Our family Chevron – Lessons from the garage

In my early teens after hard work and a bunch of savings, dad came home with the news that we were expecting. He sat us down at the table and showed us the scans (well a brochure) for our our soon to be new sibling.

9 months-ish (and 100hours work) later a bright red two seater open top sports-car was born. Around 900kgs, Testa Rossa red and bursting with energy.

The dream began with the want to build a car and race it. Figuring we could all learn in the process and backing his self taught skills, Dad (Chris) researched a kit that would get us around homologation issues and to the track quickest. NZ laws at the time meant a kit wouldn’t have to go through nearly half the testing process. It also meant we had a club of enthusiasts to latch onto for advice.

The Chevron was chosen as a cheap/affordable option and the bond began. Skills learnt from another passion Control Line Model Aeroplanes came in handy when shaping and building the car to what it is today. Together with an eye from Carpenter Grandfather and dads wiring skills from work, we had most bases covered.

Spending hours learning skills with dad is something that Jon and I cherished.

It wasn’t just the shed stuff, but life basics: Tidy space, tidy work. Everything has its place. Over-spec, make it stronger that it needs to be. If you borrow something, give it back cleaner and sharper that you got it.

Our Chevron was born in 1992.  Built with the standard Vauxhall Viva suspension setup and powered by a trusty Toyota 1600 4age. The package proved almost bulletproof for the first few years and was driven for at least 6 hours straight over the new years holidays with the entire family taking turns. Street legal, when the tank got empty, we’d just drive out to the local gas station. We drove it hard, a LOT! More than once the gearbox found 1st when aiming for 3rd, sending the little engine’s revs skyrocketing. but it just kept going!

Since then, the car has had more makeovers and transplants than a Hollywood movie star. The current setup is independent front and rear suspension designed by Chris, through hours of reading books, and the latest heart is a Toyota 3sgte pumping out 340RWHP. Enough to wheelspin in the first three gears.

At 78 years young, dad’s desire to race is still much very alive BUT a slight mishap 4 months ago at Manfeild has left the car missing a limb and a 2” twist in the chassis.

So, it’s on to makeover a, b, c or is it f, with the front 2/3’s cut off and being remade.

Hunua Hillbilly – Unapologetically Tough

Auckland’s, maybe the North Island’s toughest Ultra? Quite possibly.

Well, finally, after overcoming the postponements for distancing 😷 (COVID) and then pest eradication, race day arrived for the Hunua Hillbilly.

After dosing off at 21:30, I gave up trying to sleep about an hour before my 02:30 alarm. Peanut butter sandwich and long black ☕️ in the cup holder I head on down to the start line. I meet Pat, who had overnighted in a tent by the babbling brook, and Steff who had left home 45mins earlier.

A second coffee and a heartfelt message from Dave on Steve Neary (epic trail runner and all round good guy) in whom the event was in memory of, followed by some quick safety instructions and we’re off. Into the easy 15k “warm up” section.

It’s groomed trails, paddocks and gravel roads. My $5 head torch (normal kit broken) was giving about 50cents of luminosity so I opted to sit behind other runners and use theirs. Pat and I are chatting and Steff catches up, Steff and I are moving ever so slightly faster and pull away a little.

Leaving the first aid station on the second pass, we climb a gravel road and hit the first technical section. Knowing that it wasn’t the hardest part of the race (from watching Dave, the organiser’s video the day before) my strategy shifted from, hold back a little for the last 20ks, to hold back to survive the tough bit.

My quads are burning on the the ups and shaking on the downs. We climb tracks like Pukapuka and Mangatangi with 15% – 25% gradient. I move ahead from Steff. “Auckland central guy” and I climb together for a bit, then “Brit with the tats and I” hit Auckland’s highest point, and drop down to the next aid station.

I get to the Mine road aid station dry, and top up my bottles. Heading out we then hit the TK scramble. The orange markers are no longer pointing left and right. They point straight up. We’re literally crawling up tree stumps and roots with our hands. I stop twice on the accent dizzy and heart pounding. There are a few 20 minute plus kilometres here as the accent is more climbing tree roots like they’re ladders 🪜than any sort of walking or running.

From here there’s some ok ridge lines and I fall in, having caught Gandalf (tall in grey hat) and Mr airPods. Gandalf having passed me with a “op, mr Orange is not liking Mine climb”, as I paused to swallow my heart. He’s now my pacer. I didn’t really want the same comment at every hill so I stick with him and Mr airPods.

My strategy shifts. We run the ridge line together and I’m no longer counting KM, my new plan, try and stick with these two until we have under 400m of climb to go.

I’m mesmerised by Gandalf’s ultra shuffle, I can walk and jump almost faster, but hold back, as we’re still hitting steep sections. Between 42 and 47k, Gandalf took a tumble on the clay and lands on his glute on a hard bit. He recovers, but I lead and pick up the pace to run the downhills.

My quads aren’t coming back to me, but the flatter ridge line bit has stopped them shaking. I get a good run going on the gravel into the 47k aid station, the gravel road ending all too soon.

I fill my bottles and we enter the Wairoa Loop. it’s still around 400m of climbing to the finish according to my watch, but it’s a wide, mostly boardwalk, stairs or gravel loop. So I pick up the pace and bomb 💣 down to the bottom, crossing the swing bridge. I’m gutted there’s nobody around to double bounce.

I’ve saved 2/3 of my water for the climb. We cross a dam, I see there’s nobody behind me. I worry that the others have found a second wind too and that the 20+mins I made on the down gets eaten up on the climb, so get my head down.

