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.