Thursday, 18 December 2014

Karen writes: On sports involving small spherical objects.

Someone has recently tried to convince me that there is something of merit about participating in ball sports.  The opinion was that it is possible with a bit of hard work for anyone, even me, to be taught the art of being cruel to poor defenseless spherical objects. Something I am sorry but I have to dispute.

One reason I do long slow endurance sports is because I don't have to think or act fast, well, most of the time.  Of course there are exceptions, for example when you are about to leave the vertical plane on a bike, or make inconvenient contact with an unexpectedly placed tree branch, fellow athlete or large hole in the ground. Most of the time however, as a sloooow distance athlete you can take a less aggressive approach to decision making.  You can pause, think a bit, pass on instructions in a leisurely fashion from an endorphin stupefied brain to the rest of the body, then like a great and stately ocean liner, gradually come to a halt. As an endurance runner I also don't have to know the difference between left and right, something I have never come to terms with instinctively. I have always had to actually look at whichever hand first to figure out which one it is. I always I thought I would grow out of that with practice but never did. I don't feel so bad about it these days, I found out in the unlikely situation of jumping out of a plane that I wasn't alone when the instructor drew a humiliatingly large black L and R on my hands.

So chasing small round things about requires thought and reflexes and an understanding of which hand is which. Oh.  I might just have to stick to running and leave the ball sports those who do have the necessary attributes.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Karen writes: Rotorua half IM 2014

What an amazing day Saturday was for the Rotorua Half Ironman.  The weather forecast was a bit dodgy, showers and some wind predicted.  It turned out to be perfect conditions however, to the point where sunburn was more of a problem than the wet and cold.

So Kate had said lets do the early start option.  This was an 5.45 am start being offered to those who had a history of taking more than 7 hours to complete the course.  A smart idea to cut down the mop up of stragglers coming through the bush hours after the event has been wound up, but also it was pointed out that it can be lonely on the trail still finishing off your 21 km if nearly everyone else has gone home. I for one did not regret getting going that 45 minutes earlier one bit, in fact it was a fabulous change which I hope they repeat.

So we had a 4 am breakfast, put the bikes in Kate's car, and headed off into what still seemed very much like night.  It was so dark Kate was driving along and she said "I'm sure we missed the turn-off". Sure enough, we had come right to the lakeside, way too far.  Backtracking, no street or other lights, we found the car-park, there was only one other vehicle there in the big paddock which is usually full for this event. Other cars started turning up shortly and then there was a small procession of people wheeling bikes while juggling transition boxes and bags and wetsuits and things, along the dark road.  I had a moment of panic when I couldn't seem to get my bike wheel on with that pesky easy-release. Fumbling around in the dark I was sure I had it wrong and it would fall off going down some big hill somewhere.

Visualise this. Inky black lake, surrounded by trees, spirals of mist coming up off the water, then the music starts.  Old favourites, driving beats, absolutely surreal at that time of the morning in such a beautiful place. Add in a bit of normal pre-event anxiety to get the heart rate up, wow, you couldn't buy a high like that.

Finally ready, into the wetsuits and it was time to get soggy.  The damp grass was freezing underfoot, so the lake felt luke-warm after standing on that.  Gun went, off swimming.  I had an average sort of swim,  laughed to myself when I thought I was at the back of the back of the pack.  No pressure, took it easy, none of the panic attacks that marked previous years forays into that particular body of deep water.  The biggest problem is when the lake is clear, I see the bottom, it looks close enough to touch but I know it is meters deep, the brain goes eek, cant put my feet down if I want to, but it looks like I should be able to.

Second lap, I made the mistake of looking across the loop and saw lots of high speed splashes, the main start was in the water and rapidly catching up, I just barely got to the end when those super fast machines came along finishing their first lap.  I'd had a 45 minute head start, and I was well on the way to being caught!

Through transition, on the bike, grinding up the big hill, the muscles always protest here. I think this is because they are still a bit cold from the water, and by this stage I have done an hour's exercise and breakfast was a long time ago. I always doubt that I can do 90 more km on such tired, sluggish legs, there is a bit of mental game playing to get into enjoying it.  Down the other side I got up to 64 km/hour!  I have never ridden that fast and not been hanging onto the brakes hard enough to hurt, yeehah, must be the new (ish) bike.  Out onto the main road, and past the airport, the fast riders caught up here and what I noticed was how friendly some were.  The lead male, I think for the quarter Ironman, read the name on the tag on my back and called out "going great Karen".  That happened lots, something I noticed round the whole course, no games of mad smiley athlete needed from me to provoke a response, there were plenty of smiles just there for the returning. What an excellent ride. I spent around 3 1/2 hours on wheels, ate up those big hills and a treat was getting to the top of Hell's Gate (takes 12 rounds of Kate's trick of singing '10 green bottles' to myself to get up) and there was Mr Triathlon, Shane Hooks standing there yelling encouragement, wow, endurance royalty!  One of many benefits to that early start.

The purple and blue replacement top
On the half marathon, there were plenty of people around, even some who had had much faster swims and cycles and started with the late group, but who were my pace in the running.  It never fails to amaze me however that some good athletes take risks with themselves by not doing their homework.  Cramps when only taking in some lollies and water... um, a guaranteed outcome. Wear a cotton t-shirt and not expect chafing?  Wear untried gear in a race, oh, hang on, that was me. I forgot, would you believe it, among other things, both my cycle top and running top. A trip to a Rotorua op shop and I had a new cycle top in my size, tags still on, and a spandex designer label singlet that the girls insisted would be just right, and it was, after I insisted on removing the sequined pocket at chest level.  The singlet in shades of purple and blue was a perfect match to a great area of purple foxgloves buried deep in the forest by the side of a stunning lake.  Some things you see are too perfect not to stop and have more of a look.  There was also, not so perfect but still something of a break, a little diversion down a narrow path which had at the turnaround a large purple bunny parked in a deck chair.  Um.  Yeah. Didn't see that one coming.

I finished in 7 hours 34 minutes.  Not my best time ever, but way better than that disaster of a race last year.  And I felt great during and after.  Will we do the same next year?  Who can tell what will happen next year, but I definitely didn't come out saying "never again".  Again.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Karen writes: Wellington

Another unexpected trip to Wellington, fortunately, taper week, no worries (well, I'm not worried) about doing very little.  I did get out for a run however, and got pleasantly directionally challenged among all of those back streets. It was raining.  I now see why there are so many pedestrian crossing signals at all the intersections, they are to hang onto in the wind to stop foolish runners getting blown into the traffic.

Over 6 km, I felt a bit odd pounding up and down city streets dodging in and out of the serious-suited-ones.  Perhaps they felt even more odd when confronted with a large self propelling object in fluorescent green ducking and diving in their midst.

Anyway, Rotorua half IM is now just two sleeps away.  Kate has convinced me (well, she has the vehicle), that we need to do the early start which the organisers are kindly offering this year to anyone expecting to do over 7 hours.  The idea is that we don't get lonely out in the bush by ourselves at the back of the pack, and it might have the added bonus that the man on the bike who dared try to turn us around last year because the water stations were closing wont have to brave the wroth of certain determined, but slower athletes.

