Ultra Training Weeks 5-6

Push through to side plank

Week 5-6-7

In week 5,  I was trashed. I wonder if I was sick with a virus when I ran the 36km, I’m not normally in that much pain…I took 2 days off my own training and only moved around with clients when I could. I also managed to get into Hot Yoga on the weekend to fix my lower back and hamstring. I trigger pointed my lower back, obliques and it seemed to release that area and help drop  my hips to level my hamstrings. I also focused on my glutes and added in kettle bell swings just whenever possible. Just 20×2 sets to help with my hamstring and lower back. My lower back was tight and needed an active stretch and the best way for me to do this was to do kettle bell swings. 

Pistol squats

I foam rolled every night and stretch too. I also had 2x Hammer endurolytes and 3x spirulina every night and it seemed to release the muscles and I felt much better as the weeks went on. 

Here was my training below;

Week 5

Monday – Easy Morning 1 Hour Jog

Tuesday Morning – Rest 

Tuesday Evening – 8km run. 

Wednesday Morning – 1 Hour easy jog

Wednesday Midday – 45 minutes hill walking

Thursday Morning – Long Hills x5

Thursday Evening – 500 m x6 with Core Focus, bike crunches, back extensions, plank

Friday Morning – 90 minutes Hot Yoga

Friday Morning – Easy jog 30 minutes, step ups, resistance band rows.

Friday Lunch – Stairs 

Saturday Morning – Easy Jog 1 hour

Saturday Recovery

Sunday Rest

Mount Nebo Bike Ride

Week 6

Monday – Easy Morning 1 Hour Jog (finished painting the office)

Monday Lunch – 1 Hour Bike Ride Easy

Tuesday Morning – Rest

Tuesday Lunch – 7km TT

Tuesday Evening – Easy jog 30 minutes, bridges, feet hip width apart, toes together knees together, feet wide and clams. 

Wednesday Morning – Easy 1 hour jog

Thursday Morning -Hill/stair Sprints x5

Thursday Evening – 500 m x6 with Core Focus, bike crunches, back extensions, plank, calf raises, kellie bells

Friday Morning – Easy jog 30 minutes, step ups, resistance band rows, kettle bell swings, back exertions with lat pull down.

Friday Lunch – Fartleck 1min on 1 min recovery strength tricep dips, single leg bench squats, calf raises 

Friday Afternoon – Birthday Lunch Drinks

Friday Night – More Birthday Dinner drinks 

Saturday Night – More Birthday dinner drinks 

Sunday – Easy ride with the kids for fathers day.

Sunday afternoon – putt putt golf. 

Week 7

Monday (this is my LDS that I deferred from the week before due to my birthday and fathers day) 

1:45 Min Mount Nebo Return bike ride (999 vert), 10 minute rowing machine, sumo squats, kettle bells, pistol squats, burpees, push through to side plank with suspension trainer. I came in after my bike ride with way too much energy and had to hit some strength to get my wriggles out! Great! Sign. I use the bike to build mental strength and physical strength and this particular ride always sets me up strongly for the next 1-2 weeks. Bring on Week 7-8


B100 Training Week 3-4

B100 Training Week 3-4

This is always when it gets a bit serious. I’d just gotten through my first official solo long run in 2 years and it was right on the money. Now how do I recover???? Let’s renovate!

My blog writing went astray over the next 2 weeks because I thought it was time for me to claim 1/2 of my step son’s (aged 9.5) play room for an office for myself, I’d been running my coaching business and Brisbane Trail Ultra from a breakfast bar and a very under powered MacBook Air and it was time for me to get an upgrade to an iMac as I do all the artwork for myself and Brisbane Trail Ultra. 

I made what I thought was a fair trade of a lego technics helicopter that I had saved up for a situation like this for 1/2 of the toy room. The trade was done and William was happy. I then started cleaning out his bedroom too as I thought I was going to need all the space possible to have a neat toy room/office and found a soon to be birthday gift that Adam my partner had given me in the cupboard. Crack up! I was wondering why he didn’t want me to clean out his son’s wardrobe, he was hiding gifts in there. I think I have found every gift so far since I moved in. 

Ahhhh my new creative work space

Once I started cleaning my step son’s playroom and realised I needed this room painted white if I was going to be happy in this space. My partner then bought me ceiling paint as a gift (not quite like the other gift I’d already found). There I was hand deep in white paint revamping the space and not blog writing but man the difference it has made to me is insane. 

Once I was in the study/toy storage room William wanted me to help him with the helicopter. I managed to get a bit of work done then while William was at school and with the helicopter in pieces next to my computer on my brand new Ikea white desk. My obsessive compulsive, disorder (OCD ) took over. I started to build the toy and I could not stop building the helicopter until it was finished. I was so worried that William would return home from school upset as I’d finished it without his help. I don’t think I was given enough lego as a child. Instead of being devastated like I would have been he was over the moon that I had built his helicopter for him. Phew! Usually my OCD gets me into trouble and not usually that kind of reaction. I’m the best step-mum in the world to him at the moment. Yippee. 

