Monday, 16 December 2013

Kate writes: Rotorua and big hills

I was totally under trained but had a great day. 

Swim was good but got caught behind some non swimmers with flippers on, thought I was going to drown but got over myself by the first marker. 49 mins good swim for me.

Bike was great got all the food right, not enough to drink, need to work on that. Big Big hills, saw a friend  twice, I was no help to her at all, but gave a wave. Not sure why I was so slow... maybe down to lack of training. 4hrs 26 slow

Run/walk was glorious lovely views and all off road, well almost. Had a huge argument with an official as he wanted to close the run 1k short down a long path, he should have known better than to argue with a nurse. I was prepared with water. He let me go through haha. 2 hrs 57mins, about right.

Sunburned on areas that do not usually see the sun. Feel very sore today, but determined to do better next time 

Karen writes: Ideal leadup to a half ironman

Number 4 Rotorua half Ironman finished.  Tick. The event this year, I have to say, is right up there among the hardest physical (mental?) challenges I have ever completed, and it showed up in the result of 8 hours 19. I really wanted to give up on more than one occasion, I was on that hot road for nearly a whole hour longer than last year and was a full 70 minutes slower than my best time a couple of years ago. What happened? After a good swim I bombed out on the ride, I felt unwell and most importantly gave up on eating properly fairly early on which probably contributed to the thigh and hamstring cramps threatening whenever my legs had to work harder. I tried to take my electrolyte capsules early in the ride but in wrenching the cap off the container with my teeth I spread the precious little things all over the road...oops. Sometimes cramps hit you with force and you don't have time to do anything, these were more insidious, they showed up as a deep groove across my thigh and would subside to a twingey ache if I took the pressure off, a tough ask on a hilly course. At one point I was thinking about how I could get home if I stopped, then I rode past a bright red poppy growing by itself in the dust on the side of the road, I figured if it could survive, so could I. An equipment failure in the form of a stone in the front brake apparatus on the way up one of the big hills didn't help. Fortunately I had enough tools to fix it but then I had to walk uphill a way to find a driveway where I could get a bit of a run-up so I could get back on the bike.  Walking up a hill is murder on the legs when wearing cycle shoes, I would normally say do anything at all rather than walk, unfortunately you cant pedal far with a stone jamming the brakes on.

Off the bike and onto the run I did a a funny sort of hobble. I was in a state of anxiety as I watched everyone heading off on their second lap when I was just starting my first, I was thinking that I might get pulled off the course if the aid stations shut down before I got to them, so I grabbed a bottle of water to carry just in case. Just as well I did, way out on an isolated bush track a man on a bike came along and said there was a km to go to turnaround and the station had shut so I should go back now.  I said I wanted to do the whole distance, he was quite insistent that I should turn back because there was no water there but I was sure I was ok as I had at least 500mls. He took my name and rode off and I thought now I've done it, blacklisted. So I ran on and saw Kate and another runner, they had been to the aid station and were on their way back. I got to the now deserted aid station thinking that even if I was too late for my time to be recorded (no medal!) I could at least say I had really finished the whole distance. Then the long hobble back. I guess the advantage of being forced to take it easy is you can really appreciate your environment, and that bush run by the lakes surely has to be one of the most beautiful around.  In total it took me nearly 3 hours for the 21km, but on the final 5km I even managed to pass a few people so I wasn't completely last. The whanau was waiting when I came out of the bush, oldest daughter ran over the line with me and Kate was standing under the finish banner with a beer and my medal. I even got my t'shirt too, thank goodness for that.

I was worried about this event beforehand, I knew that I had had the worst possible preparation.  The seeds of the problem were sown not just in the days leading up to it though, but in the two months before. So here is how you have the ideal leadup to a half Ironman...not...

In the two months before a half Ironman
  • put on 3kg in weight
  • radically change your diet a month out
  • have a late finish to marathon training leaving barely any time for cycle training 
  • put another couple of kg of weight on
  • pay no attention to muscles, ie, massage/rolling/stretching
  • stop even pretending to do any strength training or injury prevention exercises
In the two weeks before the half Ironman
  • do a hard 160km hill cycle event in the wind
  • only get professional help for a sore back when you are unable to move 
  • develop a gastro prob and do NO training at all for the whole two weeks, in fact, stay in bed and not eat for the weekend before
  • ignore the fact that your running shoes have done 6 months training and two marathons
In the few days before
  • still have residual gastro effects...
  • sleep poorly
  • the bike still doesn't have a computer that works
  • ignore fact that the last bike service was for Ironman which was in March
  • decide to go into caffeine withdrawal
  • notice that one of the children has a sniffle
The T'shirt says it all!
The biggest danger of having a bad showing in an event is what it does to your head. There is that nasty little wormy thought in my brain that because I did so poorly this time, I cant possibly be good enough for Ironman in 10 weeks. But the more I think about it, this event didn't turn out to actually be about fitness, it was about keeping going when things went to custard.  I am a work in progress telling myself that I should chalk this one up as a success, starting with tomorrow, when I shall wear the new t'shirt to work with pride. Then I need to sit down and do some serious planning because while I might deserve to be a little proud of the fact that I finished at all, I most definitely don't want to go through that experience again (the pain not the race!), and absolutely not for double the distance.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Karen writes: Goliath

Some situations are just plain surreal.  Straddling my bike at the side of the road at an intersection I waited for a break in the traffic so I could safely go. A massive truck and trailer unit with much noise and air movement wedged itself in beside me. I mean, this was shoe-horn finesse going on here.  I was in a something of a state of disbelief  as I stood next to this hulking great monster while it wheezed heat and fumes into my breathing space.  Wow it was big.  Oh, and I was small.

What a mean thing to do, talk about intimidation! I looked quickly around, no-one watching, I reached over (it was THAT close) and drew a quick and tiny happy face on a dusty, mirrored, wheel center.

Got you I thought rather madly, then I hopped my bike sideways into the gravel as far away from the beast as I could get. As soon as I could I continued on my way, take that Goliath!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Karen writes: Taupo cycle challenge - number 7

Sunday evening, home tired and satisfied after yet another challenging Taupo experience. The Taupo round the lake cycle  weekend always starts with a rush to organise everything at home so I can have a couple of days away from the whanau, thank goodness for Grandma and Grandad who could step in to help out. Every item of cycle gear packed to cover (hopefully) every weather or condition eventuality, and of course FOOD.  Pick up Kate, onto the motorway south, play spot the other bikes on the trip, eat and eat all the way.

We stayed in a cute little bach looking out over the water, had a nice dinner on Friday night at a Restaurant we visit most years where we watched the trees rock'n roll in the wind and the waves thrash the top of the lake. Saturday morning up, a bit of a breeze but not too bad, overcast, on with a mixture of clothes to cope with weather predicted to range from hot to cold/wet/windy then out the door with fingers crossed.

On the road, I was planning on about 8 hours because I  was so under-trained, and with a half Ironman in two weeks I couldn't afford to tire myself out so much that I put myself into recovery for that time.