And, importantly, all the beer might not be gone by the time we get to the finish-line.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Karen writes: Round again Taupo

It is a whole week since we cycled around that big hole in the ground a wee way down country again, that was time number eight.  I remember the first time, we thought a 60 km ride was enough training, that the measly little hills out the back of Whitford were real hills and that hanging onto a convenient powerpole or fencepost was the accepted way to stop to get cleats out of pedals. We did however learn the errors of that sort of thinking with a 10+ hour effort on the road that year, probably the big surprise is that we kept going back every November.

Things have come a long way, some rides are easier than others, well, actually they are all hard, some have just been harder than others.  This one for me was strangely eough a good one, it was windy, cold, and rained on and off, but I didn't have that "oh I wish this was over" feeling starting at the foot of the first hill and keeping going till the end.  Why, who knows?  Why does one event work better than another when you have trained less, weigh more, and still don't pay enough attention to nutrition and equipment?

I managed, to use language I normally avoid, a 'personal best', albeit an accidental one. I could argue that I feel like I always do some version of best, some are just 'bester' than others.  Anyway, I took 7 hours 9 minutes and a tiny bit, last year I took 7 hours 50 minutes. My previous best time was in 2012 and that was 7 hours 13 minutes.  A PB, must be a proper cyclist now.

So now to the tricky situation of going from one big event almost straight into another.  Taper to taper almost, and circumstances have conspired that I have had no chance of training this last week, and next week looks the same. So time to stop worrying about lack of training, and make the best of opportunities.  I can tick the bikeride off, I know I can do 90 km since I managed 160.  I had a swim early this morning before the whanau woke up that was close enough to 2 km, tick. Run, well I have done precious little of that in recent weeks but surely I haven't lost everything since Auckland marathon at the beginning of November, and with 750 m elevation over the 21 k's according to my GPS I think it is more likely to be a walk than a run anyway.  I'm as ready as I can be.

Now, the swim this morning is worth mentioning.  Swimming is never my favourite activity, and knowing that fish are hungriest as the sun comes up...well... there was a degree of anxiety.  But it was lovely, the water was flat, there were a few boats going out and for a change no-one was throwing burley off the wharf or casting fishing lines into my pathway.  I have now found that if my brain is busy I dont have time to think about (jaws theme) what is going to come up from underneath and decide that my fluttering silver toenails are part of an injured fish. This swim I barely noticed what I was doing, I was thinking too hard.  I have lots of things to think about at the moment which had the effect of keeping my brain full enough that I actually wasn't worried even a tiny bit about being eaten.  The side effect of that unfortunately was it also kept me off thinking about technique, but I think I would rather be free of that persistent and irrational anxiety than a fractionally faster swimmer.

So now I need to try to find some clothes suitable for next weekend.  Down at Taupo it was realised that some of my gear hasn't really survived the winter very well after long hard training year, so there were stern instructions from Kate to THROW the stuff out.  Funny how all those worn out favourites got washed again after the ride, and of course you cant possibly throw clean clothes out.  So less than pristine pair of cycle shorts, holey socks,pink compression leg warmers with more chain grease than pink colour are back in the cupboard to be discarded when they next get dirty.  Rotorua half Ironman could never be described as a fashion show so perhaps next weekend?

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Karen writes: How to get a smile out of a Wellingtonian

Just had an unscheduled trip to Wellington for a meeting.  Oh dear, the training plan said I was meant to be cycling and swimming, but running shoes are ever the portable option so running it was.  Shoes and two sets of running clothes in the cabin luggage, I had more running gear with me than anything else for my one and a half days away.

In the evening I headed off for my run, going down the long hill towards the harbour.  I wanted to get an idea of the distance to the mornings meeting venue and with my tendency to get lost, check out the route.  It was very windy, and I was wearing a light singlet and running tights which would have been absolutely fine if I hadn't stopped for what seemed to be dozens of traffic lights.  How do people run like that having to stop all the time?  Six km later it was getting dark and I was ready to return.  But I was hungry.  I saw lots of food places as I zigzagged up those confusing city streets, but nothing I wanted to really go into and risk dripping sweat on their carpet. Ah, the welcoming lights of the ubiquitous M fast food restaurant, no carpet, no waiting.  Into the shop, do you have any drinks in a bottle?  Yes, a kid size juice.  I ran out again, clutching the instantly identifiable printed paper bag and my sipper bottle, and ran 2km up the hill to consume my spoils in the peace of my hotel room.

You know, it was the only time I managed to extract any smiles out of those Wellington dwellers? Mad runner goes out in the wild wind for totally inappropriate dinner.  It was worth it.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Karen writes: Panasonic at Maraetai

I thought I was a bit nuts signing up for the Standard distance triathlon at Maraetai beach yesterday, I mean I had run a marathon the week before and logic would say there should be some sort of impact. I felt fine however, and I figured that really I am meant to be fit given we plan on riding the 160km round the lake in two weeks time.

So I turned up on Sunday morning and it was an absolutely stunningly beautiful day.  The sea was completely flat, the temperature was mild, there was only the slightest breeze and not a cloud in the sky.  All of my doubts disappeared, it would have been such a shame to not take on the course, and also not to challenge myself a little bit.

There were no familiar faces, but when you struggle into a wetsuit you can usually find someone to zip you up and often start a conversation.  In this case with the family of a young woman, Amy, she was doing her first triathlon, the try-a-tri version.

The hooter went, I hung back so as not to spend too much time in the 'washing machine', but everyone shot off anyway and I quickly found myself wandering along by myself.  Lovely that was too, until I got lapped firstly by the other standard distance people, then secondly by the next group doing the sprint distance.  Someone got a good thump in on my archilles tendon while trying to swim over me, someone else barged me sideways as I rounded the huge buoy.  Now these buoys I always find horribly menacing, I sort of feel like I am going to get swallowed underneath the things, or wrapped up in their mooring ropes. They tower up above the water and rock away from you then over the top if you go close so being shoved under one was not nice.

Out of the water, up the carpet, and slip.  Thump down on my chest as I came up the half a meter step from the sand to the grass.  Ah well, I don't have any pride, but I was covered in sand by this which was more of a concern because I had forgotten to bring a towel.

On the bike, two laps out to the log cabin at Clevedon.  What a lovely ride, that bike is a dream, I must remember to reward it with a nice service... soon.  There was one person of note on this ride, a young fellow, wearing brown.  He would slow down to go up the hills, I'd pass, he would speed up and pass me, then slow down again.  He spent a lot of time fiddling with his earphones, and got yelled at by a marshal to take them out but put them back in when out of sight. He annoyed me until I decided he wasn't worth the energy.  So the whole two laps was pass, be passed, pass, be passed by this young man, till the end when I finally ditched him at Duders beach and set out to 'leave my legs on the road'.  I suspect he probably got me again on the run course, or perhaps he didn't.

