Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Karen writes: And so...it goes on

Had a swim on Friday evening, the first since Ironman, the wetsuit even had Taupo grass on it still as I had just dried it and put it away 3 weeks ago.   We did 1600 metres up and down the length of Maraetai beach, it was a nice swim and the body doesn't seem to have forgotten how to do it, that's reassuring with that 2.8km harbour swim booked for a couple of weeks time.

Now the running is going pretty well, I'm on a 3 run per week programme based on the 'senior runner' recommendations by running guru Hal Higdon, link here.  I have finally recognised that I can legitimately claim the title of experienced runner, so when he points out "you know what you are doing", I can almost believe him now.   Mr Higdon was actually the catalyst for the first marathon we did.  I found an old edition of one of his books in a second hand shop and for some reason carried it up north for the Christmas holiday, I read that book from cover to cover and the tiny little, long held and deeply secret idea..."I would like to run a marathon one day (but I'm sure I never will)" turned into "hey I AM going to do a marathon".  When I got back to work I printed off the information for the Rotorua Marathon and put it on Kate's desk, and here we are.

One thing that's different getting ready for Rotorua this time round is the early morning running.  I have always been a bit of a wimp about getting out of bed early, but something seems to have changed...perhaps finding up to 16 hours in a week before Ironman makes it easier to now find just 5 hours, and by tucking most of them into the time before the world wakes up, I have a life uninterrupted by training!  Well, almost.

Actually, it seemed like a lot of the world was already awake when I headed out the door by 5.30 this morning.  Initially there were a few houses with lights on, a little later there were cars, then pairs of walkers with swinging torches, the occasional runner with bobbing headlamp attached, and even a dog with a light on it's collar...which did confuse me initially.  By 6am there were groups of people at the beach exercising, as I ran along by the perfectly flat water the air was sharp with the smells of soap and shampoo (some people shower before exercise?), and the paddle of my footsteps was supplemented by giggling and shouted instructions in the dark.  I had to run past these groups a couple of times to make up my 10km run, and  I wondered about this boisterous zigging and zagging and leaping and lunging, they seemed to be enjoying themselves, but I wanted my solitude as the sun came up, wanted to feel some sort of peace as I ran and the beautiful day woke up.

You learn something on every run.  I learned this morning that while there are several toilet blocks along the various beaches, the only ones open at that early hour are in the middle of Omana Park, (and you get to them through the bush and they don't have lights, scary), I was reminded that hills are hard work (not done a lot of this as the forestry has been closed for weeks), and surprisingly enough came to the realisation that I'm actually still pretty fit.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Karen writes: What now?

Well, I know what now for me, I'm doing Ironman next year, after a few events on the way, the usual suspects...Rotorua marathon, Taupo Cycle Challenge, Rotorua half Ironman, and probably a few more tucked in there for interests sake.  For example, just today, Kate has convinced me I really want to do the King of the Bays ocean swim on the North Shore in a few weeks...madness, I loathed the swim training and this is now Autumn going on for winter!

What now for the blog though?  We have achieved what we started out for, we are Ironmen (people, women, athletes?) admittedly a wee bit late, and we plan to have a cheque to present to a representative of the diabetes services in Christchurch, hopefully at the NZSSD conference in Napier in May.  Donations still being collected here.  The question Kate and myself asked each other was does the blog still have any reason to exist, or has it run out of legs now that you have journeyed with us through 2 over indulgent Christmases, 3 marathons, 3 half Ironmen, 2 100 mile bike races and other assorted swims, rides, runs and tris plus at last an Ironman?  After an intense and and highly scientific (yeah, tui moment) look at the blog stats, it seems that once we remove the extraordinarily large number of views from people in Russia (sorry, sincere apologies to any actual individuals in Moscow who are avidly following our little blog covering happenings at the bottom of the world and who AREN'T spammers), there are still lots of readers, and we both think we have more to explore and learn about and pass on as ahem...mature women/worker/mum athletes.  So we continue to journey...somewhere, and we will continue to write.

