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!