The run was a hot 10km made up of three laps to Omana beach. By this stage the field had shrunk considerably.  I finished the event in 3 hours 13, a good time for me.  The swim was a bit slower than the last time I did it, the bike faster (perhaps thanks to brown shirt I now think), the run a fraction slower but I felt terrific.  As I sat with my girls under a tree listening to the prizegiving I heard a friends name read out.  She wasnt there to pick up her prize, how frustrating that would be.  I heard my number called out...hey, that was ME!  I got a brand new Timex Ironman watch, the first spot-prize I have ever won at one of these events.

There was a bigger prize though. In most of my photos I am wearing a carved bone pendant in the shape of a sea monster.  This was a gift to me well over 20 years ago, it normally goes with me everywhere, except when I am swimming.  Well on Sunday I lost it, I'm not sure how.  Some wonderful person however handed it in and I was reunited with my precious friend, I would have been devastated if I had never seen it again.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Karen writes: Auckland marathon...more than a tick on the list

This year I ended up, shall we say accidentally, with the Auckland marathon squashed into my annual programme, rather inconveniently between that ultra in Brisbane at the end of August, and the Taupo Cycle Challenge in November.  It only came up because the children wanted to run the kids marathon, I figured if I was going to be in town for that, why not tick Auckland off once and for all.

But after an indifferent (inadequate?) training lead-up and a tough day on the road the Auckland marathon ended up a as something more than just a 'tick'. Starting with the trip into Devonport on a ferry straight from (almost) home. No driving for hours through all of Auckland, trying to find parking, hopping on another ferry etc, this was a case of driving 3km up the road, parking by the wharf, walking onto the boat and being at the start-line 25 minutes later.  Best of all though, sitting on the comfortable seat with my thermos of coffee, was seeing all of these faces familiar from all those hours where we have run past each other on the road, plus a good number of the Te Puru runners were there as well. A very social and relaxing trip was had, great way to start.

This was followed by a beautiful short walk from the wharf to the startline which served as a warm-up.  We wandered along the softly lit waterfront, looking at the city lights across the water, then finding increasing numbers of other runners the closer we got.  It was a time to just enjoy the experience, wonder at the beautiful place we live in, but seldom get to see in such a way.

The start was like all of these things, you find a spot in the crowd near to the marker that is closest to your anticipated time, I always hang to the back of the group, everyone always goes out too fast in and I don't like getting carried along too early.  There seemed to be high numbers of first timers and lots of anticipation in the air.

Things went well for the first half but I found there weren't many people I could talk to. Some  were either too fast, too slow, or too serious, but by far the majority were wearing headphones and off in their own unassailable worlds.  I did talk to some and enjoyed their company, pacing off a few miles together until we parted for whatever reason.  I fell in love with Darth Vader and attending Storm Trooper, both in full kit, complete with weaponry with constant starwars theme music broadcasting. I played tag passing and being passed by them for most of the run.  The bridge was lovely, I'm sure someone said it was steep, didn't seem that way to me and while I had planned on walking it to enjoy the scenery I ended up running.  This was the point where the lead half marathoners raced past, we were pushed to the far left by support motorcycles so slowing down wasn't really an option anyway. Down the other side of the bridge, through the city streets and along the waterfront, it was at this point the heat started coming on.  I got slower and slower, and slower.

That last flat 10 km back was tough.  I felt lethargic, my heart sank as a stream of people shuffled past me but I had to realise that it wasn't a good idea to fight how my body was feeling and push it.  I got a graphic reminder of what can happen when I ran up behind a woman who was wobbling as she walked. I asked her if she was OK and she said yes, but her response and her eyes told me she wasn't.  I asked if she could be a bit dehydrated and she said no, she had been drinking water, and to demonstrate she tipped a bottle of water over her head.  It dried almost instantly and I noticed she showed no signs of sweating. Fortunately there was an ambulance a few 100 meters up the road and I pushed her along to that saying that a quick check was needed.  I felt guilty knowing that it was unlikely she would be finishing and I was probably ending her race a mere 8km from the end. Around the back of the ambulance all the chairs were taken, I'm guessing most were there for similar things and when I got further along the road another ambulance came through.

About 3km from the end there was a young woman with a supporter running beside her.  I asked if she wanted to run on with me and she made up the first of a small group of people we found walking who we encouraged to 'hop on our train'.  Some were too far gone when we asked and just kept plodding, some picked up and ran and we talked and ran then sprinted at the finish line.  Now this is my cheats way of making sure I run at the end, if you encourage someone to run with you there is no way you can stop no matter how bad you feel, you both benefit.

I don't actually remember crossing the finish line, I was thinking about having missed the start of the children's run and looking at the first finishers for this to see if I could pick out my girls.  Eventually I realised I had to keep moving and get something to drink and I would have to look for them elsewhere.  The ends of these sorts of children's events are a bit of a nightmare sometimes, parents tend to overtake the carefully marked areas where children are meant to be returned and you end up with great masses of adults and kids and no way of seeing where your own are.  They both finished safely though, hot and bothered, but proud of their efforts and their medals.

One excellent thing was the supporters tent for ASB customers. I had picked up a lanyard at the expo which I was told would give me access, so after the whanau had regrouped we ended up in this huge yellow tent, one lane for supporters, one lane for athletes.  There were muffins and fresh fruit and drinks, all in the cool shade.  Plus someone taking photos.  Now this photo here is for me the highlight of the event, the photographer captured happy smiling faces, it shows what this sort of thing is really about.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Karen writes: And the time goes by...and by

Anyone could be excused for thinking that the lack of activity on the blog means lack of activity full stop.  Well, no actually, quite the opposite.  Whangarei half marathon came and went, notable because of wet weather and the prevalence of cold induced 'goose bumps' on a large proportion of the under-dressed field. Hamilton half marathon was a day-trip with Kate and her dog on a lovely mild, overcast day where we pottered along on a pleasant undulating back-road course. Finally weekly training has gone from around 5 hours of running, up to a rather surprising 12 hours last week, but once you start putting in swimming and ever-increasing cycling miles the time mounts up quickly. Not that I am planning to stay at that level, even for Ironman, the complicating factor this time is that extra marathon right in the middle of preparation for the 160 km round Taupo cycle challenge then Rotorua half Ironman, usually at this point those events would be my main focus and I certainly wouldn't be logging all the extra running hours.

