Interview with a machine (Mike Lichtwark)

Mike Lichtwark is a machine. He left NZ a few years back when he was a quick runner and triathlete. We’ve been known to have some good battles between us at Xterra Offroad and Stroke n Stride events. Having settled in Sydney, he has now transformed into an absolute beast of a runner. He ran a 2:42 at Gold Coast Marathon last year and his report made it sound easy. So I asked the man/machine Mike if he would mind sharing some of his success with us here. Enjoy…

M Sydney

MH: What’s the deal with Sydney?

ML: Sydney has been great for my running.  When I moved over here I didn’t know many people so I had plenty of time to run and it was a great way to meet people.  Obviously, I was really into it back in NZ but I’ve really picked up the intensity since moving over here.

There are a few really good groups over here that I run with.  Some fast guys who do intervals and tempos on Tuesdays and Thursdays at lunch time.  They tend to range from 70min to 90min half marathoners so there is always someone to push you along.

Then there are also a few social groups that I am involved with full of keen cool people.

The weather in Sydney is great for running, particularly in winter when it’s cool and clear a lot of the time.  I work in the city and there are some great trails around the water and through the parks where you can run without hitting traffic lights.  It’s very popular to run at lunch time in Sydney and on a nice day there are heaps of people out.  I took some photos on my run on Monday to give you an idea – winter is great.  Aussies aren’t used to the rain though so if the weather is ever bad then I mostly get the paths to myself and can enjoy some Kiwi style running in the wet.

It’s an awesome place so if anyone is ever over here they should hit me up and we can sight see on foot!

MH: Tell us about your build up for the Gold Coast marathon and your target

ML: Gold Coast marathon is a big focus for me this year.  I felt like I had a bit of a breakthrough race last year and surprised myself with how I went.  Looking back at my training I did a pretty good job so there weren’t any obvious areas to improve this year so hopefully it is more about incremental gains.

I’m into the taper now and feel like I have had a good build up.  I haven’t been injured and have been pretty consistent with the training.  I managed to do more kms this year which I mostly achieved by running twice a day to work and home again which is about 6-8km depending which way I go.  I actually have really enjoyed the run commuting as it is quicker than taking the ferry or train and it is an unobtrusive way to get some running in without taking too much time out of the day.

I’m targeting a sub 2.40 marathon which is scary to put on paper in case I miss it!  I’ve run three marathons before and my progression has been 3.03 (Akl 2011), 2.54 (Syd 2013) and 2.42 (GC 2014) so it would be nice to get into the 2.30s (and then the 2.20s in 2016?!).  It is quite a daunting thought realising how fast you have to run – an average of 3.47 mins per k.  However, I actually ran the second half of last year’s marathon in under 80 mins, so I just have to do that in the first half as well this year.  I definitely had a great run last year – I think it was one of those days where I caught something magic and really surprised myself.  Hopefully I can find some magic again but will need everything to go well including nutrition, pacing, body, weather etc.  Some of those are in my control and some aren’t, so will just have to give it a good nudge and see what happens on the day.  I’m pretty convinced that a negative split is the best way to run a marathon so will be looking to go through the half in bang on 80 and then hopefully lift the pace from 30k if I can.

MH: What are the three most important things you have found to improve as runner over the last 24 months?

ML: I think the main thing is that I enjoy racing and running well and I enjoy the process of trying to improve.  The training is good fun for me so it’s never much of an effort to get out the door.  I look forward to the long run on Sunday and try to plan out interesting routes or missions into the mountains.  So it gives me joy which makes it easy to improve.

Another thing is being consistent.  I have a bit of structure as to when I am going to get my runs in, so I am just ticking them off every week and that’s helped me build up.

The final thing is not getting injured.  I think I’ve been pretty lucky (touch wood) to be pretty durable.  Also, I have never really tried to drastically increase the volume and intensity of the training I’m doing, it’s just naturally increased over time so my body has gotten used to it.

MH: What have you NOT got sorted yet?