The stunning view from the top of Kangaroo Point Cliffs

Here was my training below;

Week 3

  • Monday – Easy Morning 1 Hour Jog
  • Tuesday Morning – Intervals 800m x2 zone 3, 800m x2 zone 4, 2 minutes recovery. 
  • Tuesday Evening – Kangaroo Cliff Stairs x10, Hill Sprints 30 sec x10, Kettle Bell Swings, Sumo Squats, single leg bridges, 8km run. 
  • Wednesday Morning – 1 Hour easy jog
  • Wednesday Midday – 45 minutes hill walking
  • Thursday Morning – Long Hills x5
  • Thursday Evening – 500 m x6 with Core Focus, bike crunches, back extensions, plank
  • Friday Morning – Easy jog 30 minutes, step ups, resistance band rows.
  • Friday Lunch – Stairs 
  • Saturday Morning – Easy Jog 1 hour
  • Saturday Recovery – 90 minutes Hot Yoga (Kids Sport in the Afternoon) 
  • Sunday Rest (still painting the office)

Week 4

  • Monday – Easy Morning 1 Hour Jog (finished painting the office)
  • Tuesday Morning – Intervals 1km x2 zone 3, 800m x2 zone 4, 2 minutes recovery. 
  • Tuesday Evening -Hill Sprints 30 sec x10, Kettle Bell Swings, Sumo Squats, single leg bridges, 8km run. (in between session building Ikea Furniture)
  • Wednesday Morning – Kangaroo Cliff Stairs x5, x5 Hill Sprints, single leg pistol squats bar assisted
  • Thursday Morning -Easy Jog
  • Thursday Evening – 500 m x6 with Core Focus, bike crunches, back extensions, plank
  • Friday Morning – Easy jog 30 minutes, step ups, resistance band rows bike crunches, sit up with weight, Russian twists, back exertions with lat pull down.
  • Friday evening volunteered at Last Man Standing, AAA racing. 5pm- 3am, it was pretty cold and I’d been awake for 24 hours with my usual day job. I had to get off my feet at about 1am, my foot was killing me. I’d developed a deep blister on my 3rd toe and it was freezing. I had to put my feet up. 
  • Saturday slept and soaked my foot in epsom salts hoping it was going to be okay for the 36km training run the next day. 
  • Sunday – 36km Blackall 100 Course Start to CP2 then and out and back to CP4. 

I unfortunately worked out that strava auto pause doesn’t always work for me.It wa the first time I tried it and decided that it’s best not to use it in the future. I recorded first 20km loop of B100 and stopped at my car to re-fill water bottles and the app didn’t start up again. Ran the extra 16km. I didn’t;t look at my time once or check the app as when I am out on a run the time doesn’t matter you just have to do the training and learn from it. I finished the last 6km in a fair amount of pain. It was the training session I was meant to have as I started it quite tight and not feeling the best. Be it all the renovating or the volunteering in the cold. When I started I told Cora it wasn’t going to be a “TT” it won’t be a pretty time but I just had to do it. 

I didn’t get to my yoga that week, I also had my period too. My period usually wouldn’t upset me but I was not as diligent with my enduorlytes as I’d run out and my spirulina that I swear by to keep me supple. I was also too tired to get in the bath from volunteering all Friday night/Saturday Morning and this was a massive mistake. I had a ball helping everyone out at the event but I paid for it. I hate the cold, I was lucky I left at 3am because I could  feel a bit of asthma coming on Saturday Morning and knew that I had a clogged chest when I started on Sunday Morning for my long run. I love 30 plus degrees to run and race in. I did a great time for 30km, then I spotted Cora (we took off together for the training run so we could both run at our own pace and we decided to catch up on the out and back to the Mapleton Days Area Check Point) maybe it was psychosomatic, the minute I saw Cora I tightened up. It was like my mind decided that I did not have to run anymore. I was cramping in my diaphragm, intercostal muscles, and ab rectus. I’d done way too much ab work on the Friday with a coaching client and I was paying for it now. I’d woken up with a tight right side, it was the right side where I had my sore toe too from the Friday night and a tight hamstring. I’d missed my Hot Yoga session on the Friday AM it showed. Cora ran with me back to the car. I was happy with the day, the hills did not seem as big as I remembered, I was able to run up everything feeling great until the 30km. I worked on my training nutrition and I was super happy with it. 

My post Kangaroo Point Cliffs Photo. Those stairs never stop hurting.

All is coming into place. I just have to make a promise to myself to do the following every day; 

Daily Recovery

  • Option 1 Hot Yoga
  • Option 2 Hot Epsom Salt Bath – Foam Roll and Stretch
  • Option 3 Super Hot Sower- Epsom Salt Scrub in the shower and foam roll. 

Notes to myself

  • Keep up the electrolytes in the week.
  • Keep up the spirulina too to prepare your body for a long run
  • Cross Training Weekend this weekend. 

My Training day Nutrition

  • First 20km
  • Leda Choc Chip Cookies x4
  • Orange Red Bull 50%
  • Last 16km
  • Ledo Choc Chip Cookes x4
  • Red Bull 50%

Bring on a recovery week!

The Process – Week 2

The Process – Week 2

It’s week 2! I felt tired and lacking the motivation. I gave myself 2 days off on the weekend and I came back flying again on Monday morning feeling really fresh. Tuesday Morning I woke up tired again as I did not sleep well after having a late (3pm) hot chocolate but I got through those dreaded intervals. I have now all of you to keep me accountable as I write this blog. Massive thank you for reading. 