Anyway, post Ironman update, 16 days after...the body cant remember doing anything significant but my head still hasn't quite gotten to a point where I can sit down and think critically about what worked and what didn't work. I can now claim to be able to think about things other than my next meal though.  I mentioned in my last blog entry that training was stepping up, the intent was to stick religiously to my brand new 8 week marathon training plan which I put together while trying to balance two concepts in my head, 1) someone's advice that the definition of stupidity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again when it doesn't work...ie, I don't get any faster, and 2) if it ain't broke don't fix it...ie, I do actually finish.  Not much ended up being changed from previous plans and training proper for Rotorua marathon started on Sunday with me ignoring what I had written for that day completely...and today I have added swimming back into the mix.  Great start, or should I just say 'business as usual'!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Karen writes: 2 weeks after Ironman

Funnily enough I haven't noticed the predicted 'gap' in my life after Ironman, this is mainly due to two things...being at last fully able to participate in (motivate/encourage/bribe/cajole/drag along) Weetbix tryathlon preparations for the two girls without having to worry about it's impact on my own training, and being back in marathon preparation....albeit gentle.

So Saturday was the whanau bikeride, the expressed desire was for the bikes to be put in the back of the ute and trucked off somewhere flatter, but I held out for riding direct from home.  The intention was to do an 8km there-and-back to Te Puru park, stopping to have a look at the offshore powerboat racing on the harbour.   I love watching this, the noise is amazing and I'm fascinated by the bevy of tiny helicopters dashing along just out of the plume of water shot up in the air by the bigger boats.  What actually happened was we got to Te Puru and the girls wanted to keep going to visit their cousins over in the next town, so we kept going.  We did get to see the powerboating on the way back, but inevitably there were two tired and hungry children so it wasn't a time to really dawdle.  It is so good to see them develop skills though, the 7yo has gone from walking up (and more importantly down as she hasn't quite grasped the idea of stopping using brakes) every hill to being much more confident, the 9yo races happily up and down, too confidently in fact as she disappeared from sight a few times.   Roll on Weetbix at on the North shore.

Sunday, well this is my day, and I was up for a very light 5am breakfast, back to bed for a bit then out the door planning on a gentle 12km for the weekly long run.  Best laid plans of being sensible and taking it easy, 18km later I was home feeling pleased with myself but mildly anxious that I might have overdone it, all the books predict a post Ironman 'honeymoon' followed by a crash. Actually I felt really good for most of the run except for being a bit unmotivated for no good reason in the last few km, and there are warning twinges from the left ITB, I predict time on the dratted roller. Ironically, no rain for over a month, of course it should start pouring while I am out miles from home, I've never actually had occasion to study close up a road suddenly subject to water after a prolonged dry and watched with fascination the sludge lifting out of the tarseal and running off, I now understand why I have always been warned that roads are at their most dangerous when this happens.

So I felt entitled to a rest Sunday afternoon, I was lying upstairs and there was a sudden thump against the house, then another, it's a pole house and it felt just like a vehicle had bumped the poles.  Turned out it was an earthquake, I don't recall having felt one of those in Auckland before and once we figured out that that was what it was I stood in the middle of the room thinking about what was the sensible thing to do...would I be over-reacting if I dug out the emergency box and put it somewhere accessible like by the front door, should I get some warm clothes together so they can be easily reached?  Could we have a Tsunami?  There was nothing on the radio, nothing on the TV, and finally we found something on a government website which just described the centre as being under Motutapu Island 15km away, 5km deep, 3.9 on the richter scale...no warnings, no concerns anywhere, just another strange thing in a summer of strange things. Turns out earthquakes do happen in Auckland, but they are rare.

Next week training will step up, the plan is for 3 short runs with dreaded hill and interval work during the week and a 22km on Sunday, plus more focus on strength training. I'm looking forward to our trip away to Rotorua in 7 weeks, I wonder what a 'normal' marathon will feel like now?

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Karen writes: Ok, call me nuts...

I've done it, I've signed up again for NZ Ironman.

