Thursday, 16 August 2018

My nemesis

I signed up for a gym contract a couple of years ago, it was an extraordinarily cheap deal, and the way it worked was my regular membership was less than I was paying for my twice weekly spin sessions.  For ages I thoroughly enjoyed guilt free spin, and the 'me-time' mucking around with the machines (do a set, stop and play with my phone for 10 min, do a set etc). I loved the rowing machine as I could pretend it was helping my swimming without actually doing the pesky swimming, and I could take advantage of the stationary bikes featuring exciting videos of exotic bike trails to stave off (yeah right) the boredom of a rainy day 5 hour indoor ride getting ready for Taupo.

I suddenly realised...well I've suddenly realised a number of times but each time the thought skittered away...that I hadn't been IN the gym for six months, since before Ironman in fact.  Now there have been reasons for non-attendance, but there's been no reason not to drop by and put my membership on hold except what I can only describe as some sort of weird 'hope'.  As close as I can get to it is some sort of vague idea that the minute I put the membership on hold I'd suddenly be desperate to go back.  Which probably isn't as crackpot as it sounds, I know at some point I'll get my excitement back, things will stop aching, the kids will stop coming up with creative ways to demand my urgent attention, and...yeah...the excuses will trickle to a halt and I'll throw my gym bag in the car and twice a week be itching to race into the gym with the old  'yaaay-no-one-can-get-me-here' feeling.

The other day I dropped by the gym.  I was going to deal with it.  Put. Membership. On. Hold. Stop. Dreaming. As it happens, I ran into the young owner who managed to convince me to let him spend some time to help me get back on the training-feeling-good road again.

He listened patiently to "thishurtsandthathurtsandmymusclesareweakandicantcycleandeverytimeidothatthishappenssadpatheticawwwwwww".  "Come back and let's try a few things" he says.  So reluctantly stuffed into loose fitting gym clothes I furtively slunk in through the door a few days later and he put me through my paces.  Evaluating.  Assessing.  Testing.

So after some detective work what seems to have happened is I spent a few years at a standing desk.  It improved my posture and I rarely had the old neck/back/arm problems that I'd had in previous years.   At the beginning of this year though I was tired after Ironman and I put my desk down low and sat down.  I pretty much didn't stand up again...there was always an excuse, and really, I had a very, very comfy chair. shoulders are turning in, I slouch, my neck is in a poor position, my arms and wrists are lining up for carpal tunnel type issues, a bunch of muscles are lazy in the lower body...and because I'm not focused enough to sit properly, and at the moment too lazy to stand...I've created a whole bunch of new/old issues.

So there you have it.  I've got a lot of hard work to do, stretching, strengthening, posture, and a compromise suggestion of setting a goal of some standing and some sitting to try to sort things out.  But best of all, the current problems clearly aren't the effect of some inexorable decline into creaky athlete retirement... I've now got something to blame.  Meet my nemesis...

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Over 50, change

I updated the blurb for this blog, it talked about me being in my 40's with a young family... and a busy career. Now I'm in my 50's and have teenagers...and a busy career.   So what's different about being in your 50's after nearly a decade of distance run/swim/cycling? 

I find it hard to actually imagine myself 10 years ago.  Did I feel any better running...probably not.  Did I get less/more injuries...who can say.  If I read what we've written here over the years it seems to be a constant progression of one injury after another with stubbornness being the key to keeping going.  And the range of glitches, injuries, lumps, bumps and bruises is quite extensive, these days I don't even remember when I get an ache if I've had that particular one before...maybe...or was it on the other side? 

I've speculated that there seems to be something in play where the pain of one injury doesn't fully go away until you've got something else to replace it, the knee that ached for three solid weeks leading you to believe you would need reconstructive surgery and NEVERRUNAGAIN suddenly isn't there because the shoulder is playing up...and...let me check...yes, had that before.  Funny that, be interesting to know how it works for other long time endurance people. 

I've also read that those who do long distance, lots of it, get some sort of abnormal response to pain, they get pain, but it has less impact.  That makes some sort of sense, I would suspect that a first time marathoner probably doesn't have more pain than one who has done plenty of the things, but perhaps feels it differently.  I write that with a kind of weird dispassion, acknowledging that marathons hurt (yes they do) but like having a baby, afterwards the pain has no meaning so quick, sign up for the next one.

And relating to the pain topic, what is it with taking some days off and EVERYTHING suddenly falls apart, the joints creak, the muscles ache, the brain says "a marathon, I can't manage 100 meters!".  I have to acknowledge that I'm aware my body is different, for example I can strength train and I seem to lose any benefits really quickly, and I'm stiff in a way I wasn't to before, my speed goes down and down and down and I also 'feel' somehow more fragile for no real good reason.   

