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Penny Comins: madness continues
Posted by: Penny Comins
Posted on: Wednesday 29th October 2014


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You would think that after completing the Norseman and Ironman Hawaii this year, Penny Comins would be looking forward to a well earned rest and plenty of food. Instead, she has a 216 kilometere ultra planned that has over 14 kilometres (!) of climbing involved at over 3,500 metres of altitude... all so she can qualify for another race.

The madness does indeed continue!


UTMB Qualification Process - Manaslu Madness

Already having one point of the elusive three needed to enter the CCC race of The North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, I need to bag another two points before the ballot opens in December. Having been on my dream list since 2005 I couldn't resist the invite from fellow nutty running buddy Francesca Eyre to Nepal to a race that has two accredited UTMB points. As always I agreed and read the fine print way too late in to the process...

Unsure how to prepare for an event that is 216 kilometres long over eight days and has a monster 14,422 meters of climbing I thought that starting with an efficient technique would be the easiest place to make big gains. I enlisted the help of head coach James Kuegler at Cadence Coaching to 'teach' me how to run technical trails.

Penny Comins - Cadence Coaching

The Manaslu Mountain Trail Race takes 40 athletes around the eighth largest mountain in the world. Usually a 14 day hike the race is completed over eight stages with a rest day thrown in the middle. Most days are over 3,500 meters in altitude so if the height run doesn't get you, the lack of oxygen will.

Coming off the Ironman World Champs in Kona it is a fine balance between recovery and getting in enough running miles off-road so my body doesn't ache too much in Nepal. Starting with technique meant I could get my limbs moving without being too taxing, or so I thought.

Penny Comins - Cadence Coaching

Meeting in bushy Totara Park, a hidden gem with great trails only moments from the motorway in Auckland, New Zealand, Kuegler started with talking through the correct leg positions. Um, I know how to run?! I have done a fair few marathons mate. But in the quest for perfection and the need to have the most amount of forward movement for the least amount of pain in Nepal I obeyed and did chicken leg movements on the grass.

Before long I was eagerly agreeing with Kuegler, affectionately known as Kugs. His theory on leg position under the body, pull through using the bigger muscle groups and a high knee lift through the front of the movement made total sense. It opened up the hip and gave greater lift for less effort. Alright; he might just have me here.

We walked through the movements slowly and then up to pace. To reinforce the learning he took me through the counter movement to show just how muscles won't work optimally. Much like trying on the shoe size up to make sure you have the right size on it made it clear that his theory was right and I had in fact been a lazy runner. This low leg lift is why I have toe clipped roots, rocks and stairs in the past and crashed out. These negative experiences has created the fear and in turn is the hindrance to my speed when the trail gets rough.

We hit the fern clad dirt to test this out. I am upright, have my chicken wings clipped in, another running faux pas I had that was inefficient and must have had my looking like Pheobe running. My hips are open and my chest up. I am aligned. My leg is coming through in to position two nicely and I am feeling the 'flow' of running nicely.

As soon as I start to chat to Kugs about his new Chiropractic Practise him and partner Anna are about to open I get told to stop, not just talking but running. As soon as I slow I realise what I have done. I have forgotten all about the hour we spent looking like chickens pecking along in the field and slipped in to my old low-toe, chicken wing, slumped style. Kugs reminds me that new technique takes focus and diligence. “Many get out running to get away from life, you now need to get out running and engage your brain.”

Back in the car heading home my mind is brimming with new technique and tips. When I get out of the car I realise that there are muscles that have been coming along for a joy ride when I run. Aching I get the TENS machine out and vibrate some life back in to my legs. Eight days is going to be a LONG time.


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