One of the questions in the entry was "why?", and I wrote "hooked". That's a bit simplistic really, but definitely part of the picture, I would probably be more accurate to say "not cured".  There was  a bit of stuff going on in the time before the 2013 Ironman that made the journey less than ideal, and I rather feel that I want another chance to do things a bit better, not necessarily improve my time, though that would be nice, but actually feel that I gave it my best shot rather than just a shot which (thank goodness) ended with getting the t'shirt on the day.  There is also the fact that it is the 30th anniversary event in 2014, now that is a great number and I suspect it would be well worth being part of such milestone celebrations.  While trying to make the decision (which wasn't hard, I knew I wanted to sign up the day after), I thought about what would I do for the coming year anyway without the Ironman goal.  What about all the experience I now have, all the swimmingcyclingrunning gear, the bike at last superbly trained...sorry I mean tuned, the new tri-bars and fancy drink bottle, and the nearly full super-size container of protein recovery drink in the pantry? What about all the food I couldn't eat next Christmas, and then there is the question of how on earth could I face that weekend early in March 2014 without being terribly jealous of those down in Taupo doing what I had so enjoyed the previous year?  Nothing for it, another dose of Ironman and hopefully this time will be the cure!

So I'm officially signed up for the third year in a row.  I wonder what new roadbumps, challenges, injuries, glitches, perils, and more than compensating joys this coming...353 days, 9 hours and 27 minutes...will bring?  First step, Rotorua marathon on Saturday 4 May.  Will I manage 4 1/2 hours this time?  Yeah right, my marathons are getting longer not shorter...

Karen writes: I cant resist this...

Kate will probably kill me for posting this, but I cant resist, it comes from the latest Franklin County News,  I especially like the comment that Kate "...appeared to be having the time of her life, rather than taking part in a competition only the most steel-willed human being could handle."  Who else could manage to take on Ironman, blitz her predicted time, and turn it into an opportunity for enjoyment all at once? Proud to be on the same planet as ya Kate!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Kate writes: the race

I slept well and the alarm went off at 4:45am. breakfast and off down to the race start by 6am. It was all very exciting. There were people every where. I managed to see most of my training partners and my coach before we started. big hugs, not much was said. I got into the water and tried to warm up with 1400 people! I got myself into the place I wanted but why were there so many people standing behind me. Oh well I will just have to get on with the race. The cannon went and off we went. lots of kicking and pushing. I am in the middle somewhere......

I had a man swim next to me and for once he was swimming at the same speed and technique as me. Wow I can draft I thought. He also protected me from the other swimmers. We swam together for the first lap 1750m. I went around the markers and turned around on the homeward straight. I counted the buoys and felt good. I was going home. I came out of the water with a time of 1hr 26 minutes. I jumped up and down the green strip, the family shouted at me and then my coach was so surprised to see me, I thought I would swim 1hr 40mins so I was so excited. I ran along the pathway and up the stairs. Into transition and off on the bike. Around the corner and there were my supporters all in their T-shirts and shouting at me. It was so supportive. 90k later I was back in Taupo, a good ride and faster than I thought. Off again I went and again the support crew were all there. I met my coach at special needs and had a quick chat whilst drinking my milky drink. Saw Rob from my cycle club and off I went. Another 40k under my belt, I had enough but had to dig deep. There were whorl winds of dust on the fields around us. I thought they were tornado's. Drinking and eating was hard and I had to push to keep it all going. It was hot but no wind.

7hrs and 22 mins and I was finished. last time I did that ride it took me 8hrs so I was on fire.!
But by the time I was out on the run my spirit dropped. OMG i have 42k to go. Karen I knew was at least 40 mins behind me. If I was going to keep my lead I needed to run. The coach was there cheering me on, and around the corner my support crew. that lifted my spirits and I soared. off I went. It was a long run. You were running with people just about to finish with 3 bands and those with 2 bands and then me with one. Headspace was so important. Just keep going think about your plan, run to the water stops and then run to the next one, walk up the hills and just go. Each lap my sister and daughter were there cheering me along, it was so amazing. It was just dusk when I was on my last lap and had to have a light to carry, but I knew we were on the way home.   I could hear that I had 2 minutes to go until 10pm, but there were so many people to hug and kiss, why run too fast. I enjoyed coming in to the end and the time was 15hrs 2 minutes. The last 2 minutes were all the hugs and kisses.

This is my support crew they were great. Fiona and Jacky and Chloe are missing from this photo, I could not have done this with out all of their help.                                                         THANKS EVERYONE LOL

kate Writes: I'm an Ironman - before the event

Its taken me a week to sit down and put my thoughts together, so here it goes.....
I arrived in Taupo on the Wednesday before the event. I wanted loads of time to get ready. As I arrived in Taupo I had a txt from the daughter in Dunedin, can you ring me. My heart dropped, she never asks me to ring, what was the disaster that had happened. Well I rang and the problem was that she had a blister on her foot from playing netball. whee it was ok.

