Coach to 60km Ultra

Race Reports, October 21, 2018

Here is my experience of my first ultra. I'm hoping you can gleam some tips. Any questions please feel free to get in touch.

Before completing my first trail run I viewed Ultra runners as "nutters". Obviously, a bunch of people "running away from life" with issues that need a couch and a lot of therapy. After completing my first Tarawera Ultra 60km in 2016, running from Rotorua to the beautiful Tarawera falls my view of the ultra running fraternity totally changed. They are the sane ones. Training for, and getting involved in these events is embracing all the best aspects of life.


As a coach I have coached trail runners for the Tarawera Ultra. I do the odd small triathlon, and I've run marathons for almost 20 years. As part of my training I have run on trails (they are softer so good for recovery runs). I know the science and have got runners to the finish of events with good results. In post event reviews my trail running athletes would must often be buzzing. Full of the joys of life, and waxing lyrical about their experience. Now I understand why. 


Everfit's coaching philosophy has always been about blending in training around life so joy is enhanced. What better way to achieve this than training with great people in our beautiful environment. Training for a 60km trail run doesn't have to involve excessive running. Mixing in cycling, swimming (if not proficient then get lessons), and functional body weight exercises will keep the body and mind fresh, there will be less chance of injury and staleness. I used a 3 run a week schedule with one long slow run (longest of 3hrs 10min covering 32km), and mixed in 2 x Les Mills RPM classes, 2 x swims, and 2 x functional bodyweight exercise sessions (with a cycle or sand jog warm up/warm down of 5-10min). Three weeks out I did two 3 hr runs in the space of 5 days as opposed to the usual "Long run weekend Saturday and Sunday". I'm not able to do consecutive long runs due to a past knee injury that flares so I've learnt to train around this with spacing runs out more. If an athlete has a history of chronic injuries that flare sometimes spacing out runs or using the bike to increase duration is a great idea so niggles are not aggravated. Getting the athlete to the start line with consistent training should be a priority.


I have been lucky enough to coach trail runners with experience so as a trail newbie some of the information I required was more gear orientated. After the 2015 Queenstown marathon I purchased a pair of Hoka One Speed Mafarta's and began using them on the odd run, and made sure I tried them on at least one long run. I was hoping to run the Tarawera in my usual asic kayano's but if wet I knew I would need more traction.  I deliberated on the running pack for a while finally settling on the Ultimate direction Anton Krupicka pack. The ease of drinking and refilling the bottles swayed my decision over the pack with a bladder even though in training it took a bit to get used to the bottles on the front. The pack also had the ability to carry my seam sealed jacket which as the race grew nearer was likely going to have to be carried as part of the compulsory kit. I now rotate my shoes between the Altra Paradigms (road trainers), Altra Torins (road racing more than 10km), Asics racers (track and up to 10km), and the Altra Lone Peak (trail). I believe feet love variety of shoes and it's beneficial to have a variety for different training and racing requirements. 


The race day was an incredible experience. Thank you to all the volunteers and to Paul and Tim for shaping the culture of this race to deliver an experience that money can buy. The conditions were wet, muddy, and slippery. I was thankful for the cushioning and trail tread on the Hoka Mafate Speed but found the toe box a little narrow. I will always have a pair of maximalist shoes as they were very beneficial in the wet muddy conditions over the long haul (I now use Altra shoes for the extra wide toe box). The Ultimate direction pack was fantastic. The ease of taking a drink in the slippery conditions + the speed to refill at the aid stations ensured no time was wasted. Another big thank you to the wonderful volunteers who calmly grabbed my bottles out of my pack as I was munching on watermelon (seriously - isn't the water melon the most wonderful fruit in the world when consumed during a trail run), asked what I wanted - refilled while telling me how good I looked (I know they were lying as I looked and felt like a scarecrow in the rubbish tip); then placed them back in my pack while I exited stage left grabbing nicely chopped up banana to go. My self-esteem plus believe was always enhanced going into the aid stations, and it was usually enough to sustain the journey to the next one.


Talking to my beautiful wife the day after my first trail race I made the comment that an Ultra run or any Endurance event is life compressed into a day. You have moments when you are flying along running effortlessly feeling a million dollars, then in the next instant you are walking up rises with your hands pushing on your knees to reduce the ache. In those moments you start to doubt, but you keep plugging away then before you know it you are cruising along feeling amazing again. The world belongs to the person who turns up and grafts. An ultra-race, more than any other endurance event I have experienced teaches you that. If getting out and doing a little "grafting" in nature was prescribed for people by our health practitioners I truly believe we could improve this countries health and wellbeing. There is something very special about getting a little uncomfortable in nature. As a trail runner your mission should be to accept everyone’s point in their journey and promote getting active in nature at the level where that person is. Not everyone will want to participate in an Ultra so don't frighten them - just nudge them into doing some more walking in a local park. Get them started within their capacity, and let them open horizons. Moving in nature is what we are designed to do as human beings. Doing this with good friends with a common purpose is expansive on many levels, enhancing wellness.


Check out my 50km and 100km Tarawera programmes on my site.

Brad Dixon is a sports physiotherapist, coach, and wellness evangelist based at EVERFIT Physio & Coaching. His passion is helping people strive for their potential with promotion of enhancing daily habits. The power is in your hands! Connect with Brad at, and on the book of FACE, Strava, and Instagram (everfitcoach).