Something I have really enjoyed recently has been a set of six 'run clinics' organised by local triathlon coach Lawrence Oldershaw.  I'm part of a group  made up of women who are family members or crew for the local volunteer Coastguard and we are taking part in a women's only triathlon at Maraetai beach in November. There is nothing like being part of a group like this, you can have tremendous fun learning off each other and...ha ha... suffering together.   Anyway, Lawrence's run clinic on a Saturday morning has involved such tortures as running backwards up short slopes, 200 m lengths in soft sand, and inelegant drills where you run while flicking your heels up to your back-side or bring your knees up high in an exaggerated sort of skip stride. Oh, and time trials.   Anyway, he achieved the impossible and all of our time-trial times improved. My brief spurt of extra speed hasn't obviously translated into my normal training distances yet but there must be a benefit in there somewhere waiting to come out. Especially when I add the intervals and strength exercises personal trainer Garyth is encouraging me to persist with, which I am doing, but admittedly not very persistently! Otherwise training has gone as usual.  Longest distance on the bike is 86km so far and I have six weeks to get up to at least 120km, but when that will happen I'm not sure with being in taper for Auckland marathon now.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my long runs recently, with some impressive local runners coming along to get long slow distance before their big first-time events, they jog along beside me on a Sunday morning like hobbled race-horses as I do my usual cart horse impersonation.  Sunday just gone saw me heading out with a very experienced half-marathoner J for our last long runs before Auckland and we headed into the Whitford forest.  So far, so good.  Well I with my usual sense of direction suggested we try a trail we hadn't tried before, on the assumption that surely if it went to the left we would go in a circle and end up on another trail back the way we came.  Um, no.   It was a beautiful and slightly strenuous run/walk, but it soon became clear that we were headed away from where we wanted to be and eventually we ended up on a main track, goodness knows where, by now we were entirely disorientated.  We were never in any danger, but home was getting further away and we were covering way more kilometers than we had planned. Thank goodness for GPS, and some friendly mountain bikers, the right direction was confirmed and we headed home. I laughingly told J that she was ready for the full marathon, I'm not sure she realised that I wasn't really joking, hope she is still talking to me next weekend!

So this week, how to taper for a marathon, but keep on building up for both a big bike-ride and a half Ironman. That is the question and whether I have the right answer will be only apparent in 11 days time when I turn up at the start line.  And what a start line, I am booked to catch the 4.50 am ferry from Pine Harbour to the North Shore, I think I'm looking forward to that trip at least as much as the run.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Karen writes: Auckland Marathon

Bridge at Sunset - Photo from S Witherden - Wikimedia
The Auckland Marathon has been on my list of must-do-one-day events for years. In itself it held no particular appeal apart from allowing access to the pedestrian unfriendly but spectacular Auckland harbour bridge.  This event is in my back yard so to speak however a detractor was that getting to it at the right time was actually more complicated than for example getting on a plane and flying to another city altogether.  That relatively long early morning drive in from Maraetai to Auckland city central, finding parking, catching an early ferry to Devonport, running the race, and then getting home again seemed too much like hard work.  Running over the Auckland harbour bridge, yes very appealing, but there is time pressure to get over the bridge... pressure always puts me off. Descriptions of crowds and uneven road surfaces and under prepared athletes.... no thanks.  To top it off I have made a tradition in recent years of being off running in the bush somewhere on Auckland marathon day, it's usually hot, I run in the cool and feel sorry for all those poor runners slogging it out on the tarseal when I'm on the trails having fun.
So I signed up this year.  This year there were factors that meant the decision made sense, for example my favourite patch of forestry is closed until Christmas so no tradition of shady bush running for me on the day. Both daughters are doing the kids event, why shouldn't I take advantage of running my race and being at their start-line to watch them go? Its a precious opportunity to experience the addictive joys of sharing our medals and discussing our race experiences from our vastly different viewpoints, plus we indulge legitimately in treats afterwards in the car (Wendy's mint thickshake with whipped cream and chocolate flake at this point) ... mmmm to all of it.

As happens after you sign up for something and pay your money, it becomes yours.  I visit the website, follow the Facebook feeds, scan the emails for new and exciting announcements, plot how I am going to get to the startline with a minimum of fuss, familiarise myself with the course and its unique features and the challenging bits, until I own it.

Another seemingly serendipitous factor that makes things just seem right this year is apparently the Auckland marathon has now made the list of the Running World top 10 city marathons, right up there with Paris, London, Boston, Berlin, Honolulu, Amsterdam, New York, Athens and Peurto Rico. Running in any of those exotic locales is not terribly likely for me in the foreseeable future, but in spite of that, in 7 weeks I am actually running a marathon that is now not only world famous in New Zealand, but truly world famous.  Add that to sharing the day in a meaningful way with my whanau, building my collection of bling and ticking off something on my one-day list...whats not to be happy about?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Karen writes: Recovering and next thing

The run I had on the Sunday immediately after I got back from Australia was at the bottom of the enjoyment scale.  I had great company, but it was 8 km of heavy legs and low motivation and I felt like I had an anchor dragging behind as I plodded along even slower than I usually do.  It knocked my confidence, I forget that I was fit enough to run 50 km only days before, I only think about how hard running is and how tired my body feels and how I cant possibly be a runner.  Yesterday on Sunday, a week later, was much better. Sometimes it just takes a while to click back in to feeling on top of things. I ran 14 km with the Te Puru runners, sluggishly for the first 10 km, but then my legs started feeling like they knew what they were doing again and I could have just kept going. I made the sensible but hard decision to go home though as I had deliberately not had breakfast, and had only a little supply of water.

Last week I also managed two short swims, these were 500 m and 1000 m in the Otara pool, a real achievement since it is well over a year since I did any swim training indoors. My default position for triathlon training is usually a weekly wetsuit sea swim from a month or two out from an event and it seems to work just enough to get me through the distances.  This time some extra pool swimming makes sense as I have signed up for a short, women-only triathlon at Maraetai Beach which will require swimming without the comfort of a wetsuit. I loathe the pool, I am bored seeing the same thing, the smell invades my skin (it admittedly is not as bad as it used to be with new pool chemicals), the state of alertness to make sure I'm not bashing into someone in the lane, and the effort of getting changed into togs and out of them completely put me off. I guess at least there are no lurking piscine things with teeth in the pool, I have heard there were Orca off Maraetai Beach last week again. OK.

In the spirit of pretending to be a triathlete I also managed a 20 km bikeride.  This required digging the red Scott out from under the kids bikes and various items of fishing gear, life-jackets etc.  I had to empty the still attached bike bags of leftover rubbish and gels etc from Ironman way back in March and pump the tyres up. Then I got on the road and a few km later realised I hadn't put lube on the chain. On the bike it felt nice, this always happens, I dread getting back on wheels but when I get there I remember why I enjoy it. The road was quiet, I had no near misses, my legs felt good for the first 10 km out and not unexpectedly a bit tired on the ride home. Great, I reflected that I had successfully achieved 1/8th of the distance I need to get up to over the coming months.

So cross discipline training has officially started.  Running season might be hard on the body but it is always laid back in terms of time, just 3-4 sessions of running, a session with cross training, and a bit of strength training, so it fits in pretty easily with life (total 4-6 hours/week).  Triathlon season is 2-3 sessions of running, 2-3 sessions of cycle/spin, swimming, and strength training (total 6-12 hours/week). Funny how it too soon fits in pretty easily with life, its all about making and taking opportunities and being flexible, and certainly as the children get older and more supportive of what I am doing that makes a difference too. When I start with the triathlon training again my body also changes almost immediately, I might be run fit, but training in more than one discipline makes for more of a 'total body' fit.

