Friday, 26 July 2013

Karen writes: Tai Chi

The children came home from the school holidays this afternoon, I have Saturday with them, Sunday we head down into Mooloo land for the predicted 4 hours of midwinter bike-riding. The girls will be happily occupied but I myself wont actually spend a lot of quality time with them before they re-start school.

So the part of my brain that always feels guilt about the apparent selfishness of my endurance training asks the question "why drag them off to Tai Chi on Saturday morning...wouldn't it be nice to have a leisurely start to the day?".  Um...yes.  Yes but...

Yes BUT the weekly session of Tai Chi seems to have kept my leg problems, particularly that nasty ITB, at bay since I started doing it.  Yes BUT this week's training time is already down since I had a Monday evening meeting and missed out on spin class due to an overbooking on Thursday. Yes BUT I'm doing no other flexibility or strength training.  Yes BUT I really want to get better at this Tai Chi thing, not just mimic the moves, I want to understand it.

Yes BUT. Sadly enough, if you have a busy life there actually has to be a degree of selfishness in order to be an endurance athlete, otherwise it just wouldn't happen. So tomorrow morning we will have a relatively relaxed start but will be out the door by 9am. We will meet up with the disparate group of mainly women at the local school, drink some sort of tea out of tiny cups, usually a new variety provided by instructor Stacey, and talk about whatever until called to order.  The girls will do the first half of the session with me, the flexibility and strengthening bit, then head off to play in the playground while I struggle with the set-pieces, I have even resorted to writing an 'L' for left on my hand so I don't end up inevitably facing in the wrong direction.  I have been attempting to do my homework too, practicing one set of movements each week in the hopes that I might remember which bit goes where and what follows such luck, I still cant tell a fisherman thingy from a barrel thingy from a whatever.  I did like the bit in the instructions that suggested that you should never worry about learning wrong. The theory seemed to be that as long as the attempt was made, it was better to learn something. That's my kind of learning.

I just keep hoping that continued effort will pay off and I can improve to the point where I am just consistently mediocre rather than persistently awful. Unlike the lists of strength exercises dutifully administered by the well-meaning coach of some years ago, I can actually feel this doing me good though. More importantly, I admit to a sneaking enjoyment, Tai Chi for me is a win. Who knows, one day it might even rub off on my slightly resistant daughters, currently they would appear to 'suffer' for the sake of their mum.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Karen writes: Crazy Lady

I got back from my bikeride Saturday, leapt off the bike at the bottom of the driveway and sat down to take my shoes off.  A man walking past asked if I was alright, I said I was fine thanks and he smilingly made a comment about being "crazy".

Perhaps I am.  My exercise morning had started nearly four hours previously., After an early breakfast I went for a quick cycle along the coast to warm up then rode up the hill to the local school where the Tai Chi classes are held.  I got some peculiar looks when I arrived wearing my fluoro finery, in fact it took a bit for anyone to recognise me, perhaps not having the two children in tow, or it could have been the headgear.  After 90 minutes of gentle willow waving, doves flying and cloud movements, jammed the helmet on, back on the bike, down the hill and pedal for another couple of hours.  Crazy lady.

It was the local volunteer Coastguard awards dinner on Saturday night, I listened to speeches, ate too much, and went home early, too tired from the day's exertions to be sociable for too long. Confidentially, the prospect of an early run can sometimes be a help as much as a chore, offering a pretty much unassailable excuse for an easy exit, perhaps no-one wants to argue with the crazy lady?

Mangegangeroa boardwalk
So Sunday morning I joined the Te Puru runners for an away run doing a very hilly, and initially chilly, route outside Howick at Mangemangeroa reserve. Eating too much the night before doesn't work well, you feel 'blah' and you definitely don't want to have the early breakfast necessary to fuel a long run. I dressed the part, skin-tight tri-shorts, fluffy hat and buff scarf, stripey thermal top and headed into town. I ran with the Te Puru runners for a bit, then kept going after they left to finish off a couple of hours, a slooooow upstairs and downstairs 16km, then decided that since I was in town I should buy the week's groceries.  When I got under the bright lights of the pristine supermarket among all the respectably attired Meadowlands matrons I suddenly realised I under-dressed. Funnily enough though, I wasn't the only one who was obviously post exercise. We lycra-ed few risked sideways glances at each other's grubby legs, red faces being cooled by the deli fridges, an excess of treat foods in our trolleys and exchanged half-embarrassed smiles.  Not the only crazy one.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Karen writes: Core...what?

My 'core' is back on the agenda.  No amount of protesting that I haven't got one, that I've "done OK without one until now" and that old favourite, "I don't have any desire to wear a bikini" gets me out it. A quick scan of the first few of over 7 million Google results (I queried 'importance of core strength' hoping for something to say I didn't really have to worry) and it seems that not one of said results has anything to do with apples.  What there is however, is excessive use of words like 'crucial', 'fundamental', or 'vital' when talking about this core thing as related to all exercise disciplines, so my excuses are sounding more and more pathetic.

6 weeks of Tai Chi and I can stand on one leg better (actually I feel better in all sorts of ways including appearing to have mislaid the grumbling ITB problem), but I seem no closer to figuring out what and where my core is, I'm still convinced it is a myth.  Oh dear, this may mean I need to think about FOLLOWING EXERCISE INSTRUCTIONS in order to track it down.

Will 2013 be the year I finally get a core?  Who knows, it looks like I cant be trusted to just get on with it myself and need outside motivation, incentivising, or perhaps I should just take another look at some of those horrible photos from previous events showing me stuffed, apparently coreless (or core-surplused), into a wetsuit?