But it's not just me changing.  The environment has changed too. A major change is how much information is out there about all sorts of things now.  Writing back at the start of this blog, it was a major effort finding out what you wanted to know, especially relating to things like being a more mature athlete, figuring out were you going to wreck yourself if you didn't listen to the naysayers, or how to fix pesky injuries without drastic intervention. Now a google search will go straight to hundreds of good articles on running being good for knees, older people being the fastest growing long distance athlete group, strength training for this injury or that, and rebuttals of the horror stories about the propensity for people to drop dead in events (rare, rare and super rare). 

Another thing that has changed is how used we have gotten to tech, we have motivation in a gadget.  My Nike band thingy with the foot pod that counted steps and I could plug it into my pc to upload and that was all it did?   The first GPS that I adored but it was kind-of a pain now that I look back.  Now the glorious Garmin will tell me what altitude I'm at, my heart rate in coloured graphs as it happens without pesky chest straps, and flags that one of the kids has sent a skype message saying where's breakfast.

And then not different...fundamentally training it still takes effort.  You can put on the specially designed technical fabric sports gear but the effort is in walking out the door when you feel like the Michelin tyre woman.  It takes effort to put one specially prescribed advanced cushioning and support shoe in front of another.  It takes effort to get through that first half hour till you feel like your body remembers how to run (yes, the first few km still LIE to you).  It takes effort to decide what aches and pains and grumbles to ignore and what to take seriously before you start enjoying yourself. 

Most especially not-different though is getting past that half hour and the fun kicks in.  Running in the hills with younger daughter, new lambs all around in the sunshine on Sunday comes to mind.  And ahhh...coming home after a satisfying effort exploring a beautiful place, food never tastes better than when earned, and best of all, being in my 50's and still able to see what is on the other side of a mountain, or explore somewhere new with the teens without even thinking about it.

Wonder what the 60's will be like?

Monday, 6 August 2018

Ironman 2018

If an antidote was needed to the debacle that was Ironman 2017, then Ironman 2018 was it. 

I went in feeling plenty of trepidation, I hadn't even done as much training as I had for last year's horrible effort, but Taupo put on lovely weather thank goodness. It redeemed itself for Ironman number 7 on my part. 

On the day, Kate did wonderfully, her brother did even better, and cut a long story short it was a perfect swim in the smooth lake (as it should be), tough cycle on that picturesque course without major wind grief (as it should be) and long hot up and down the road by the lake a few times culminating in that loud, ferociously lit-up crossing of the finish-line with Mr Ironman giving you what always feels like personal attention "you aaaaare and Irrrronnnnmaaaaan".  I got my medal put round my neck by Terenzo Bozzone, the winner.   An extraordinary triathlete, he'd tried and tried and tried at Taupo and not managed, until this time.  That was pretty special, his first Taupo win, and I was lucky enough to get my finisher medal from him.

Then the other day, the news that made every person who dons the lycra, hops on the dratted two wheeler and hits the road feel sick to the stomach, Mr Bozzone was hit by a truck while he was out on his bike training on an Auckland road.  He's now got wires and platinum plates where he shouldn't have them and he's describing having a "little downtime to rest, repair and recover" before making any plans.  Lurch of relief that he's alive and it seems recovering, hopefully he'll get back to achieving what he deserves again.

It makes you think though.  Well it makes some people think.  Obviously there are plenty of people on the road who never will have safety brains in gear, but there's also that one mistake in however many 1000 actions that ordinary decent people make that is at play too.   Getting felled by criminal road lunacy or a mistake, the end result is pretty much the same I guess and sadly getting on a pushbike will always be an act of bravery.  People who spend hours and hours and hours on the road training professionally are seriously brave. 

Out where I live the roads are getting busier and busier  and the tarseal condition is getting worse because of the logging trucks and I reflect that it's not going to get any easier.  These days I let out an involuntary shriek when trucks go past, I wobble in the wake of fast cars, I get the shakes when a wing mirror narrowly misses my head and I puff and pant and take twice as long to achieve half as much as other cyclists.   Personally, I'm not ready to face the new cycling season by dragging my bike out from under the pile of life jackets and discarded bits and pieces in the shed yet. I will eventually, but I wonder if my cycling will get cut short, not because I'm too old, but because being on the road on two wheels will just be too scary.  Thank goodness for running!

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Two and a half years later...

Has it really been that long?  It has apparently, something I only just realised when I got an email reminding me that this blog where Kate and myself used to record our Ironman journeys was still in existence.  I now find myself wondering at how something that was so significant in our lives, where we poured out of our training delights and woes, mishaps and triumphs, can subside into insignificance...and actually be at risk of disappearing altogether into the land of digital excess.

