UltraHumps: The Coach’s Perspective

UltraMan Australia is a journey that Humps and I have been on for a long time now. A couple of Ironman build ups and then onto UltraMan.

Training and Periodisation

UltraMan is shorter than Ironman when it comes to duration of activity in any given day. It is up to 12 hours of exercise followed by a minimum of 12 hours of rest. The training doesn’t need to be anything longer than an Ironman build up.  You’ve just got to be prepared to do it again for three days in a row.

To put things simply, we built up to Ironman NZ and then took things easy for a week or so afterwards. After the recovery period after Ironman NZ, we cracked on with the training and continued to progress things up until a couple weeks out from UltraMan prior to tapering off.

During this period in New Zealand there were two public holidays: Easter and ANZAC Day. So in effect Humps had three big weekends of training:

  • Ironman – one day (3.8km swim/180km cycle/42km run)
  • Easter – three days
    • Day one (5.0km swim/166km cycle)
    • Day two (151km cycle)
    • Day three (46km run)
  • ANZAC Weekend – three days
    • Day one (8.5km swim/114km cycle)
    • Day two (255km cycle)
    • Day three (26km run)

This process allowed Humps to maintain his normal routines and make the most of the public holidays. Below is a copy of his Performance Management Chart.

Tri Training NZ

The blue line represents Humps’ fitness growing over the duration of the programme. The pink line represents Humps’ level of fatigue (obviously going through the roof at the end for UltraMan). The yellow line indicates how well rested Humps was at any point in the training programme. You will notice this dips whenever Humps does any big sessions (where the pink line climbs up).

Pre-Race

We travelled to Australia on the Tuesday prior to the race, flying into Brisbane prior to visiting ASA and picking up our two vehicles and a range of supplies. We then travelled up to Noosa, settling into our accommodation and doing a grocery shop. GPS was our friend for the first few days as we got used to finding our way around.

On the Wednesday Humps and I went down to the surf club and went for a swim.  Then the entire crew went for a course reconnaissance for the Day 1 bike course. This was invaluable for Humps to get eyes on the course and know the terrain he was to ride over. We had planned on driving the entire bike course for Day 1 and Day 2 on this day, but as the Bike Course Captain was leading a group over the Day 1 course we only did this on the Wednesday.

Thursday the plan was to do a course reconnaissance of the run course and then register. We struck some issues with following the course notes, so we changed plan and registered hoping to find someone to explain the course to us completely. The race organisers were well ahead of us here.  The entire crew got to sit down with someone who explained the bike course.  Then we moved onto the next person who took us through the run course. The whole registration process was like a conveyor belt. Check in, Admin, Bike Course, Run Course, Swag, Merchandise, Payment, Medical, Promotion. Very professional. We then got out on the run course, finding a bakery down the far end for a bite of lunch.

Friday we got out early to the breakfast and briefing and then out onto the Day two bike course. Back in time we went down to meet our paddler, who we were told was busy working, but would be there in the morning. We were given his cell phone number and we left happy. That was until we got a reply after dinner saying he was no longer available!

Race Days

UltraMan TrainingAfter getting another paddler sorted for Humps, we got him into the water. The atmosphere was intimate with all the crews and athletes involved in a huddle on the beach prior to the start. From here we had a few hours to fill in prior to Humps’ finishing the swim, so it was back to the apartment to collect his bike and get the transition set up.

Once Humps was out of the water, we packed up and got on the road to follow him through the course, leap frogging along the way. We supplied him with food and kept him fuelled throughout the day. With no major dramas, he finished comfortably and got into the post-race procedures. Once again everything was set up ready to go: refuel, massage, medical and an ice bath.

Ironman TrainingDay two saw Humps and I dropped at the start line to get him set up. The crews had to depart prior to the start and head 20km out of town prior to picking up the athletes. I was picked up at the designated time prior to the start and we headed out of town. Damn that front bunch was humming along!!! This was a long day and Humps had a number of low points, primarily caused by lack of fuel. We pumped him up with real food and added some flat coke to his diet. As the day continued the field spread out more and more to the point of not seeing other athletes for a few hours at times. Once again he got to the end and went through the post race procedures.

Ironman Coaching NZThe final day was the double marathon. Humps was fatigued. The plan was that I escorted him through the first few kilometres and when we caught up with the rest of the crew, we would swap around every 30 minutes. After the start I spent a minute or so sorting social media on the UltraHumps Facebook page and then set out to catch the runners. I had to run hard for a couple of kilometres to catch the tail enders and Humps was a bit further up the field. As we ran along Humps and I were treated to a nice sunrise across the mudflats in the river. Humps kept the pace nice and consistent through out.  We kept him fuelled throughout with the pacer carrying his fluid and the rest of the crew leaping ahead delivering food on demand.

As the heat climbed up the bottles of ice water became more essential for cooling as we tipped these over Humps or poured it down the back of his  head. As the day progressed, ice was wrapped in a towel around his shoulders.

Humps had a number of lows on this day, including the last few kilometres that I ran with him. Usually I would expect moral to improve as we approached the finish-line in an event of this nature, but the opposite appeared to happen. The last kilometre was along the beach among tourists and bemused locals who had no idea the event was on. We must have looked a strange sit to them.  As we turned up the finishing shute we unrolled the New Zealand flag and held it up proudly behind Humps.  There was a surge in emotion and euphoria with the excitement of finishing. Another round of post-race procedures occurred and then we got a meal from the Surf Club as a mini-celebration before going home to bed.

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