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 kinder...to 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 http://www.haurakirailtrail.co.nz/.  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 three...in 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!

Monday, 31 August 2015

Karen writes: Adelaide marathon

The Adelaide marathon was a whole week ago, another case of the time just disappearing, all that lead up and now it’s ancient history.  So how it went...there was meant to be rain, but it was a cool clear morning, 7 degrees C to start, and it turned out to be a great running day, no wind, not too hot, and pleasantly overcast at times. There was a nice sized field with nearly 500 marathon runners, as well as a lot doing the half and the 10 km who all started later.

There was an early start which is always excellent because you miss the heat of the day and still have some hours left with not going straight from finishing your run to recovering then to bed. And what a lovely course, over bridges, under bridges (my favourite), tunnels, cobbled paths by the river, along roads and gravel track through bush, and winding through the beautifully manicured botanical gardens too.  Some very pretty residential streets made up the only hill, and while it was a two loop course, me being me I had forgotten what I had seen by the time I was on my second time round.  Some of that was due to talking (“headphones strongly discouraged” yeehah!), some of it just me paying too much attention to odd things around me.  Like there was quite a long stretch with golf course on either side and I spent some time trying to figure out the likelihood of being hit by a golf ball. Then I recalled a golfing friend being a bit bemused at me suggesting that any real golfer would whack a ball somewhere it really wasn’t intended to go (I was speculating about windows around a golf course at the time), so presuming only real golfers played there us runners were theoretically safe.  Ditto trains, a train track ran alongside one of the golf courses too, so it was a paradise sort of run for me, beautiful surroundings, people to talk to, interesting things to think about and a regular view of trains going past.

I met some very nice people, and one not so nice. The story on this one, I actually felt embarrassed as a runner when this man, an Ironman it seemed, behaved like an arrogant prat.  What happened was I’d been passing and being passed by this runner wearing Ironman logo’d gear, and at one point when he was overtaking me on a track,  a cyclist came up behind us politely ringing his bell.  Mr Ironman snarled at the cyclist “I heard your bell, but I’ve got the right here because I’ve paid to be part of an event”.  I was a bit shocked, there was no need for that sort of rudeness, especially when it seemed the cyclist was doing us the courtesy of letting us know he was there, I was glad it wasn’t Ironman NZ on his branding.

The most memorable point of this event came 8 km from the end when I saw someone up ahead looking like they were having a bit of trouble and it turned out to be a young woman doing her first marathon.  She had had an injury the week before and had been ok for most of the run, but it was finally catching up with her.  I spent much of the last bit of the run with her, and we talked about everything and anything and nothing to help her ignore the pain.  Every so often I asked her to do a ‘stocktake’ to get her to consciously think about if anything was getting worse.  The stocktake was my compromise when I worried about what damage she was doing to herself, it’s one thing helping someone to tough out pain, it’s something else to encourage them to risk doing themselves permanent harm.  Anyway, it was one of those weird what I call ‘bubble’ times, where you discuss all sorts of things with a complete stranger safe in the knowledge that you will never see them again.  Well that’s usually the case, but a bit of investigation on her part later and she found me and sent a lovely message to say thanks.  For me, I found her courage and determination in the face of such obvious pain absolutely inspiring and the privilege of helping her out made that marathon, which was much like many other marathons before, a very special thing for me to be involved in. She has since said she plans to run another marathon and I am sure she will find it a snap next time. Finishing that marathon also highlighted the importance of support at the finish, thank goodness for the people who miss out on all the fun of the run themselves and are ready to be there with encouragement and help at the end.

So the following week I attended the conference which was the main reason I was in Adelaide for and managed a couple of short runs, ate too much, got some real exercise with the kiwi conference-going contingent showing the locals how to dance it up hard at the conference dinner, and now it’s time to get moving again. As ever I’m thinking ahead to my next big event which is Auckland marathon now only nine weeks away, but it has to be viewed in context of other non-running events just after it, like the Taupo cycle challenge four weeks later, and Rotorua Half Ironman a couple of weeks after that.  I’m stubbornly ignoring Ironman lurking just out of sight in March of next year, that is just too big to think about when I’m feeling over-weight (nutrition changes made a few weeks ago are NOT working), seriously under-trained and that sort of level of fitness just seems impossibly far away.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Karen writes: Vacuum cleaning, puddles and destruction

I met up with a cousin on Saturday, multi-ironman, super-fit person. That day he was off for swim-squad, and cycling, and preparing for proper triathlon events where people actually go with the intention of pulling off personal bests or winning.  He may have been a little bemused when I said I wasn't even thinking about swimming or digging out the bike for months yet. I am inspired by such people, but do tend to see them as something quite apart from me, same vague animal genus, entirely different species.

I do consider these things as I potter along.  But I also reflect on almost everything else which as previously described is the big contributor to why I will never get any better.  Like I was out running the other day and there was a man standing in the thigh deep water out past the wharf with what looked like a vacuum cleaner.  Vacuuming the sea? When I looked more closely I realised he actually had a metal detector, who knows what he was looking for in that spot that looked exactly like every other spot in the bay. Personally though I preferred to think he was vacuuming, I wasted a couple of km dawdling along concentrating on making up a story behind that particular bit of strangeness.