So time for an update?  The first question is did we stop exercising when the blog stopped, or more likely, as mature athletes are wont to do, did we just retire from our training madness.  I'm pleased to say no, we didn't stop or retire.  In fact, writing this is timely, we are off later this week for the annual trek to Taupo, for me it's Ironman number 7, Kate's had one or two off because she's been sensible and had other things she's wanted to do in life.

The next question is how's it going.  Well the answer to that is that things are never the same, and if we've learned one thing, it's that there will always be something impacting on how you do in training and on the day.  We are still LEARNING!   Try for example getting a big tooth pulled out and being on antibiotics just before a race...that's one not to be recommended.  Or having family worries that it's hard to leave at the start-line...we've all done that.  Or being a few kg heavier, a few years older, and fooling yourself that spin can be left out of your training.  Or odd stuff like what the impact is of using a standing desk constantly on results, is it a good thing or a bad thing, who knows. 

And there's always the weather. Personally I wasn't feeling keen on another Ironman after last year's race when the swim was so rough that the half Ironman start was delayed because the rescue boats were busy pulling people out of the water at the other end of the course.  I'm only just feeling able to look back on that effort and what causes me most discomfort is the fact that I was 30 seconds from the close of the bike course.  I'd actually come to terms with not finishing for the first time ever...until it was pointed out that my cycle computer clock was wrong so I ended up racing through Taupo and just...just crossed the line to transition before the close.  I landed in the arms of the whole team of volunteers who had me stripped and re-dressed in my fastest ever bike to run transition time...I was the last person to start the run, and for that whole long orange segment fueled 42km I wasn't sure I'd make it. I did, with less than 15 minutes to the midnight cut off and taking more than two hours longer than my best effort a couple of years before.  More than 20% of the field either didn't end up starting, or didn't finish. I hope they're back this year and Taupo is way us all, certainly the whanau have let me know they don't want to go through that again!

Last year's medal feels to me a bit like the first one we got back in 2012 when the bad weather meant we couldn't do the full event. We were counted as Ironmen but it wasn't till we did the next event successfully that we really believed it, so even though I finished, the 2017 event I struggle with at the moment.  Hopefully after Saturday I can look back at it with some pride instead of it being a reminder of how close I came to failing. 

Kate says 'hi'.

Wish us both luck!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Karen writes: Paeroa to Thames run

The Paeroa to Thames run along part of the Hauraki rail trail was on Sunday, 28+km, it was a little unclear on the actual distance.  What a neat run, well worth the 90 minute or so trip to get there from Auckland.

We were meeting up with Kate down there and fellow runner J and myself headed off early in the wee green car. I made the rather silly decision of heading round the coast rather than going into town to hop on the motorway for the longer but apparently faster trip according to Mx Google.  So we ended up on that very pretty drive, but it took a bit more time than anticipated, especially when at Kawakawa Bay horrible grinding noises came from the car innards. We stopped, couldn’t see anything dragging on the ground, started off again, grind grind scree crunch.  Oh the heart drops, feeling sick, to not turn up at a looked forward to start-line is awful, I've never done that before and to let J down as well. Ok, let’s turn around and hope it goes away, then we can divert off to the motorway if it does. Hang on, some ancient memory of a similar noise rose to the surface... slam into reverse and scoot backwards, ah stone in the brakes. WHEW.

So a relatively uneventful the trip after that, arrived at the school in Paeroa where the start was, how refreshing, close parking, free chocolate, and (mark of a quality event) real toilets not portaloos.  I haven’t seen such genuine old-school school toilets since...well...I don’t remember them being like that even in my day.  Wow, a glorious example of working history, I've said before, with running you never know what you will see.

We headed off along the route of the old railway line, glorious morning, and the running surface was gravel so a little attention was needed.  A lot of attention however was needed for the multitude of concrete cattle stops, and of course the flexible swing or suspension type bridges.  Ever tried to run on one of those?  They come up to meet you with every step, and if someone else is also running (or walking), well, I found it was the weirdest of sensations, going from novel to queasy on the longer versions.  Since I’m known for my love of bridges, I’m not complaining though, I got to see all sorts. 

Special memories, having to stop for mother duck and her flotilla of little ducklings crossing the path from one drainage ditch to another, the big pond with so many frogs in it the noise was almost painful, the strange kid who turned up in odd places, and a picture perfect day running a flat if ankle challenging surface through a beautiful landscape with the hills marching alongside.

