Thursday, August 14, 2014

Matt Hosking and His 100 Mile Debut

Earlier in April this year, I couldn't recognise Matt when we were picking up our race packs at the Buffalo Stampede. Out of running attire, he looked completely ... like a superstar non-runner like? I confess that I thought he was an actor or something, and was about to secretly take a photo of him until I realised, "hey, I know this guy!"

Matt Hosking is one of the co-founders of the Surf Coast Trail Runners. He recently completed his first ever 100 mile trail race at Trails+'s You Yangs Hardcore 100 Mile in 19 hours, bagging 3rd place in the mens' category.

Here, he shares with us his thoughts and preparation for the event.

1. First and foremost, a huge congratulations in completing your debut 100 Mile in an amazing time! What was the first thing that went through your mind the minute you crossed the finish line?
"It's done!" - a mix of relief, exhaustion and exhilaration. I had run more of the course than I expected, came in an hour ahead of my ideal time and finished 3rd overall, so it had been an awesome run for me and felt great to have it finished. What surprised me the most, especially on finishing, was that I never hit "the wall" or had any "dark" moments that they talk about during the run - I'd managed to stay in a pretty good frame of mine for the whole race. A lot of this I owe to the great support I had from many familiar volunteers and some surprise pacers that turned up on my third last lap - I think those guys really picked me up for the finish and made a big difference to my run.

Crossing the finish line at the You Yangs Hardcore 100 Mile this year.

2. How did you spend the rest of the week recovering from the run?
At the completion of the race I immediately hit my usually post run protein shake, some soup and the packet of gummy bears I had stashed in my bag. I find the sugar helps pick up my mood a bit over the next few days (and who can be in a bad mood with gummy bears?) I slept for a few hours at home and came back early afternoon for the presentations and fortunately to see Jon Lim start his last lap and George Mihalakellis finish, both of whom were doing amazingly well after being on their feet for over 28 hours. Legs were feeling pretty stiff but not as bad as expected. I had booked the next day off work (in case I couldn't walk) but was not too bad. By Tuesday I was able to run apart from some reasonable top of foot pain. It was great to just relax, not "have to" run any more and just enjoy the day off with my family.

3. When did you start training for the event? What was your longest run leading to it?
I started training for the miler two weeks after I'd run the Buffalo Stampede Ultra and the event was announced which allowed me 10 weeks of training and 3 for taper (I figured a good taper would be critical to sustain a reasonable pace for such a long time). This was a bit of a crazy time frame as I hadn't run over 100km yet and just finished a race that was more vertical gain than distance, but it seemed achievable. The plan was to hit high mileage with a focus on back-to-back and night running to best simulate the event itself. I ran a lot of 15km and 20km training runs along the local rail trail in the mornings and at night, averaging 100km weeks for May.

The first week of June was still holding up pretty well but I was starting to get over it. Chris Roberts and Isaac Walker were planning a 70km run, incorporating the Surf Coast Trail Runners' SCTM training run, which was a good test to see how I was holding up. I ran that at a 6 min/km average (excluding stops) so I was happy that I was in a good place with less than 6 weeks to go. After that I switched to running long runs exclusively, hitting 45km+ each weekend long run in June which was great mental practice for switching off and a welcome change up from frequent runs in high mileage weeks.

4. Share with us how you had planned to tackle the 160km of running, from intended race pace, nutrition, gear and rest. Did everything go as planned?
My second long run in June was two laps of the miler course to get accustomed to what I'd be running and get an idea of the pacing. By this stage I'd already analysed the course some-what and was thinking an average of two and a half hour laps would be ideal. I managed to clear both laps in under four hours so my estimate seemed okay. This worked out to be 20 hours with a 7:30 min/km average pace, well clear of my 6:18 min/km pace I'd run the Surf Coast Century 100km last year, so it seemed fairly safe. The plan would be to start at around 2:20 laps and drop them back slowly.