The downside to being self coached is that the motivation has to come from within. The upside is that I can run to feel, and I have a strong scaffold around me to keep me honest. The Process. This is why we pick an event, develop a program, follow a training program, even if it is organic, running to feel, I really am, just working within the timeframe I have between my PT/Run Coaching Clients and Family. I would race more often but at this stage of my life my kids are in club sport and often clash with racing events. At this stage of my program I am still feeling fresh and able to train hard.

18 months off racing has been a massive training break for me. So it is a real first to comeback and just see how well I go. Let’s see how much I can improve in 12 weeks. 

Most of my first’s first City2Surf, first 1/2 Marathon, 1st marathon, 1st 6 Foot Track, 1st Oxfam TW, 1st UTA100, 1st 100 Mile was completed because I knew I’d told way too many people about what I was doing that I could not stuff it up. I remember climbing up the Pluviometer at the 27km at 6 Foot Track and wanting to pull over to the side of the trail and lie down and die but the shame of telling everyone that I’d DNF’d was enough to keep me going. I’d told way too many people about my plan to finish the 6 Foot Track, I even talked my way into the elite wave of the most prestigious even in NSW at the time!!!! It was only my 2nd marathon!!! The balls I had back then, crazy!!! There was no way I could lie down on the side of the track. I had to keep going.I had to do well and I had to finish, I couldn’t stop, I talked my way into being amongst the best I had to prove myself. The RD gave me Bib 100, the lowest ranked person in the 1st wave. I proved that I should be there by placing 11th-13th out of 20 women. I can’t remember! It was 10 years ago but I beat the cut off for the wave by 10 minutes, 4:39. I did it I made my way into being amongst the best trail runners in Australia. The following year I did 4:32. Then the race clashed with Tarawera Ultra and my daughters birthday and found it hard to race it again. 

There is a danger in telling the world about what you are doing, the biggest one is telling the world that you are in the best form of your life and you are expecting to do well. For me that was way too much pressure and usually lead to a DNF when I started racing more often. Humility is found out there on the trails and it is the biggest leveller of ones ego. 

So here I am in week two of my training program and just seeing how I am going. I am not wearing a watch, I am just running to feel and asking those around me how fast they are going and gauging my speed off them. I’m a perfectionist and know I will put the most pressure on myself, I’m best not knowing, no pressure to hit a certain time per lap, just doing the training that needs to me done and pushing my own limits. It’s been a while since I felt dizzy or sick. I felt both on Tuesday. I know I am pushing hard enough without a watch. 

10 Kangaroo Cliff Stairs Done

This is my program for Week 2 

Saturday – Rest Day – Family Time – Painted the exterior of our house with my eldest daughter who is grounded for wagging school the day before! Yippee, manual labour for a term. 

Sunday – Rest Day – Family Time – Finished painting the outside of the house. Great quality time with my eldest daughter. Felt like we are getting to the bottom of a few things. Bringing up teenagers is always tricky and loving to have the chance to me an engaged parent. She has no chance getting around me because I’ve done it ALL before!

  • Monday – Morning – Warm Up Easy Jog 1 Hour
  • Monday Evening – Warm up – Running Drills Technique Focused Hills 30 sec 15% x10. with squat to over head shoulder press, sumo squats, kettle bell swings. 500 m easy jog Rowing RB band, Single Leg Squats, Lunge with a row. Stretch. 
  • Tuesday’s Morning – Warm up Running drills x4 600m intervals ( pushes hard ) 200m recovery. Single Leg Bridges x 3 With a client, she timed herself I just gauged my time from her.
    Turned up at Kangaroo Cliffs an hour before my coaching session….hmmm…
    warm up, 10 stairs, ( fast, felt sick and jelly legs) doubles up 1/2, doubles down all the way – tempo run 5 min – 10min cool down
    then train clients for 3 hours post…
  • Client 1 warm up
    10x hill “ sprints”( for me just working technique)
    core reverse crunches, windscreen wipers, plank stretch
    Client 2 Warm up running drills, 500m intervals x5 butt work 500 loops cool down stretch
    Client 3 8km Easy Run
  • Wednesday Morning – 1 Hour Hills 
  • Wednesday Lunch – 45 minutes hill/stair walking
  • Wednesday Night – Warm Up 10km Tempo – Cool Down
  • I’ve pulled up sore and started thinking about what I am missing in my diet. Adding in more amino acids, more leafy greens and vegetable and Hot baths. 
  • Thursday – Bike Ride Morning
  • Thursday Evening – easy jog 1 hour
  • Friday – Easy jog 1 hour Morning
  • Friday Mid morning – Bikram Yoga, felt great post yoga and it has to be a non-negotiable in my weekly routine.
Legs were sore on Thursday so I hopped on the bike

Saturday – First Long Run 30km Blackall 100 Course. 

