I recently toed the start line of the 102km Tarawera Ultra Marathon and I am not ashamed to say that my motivation was three pronged – to experience being ‘back in the action’, to see this beautiful New Zealand landscape, but also to prove a point to myself – I am an athlete!
I am an athlete.
This simple phrase is like a sensitive funny bone – I don’t bump it very often but when I do it tingles madly and damn well HURTS!
‘It would be great to see you as an athlete again Hanny!’
And it was this comment uttered by a well-meaning individual that recently knocked this funny bone and set off a painful tingling. It sent shock-waves through my entire body, a searing discomfort that had me shaking out my limbs, and beginning to fidget, then sway, and then… enter a race!
Am I an athlete!
This was the thought that I carried with me as I left the start line and chased down the lead girls on the early single tracks and then wider forestry roads. I wasn’t necessarily hunting them, I was hunting my athleticism.
Let me now back-track to 3 years ago when I tried the ‘athlete retirement thing’. My Swan-Song was a long 100km race through Australia’s Blue Mountains, chasing down the younger whippet and now friend, Lucy Bartholomew. Throughout those ten hours I constantly heard my head saying, ‘It’s time for the athlete to retire’. In hindsight this thought stemmed from a long sporting career and then employment at the Australian Institute of Sport where I was surrounded by the constant drumming – ‘you must ensure you have a plan for after you retire from sport’. Yes, eventually we all need to move on, or grow up… don’t we?
In the three years post- ‘retirement’ I discovered that athletic retirement is damn hard to do and somewhat akin to cracking a macadamia nut with your bare hands. That is, it is pretty much impossible! Once you know that intoxicating feeling of holding onto a high-level of fitness that can carry you on any wild adventure; the grace of moving with ease over hills and trails; a brain flooded with endorphins and that motivating ‘what next?’ question; and then that blissful sleep that comes after a long day outdoors… yup, retirement seems like a really dumb concept! So, it was with this realization and alignment of values that my inner athlete quickly re-awakened and she has since lead me on some epically wild adventures! I can honestly say that what I have achieved in the last 3-years are by far and away my greatest athletic achievements, such as: running the very remote, technical Federation Peak; my 19-day, 720km and 45000m vertical solo traverse of the French Pyrenees Mountains; and my recent solo & fastest known 60km traverse of the Western Arthurs Mountains in South-West Tasmania. Yes, the athletic bug has gripped me more than ever and it has just felt so, so dammed good to feel on the top of my A-game again.
‘It would be great to see you as an athlete again Hanny!’
Tarawera 102km was not to be my day. I absolutely had the mindset and skills for performance, but I had failed to acknowledge the gradually building fatigue accumulated from the last 6-months of wild adventures. Further to this, my athleticism has morphed into something a little rougher and less-refined – perhaps more akin to shaggy, leaping sheepdog than to a racing whippet? At Tarawera I went out with the lean & mean leaders, and gave it my absolute best. Even when The Wall loomed I felt equipped with all the tools in my toolkit to leap gracefully over it – from a powerful mindset, to race strategy, to nutrition – but nothing could ultimately sharpen my heavy legs on this day and I caught my paws at many of the hurdles.
In every tough day there is always something to be gained. For me, the highlight of the day was definitely the bond of relationship that I found in other athletes on the trail, moving through a beautiful landscape, with our individual highs and lows. However, the greatest gift that received at Tarawera 102km, a perfect present on the eve of my 34thbirthday, was this -
We are all athletes!
We do not need to reach a finish line, or the top of the mountain, or run with a race number pinned to our chests to allow our inner athlete to shine. Nope. Nup. Definitely not! If racing lights a fire in your belly then GO FOR IT! Charge your glass with electrolytes and let us toast your racing adventures! But if, like me, you feel curiosity beckoning you to a quieter trail, then let us celebrate this sense of adventure too!
Whether our journey leads us to a start line, or a finish line, or even a point in between where the body says, ‘not today!’… or whether our calling is to a remote mountain ridgeline or a local mission from our front door… Yes indeed, we are all athletes because we do the work to keep sharp, we gather evolving skills, and we know how to lean in when the going gets a little tougher.
When I entered the Tarawera event I thought I needed to thrive to ease the discomfort in my funny bone, to prove to myself once and for all that I am an athlete. However, in ‘failure’ I have found even greater clarity than I could ever hope for – I am not just an athlete…
…I LOVE BEING AN ATHLETE! And a wild one at that!