Musings on the bike

  • wouldn't you know it, I got a new cycle computer, but it was sitting on the bench at home because I was worried that if I connected it up in a hurry it might not work right, so of course the old one decided it didn't want to work AT ALL.  I missed knowing my speed and how far I had traveled and hung out for the road-signs indicating distance.
  • how come everyone rides faster than me?
  • why did I choose to make a snack out of a chewy bap rather than soft bread?
  • at 30km I had had enough and I wanted to go home.  What stopped me...big hills behind me that I didn't want to go up again, what would I say to people if I didn't finish without a good reason (at the very least a broken leg), and when I did an impromptu stocktake as to why I felt like like giving up...nothing hurt, legs turning ok, bike fine, weather not too bad, so it was just lazy head syndrome which always goes away if you ignore it.
  • how come everyone rides faster than me?
The wind got stronger and stronger but being a headwind I thought at least I could look forward to a tailwind for the last half of the ride. Not to be, the wind changed direction and it was a head or cross wind on the other side of the lake too.  I didn't talk to many people this year, perhaps because people were working hard dealing with the tricky conditions and staying upright.  Nothing puts a dampener on being sociable like wind and rain on a bike, it almost made me wonder if I was meant to be there to work hard?

The only real conversation I had was with a young man at the foot of Hatepe Hill by which time I had been riding for over six hours.  He was stopped on the side of the road and as I pedaled past he called out "do you know how to change a tyre?".  I said "not well" and kept going, I mean it was Hatepe Hill after all.  I felt guilty a few meters up the road and turned round and coasted back.  "Have you got any tools?" I asked, looking at this fresh faced young thing with his flash red bike.  "No".  "Pump?"  "No".  My guilt at not helping a struggling fellow human-being evaporated at this point and I now felt cross. What kind of idiot gets on their bike to ride 160 km with nothing?  I handed him a tyre lever, my pump, and pointed at the bits you undo and then I got back on my bike and started slogging uphill again, he could flag down one of the following mechanics as far as I was concerned.  Of course I was then in a state of anxiety that I would end up with a flat tyre myself in that last 40km having given away my pump, but fortunately that wasn't the case.

Sea of umbrellas
I finally came in to Taupo in a time of 7 hours 51 with about 8% of the field behind me.  Kate had been waiting for over quarter of an hour, she had made good time in the tough conditions as expected (well, I'd expected, Kate never does!). Shortly after I arrived at the finish the rain got really heavy, whew, good timing. As we drove back to the bach for a steak recovery dinner cooked by Kate's wonderful whanau we felt sorry for those still coming in with their heads down, shoulders hunched into the wind, pedaling hard.

Am I as fit as last year? I dont think so, I have spent very little time out on the bike and some of that is to do with having run a late season marathon, but my feeling is that the hard-out spin sessions have helped pull me through. Rotorua half-Ironman will tell me more, then I will have 10 weeks in which to get ready for the full Ironman in early March. 10 weeks, next thing I know it will be down to single figures!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Karen writes: Good driver, bad driver, lucky driver

I went home on Friday after work and fitted in a short bikeride to clevedon and back, about 45km.  It was alarmingly hot, the tar was making popping noises when I rode over it. I puffed in the still air and wondered if I should have re-applied sunscreen even though the heat of the day was technically over.  I'm ready to ride Taupo I kept telling myself, goodness, I couldn't possibly be worse than I was those first few times we rode round the lake...but then I wouldn't want to be, that was 9-10 hours of TORTURE.

As I scooted back along the road towards the coast, there is a narrow tree-lined stretch. I was racing for home at this stage, enjoying the shade, a blue car came up behind me and that was ok, they weren't trying anything silly, they just sat there far enough back for me to feel secure, waiting for a clear stretch that was safe to overtake in.  Good driver. Next thing there was the roaring of a motor, lots of horn tooting and yelling, I didn't look back, I didn't want to know, head down and pedal and hope.  The car behind me stayed behind, we came to a short stretch with better visibility, cue blue car to overtake, good distance, unhurried, good job.  Next came the browny green (bile?) coloured vehicle, revving engine, hooting horn, narrow road going up a hill now. The driver had his windows down and he pulled alongside me close enough for me to touch his car easily, he yelled something and then took off.  I didn't think, I yelled back and as he pulled away I made a universal hand signal to show my disapproval. Then my brain engaged, what a stupid thing to do!  Mad man with poor judgement who had already put me at big risk, me alone on a bike on an isolated stretch of road, what was I doing trying to escalate the situation?  So I kept pedaling for a bit expecting to see the car turn and come back, what would I do?

He didn't come back, and a little while later I had calmed down and I realised that the driver behind the wheel of his sad little car probably hadn't noticed my stupid display of bad judgement.  I even had a chuckle to myself when I considered the merits of being cool in a car that when the accelerator is floored responds with a sad little urr noise and a few pathetic exhaust pops as it lurches away.  Of course he could have just as easily killed me, uncool car or not, but on Friday he didn't.  Bad driver.

Now a bit further up the road I crested a small hill and there was a driveway on my side of the road with a Toyota Surf turned into it.  As I pedaled towards the car I watched it, was it going to move...didn't look like it.  I pulled past it and just as I did so it started backing out into me.   I wobbled away and yelled and yelled so hard I hurt my throat.  The driver looked shocked and stopped and called out that he was sorry, he didn't see me.  Lucky driver.  Well actually...lucky me!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Karen writes: Shadows

I went to the beach as the sun was going down, I wouldn't normally swim at that hour but I needed a short swim and after a busy afternoon with the daughters at Touch rugby it was the only time I could fit it in. It was hard to leave the comfort of home so I was quite pleased with myself for even getting into my wetsuit (now tight) and into the water, which was choppy and murky after a blustery day.

I swam along the beach, as I do. I'm not brave enough to head out into the bay being chronically suspicious of what lurks below, and swimming by myself I like the security blanket of being able to easily get to shore if I hit trouble, like a cramp. Sloshing along, my heart sped up when I saw these intermittent dark shadows underneath me, they were swimming smoothly along, great big things, what were they?

I realised that these shadows co-incided with me taking great gulping mouth-fulls of sea water instead of air when I turned my head to breathe. Turned out I was seeing the effects of the waves on the sea-floor, big wave, big shadow, not conducive to breathing.  The dark shadow effect was from the low sun shining at an angle through the murky water, I found it quite amazing to watch when I wasn't actively drowning.  I lasted 400 difficult meters and went home.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Karen writes: Update on losing weight through eating more...

As I wrote a bit over a week ago, I have been worrying about my steadily increasing weight so I got some professional sports dietary advice.  That advice, in a nutshell, was to eat more, especially carbohydrates and protein. Now I'm eating every 2-3 hours during the day, some protein, some carb, its hard work.

What probably is surprising is that I have been pretty much actually following the advice, notable exceptions were falling off the wagon for birthday cake in the office, and pie and chocolate on Friday's 5 hour bike ride.  I may also some m&m cookies which followed me home for the kids lunchboxes, I had to do a quality control test on them myself first.  I am eating more, ignoring (trying to) the energy in/out calorie approach, and concentrating on quality.

I started this process feeling nervous so it wasn't a big surprise to me really that after my sterling efforts to push MORE food in I am steadily putting on weight.  I feel like I did the one and only time I tried properly carb-loading, sluggish, sort of packed tight in my skin.  So I contacted the dispenser of the eat more advice to ask at what point should I panic.  His answer was "the weight gain is not unusual given the diet you were on before, the body is adjusting to the increased carbs by loading water.  The whole purpose of this plan is to arrest the muscle breakdown that was occurring as a result of not having enough carbs and energy overall". Yep.
picture from "Laces & Lipgloss"
It does make some kind of twisted sense though, going on a low carb diet results in rapid weight loss to start with because basically you are getting rid of quantities of water. I guess going from inadequate to high carb could bring about the reverse.  Gavin thinks I might put on another couple of kg before my body gets back into some sort of more healthy relationship with the fuel I put into it. I'm hoping its not going to be that much more though, I'm about to bust out of my cycle shorts!

Karen writes: How to turn an event into a holiday.