And I've just confirmed my booking for the Whangarei Half Marathon in two weeks, the Hamilton Half Marathon two weeks after that. I see according to the Nike+ running website Kate is logging some miles while she is away, our next race together is in Hamilton, it should be a fun day trip. The tradition is usually stopping for a well earned pie somewhere along the Waikato river on the way back and I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Karen writes: 50 km race report

50 km, it is long way to run, but paradoxically it seems that my body didn't think it was as tough as an ordinary marathon. I was worried I wasn't ready, my overall training hours were a little lower than usual (average 5.5 hours/week over 8 weeks), even if my long runs were longer (6 runs of over 25 km in 8 weeks of training, 4 of these over 30 km with a peak of 37 km). I dreaded getting to the point at about 35 km when in a marathon I start to get really heavy and the run can devolve to brisk walk and brisk walk devolves to walk and it takes an immense effort to get back into a shuffle style run.  In this run, 40 km came and went and I was still feeling good, 45 km came and went too without problems. I was pretty kind to myself though and had been making sure I walked/ate/drank at each of the water stops (at 5 km making x 9 walks), or up the only hill in the whole course which was a moderate bridge (10 walks by itself as I covered it both ways x 5).

I had worried about the heat, which was expected to get up into the 20's, not very high in the scheme of things but my training and recent races had been in temperatures between 10 and 14 degrees.  I had also worried about the need to run 5 loops of a 10 km course. I needn't have, even on the final lap I still wasn't picking up the landmarks enough to tell where I was on the loop, and if I was near the turn-around.  The course felt shorter too because I loved the fact that much of the run was right beside the water, going under multiple bridges and motorway bypasses.  I have always had a fascination with such things. Each lap I saw something new, like the markers on walls showing the height floodwater got up to in recent times (way above my head), different birds, a derelict modern building, and of course other runners.

In spite of having lots of people on the course at times it turned out that there were only 19 of us 50 km runners, but a further 15 teams of runners covering the 50 km. 14 amazing individuals did the full 100 km and 31 teams ran 100 km to make up the main field, supplemented by 20 km and 10 km runners at different times. There were a few people I saw repeatedly, but in spite of the out and back nature of the course I didn't get much of a chance to talk.  A few km disappeared running with a man who had only signed up a few days before the race, I let him go on, I felt good but I was being strict with myself about sticking to a slow pace. Later on 10 km passed most enjoyably with a local woman, we talked about all sorts of things, until sadly she dropped back feeling unwell.

I cant get over running a faster pace than all of my recent marathons, finishing the 50 km in 5 hours 34, nearly half an hour faster than I had intended.  I...mutter mutter... blame the hill repeats for this, perhaps this means I should keep on doing the things. My place was 13th out of 19, and I have never had 'position 1' on any certificate but this time I was FIRST in my category of women Masters (40+).  Of course there were only 6 in the category but hey, its significant for me.    No blisters, no chafing, the running skirt went well. When I first got the thing I had problems with what were described as being 'compression' shorts underneath it not providing any compression and riding up causing chafing. A couple of seams down the outside of each leg stopped that and I was actually very comfortable in it, it certainly stood out from the crowd.  The ankle injuries I had been battling before stayed away thanks to the shoe insoles providing arch support, and nutrition wise I mostly stayed on track, a gel each hour, sports beans on the half hour. I am certain that a diet focusing around ice-cream the day before and followed up on the walk back to the hotel after the run is the key to success (joke, its a joke, well mostly!).

Overall, the River Run 100  was a great run on a lovely day, made better by supporting good causes. I would recommend this as a low stress event, family friendly, with an enjoyable flat course. I'd do it again, or maybe one day the 100 might be on my list.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Karen writes: The voices...

How did it happen...again?  Next week, my first ultra-marathon is next week!  Am I ready, well of course not.  I am never ready, never manage to complete a training programme as intended, never believe I can manage to stay completely healthy and injury free, never shake this feeling that I am not good enough, and I am sure that the day of the race (and every day before it) will be a complete disaster. I wont finish, oh goodness, perhaps I wont even start!

Reality is that out of the now quite large number of pretty serious events that I have signed up for, I've never missed one.  There is also nothing to say that anything in the above attack pessimism is true, nothing to indicate that I wont have an absolute ball and achieve exactly what I want to on the day.  I have only ever had a couple of events where I didn't whole-heartedly enjoy them once I actually hit the road (or water). In only one (last years Rotorua Half Ironman) did I really think not finishing was an option, but even then it was never really a case of giving up. The consequences of not finishing are usually always more horrble than the misery of keeping going, one heavy foot after another.  Of course, getting there in the end on a hard day is priceless, what do they say..."pain is temporary, pride is forever" or something similar anyway, it's true.

There are currently two voices in my head having a conversation about the 50 km run next week, its a conversation that occurs before most events, no matter what preparation I do. Voice One says "it's only a bit longer than your normal marathon", the other says "who are you kidding, its almost 20% longer!".  Voice One "you have done more and longer runs that ever", voice Two says "your total mileage is the same as usual". Voice One comes back "all those hill repeats and squats, you've never done those before, you must be strong", voice Two pipes up "Hill SMILL, how does being able to run (dawdle) up Maraetai drive hill 13 times help you run 50km?".  Voice One thinks it has the last word, "at the end of the day you can do what you always do, run a bit, walk and talk and concentrate on fun".   Voice Two is just plain persistent though, "there is a 7 hour cut-off you know, some injury will show up and you will have the flu so it will be a very long walk".

Perhaps when I get on that plane next week, I can just make sure Voice Two doesn't have it's passport?



Monday, 4 August 2014

Karen writes: Rain, Ice and dodged a bullet

Oh those aching ankles, sore legs, grumbling away, paranoia growing, this could be a problem.  The internet said DOOM, my mind said "I will crumple into a miserable heap in Brisbane when my feet disintegrate" and L the Ironman who now does massage to repair damaged athletes said "inflammation, tight muscles" while I said OWWWWWWWW. "Put your legs in a bucket of cold water and keep training" he said.  Sigh.

OW.  Both ankles. Usually when both sides are problematic it isn't so much a specific injury thing, its a temporary, overdone it, need a whole body rest.  When one side hurts, and keeps on hurting you know you most likely have a real injury.  But for me it was both ankles, the problem has been coming and going since the Rotorua marathon when it developed at 20 something km, pain starting on the inner ankle aspect above the bony bump, going down behind the bump and into the middle of each arch, especially sore on longer runs, I would get to the point of wincing when running on uneven ground or going downhill, and the pain would linger all week but had usually improved sufficiently to run again and go through it all again on the Sunday.

The literature kept talking about tendonitis, tendonopathy, tendon something-or-other, PTT of TPT.  It referred to the arches in particular, suggesting that the tendons supporting these were inflamed, an overuse sort of injury, difficult to treat without total rest, while concurrently needing to strengthen the same tendons and muscles causing the problem.  What to do?  Ankles and arches.  I applied the usual weird stubborn logic common to athletes who haven't found an answer that suits them from someone else. I  did some of the foot exercises, but figured that wasn't going to fix things quick enough.  Aha, my arches were not being supported by the tendons which were under pressure, why not put in arch support?  So on Tuesday I went down to the chemist, got a pair of arch supports, and plugged them into my shoes.  I even wore them in my slippers and when I walked round the block.