We had hired the same house as last year which is a lovely big house, room enough for the 2 families. I cooked dinner, which was a shock as I have not cooked for months now. We planned a bike ride and a run in the morning, nice and early before the sun comes up. This was mainly to check that the bike still worked.

We had to register on the Thursday and get our race pack. It was very exciting, we had tattoos to put our race numbers on. I went to the carbo loading party and then discussion on the race. The joke was that as we had done a half last year we only had to do a half this year as two halfs makes a whole, hahaha.

Friday morning we went for a quick dip in the lake. Only out to the first marker and back. It was well worth doing it as you could see the whole course from the midway point and it really did not look that far... Tui advert time  ... Too right....  We had to take our bikes and packed bags into the change over area. It was a matter of checking where the bike was and where was the exit and entry points. It really was going to happen. I met up with a friend who I had trained with and had a good gossip. The Daughter and friend arrived and more gossip and then my sister and brother in law. WOW the house was full and it was time for bed.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Karen writes: Part 3 - IM the aftermath

Over the finish line.  It's all over.  Well, not quite, and a week later there is still a sense that there has to be more to come, was that all?

First, what happens after you race (limp, hobble, jog, stride etc) down the finish chute and go under the arch, get your name called out, and at last can let your legs slow down. For me, I was full of fresh energy on that last bit, I raced across the line, saw nothing except a blur of light and dark and red in the final moments, heard nothing except a roar of strangers voices, and then I stopped. After 15 hours 42 minutes of constant motion I came to a crashing halt. There was a strange sensation of 2 years of effort piling up like countless dominoes, tick tick tick behind me, stopped.  I got a medal hung around my neck, and a towel draped around my shoulders, and a volunteer came and took my arm and tried to lead me to the scales to check my weight, but I resisted, I wanted to walk a bit. Experience with finishing events like marathons has taught me that my body cant just stop suddenly, I need walk to let it settle down a bit or I feel nauseous and faint, but after a few steps I realised that I didn't feel anything like I normally did, I felt fine, probably because the marathon was more of a walk than a run.  The volunteer was very patient, asked some careful questions I think to check that I wasn't just being a bit flaky after my effort, he let me pace back and forth a bit, keeping in catching distance (these people are called 'catchers' apparently) until I was ready to be a good little athlete and come along and then took me to the scales along one side of the finishers tent.  I hopped on the scales, they looked at my pre-race weight, there was 500g difference and I was told I was fine and taken off for drinks, and food.  I tried some rice, but that didn't seem to want to go down, so I gave up on the healthy option and took a bread roll with lots of butter, and a chocolate muffin, looked wistfully at the massage tables then went to find the whanau instead, it had been a very long day for my girls, and I was later than I had planned so I felt I really should see them so they could get to bed.

Outside I caught up with the whanau, and went to find Kate who had been in for ages already and didn't look like she had run a race at all, then into the car and back to the house.  My big girl who will furiously deny being tired even if she can't keep her eyes open held my hand and said "I'm so tired mum, I want to go to bed".  Girls in bed, I headed for...the fridge.

Food has been the overwhelming pre-occupation for months now, so I guess it made sense that it should be afterwards too.  I started with V8 vegetable juice, then would have a little graze (bit of watermelon), feel like I would never eat again, get furiously hungry and eat a minuscule bit of something else, decide I wasn't interested...and so on.  I did make myself drink lots, and that pretty much happened overnight too, I woke up frequently thirsty and I noticed that the roof of my mouth felt like it was burned.  I put that down to all that sticky sugary stuff in my mouth all day, even though I rinsed with water after each gel, and of course the coke and salty chips during the run.

Oh was that post event shower nice, I stretched tentatively in the warm water with dire warnings ringing in my head about over-stretching damaged muscles, and was in bed at about midnight after a catchup with Kate and her wonderful team of supporters who she kindly loaned to me too.