The finish was at the Thames rugby club. A novel method of making sure everyone stayed for prize-giving was to not have the transport back to the start until after all the formalities had finished.  But hey there was an ice cream truck, a sausage sizzle and more genuine vintage toilets.  Perfect. It was so nice I would really like to look at more of that trail, more info here  Now the picture isn't mine, I was running for a change and watching my feet not taking photos, I've borrowed it off the council website (call it advertising) and it gives an idea of things.
Picture courtesy of TCDC
So we drove back agreeing it had been a good day, several food and drink stops were made to sort out post event cravings and if that is the only long run before Auckland marathon in four weeks, we are ready, minimum done.

Now swimming...ah...swimming.  Yes.  A swim. Maybe tomorrow.

Karen writes: Swimming

Went for my first swim last week.  Um, sort-of.  I'd psyched myself up and really had to work hard at that even though it’s only 6 weeks until my first triathlon of the season which has a 1500 m swim. I found my wetsuit, a pair of goggles and a cap.  The whole lot had been untouched since it had been stuffed in a bag by the kind volunteers at Ironman back in March, there were still bits of grass attached. 

So, squished into the wetsuit, zip creakily cranked up, yes I can still breathe, and over the road.  Nooo, the contour of the beach has changed, it used to be that three hours on either side of a high tide was ok for swimming, not anymore though. I found myself way out past the wharf in a foot of water feeling a bit silly.  So I gingerly walked out a bit more until there was more water, eyeing the shore which seemed a long way away and trying not to think about the stingrays living out here in the mud, but probably more of a worry, ancient broken bottles and all the other junk that accumulates.

And dip. 
On the count of the... 
I’m going to do this for sure, down I go. 
Yep, I can handle this...
Before my feet go completely numb
It’s just a tiny bit of cold, been colder 

When I finally did get in the water, I was right, it was COLD.  I swam a few strokes, probably managed a minute all-up and then my hands were going the same way as my feet. I could no longer feel them so I got up and waded back to shore. 

Tonight before she left the office to go home Kate said “you’re going for a swim aren’t you”.  It wasn’t really a question.  Yes, I’m going for a swim.

She is going to ask how the swim went tomorrow, I can say, yes, it was a very nice bike-ride.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Karen writes: Starting again

Triathlon season has arrived, well for many it arrived months ago, but according to my own peculiar calendar 12 weeks out from a half Ironman it is time to...ha ha...get serious again. Again. Kate has been off at Ironman camp, as far as I can see she is triathlon trained already having never dropped swimming in the off season and she has never stopped cycling or spinning. Running, well who cares about the run anyway, you can always walk that bit if you are fit for the other disciplines but I look at the Nike app and there I see Kate, off clocking up those running miles on her side of the country too.

I went to Whangarei for the weekend, Whangarei half marathon is an annual event and this year, falling a few weeks after Adelaide marathon, it was an ideal 'get back into things' effort.

The weather was predicted to be awful, but on the day it turned out to be very pleasant, overcast, not too hot, and I made a steady effort on that very pretty course along the harbour-side, through bush, then back along the heads road.  Senior daughter joined me for the final 2 km and over the finish line, that was lovely but I think she may have developed a new respect for her mother on that one. The drive home, now that was when the weather decided to let loose, rain, hail making for poor visibility on those narrow windy roads so I was tired and grumpy from all the concentration by the time we walked in the door. Fortunately, the girls are old enough now to be able to find themselves some food and get off to bed, just as well, I was past keeping my eyes open by half past seven.

I've grizzled about my running speed, how my pace continues to drop off, and this run I was 20 minutes slower over the relatively flat 21 km than my best time a couple of years ago, that is a big difference and if you use the usual formula of double your half time and add a bit, that gives my likely Auckland marathon as something in the range of 5 hours 15. And there were no excuses this time, I really felt like I was running steadily, no mucking around, felt comfortable throughout and there no unplanned glitches such as stopping to stretch or getting stung by anything, there wasn't even the chance to talk to anyone.  Of course, I am definitely heavier than I was back then, Friday I had run and cycled and then having plenty of time in the car plus lack of attention to nutrition could have contributed to such a poor showing, but it seems that I'm just going to have to accept that I'm continuing to slow down.  Funny thing was though, I still had 40% of the field behind me.  I think they might have mixed the walkers in looking at the times, but hey, I'll take what comfort I can get!

Fortunately there are plenty of cutesy quotes around about being a slow runner, like "running slow isn't a character flaw, quitting is", and I think, yeah, that's me. Plus I still run marginally faster than my sofa so I reassure myself that I'm still ok, but then I think oh I should be able to do better, maybe...just maybe next time I will.

Update: I've just checked results after receiving a message to say the 'results computer had screwed up', I now only have 16% of the field behind me, or 20% of my own group.  Hey, I usually aim to be in the top 90%, it's still a success!