Wednesday I bravely put them in my running shoes, and went for run. It was a bit of a sluggish run, but the ankles weren't made any worse by it, I came home quietly optimistic. Another run, are they a tiny bit better?
Sunday I had my last medium-long run (last week was the last long-long run). It was pouring with rain, one of the Te Puru runners and I headed along the main road and went into the Whitford Forrest.  Lots of uneven road surface, up and down hills, 32km of potential misery for dodgy ankles.  I enjoyed the run, great company, got the nutrition and clothing choices pretty right, it was spectacularly beautiful running along the bush trails, sometimes in rain, sometimes dense fog, a weird and wonderful world.  At about 22km I assessed how I was feeling, tiny twinges, nothing to worry about... yet. At 28km, running back along the uneven road surface, on and off the tarseal to avoid cars, usually a real ankle killer, I felt fine.  I was soaking wet, had nearly had enough, was ready for home, and found myself at the point of counting the worms that had washed out of the ground to alleviate my boredom (was by myself by this time), but the ankles were good.  I got home, and turned the heater on in the bathroom, put a bucket in the shower and filled it up with cold water, a bit of ice, and wrapped myself in towels as I soaked my legs. Bit of a daft picture if you think about it and I didn't last very long, it got to the point I was more worried about hypothermia than reducing inflammation.  I felt FINE.

So why did this develop after years of doing the same thing?  Now that I think about it, before Rotorua marathon I bought new shoes, usual brand, usual model, but a size bigger.  I did the same thing a few weeks ago. Turns out this is likely to have moved the arch support so it wasn't where it should be and in long runs this becomes obvious.  Such a small thing, such a big effect. I'm now much more positive and hopeful that the problem is on the way to being resolved.  Might have to have a 'last shorter-long run' next Sunday just to check though.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Karen writes: Hill repeats can be useful!

In the weekly training plan from Garyth there is one day in particular that makes me shudder.  This is the day on the plan where a couple of small words appear, those words are 'hill repeats'.  These dreaded sessions start with a short warm-up run, (oh the temptation to just keep running away from the hill), then plod, plod, plod up the hill, and shuffle shuffle shuffle down, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat etc.  There was some suggestion that my tumble last week was a rather over-the-top way to get out of the hill repeats, it wasn't, but neither was I particularly sad to miss the nasty hill session planned for the next day.

But it turns out there is actually a practical use for hill repeats. I wish I had realised this over the years I didn't run because my partner was on call for coastguard and I couldn't leave the house in case he had to go out, leaving the children. This week he is on call, aha, solution, do hill repeats!  So last night I ran up and down the hill which is very conveniently parked outside the house, I did it 13 times. It has a 10m elevation, is 250m long, and I was never more than a few minutes from home and never lost sight of the driveway!  Who would have thought I could actually like that hill, and enjoy a session of hill repeats. The following screenshot does show that there are some gliches with my Nike+ run phone ap, the hills were actually all the same size which isn't apparent in the picture.

Something just made me laugh.  A parcel has arrived from a supplier I haven't tried before.  I used some new solid gels while I was out on Sunday's long run and really enjoyed them, but I had paid retail through a sports shop which just wasn't an ongoing option. I had to find somewhere that stocked them at a more reasonable price and eventually I located an online business offering a good deal. It did have a name with 'muscle' in it which probably should have given me a clue.  Anyway, the parcel arrived promptly, it had exactly what I ordered, great. There was also a glossy magazine with some very bulked up people on the cover and a stack of lovely freebie samples of things with terrifying labels suggesting that ingestion will help me grow one of the pictured bodies. Wonderful customer service, thanks NZ Muscle, I adore freebies, but I don't think I'm quite in the game you might think I am. But then, who really knows what will happen if hill repeats are my new favourite exercise, will I get enraptured by push-ups and lunges and lifting thingys?  Ah, no...

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Karen writes: Nearly Ultra-ready

Less than 4 weeks to go to my first 50 km run.  That means my training is reaching the pointy end, what I do training-wise from now on will make not a whole lot of difference to performance on the day, but injuries and bugs may.  As far as injury goes, this is the point where I become accident prone.  Like last week when I climbed a low crash barrier at the side of the road, hooked my foot, and did an inelegant little dive-roll in the gravel.  Then I made the mistake of getting going again, and running the 5km home on adrenaline after which I was useless for days. That is one thing about being hypothyroid, there is not much I can't do if I work up gradually and take things easy, ie, sneak up on my fitness, but I have only got a certain amount of reserve and once I exceed my limits I need to recover. So 4 unplanned days were taken completely off but fortunately my energy was back and the bruises gone by Sunday which was just in time for my last really long run of 37 km.

That is a long way to run!  I felt pretty good though with the exception of the lingering cranky ankles. This problem shows up at about 22-25 km of my long runs at the moment, and means after that point I will do anything to avoid uneven surfaces because the sideways motions hurts and a wince-run gait is not a good look (or feel). I'm managing it by icing when I get home, lots of anti-flam, and of course searching the internet for miracle cures.  I have as usual seen the doom and gloom 'everything will fall apart and you will need surgery' write-ups, the 'take this miracle plant from the desert and all will be good' declarations, and the 'exercise this obscure muscle/strengthen that one/stretch something else in impossible ways' propositions. Probably I need to stop doing these absurd distances soon-ish because the only really mad thing might be expecting no consequences at all for repeatedly going out and spending 4+ hours running on the road.

So Sunday's run was probably my last really long effort, I enjoyed it and felt immense satisfaction when I finally staggered up the driveway feeling better than I had expected. I always feel a bit sad at this stage in any lead-up, and I cant help but think that I may never be as fit as I am now and wonder how long can I keep doing this. A really cool message came round the other day from the RiverRun100 people, it fits exactly how I feel right now...

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Karen writes: Homes away from home

Events are one thing, you make a decision (hard part), make your booking and pay your entry fee so you cant easily back out. You then think about all the practical things, like if it is an 'away' event, where do you stay? For any event, is it cheap, clean, quiet, good basic amenities like a fridge and preferably microwave, good transport or parking? For a marathon, is it somewhere you can easily walk home to if you have left all of your energy on the road? Does the walk take you past somewhere you can grab some suitable food (I like ice-cream shops or smoothie shops like Tank), do you need to climb ten flights of stairs before you can collapse, is there a good shower?    For a bikeride, can you get the bikes into the room safely and still be able to move around, do you have to worry about getting chain grease on expensive white furnishings.  For a big triathlon like Ironman, well, more space needed definitely for the whanau and so you can move around and set out all the myriad of gear and can dry your sodden swimgear.  Your need some sort of cooking facilities, and is it easy for the athlete to get to the start-line with minimal energy expenditure and preferably not having to drag someone out of bed for transport at some horrendously early hour.