On Sunday morning I woke up early and didn't feel like sleeping again, I heard a noise downstairs and decided to follow my stomach to the kitchen. Kate was having tea and scrambled eggs, that made perfect sense at 5am.  I had more vegetable juice, leftover salmon, egg, for the first of several breakfasts, then a little while later went out and had a walk interspersed with some gentle 200m runs.  My body felt really good, the only other signs of effort were a chafe mark on my neck from the wetsuit, and a blistered small toe which was already shrinking away.  I went down to the edge of the lake, there were other people out who were obviously the previous day's Ironmen, we exchanged tentative smiles and left each other to our own worlds.  I read the painted signs that children had done in support of their athletes which were displayed along the roadside still, and pondered the overheaped rubbish bins from the celebrations the day before.  There was a rather beautiful broad wooden seat close to the swim start which looked over the lake, I sat there and just dwelt in my slightly foggy remembrances for a bit, trying to make sense of all of the effort to get to this point and the fact that now it was all over.

House cleaning done, car packed to go, a quick visit to the expo to look at the 'finisher range', I bought some IM transfers for the girls and for me to wear on the back of my leg at the upcoming Rotorua marathon.  Then I needed more water, and wanted a hot pie so badly I just had to have one at about 10am, and then it was the 4+ hour trip home.

Sitting in a car is not to be recommended, holding that slightly curved position seemed to cause more grief to the joints and muscles than the event itself, but a bit of moving around and all was well again.  More water, more food, my handbag was full of food and every so often I would dig into it and drag out something, have a nibble...water...food...move... I was glad I wasn't driving because I went through pockets of extreme tiredness where my eyes declined to stay open, then I was suddenly alert, and of course, hungry, again.

And home. The dog was very happy to see us, she obviously hadn't had so much fun at the dog hotel.

The rest of the week, I'm still not eating sensibly, I'm allowing myself some leeway for now, in the past if I tried to tighten up on the eating too early I just made myself miserable and made worse choices due to extreme hunger. I'm still drinking lots of water and sleep is a bit erratic, my sore mouth responded to some sort of antibacterial mouthwash and tablets of 'good bacteria', I've since read that it was due to mouth breathing dehydrating the cells.  The blister on the little toe has gone and I sadly washed the last trace of my Ironman number tattoo off my arm days ago.

Yesterday, Friday I had a short run with youngest daughter which felt good, today there was a family cycle to Beachlands and an evening swim, so nice to be on the bike or in the water to play, not train.  Tomorrow is my first proper run with the Te Puru runners, I deliberately wont have breakfast and wont take water with me to make sure that I don't get tempted to do more than a few km.

Anyway, here's the evidence, the certificate has arrived, now I have to think about my promised tattoo (what, where?) and importantly, signing up for next year. Entry opens in a week and I am now sure I shall want to be there for the 30th Ironman anniversary.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Karen writes: Part 2: IM on the day

Ironman day, what a day, strangely it was only 5 days ago but I have to look at the pictures to remind myself that it actually happened...to me, well, me and 1400 others.  Saturday the 2nd March, up before the alarm went after less than 5 hours sleep, it was dark.  Breakfasted on rice porridge, milk and fruit, sunscreened and anti-chafed, dressed in bikini bottom, sports bra with warm clothes over the top, ready to go.  Are you ever really ready for something like this though? Kate's friend Rachel took us down to the startline and we saw other Ironpeople being dropped off, they were walking along the footpath, each on their individual mission, carrying their black swim transition bags and wetsuits, all serious.

Into the big tent,  we were signed in under the artificial lights, I had fouled up my transfer tattoo having handled it with wet hands and the bottom number disappeared, someone kindly marked the '3' back on, I obviously wasn't the only person who had done that though, there were lots of indelible ink repairs being done.  Then out into the dark compound where all the bikes were, I parked my water bottles in their cages, put my first frozen milk carton into the on-bike bag and had a last nervous check of the bike.  I then got stuck in a queue for the portaloos, it's a bit like supermarket checkout lanes, I always accidentally choose the one moving the slowest but if I shift to another one it is guaranteed that one will slow down.  There were announcements about closing transition in minutes, that had my heart beating faster by the time I got to the head of the queue, whew, then I squished quickly into my wetsuit but put my finger through a seam on my side making a completely new hole, so I think the poor old second-hand, much repaired wetsuit is on it's way out.  Kate was more organised than me so she was on hand to do the zip thing, then just as the sky started lightening up we walked down the stairs and along the green carpet to the lakeside.  What a beautiful sight, mirror flat lake, the waka standing off shore, all those wetsuited people with different coloured swim caps waiting...waiting for something, lots of spectators too.