Last weekend I did something unusual for me. I checked the training programme, it said '2km swim, run 20km', then I ignored it completely.  On Saturday a friend and I took our respective daughters into Auckland city to stay in a hotel on the waterfront for a Sunday event, the Sculpt 6km walk/run.  We had decided we would stay overnight rather than drive in horribly early in the morning and have to worry about parking etc.

Anyway, Saturday afternoon was spent firstly with some urgent city road-safety training for our country town girls then checking in at the Queens Wharf registration for race numbers and goodie bags. Then we wandered along the Auckland waterfront. There is the coolest playground at the Viaduct with a sea theme, well worth a look. The girls climbed climbing things, rolled down a fake grass bank, spun on spinning things and had to be retrieved, slightly damp, from the shallow water feature. There are lovely cafes and restaurants on wharf type structures with amazing outlooks, plus just admiring all of the assorted floating things from raft to massive cruise-ship was pure entertainment.  I especially loved the concept of the shipping container reading room, full of books and beanbags, you could sit and read looking out to sea.

Everyone got some sleep in spite of the excitement of staying 6 floors up in a strange hotel room then Sunday morning rolled along and we were up early and walked down the road for a non-performance breakfast before our event. Race numbers were pinned on shirts, then we joined up with the crowd of thousands of women all there for the same thing.

We had a warm-up, lots of arm waving and hip movement stuff facilitated by an enthusiastic instructor (senior daughter was apparently embarrassed by her mother) and then we walked. Best laid plans with daughters saying "we would like to run", yeah right, Tui moment, we walked.  But it was a beautiful day, the sun shining, lots to see, people to talk to, an hour 25 to do 6km and we crossed the finish line.  This was followed by some good old-fashioned Queen Street window-shopping, a stop at a food-hall, then home. That's how you make a holiday out of an event.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Kate Writes: You would be proud of me?

Yes we had a great ride but .... I had a puncture/flat tyre. This is my second flat this year, the last one I had a wobbly bottom lip and cried as I felt hopeless in how to change a tyre, especially the back one. But this time I was convinced that I could manage. I also had GI Jane with me (AKA Karen). We were going up a hill on a very small windy road and I thought the road was a bit Bumpy, but no my back tyre was flat. Off to the side of the road and safety we went. The Back tyre is the hard one as it has gears to contend with. But we got the wheel off and the tyre and put the new inner tube in. But it was not sitting right so after a little time of trying to get it to fit we just put another one in.  All ready to get back on the road. The one casualty though was Karens bar of Chocolate. It had been sitting in the sun and had melted. Very SAD.

Karen writes: Last big bike ride before Taupo

I took annual leave on Friday and Kate and I met up at Clevedon for our last big training ride.  Our bikes were loaded down with plenty of food, we had money to stop at one or more of the three shops on the 100+km route to buy more food and drink, and we were prepared for hot weather.  Five hours later we were back.  We had eaten all the food, successfully covered the distance and gotten hot and only slightly bothered in the process.

Actually it was a lovely ride, grinding up all of those huge hills heading out towards Hunua, racing along the flats at Kaiaua, and onto more huge hills to get to Kawakawa bay. There were smaller hills back to Clevedon, plenty of boats and trailers to dodge, and everywhere lots of glorious scenery.  I was happy that there were no suspicious mechanical noises from the bike and nothing fell off it, and I made a valiant effort to stick to the new nutrition requirements.  Well, except for the fruit and nut chocolate and bottle of coke at Kawakawa bay, and maybe the recovery mince and cheese pie from the deli after we finished at Clevedon (sadly the cafe had shut). On the ride, in addition to the chocolate and coke, I managed to make my way through two cartons of flavoured milk, raisins, bananas, gu gels, sports beans, low-fat fruit bar thingy and 2 1/2 litres of water. I realised at the time I was being a bit silly completely altering my on-bike nutrition all at once, how would I know which change was the cause if I had any problems?  It worked out ok though, I felt fine apart from being a bit overloaded sometimes by quantity (the half hours come round quickly when you have to eat at least EVERY half hour). We convinced ourselves that we both felt better than when we last did this ride together a year ago, in spite of a lot less training, so we expect to be fine at Taupo in two weeks...yep...the power of self deception.
Pinky is back on the road...low tide at Kaiaua.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Kate writes: Swim in the sea

Sunday was the Herne bay masters swim in Auckland. Yes I can swim 2.2km, I think. You know you can do these things but sometimes you need to be reminded. It was a great day, the sun was shining and hardly any wind, the sea was flattish.  I registered late and had a white cap. They sent us off in waves and the white caps went first. Bit of a shock, no one to follow. Anyway it was not long before I could follow the ones in front. We swam towards the island, but were soon pushed over to a buoy by one of the boats. Now we had been told not to go that way but you do go the way you are told. I had just got  to the buoy and another boat said we were going the wrong way. No need to get upset, I mean we were just out for a swim so off to the island we went. There was a bit of a current and it seemed to take ages but eventually I got there. Another boat was close by. I always wonder do they think I'm not going to make it or am I just the last one in the sea? Still another km to go and the wind picked up. In I came, my hat fell off and my hair fell in my eyes, BANG into another body. Oops. Came into the finish line, 48 mins. Pretty good for me.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Karen writes: Shoe mystery

The last two weekends have been pretty much spread out half Ironman events.  Big ride on the Friday, swim Saturday, and run Sunday, a lot of hours under my feet or wheels so to speak in a relatively short space of time.

Friday just gone I got on my bike for my 2nd 100km in the leadup to Taupo. I headed off, not for the flats of Takanini this time, but the full-on hills towards Whitford and beyond.  I slogged up rise after rise, I ate, slogged and ate. Fortunately on the bike I usually see something to sidetrack me which makes the time go a little quicker, and this time was no different. After I got from Whitford to Alfriston, I did a loop taking me to the outskirts of Manurewa and back via Ardmore.  I found myself fascinated by a trail of shoes on the roadside. Now these weren't pairs of shoes, but countless individual shoes, some left, some right, heels, flat, strappy, all colours, and all looking about the same size. None matched that I saw, it was almost as though someone had taken one shoe from each of dozens of pairs and thrown them out of a moving vehicle at regular intervals. I was particularly captivated by one as I rode by, it was high heeled purple velvet with sparkly things on it. It lay forlornly on its side in the dust, decoration glittering feverishly in the sunlight, what could be the story behind that I wondered?  When I mentioned it to Kate, she suggested someone having an attack of spite, I mean, shoes are treasured possessions, who in their right mind would separate them and leave a trail around back roads in South Auckland unless they were sending a particularly vindictive message?  I wondered more prosaically if someone had knocked off a recycle bin, but it sure was a lot of shoes, and a lot of effort to make sure no two of the same were together.  An additional trip round the block and there was no answer to my important question of where was the second shoe of each pair, it will just have to remain a mystery, one of many I leave on the side of the road in my wanderings.

Anyway, 100 km, and a long 5 hours later I got home.  My back and shoulders were tight, my legs had chain grease on them, I wanted to divorce my bike-seat and I was tired and had a headache.  Then the question of importance was why do I do this to myself?

Karen writes: Getting fat through eating not enough...

Energy in equals energy out. It makes sense, anything you don't burn through activity is stored, so take less in or burn off more if you want to lose weight.  That is what we teach, that is what all the recommendations say, that is also what the research unequivocally shows.  For by far the majority of people this equation is absolutely right, the hard part is offsetting the multitude of complicating factors life throws at them, things that make eating too much of the wrong food and doing too little exercise into the easy option.