Saturday I set out to see where I was at. Let’s just see what your body can do. No pressure, no timing just you and the trails. There was a particular training run that I thought was incredibly important to prepare for the Blackall 100 Course. It was the Gheerulla Falls Loop, Mapleton Day Use Area to CP3 return, 30km. The plan was for the day was to run to feel. I still am running without a watch but I decided to use the STRAVA app so you guys can follow me through this process. It was the first time I used the app. I turned on the app and that was the last time I checked the time for 30km. Time was not important today, running to feel and making sure my technique was perfect was the main goal. If I can hold prefect form and technique then the time will be good. I was allowed to puff on the 3 major climbs but feel no burn. 

I set off and realised when I got to the first junction I’d never run here by myself. I am use to running with others or having the course directions from B100 to show me where to go. I also hadn’t downloaded a map. I just expected to remember the course from racing the B100 through this section 2x and from 2 extra training runs. I ran off, checking the junctions and going from memory. It was great to be out on my own, stretching my legs and not worrying about running to fast down the hills. I usually have to stop and wait a fair bit when training in a group so it is nice to set my own pace and feel free. 

I got to the first descent, Big Hill #1 and was pleased with my technique. The goal was not to smash up my quads but to manage the impact through my body by lifting my knees, enjoying the flow, being as light on my feet as possible, running on air. I felt great, I hadn’t lost any of my agility. The hill reps at Tenerife Park and Brisbane Trail Ultra Course had kept my reflexes sharp. I made it to the bottom of the Big Hill #1 and was super happy to turn right and just run. I cruised up the hills that have hurt me in the past and thought that is was going to be a good day out in the office. I decided to try out a new nutrition plan. (Really, I was pretty disorganised on Friday afternoon, chasing up a pair of jeans that needed repair, these jeans actually fit my runners quads, calves and butt, Scotch N Soda , La Bohemian Mid Rise. I recommend them for runners bodies ;-D So comfortable!!!!! ) 

New Nutrition Plan That I whipped together with what was lying around the house. 

  • Red Bull Tropical 50% water 50%. I had 1 can (decanted in a water bottle), I initally had 2 cans ready to go but I opted for 
  • Red Bull Organics Ginger Ale 50% Water 50%, (decanted in a water bottle),
  • 2 ginger nut cookies by Leda, 
  • Spuds mashed with Flaxseed oil, 
  • Hammer Anti fatigue caps, 
  • Hammer Endurolytes
  • Random Amino Acids of my partners that I found in the cupboard. 
  • Long Run 30km Gheerulla Falls Loop from Mapleton Day Use Area. 

I sipped on the Red Bull Tropical every now and again and when I got to the bottom of the  Big Hill#1 I ate my 2 ginger nut cookies. I cruised along happy as thinking that the track had gotten faster as there is definitely more of a wear pattern on the path, the creek section seemed more ordered and easier to manoeuvre, not as rugged as I remember.  I just popped along, enjoying the time alone. I then came to an intersection and had to stop. This was when I really knew I had no idea of where I was. I pulled out my STRAVA app, and google maps and just guessed the correct way to go. I’m sure I’ll work it out after a few hindered meters. My guess was right. 

I cruised along thinking how stunning it all looked the forest looked like it had totally recovered from the fired they had 3 years ago, it looked like a perfect wildflower garden. The sky was clear, the creek was full and running, the recent rains had given everything a beautiful drink, I think it was the best condition I’d ever seen this part of the course and I was so happy to be back again. 

I got to where CP3 is meant to be and was surprised, as my bladder I was still full of water still and felt amazing even with the extra weight in my pack. I cruised up this hill like it was just one of my hill reps with my clients. I then got to the switch backs and stairs and just told myself it was Kangaroo Cliffs. It’s all about the technique. No pushing, just lifting and a high cadence. I loved this climb every switch back meant I was catching a glimpse of a spectacular view, I snuck in a quick photo of the Great Dividing Range out in the distance, and continued up it feeling great, and happy I was able to run this climb and not have to stop and walk it. I made it to the top and realised I’ve always followed people up here as I am usually in a group or behind a runner or catching the Blackall 50km Runners on this climb, I never experienced it on my own and then realised there were a few more turns than I remember once on the plateau at the top and I had to stop and check the map a few times. 

I ran through the single trails, through sections that in the past I really struggles through but felt great taking in the view and really loving my surroundings, I loved the rocky outcrops, the grass trees, the wild flowers. The bush looked happy , I was enjoying every minute of the landscape. I popped down into the rainforest, climbed up again, crossed the road, ran down the rugged single trail, then crossed the road again, descended back onto the original trail to finish the loop. I came to another intersection, Gheerulla Falls, I had to stop, pull out my map and check. No service on the Google map, I started to track read, looking for my Inov8 X-Talon foot print on the track, checking if I’d come down that way before, I could not see my foot prints. I pulled out STRAVA and I could see where I was on the STRAVA map and where I’d dropped into the track. I was only a few hundred meters from the intersection according to STRAVA. 

Loving the single trails on the Bluff, it was like a perfect wild flower garden

Cool, back on track and within 200m there was the Big Climb #1. I made my way up to the top of the climb, running the whole way, switch back after switch back, nice and chilled, within myself imagining I am following Ewan Horsbrough, Beth Cardelli and Brad Bartch, trying the match there insanely high cadence. I was puffing, yet no lactic burn. When I reached the gate at the top of the climb I gave myself 10 walking steps as recovery and before I knew it I’d recovered and just cruised it back to the car and finished my first solo long run in almost a year. I pulled out my phone and figured out how to stop the STRAVA app. I was ecstatic with the time 3 Hours 44 Minuted. Just under 30km and about 9300 vert, focussing on just technique. 