For nutrition I was planning to run exclusively on 240 calories of Science in Sport GO! electrolyte, changing flavours each lap, and one Branch Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) tablet each hour to reduce muscle wastage and hopefully fatigue. The gear came down to a choice of shoes and I'd ran 350km or so in my new Inov-8 Roclite 243s which were a 3mm drop down from the 6mm 295s I'd loved previously. They were fantastic shoes to run in and never gave me issues so I went with them. Everything went a little better than planned with the first lap around 2:05 and adding 5 minutes or so each lap. The nutrition was great, I didn't get sick of it and I felt good. The shoes held up really well until about 120km and my left foot started to hurt a little from not being full transitioned to 3mm, but nothing too serious.

5. What went through your head during those 19 hours of running? Did you sing or talk to yourself, besides taking selfies up on Flinders Peak?
This is an interesting one as I remember some parts and others are a blur. I had a few strategies that worked really well for switching off and running. The first, and probably the most important later on in the race, was to set goals to reach before walk breaks. This worked well to ensure I ran when I should be and allowed me to start noticing different landmarks along the way that showed how close I was getting (I didn't look at my watch a whole lot). This would be change in terrain, or bridge, or a particular set of fallen branches - anything to keep me looking for the next landmark and keep my mind off thinking about walking. The toughest part of this course was the long runnable stretch, around 15km from the top of Flinders Peak to the start of the 87 at the park office, and this helped me get through those in good time.

His green monster.

The second was to hum tunes or rhythms in time to my running which, as a musician, works great as you can be a little creative and distract yourself. Having kids though, this often means you end up humming silly things they make up or their favourite songs but that helps you along too, which brings me to the third strategy. I run all events now with a little green monster my wife made from a design that my eldest daughter had chosen out for me with 'Go Daddy' embroidered on it. This is great as it reminds me of them but I also hold onto it to feel connected to them at some parts (this really helped me through SCC). Being on your own running beautiful trails is always a great experience, but better when you feel connected to others. This was very true when I finished my third last loop through the horse trail section (that damn horse trail!) and came back in to see two people had turned up and were saying they couldn't find anyone to pace. I yelled out jokingly, "You can pace me!" and then realised it was Chris Roberts and Ben Loone (fellow SCTRs). That really picked me up for the rest of the run.

Another highlight was that second last lap after I'd taken 3rd male position, where Chris and I put in a great pace down the eastern boundary (5:15 min/km average, I think) after we saw lights catching us. I slowed down to a more reasonable pace when we started back west but the lights kept getting closer and closer. Eventually they were so close and I thought "this guy really deserves it" and slowed down so we could at least chat for a few minutes before he took off. To my surprise it was Kathy Macmillan, 1st female, who I hadn't realised I'd passed after Flinders Peak. This was both good and bad - I still had 3rd, but now I had to keep it (I wasn't even out there to race it)!

6. Be honest. Have you ever had a mental breakdown during a race?
The closest I've been in an event would probably be Marysville 50km last year. I set out too hard, ran things I should have walked and wasn't well prepared in planning or training. I ran quite well, but paced with people that were above my level of fitness at the time and by 40km I'd had enough. It was a nice run, particularly heading up to Stephensons falls, but very tough. The great thing that happened in that race is I fell in with a few other guys that were also run/walking by that stage and it became a more social run and less about pushing myself. For the last 4 or 5km I walked it in with Claire Beyer who was having a tough day and we helped each other to the end and it refocused my approach for running - more social, more enjoyable and less focus on hitting goals.

Out of events I've had some tough runs - my first night half marathon I was pretty tired and at the half way of the out and back course I was practically falling asleep. I dragged myself back in but didn't enjoy that at all. I wrecked myself at the Wild Wombat Crossing run earlier this year, pushing myself up some big hills without enough preparation and in high 30 and 40+ degree heat. I bailed out at 20km through the 35km run, but managed to walk in another 15km by heading out of Lerderderg and to the road where it was cooler and flatter - a good run for me to remember when I feel like I'm not going to be able to finish a run: my body held out that day, so it will now.

With wife Katrina and their 2 daughters.

