27 April 2017

Which Kicks for UTA?

With Ultra Trail Australia just around the corner it's time to look at the potential shoe options for race day. Whether you are running the Scenic World 951 Stair Challenge, Pace Athletic UTA22 or UTA50/100 Inov8 has a shoe for all runners and all weather conditions on race day. Here are my thoughts on a few from the current range:

X-Talon 200 - Photo Inov-8
Inov X-Talon 200 - with super grip, excellent trail feel, additional protection in the wider toe box the 200 are a great option if the race is wet or you are after a bit more grip under foot. They drain well so they will be good for those cliff top tracks while offering a bit more protection with the rubber toe guard. The grip and feel of the X-Talon range is famous and the 200 will not let you down on the mixed surfaces of the UTA course. They are designed with mountain trails in mind and from coming down Ironpot to tackling the stairs of the cliff tops runners will definitely benefit from having the 200 under foot.

Perfect for a wet UTA 50 or 100

X-Claw 275 - Photo Inov-8
Inov 8 Trail Claw 275 - these shoes are for those after more grip and support while out on course. They provide runners a good amount of protection under foot, perfect for the rocky trails around the Megalong Valley with super grip for the technical and muddy trials in the cliffs of the Jamison Valley. For those looking at being out there for a long day into the night these shoes would serve you well in May. They have aggressive grip, sound feel underfoot and are pretty lightweight for a shoe in their class so they will benefit runners in the back half of their race.

Perfect for UTA 100

Trailroc V2 - Photo Barefootinc.
Inov 8 Trailroc V2 - while having only tried these on and yet to run in them, I have spent the last fortnight falling back in love with V1 on the UTA trails. They offer super grip, excellent trail feel, solid support/protection and are a more versatile shoe for varied trails across the mountain trail of UTA. They will handle both the fire-trails as well as the single track and with a rubber toe guard they offer the support needed on tired legs later in the race. The updated V2 are looking very comfortable and will give the runner a great choice for a good day out in the mountains.

Perfect for UTA 50 or 100

Trail Talon 250 - Photo Me :)
Inov 8 Trail Talon 250 - with a super responsive, grippy and minimal feel to the sole these are great racing shoes. I find they get a bit light on support after 50km so only those who are truely after a minimal feel should go with the Trail Talon for the 100km. Anyone in the 50, 22 or 951 will benefit as they perform well across most surfaces on offer in these events.

Perfect for PACE 22

X-Talon 190 - Photo Inov8
Inov 8 X-Talon 190 - I'll throw these in for the 951. They are light, grippy, drain well and offer great trail feel, perfect for the stair climb up Furber. They'll give those after more grip in the 22 or 50 something to look at too but as far as going up those dreaded stairs quickly, having light, agile and aggressive kicks on is a good start.

Perfect for UTA 951

5 March 2017

Thriving V Surviving - 6 Foot Track Marathon

This has been my 3rd run at 6 Foot and originally when I planned my 2017 racing it was to be a big one. This is a sentimental race for most and for me it offers many positives that help in motivating me as an athlete. 

On my way to a 1st place finish on what is becoming my favourite trail race
at Wentworth Falls. Photo - XThomas Photography
My build over summer was good and unfortunately right when I pushed go I was diagnosed with pneumonia resulting in a spell in bed, away from work and training. This meant my goals needed to be re visited and the plan adjusted. With upcoming races in February at Wentworth Falls and Orange I knew I would potentially be short of the chance to get a good long run in prior to the race. 

I managed a good 30km long run, jagged an unexpected quality performance at Wenty Falls where I felt good and recovered well afterwards. I then spluttered my way to the finish in Orange a week later taxing myself more than expected with recovery being far more difficult than my normal half marathon effort. After a small block of racing, my training needed to be altered and I was focusing on quality rather than quantity, with 6 Foot fast approaching I was fast running out of time. This approach has me in good shape and I do feel I'm making real progress, but I know I am missing suitable long runs and hill sessions in my legs. Going into a race like 6 Foot where the variety of terrain, level of competition and distance of the race mean runners are truly tested from start to finish, right now to me seems like complete madness. 
Below Pinnacle Hill - I knew here I did not have the required
additional 35km in my to get to the Caves. 