On the way back to family sport I gave my first Brisbane local training partner a call. “Brad, I just did the Gheerulla Falls Loop 3:44. Is that where I need to be?” I asked. 

“Yeah….that’s about where we use to do it. 3:30-4:00 so right in the middle”. He replied. Poor Brad is returning from surgery and I feel for him. Brad Bartch always paid more attention to times and pace than what I did, as he’d run many a sub 3 hour road marathon and has the discipline to stick t pace. This was the man who decided my splits for the B100 10:59:59 course record so I gave him a call. I’m not putting pressure on myself to beat any of my previous B100 times, it is just nice to know that I am back to where I need to be to have an enjoyable B100 and not to kill myself trying to make it to the finish line. My fitness is still there I just need to believe in my own process that has served me well over the past 12 years. 

Sunday – 1 Hour Cross Train on Bike and Rowing Machine – Hip flexors are sore, need to stretch them out.

The Process

Shona Stephenson winning Run Larapinta 4 day stage event in Alice Springs NT

This blog is about following the process and seeing where it will take you. 

This will be an open an honest account of how to come back from a major set back in your training and your life and how to drag yourself out of a dark hole. I hope you like it. 

When I raced, I’ve always loved a crowd, I will run faster if I think people are watching, I also feed off the energy of those around me. Of course I share my training programs with my clients but no openly with the public,  it’s a big deal to me to share what I do with readers weekly. Not because of what others think of me but because I don’t want to put extra pressure on myself to perform to a crowd and push myself hard in training session than what is required. I’ve over trained in the past, so it will be a really great experiment for myself to see if I can control myself emotionally throughout this process. Hopefully in about 12 weeks I will be ready to race again.  I hope you will like following my journey. 

The Process. Why do we need “the process”

The process is what keeps us on track, focused and achieving our goals. It is the formula to success in your training that will then reflect through to your career and your private and family life. If your formula to success is being followed then you will have a beautifully balanced life juggling all your balls of importance, making time for each one and keeping those who you love happy. Most important keeping yourself happy through the self love that is given to yourself by yourself from following the process that you have designed for you or have had a coach help you with a personalised training program. You can only love others fully when you are loved yourself. The number one person you have to love in you.

My process has over the past 10 year revolved around racing trail running events. From UTA, UTMF, UTMB, B100, Oxfam TW Sydney and Brisbane, Kokoda Challenge, Coast Trek, 6 Foot Track, Tarawera Ultra, Darkness to Daylight and more. The racing was what left me focused on short, medium and long term goals.

When I was 18, I just wanted to finish Oxfam Trail Walker in twenty-four hours some day. It was a massive long term goal. This goal went on the back burner for almost 14 years, but when I was 32 I finished my first Oxfam TW Sydney in 18 hours. In 2012 I was lucky enough to be in the overall winning team 12 hours 18.  In 2010 I set a goal for myself to come 10th in the UTMB and to be ranked in the top 10 on the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) and in 2014 I achieved that goal, placing 10th in the UTMB and ranked 8th in the world on the UTWT. I also won 3 Blackall 100 (B100) in a row, 2nd, 6th place in the UTMF, 1st place Northburn 100 Mile and 1st place Hakuba International Trails, 9th Place Mont Blanc Marathon, 3x 3rd Place at UTA and 1st place at GOW, GNW, x21st Coastal Classic etc. . Racing is what I love and lived for. 

Shona Stephenson in the last 400m of the Mont Blanc Marathon finishing 9th female

I love competing and will push myself way harder in an event than in any training session.

Loving the focus of an event every 4-8 weeks.

My process was the following;

  • Set a long term goal of a special event. 
  • Then find other lead up events to prepare me for this goal. 
  • Put together a training program to prepare myself for these lead up events. 
  • Then eat, sleep, stretch and hot bath myself, and treat my body with love and care so I will be able to make the training sessions, then the lead up events then my end goal event. 
  • Fit in partner time with a date night every week,
  • “partner training session on a bike” 
  • kids school sports
  • Family movie time
  • weekend family day together. 

If I wasn’t peaking when I raced I did not care I just raced myself back into form one race at a time.

The social aspect of racing is what also kept me fulfilled. I have made so many close friends whilst out racing that I have kept for over a decade. It’s a caring community made up of driven but down to earth people. For me it is a place where I connect with others easily as trail runners are a special breed of people. I’m found humility amongst trail runners, and know that the mental process of having to stay positive throughout your racing is what helps develop certain type of brain waves that is beneficial to mental health and character.  If you let that negative thoughts take over you are no longer running you are walking up that climb.

The maximum amount of vertical gain in ultra trail running events is what I have found helps to train my brain like nothing else I know.

Racing for me is an awesome excuse to catch up with friends, smash yourself physically and mentally and load up on those amazing endorphins that come with achieving a massive goal. This was what has driven me for over 10 years. It’s what helps keep me healthy mentally and physically for 10 years. 