Then it was time to start.  We saw the top athletes go off, chased by helicopter, and 15 minutes later it was time for us.  I got in the water, it didn't feel too bad, until I followed the instructions 'to ensure proper fitting of wetsuit', which was get in the water, allow some water in and then get fully out of the water to allow the suit to mould to the body.  Sheesh that was cold!

Then I bobbed about in the water, chatted with Kate and played with my goggles which seemed to want to steam up for the first time since I got them, waited, waited with everyone else.  Waited expectantly.  And still nearly jumped out of my skin when the gun went off!  Then we were swimming, sort of, I'd tried to position myself to the far rear left of the field, I'd read that was the way to stay out of the melee of flailing arms and thrashing feet, and it mostly worked.  I got thumped a few times, kept my head out of the water for a bit when the danger to my nose got too much through being sandwiched between two overly energetic swimmers, but after a little while there was clear space and I could concentrate on enjoying the view of the lake bottom, count the golf balls, wonder about how so many people could have discarded their swim caps on the lake floor, conserve energy, say hello to the little fish, and try to go in a roughly straight line.

1 hour 36 later I was out of the water, right on time!  I felt pretty good, my shoulder didn't hurt, and now it was time to scoot up the carpeted path, up the staircase, and get onto the bike.

At the top of the stairs someone called out my number, and by the time I got to the transition tent someone was calling my name and waving my transition bag.  I grabbed it and shot into the tent, this time not making the mistake of waiting for someone to help me get out of my wetsuit, got that off, and since there weren't any tricky decisions to make about clothes I was out in a marginally quicker time than last time.

Running the bike out of transition, and off riding along the lake front.  Up the hill out of Taupo, the chain didn't fall off this time, yahoo!  By first turnaround I saw Kate, she was about 20 minutes ahead of me and looking very fresh which wasn't a surprise, I'd expected her to be faster in the swim and much faster on the bike given all of her hard work at training.  By second turnaround she was at least 40 minutes ahead.  Boy that was such a LONG ride though, we had done the roughly 160km round Taupo ride for years, but that didn't really prepare me for a whole 180km. The terrain wasn't so bad, it could be described as undulating, but I found the heat a problem, and 8 hours 11 sitting on a small hard seat isn't an easy ask in anyone's book.  So the ride was close to being on my predicted time, I'd thought 8 hours.  I did find that my nutrition needed more attention, I wasn't interested in the sandwiches and had more bananas than planned, the milk at about 50km followed by another I picked up from the drop-bag at about 100km went down pretty well but I was a bit squeamish after the second one. I had decided I couldn't tolerate electrolyte drinks but it was so hot and I had a thick salt rime on my face, plus I wondered if my fantasy at 140km about hot chips was my body telling me I needed salt, I ended up taking in all 8 of my saltstick tablets over the course of the ride. As I rode that last little stretch into town I felt my chest try to close up with emotion and had to calm myself down, I now knew, 10 hours into this that I was actually going to finish. One really cool thing happened on the way back to Taupo on the first lap, I was overtaken by the leaders, I was able to read their labels as they rocketed off on their second laps, normally I dont get to even see the top athletes I am so far behind, this time it worked to my advantage.

While I was riding the girls were being ably entertained, they got to yell encouragement to the athletes, play cards and swim, and 'hunt' golfballs in the lake, what a day for them.  It was a great relief that they were having such fun, I was so very appreciative of that, my heartfelt thanks to all those who had a hand in making sure they had as good a day as their mum did.