6 Foot is a race that I want to thrive at and not merely survive. As a coach I would advise my athletes to always only race if they were fit and ready, so as a runner should I heed this advice? I want to be able to run 6 Foot on my terms not just holding on hoping I finish off ok, running isn't like a team sport where when you start getting flogged the opponent can back off. It's you against the course and this course throws challenges from start to finish and I'm well aware of just how taxing it can be on a prepared body let alone one underdone! 

I often get asked "are you crazy running that distance?" To which I answer… I would only be crazy if I wasn't prepared properly for that event. This time around I am not, I know this deep down and while it's hard to withdraw I need to for my health and peace of mind.

At Pinnacle where a moment clarity came across my mind.
I am now truly focused on UTA50. Since I finished last year I have wanted to arrive at that start line fit, prepared, focused and ready to run to my potential. Running 6 Foot in my current state would throw far too many variables into my training leading into UTA, similar to what I have experienced with Buffalo in previous years. Too much compromise has led to my training not being consistent and specific enough in the past. For what I want to achieve in May I need to make sure I am not forgoing specific training for unnecessary racing. 

I'm not going to make this mistake again and not racing 6 Foot in 2017 is a tough but important decision I have to make. It's not made lightly and I'm sure I'll have mixed feelings next Saturday but it means I can keep building towards UTA on my terms. No compromise, no excuses but a chance to run in manner that I feel I'm capable of. 

Hurting all the way to the finish chute not willing to give up
one place. Photo - Orange Running Festival
So I choose to thrive not just survive in my races and this year 6 Foot is one that I just can't do. It will be there next year and if I focus on it and things go to plan I will arrive at the start ready to thrive there once again.

Running is part of my lifestyle and it's something I want to do for as long as possible and being able to make the right choices when it comes to my health and racing will only increase my longevity in the sport.

Photo Credit

XThomas Photography

Orange Running Festival Shutterfly

31 December 2016

Staying true to the plan

Staying true to the plan.

Easing back into Summer training.

With 2016 closing off, my thoughts looking towards 2017 revolve specifically around the plans that I have been mapping out over the last 2 months as both a runner and coach. Why some might ask?

* Plans require goals, goals require effort and effort requires programming. An effective plan will periodise the effort, load and training optimally to ensure those goals are met.

Parkrun with my kids has been great for enjoying running.
* Having a purpose for each run gives direction. For example today during parkrun I had to work just as hard mentally as physically to stick to my session and not get caught in the “race”. While some might disagree, my goal for Parkrun is not to win but to develop as a runner and today’s session required float (periods of running below effort) and the benefits of completing session’s like these to plan will be far more important than becoming undisciplined and chasing the “race”.

* I develop my programs around the individual athlete and making sure each runner is at a low risk of injury and likely to succeed in their goals. Carefully programming based on ability, lifestyle and runner goals is vital in ensuring these two things happen.

Parkrun tourist at Stockton
* Planning often requires runners to remain disciplined. From losing the ego in a hard training run ensuring you hit the session brief to saying no to the impromptu group run on your rest day, planning allows the runner to develop discipline. This will be beneficial in their goal events as they will have made sure they had been true to the program and themselves in the build-up to any big race.

* Making sure running is fun and motivating as well as challenging and rewarding will keep both my athletes and I running happily. Rather than setting a program generic to most I try to make things crafted to each individual and their situation. This keeps things interesting for me as a coach and allows on-going adaptation to occur within the runner.

First tri of my adult life was an experience.
* There is no hiding in running, you get feedback on many levels from your finishing time to the photos posted on Facebook. Having a plan to give you as a runner the best shot at getting a PB, a finishers buckle at UTA or that awesome photo running along the cliffs in an STS at Kamay will lessen the chance of disappointment along with adding to the journey towards achieving that particular goal.

I have had a solid year of developing my base as both a runner and coach. I have learnt many things and I have also reinforced the things that I believe in as well. My individual performances were not at the level I have achieved in the past but with a plan now in place I certainly will be leaving nothing uncovered in the desire to get back to that level consistently. My coaching was definitely a real positive across the year, with no DNF’s, several UTA buckles, podiums, places and course records achieved across my athletes. They all had a plan and to their credit they believed in that plan and achieved their goals.

Photo Credit

- Kel Gibson
- Bathurst Parkrun
- Stockton Parkrun

14 August 2016

Coming out the other side... by Kellie Gibson

For those of you who have read my previous blogs you will know I have been on this journey of trying to get my health back for almost 3 years now.