In the last 6 months the energy equation has not been working for me, I've been putting weight on even though my average energy intake has been way below my energy output. In desperation I even dropped cake AND chocolate to the bottom of my essential food list (notice I said 'bottom' not 'off').  My big energy deficit has often been accidental, for example, to completely replace the energy burned in a 5 hour run or bikeride, about 3000 kilocal, you'd have to eat over 5 Big Macs, or probably closer to my particular heart (stomach), 30 snack-size (20g) chocolate bars, I mean, who would? According to the energy in/out equation my weight should be going down, the opposite is happening and I've become aware that something isn't right in my metabolic landscape, something I cant just blame arbitrarily on my long term thyroid condition.

Last week I invested in time with a sports nutritionist recommended by a previous team-member. I've been to dietitians and nutritionists before, they did their best with the limited information they had in front of them, and advice was usually more of the energy in/out, cut fat, fiddling around the edges of my diet depending on the fashions of the time or their personal background philosophy. One memorable elderly gentleman in Howick told me to give up the exercise, someone decided allergies were the problem, and one fabulous woman held my attention through two whole bottles of horrible herbs before I retreated back to my comfort zone.  So I headed over to Ponsonby and met up with Gavin at Performance Nutrition for an hour long consultation, I promised Kate that I would pay careful attention and report back.

Gavin started with questioning about my perception of the impact of my thyroid condition on being an endurance athlete. I had to confess I operated in permanent trial and error mode, never could really understand what was going on and had failed to find anyone in medical, nutrition or sports-land who really did either, there just aren't that many people with my problem trying to do what I am.  He asked about my current nutrition, he asked about my training, he asked what's changed that might have caused my recent weight gain.  In fact we talked lots.  He did the caliper and tape-measure thing, body fat percentage 17.9% (lower than I expected!), he said he'd seen worse. Then he looked at his notes and looked at me and said he knew what was most likely going on and I would have to take a leap of faith to fix it. My heart sank.

In a nutshell, he wanted me to eat more and while I was in his office the rationale made sense. Not enough carbohydrates for training meant protein was the next source of energy, so I was cannibalizing the muscle which was the very thing that I needed in order to burn off fat. Not enough protein being taken in, double whammy for the muscles.  My body was also probably spending too much time being asked to do impossible things without adequate energy and that slowed my already dodgy metabolism. Now I have heard of these things before in various forms and it was easier just to reject them because that equation of energy in versus energy out is so habitual. It also seems counter-intuitive to put MORE food in when you are trying to lose weight, so massive confidence in the person making such a recommendation is needed.

Anyway, the detailed plan to try to remedy this situation has just arrived, it looks...frightening. What a list of food, but I am going to attempt to follow instructions...yep...we all know that's something I am REAL good at.   Then I'm to go back in about a month to check progress, hopefully those calipers and tape measures might tell a different story even if the scales don't.  I have to admit that right now I am struggling with the 'leap of faith' stuff and rather worried that I will be going back not the Athena but sorta-hiding-it athlete I am now, but heading into full on Athena Super-Plus!

Well it is now 2 hours after breakfast and I am meant to eat 2-3 hourly during the day. Of course I am wondering if a snickers could be substituted for the heavy on the protein nut-type bar, the snickers also has nuts in it. And today is curry day at work, will that count as the lunchtime "200g meat/chicken/fish with rice and vegetables"?

Monday, 4 November 2013

Karen writes: 3 days of challenge

Wow, back training with a vengeance.  The problem with having a really late (as in 2 months behind where I was last year) start to training is you have to take a risk and hop into a programme at a relatively high level. Last week was the case in point, I did a grueling spin session on Thursday evening, Friday went off to do a 100km bike ride, Saturday 1500m swim (planned on 2km but ran out of energy), and Sunday 17km run. Fortunately the risk seems to have paid off, I didn't injure myself, and while I'm a bit tired today I don't seem to have pushed myself into that state of exhaustion which means I have to take extra time off.   Having said that, 2 days of rest now is probably a good idea so I can be in shape to repeat the effort next weekend.

So, the Friday bikeride.  I took a day of annual leave and the morning started with a trip up to the local school to watch the class assembly for oldest daughter, then home to get ready.  What to take?  It had been a while since I had planned a big effort, had to think about the things needed to make the next 4+ hours on two wheels less uncomfortable. I've discovered a milk drink at about 50km when the energy starts running out helps so one of those in the shirt pocket, shame it would be warm but couldn't help that.  I now cant stand the marmite/honey sandwiches I used to faithfully prepare before every big ride so decided to make a stop at a lovely little deli and fruit shop outside Clevedon, they make nice date and nut rolls. If the date rolls didn't upset me then I figured I could get in a supply to take round Taupo later on instead of the horrible sandwiches.  I remembered also from all those miles ridden for Ironman that I brought iced tea from the same shop, I would pick up some of that too, oh good, starting to sound more like a picnic.  What else, sunshine outside, time to dig out the arm covers, yes, found a pair of those, sunscreen, anti-chafe, lip-balm. Windy now and rain predicted, got the buff scarf and I put it on so that I could just grab the tail end and slip it out from under the helmet when I got too hot. Also in the pocket goes sandpaper because the magnets and connections for the elderly bike computer rust up and I sometimes need to stop and sandpaper them. Water, oh dear, the big flash handlebar bottle has been sitting outside in a bucket since February, dust, sawdust and goodness knows what else, it would be just bottles today and finding somewhere to refill them.

At last out the door.  I pedaled for Clevedon on the theory that I needed easy distance rather than hard hills, why then did I head up Twilight Road which requires kilometers of serious uphill slogging?  It was more of a mental challenge, could I actually do it, yes, and the completion did feel good. Off to Takanini for loop after interminable loop on those horrible truck infested flats before I had had enough and I could head back to Clevedon for the final 45km home via a trip out to Kawakawa bay.  It is always windy on the Kawakawa bay road but the views are spectacular and again it felt like an achievement I could tick off. It was nice to know the legs would keep turning, albeit slowly, and I can now say I can manage 100km.

The swim.  Saturday evening after a busy day with kids and shopping and domestic things, into the wetsuit and off to the empty beach, full tide and and everyone else had gone home.  I tried to practice what I had learned earlier in the week...legs together quick kick from hips with pointed toes.  Oops, calf cramp.  I tried to practice a not-too vigorous rolling stroke in the water, forgot to kick. What did Andrew say about breathing, I was looking too far back? Ach, Im swimming in the sea, unless I look back I get a wave in the face, keep trying. Hmmm... 1500m of swim fail but on the good side I do have 6 weeks to keep practicing and my wetsuit still fits in spite of all my extra kilos which is a real bonus. I leapt out of the water and ran up the beach without doing a face-plant in the sand, good, that has been a problem in the past after being horizontal in the water then suddenly going vertical.

Magazine Bay
Finally Sunday run.  Sluggish and heavy, but determined. Fortunately I hooked up with some Te Puru runners and the talking makes the time go faster, you cant underestimate the value of some good company. Of course it helps when you live in a spectacularly beautiful place too.
So I finished the run, hot, tired, pleased. In the last month I have gone from around 5 hours of training up to nearly 10, and in 3 days completed a sort-of half Ironman.  I'm trying not to think that I have to double those distances over the next few months.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Karen writes: Touch Rugby at Te Puru

Been taking smallest daughter down to touch rugby practice on a Tuesday evening. I drop her off with her mates and head off for a nice run myself, out to Beachlands for a few km, then back to Te Puru to run round the field while keeping an eye on how she is doing in her new chosen activity. There are other runner mums, the possibility is there for a bit of company sometimes which is a bonus. I hadn't realised however until the first game of the season yesterday just how popular the game actually is. I mean the Beachlands and Maraetai townships aren't that big in the scheme of things but there were thousands of people at Te Puru, multiple fields going and game after game starting with the young ones and ending with the more mature. I watched the small ones run and dodge and the spectators expend lots of energy yelling encouragement... often to both teams at once as it seemed there were more than a few siblings playing each other. All was followed up by the ubiquitous sausage in bread with lashings of tomato sauce.