Passing the repeater station my watch ticks over 3000 meters of climb, and worryingly over 57k. I can’t remember how far back the last blue ribbon was, and the aid station was due at 56k.

I’ve pulled both of my bottles out and removed the lids trying to get the last drops. Just when I consider turning back for the second time, I spot the red arrow. I grab an electrolyte refill, mash the bottles back in and tighten my pack.

3.8ks of bombing gravel road and some trails and I cross to the sounds of the finishing bells/medals and Dave shouting me in.

It’s done, 60+k, 3200+m, 7.5k calories of brutal fun. 10/10 would recommend, but I’m going to do some hill work before I’m back 😂 🤣.

Run On Strava


Heuristics: Using social proof and anchoring for conversion

Today I’d like to talk about peer pressure or lack thereof.  What do you do when a potential new customer really doesn’t know you at all?

Much like an introduction by a friend or a spot on the New York Times Best Seller List a little social proof can go a long way. 

Social proof is often a cue we seek when close to purchasing. It can have a strong impact on conversions.

Sharing testimonials on your website seems like an obvious addition. Historically this has been in the form of a page with short snippets of support from previous ‘customers’. We’ve all see them right?   

“Nick’s Brilliant, I highly recommend you hire or run with him.”

Eve Angelist

With social media and specifically LinkedIn it is now very easy to get verifiable real human recommendations. Including links to profiles puts them on the line and really validates the authors message. Few of us will take the time to verify and approach those recommending a product, but we take the fact that there are recommendations by real people as a compelling reason to buy.

Trustpulse have a nifty offering that allows you to serve up recent purchases of your product in real time. A brilliant form of recent relevant social proof.

Online there are also softer cues that we can use to indicate social proof. As much as a stock left counter is useful in indicating scarcity, it can also act as social proof. Indicating that there are 10 little black dresses left of an exclusive 30 shows that they are both scarce and popular. This can also be translated to the physical bricks and mortar world as well. 

C&A the Brazilian retailer set up one of their São Paulo shops to help customers decide which dress they like by seeing who else ‘likes’ it. 

They put their latest collection on Facebook. There, users could LIKE items they preferred. These virtual LIKES were tallied in real time on the hangers of the items in the store. The hype around the range saw it flying off the hangers. 

So with the proof that others like it, how can we tell if it’s priced right? 

Anchoring a price has been common practice since commerce began.

If we think of bartering and haggling in markets, the seller will often start out with a high point to anchor the price discussion. We perceive value and then feel better when we can get it for a lower cost.  The act of adding a sticker for a higher price and crossing it out has the same effect.

And if you doubt the power of anchoring prices – check out some old episodes of the price is right. When an unrealistically high price is presented, the majority of contestants will still gravitate to a price higher than the correct one. 

Anchoring our ideas of a fair price from historical data can also be dangerous. If heads comes up 6 times in a row, the next throw is still a 50:50 bet. This is something that investors need to be wary of. Their analysis and historic data may very well anchor their opinions despite new metrics coming into play.  

Saas and anchoring

Anchoring plays a key role for many SaaS companies in persuading clients that a brand new service is worthy their investment.  

By displaying three or four pricing options you immediately consider the second option more affordable when framed between lower and upper limits. When we can see significant value in moving up from the freemium plan – and that it’s not as expensive as the enterprise version – we feel more comfortable signing up.  Adding a most popular ribbon to the middle plan also helps. 

In a more familiar setting, Tesco, (Countdown, and many other supermarkets) have created a similar three tiered approach with their everyday value, standard and finest ranges.

So how could you leverage these two in your business?

  • If you are competing on price – try using feature comparison tables with competitors.
  • Consider creating sub-brands or three tiered service or product offerings to encourage sales of your preferred item.
  • Add live stock counts or like counts to your product pages 
  • Add recommendation requests to your post purchase feedback questionnaire
  • Ensure your copy and tone of voice align with your goals
    • Consistency in authoritative, precise copy and values with decimal points can make a user trust a source of information more.
      • “About half of Nick’s runs are over 5k”, is less believable than
      • “Nick’s average daily run is 9.61Km in 2022”.
    • The anchoring heuristic has also been linked to the way someone feels. In controlled research, managers were asked to interview job candidates and rate their ability. They did so after their own performance reviews.  Managers that had received positive performance reviews, have higher ratings to candidates than those who had just had their ability questioned.  

As a final little brain teaser to highlight the power of anchoring. Without Googling it – if I told you the average man lives until 80 in India how old do you think Gandhi lived to be? Chances are your estimate will be higher than if I told you the average age is 65.

Heuristics: Using Familiarity To Nurture Trust And Brand Allegiance

Familiarity or pattern recognition is one of the first heuristics we use as a child to be fed. We know that our mother gives us food, so gravitate more to her than dad. We also learn that crying at the right intervals will get us changed and fed. We recognise the familiar pattern and triggers.

Familiarity breeds trust in brand, message and product

Much along the lines of our allegiance to a trusted brand, the familiarity heuristic makes use of what we already know, our established learnings. Known is safe, the unknown breeds fear. 

While looking to be efficient, if we already know 5 steps in a process, adding one more is a lot easier than starting 6 new steps. We are lazy and go with the familiar. It’s why coaches ask us to perform drills of familiar techniques before trying something new. Get us feeling comfortable and accomplished, before we try something else. 