We have just had a little flurry of making bookings for events after we get back from our respective travels, first up is the Taupo cycle challenge on 29 November. Kate after much searching has found a tiny flat upstairs in the heart of Taupo, really close to the startline, and it seems to have everything we need.  She was getting a bit frustrated because there seemed to be nothing available for a while, but fortuitously a cancellation came up for this place and she grabbed it. It looks so good I have booked it myself for Ironman next year, hopefully when we check it out in November we wont find that it is a rat infested heap on top of a popular night-club or next to all-night heavy industry.  Then in December we have the Rotorua half ironman, we've booked our favourite art deco house same as we have done for years. It is the coolest house, the kids love it, for my family in particular its the start of Christmas as we turn up with bikes (the bikes have their own bedroom) for the triathletes, running and swimming gear, and of course Christmas tree.
Art Deco house Rotorua

It is a relief to know that there is somewhere to call home confirmed wherever we may be, and having paid the money it is yet one more motivator to actually turn up on the day. Now it is just the training to worry about. As usual. But I can worry about training for those events in September, after my Brisbane run, which isn't so far away now, just over four more weeks.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Karen writes: Tale with teeth

I ran 36km yesterday on a day that was meant to be rainy but wasn't. Oh I do enjoy the variety of weather aps I have on my smart-phone, by the time I have looked at each one I can usually find a weather forecast that suits me and sometimes they are just fortunately all wrong. It was a long run but I had lovely company for the first 10 or so km, then it was "see you next week". At that point I couldn't help but think that I still had another 26 multiplied by however many footsteps per km to do.  But I did it with a bit of judicious walking, and while I dragged tiredly up the driveway at the end of the run I still felt pretty good.

What was different this time, apart from it being the longest training run I have ever done (would normally peak at about 30-32 for an ordinary marathon), was that I had something new and slightly bothering to think about. I was trying to motivate myself to take in enough nutrition, that is hard enough at the best of times but I  had been to the dentist on Friday, something hurt, I wanted it fixed and to get on with life as usual. This time the dentist, who was a very nice lady actually, tapped and pecked at not only the sore tooth but a couple at the front of my mouth as well.  These don't look right she kept saying and an xray confirmed her instincts, I had three fairly extensive cavities in strange places between teeth that normally don't tend to have such problems.  Do you eat too many sweets, cakes, etc? No, well, no more than usual, in fact less than I used to was how the discussion developed.  How strange she pondered, but then I had one of those dreaded 'aha' type moments and figured out where the conversation would end, I said...how about...energy gels.

Some time later with a lighter purse, appointments for further work and a bottle of high-fluoride mouthwash, I got home and checked on the internet.  Once I had weeded out all of the references to teeth on bike chain-rings and such, there was plenty on endurance athletes and their dental woes, even some pretty robust looking research from university type places.  Turns out that dehydration, mouth breathing, high sugar consumption, altered acidity levels in saliva from all the exertion is deadly to tooth enamel. And the longer you run (bike or whatever), the worse the problem.

So the recommendations (from different sources):
  • Avoid sports-drinks - I do that already most of the time
  • If drinking sports-drinks use a straw - yep, I can just see me doing that, where did I put that straw?
  • Avoid energy gels - not an option at this point
  • Use teeth safe electrolyte drinks such as unsweetened coconut water - maybe for cycling
  • Use teeth safer energy sources such as raisins - already do for cycling, doesn't work for running
  • Drink water to rinse after electrolyte drinks and energy gels - already do
  • Re-hydrate sooner with water when finished running - I try to do this, its hard!
  • Brush and mouthwash after finishing runs - must remember
  • Chewing gum - um...perhaps not while running up a hill?


Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Karen writes: Equipment

My next event is right outside my comfort zone, my first 50km ultra-marathon looms on the horizon, it's less than 8 weeks away now.  I took most of last week off training, recuperating from the ankle-injury-thingy and to gather some energy. This week the opportunity to get out and do anything has been a bit sparse, tonight though, tonight I hope for a few km to kick off this latest training endeavor.

While I couldn't run I took some time to look at my equipment.  You know, I have a lot.  T'shirts from various events start building up, most of them are no use at all. The most useful I have ever had was a nicely shaped black shirt from an Australian marathon with a bit of writing on the front that had nothing to do with exercise, I wore it until it almost fell apart.  Most of the t'shirts aren't even suitable for training, funny shapes, nasty fabric, odd sizes, awful colours, and writing too much like bragging. I don't throw them out though, they hold important memories, rather space-consuming memories.

So running clothes.  I came to the conclusion that I have enough.  For a hot run I have a few good singlets, buff visor scarfs are good for hot or cold.  I now have, and this was a birthday present from me to me, a lovely new running skirt.  It is BRIGHT, I feel fabulous wearing it (and a little odd truth be known). The shorts underneath it are a bit horrible and I need to remember to get the sewing machine out to take in a seam to tighten them up so they stop riding up my legs, but this I think is my future in terms of lower garments for running.  Socks, never have enough socks, and the super-fine wicking ones I wear don't tend to last very long, on the list, look for running socks on special.  Shoes, ah well, more of these will be needed soon too.

More importantly are the gadgets and bits and pieces to take running from bearable, to enjoyable.  The GPS watch I have described before.  Love the thing, it will need a chance to update it's satellite data when I get to Australia. While I don't usually carry my own water in a race, during training hydration is another big factor. For shorter runs I use a belt which can take a drink bottle.  I have tried a few over the years and found that the ones where the bottle lies sideways are a pain to get the bottle in and out, and the position seems to make me run in a funny way so my back hurts after a while.  Holders where the bottle is straight up and down make the bottle bang into your back, don't like those either.  A bottle holder where the bottle is on an angle, the belt is wide and padded, and there is a good sized pocket for gels, phone, keys, whistle etc are best. I used this blue one for years, but for some runs I was having to add on a folding bottle for extra water, not such a good option for my extra long runs over the coming weeks.

Until recently I used a camelbak running pack for anything over about 25km.  It did the job, but I hated it.  I hated cleaning it out between uses, I hated the contortions to put the thing on, the plastic flavoured water, the warm mouthful as you sucked in the water in the tubing, not enough room in the little pockets, the hot sweaty back and chafed underarms from the straps.  The solution had to be some sort of compromise between the camelbaks volume, and the bottle belt comfort.  Enter the camelbak twin bottle holder!  I'm in love, two comfortably angled bottle holders, deep enough that the bottle doesn't bounce out, bungy string to attach 'things', nice sized pocket, lovely cushioned and ventilated back pad, and wide padded strap at the front. It fits snugly, I can get 35km on a not too hot day out of two bottles and I wish I had had it sooner.