An unlikely story of strength and resilience
I am completely fascinated by the strength of our minds so over the last 12-months I have been studying advanced coaching techniques, such as Neurolinguistics Programming (how to reprogram our internal dialogue), hypnotic skills and visualization. This study has brought a huge year of growth and change, a welcome addition to my peak performance coaching.
The other major change that I have welcomed in the last 12-months is a home, a little wooden chalet on 4-acres on the slopes of Mt Wellington. The quaint property is littered with pademelons (small marsupials), wallabies, bird-life and even frogs on the nights when the rains finally fall. However, due to the dry conditions this summer the frogs have rarely sung and the mammal lawn mowers are finding their grass supply waning. To counter this, my husband and I have been throwing our veggie scraps out the back door. We also fill large metal bowls scattered around the lawn with water. Every night, our evening entertainment is to watch the nature channel’s chaos unfolding outside the loungeroom window – the pademelons’ mothers and babies lap at the water, the males assert their dominance and the birds swoop into the mix. Lord Packenham, our resident possum, might strut his stuff, and occasionally a rabbit might join the fun.
My husband and I are slowly being welcomed. When we step outside our marsupial residents rarely flee in fright, but rather hop warily backwards to allow us to take center stage on our lawn. I love these little guys with all my heart and when a pademelon pauses his or her earnest foraging, sometimes our eyes lock. It is as if a love story is slowly unfolding. Each night as I turn for bed, thrust open the window and listen to the munching outside, I think I can sense them all saying, ‘Thank you for loving us’.
My alarm usually hollers around 5am. I instantly roll out from the bed’s strong grasp, pad downstairs and slip straight into my running attire which I always lay out the night before. I then tug my pajamas back over the top, a symbol of self-compassion whilst I boil the kettle, sip tea with a dash of homemade soymilk, munch a handful of organic dried fruit and gently limber up my muscles as I stare aimlessly across the paddocks. I try to always be gentle to myself in the morning, to start slowly and allow the heart, mind and body to speak their truths. When I am ready to step outside I will peel off my pajamas, quietly tip toe past the stairs to the bedroom where Graham is usually still sleeping, and slip out into the dawn. I love this moment of solitude, when I lace my shoes and feel the anticipation of the morning’s explorations ahead.
Today’s session is a solid 21-minute uphill tempo. I am excited, knowing soon that my lungs will be drawing in the cool, dewy air whilst my legs will still yelp for more. The rhythm of the arms swinging back and forth, back and forth. The spine tall. Head held proud. Feet rising and falling. I believe running is art in movement.
Running hard uphill on an asphalt road is tough on the good days and even tougher on the days when your head isn’t completely in the game. I usually thrive as I leave the start point at the wafting, roast-barley-valley-ambience of the Cascade Brewery, heading uphill towards the junction of Huon Road & Strickland Avenue on Mt Wellington. This junction that marks the end of the hard run just so happens to be a mere 300m from my front door. However, not every day can be a celebration of mojo and flow state running, and today I found my legs cringing sharply with lactic acid. As a result, my confidence wavered then returned, wavered then returned, pulsing with my heart as it raced to keep up with the effort I strived for.
So, this morning I looked into my ‘toolkit’, a collection of tips, tricks and techniques which I have actively sought and collected over the last 15 years of my running & coaching career. I considered using ‘The Whip’, mentally whipping myself into action or the ‘Get Out Of Jail’ card and backed off the intensity. I thought about ‘The Ignore Button’ and disassociated from the discomfort by entering ‘My Bubble’, a space I reserve for digging deep and blocking out the searing squeals of my legs and lungs. But rather I chose one of my teacher’, techniques called ‘Picture the End’. So, whilst still running hard up the hill, I began to create a picture of the end of the tempo – to see the roads meeting, the bus stop number, the cars whizzing past, the child waiting for the school pickup. I added sounds, such as the birds’ chorus and the belching bus. I imagined the zingy feeling in my legs as I saw myself stretching past the bus stop that marked the finish and coming to a gentle walk. I almost felt the high five slaps I gave my running buddy as we celebrated our success.