Racing regularly forced me to stick to a training program. Watch your diet, do not drink any alcohol and really look after your mind, body and soul. My racing meant that I got to my intervals, stairs, hills, bike, tempo, long runs , strength and yoga session in the week, knowing that this formula is what leads to success.  Only yesterday when I was forced by my partner to stop and think was I bought to tears with how much I really miss racing and the freedom of being able to train and really push your limits having full confidence in your body.

It is impossible for me to talk about my process without discussing why my formula went off the rails and made me totally rethink my own identity in 2018-2019. My beautifully balance juggling act came crashing down with one simple decision.

Where it all went wrong was April 2017 when I had the Mirena put in. The Mirena is an IUD with a low dose hormones, used as contraception for women. I was 39 and already had two children and was then entering a steady relationship with my now current partner of over 2 years, who already had one child of his own. We had “the talk” at the beginning of our relationship and we decided that having more children was not ideal for both of us moving forward. I was told by a fertility doctor that the Mirena  was a wonder form of contraception as I worked out I was allergic to latex, and that I would not even feel any of the effects that usually go hand in hand with the contraception. No weight gain, no mood swings, just the smallest amount of hormone that will only stay in your uterus. 

For me this was very wrong.

I was on top of the world with my racing, in love with an amazing man, the love of my life, setting a new record at Mount Mee marathon by 20 minutes, then two days later I had the Mirena put in without any issues. I was told that I should feel pelvic pain but that pain should go away after a few months. 

if you let an ultra runners know that you will have to put up with some pain then that is what we will do. 

My pain threshold is insane. I am still walking around with a broken left arm as it has never been reset as the doctor thought I wasn’t in enough pain when I was 10 and that the injury must have been an old break. He was incorrect. It was a fresh break. I was just really good at pain management. My elbow is still massively deformed. 

Before I was an ultra runner, or an athlete of any type, my two pregnancies were similar too as in I looked like I wasn’t in enough pain to be in labour. I had to lie about how much pain I was in so they’d let me into hospital for my first baby. “What are you doing here?” they asked me when I turned up at the birthing centre. 

“Just look after everyone else first and when you are ready to come back and examine me”. I replied. My contractions were then 2 minutes apart, but I could always talk through them. I’d only been in labour for about an hour. 

When they examined my I was five centimetres dilated, so they let me stay. I gave birth within an hour after they gave me the all clear to give birth. The next morning I was up walking around asking for food and they thought I was some random in the birthing centre. “What are you doing here?” they asked. 

“I gave birth last night, can I have some toast?” I replied. 

“Oh you were that girl (I was 26 at the time) who gave birth really fast.” The midwife replied. 

Luckily, for my second baby they knew I was going to be fast and when I said I needed to come in they let me in straight away. My first was two hours and fifteen minutes my second was 1 hour and twenty minutes. I was only at the hospital for 20 minutes before I gave birth to my second child. No time for happy gas, no bath births or even panadol, I didn’t have the time for such things for both my pregnancies. Just working with my mind and my body in connection and dealing with the contractions as they came, and enjoying the recovery for 30 seconds later. Just like fartlek training (I wasn’t a regular runner when I had my girls, I was just good at utilising times to rest and recover, it was naturally built into me).

So when I was told to put up with the pain of the Mirena for 7 months I did. 

The Mirena pain was so bad that I went from breaking records running mountain marathons to not being able to run about an oval first thing Monday morning with coaching clients. I was also putting on weight too. The Mirena tricks your body into thinking it is just about to have a period. For most women this is the you feel the weakest not your strongest.  This was what my body was told for 7 months. I went from feeling strong to feeling weak. 

When I ran Darkness to Daylight, I ran it with 2 nurofens, 6 hours before I started with a meal (massive no, no in ultra running), when I ran Brisbane Trail Marathon and broke the record by 30 minutes, I ran it on 2 nurofen the day before. When I ran Kokoda Challenge again 2 nurofen the day before. The nurofen made me feel so much better with my pelvic pain. I felt free with this pain killer. When I look back at it, I was putting up with a fair bit of pain.

Ask an ultra runner to put up with pain and we will.

For how long?

Until it affects our racing. 

The massive turning point for me was the infections. First was a throat infection post Kokoda Challenge. Sure it was wet, cold and miserable but it was the start of 5 courses of antibiotics. Between August and October 2017, I had five urinary tract infections (UTI). Happy 39th birthday! Guess what, you get a UTI, your first one in almost 20 years. A proper pissing blood type. It felt like I was pissing glass. The nurse asked how I could not be in massive amounts of pain. I guess I dulled it out as I was so used to being in pain with the mirena that I did not notice the extra UTI pain. I fogged off the first UTI as being an outcome of being in a relationship with a new partner and thinking it was normal. I pulled out of the Coastal High 50. I then attempted to train again but I just kept getting sick. I ran Lantau Island vertical and came 3rd but I looked at my photos and I had an insanely red face, it was the start of another UTI, after UTI, after UTI, after UTI. By the time I was about to race the Blackall 100 (B100) in October for the 4th time to try and make it four wins from 4 appearances I was on antibiotics again. I started to research the Mirena and the link with UTI infections. There seemed to be a link. 

