1hr 45 you get pulled off the event. I made the 11k point in about 1hr 30.

Mt Lowry Trail Map of the course

Mt Lowry Trail Map of the course

From the 11km point you entered into a forest where you had to pay very close attention to the trail as it descended steadily to the turn around point. This 2km stretch was a nightmare! You had to look up to check if you could spot the trail markers on the trees & you had to watch your step below as the trail was so overgrown & uneven with tree roots! Not fun! For a while I thought I was completely lost! And wait you had to do this bit twice as the route doubled back on the same trail to the turn off point. A few of the fast runners were on the way back including a couple of my buddies.

Anyways after this bit you come out of the forest into a well graded trail which descends rapidly. Uh oh – what goes down must come up! Essentially the trail drops from 300m to 50m & then you go back up the way you came again!

Mt Lowry Elevation Profile

Mt Lowry Elevation Profile

The turnaround point was at around 15.5k where they record your number. Then you go back along the same up 300m! Just at around 16km as I was heading back two runners was coming down fast & me being the considerate runner took one side step to give them way & the next minute I was face down on the trail! $&@k & some other choice words followed! I think my ego was more hurt than any of my body parts as I took check of the damage! Arms OK! Knees.. Uh oh left knee was gushing blood but there was no pain! There was a piece of flesh hanging out but surprisingly no pain! I used my sweat band to wipe the blood away & continued on! A bit angry at myself but happy I hadn’t done too much damage, it’s just a wound & it will heal! Right climb up again & negotiate that forest bit then it’s a downhill! Quick look at my watch I knew I was way off my time I’d make 3:15 if I just keep moving! The last descent is just straight down & there was no way I was taking any chances so it was a slow descent to the bottom & into the finish line! Final time 3hrs 17mins.

Mt Lowry Garmin Summary

Mt Lowry Garmin Summary

Usually after a race I haven’t done before I look forward to giving it another try, but this one I’m not so sure. Maybe after a few months I’ll feel differently. 🙂

Mount Lowry isn’t an easy challenge & it’s named the Extreme Challenge for a reason & today it owned me! I am however glad I took part! My knee is all good and wrapped up in dressing so nothing major. Next event is another mountain run – The Porirua Grand Traverse on the 7th of April!

At the Finish - all smiles despite how it all went!

At the Finish – all smiles despite how it all went! Patrick, Nicole, Me, Kathy, Lilla and Ash

16 week Marathon plan update – week 1

So I am now 1 week into my 16 week Marathon training plan! This was a good week and I was able to complete a 7 days of running from Monday to Sunday with a net total of 102kms which incidentally also is the most number of kms in a week that I have run.


Week 1 Run Total

Week 1 Run Total

The last week was a pretty good week in terms of getting to the total 100km net goal without hurting myself too much. Also I’ve got used to having shorter recovery times in between runs. The highlights were being able to do 2 x 16km steady runs and 2 x 20km runs as well as 2 x 5ks @ my race pace.

During this period of marathon training I’ve also scheduled the following sessions:

  • Fortnightly deep tissue massage from Gary Moller – Gary has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to running and sports recovery and has been taking care of my aching legs for over an year now. The intense sessions are not easy but they do a lot in terms of my recovery.
  • 3 times a week (Usually Mon, Wed, Fri) strength and core exercise sessions (Bootcamp style) with the team at Power of S. 
  • Group runs with my running buddies from Wellington Running Meetup – great for easy pace recovery runs!

Today (Monday) was my rest day. This week I’m going to do some hill running (Multiple times up Mt Victoria or Tinakori Hill) in preparation for Mt Lowry challenge 22k run on the 24th of March.

Happy running!

Chasing an elusive 5km personal best

Since the (second) start of my running endeavors I have been able to improve my 5km racing (well pedestrian when compared to elites) time from 27mins to a current personal best of 20mins & 18secs on the famous Wellington waterfront 5km course. Some might say that I should be very happy and content with the fact that I have been able to improve my times over a course of about 2 years by 7mins but that’s just not the point! I want to run sub 20 meaning I want to register an official time of 19mins 59secs (well 19:50 or 19:30 secretly). I actually ran sub 20 in a recent relay event but that was mostly due to the fact the first 3km of the run was a net downhill, so in my mind It does not count.

So when I look at my progress from over the years relatively I have been able to improve my 5km time (meaning run faster) over a certain period and now it seems that I have hit a plateau.

