The (Old Ghost) road to improvement- Lessons from 2020

I came away from the 2019 Old Ghost Ultra feeling like I had let myself down.

Finish line with Phil Rossiter -2019

Strange, since I had no expectations and it had been a long time since I had any desire or drive to go fast or faster in my case.

But nonetheless I was not satisfied with “just a finish” which in the past had been my only real goal. My typical race preparation when it came to splits or pace was to work out the cut-offs and plan to be ahead of them.

2019 promptly became the year I would improve. Yes I wanted to be on the “most improved” at the 2020 Old Ghost but I also had a sudden and unexpected desire to have a crack.

I have a history of that stereotypical “all or nothing” approach, my diet, gym, etc is fantastic until something happens and I miss a session or eat something I consider rubbish and next minute the whole thing is out the window. I didn’t want to do that again, so I added one thing at a time. I hired a PT (read about it here) and added a once a week sprint HIIT cycle class.

I was consistent with my running, my PT and my cycle class. My diet is this years goal!

In 2019, I set .. PB’s

  • Maroondah Dam 50k – ⬇️ 35min
  • Mt Macedon 50k- ⬇️ 50 minutes
  • Surf coast trail marathon- ⬇️ 17 minutes
  • Road half marathon – ⬇️ 4 minutes
  • Melbourne Marathon ⬇️ 13 minutes

Maybe it was the training, maybe it was the mental attitude, who knows.

Melbourne Marathon 2019

But after the Old Ghost last year, I wrote a list of all the things I could do better.

  • Start line placement
  • Politely asking to pass
  • Choose better shoes
  • Mentally preparing for the unexpected
  • Running the “small” hills

In 2020, I am happy to say I ticked most of those boxes, the “run more hills” let me down a little in the second section.

My start line position fixed the conga line and passing problem.

No one to be seen

My Altra Olympus shoes fixed the brutal rock problem.

But there are still many improvements to be made.

1. Don’t tangle with bad weather

I was in a bit of denial about the weather at Old Ghost this year. Despite having fantastic gear for cold and wet conditions, I hate wearing it and avoid it at all costs. This meant I was wet for a lot of the day, my feet were wet from the start but I wasn’t phased by that (vasoline and injinji socks!) but also my top, pack and tights were saturated and never really dried. When the rain came in, I thought I’d wait it out and probably put my jacket on a bit late. People were freezing cold so I’m probably lucky I wasn’t one of them. Probably should have packed a spare running top (not just thermals) in my pack and put my jacket on sooner.

2. You always have more to give

When Geoff said we were going to run 6:45 min/km for the last 12 km, I was scared. Scared that I wouldn’t be able to keep up and I would embarrass myself but also scared that it would hurt. Truthfully, I could probably have run a lot faster from as soon as the downhill started just after the Ghost Lake hut.

This is going to sound nuts, but I’m a massive pain avoider. I’m a “be conservative, you’ll need it later” type of runner. So I go out slow, shuffle and finish with more to give. I’m scared of going out to hard and “bonking” though I don’t think that has ever actually happened to me.

3. Group training and racing is a thing

It’s no question that I was faster in the back half because I had Geoff and Ferriccio by my side.

Training groups around the world, from Kenya to Japan and the US have all found increased success in their marathon teams due to group training.

Whilst I’m all for running your own race, I’m going to make more of an effort to get to group runs this year, especially speed sessions because I’m a bit slack at doing it hard on my own.

4. You need to practice the “ups”

I added a lot more hiked stairs in my preparation this year but not enough. The hiking didn’t hurt as much and felt easier but it was as fast or efficient as it could be.

I’m also not convinced I’m using the old poles as efficiently as I could. They helped for sure but only when i mojo was there, when it wasn’t it was just something else to lean on.

Lots of things to work on and see how we go for next year. I’d also like to be a few kilo’s lighter and leaner so let’s get crackin’ !

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