Two weeks out from the B100 I decided to have the Mirena removed. I was still in pain. Pain I was putting up with for now seven months. On top of this pain I’d had 5 UTI infections. This was extremely abnormal for me as I hadn’t had a UTI since I was 20. I went from feeling on top of the world to feeling like crap, with no energy and sick all the time. The feeling was weighing me down menally and physically. I was 3 kilos above my normal weight. I pushed all the negative thoughts out of my mind as I knew they were not helpful but man I was down! I was pretty depressed and just hiding from the fact I was so unhappy. 

Other symptoms I noticed with the mirena was that I was having trouble with my digestion. It was nonexistent.  I was so inflamed that I was reduced to only 2 meals a day and I was having massive reflux. I was only eating two meals a day and I really could not fit anymore in my stomach. I especially could not eat dinner before as I could not digest it enough before I went to bed even if I had to run around with a 7pm client, I still could not digest my food.  I’d had five UTI infections, feeling sick and having no energy and the prospect of racing the B100 I had to do something different. My micro biome was upset and I was doing my best to restore my natural balance again but I just couldn’t. Let’s not even go into my mental health. I was struggling.

I also noticed that I was ageing. My face changed shape, like I was squarer in my neck area and forming jowls. I felt like I was going into early menopause. I knew I wasn’t ageing but the mirena hormones that were inside of me felt like they were talking my natural superhuman powers away and making me feel older before my time. Maybe I was getting older. I had to change something. Be it the lowering in my natural testosterone that lead to more inflammation in my body, increase my risk of infections, pain response, inflammation in my stomach I don’t know. I just kept getting injured too.

I also had an Achilles tendon that just would not heal. It was so unlike me to carry an injury, I don’t get injured. I’m a healer, my physiotherapist used to joke that you could drive a truck into my body and I’d probably bounce.  I could back up, race again and again, yet at that time in my life when I had the mirena in I was not my super human self. My own body, was sending out inflammation responses, trying to stop me from running. I wasn’t well and I was shutting down. I was getting worried about my kidneys too, with all the UTI’s I was worried I might eventually do damage. I had constant ulcers in my mouth. I was reduced to using only one type of toothpaste as normal toothpaste was too acidic for my skin. With all the reflux I was getting worried about my stomach too.

I am so careful with what I put in my body. I won’t even eat chicken or eggs as I believe the hormones with make me put on weight. I am GF, DF, Land Animal Free and Only eat fish.  I felt so stupid as I let someone put hormones inside of me that I could not control myself. I gave it a go. I tried to remove the Mirena myself and I just could not find the string. Bloody hell.

I booked myself into the clinic and asked for it to be removed. They refused to remove it there and then. Even with all the above symptoms. They refused to believe that the mirena was the problem. They suggested that I had sexually transmitted disease and that I should have a chat with my partner, and they were taking blood tests and samples. This was awful. I loved and trusted my partner and to imply that he’d given me something was terrible. Lucky I am confident enough to trust my partner, believe in myself and push for more answers from the women’s health clinic and to not even suggest that my partner was being unfaithful. I didn’t even ask him. I knew the tests would be negative. It was just such a shame that they let the mirena inside of me for an extra week. 

Instead of just taking the mirena out as I asked, they sent me off to have an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed that I had multiple fluid loops in my small intestines. “Am I still about to go to the bathroom?” They asked.  I was down to two meals a day. No wonder I felt like I could not fit any more food in. My intestines were looped around in knots. If it wasn’t for my amazing diet I would probably have a blockage. I read up on fluid loops and I was always throbbing in my abdomen and it could be really dangerous.  I was pretty sick and with reflux too. I think I was also starting to form a stomach ulcer. My asthma was pretty bad. I was eating an alkaline diet to help with the reflux taking probiotics. I was doing everything I could to stay healthy. 

They also asked me if I was a celiac or had crohn’s disease. I’ve since been tested for celiac disease and it’s been a positive result. I was eating Gluten Free for 6 years prior but it was great to have the confirmation. The Mirena looked like it was in the right spot so it was all fine to the women’s health clinic. It was insane for me to think that they did not link the Mirena to the fluid loops in my small intestines, pelvic pain, inflammation throughout my body, ulcers. I went from being a healthy elite athlete to not being able to run without painkillers. Maybe I was allergic to the mirena?

I went back to the clinic and demanded to have the mirena removed. They reluctantly removed it for me. 

Instantly I felt better. My clients after 2 days thought I’d lost about 5 kilos inflammation off my body. My digestion started to return to normal and my achilles started to heal. Having the mirena inside of me took away what made me such a good athlete. It felt like it took away my super human powers. My ability to heal, recover, bounce back from injuries without any down time. I felt like the mirena took this away from me.

I raced the B100 and finished an hour and twenty minutes slower than my best time. I did not care I was just happy to be able to race again and not to be in pain. It was more a race of rejoicing in my body as I was so happy not to have a UTI for the first time in 3 months and to be able to eat  3-5 meals of food again. Yippee! 

My digestion had been upset for about 7 months. I felt like I wasn’t absorbing any nutrients from my food. I was still exhausted but I was starting to heal again. I tried to race in February 2018 but I was still stuffed. I felt like I still had not zip, no top end power. I’d won the Mount Glorious 1/2 Marathon in 2017, 2018 I was 20 minutes slower. I ran across the line not even sweating. I did not have the ability to push myself any more. I could only cruise up the mountain, I couldn’t race it. I decided that my body needed more time off. It took 7 months to destroy my super human powers, it will probably take a full 7 months or more to get them back again, maybe longer. 