Being someone who participates in what are in effect solo sports I had to reflect on the massive amount of effort goes into organising this sort of thing, I really hadn't appreciated the scale before and can only have utmost admiration for those with so much passion for the topic. Anyway, more here: Beachlands Maraetai Touch Rugby club.

Then the realisation came that this happens every Wednesday over the summer season...hmmm...might have to go back to the training programme and rework it with Wednesday my new day off, especially as it seems that there is a roster for cooking all of those dratted sausages.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Karen writes: Pool water drinking and rolling

Bike ride in 4 weeks, you know, that little 160km round lake Taupo with one or two minor hills along the way?  Apart from intermittent spin sessions, I have had 3 rides to train for this event so far, one 20km ride, one slightly longer version, and then 73.3km last week (I'm a bit desperate when I have to count the fraction).  Yep, should be a doddle.   But then, the real trick, 2 weeks after that is the Rotorua half-Ironman.

I'm pretty ok with going into the Taupo ride knowing I am fit, but not 'bike' fit. It will just mean there will be no personal best (ha ha), and things  might be a bit challenging on the way round.  The triathlon is likely to be less forgiving though so yesterday I drove into central Auckland to have the swimming lesson I won off the Ironman 70.3 competition (thanks organisers!).  It was to be delivered by Andrew of Boost coaching.  It was at a pretty nice place (I was impressed that they had pot plants and towels and coat hangers and even an iron), that was interesting enough, but has anyone else found themselves in a swimming pool on the 8th floor of a building?  I kept wondering about how you would feel working on the floor underneath knowing that there was a full SWIMMING POOL above your head.

Anyway, Andrew, he asked me to swim a couple lengths. He then drew a picture on the whiteboard showing me not floating elegantly along the surface, but wallowing through the water more in the shape of a partially unbent paperclip. What followed was a series of lengths doing things like free-style with a flutterboard between my thighs and the instruction to kick without losing the flutterboard.  That was tricky, when I moved my legs it kept wanting to pop out like a cork from a bottle, that was the point though. Another effort I remember was kicking along on my side, trying to remember the instructions in regards to what was meant to be done when and breathe too, that was was HARD and I swallowed quantities of pool water. I consoled myself that it was less for the office below to worry about. Finally putting together some of those items practiced during the different lengths, oh dear, if I concentrated on breathing I forgot my feet, if I thought about rolling I forgot to breathe, if I tried to kick right I forgot the roll get the picture. Fortunately Mr Boost Coaching, if he laughed, did it where I couldn't see him.

It was an immensely valuable session.  I actually understood what was on the board. Yes, it makes sense that if my legs hang down or kick out wide they are acting like great anchors, yes if my head is lurching out of the water that will be making my feet go down, yes the new rolling motion I practiced is cool and I promise to try to remember not to roll quite so much like a shark on a fishing-line now that I have discovered it's joys. Anyway, the instruction was to practice. Apparently just by practicing that changed kick (well, remembering to kick at all) and the altered body position I should be able to swim much more economically, this is without even considering what my arms are doing...yes practice.

Sadly there is no black line in the sea and it would seem that being able to see this visual tool would help me improve my technique. Oh dear, does this mean I might have to actually spend some time out of my wetsuit the pool...

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Kate writes: New experiences

I'm staying with my friend in Wellington for the long weekend. The weather is rather windy and not suitable for running in. Well I am a fair weather runner so we went to the gym. I've never been to a proper gym before so it was a new experience. I was shown how to use the running machine and off I went. It kept me true to the speed, I ran 5 km and walked for 1 km to slow down. It was quite funny because it had a map of me running around a track that was 400m, I think I ran around 13 times.  I then went on to the spin bike for 20 minutes, had a stretch and that was it.

We stopped at New World to get food and then home. But we got home and no power. So we are sitting in our gym stuff smelling.... hope it comes back on soon.

Friday, 18 October 2013

kates writes:trip to the uk

My mum passed away last week and I have had an urgent trip back to the UK. I thought I would run whilst away so packed my running gear. But it has turned out to be a journey of life and just too busy to run. But we did have a stop over in Korea on the way to the UK and I did go for a lovely walk. I wore my GPS watch and will be seeing my walk on the computer once home. Mum loved her fitness and went to 3 different classes a week. Her road bike is still in her out house, not sure when she last rode it, and her running shoes by her bed. I have many memories of her but one was of her in her health and beauty outfit. Now this would have been in the 1960's. She had a white silk top and blue knickers and off to movement class she went. She had a little badge that she wore on the shirt with a lady flying through the air. We are our mothers daughters. She will be missed.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Karen writes: Going triathlon again

I went for a bike-ride on Saturday and managed a whole 20 km on a blustery day with occasional hail, that's 1/8th of the distance needed for the next event.  Went for a run on Sunday, did a lethargic 16 km, that's pretty ok, I can manage the half marathon distance if I can stay at that level.

Today, Monday I was determined I would have a swim, I haven't swum since May.  I went to work with my swimming gear and at the end of the day went over to the Otara pool.  It was SHUT for maintenance.  But I was so committed, I drove home, dug out the wetsuit, squished into the thing with less trauma than I had expected given the scales are telling me a really, really sad story, and went over to the beach for a swim. I managed 300 seriously chilly meters I estimate, oh, only 1700 m to go!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Karen writes: Home again

A very long time ago Grandma said something along the lines that when you have made your first cup of tea at home you might never have been away.  For me it is more like, when I go for my first run I might never have been away.  Last night I ran down to spin at Te Puru park, the Taupo 160km cycle challenge is in 8 weeks, I need some bike time and a spin class is as close as I can get during the week right now.  I got to Te Puru, the building was shut up tight, I looked in the window, no bikes?  Ok, something has changed in the couple of weeks I have been gone.  The joy of smartphones, I quickly found the facebook page for the gym people who run the spin, phoned and was told the session had moved to Pine harbour.  I grizzled that I hadn't heard of the change, and as I had run to Te Puru I wasn't going to get the extra 3km to Pine harbour in the 2 minutes left before the 6.15 start.  Oh that's ok she says, we don't have a 6.15 anymore, it's 7.15, plenty of time to run down.

What to do, be sensible and run home, or keep going.  I confirmed a space for the 7.15 class, and got back on the road, plod plod past the Beachlands turnoff, plod plod out onto the main road.  Ok, other implications here, I ran a marathon 10 days ago, should I be running 14 km and doing a spin class in the middle of it? Well I felt ok, of course I should.  Probably more of a worry was the fact that I had headed out the door without a headlight, it would be dark when I hit the road to run home again.  Too bad, I needed some cycle time badly, anything else could take care of itself.

The new spin class consisted of a group of bikes huddling in a small corner of a huge inside set of tennis courts at Pine Harbour.  The rest of the space was occupied by a 'bootcamp' group when I got there, whatever that was. Feeling a bit exposed I hopped on the bike for some light spin so I didn't cool down before start of the class, the bootcamp people were too busy to pay any attention to me, what they were doing looked pretty strenuous with lots of shouted instructions and people doing energetic looking things...hmmm...not for me. Spin class started but it turned out to be one of those sessions where my excuses were more powerful than the instructors exhortations. After half an hour of being slack, worrying about how dark it was getting and finally a recurring calf cramp I gave up, cleaned off the bike and set off to run home.

