It’s no secret, I curse under my breath when I see those ‘MAMILS’ that ride two by two along the highway, chatting away as if they own the road on their $25,000 bikes and $500 compression gear. I do of course in jest, but I do like to rib my cycling mates and remind them how ridiculous they look just to see how far I can push their buttons.
In all seriousness though, I’m not stupid enough to realise that there are many benefits to cycling that can transfer over to ultra-runners, and indeed know of countless friends who swear by using the bike as part of their training programmes.
But the reason for delving into this topic is the arrival of a guy here on the Aussie ultra running scene by the name of Blake Hose. I came across his name as I was looking high and low for names to include on our Aussie Male Ultra Runner of the Year vote. I saw Blake smashed the field down at the Great Ocean Walk 100kms late last year and thought to myself, “hmmm this guy must be quite handy.”
A bit more digging around and word on the vine was that Blake rode for the ‘Genesys Wealth Advisers Pro Cycling team’. Fast-forward to the weekend just gone and Blake (just 21yrs old), finished a highly credible second place to Stu Gibson (former TNF100 Australia winner) at the infamous Bogong to Hotham Mountain run in the fourth fastest time ever recorded in the race’s 30 year history. Quite some performance for a guy so young into his running career. One can only imagine what he’s going to be doing in he next 2-3 years.
So casting my cycling aspersions aside, I thought it wise to look at what this Blake guy was doing and above all, understand more about the benefits of cycling, his experience on two wheels and what he felt that it could bring to ultra-running. “I have found that it is an excellent way to cross-train, and to help with uphill running as it uses very similar muscle patterns. I think it’s also a very beneficial way to train your aerobic system and overall leg strength with a lessened risk of injury as it eliminates the impact associated with running.”
OK, so that’s some of the benefits, but what about the certain attributes of cycling that ‘daggy’ old ultra-runners can learn from the lycra clan? “Physically it has definitely given me a good strength and endurance base to work off, whilst mentally it has taught me to train consistently and in a smart manner. The time that I used to spend on the bike was quite a bit more than I spend running too, so when it comes to training for long periods it comes fairly easily to me… Not that it’s ever difficult to get out on the trails of course! I’ve also carried over what is a very competitive mindset, this really helps when the going gets tough in races as I don’t like to lose, hahaha!”
So what’s pulled you across from two wheels into a pair of running shoes? “I have a friend who ran the Bogong2Hotham in 2011. When he completed the run and told me it was by far the hardest thing he has ever done there was something I found strangely alluring about trying something similar. So when I decided to cease being a cyclist in late 2012 I thought I would give the trail scene a shot! The feeling I get from running in so many amazing places, testing myself physically and mentally whilst sharing it with great friends I really think is unbeatable.”
On the flipside, do you think the ‘lycra-clad roadies’ can learn anything from us scruffy old ultra-runners? “I think cyclists could definitely learn how valuable complete rest days are for the body, as these seem much more common amongst runners than in the cycling community. It’s often a ‘coffee ride’ on a cyclists recovery day which usually consists of up to 2 hours of easy spinning. Whereas runners seem to take it much easier and it’s more prevalent to do no training at all on the given rest days. The recovery benefits from doing so I think are far greater, especially if your energy isn’t 100% to begin with. I suppose this is both a mental and physical aspect as you need to learn to let yourself relax and then feel what it’s like to have let your body recover well.”
Given that you’ve competed/are competing at a pretty high level in both sports are there any major similarities and/or differences? “The level of stress and injury risk that cycling puts on the body is less than that of running, which in turn allows cyclists to put in greater hours of training. A 4-6hr day on the bike isn’t uncommon whereas the same time spent running needs to be managed more carefully. Actual hours aside, I’ve found there is more intensity involved in training when a cyclist, which brings us back to the point of it being a bit easier to recover from in comparison to a very intense run session. Cyclists will race very often when trying to sharpen up on their form, it’s not uncommon to do so once every week. It certainly takes a bit of a larger window to recover from a running race (sometimes weeks rather than days) so the number of races need to be more carefully managed.”
You’re a pretty young guy though, in a sport that tends to be dominated by how shall we say, ‘veterans’. We’ve got the likes of you, Ben Duffus and Tom Brazier, fresh-faced and out of school/uni giving us a run for our money – are we going to see more of this? “I think as the sport progresses we will definitely see a lot more younger runners come to the forefront and the level of competition will greatly increase. Us younger runners can hopefully bring a bit of excitement to the racing and some fresh faces to the scene, though I think that the experience the older generation hold is more valuable as you can really learn a lot from them if you take the time to listen.”
Finally, what are your running aspirations. It’s pretty clear you’ve got the talent – where do you want your running to take you? “Ultimately I would like to compete at the highest level of the sport and really see what it’s like to share the trails with the best there is. The international ultra scene, especially that of European races, is really booming so to compete there would be a truly amazing experience. Hopefully as I progress I will have the opportunity to travel and discover first hand what it’s like to be amongst these events, whilst having the absolute time of my life running trails!”
2 thoughts on “When Cycling and Ultras Collide”
Another fantastic interview. Lovely insights to a future star (well, he already is now)
Being a rider and a runner over the years I find I can only really improve if I focus on one or the other as they are different muscle groups on the most part. Cycling requires hardcore strength/power to be really competitive and long distance running requires you to become leaner and more efficient. In addition either requires a lot of time in the week and frequency to get good at it and its hard to fit in both. I seem to enjoy going through phases of one and then the other and overall get better at both in the longer term. I am not sure whether I am a runner or a cyclist but both give me the buzz I am after from being in the outdoors and friendly competition with your mates!