It’s also why going cold turkey to break a habit is difficult. Especially if your routines, fridge and shopping still revolve around the old habit. 

James Clear has a brilliant article on Habit Stacking, that builds from this. Take a read.

Pattern recognition – same old, same old

When we see something play out the same way consistently we get lazy and assume it will happen again. We can use this in a positive and negative way as a brand too.

Here’s some pattern examples to think about:

  • The Hero’s Journey is used in so many movies (Star Wars, The Hobbit, Harry Potter and Finding Nemo). Copy and case studies following this path are very easy to consume and relate to.
    • “You must unlearn what you have learned.” *Yoda
    • “Use this product you must”. *Not Yoda.
  • Cyclical markets. Bear follows Bull. Stocks go up, and down. Banks and financial advisers are constantly highlighting these trends to drive adoption/actions.
  • The fairytale ending. Want to stand out? Have your hero not live happily ever after.
  • Location tracking confirms we are creatures of habit. Prominent digital billboards charge a premium at peak times. 9 times out of 10 I take the same path to the supermarket, every weekend.
  • Dual screening during the Netflix hunt at 8pm is a thing. Checking your work email Monday morning is obvious.
  • Spotting the adoption trigger points in user cohorts, reading heat maps and understanding what time of day your product is used, is a must.
  • Using analytics to discover and build the best trigger, action, reward and investment in your app is one of the most valuable processes you can adopt.

Find an action trigger tied to a primal need, that is part of your users daily routine and that drives a viral loop…

You WIN.

Keeping thinks familiar

Take our phones for example. We would much rather NOT have to learn a new operating system every time we upgrade our phone. This heuristic and the associated reluctancy to learn new things, could be part of what is deeply behind the iOS vs. Android allegiances. 

Another example. If you have always used a Qwerty keyboard, switching to Dvorak and learning to type again is far too unfamiliar. Despite claims that your fingers will move 50% less – it’s a step too far.

It took me a month at university to learn to tie my shoes properly. Out with the ‘bunny ears’ or ‘loop, swoop and pull’, in with THIS. This bow sits flatter across the shoe and ties faster. 

Ditching the familiar method after 13 years was hard, and a good brand can leverage this by changing slowly, being reliable and being familiar. 

Familiarity in software and websites

In English (and most languages) we read left to right so we expect the correct or affirmative choice between two options to be first or left choice.

Software updates are the trickiest. The pesky ‘restart now’ vs. ‘remind me later’ dialog for software updates has caught me out so many times. Of course they want me to click the left button, but it is NEVER the action I want to take and I get left with important files not backed up, and the system restarting. This has caught me out so often, that I draft only in Google docs now, to avoid losing progress.  

When designing user interfaces consistent locations for navigation and actuators breeds familiarity. Search is usually top right. Start an action, bottom right. New file, top left. Logo, top left. 

There are universally recognisable icons too. The looking glass for search. Three connected nodes for share. Many of my most used apps have a common actuator. Strava, Trello, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and WordPress all use the plus icon to start their core actions.  

Mimic the most popular apps

  • reply, retweet, share, are in the same place across all Twitter apps and websites
  • like, comment, share, is also in the same order across all Meta interfaces and platforms. 

Maintain a similar tone and voice in copy 

Consistency in copy and communications will also enforce the familiarity heuristic. This is why brands fight over trademarks, slogans and replica items. It’s this familiarity that makes us think that a red can of cola with white letters on it is closer to Coca Cola in flavour. Far closer than a house branded white and orange supermarket cola.

It’s also why many brands adopt jingles. Their latest campaign might be quite different – unknown territory – for the audience. Adding the jingle ties it back to our familiar reliable brand. Think about that McDonalds jingle or the Intel inside four chimes.

Iterate fast, but change the look slowly

A brand that is also very conscious of the familiarity heuristic are Heinz. Their packaging design takes a very iterative, slow progression. They don’t ever want there to be a situation where buyers are confused at the shelf. 

One classic example of logo progression, and holding onto this recognition is in the Starbucks cup design.

So knowing that familiarity is a powerful driver some areas we can explore are:

  • Creating common messaging, images and sounds
  • Simplifying the variety of navigational or interactive features we have. https://fontawesome.com, is a great tool to leverage common logos and icons consistently.    
  • Make something part of an existing routine.
  • Following the paths and methods of others – see Rolez, Ookley, Dulce Gabbana and other ‘rip off’ labels. 
  • Or creating our own label that becomes the Noun or verb of the industry.
  • Become the brand that people can make an everyday part of their life,  like scotch tape, the Hoover or Googling it. 

Let’s build that familiar trust. 

Want to lear more about heuristics check out:

Heuristics: Scarcity And Loss Aversion As Motivators

As we have evolved over time – humans have developed a number of decision making shortcuts or Heuristic. We use these to speed up the decision making process.

Heuristics usually govern automatic, intuitive judgments. But we can also deliberately use them when working from limited information.

By understanding the role of heuristics in human psychology, we can influence decisions as marketers or in sales. Decisions such as: the prices people pay for goods, the quantity, or the frequency with which they buy.

The first I’d like to explore more today is scarcity – or perceived scarcity.  

The scarcity heuristic relates to the belief that as things become less available they become more desirable. 

A simple example of this is our actions at social gatherings. Where two plates of similar sandwiches are laid out, one with 75% left and one with 30%, we associate the scarcity with popularity. Our brain goes “Wow, most of those sandwiches are gone, they must be popular or tasty, I’ll grab one of those as there are plenty of the other ones left.”