ML: I should probably do some more stretching (more than none), although I love reading any article which recommends not stretching because that is my natural inclination.  I think I could also do some work on my top end speed and I’d like to set some good times at the shorter distances later in the year.  I think I can continue to improve if I stay consistent and keep doing what I’m doing.

MH: Tell us about any future goals

ML: I don’t think I have reached my limit yet so will keep striving for PBs and good races.  I think they will come as long as I’m enjoying the running.  I’m also keen to smash out some trail races and some good missions out in the mountains.  I’m thinking about entering Kepler Challenge which is later this year and having another go at Six Foot Track next which is a pretty awesome trail race here in the Blue Mountains.

PS This interview was before he once again blitzed the GC marathon, this time going sub 2:40! Can’t wait to read about that (nudge nudge Mike!)

Like I said, a machine!


Tarawera 2015 Pre-event Ramblings

What talent we have in the field this year! Read on for tales of woe and predictions for our MEC cohort this weekend.

We started with nine entered, but how many Maungakiekie Endurance Club athletes will finish the 2015 Tarawera ultramarathon?

Myles Robinson

Alas, brother Myles is a clear DNS. An open-dislocation of your right ankle will tend to interrupt your ultra marathon plans. We hope to see the return of this giant later in the season.

Ron King

Ron is an ultra veteran. Yes, he is a bit old, but I’m talking about how he is wise to the wiles of this event. He has yet to have a 100% performance at TUM, and I reckon this is his year. My pick is a solid, sensible race in the 100k and a sub 11hr finish (and new club CR).

Dave Atkinson

Dave has an 18 month history in running. 9 months since his first marathon. He ran his first ultra in November, the Hillary trail in December… this guy is moving! I’ve been really impressed with his buildup, very consistent. He’s in the 100k and I pick him as a finisher for sure.

Thom Shanks

Thom had a couple of dips in his buildup – an unexpected DNF at Auckland Marathon and a bit of gastro taking him out of the Hillary. But this guy puts in the big runs solo in foreign fields – if that’s whats required. Look for him to run alongside Dave for the first half. The smart money is on Thom to finish this 100k, whether in front or behind Dave is anyone’s guess.

Todd Calkin

Feast or famine. All in or all gone. Todd can be polarised runner, but he may have found a third way. His injuries have been a major set back to his preparation, but he has stuck at it and found a way to keep his foot in the door (so to speak). He’s strapping the ankle and taking on the 60, I think it will be a successful start to a strong year of running for Toddy.

Michael Hale

Ending 2014 with a bag full of endurance was a brilliant start. Spending the next 6 weeks not running was less helpful. Last Friday I was still in pain and had given up, but I’m gonna try another run and if I get through that, I will start the 60k. It would be a super cautious (50% walking for the first 10k) approach. The odds are that the calf flares and I walk out. But if it doesn’t I’m going all the way to Kawerau, baby.

Caleb Pearson

Caleb has elected for the peak late / minimal taper approach. But he’s got many marathons and last year’s 72k to draw upon. He will run smart and get through the low points to finish well in the 100k

Sean Falconer

Sean was the MEC revelation of late 2014, only to be out of running action for months with a series of injuries. He’s a fierce competitor – low on smack talk, high on pushing himself to the very limit. He’s managed a few runs in the last 2 weeks and is aiming to get his body through the 60k. If the injuries stay away, you can guarantee he will make it to the finish at the Falls.

Brent Kelly

Brent and Caleb had a great run together for most of last year’s race. This year could be similar, they both have the experience and similar low-volume buildups. Previously reknown for his fast flat half marathons in training, Brent has done less kms but clocked more vertical gain of late. He will battle through any lows that come to finish the 100k and get that medal. Watch out for him and Caleb – I’d say they’re likely to be running side by side this year as well.

MEC 2014 Auckland Marathon Plan

Logistics to be confirmed but the big red MEC bus will be available if absolutely required for Devonport drop-off from the East Auckland and Greenlane regions.