I started to be able to eat again, trays of root vegetables, and loads of them. Yay! I could eat 5 meals a day and still drop weight. 

I jumped back on the bike and started riding regularly again. The bike always improved my hill climbing and with my achilles healing it seemed to be the perfect form of cross training. We had a holiday in Thailand and relaxed. I worked out in the gym every day and swam in the pool and just chilled but I was lost within myself not having a real focus to look forward too. I’m a goal setter. I needed a long term goal.

My process had been disturbed and I had to design a new one for myself. I had a nagging feeling that just wouldn’t go away. This was when I was approached by a coaching client David Eastman to start up an ultra. The Brisbane Trail Ultra (BTU) was born.

The Brisbane Trail Ultra Team Cora Lau, David Eastman and myself Shona Stephenson

The process was introduced again. I could focus on something long term and rest my body and wait for me to fully recover. The Brisbane Trail Ultra was born in May 2018. It had been a 5 year goal of mine to put on a world class ultra running event. I had been researching locations all over south east Queensland, I just needed the right team around me. In December 2018 Cora Lau joined the team and we really started to push the BTU forward into the ultimate ultra trail running event. The Brisbane Trail Ultra became my passion for a year and a way to introduce slowly my training process back to my body by designing and measuring the course for our entrants that was athlete focused with stunning single trails, hard climbs, stunning views and adrenalin pumping descents. The difference between the Brisbane Trail Ultra and other events was it had to finish in the city to connect the trails to a major Central Business District, like in European or Japanese events, Brisbane as a location, has the perfect combination of trails that are close to the city and stunning subtropical virgin rainforest. I wanted the Brisbane Trail Ultra to appeal to the traveling adventure tourism industry. More competition from outside states and countries will boost the standard of trail running locally. I wanted Queensland t have an event where our best runners wanted to come and stay in stunning Brisbane, enjoy our mild winters that are perfect for trail running, be wowed by our amazing logistics for trail running with an airport only 20 minutes away from the BTU finish line. I wanted runners to fly race and stay in a hotel right on the finish line. It is trail running heaven to be able to walk home to a hotel just after you’ve race an ultra trail event.

I started measuring the Brisbane Trail Ultra. First the BTU30 was measured first, then the BTU110, breaking it down into segments of 45km, 35km then 20km and 18km parts. Then the  BTU60 was designed discovering a long lost trail that had to be heavily repaired to link the course to a check point without a boring out and back. When I was showing our race ambassadors Ben Duffus and Alana Vought the BTU110. We then decided to extend the BTU110 to create the BTU100M (BTU100 Mile). Again I was out measuring more climbs, loving the trails I’d been missing for so long because I’d been sick. I start to regain confidence in my body again.

Slowly, slowly I regained my strength, speed and power. The mixture of my training, bike riding and the course measuring brought be back into fitness again. Peak fitness? No, but a place where I am content yes.

I am ready now in 2019 to start to push again and this week is the first week of pushing myself consistently again for about 2 years. 

This was what my training process looked like week 1

  • Saturday – 50km Bike ride with my partner (this will switch up to either long run or race)
  • Sunday – Rest (eaten gluten the night before unknowingly and had a reaction) 
  • Monday – 1 hour Easy jog morning 
  • Tuesday Morning – 1 hour Morning Running Drills,  Intervals 500m x4 Kettle bell swings, sumo squats, single leg deadlifts x 3 sets . 
  • Tuesday Evening – Easy Jog 2 hours with 10 x hill sprints 20 sec
  • Wednesday – 1 Hour easy jog
  • Thursday – 1 hour Easy jog in the morning, then Mid Morning Tempo with stair loops kangaroo cliffs x5 1km loops , Cross Core 180 push up to side planks, single leg squats, 
  • Thursday Evening – easy jog 1 hour
  • Friday Morning – 1 hour Easy jog morning – core work bike crunches, opposite arm to leg back extensions, single leg bridges, step ups,  1 min plank. 
  • Friday Evening – 1 Hour easy jog 
Shona Stephenson,loving the virgin rainforest trails of the Brisbane Trail Ultra.

How strong are your feet?

How strong are your feet?

To be a sound runner your feet have to be strong and flexible. Your feet are your foundation of your body, they take the initial impact of your body when it first touches the ground. Your feet also communicate important information to your calf muscles, hamstrings and glutes. What’s that under my foot, do I twist my ankle or do I catch myself and engage my calf, hamstrings, glutes and core to save myself from a sprain?

If your feet are switched on and activated you will have more confidence with every step, feeling the ground and receiving the information through nerve endings the entire way through you body.

Your foot is made up of 33 joints and over 100 ligaments and are quite often the forgotten part f your body, yet are essential to pain free running yet if strengthen can have countless benefits to your running enjoyment and performance.

If you have strong feet then you will reduce the risk of injury immensely. If your toes have the ability to move independently then you will increase performance by building a strong arch and foot muscles.

Having flexible feet is also important to increase your range of motion of your feet and to reduce the staring on calves and achilles and plantar tendons.