I can tell you firsthand from my early adulthood experience in retail,  scarcity works. Displaying one or two of each size in a t-shirt outsells putting out five or six of each size.  

Knowing you can have one of one limited digital assets is the core selling point of NFTs and the digital files they reference. Their ludicrous prices are testament to the power of scarcity.

Controlled availability can drive perceived scarcity but also bring out the anti authoritarianism in us.

If something is forbidden we know that not everyone is doing it – it’s scarce – so it’s also more attractive. We want what we can’t have and value it, even if we’re not sure what it is. Why is it banned? Why is it taboo?

Red Bull accredits rapid growth in the EU to certain countries banning it. As the product was smuggled across borders into french nightclubs, sales took flight (sorry, I had to).

In court, if a jury has been told to disregard a comment – research has shown that they subconsciously put greater weight on the comment. 

So how do we drive sales or illicit actions with scarcity?

Well, we can hint it might be your last chance to get it. We can combine this with social proof by showing how many have already been purchased and how many are left. 

Position your products as scarce or running out. 

Think how infomercials show products that are selling out. Adding a mock counter would be deviant, but mentioning limited stocks or even showing the colours that have already sold out could drive someone to purchase faster on your site or app.

 Some more subliminal examples of this are:

  • Coke limited editions
  • online only exclusives 
  • by invitation only membership club deals – (48 hours only)

You could also pair a higher price with these limited editions to make them seem even more elite and desirable.  

Loss aversion – that FOMO – fear of missing out factor.

Let me offer you two scenarios to explain what a great motivator this can be:

  1. If you clap three times I’ll buy you three new phones tomorrow
  2. If you don’t clap three times I’ll take your phone now.

The second is more compelling right? Once you have something, you don’t want to lose it. Here are a few examples.

Utility companies
Bills offering an an early payment discount for automatic payments are a good example of this.

Hotels use these tactics at both extremes of their pricing. The early booking discount, then the late checkout penalty. The last available room’s high rack rate and then the last minute discount rate are all used to maximise occupancy and play on scarcity.

Bundled utility packages
In this model, a combined discount makes it hard to relinquish in order to unbundle and set up your whole internet, phone and TV package with other providers, that might be cheaper.

Pre-loading shopping carts. This can help with upselling additional products. Let’s say you click to purchase a new iPhone and the system pre-loads the cart with:

  • insurance for the product at a discounted rate (showing a stand alone price $100)
  • discount for 24 month mobile plan  (showing the without plan price of $1000)
  • a free phone upgrade every year for $10 per month. 

Users will be reluctant to remove these items from the cart as they have already in some way “got” them. 

They feel they will miss out on discounts and extras by removing them. 

The free trial model is another way to get people used to having your service. Of course the balance is in knowing how long to keep it free. The freemium pricing model often leverages limited time access to the full product – in order to drive adoption and show users how great it is. It then reverts to a configuration where the right features or volume of usage, requires the user to subscribe and pay.

Other examples  

  • Coupons with tight expiry dates – you have the coupon and will lose it fast. 
  • The line Readers’ Digest uses in countless direct mail messages “you may have already won X”.  
  • “If you don’t insulate your home you will lose $50 a month”
  • “Price ends tomorrow” – which combines well with scarcity.

The queues at petrol stations prove if you warn of an imminent price increase it will drive sales as people don’t want to miss out. 

It astounds me how many people are willing to queue for hours, to save an amount well under their hourly wage.  

One final point to note with loss aversion – make it timely. The loss of your life to smoking is too far out for the average smoker to see or worry about. But the loss of your partner due to bad teeth, breath and skin is shorter term and easier to quantify.  

So get to it. Use these two heuristics now, before everyone else does 😉.

Want to lear more about heuristics check out:

Why do I run?

Ten years ago my relationship with running was a suppressed distant school memory. Runs finished with Asthma attacks. Curled over my knees after arriving third, from last, in the school cross country.

Only weirdos in too-short shorts run, ’cause they have nothing better to do.

In those years, walking was more my speed. That’s all I needed to do to loose those extra KGs that M&S Carbonara, chips, cheese toasties and UK public transport had bestowed upon me right?

Eight years ago, after walking had progressed to striding, striding to jogs, I started changing out of my suit to jog a full lunch hour. It started to bite. The nice feeling I got after those jogs. A runners high?

But I still liked to bite. Bite Subway, bite Carbonara and bite Buttered Chicken.

Lifting my rolls around my ribs to lie on the couch and being 3-5 sizes over my actual waist size was the kicker. That and realising I couldn’t chase my kids down. I didn’t have the stamina to carry them to the car. Oli would need me to carry him, maybe for life.

It hit hard.

Tamara found a diet and we hit back.

A fortnight of meat only eating and sticking to a strict Keto diet for 12 weeks saw me take a 97kg (213 lbs) to 77 kg (170lbs) dive.

The jog became a run. The run’s became two and three times a week day. The runs became a first Half Marathon, an entry in the Auckland Marathon and then the what ifs started:

  • What if I ran 10k every weekend to train for a half?
  • What if I did 4 days running a week?
  • What if I quit drinking and ran instead?
  • What if I ran for 6 hours (12 would be plain stupid, those idiots)?
  • What if I ran two half marathons in a week?
  • What if I ran every day? (still going, we’re at 1099 days and counting today)
  • What if I got a coach?
  • What if I ran 100k in 12 hours? (I ran 102)
  • What if I ran 120k in 12 hours?
    • I couldn’t. Lockdowns broke the build. I went out far too fast and collapsed 50k in. A vomiting, heatstroke stricken wreck.
  • What if I run 100k a week for 12 weeks?
  • What if I could run a 65k trail ultra?
  • What if I could run a 3:20 marathon? (3:14)
  • What if I could run a sub 90 half?
  • What if…

The weight loss aid became an addiction to finding breaking points. Pushing limits. Building discipline.