It was pretty dark by this stage, I find myself thinking more in the dark, I reflected that the last time I wore my running shoes was for the Zaragosa marathon, I was swapping the Spanish dust for good old Maraetai dust, it seemed like the symbolic end of something. I also thought about the last real exercise I had, it was a very memorable hike to see a cathedral at the very top of a hill in Barcelona which got prioritised on my 'must explore' list because it could be seen from the hotel window. To get there took several hours of steady up, up, up, and the surprise was that on the doorstep of the imposing place of worship was a fun-park, a strange sort of mixture as far as I was concerned but it was obviously popular, plenty of people having caught buses or taxis to the top.  Anyway, apart from what was at the top of the hill I was rewarded with some enjoyable wandering along dusty roads which in some ways reminded me a little of bach heavy streets in Northland (perhaps more teetery and with a surplus of terracotta and white), some bush lined inclines, and spectacularly glorious views across the ancient city. It was such an amazing place I think this reluctant traveler may have left some tiny portion of her heart on that hill in Barcelona.

I love being fit enough to explore out of the way places without worrying about it.  I got to see things I never would have in the normal course of events, and now I am home and the brain fuzz from jetlag is subsiding I am looking back at my photos, marveling at how lucky I was to have had the experience, and wondering what can possibly top this one!
Middle of the photo is a TINY cathedral on top of a hill - view from hotel window
Cathedral from part way up the hil
Cathedral and the fun park comes into view - strange....
Cathedral itself - imposing in and out
View from the top
That's Barcelona down there....way down there!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Kate writes: animals

I was out having a little ride on my own, minding my own business when suddenly I was attacked by a magpie! 3 times it dove down and hit my hat. What had I done to up set it? I screamed like a deranged women and threw my hands around.  Not sure if it did much good. I was then up by Awhitu Church and this huge deer ran out in front of me and down the side of the road and into the bush. On my way home I got the magpies again! It was a day of animals. But fun too.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Karen writes: Nearly ready to come home

Back in Barcelona via a 2 hour train-trip from Zaragosa on a train that got up to 300km/hour according to the digital readout in the carriage.  After a little walk around new and unfamiliar streets on the opposite side of the city from where I stayed last time, I’m in a motel room on the 4th floor being treated to a magnificent show of thunder and lightning out of my window which looks west to a range of hills. 

The 6 days since the marathon have been spent mainly walking, walking and pursuing food.  I re-visited lots of the places I ran on Sunday, and have walked to cathedrals and museums and roman marketplaces and bridges (as usual over and under multiple times).  

I'vĂ© been so impressed with how both Zaregosa and Barcelona look after the walkers and cyclists.  Almost every street has a light which allows pedestrians to cross with ease, no buttons to push, you take your turn with the traffic and drivers seem to take stopping seriously.  Cycle lanes are fabulous, many are in separate spaces and even those on the actual roads have plenty of space and often barriers which would deter a car from crossing over.

I haven’t run, haven’t even thought about it actually, and given I get on a plane early the day after tomorrow, running isn’t going to happen till I get back to Auckland.  There has been no evidence that I ran a marathon, apart from some tiredness, but I cant help but wonder how much that has to do with some sort of residual body clock thing, sleep and waking and mealtimes remain arbitrary, and getting out of routine and forgetting the thyroid pills probably doesn’t help.

Tonight I have for the first time put on shoes which are more about looks than being able to walk for miles.  And a summer dress.  Comfort is something you get too attached to when you have to obsessively protect your feet from damage, or want to move with freedom, climb stairs and follow dodgy paths. 

As I type I keep getting distracted, the lightning is gorgeous, even better because I’m not out in it and I can just admire the view.  When it settles it should be close enough to 8pm (most food places arent open till this time for evening meals, this is tough for a hungry kiwi!) then I will be off to find food.  Again.

No swimming in Zaregosa...
I have made myself look at my training plan for next week, funny to be sitting here in stormy Barcelona, 19,000km from home, and thinking about dragging my bike out of the shed and heading off to Clevedon out the back of Auckland. I need to do some swimming too so I can turn up at my swimming lesson in a couple of weeks and be able to keep my head above water, but cycling is the priority.

Only about 8 weeks to go until the Taupo cycle challenge, then a couple of weeks after that is Rotorua Ironman.  Kate is already half trained as far as I can see for both events!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Kate Writes: Mountain biking

The message was"Mountain Biking Tuesday evenings. Waiuku Forest starting Tuesday 1st October
Meet Mine Site entrance for a 5.30pm start. Plan is to follow the SMIM Course 
With Daylight saving changing this weekend this will give us plenty of light to train on the SMIM Mountain Bike course or just get out and have some fun.
There will be someone from the Sunset Coast Multisport Club each week to show you the way, or just follow the markers already put out."
So why not go I thought! silly Idea. The SMIM (steelman ironmaiden is an event the multisports club put on each year have a look .) 
 I was lucky that  a fellow slow rider came as well and knew the route, as the fast bikers were off. It was an amazing evening. 2 hours of riding off road through the forest with the West Coast on one side and woods on the other. Through puddles and sand. I only got off once when i thought i might fall but it was great fun. roll on next week :) 

Karen writes: Farewell old faithfuls!

In the past I have described how hard it is to let go of faithful items of running gear, or shoes, you share a lot of significant experiences and bunging these things unceremoniously in the kleen-sak to go to the Whitford tip just seems somehow...disrespectful.  Well, I brought an old pair of tri-shorts with me to run this marathon, they had holes in the inseams, the fabric was to too thin to be decent anymore, the leg-bands were sprung, it was to be their final race, their swansong as it were.

Today I said farewell on a lookout in the bush high on a hill above a city halfway round the world. Thanks for the memories old friend!

PS: I did actually put them in the bin.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Kate writes: spring camp

Karen writes: Race report Zaragosa

Ok, race report...starting with Sunday morning, 0700, trying not to jitter and resisting going out the door far too early for the 0830 race start, trying not to think I was going to run a marathon over 19000 km away from home, literally half a world away.  I told myself 0715 would be early enough, but I was a bit paranoid at this point, was I even sure where the startline really was?  What happened if I'd made a mistake and the start was over the other side of the city, would I turn up and find that no-one else was there?  Who would I ask, well, how would I ask?

But at 0715 I was ready to go, I headed down to reception and for some strange reason I took the stairs which were dark, there seems to be a lot of power saving going on here, the lights are only on in the stairs during the day, I chided myself for my stupidity on this one as I gingerly felt my way down, only to miss a triangular stair and set my heart pounding as I recovered from that near tumble. Ok, calm and collected...not.

How is this for a startline (day after)?
Race start, of course I was in the right place, and of course I was there objectionably early. I sat for a bit, pretended to stretch, walked for a bit, pretended to stretch some more and wondered if my thermostat was off given that I was in running singlet and tri-shorts and everyone else was kitted up in cold weather gear.  No clue what the instructions were, but they sounded exciting, and they were backed up by the stirring sound of ACDC as the gun went. I followed the crowd, well, they all shot off, I followed in their dust.  About 2km in  I ran past a man who turned to me and made a comment in Spanish, I said "sorry Englis", he said “you late start?”.   “No?”. “We start at eight thirty!”.  Now as I ran on I wondered about this, was it a strange kind of joke, was I even in the right race?  Then I got something else to worry about, I had let the next person ahead of me get out of sight and I had NO idea where I was, I ran through lovely forested pathways by myself getting increasingly worried, where was the does anyone lose 900 other people?  Eventually I got to a roped off area and it was indicated I was in the right place, off I went again with much more confidence.   Lots of looping back and forth through the beautiful big park, some cobbled streets, then it was into the real city.