5Km Race Times

5Km Race Times (recent history)

I seem to be floating in the 20+ to 21+ min range and not actually getting any faster. Also another great comparison is another 5km race that I run but not as regularly as the above race. This is Parkrun which is also a flat course but there is a difference in terms of surface that there are two sections that go over grass. In the Parkrun course my PB is 20:42.

Parkrun 5km results

Parkrun 5km results

Parkrun 5km Grading

Parkrun 5km Grading

The advice I have got is that in order to improve my times in the 5km I now need to start doing some targeted ‘speed work’ sessions. As such one of my side goals whilst training for my first marathon is to inject some speed sessions and improve my 5km race time. Last week I went down to the Newtown park athletics track and did a ‘mini’ speed session. During this session I was able to run a fast 1km time of 3min 28secs. These sessions however needs to be carefully balanced so that I don’t get injured by doing too many speed sessions. The main goal is the marathon and this is secondary, but running sub 20 is also something that I want to do before May 2013. In order to run under 20mins I need to sustain 3min 50/km splits for my 5km targeted race. The annoying bit is I was oh so close when I ran 20:18, slowing down in the last 2km cost me. 😦

5km PB Splits

5km PB Splits

Now I need to target another race and get everything into play! Hopefully with a bit of perseverance and specific speed sessions I’ll get that sub 20min 5km soon!



Running in groups

As a runner you sometimes prefer the solitude of running alone with the ability of going on your own routes & running at your own pace. There are times where you want to explore a little bit more unknown territory and new routes, you aren’t really sure if that trail that you saw while driving is runnable or even where it may lead you. Is it safe? Will there be mad rabbits and or farmers chasing you if you venture out to the unknown? Exploring new routes is all part of the fun of running. When I first started out running I did what most people do – stick to known roads and areas that I’m familiar with, however after a while it becomes a bit boring, yes you can zone out and listen to music or whatever but as soon as running becomes a chore the fun of running is gone!

Some of my best experiences in running has been discovering new routes & trails that’s around in Wellington! (Literally hundreds of Kilometers) Even after running for 3 years I keep discovering new trails. The only reason that I’ve been able to find new trails/routes is because I try and run at least once a week with other runners.

We as runners are always apprehensive when someone else asks us “Hey you should come running with me!” – Our immediate reaction most of the time is – “oh no I’m going to hold you up I’ll be slow” or inside our head we go “oh god! I’ve seen your times you are freaking fast – I’ll be gasping for breath to keep up” – Believe me – I have been like this many a time when others first approached me to join their groups for runs. The reality is if another runner or group is asking you to run with them is not to poke fun at you for running slow or anything else, they are either wanting some company or want to show you some new routes. Now I absolutely love going running with others. I have made these runs to actually work to my advantage and also fit in with my training runs.

So here’s what I did. (And what you could do..)

  • From runners that you know (friends, colleagues, strangers you meet on the internet via twitter) identify a few that you know that you can hold a conversation with (It helps to get over that awkwardness of having nothing to say for a few kms while running).
  • Also if you are wanting to try out new routes you’d want to make sure that they themselves are familiar with the new trails. (It’s no fun for both of you to get lost exploring a new trail!) This is a tricky one, it’s happened to me, Lucky for me she wasn’t an axe murderer. 🙂
  • Join a running club or group – there are quite a few around and this is by far the best option since you are guaranteed to find runners who are in the same pace as you! – Clubs organize weekly “Pack runs” with experienced runners setting various group paces and no one get’s left behind in the trails woods to be eaten by rabbits or wolves. There are other benefits of joining up such as mentoring, coaching and also participating events that you might not otherwise go by yourself.

Things to watch out for.. (and rightly avoid as much as you can..)

  • Run every single day with the same person – unless they are your immediate family, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife and you have no choice!
  • Talk endlessly about how awesome you think they are or you are or your BF/GF/Dog/Cat/Family is – stick to some general conversation and give the other person some room to talk (and room to run too)
  • On narrow trails – one of you will have to go in front – be sure you know the trail if you are or let them lead!
  • Avoid running with complete strangers whom you met on twitter or Facebook! Unless of course they are ‘known’ runners and have been twitter stalking you for a while telling you how awesome you are!
"Now you wouldn't believe me if I told you, but I could run like the wind blows. From that day on, if I was ever going somewhere, I was running!" - FORREST GUMP

“Now you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but I could run like the wind blows. From that day on, if I was ever going somewhere, I was running!” – FORREST GUMP