The training is now almost the thing, the journey being more fun than the races.

It rubbed off at home too. “Are you really running today?” became “Have you run yet?”

Tamara has gone from once, twice, to three runs a week. She still won’t give up her treadmill, but man does she get angry if it breaks. Il’ya swims 4 hours a week.

Out of the house it’s worse.

Being found by a group or like minded runners, the Night Ninjas, just compounded matters. The 5 people I spent the most time with all ran most, if not everyday, had 5 inch shorts and snuck out at night for runs. When someone mentions a 50k run, every one goes “You’re nuts. What time do we start?”

The Ninja warm up: running the 8k course before the 21k race, is a thing. Running triple quadruple ParkRuns is a thing.

When normal is nuts, you challenge everything. When a race is 3k longer than you thought, 8 stream crossings, and twice as steep – you laugh and embrace it.

When life throws you curve balls, lemons 🍋, or if things get tough, you fall to your disciple and grind it out.

My running why has transitioned.

I ran for weight loss, to escape, to get somewhere.

I now run for the friendships, the discomfort and pain that makes you feel alive, and the ‘what ifs’…

Oh yeah, race report for the Waterfront Half Marathon? I ran the Oxfam 100k two weeks before in ~14hrs so wasn’t sure what to expect. 7 ninjas warmed up and had fantastic runs in great conditions.

I wanted sub 90. I ran 1:29:52 on the day.

Hmm… Hey coach, what if I…

Auckland Marathon 2021

With an extra 6 months of anticipation, Matt, Gene and I headed to the start line nice and early for the 2021 Auckland Marathon in Jan ’22.

The added luxury of a car ride to the start line instead of a bus from Albany meant we missed out on all that nervous tension. That tension that compounds as the bus leaves late, stops everywhere and slows to a crawl on Lake Road navigating around cones and parked cars.

After arriving at the start we found others that still had this nervous tension and were on their third portaloo stop, already wondering what heat the day would bring.

To ease the nerves I headed out for an easy 2k warm up where my watch decided that with sticky buttons, it would reset itself.  I resigned myself to the idea that I might actually be running this race to feel, without my watch to check at all.

Thankfully it rebooted for the start as I met Kate, the other GRG Lydiard athlete trained by Maree and Steff. Kate was super excited to finally put her 100k weeks to use in the half, where she smashed her goal time!

I went over my race plan in my head.

I’d run a 3:07 Yasso workout, a 1:34 half in training but after last year’s vomit 🤮 fest at the Sri Chinmoy 12 hrs, I was still nervous about the heat. Coach and I had talked it through Friday and made the the best plan for me. “Don’t overdo it, go to feel, if good push. If hot, button off but don’t give up.” Simple.

What were my goal times you ask?

  • A 3:15
  • B 3:20
  • C ahead of Bryan in the 3:30 pace group to PB.

With that in mind I entered the start chute. We were delayed 5min, and the banter started with Matt, Gene, PJ, Sean and the others in the 3:15 group. Looking forward it was impressive to see the sea of Ninja orange in the 3 hour pack, knowing the pacer and a few others were incognito in their club kits too 💪.

The first K was slow, it was 10 seconds too fast, but it felt slow, as did the second kilometre. This is good I thought. We were chatting and talked about how good it was that there were people out on the sidelines that you can see with a lot smaller field. Starting at this time of year meant you can actually see the bollards in the centre of the road too, rather than tripping on them or sidestepping last minute.

Sean and I watched Matt start to pull away ahead of us, two stepping us even in race mode, as we headed down to Narrow Neck Beach. I told Sean I’d ease it up the first bit as I knew it flattened off. We could hear Gene and PJ maybe 20 or 30 metres back, as they called out the approaching aid station. We grab a cup, I get two good sips and we head up Lakeside. We’re speeding up, but it still feels ok.

We comment it’s fast and try to contain ourselves, Sean is happy holding back to the pace, I’m happy and it’s not a stretch yet. A short guy next to us joins in saying he’s hoping for sub 3 (😂) he pulls ahead on a hill then comes back to us, saying he should’ve just stayed with us. We drop him in the U turn extension before the second aid station.

I grab the first of my bottles and we smile for Rachel and the other Kellys cheering as we round the corner at Smales Farm. The hairpin is tight and we pick it up a little in the bus way. Sean drops his energy ball bag, seems they’re important so he doubles back and has to catch up.

We discuss the bridge. “I’m in no hurry” was said affirmatively by Sean. I agreed and we try to take the tightest lines until we’re there. Out in the open the sun hits us for the first time, but there’s a cooling breeze, it’s ok for now.

I use the same line I have in the last four Auckland Marathons, “I’m not $#&@ing going to Bash The Bridge” as we approach the sign. We ease off and about 7 or so runners come past us as we head over the bridge slowing by about half a minute for the kilometre. I can’t help myself and half way down the other side I stride out to recuperate 40 seconds and take about 10 places.

I barely feel Shelly Beach hill (nothing compared to Waiwera) and we’re into the aid station for my second bottle.