Me and the A-neee-mal
People kept calling out, I smiled stupidly and waved, said hello, thankyou, a few Kia Oras until I wondered whether that might sound like something else in Spanish.  After a while I started to realise I  was hearing the word “a-neee-mal” a lot, eventually I figured out it was the kiwi the girls had wanted me to wear on my hat.   I did get a few “kiwi’s”, I decided those people were pretty clever, I thought my kiwi bird could easily be mistaken for a small rat. 

There were some neat spectator things, like a group of tiny girls in purple skirts who lined up across the road and danced and waved. There was an enthusiastic group of people on a big roundabout, a man ran with me there and asked where I was from, I said New Zealand, “ah, kiwi” he said and went away.  As I ran up the hill I could hear “go kiwi, go kiwi”, on a loudspeaker and I heard excited references to New Zealand and got lots of cheers as I ran.  The spectators were a bit of a double edged sword, apart from not knowing what anyone was saying to me (perhaps something like "they went the other way"), they made stopping a bit of a problem, there was always someone exhorting me along, some got really wound up and it was almost as though they were ready to get alongside and push. I kept feeling like I was being told to speed up and if I didn't I was letting someone down.  Old ladies would leave their shopping trundlers if I looked like I was slowing down and come to the curb and call out instructions, a man in a wheelchair got so excited when I wanted to walk to have a drink and a gel I thought he was going to injure himself. Oh, not to forget the police at every intersection where the traffic was restricted, I tried not to stare too hard at the guns, never been in a marathon where armed police were marshaling!

I got to run through some of the most amazing places, I mean the whole thing was amazing being out in a strange and beautiful city full of people I didn’t understand, who didn’t understand me.  The bridges, I love bridges and I got several to run across, and a few to run under.  I ran at the foot of a huge revolving Ferris wheel type of thing full of people in their tiny cabins, I got diverted through ancient cobbled courtyards, around amazing buildings, past a castle, under narrow brick archways into tiny lanes, past cafe after cafe, and soccer games and dog walkers and cyclists.

As for the conditions, it was pleasantly cool in the morning, well I say cool, about 20 degrees, but it is a different heat from our own in New Zealand.  In the park the shade from the trees provided a measure of protection, but once out of that I found the increasing temperature tough.  My clothing choices were ok, but I quickly realised that I wasn’t making it between the 5km drink stations, fortunately they provided bottled water so I could grab a couple of those and make sure I drank the whole lot before the next one.  I definitely needed the salt tablets, my skin was thick with salt and I had the beginnings of calf cramp fairly early on but that went away when I stepped up the gels and salt.  My feet were hot, and I didn’t realise till later they were swollen, the pressure from the laces had cut cross the tops of my feet, something I hadn’t experienced before.  I felt like I did ok given the insane amount of exercise I’d done the week before getting to conference and back, coming from winter training, and the non-optimal food. The food. Sigh. 

About 4km from the end I was about to pass a young man. His head was down, he was shuffling, I touched his arm and asked if he was OK.  He had a little English and said he was exhausted and his leg hurt.  I made him stop shuffling, drink, and walk a bit, then drink some more, run a bit, then walk and we did that till the end.  It was his first marathon, he said he'd felt like lying down and giving up (I don't think he really did) but he persisted and got there in the end. As we ran the last 500 meters I tried to drop back to get him to run ahead to the finish line but he insisted on going over the line with me and I got a big sweaty hug of thanks from a new marathoner. That's the epitome of the courage of the marathoner and in some ways sharing that with him made the whole experience so much more special, but when I saw how overwhelmed he was at the end, both him and his girlfriend who was waiting for him, I felt kind-of jaded, finishing a marathon doesn’t feel like that anymore for me and I wonder if anything else ever will.

2008 Expo site
The finish itself was interesting.  It was the site of a European expo of some sort in 2008, there were some stunning buildings, a massive and beautifully maintained landscaped site, gondola, the strangest bridge I've ever seen, and lots of extraordinary artwork. When I looked closely at the buildings however, I realised most were deserted and semi-derelict, eerie. It was good to see the grounds used for something, but bizarre being near these modern buildings with doors missing and visible signs of decay.

So today is Monday, I’ve just been out and walked what the pedometer says is 12000 steps.  Been out for a few hours actually, explored the park that was the start of the race some more, caught a taxi back to the finish line and visited a mall in a successful hunt for icecream and some decent protein and vegetables. I had to laugh, I got the food from an Irish pub, it had the label of Irish pub, looked like an Irish pub...sort of.  It was quite hard for this Kiwi to marry the Spanishness and the Irishness, but a lunch that wasn't bread, processed meat and cheese went down a treat.

So what did I learn?
  • Never assume food is going to be what, when, and where you expect it, ie, give up being precious about getting everything just right in training cos it may not be right on the day (or week before).
  • Not all marathons have toilets!  There were NO toilets (is this because the marathon had mainly men or the reason it had mainly men?).
  • You can never use too much anti-chafe.
  •  A wet sponge on your head on a hot day is like...well...its right up there with anything really really good
  • If the old lady with the shopping trundler says go faster, probably don't!

Monday, 30 September 2013

865 our of 875 participants, adjusted time 4:59:58. 

Karen writes: VII Maraton de Zaragoza

It's 2pm here.  What a day it's been!  Another marathon, this time pretty far out of my comfort zone in faraway Spain. Anyway, just to put on record that I have finished, around 5 hours, my slowest ever but that isn't always what necessarily counts. It was very hot for a winter trained kiwi with the official temperature reaching 27 degrees, but some of the street thermometers saying 31, I sure felt it out there.  I took salt capsules every hour and drank more water than I ever have, and made full use of the sponges provided, a wet hat made all the difference on those long exposed stretches of road.or winding around the narrow, airless, cobbled streets.

I will write up more about it when I have found food and had a that order.  Some evidence though..after the finish

My girls wanted me to carry a kiwi, this little guy was attached to my hat, a few people recognised it as a kiwi but most called it 'animal'.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Karen writes: Ready to run Zaragosa

And I'm at last resting with my feet up.  Its 3pm, the pedometer says I have walked 23017 steps and I believe it completely.  First thing this morning, a sensible trip by taxi to the registration point across the city. The taxi driver was keen to help but seemed slightly misguided, after a few miss-starts and being turned back by armed police eventually he stopped outside a building he described as "sporta pavilion". Hmmm...didn't look good, no signs, no cars in the carpark, one person walked in the door as I watched, they didn't look like they were getting ready for a marathon.  Inside there were pictures on the walls, including one of some feet in water apparently being nibbled by small fish, say what?  After a couple of women walked in carrying gym looking salon/gym?!  Am I being given a hint here?

Outside, a chat to some wonderfully helpful and armed police provided hope.  They huddled round the piece of  paper, they ummed and arrrrrhed over the map, they pointed somewhere else..."thankyou for helping" I said, "thankyou for asking for help" said the designated spokesperson. I didn't dare ask for a photo though thinking that would push my luck a bit too far.