Monday, 15 July 2013

Karen writes: Starting to enjoy training again

Sometimes, when you are feeling stressed, or time pressured, or unfit, training is a bit of a chore.  More than a bit actually, it can turn into a real drag, if you let it.  Fortunately if you keep on going the 'drag' phase usually passes, cures itself.  For example, serious training session gets rid of the stress, it's purely a head thing to figure out how to deal with feeling hurried because of your busy life, and of course you get fitter and your comfort level rises.

The children are on school holidays, for me that's a brief respite to focus on training, and gathering energy, physical and mental, for when they come back.  As often happens, the minute I get time to train to my hearts content I get a cold (last year I got injured, fortunately that isn't the case this time).  Decision...train, or rest.  Rest or train.  I'm training of course.

Training and starting to relax, it means I start seeing things around me again.  Like the run on Sunday, I enjoyed a bit of a game running along the coast road paying attention to what people were doing in their cars as they drove towards me.  There were lots of eaters and drinkers, talkers, a few tight steering wheel grippers, the occasional smoker, a scowling example of the 'I hate runners' variety, but the most amusing (alarming?) of all was the man driving slowly along in the middle of the narrow road in his van wielding his electric razor.

Tonight I ran down to Te Puru park for spin class, it's a bitterly cold night and for a change there were very few people, or animals, around. I did see a hardy few practicing ball skills down at the park who were so rugged up, complete with balaclavas and overcoats, that I wondered how they could move to catch the ball. I enjoyed watching their weird looking slow dance under the big outdoor lights with the mist coming in off the sea.

Spin was good, is it getting easier I wonder?  Perhaps it is, or am I just not trying as hard as when I first started?  I see that my run there was the same pace as last week, but the run back on legs which were meant to be tired was a bit quicker, this could be a good sign.

The next marathon is now 10 weeks away.  I have lots of  'I wonder' thoughts about this one, another country, another culture, another language, another climate, very exciting.  If I didn't need every one of those 10 weeks to get fit enough to do the job I would be wishing my time away.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Karen writes: Change, you can't avoid it

Haven't written for a couple of weeks, having a bit of a quiet time after the Wellington marathon and I always find that after an event I feel unsettled and lose my confidence...should I run, should I rest more before the next big push, am I losing 'it', how could I ever have been that fit?

Also, things have changed in our house due to my partner's work commitments.  Having school-age children, the weekend hours, and most weekday evenings are no longer available to me for training. This is either the end of my fitness aspirations, or impetus to do things differently.

Change is inevitable, but in the middle of winter with the days being short as well as motivation, the bad weather adds its strength to the lure of the couch, and now with the time available being severely restricted, it's understandable that I might go through a period of OH WHY.  Fortunately however I have now moved on to OK HOW.

So how.  Bike riding, the next event is a 70km ride in 3 weeks. I have been on the bike twice now and had an enjoyable 20 and 30km, both slow and easy. The bike seems to have forgiven me for the long neglect, a bit of air in the tyres, some chain wax which went on in lumps because of the cold (reminder to self, get some non-wax based lube for winter riding), and she rode like a dream.  Surely I can find 2-3 hours during the next two weeks if I use a bit of annual leave? I figure that if I can get up to 50km at least once that will be enough so I don't bomb out completely on this ride, but I don't really need to kick up the real long-distance cycling until probably September when it is time to get ready for the 160km round Taupo challenge.

Ok, no more running down to those enjoyable spin sessions on Thursday evenings. Well, I'd only had a couple of those anyway so it was hardly an established habit...hang on, there is a Monday evening spin class and I do have at least some Monday evenings, problem solved.  And of course there is still that torture instrument on the deck, my own spin bike. I'm not quite desperate enough yet though to sit outside in the dark on the thing at this time of the year, but it is an option.  If anyone else has tried to do 'spin' by themselves at will know it is the most uninspiring thing imaginable. I did read about someone who trained for Ironman using a spin bike, this man was stationed on a ship and he did all his training onboard, he said he "watched a lot of movies", now that is serious commitment.

Cant run with the Te Puru runners on Sunday's as I have for several years now ...sad...but...who say's my long run has to be Sunday, especially if I have an intensive spin class on Monday?  I know, I can drive to Te Puru and the kids can play in the playground or sit in the car for half an hour, I can meet up with the runners at 8am, have a catchup, then when they head off to exciting places I can run round the field keeping an eye on the children and saying hello once every km.  Haven't figured out what to do about the weekly long-run, but with the Zaragosa marathon still 11 weeks away I don't need to be doing too much mileage yet so a couple of 10km plus runs during the week either very early in the morning or late at night will do the trick for now.

Swimming, ironically that is probably the easiest thing to manage, I could go and do a lunchtime swim in the Otara pool over the road.  I decline...I have no desire to swim until I absolutely have to, somewhere around September methinks.  The girls and myself did get in the water at the Maraetai Midwinter swim a week ago, for all of a few seconds so I'm not sure that really counts!

This sort of thing is what could be called a 'glitch', and hopefully it's a temporary one.  It is really so easy to let yourself feel that it's all just gotten a bit too hard though.  The magic thing about having events booked (last count I had 4 going up to Ironman in March), and having someone else you are planning on doing the events with who you wouldn't dare let down (Kate), there is no choice really but to be a bit innovative and go round any problems.  I also find when I think about the possibility of stopping that I have actually reached a point where there is no question about letting myself go too far backwards, I've worked far too hard to get to this point and love all the advantages of being fit.  Not to forget Ironman 2014, just 7 months away!