This is the blog that at so many points in my journey I thought I would never get to write. It took me the best part of 2 years to actually figure out what was going on with me, why I had no energy, why I had chronic pain, why I had digestive issues and severe bloating, why my hair was falling out, why I was no longer able to do the things I used to do… especially running which I loved so much and why I had fallen into a massive heap.  After finally getting a diagnosis in November last year with Adrenal Fatigue and hormone imbalances I was further diagnosed with a Thyroid Disorder in January this year. Finally getting these answers was exciting because it meant that now I knew exactly what I was dealing with and that there was a way forward. The way forward certainly hasn’t been easy, there is no quick fix, no magic pill, there have been so many ups and downs and lessons learned. In saying that there is no such thing as quick fix or magic pill, I never wanted one, I wanted to figure out how and why I got there and I wanted to make the changes necessary to get myself out of there and back on track to prevent myself from falling into the same trap again. I believe there is always a reason why we get symptoms and that they are our body’s way of telling us that something isn’t working or needs to change.  I was also adamant that being in my early 30’s I didn’t want to be put on medication for the rest of my life if there was another way, which is why I am taking the natural therapies path, it seemed more sustainable long term to make the changes rather than taking medication to manage it while never really solving the issue. I understand that sometimes medication is the best and only way, and it can save lives in some situations but in my situation I couldn’t justify taking medication and not addressing the reason why I was in this position. There was always a chance that it might not work out for me but my gut feeling was that this felt like my best shot and I felt I had to at least give it a go because I would rather have tried and failed knowing that I had done everything I could and taken the path I wanted to. I think in these situations we need to do what works best for us and what feels best for us as individuals.

So I had reached my first goal of figuring out what was going on with me after feeling like I had lost a couple of years of my life feeling chronically unwell. Now the next goal was to find out just how I got there and the advice that I was given is that the road in is usually the road out.  In my last blog I spoke about my experiences in 2013, tracking back to how I felt I got to this point. It was the year I first started running a lot, I was in a very stressful work situation where I felt trapped which ripped away so much of my self-confidence and my emotional health. Back then running was one of my major coping mechanisms, a way to get away from it all and I was running too hard too often. I was so overcommitted in all aspects of my life, always rushing around and trying to pack way too much in each and every day. Back then my body was in a constant state of stress and I didn’t even know it… until all of a sudden I came crashing down, things that used to be easy became really hard and for so long I had no idea and no answers as to why I felt like that and even though I kept seeing doctors they had no answers either. I can remember at the time when I was constantly in a state of rush the feeling of adrenaline rushing through my body, I thrived off it… rushing from task to task and I remember how good it felt for a while until my body got to a point where it could no longer keep up with this and started to fail me. My perception of stress has changed so much since then, I had no idea that all of this constant rushing around was so stressful for my body.

I have had to make some big lifestyle changes particularly since the start of this year and while at times it has felt like there was no progress or very slow progress I can finally say that I am starting to see some big changes! I am fortunate to have a great team on board including a Clinical Nutritionist who specialises in women’s health, thyroid and hormones, a Naturopath, a supportive husband and family and a few great friends who have been there for me.  My program has consisted of eating a nutrient dense wholefood diet where I have had to figure out what foods were further triggering my symptoms and then remove them from my diet, for me these foods were gluten, dairy, eggs and all grains. This was a challenge at first (especially eggs!) considering they are all such common foods but after removing them and noticing how much better I felt and watching many of my symptoms disappear it has all been worth it and it has allowed me to get creative with preparing nutritious food. I have also used nutritional supplements as directed by my nutritionist focussed around supporting my thyroid, hormones and digestion. I have had a 10 month break from running and cardio based activities as well while I have worked on building up my health again, I have really enjoyed Body Balance classes during this time as well as some weights and walking my dog. I was told that exercise is very important for my recovery but I was told not to overdo it as it would be further detrimental to my health at this point. I had my first run a couple of weeks ago, I ran a slow jog with my 5 year old son Beau at Parkrun and it felt great to be running. In terms of lifestyle changes, I have had to learn to say no more often, for the first 6 months of this year I had to put off further building my Graphic Design business for awhile while I focussed on my health and I have had to take more time out for myself to relax and find other activities that I love that are a bit more relaxing than running. I have basically had to put myself first more often and not feel guilty for doing so. I don’t regret a thing, I have plenty of years ahead of me to focus on other things and right now there has been a big focus on myself and my family and the things that are truly important to me. Sometimes it takes a health crisis for us to put in perspective our priorities, It has changed a lot for me and in many ways I feel blessed to have had this wake-up call.