At the end of the second cycle lap you head into Taupo, slow for the tight corners and have to dismount before a line on the road.  I was briefly annoyed by a man who slowed in front of me way out from the stopping line to loosen his shoes so he could leave them on the bike, I couldn't pass him, and had to wobble slowly behind, he would have been quicker to run in his cycle shoes to transition. You stop, someone takes your bike and its a run (or a hobble) back to the transition tent.  Strip, into running clothes, but I struck a problem getting my shoes on.  Every time I tried to straighten my foot enough to get it into the shoe my calf cramped up, but those volunteers, such wonderful volunteers obviously had faced that before and out came the arnica and my calf got a vigorous rub and my foot went into the shoe, same for the second one, then I was out on the road for the final 3 run laps.  I didn't feel much like running on that first lap, my legs didn't get that funny wobbly thing they used to thanks to the off-the-bike runs but they were very heavy, it was my head that was the biggest problem though.  It wanted to walk.  Fortunately there were lots of hills and my run strategy was to walk up the hills so I got plenty of chance to do that.  Lap one - lots of walking, run down hill, other runners weren't much up to talking in the heat, this strange quiet was made up for by the wonderful spectators who lined the main road calling out runner names which were easily readable on race numbers. They were amazingly encouraging, you'd hear  "Karen, you can do it!", "go Karen!" and it would be a complete stranger.  It was so great to see the the whanau each time I went past them, and I have to mention Kate's sister, who demonstrated excellent running skills but wasn't keen to commit to next years Ironman herself.  There was a bit of residential street to run, people had hauled sofas out onto their grass verges, had gazebos and chilly-bins of drink, snacks, music and were there for the duration, got a few tempting offers of a cold beer.  Lap 2, I now had a white and a blue bobbin round my wrist to show how much of the run I had done, it was starting to cool down, a bit more talking went on as runenrs started to wake up. Past the support crew, hello whanau, I walk/ran with a man from an Australian triathlon club, he had a really interesting story about how he had battled obesity and finally became an Ironman.  He told me his wife had told him that if he had to walk he should walk with a woman as they "strode it out" and the men "slouched along with their heads down", he was on his final lap by this point so I said congratulations Ironman and kept going.  At the half way mark, 21km, I had given up on gels, so decided to start on the coke/water mixture earlier than usual.  A handful of salty crisps was too tempting so I had some of those and felt an immediate energy lift.  I did this coke/water/crisps thing at every support station after this.  Lap 3, I caught up with another Australian from the same club as the other runner and I was now feeling good and did lots more running.  If I walked I was overtaking, there were people complaining of gastric problems and some people being sick.  I ran with a lady from Tutukaka and we talked about the problems of having water-tanks (strange things you talk about) but she had nasty blisters and fell behind as I started to feel like I could have kept on going at the same steady pace forever.  Back along the waterfront, it was a beautiful velvety night, and I now had a light stick. I was negotiating a much narrower path in the dark as people spilled over the path and many were more than a bit merry and a gauntlet of young men had to be negotiated, they were sweet but in too close contact and that was a bit worrying, mainly from the point of view of being tripped, then I was nearly back in Taupo.  I got faster and faster the closer I got until I felt like my legs were flying (they probably weren't!), the noise was deafening through the stands on the main road, I went round the final corner and along the carpeted final stretch feeling disbelief.  There was so much yelling and so many people, there were bright lights and so much movement, all I could focus on was the end, I didn't have a hope of picking anyone out in that crowd and I just ran for it!
After 15 hours and 42 minutes, THE voice of Ironman called out "Karen Pickering, you are an Ironman".  Oh my goodness.  That's me!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Karen writes: Part 1: IM before THE day

Well, now I am back in Auckland with computer and internet access I'm trying to put so many memories in order from an absolutely amazing few days. I thought perhaps I should start with getting ready just before IM.  On Wednesday, packing the huge amount of gear required to get down to Taupo, I thought "have I got everything" and at the same time "we cant possibly need all this stuff".  2 adults and 2 children need a lot of things for 5 days away from home though, and if one of those is a triathlete it just increases exponentially.  2 bags for clothes, 2 bags children's toys/books, 1 large chilly bin, 3 bags of sports gear (one for each discipline), bag of footwear (including kids rollerskates), bag for bike paraphernalia (pump/tools/helmets), bag of linen for the accommodation, folding chairs (for supporters)...you get the picture, the car was groaning.