With a number of MEC entrants looking like potential sub 3hr finishers a plan of attack will be in place on the day. If he manages to pick up a late cheap marathon ticket, the MEC carrier battle group led by Rear Admiral King on HMNZS Invincible will be departing Devonport at a steady 4:10 min/km pace (projected 2:55hr finish time). It is anticipated that the battle group will keep formation till attack launch-point Kohimarama.

At that point (around the 32km mark) attack plan “Extreme Unpredictability” will be executed. Your guess is as good as mine what happens then…

Tarawera 2013 Predictotcator

With a big fail on last year’s race predictions I figure the safest thing to do would be to simply go with Mike’s predictions – though I think my actual 2012 performance failed on his prediction as well 🙂   How do bookies do it? I’m making a punt and I’m the horse, and I still can’t get it right.

Given the amended 2013 course, at least any pressure is off to better last years time. This year will surely be slower. The new rattle in the tail of the course now means the last 25km are the hardest rather the easiest, if nothing else it’ll mean I’ll be taking my pace at the start rather more seriously.

So gone is my goal on a negative split. Goals I’m keeping are the “finish standing in one piece”, spend less than 45mins at aid stations, and take more photos.

With respect to time, who knows? I predict  whatever time I predict with certainly be wrong. Training has gone well, not the milage of last year, went for a more family friendly approach with some attempts to improve quality. The Kaweka Mountain Marathon and a few big outings should mean I’m ok in the hills, we’ll see what swapping a bit of volume for intensity and hill work does for me…. So I’m going for an optimistic 12:15hrs finish, kind of like my last year 11hr pick (so long as I eat something and break nothing).

Unfortunately I’ve not had a lot of contact with the other MEC entrants in the build-up, but have learnt two things about Mike. 1. Despite injury and other limitations he seems to be able figure out a specific training approach to compensate to some degree, and 2. He knows how to maximise what preparation he brings to a race. In other words, never write him off.  So unless his leg falls off on Saturday I’m picking a 6:30hr 60km for Mike.

Good luck MEC, look forward to seeing you down there…


The Rev’s MEC Tarawera Ultra Picks 2013

Picks for Tarawera 2013 – The Fellowship of the Trail

Well, we started off as a good sized group tackling the mighty Tarawera ultra marathon. But a slew of injuries has laid waste to a large number of our fellowship. Some are gone, some are just hanging on, and some are forging on, like Sam and Frodo, far beyond that which they were expected to go. My early picks follow:

Me – 60k

Put the ipod on repeat and get it to play track 3 – the injured calf overture in B minor.

This right calf hacks away at me after a good recovery over the Summer/Christmas period from the last time it flared. It aches when I dont run, and grates when I do. Yet, I still feel strong, and reasonably fit. With no long run since Feb 13, all plans of a speedy 60 are gone, and the question I now face is: will the calf hold out and enable me to run the distance, or will it be a long hike in the woods.

Prediction: Calf OK – 6:15, Calf not OK – 9 to 12hrs

Ron King – 100k

Ron has seemingly found himself aknew in the trails this year. With this fresh fondness for offroad, he has a couple of >60k runs under his belt, along with his 5th place at the super-rough Kaweka Challenge earlier this month. A bit less volume than last year, but more specific and with more experience. look for him to smash his 2012 time. I’m picking 10:30-11:15, and inside the top 20. 

Update due to course change: Finish time is harder to call now, and will be slower than previous years due to more difficult finish. But, I beleive this will play into Ron’s strengths. He is great on the hills, so I’m picking him to use his wisdom in pacing and nutrition and finish strong to be top 20 this year, lets say 11-12 hours.

Todd Calkin/Sam Thom: 78k team

Todd was building into his training but a nasty kite boarding crash into the ground (can someone link the youtube video – it is mean!) has given him some kind of upper back situation.  Jake, his original partner is no better, his running curtailed by ITB issues and lower back pain resulting in his withdraw from the race. Mate, we are all getting old. Fortunately, Todd has pulled in young blood in the form of Sam Thom, who with his recent Ironman training may provide a key anchor for this team to get them to the finish on Saturday. They will have fun, they will finish – time, I dunno, lets say 9hrs.