We start a great rhythm along the flat as I drink the bottle over two Ks. Sean picks up a bottle on either side of the Silo park loop and we enjoy the shade through to Parnell baths. A cup of water down my back, anticipating the heat rising.

As we head over the slight rise near Hobson point, Greg is on the left and lets out a reassuring “Whoa Sean and Nick, go lads”. Sounding like he was surprised at us, a good 90 seconds ahead of 3:15 pack at this stage.

I check in with Sean if he wants to push ahead as I’m starting to feel the heat near Kelly Tarlton’s.  He’ll hold off until the turnaround so we keep at it till then. Like the cricket players Jones and Crowe in ’91, we’d double centuried by now and 6s were becoming 4s. We were still swinging but playing a little safe.

Solid Partnership Mate!

My hamstrings hint at cramps, I really start to feel my calves as Ninjas are appearing coming back the other way. We’re greeting Brent who had a cheery reply for us both by name (he’s looking composed).

(Lads forgive me if I get this order wrong now)

Next is Ben, looking in pain, and pretty silent. We give Seamus a massive shout to make is dad proud. Then Wade, Brad and Mark with some great shouts.

Not much after it’s Matt coming back at us shirtless, and it’s time to let Sean kick ahead from the turnaround at St Heliers.

I can’t kick with him.

I’d spotted my bottle on the way out right at the back of the Mission Bay table. So with noone in the way, I go inside the table grabbing with my right hand then quickly sidestepping around the first volunteer and his proffered cup of water.

That pings all the muscles in my right leg. I walk a couple of steps then settle in behind another runner for shelter, it’s not quite the pace I need but I’m hot, and can’t hear Gene yet.

We round Kelly Tarlton’s, I can start to hear Gene. It’s Okahu bay, I’ve slowed.

He’s in fine pep talk form and eggs me on as we can see Matt, our target, so off we go. I still can’t hold the 4:36 I need, despite the pep talk. My heart’s pounding now (in the 190s) as we head up the final rise at Mechanic’s Bay. I walk a few steps.

Gene and the sole 3:15 pack remainder are pulling away but a friend of Gene’s, who’s out biking is my new cheerleader. “You’ve got this Nick, get back to Gene, use the downhill”. I’m maxed out and have another 10 pace walk and think, get to the aid station. I know my drink is there, it’ll refesh me. I rally.

Gene’s not having a bar of me not making 3:15. He’s standing sentry at the drinks, waiting for me, shouting me in.  He slaps me between the shoulder blades, knocking the “wimp” out if me. I start running.

He’s in full Gene Goggins Mode. Actually, David would take it easier.

  • My form is good he says.  I feel myself pumping my arms and legs spazzing.
  • You’ve got this he says. I’ve got nothing above this gear, I think. 
  • I’m half running with my eyes closed and it feels like a final 800 metre rep.
  • To the corner he shouts.  I push to the corner. In the shade it feels better, ever so slightly.

I tell myself that last drink is giving me energy and I can breathe at the finish. My heart hits 202 bpm somewhere around here.

We zig zag, PJ and Gene telling me “It’s yours, you’re there, you’re gonna smash it”.

We round the final right and someone in the crowd shouts go Ninja. I’m still not sure where the time is. I push, my legs buckle a little going over the planks and I can hear a couple screaming “Go Nick, Go Nick, Go Nick”.

I sprint and look up, it’s a 14 in the middle. Yeahhhhhh I cross the finish.

It’s a 3:14:09.

It sinks in. Even with the heat, I’ve only lost 2:45 in the last half.

There it is, a solid race day, snuck in and not even complete, before we switch back to Red🚦 light COVID norms.

Now, what’s next?

Kauri Ultra 68

Pat, Rich and I jumped into the truck on Friday at 15:30 with provisions, vaseline,  a munitions can and more white powder than Miami in the 80’s.

To translate: our food, anti chaffe, rations container and 2kgs of electrolyte powder.

Steff had already left at midday for his accommodations in Whitianga, so after 2 hours of trying to cross Auckland we were on our way to Thames. The traffic was well past typical Friday thick. My back is getting progressively worse as we sat there. It twinged when I reached down for most of the weekend.

The one up side of all this traffic was that we were able to run through our checklist. Noting we were missing OSM bars and lycra undershorts for Richard.

At around 7pm we pulled into Thames and Richard grabbed some dirt cheap shorts  from a quality specialist red running store 🏬 , The Warehouse (our local bargain store) – what could go wrong with changing something on race day?

Having carb loaded with Steff inspired Ultra Running Fuel (McDonalds) we left and headed up the coast. An uneventful hour of driving in the dark with the coast beside us until we barrel up to a cow in the middle of the road about 10 minutes out of coromandel town. Breaking, swearing, then carrying on, we spend 10 minutes trying to find the school and carpark for check-in. We head to our accomodation.

Pre race banter, a beer and bed 🛏️.

Race Day

4am, we wake and Richard proudly models his new shorts. Quite chuffed with his purchase.

We put our numbers on and start walking with plenty of time to spare to the start.

3/4 of the way there I remember my watch which is still on the charger. 🤦‍♂️. I run the km back down to the start line just in time for the 5:15 briefing and to get my heart pumping.

Turns out we have two Tail End Charlie’s as it’s too far for one to do, which is where it starts to sound ominous. They explain the extra 3k – ish distance today and it’ll be about 68k, a bonus 3k (at the front, thankfully). Yes!

They turn on all of our emergency locator beacons for the first time and explain the I’m lost button and SOS medical emergency button. Then with an air horn to wake the neighbourhood, we’re off up a hill.