The accommodation was the same as last year, a lovely house a short walk from the lake-front.  Kate had already arrived and had dinner on, bliss. The next day, Thursday we had a final short ride and a run off the bike then we went and registered just like we did last year. In some ways the anxiety has been higher this time because the journey has been 2 very long years, so there was an element of paranoia that something would go wrong again, in other ways we had already been through the process so knew what to expect.  We filled in the disclaimer that indemnified the organisers against anything that could possibly happen, signed the massive flag along with all the other athletes, got weighed, had armbands applied with our race numbers on, collected the empty bags to pack gear in for each transition and then it was done, no backing out now.
Friday morning Kate convinced me we should go for a swim.  While the whanau were still in bed we got into our togs and wetsuits and wandered down to the lake, it was absolutely gorgeous and there were cyclists and runners everywhere.  Groups of swimmers were also energetically going from buoy to buoy, we had a short swim out to the buoy line and back, trying a short distance directly into the sun as we had been told that it would be difficult to tell where we were in the first leg because of sunstrike.  We could very easily have stayed swimming longer but conserving energy was the name of the game at this late stage.  Still not feeling particularly real about this, do we look like we expect to be Ironmen the next day here?
Then the more serious stuff happened. What to put in each of the three transition bags?  I kept changing my mind, taking things in and out, shifting things from pile to pile. This is what part of the stuff needed just for the day looked like...swim/finish bag, swim to bike bag, and bike to run bag.
We cleaned our bikes and greased the chains, it all felt very ordinary out in the sun on such a beautiful day.  Then we took the packed transition bags and bikes down to the event centre.  As I walked out of the tent after signing in the bags I couldn't get the thought out of my head that I had put my bike stuff in the run bag and the run stuff in the bike bag, but told myself I was just being silly, I had spent hours packing and the volunteers did have a quick look, they would have noticed.  This was the same sort of thinking that had me expecting to catch last minute acute food poisoning, break a bone, lose the bike, or that a volcanic eruption or massive bush fire would occur and cancel the event.  The bikes were photographed, our helmets were checked for fit, and we walked away knowing that in less than a day we would be back and it would be for THE START.

While we were off doing Ironman things, the children were off looking at the Huka falls.  I understand they found the tramp a bit of a struggle, but they were impressed by the views when they finally got there.
Shopping for more food, a never ending priority, and getting ready for Kate's family and friends to arrive stopped us thinking too much for the rest of that last afternoon. I had some good news I had been waiting for, my dad had had an operation that afternoon and he was safely out of theatre and recovering so I could at last relax about that.  The final meal was early, and probably  not a conventional pre-event dinner, but roast chicken and potatoes, coleslaw, cooked vegetables, and birthday cake (we now had a newly turned 7 year old in the house) went down a treat.
Alarms set for quarter to 5 in the morning, we went off to our beds and I even managed a few hours sleep knowing that when the alarm went off, we would finally know if all of our hard work would pay off.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Karen writes: Cooking Dinner as an Ironman

It's Sunday evening, I'm home, peeling potatoes.  I am an Ironman, so is Kate.

7am yesterday morning we stood in the beautiful lake Taupo as the sun woke up alongside 1500 or so other athletes, 15 hours 41 minutes later I was finished. The Voice of Ironman called my name out and told me I was an "IRONMAN", Kate had the same nearly 40 minutes earlier.
Me just over the finish line, Kate has already been in for over half an hour
We were both awake in the early hours of this morning, couldn't sleep, the first breakfast was at about 5am.  A little run proved that my legs worked and I had a look at the remnants of the day long celebration down by the lake, then sat on a chair to survey the start line and think for a bit. I've eaten more mini-meals today than I can count and not much of it would make it past the nutritionists.  The car trip home was a bit tough, I'm glad I wasn't driving because I kept drifting into puddles of tiredness which I came out of after a little while but it made the day a long, inefficient, blurry muddle.  I predict several more meals, and a good sleep tonight, and maybe 2 v energy drinks to get me through Monday at work.

So too muddled to write more, full reports from both Kate and me over the next few days and pics.  Thanks so much for all the wonderful messages with good wishes and encouraging thoughts, the amount of support has been awe-inspiring.

Now we know the two year journey to Ironman has been awfully long but we haven't forgotten our key reason which was to fundraise for Diabetes care in Christchurch.  Some people have already kindly made donations but we would still really appreciate some more support, no matter how small...the link is right here...