Yes, this morning I was able to create a vivid image of the tempo’s ending. Even when I was still ¾ of the way up the hill, the image was so vivid that I could almost touch it, smell it, hear it, feel it! I grew in strength. Then I found myself imagining a rope tied around my waste and it winching me closer and closer to this finish line. I instantly felt my pace increasing and an extra spring in my step as I I lifted taller and prouder in my posture. Suddenly, and to my absolute surprise, I had an overwhelming image of our resident pademelons grasping onto that rope and pulling me closer and closer to the finish line! In my mind’s eye, they appeared to be expressing their gratitude by helping me reach the finish line of my tempo run!
Yes. That’s right. The pademelons gifted me a new Personal Best Time on my training run this morning!
You may think I am nuts. And maybe I am?! But what I have learnt this year is that every tiny step you take towards being wilder will make you stronger. Being wilder is my term for the summation of all the small actions that you take to empower yourself, such as recycling your plastic, ruminating on your values, eating cleaner, turning off the lights, expressing your gratitude, using a Keep Cup, looking out for your neighbors, studying new skills, journaling, exercising consistently, and loving nature in all its beauty. Every step you take towards knowing yourself and being the best version of you brings you a greater sensation of strength which you can draw on when the going gets tough or you need to add fuel to your mojo – in running and in life.
So, can I dare you to ask yourself… ‘what am I doing today that can help me to feel prouder, lean in with more confidence and realise my greatest potential?
Look after the pademelons!
I am thrilled to be featured in the latest edition of Sharp Traveller! In this article we delve into how the Find Your Feet Tours started, and why we're so excited to be guiding our inaugural Flinders Island Find Your Feet Tour during November!
Megan Holbeck writes for Outdoor Magazine to unravel the appeal of ultra running. It was an honour to be featured in this article...
AS PUBLISHED IN TRAIL RUN MAGAZINE AUS/NZ, AUGUST 2019 -GRAB YOUR COPY HERE TODAY!
Former world champion orienteer racer, elite trail runner, young businesswoman of the year, tour guide, podcaster and coach, Hanny Allston is one multi-talented, multi-layered, prolific and powerfully driven individual. So what fuels it all? We discuss her fearsome passion for playing wild in the outdoors. INTERVIEW: Chris Ord
This morning I was moving along a winding trail on Mt Wellington, my office for the morning. I found myself reflecting on a coaching consultation I had hosted yesterday with a mother in her mid-50s. For the purpose of this conversation I will refer to her as Sarah.
This blog contains information that I recently shared with the 809 athletes who are utilising my Ultra Trail Australia Training Planners & The Trail Running Guidebook for the upcoming 2019 UTA100, 50 & 22km events. The advice is relating to how to conduct your longest training missions which for the 100km athletes is up to 8hrs in duration. I hope you also find it useful!
This blog stemmed from a client's email query: 'I live in the UK where it is super cold at the moment. How do I prepare for your relatively hot Australian conditions?'
Written by: Joonas Pääkkönen.
Reading Osho’s When the Shoe Fits, while having breakfast felt like a nice way to start my day off at a hotel in Tampere, Finland last July. It was time for the Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC), a busy week filled with competitions. Later that day, though, I only had one meeting scheduled on my calendar: an interview with Australian JWOC team manager Hanny Allston.
I have been fascinated by the mental aspects of endurance sports all my life, alongside with the Eastern traditions of inner work, including various forms of meditation. Interestingly, my conversation with Hanny turned out to cover many such topics.
The Ultra Trail Australia events have many exciting challenges, one of the most noteworthy being the large and numerous hills that runners will encounter in the Blue Mountains. As this event has expanded, so too has the spread of runners from across our vast country. The race is now attracting runners from as far away as Tasmania, northern Western Australia and Darwin.
This article was featured in the latest "Travel Play Live" magazine:
I am doubled over. With hands on hips, I gasp air into my lungs. My head feels heavy and achy… a dull throb enhanced by the altitude. This Italian mountain is a beast! I look up to where the trail squiggles near vertically above me and try to make out where the track crests the pass. It is somewhere up there where the bare rocks merge into the mist. I look down. My hotel where everyone else is still sleeping is just a mere 100m below me. I have barely started and I am feeling… vulnerable.
The Sweat Rate Test. It is important to develop an understanding of your sweat rate so that you can develop a thorough understanding of your sweat losses during an event.
The easiest way to measure your sweat rate is to weigh yourself without clothes on before and after exercising for one hour, taking note of the climatic conditions you were exercising in.
Assuming you did not use the toilet or consume any fluids during exercise, your weight loss is your sweat rate.