Richard heads off with the first group of 4 or 7 and Pat, Steff and I aren’t too far behind starting off ‘easy’ (still way too fast).

We finished this relatively groomed town section and pop out on the road near Driving Creek.  We start up the road to Colville and of course missed the right turn onto the gravel road. We back-track 400m and head up towards old Coville Road.

It’s dawn and Steff spots the first water stop. No food/people but as Steff says right then “Never pass up water”.

About a k  later the first technical part starts where we’re climbing over old railway girders and over streams that seem to have washed away the track. Super fresh as the race director had been out 2 days earlier chopping back foliage and cutting the path. Steff kicks ahead slightly, so Pat and I make our way through trying to avoid twisting feet and knees.

We take turns in tribute, tripping first or watching the other trip. We pass 3 and Pat asks if the older looking one is over 50, reassuring he was dominating his class. (The Japanese dude was in minimal flat shoes and the stones were sharp!)

We hit the first aid station and Steff is there munching a banana. We all leave together around 18 to 24th with three others. It’s downhill here with pine needles cushioning and great for Steff and I, Pat’s getting into too even if he says he’s not for downhills. Across a couple of streams and an airstrip, through some farmland before heading back up to 300m in about 3k.

It’s the White Star aid station.  We hit the same spot on the way back from the beach loop later.

The climb to White Star, pre Bull and Bee

About here, Steff gets a bee 🐝 sting. Neither of us agree to suck it out. Steff calls us names and jokingly questions our friendship . The girl with us gets nervous and drops back…

Steff, post sting looking incredibly unfazed and happy to be alive..

As we jumped the barbed wire fence, another crew are coming back up on the wrong side of it, having run 500 metres into the valley. There’s a whole bunch of swearing and they’re on a mission to get down to the beach. So I lock in and charge down behind the hot stepping first place female, her cadence so fast, jumping the holes and roots as I fumble to find my footing.

We cross the short plain and arrive at the halfway aid station, the beautiful Waikawau Beach. I leave first wanting to eat my sandwich and walk a bit. I’m wondering how good Richard is doing.

NOOOOOO, Richard! He pulls in behind us having added a 30/40 minute Hill repeat to his arrival at the beach. My face said what Rich was feeling apparently. %$#&.

Assessing he was still ok, Rich takes a picture with each of us and then runs up the beach as we walk and his 500m lead extends, He disappears into the stream section.

It’s here as we cross the same $%#!$& stream about 6 times, that Pat tries to remove his lower leg from his knee about 5 times, having fallen and twisted it once on the decent to the beach. After some concerned moments Steff and I, in true “Top Gear” form, leave Pat struggling up the hill, and struggle up ourselves not much faster.

I shout back every 10mins and Pat replies. He’s not too far away when we get clear on the ridge-line. I can see the second place female and a guy I ran down to the beach with (photo above). I figure I might catch them at the aid station. I get there and try to be fast, but my bottle had a hole so I switch it and carry on as Steff pulls in. The four of us are 11-14th and expect Pat’s not far away.

Climb 4, back up to 1000 feet.

Little did we know Pat was trying to loop back to the beach for a k or so, just so he could pass the ‘Japanese flat shoe man’, ‘v boy’ and ‘Bill Oddy’, twice!

I push on and up the clay fire breaks. They go up and down 50 or 100m about 7 times. Some slippery. All of them steep as heck.

It’s hot. I’m out of water and Tailwind at the 4th ascent. I spray cramp stop. I eat Cramp Eaze capsules dry, and get into the second to last aid station 10th. I check and the next three are about 8 minutes in front. The guy at the station says “You’re tall, it’s downhill to the next one. Stride it out, maybe you’ll get them”.

So I do, managing a 5:30min/k and passing two to 8th as I leave the last station. I shouted to the road marshal as I top up with R-line (electrolytes) and he said the next runner was about 5 minutes ahead (Richard, who was actually 10mins ahead). So I down a gel and push up the gravel section thinking it’s the last ‘up’ before the downhill.

It darn well isn’t. Rich is now about 5 mins ahead of me but I can’t see him for the rolling root fest that is the next 20 minutes of hell. Wet, steep, technical stuff with mine shafts either side until the trig.

Little did I know Rich is splayed out on the ground entertaining the female walkers, having cramped as he extended on one of the descents. He’s love/hating it right now. It’s just the stuff he likes and just the cramps he doesn’t need. His new underwear have also rubbed raw what doesn’t need rubbing by now (his attempt to remedy with vaseline on the fire breaks, just rubbed salt in the wounds, literally). 😯.

He picks himself up to high tail it home, pulling up beside 6th who chats then (like he’s only run a half marathon) drops the hammer on him to sprint home.

I’m struggling and Chloe comes past me like a Springbok bounding up and down. Her feet (tiny in comparison) fitting in the footholds as I grab at every Ponga, vine and Manuka tree I can. She is well ahead. We clear the trig and it’s runnable. Yes!

You drop from 550m/1500 feet to almost sea level in 3 kilometers. It’s glorious but so is the pain building in my Quads, back and knees. Double Yes, I see gravel and the road so I give it a last kick to see if I can claw back the minutes Chloe gained on me at the trig. A nice 4:44min/k and as I wade out of the waist deep stream (think I found a hole).

Over the rise I can see her about 100m ahead (with 300 to go) and try to catch her. Too little, too late. I’m 9th, by 23 seconds.