That same day, bit of rain and lots of puddles and coming back along the coast road there is a patch of road that can end up with some deep water over it, cars push through with a great bow wave and much spraying of the wet stuff.  I saw a motorbike coming along the road, heading right towards the big puddle at a decent clip, I automatically did the urgent slow down motion with my hand. Turned out I had just suggested a police officer slow down, I hope he associated my action with the road hazard rather than cheeky runner. Oh well, I was pretty incognito, I think.

This weekend I finally got back up into my lost paradise in the hills behind Maraetai, those wonderful mountain bike trails and tracks that have been out of reach for much of the last year because of logging.  Of course I knew at some level there would be changes, but it was a bit of a shock when I saw the extent of the destruction. I picked my way over the smashed small branches on the through roads and where once acres and acres of tall forest had stood there was dirt, bare dirt.  Is that hill really that small, I remembered it as so much bigger when I couldn't see through the trees.  So I ran carefully through that wrecked landscape, I did notice that there were still some positives, one patch of newly planted trees that had been tiny when I was last there were now taller than me, I admired the healthy flowers on the prolific gorse, and took the opportunity to pause and have a look at small rivers and other features of the land I had never had a chance to see before.  It was funny to see traces of old trails winding around the hillsides and how they related to each other once exposed. Not sure if I want to go back in a hurry though, I suspect it will be hot without the tree coverage, and it all made me feel a bit sad. I spent so many hours spent playing in that forest, the shady pine-needle covered tracks just made for hard-out down hill efforts, the hidden secrets around corners exploring unfamiliar forest trails...all gone.  For now.

Anyway, the next event is just next week.  Down to short runs for now, and I've been a bit silly and I'm trying modifications to my eating (oh again), of course that is exactly what I would do a few weeks out from an event, could I come up with better sabotage? Otherwise I'm getting ready, starting to put aside gear as it is washed and scrabbling around to find the gels and things left over from the last event, there is no excuse to buy more really when I know there is still a pile of my least favourites somewhere. Might as well get rid of all old stuff then I can have a fresh start leading up to oh goodness, another Ironman, it's only 6 months away.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Karen writes: Last long run

Got out for the first...and last decent long run on Sunday, it was a bit of a lackadaisical affair though, at least to start with. Down the road a kilometer, outside a cafe, oh there's another runner having a coffee.  Stop for a chat.  A bit further along the road, text messages, hmm...would love to answer them, but I've only been going for 4 km, can I make 5 then I can stop for a drink, something to eat and check the message? SWITCH the sound to MUTE. Funny, I had pretty much gone cold turkey on Facebook which was turning into a troubling addiction but it turns out that the at-all-hours communication has a way of continuing around logging out of one app. I mean I do love the contact, but it can be ridiculously hard to take advantage of the off switch sometimes. So run, run, running along, ahhhh spring flowers, hey spring flowers, it must be getting near to warmer weather, pause for a look. Run a bit further, LAMBS, newborn lambs, that's so cool, take a picture and send to the kids.  Is that a new calf, oh sheesh, just run why don't you!

Part of the discussion with the runner at the cafe was about how we don't do what we should do, like the recommendation is to only increase your running distance by about 10% at a time.  Well, I laughingly admitted that I was taking my longest distance to date up by about 30% for this particular run. I know I can do that, but I also know I will pay a price. My legs got heavy, my brain was tired, and eventually the road under my shoes was way more interesting to look at than any amount of pretty flowers and frolicking baby animals.  I wasn't inclined to drink because it was raining, I forget that wet weather can be the worst for getting dehydrated, with all that water around you don't seem to feel as thirsty.  I forgot to eat, and had to keep reminding myself to straighten up, stop slumping along. Checking my phone for the time, an email has arrived, so stop and look at it.  This is so NOT good.

And music. The same cyclist managed to surprise me twice by coming up behind me and singing out hello, I think the second time was to see if he could make me repeat the startled shriek and stumble, there is a message in that. And why on earth is this song on my phone, how did I not realise what a complete prat this artist is? Oh the joy of having the lyrics being fed directly into my brain so I have to listen to each and every idiotic word.  Stop, delete.  And this one, goodness, I liked it when I was what 12? Can't for the life of me think why.  Hmmm, battery down to 70%, will it last, what happens if I fall into a ditch and need to call someone to rescue me?

So I turned the phone off properly, ate something, had a big drink and decided to concentrate.  It was not a particularly pleasant run, but the closer I got to home I found myself feeling a bit better, listening to the world around me I reminded myself of why I had shifted heaven and earth to get out the door for a long slow effort today. Why, I was hopefully mimicking race conditions. Doing things like checking that the clothes I was wearing were the right clothes for race-day, were they OK, yes, but a visor needed instead of just the scarf. Feet, got a blister the other day, but today no trouble with chafing or anything else. Checking nutrition, no not OK, that wasn't working at all, mainly because I had screwed it up from the start and you cant catch up once you are behind, better put some thought into it for the day. But yes, I'm ready for the next marathon however it will be a slow one in line with the amount of effort I've put into getting ready for it...not a lot. The heat will be a consideration too, so message to self, go slow, and concentrate on not messing up the details.. also... leave the dratted phone at home.