The last month has seen a huge set of improvements in my symptoms, they are not all completely gone but I can honestly say that I am starting to feel great, in fact better than I have in years. I can see my vitality creeping back in, my energy has increased, I am no longer getting bloated, I am feeling stronger and have started to feel much better about myself too… I am starting to get all of those things back that I missed so much and I am feeling much happier than I have been for a long time! I feel like an improved version of the “old me” is returning. There were definitely some dark times in the last few years but I am so happy to say that I think I am finally coming out the other side and that all of the effort and sacrifice has been worth it… I am proud that I have been able to get myself out of that. I haven’t done any testing lately so it will be interesting to see the improvements in my next round of testing… In saying that, this journey has been all about feeling good again and while testing is important I try not to get too caught up in the numbers, how I am actually feeling speaks volumes and if I am feeling good and functioning at a reasonable level then I am achieving my goals.

A lot of people have asked me why I have been so open about my experience and the truth is I have found it has helped, it has helped other people support me and I have been contacted by so many people who are in a similar position to me and it has allowed me to connect with others… knowing you are not alone and being able to share experiences certainly helps. I am not ashamed in any way and am happy to have been able to reach out to others through sharing, I think it’s ok to be able to share real things and not just the highlight reels of our lives because lets face it everyone has their own struggles and vulnerabilities… we are all human.

I am not going to be rushing out and starting running again just yet (apart from running with my kids at Parkrun, which I am really enjoying), the advice that I have been given is that I need to be very careful when I start feeling good not to go out and overdo it too quickly as I could quite quickly end up back to square one, I need more time to repair my body before slowly easing back into things and then taking a more balanced approach to my running. In the last month when I have been walking and in Body Balance classes I have started to feel so much stronger and have noticed changes in my body. For so long when I was walking I felt so sluggish that I couldn’t even possibly imagine being able to take a single step running, I honestly thought that there was a possibility that I may never run again… Now when I walk I feel like running is possible, I feel like I actually want to run for a bit and that is a massive step forward for me and I know that when the time is right I will be able to run properly again. I have made a lot of progress in getting my heart rate down while walking after it being dangerously high for so long for the type of exercise I was doing but it is still way too high while I am running even at a very slow pace during a walk/run so I have a little progress to make there before I am allowed to run properly. Again I am not focussing too much on the numbers here, I only test my heart rate every now and then as a guide to gauge progress but its not the only factor that I am looking at, how I am feeling during exercise is the most important thing for me. Its just a matter of keeping on being patient, progress is progress and there has been a lot of that lately which is very promising.

This situation has taught me so much about my body and not to take it for granted, health is the most important thing you can have as its really hard to enjoy anything else without it.  Now when symptoms appear I can pretty much pinpoint why and it’s usually because I have done too much (it can be a hard habit to break!) but I am learning how to manage it before it accumulates and becomes a problem again. I have learned to take more time to stop and enjoy the moment and to focus on what is important and let go of what’s not. I have also learned that anything is possible if you want it enough no matter how many setbacks you have or how long it takes, you just have to be patient and pick yourself up and keep going. It’s being consistent with the little things each and every day that count, because all of those little 1%er’s start to add up day after day, week after week and month after month and all of a sudden it just gets easier : )

13 August 2016

Review - Inov-8 Trail Talon 250

Review – Inov-8 Trail Talon 250

The new addition to the Inov-8 range is the Trail Talon 250. It fits into the range as what seems a replacement for the much loved Trailroc. I have had these shoes for few weeks now and have been absolutely blown away by them, they are seriously good.
Look and Specs

They look good, I like the colours, styling and layout. As with all Inov-8 shoes the number represents the weight and at 250g these are light but pack a serious punch for their weight. The fit is true and follows the wider standard fit option which is perfect for longer runs where allowing for foot swell and toe spread is important. The feel is very close to the ground and at a 4mm drop may require some transitioning into for those new to the minimal world of running. The Power Flow aspect of the shoe sole paired with the Dynamic Fascia Band gives comfort and support under foot while return from the ground is super responsive and pleasantly surprising.