But, a glorious day out. So much fun, So much pain, So much vert. Now where’s that ultra calendar website…

Ultimate metrics
Distance: 68km/42miles
Climb: 2553m/8375 feet
Burn: 7563 calories.
Fuel: Two Gels, Three PB Sandwiches, 5 litres of water and 24 scoops of Tailwind.

Strava link for those keen to explore the map and terrain

Pat, first Vet
Steff, sprint finish
All prepped.
LTR: Nick, Pat, Rich, Steff.

Delegate or DELETE

Athlete, Actor and Artist, Bruce Lee embodied the growth mindset and was always looking for ways to improve and increase his performance. That said, he was ever conscious of the baggage that he carried forward through life. He was constantly looking for ways to remove the unessential. 

“It is not daily increase but daily decrease, hack away the unessential. The closer to the source, the less wastage there is.”

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee applied this idea primarily to his martial art, but he also applied it in life —moving towards simplicity of movement, thought, and being. Cutting away everything that isn’t essential, and restraining our impulse to keep adding on and accumulating.

Running, is all about elimination

Physically, as a runner I always consider the fine balance of lean muscle to weight. The stronger my legs are, the faster I can run. Yet the more strength training I do the heavier my legs get. I don’t skip leg day, but you won’t find me bench pressing 100kgs or even doing heavy leg presses.

On long runs, I take nutritional drinks in my backpack that replace the need to eat, they’re mixed with water, so I process them faster and don’t need to stop for drinks, and I layer so that I don’t have to stop to get changed. A series of optimisations that give me seconds and minutes of advantage on race day.

The last thing we work on is eliminating pain. It’s a constant battle in recovery, with foam rollers, massage and dry needling all having varying degrees of effectiveness. In the race, it’s the nagging companion you do your best to ignore, try to bury, then embrace to drive you to the finish. It’s there where you can finally pay pain lip service and get ready to do it all again.

Watch for shiny things in business

In business a relentless growth mindset and focus on profits can have you chasing the next shiny thing, adding new lead generation platforms, multiple marketing and sales channels, new features and new products for your customers.

Delegate and focus on your expertise

Focusing on what you’re good at and enjoy and delegating tasks that are unimportant will not only accelerate progress, but with the right selections improve your work day. Call it specialisation, or T-shaped knowledge and skills. Keep an awareness of the latest developments and trends in your realm and sphere of influence in order to measure the effectiveness of your delegation then go deep where you can have the greatest impact.

“Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old.”

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson

DELETE the unnecessary

So often we hang on to activities that are giving us results but also weighing us down. Take a hard look at your daily or weekly “To-Do” list and add a “To-Don’t” or two.

Are you keeping a customer for revenues sake who is a pain in the neck, taking up loads of time with support? Are you using a marketing channel that brings that type of lead, just to keep the optics/metrics/growth curve looking good?

Brutal hard deletes like the above are the goal, but maybe some substitutions can get you rolling. Here’s a list of new deletes and replacements that have cropped up in 2020

  • Business trips – Zoom
  • Movies – Netflix
  • Office space – work from home
  • Mailing or faxing documents and contracts – use FileInvite

Do your own review. Let me know what you’ve deleted this year to make space for growth, your family, your business goals, your life goals, and your wellbeing.

Hard And Early, Out Of Lockdown, Game On!

New Zealand is preparing to exit lockdown and return to a resemblance of normality.

We’ll forgo the hugs and high fives we want to give teammates, my pack training runs will have to wait a bit longer, but shops will reopen, and we’ll get back to some of our old routines.

Kids will return to school


But I’ll miss weekday family breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Something we’d never managed to accomplish pre-covid.

We’ve been working, but those who couldn’t work from home, join us.

Retail, services, hospitality and tourism in its new form can start to piece things back together. It’s a fantastic time to reprioritise. Re-evaluate priorities and what will be the new normal.

There’s plenty of opportunity

The world will be watching to some extent, as we’re the class that the teacher let out to play after the rain. Everyones gonna be envious, and looking out the window. If we make it all muddy, the others will blame us for their teacher keeping them back longer. Time to keep it green and impress with our playground moves!

Fundamentals haven’t changed. Solid solutions, to your client’s big problems, still win.

At FileInvite, our Go Back To Market plan is executing on more of the same tech that’s powering professionals to collect sensitive documents remotely. We’re already seeing that barriers are falling globally and that in the software space, being local is less of an issue.

Here’s some thoughts from a marketing perspective

1. Use your Zoom skills, and ability to focus on needle moving activities, to your advantage. The last months haven’t been distraction free at home. Finding big levers to shift the needle has been even more important. I’d also say: chase big wins, even if they’re on the other side of the world, or local clients you thought you were too small to tackle.

2. The advertising space has had a massive shake up. Being one of the first countries exiting lockdown gives New Zealand a great First Mover Advantage. With Travel and Hospo adjusting, I think we’ll see some big changes in ROI.

3. Marketing with conviction and a compelling value prop will be key. There’s going to be a lot of all nighters as the winning teams, the ones that will have money to spend, are going to be busy earning, building their businesses back up they’ll want no nonsense or no fuss solutions.

4. I also hope we’ll see some quality creative and something different to the current loop of: “Now more than ever, in these challenging/difficult times, we’re here for you, it’s about the people, united in our separation, and thanking our front line staff, (who help you buying our stuff)”.

And a little less unprecedented unprecedentedness please.

What about you?

How are you? Can I help with anything? How have your priorities shifted?