7. You must have a vice or a bad habit. Name us two or more. Please.
I'm only occasionally a big drinker now-a-days, when I catch up with friends for drinks from time to time, but my real vice would have to be donuts. Iced donuts, jam donuts, cinnamon donuts - all of which Coles in central Geelong has usually on sale and pretty decent, and close to where I work. When I hit my high mileage month, I'd taken to a half-dozen donuts most days after lunch. Eventually I switched to more fruit and less fat and sugar, but not before culminating in the "jamburger": a jam donut sandwiched in Mars cookies - every bit as awesome as it sounds, but very likely not a good idea. :)

(Yvonne: I feel like having a donut right now ...)

8. What events do you have in your bucket list?
I'm very pleased to get into the Great Ocean Walk 100km this year which I have only heard great things about (even that it's one of the best in Australia), and I haven't seen much of that area and hear it's amazing. I'm thinking I'll run Wilsons Prom 100km next year, followed by TNF 100 in 2016, but I've been really keen to get back to the Grampians for a while and run the trails we used to hike as a family when I was young. I haven't been there for a while and it is an amazing place with so much to see and so varied. Fortunately, just as I was about to start mapping out a trail for maybe a family holiday up there later in the year, Matt Bell comes up with the idea of getting Rohan Day to run an event there - Wonderland Run. Really looking forward to that, but I don't think I can wait a full year before getting up there, but will definitely be at the event.

Apart from that I still have Mount Macedon and Maroondah Dam 50km events to tick off from the Trails+ mountain series, and would love to do more of the Running Wild (Mount Buller Skyrun, Razorback Run and Lake Mountain Marathon) and there's Andy's Bogong to Hotham I'd like to check out, and the Baw Baw Trail Running Festival, maybe even the Alpine Challenge one day. So many trails, not enough time (and money)!

(Yvonne: I am tired just by the sound of all the events!)

During a training run at You Yangs Park.

9. There's training, gear, nutrition, etc to be taken into account for a race. How would you summarise it in a pie chart?
Given that runners love being rewarded in food (myself included) and that you've asked for a 'pie' chart, I'll rank these by how many pies out of ten in total I think getting each part right is worth.

One pie - gear and nutrition, bear with me here. These are very important, but there are so many good options coming out on the market for gear, and there's a few good companies making nutrition much easier (e.g. Tailwind) that getting this right isn't as difficult as it used to be. And if you get this right you hopefully shouldn't get blisters, black toenails, run out of energy or get stomach trouble while running.

Four pies - training. It's pretty straightforward that you need to spend some decent time training but what is really important here is quality. This includes mixing up distances and paces (tempos vs. long runs), strength work (hills and gym) and specificity (running similar courses and in similar conditions). I find that without a decent plan it's hard to work out how to fit it all in without feeling like you're constantly running. Less can be more here if you are training the right way and allowing sufficient recovery. This is also where you need to test and prove all that gear and nutrition, hence why it also requires more work than the gear and nutrition itself.

Five pies - execution. For me this is what it's all about: doing everything you need on the day to to get your best result. I think a lot of people misunderstand my approach on this. I'm not about watching every little thing, checking paces constantly and pushing yourself so hard you don't enjoy the race; actually the opposite. I believe if you create a good, easy to follow plan that covers your nutrition and fluid intake, practical paces you can sustain and use of appropriate gear to make your run more comfortable then you can relax, almost blindly follow the plan and just enjoy yourself. When done well you avoid running too hard at the start and limping through later, hitting the wall late in a race, dehydration, and a slew of other nasty race killing problems.

Yvonne: Haha I was expecting this:

Matt started running since February 2011, for a corporate team triathlon. From 5km runs to 10km runs and a few half marathons, it was a year later when he got into trail running. He ran Surf Coast Century 100km last year and came in 12th position in the men's individual category, with a time of 10:33. 

Judging from what you've read so far and you know just how much dedication he puts in his training plan, you can't blame me for calling him The Man With A Plan - he loves his spreadsheet! :)

Thanks, Matt, for taking the time to share with us your story.

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