REPORT: Dwight Grieve on World mountain running champs
The world mountain running champs is by far the biggest race I have ever done, I have previously competed at national level and the World Masters Games but this is a whole new level. On my way to getting there many people and organisations helped me make it, this write up is for them to see what was involved and how I appreciate and need the support.
Training focus changed once I applied for the team and really stepped up after selection, running at this level is not a 6 month training plan, it is years of gradual improvements that then lead into a build up for a single targeted event, everything else becomes secondary.
A typical week of training for this event was –
Monday – 45 minutes easy paced run around Te Anau lake front and 20 minutes exercises targeting core/legs
Tuesday – Approx 1 to 1 ½ hours hill reps at Ivon Wilson – warm up then simply run hard up a hill, jog back down and repeat again and again
Wednesday - 45 minutes easy paced run around Te Anau lake front and 20 minutes exercises targeting core/legs
Thursday – 1 hour 40 at a solid speed targeting small hills – typically from Te Anau run through Ivon Wilson park then onto the Te Anau golf course running all over the place looking for hills to run up and down
Friday - 45 minutes easy paced run around Te Anau lake front and 20 minutes exercises targeting core/legs
Saturday – Tempo day – warm up – run hard for 40 minutes – warm down – typically Tui bay to control gates easy, Brod bay in about 19-20 minutes, turn around and return the same
Sunday – Long run day – 2 ½ hour run – often Doc to Rainbow reach, cross river and return
Total week is normally around 95 – 105km
Being on shift work much of this done at silly hours with headlamp on and in less than average winter conditions
Build up went well and as event approached coach Shaun Cantwell changed things up to take the training base and add speed to peak for the big day. Three weeks out I was lucky enough to be allowed to run Mount Prospect, at 6.8km and around 650m vertical gain it is a perfect match as a build up for the champs, using it as a replication of race day. One week out was a pain session on Ramparts road doing two 1500m climbs at full pace. The Southland Road champs in Te Anau were also part of the early speed build up and a solid PB in it was a great sign.
Due to distance to travel we left Te Anau 6 days before the race to get to Andorra, leaving home 11am and getting to bed in London 36 hours later, getting up next morning to fly to Barcelona to then catch a bus to Andorra, Andorra is a small independent country in the Pyreness mountains between France and Spain. Andorra is best known as a tax haven with skiing and cheap alcohol. The race was being hosted in a small town called Canillo based at an altitude of 1500m above sea level.
The countries that had travelled the furthest arrived first but 2 days out from the race the town was awash with uniforms from around the world with an amazing atmosphere building. Team NZ trained and completed course inspection together, the female team all returning after previously competed at this event while the men were all new to this level.
The course itself was based over two ski resorts with 12km of distance and 1050m vertical gain, think of the Kepler track and running from Brod Bay to the top of Mount Luxmore.
The night before the race an opening ceremony was held and it was an amazing feeling to be marching behind the NZ flag amongst 35 other countries.
Race day dawned fine and warm, I could see the race start line out the window of my room in the town itself, I had goose bumps as I watched the women warm up and made my way down to watch them start. As the sun reached into the valley the temperature was rising and hit 28 degrees.
Things then turned real and during warm up you could sense the tension, this wasn’t just another race and all were taking this seriously, we all entered the call area and had our names checked off before lining up at the start line. The race started in the town and the 110 runners had to squeeze into a single road lane width, I personally had a race plan of relaxing into things and build up as the race went on so started ¾ of the way back, the front line had some serious pushing and bustle going on.
From the start elbows and shoulders were flying as all headed out on the first section of road, after about 2km we entered single trail and I felt great, I stepped it up a bit and started passing others, but then the lungs just wouldn’t let me keep it up, the altitude was kicking in. The single trail stayed a consistent grind winding its way beside a creek before flattening out near halfway, this lead to a short descent leading into a gradual climb, in this section I was able to gain my breath and made some good gains, the last 4 odd kms had us leave the shade into the sunlight and some steep climbing, my lungs went again and the heat kicked in, I fought as best I could and even had some periods of dizziness. The finish area was amazing as the you run up the last 200m of track with the track lined with people cheering and supporting.
I hit the finish line wrecked, my lungs were in pain and I was exhausted, but also very proud to have had the opportunity to wear the silver fern, after hitting the finish and knowing I did all I could there was even a wee tear of pride as the situation hit home.
In the wash up, the Ethiopians dominated with the top 3 placings, I came home 88th and second kiwi home, improving on my 3rd ranking. Our junior male also found the going tough while the women’s team did well with top runner home in top 20. Their previous experience showing through.
In the debrief the common factor for the New Zealanders was how much the altitude affected us, apart from the top NZ women who had been racing/training in the area for 3 months, we all had issues getting enough breath.
No excuses and I know I did all I could and gave 100%, that was all I could do. But it has left me with a drive to do better, I have seen the level required now and the competitive side of me is never happy, I want more and to do better. Many of the runners at the event are full time professionals and it was a bit mind blowing listening to them talk about their professional teams etc but it makes it even more motivating to match them.
Seeing we had travelled so far, my wife and I extended our mortgage so we could travel and participate in another event while exploring our roots in Scotland. We entered a 10km race as part of the Lochness Marathon, a large event with the 10km race having 1800 entrants. I was not fully recovered from the week before but still managed to match my 10km PB, 8th overall and won the masters (40+) section by 2 minutes. Both my wife Lee and I made sure all people knew Fiordland was present, proudly wearing our club singlets, giving a loud Fiordland roar at the finish and doing some local media interviews making sure they knew how amazing Fiordland and NZ is. A good solid result that again bought back the reality of the level the week before. On the way home I also run Ben Nevis, the highest point of the UK and run with 1200 others at Bushy Park the home of the Parkrun phenomenon, again getting the Fiordland singlets and name in print.
The experience has been amazing and would never have been possible without the support of my community, family and friends. To continue to be motivated to train and shuffle my life to make it all happen is hard, when I get you all putting up your hands and helping it is humbling and keeps me going. Not just financial support but moral support. In return I will continue to promote our sport and part of the world, I am always happy to help others to achieve what they can.
Many thanks must go to those that made this opportunity happen –
Jade and Opel Factory Arrowtown (long term sponsor and supporter over many years)
Syd Slee Charitable Trust
Fresh Choice Te Anau
Athletics Southland, Southland Harriers and Masters athletics Southland
My running family – all those I have run with over the years that make this sport so much fun, all the friends I have made for life
Special thanks go to Shaun Cantwell, the coach - You can run the miles and dream the dreams, but to make them happen takes a team
And of course, my family, Lee, Hunter and Paige, they make sacrifices daily, so I can train and do what I do, every holiday based on a race somewhere and even when we travel having to pull over and let me have my training run.
Again my heartfelt thanks to all of you that helped me reach my dream of a NZ singlet.