So it's 200 meters that-a-way.  Nope.  Across the road and along a bit and that seemed to be a space for the finish line but no sign of a registration expo. I should say that when I booked the dratted marathon I hadn't realised that the start and finish line were in different parts of the city, the accommodation is by the start-line which raises the question of how to get back 'home' tomorrow (TOMORROW!) after the race, will any taxi driver want me in their nice clean and fragrant vehicle?  Eventually it was time for a backtrack, stopping at a cafe for a chocolate croissant and more of the sweet drinks with unidentifiable ingredients that seem so prevalent round here (its that or coke), and wandering thinking where to now, aha, triathlon sports shop.  They pointed back to the place the policemen had recommended and this time there was audible music coming from a nondescript looking building and inside was at last what looked like an expo.

Funnily enough it looked like lots of these lineups, there were some stands promoting socks and compression gear and gels. Queues of runners, mainly terribly lean and fit and young looking men, and when I eventually got to the front of the line after some gesticulating and repetition and guesswork I had my registration pack and number and was ready to go.

Not a bad goodie bag, a buff scarf advertising (I had to look this up online as I had no clue) some sort of water filters, a nice technical-T and the bottle of Zaragosa marathon wine...Kate you really should be here, it's so wasted on me!
Then things stopped being sort-of sensible. I just had to go across a fabulous looking walking bridge on the way back, and once over that it seemed like a simple task to cut across the city back to the accommodation. moment.  I dont really need to say any more I guess given what people know of my history when it comes to navigation, except two meals later I'm finally sitting down thinking about what to eat for breakfast.  But tell me, after looking at the photo below, how could anyone possibly NOT want to have a look at what's on the other side of this beautiful bridge...

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Karen writes: Zaragosa

The diabetes conference in Barcelona is over, it was a great experience but now it is time for another of the important things in life, running.

I am now in Zaragosa after an excellent train trip, who would think you could cover over 350 km in less than 2 hours?  Zaragosa from what I have seen so far  is quite different from Barcelona, first thing is the temperature is 31 degrees, but it seems much more open and fresh and quite a pretty city in the middle of very harsh looking landscapes.

As usual I have laid out my running gear in the hotel room and come to the conclusion that everything is there (too bad if it isn't at this stage) and it is now time to go on the hunt for food.  The supermarkets are fascinating, food is quite cheap by kiwi standards but I’m getting a bit tired of the bread based products, preserved meat, and cheese (not so much the cheese of course). I have really been looking for a steak, perhaps I might find somewhere that serves such an alien food item while I am out wandering this evening. Then I am going to walk over to find the run start which is apparently 10 minutes away.  After that it will be time for a rest, having covered between 15-30km per day (3.5km walk each way to the conference venue x 2/day plus food shopping and exploration and the occasional run) for the last 6 days my legs are rather in need of a rest.  This is not the recommended preparation for a marathon but since when have Kate or me actually followed instructions?  All that exercise did give me the excuse to indulge in some of the gorgeous icecream around here though, definitely cant be in Calorie deficit now can I?

Thankyou for your good wishes Kate, it is always strange when you aren't here at the startline with me.  The run you put up on Facebook sounds amazing, I wish I could be doing that too but that's just greedy on my part!  Only two sleeps to go now...

Friday, 27 September 2013

Kate Writes: good luck

Not sure if Karen will see this before her big run, But i thought I would send good luck and have fun in Spain wishes. Thinking about you and just enjoy the experience.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Karen writes: Lacking the party-hard gene

5k run this morning, didn’t think I was going to, too tired.  It's meant to be wind-down before the big run on Sunday, but I'm trying to figure out how to keep the legs run-ready, and get used to exercise in the heat, plus manage the practicalities of getting around a strange city without missing out on rest altogether.  I’ve had three runs since I got here, walked a LOT of km to and from the conference venue, and not done a lot of resting.  Ah well, as always, it will be interesting to see how things go on the day.  Perhaps chocolate croissants will be the magic antidote.

Rest.  Not happening.  I now realise that Barcelona is testing me and might finally have found me seriously wanting in the party-hard department.  Saturday night...concert 1 street over until 4am, revelers till daylight, Sunday night...ditto, just fewer revelers.  Monday night...more of the same.  Tuesday night, seems quiet.  Off to bed when I felt sleepy (ok folks, 8pm, still not acclimatised to timezone here but in my defence I’m ready for breakfast at 3am and I really haven’t had a lot of sleep since I left Auckland).  Cue ...another concert, this one classical!  This was nice, then the highlight of the night, 2am FIREWORKS. Wow, what an impressive display from Montuic Hill (a street over that-a-way).  Now here’s something for those with an interest in the physics of things, honeycombed through the apartments are these vertical tunnels, so for example I look out of one of my windows not into the outside world but into the window of another apartment almost in touching distance, this is inside the building. If I crane my neck and look up I can see a one meter patch of sky.  There is a really interesting reverberating effect in these tunnels in response to the aerial explosions.  So I inhaled the gunpowder smoke as it drifted across and listened with tired glee. Boom followed boom, with echo echo echo, all backed by the stirring sounds of classical music, and punctuated by car alarms going off all over the city. 

Someone must have been a busy beaver in the few hours of night left after it all finished, on my run on Monday I couldn’t resist exploring the closed road where the big stage was set up for the concerts, today the stage had gone, there was no sign of the celebrations, it was back to being a very busy road.  That makes this particular snap a little unique in my book.  You wouldn't stop in the middle of this road as it is now, its a roaring river of traffic, you certainly wouldn't zigzag back and forth and stop to take photos. It's one of things I love about running, you take the opportunities as you find them to end up in some unique places.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Karen writes: Monday in Spain

Well it seems like another concert night here in my small patch of Barcelona.  The same pattern as yesterday, the tuning of instruments and occasional song fragment have been making their presence known for a couple of hours but things seem to be kicking up now.  Streams of people are pouring down the streets, I look down from the 5th floor and it seems like an unending river flowing towards the big square just one building away.  So probably another very early run tomorrow, which isn’t a bad thing, I don’t have much time to get myself used to even the slightly cooler temperatures present in the morning before the day heats up. 

I didn’t have any ill effects from yesterdays run even if it was longer than I had intended. My muscles seem to be in good shape, nothing hurts so perhaps the heat is helping keep them soft and stress free.  I’ve done a heap of walking, like to the conference venue, in search of food, and to follow an interesting footpath or set of stairs.  Walking back from the conference I went up a long set of stairs, then another set, then a set with fountains, then some more, and found myself on top of a hill covered in palatial museums. I could look out over the whole of Barcelona and it turns out that the conference people have arranged evening museum viewings for delegates. Wow, this is just behind where I am staying, I couldn’t have chosen better if I had tried. So I know what I will be doing for the next 3 evenings, there are 3 museums on top of that hill, and all those stairs are excellent heat training, even walking them.  I should point out something I have never seen before, there are outdoor elevators to get up the hills, just like you have in department stores, it left me a bit bemused watching everyone riding their elevators up to visit the museums.

Speaking of bemused, it was a shock to go to the supermarket and find it was SHUT on a Sunday.  Fortunately I had plenty left over from yesterday’s shop, so I returned home to my salad and I fancied scrambling the eggs I had in the fridge.  Imagine my surprise when I went to break my eggs into a bowl and found they were already cooked!  Oh well, good protein if not in the form I wanted it, a bit of cheese melted over them, salad with banana and orange on top of it, and I had a dinner of no particular origin or culture (or culinary value truth be told) which I ate on a balmy evening listening to the band, well, listening to the sounds if not the words.

Now Kate, here's a pic for you, my new favourite snacks...see the chocolate says 'sport' so it must be good for me, and I'm so liking the snack mix stuff, lots of corn in it, how can that not be healthy?