1kg of weight lost = 1L of fluid lost
If you drank any fluids or used the rest room between the two weight samples, you will need to include both of these estimated weights in your calculations.
Weather and climatic conditions strongly influence sweat rates. For example, on a cooler overcast morning you will loose less sweat volume than on a hot, humid morning. Therefore, be sure to record the heat, humidity and weather conditions in your sweat test and repeat the test in cool, humid, windy and hot conditions.
Sweat rate also changes with pace and effort increases. For example, if you monitored your sweat rate for a shorter ½ marathon race pace and then want to step up to a 50 or 100km race that requires a lower effort over a prolonged period of time, you will need to conduct the above tests again to highlight the new effort zone.
Now that you know your sweat rates, you now need to develop an understanding of how much fluid replacement your stomach can tolerate. For more information on how to rehydrate during events, you may like to read the article Hydration for Endurance Performance
For a comprehensive understanding on sports nutrition & hydration read: Sweat. Think. Go Faster by Darryl Griffiths
See our comprehensive Sports Nutrition range for Trail Runners HERE
Is running really as simple as we make it out to be. Of course the motion of pulling on your shoes and stepping out a door anywhere makes it appear simple. Once out the door we take one step forward, push strongly, move our other leg forward... and away we go. As we warm up we begin to exert a little more effort and our speed gets faster and faster. Simple! But is it really the case? Research shows that the answer is a loud NO.
A Recap of the World Orienteering Championships, Scotland
Elite athletes are constantly asked to focus on routines in the lead up to competitions. These include when to arrive, how much to train, when to sleep, what to eat, how to execute your race strategies and what to do for recovery. However, I have come to learn that routines cannot and should not dictate how you approach orienteering races. This year’s World Orienteering Championships once again reiterated that for me.
Running training. Two words that put fear in anyone who does not run. But for those of us that do, these two words make us deliriously happy. Try to explain this to the non-runner!
Running, training, Jornet. Three words that put fear in any runner. Killian Jornet was born in a small hut, 2000m high on the slopes of a mountain in Spain. Growing up in the mountains, their entertainment was running and playing in the mountains. Now, at just 23 years of age, Kilian Jornet has broken almost every trail and mountain running record. He also goes in search of his own – record crossing of Mount Blanc and fastest ascent of Mt Kilimanjaro are just to name a couple. In Europe, his name sits on the table next to the salt and pepper. This year, his status became even more legendary after he won the Trail du Mont Blanc. For Jornet, running and training is happiness,
This is your opportunity to revive and thrive. The work is done. All that is left to do is to try to find a sense of peace and tranquility in your busy lifestyle. Here are some quick tips to help you out:
Science shows that most children perform optimally on 9 1/4 hours of sleep per night. I believe we are very similar to children - running around, using our minds, shedding emotions etc. Therefore, try to get to bed 30-60mins earlier each night to try and catch up a little. If you can’t sleep then just lie peacefully as this will still be assisting.
I was anxious for the race on Saturday. Excited, but anxious. I wasn’t scared about breaking records or standing amongst a cohort of amazing elite runners. No, I was scared for the same reason as any other athlete there – will I finish? How much will it hurt? And most importantly, can I run well enough to feel content with myself afterwards? After all, can there be any greater emotion than contentedness?
In the week leading in to the race I allowed myself to feel scared. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow explained – ‘For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.’ And through my life experiences I have come to realize that some of the things that rightly scare us can also become our greatest strengths.
Since the start of 2014 I have been battling return from an Achilles injury. I do not use the word battling loosely as this is what it has been. A battle. I have tried just about every quick remedy I can. In this order I have tried and mostly failed:
Returning to the Junior World Orienteering Championships as a coach was a fascinating experience. The pre-camp training sessions, long days in the starting quarantines and grappling with appropriate words of encouragement for my athletes post-race were some of the challenges. I can confidently say that the two-week Bulgarian experience increased my coaching knowledge and skills. However, added to this came a huge personal revelation that highlighted the difference between youth and adulthood.
Lydiard holds all the Keys to running success’ – Barry Magee
Over the years I have had my fair share of niggles and big learning curves. As a younger athlete I always thought more was better and that my body was tough enough to cope with a mess of speed, volume and strength all thrown in together. Thankfully none of these niggles have progressed to true injuries and I believe that I can truthfully track this back to a series of outstanding coaches who put me on the safe track over the years.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.