I have managed to give these a test in most terrains on a mix of packed dirt road, fire trail, single track, steep climbs, grass and road. Compiling around 80km with 3000m of climb in wet, dry and muddy conditions. I have broken my views into areas of focus;


The grip is very good performing across all surfaces well, I didn’t slip or slide often only on packed mud or very wet descents. The grip was a good mix of grabbing into the surface without the feeling the aggressive lugs that you would find in the X-Talon shoe. This is a great feature as in an event such UTA or STS where you transfer across a variety of surfaces this shoe will perform well in all situations. The wider lugs and varied shaping cleared the dirt quickly, particularly in the wet, and offered traction across a range of angles and slopes, which is awesome for confidence on steep climbs when travelling both up and down. With that said I don’t think they are perfectly suited to going down a super steep hill, that’s the job for the X-Talon range in my view.

Trail Feel
This is the area I was most surprised by, how good they felt on the ground. They are light and it’s noticeable especially when picking up the effort on the flats or up an incline, this is great news for racing. The feel close to the ground and are very responsive rewarding a quick transfer gained from running efficiently. They are also pretty supportive and offer good protection from the nasty bites of sharp rocks/sticks/etc. and this is also a win for those looking to take them on a longer run where considerations include keeping the sole of the foot and toes intact. I did a large amount of running in the rain and they drained water from puddles, wet plants/grass and creeks (new ones that I didn’t know existed until the recent heavy rainfall) very quickly indeed.

Interesting Features

The layout of the sole is very good and really makes this shoe a must for those looking at getting something that will perform on most trail situations in Australia. It offers grip, responsiveness and support providing a great high mileage training and racing shoe that I feel fills the void left by the Trail Roc.

I am really impressed with this shoe and I can see it being used often in my training and in upcoming events such as the Canberra Trail Ultra where it will be at home in the trails and mountains around the nation’s capital. I love the feel and how well it performs at effort while it is still generous enough to give the support and comfort desired in a longer or easy run. The loss of the Trailroc has been softened by the emergence of the Trail Talon and the saying, the end of one good thing leads to start of another is true in this case.

Thanks to Barefootinc. for their support in providing me with these shoes for my training and racing.

Image Credits - Barefootinc. 

Review - Aerodaks

Review – Aerodaks

I bumped into the Aerodaks crew at the UTA expo on the Friday and we got talking. Talking about undies. I was impressed with their passion and knowledge towards ultra running and found they had developed a product that aimed at making the long journey around the UTA course that bit more bearable for the male runner. Raz offered me a chance to test their product and as I was expecting some form of chafe anyway I broke that golden rule and tried something new on race day.

I competed in the UTA50 and wore the Aerodaks briefs throughout the entire 6hrs of my race. I am reviewing the product from my experience on the day and since the event I have been made an ambassador for Aerodaks.

This is my account;

They reminded me of speedo’s but made from a similar material that the undies built into running shorts are made off. I got a pair of size 30 and 32 to trial and went with the 32 on race morning. I think the best way to sum up the Aerodaks experience I had from UTA this year was one of no problems, I was super happy and pleasantly surprised.

Fit – they fit true to pants sizing, I’m normally a 31 so I went up a size during the race and they were fine. They didn’t ride up or fall down and stayed where they should throughout the entire event. After the race I wore the 30 size and found they were a good fit and offered some compression effects which was good for my recovery. At first I questioned the need for the drawstring that comes with the briefs, I didn’t know whether it was beneficial or not but as it was there I just ran with it. The drawstring can be removed if you like so that allows a more personal choice but for me I’m keeping it as it offers additional support in keeping them up.

Feel – I honestly didn’t notice them during the race, they were very comfortable and just wore well. They didn’t hold moisture and in my experience chafe shows up when it gets sweaty or rainy so I was happy that this didn’t happen when it got hot an hour after the start. They “stayed” dry throughout and felt light with no seam rubbing, wedgie’s or anything like that. The technology and time put into the brief’s has paid off and they crack up to their billing on the website that’s for sure.

Post UTA – I have been literally living in my few pairs. I have them on high rotation and they wash super well and have not worn, tattered or gone out of shape. They are reliable and in my line of work as a PDHPE teacher I find having a good quality set of undies is very beneficial. They wash and dry super quick allowing you to get a few pairs rather than buying one pair for every day of the month.

As a person who runs for enjoyment I found the most horrible aspect of running is equally split between blisters and chafe. Aerodaks have solved my chafe issues and I can honestly say that I will not buy another pair of undies other than Aerodaks in the future, they are just that good.

Image - Aerodaks