Caleb Pearson – 85k

Caleb is another with ITBFS issues taking him down. After setting his PB in the Auckland Marathon last October, he has battled back and forth with the injury, but has reluctantly succumbed and surrendered his entry.

Bryce and Myles Robinson – 78k team

Caleb has generously given his entry to the Robinson Bros. Neither of which were training for this event. Bryce – a quick road runner, recently building his distance from 10k/half marathons up. Myles – the old steamtrain, super reliable, strong and completely dedicated to finishing every event he starts – but alas, lacking much in the way of training over the last season. How will these ring-ins fare? I reckon they both have one good leg in them, and then one uglier one. Im guesssing a 9hr finish – should be close racing against Sam and Todd.

Mat Raffills – 85k

Missing from our troop last year due to work commitments, Mat is back for 2013. He has been solidly doing the big runs – logging many solo tags of Te Mata peak over the last few months. He has put the work in, and his ever increasing long runs have faithfully been chalked up. He’s new to the distance, but steadfast in his resolve – he will finish this sucker. He is supported by Nige Turbull, and I’m picking a finish between 11 and 11:30.

Xterra 2012 Shakespear

I’m a new master, 40 is the new 20. Unfortunately I’m gonna miss 2 of the Xterra series and thereby any shot at the title. Maybe if I’m tactical I can impede someone else’s chance of taking away the series win (or is that just being mean?).

So Shakespear in the morning. Hard to judge my prep, haven’t done any specific training, but have been doing some hours by foot and I was the most running fit I’ve ever been in late March.

I reckon tomorrow will go the same as the last two Shakespears, I’m going to get a lesson from the Mike the coastal master. But by crikey he’s going to have to work for it. And I’m going to run up (most of) that last hill, unlike the two previous editions.

Oh and I discovered this afternoon, re-breaking-in my Inov-8 Talon 212’s after 6 months of crusty neglect, that they are definitely not non-marking. Big black marks all over the house.

The Rev’s Tarawera 2012 Picks

Many have already called this year’s race one of the most competitive fields in NZ ultra running history.

I will not repeat these front of pack calls, but focus on the performance of the 4 MEC associates running this year.


Ron “the” King

+ Knows how to keep moving amidst the hurt (veteran of all day bike rides, rode NZ on a fixie in a fortnight)

+ Excellent pre-event training mileage

  • Peak week of around 140km
  • Nailed a 69km, 10hr offroad beast in late Feb

+ Has trained specifically for this event (focussed, and representative training)

– Untested at the distance

Predicted: 15-25th, 11-12.5hrs

90% chance of finishing


Jake “Rocky” Parsons

+ Very determined, and realistic in his goals (he WILL finish)

+ Has run 50% of the course before

+ Fittest he has been in his life

– Small background in endurance sports

– Recent toe infection and time off training, on-going knee ache

Predicted: 11-12hrs, place 2/3rds in men’s 85km

70% chance of finishing


Michael “The Rev” Hale

+ In good shape, lots of strength in the legs and core

+ 2 successful Tarawera 85kms

+ Good result at Coastal Challenge 2012 a fortnight ago (4th, 3:21)

– Training build-up interrupted by R) ITB flare. The only two runs over 4hrs resulted in a walk-heavy finish.

Predicted: 18-30th, 11-13hrs or “the walkout finish” – 17hrs.

60% chance of finishing


Shaun “RunningBeast” Collins

+ Veteran of many ultra length events

+ Recently set the Hillary Trail (72km) solo FKT (~10.5hrs)

– Recent sinus infection

Predicted: 15-30th, 11-13hrs

80% chance of finishing


So, there it is. A little bit blurry, I know. If you forced me to call it, I would say the odds are that Ron does 11hrs, Shaun and Jake 11.5 and Michael 12.5. But as we know in an ultra, it can play out very differently. It will be fun seeing what happens, that is for certain.