Other essentials, glasses, will need good ones for the planned 6+ hours in the Australian sun.  I have worn out several pairs of my favourite photo-chromatic sun-glasses, the rubbery stuff perishes, something breaks sooner or later, but they are probably not the best choice anyway as they tend to run towards lighter rather than darker. I did pick up a pair of quite dark purple Peppers at an event not too long ago.  They aren't my ideal, some glasses seem more likely to steam up and the usual trick is just to run faster to get the air moving, or lift them slightly away from your face, but these fall off if you try lifting them away.  Fortunately I have a fabulous sunglasses cord which doubles as a cleaner and a case, very clever, the glasses cant fall completely off me, and help is at hand when they get steamy.  And, most importantly the colour...

Last on my equipment stocktake, help from the pharmaceutical people. Sunscreen, absolutely.  Anti-flamme with arnica for the sore muscle stuff. Chafe-ease the miracle magical cream for anything that rubs together, is at risk of rubbing together, or ever has rubbed together in the past. Suspect in a hot climate, running for much longer than I ever have before lots of all of this stuff will be needed.  Memo to self... DON'T mix them up.



Karen writes: Wellington Marathon

No drama, this year the luggage arrived in Wellington with us, we had an uneventful flight down, and there were lots of things to do and see on the Saturday before the run so the whanau was happily entertained without too much effort from me. Saturday night I was fed and watered and in bed early enough to snatch a few hours of sleep, albeit of the unsettled variety. That's normal, my first night in any different bed and I don't do a lot of sleeping.  What you learn is that it really doesn't matter. Hear that, it DOESN'T matter if you don't sleep much before an event, provided you haven't been partying hard you will be fine in the morning when you start moving around and have something to eat.

Up early Saturday morning, a packet waffle from the supermarket and a banana, back into bed for a bit. Then I got up and dressed with much uhming and ahhing...shall I wear the thermal pants (no), hat (yes), gloves (yes), thermal top (yes), rain jacket (yes), decisions made and I headed down to the hotel foyer. There was a woman waiting for her friends so I chatted to her a bit, then we walked down to the stadium together.  I wandered around the stadium after that, had my gel half an hour before they called the start, drink of water from a tap in the toilet, and next thing I knew I was on the road, in the dark, heading off around the Wellington waterfront.

I chatted to a young woman who said her thesis was due in the next week, how strange, mine was too.  It was her first marathon, I said have fun and ran on after a bit.  Got chatting with a young man who was keen on encouraging his children to be active, we talked about the importance of encouraging and setting an example but not pushing hard enough to put them off.  I ran on. I saw both him and her on the out and back loop several times, yell out, wave, keep going.  I caught up with a lady wearing earphones, made some comment to her, she ignored me, I ran on. Eat, run, drink, run, talk, run, think, run, say hello to Hayley who was running strong (in front), hi Anthony (on his way back before I hit halfway), wave at someone else. Walk a bit.

Someone had said to keep an eye out for the 'Wellington' sign on the hill, apparently the W had been replaced with a V to coincide with the release of a new kiwi vampire film, I saw that thinking I wish the girls could have seen that too.  I wondered idly as I plodded along if they would ever join me in something like this, if they asked at what age would I say yes, would I be active about helping them train, would I push them if they didn't stretch or eat properly?  I didn't know, chances of them being mad enough in the next few years while they still live at home to get involved are pretty slim I would say.

The insides of my ankles hurt.  That was a new thing I had noticed in my long runs recently, quite painful, I kept to the flat spots so I didn't have to bend my ankle in a sideways motion at all.  Is this just something that hurts from asking it to do the impossible, or should I start thinking of it as an injury I wondered.  I can be a bit slow like that, not realise that something is actually telling me it is damaged.  But eventually the 2014 Wellington marathon was all over. Up that nasty ramp at the end, it is the only hill in the whole long flat run and it is within 500m of the finish, mean.

My girls ran over the finish line with me wearing their own medals because they had already run the kids magic mile. In spite of the extra training, intervals and strength work this time it was another slow run (4 hours 53 minutes). I was handed my medal and a banana, one of the volunteers talked about some sort of special Olympic type event needing volunteers to train and run marathons with disabled athletes, I promised to look into that, it sounded like an excellent thing to do.  We went back to the hotel so I could shower and rest for a bit. Then it was time for a hamburger, that was an excuse for me and daughter senior to go and look in the shops. Later the girls were saying "next year when we come back...", that's a good sign.  Perhaps next year we will see you again Vellington.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Karen writes: Nike tale

I have had Nike+ sport-bands for a few years, and when I got my first one back in 2011 I thought they were the most wonderful toys. Unfortunately time showed that they didn't tend to last long and weren't always that accurate as they relied on a 'footpod' counting steps. At that time however they were a relatively cheap tool for keeping a rough track of distance, uploaded your run results to the Nike website so you had a way of comparing past running activity and they were good motivation. Last year though I got a Nike GPS watch, what a wonderful thing.  I had been thinking about upgrading to GPS and it took a friend to finally get that happening. Now I wonder what life was like before I got it and could watch the km tick away, check my pace and know what was onscreen was pretty close to reality. Anyway, almost a year later, the thing seemed to just be worn out, the pins holding the strap on were rusted, and a little flap covering the USB connection pretty much disintegrated.  It was getting steamed up under the face on long runs so I took it back to the shop before it died completely, just before the warranty ran out. They sent it away with some shaking of heads.

I admit to being in a bit of a tiz when I walked out of the shop.  I didn't want to mess up the nice little graphs built up over several years on the Nike+ website, I was getting near to 4000km and there was also the thing with Kate, we have a bit of a...not so much a competition... more of a, perhaps challenge is the word. In our non-competition we surreptitiously monitor online what each other has been doing ("oh no, Kate is 4.7 km AHEAD of me this week") and I really didn't want to fall too far behind.  So I looked up the Nike ap for the smartphone and downloaded it.  Wow, it worked!   The trouble was though that I take my phone as my emergency backup, and the GPS ap churned through my battery, after a 4 hour run I got home just as the phone switched itself off.  I eventually figured that the screen stayed lit the whole time so I could slow the battery use a bit by turning that off. But anyway, battery apart, I could keep uploading my run records while I was without my precious watch.

Now the ap has some other features, like it can incorporate your music into your workout.  I'm not much into running with music, but you can also set it to tell you at for example at 1km intervals how you are doing. This takes a bit of getting used to though as this voice out of nowhere congratulating you for getting half way through your run and I've have had some startled looks from the occasional walker I've passed.  There are also what are meant to be motivational thoughts when you finish your run. I had to laugh the other day, a disembodied voice belonging to someone who must be famous somewhere told me how well I had done, and that it was time to get out the hyperbaric chamber? Say what?

Anyway, my Nike watch was replaced by the very kind people at Rebel sport.  Of course I think they should have replaced it, you expect something like that to last for more than a year and I had already worn the cost of the sport bands that had died over the years. I was however relieved that I didn't have to argue the case. I'm now wearing a sweatband under my watch, and will keep a closer eye on this watch in the hopes that it might have a longer survival time, I might also use my 'ap' for some short runs. The whole experience did give me pause to reflect that things have come quite a long way in even the few short years me and Kate have been serious(ish) about this. 5 years ago a GPS was a pretty flash thing, wouldn't have even thought about having one, and the average cellphone certainly wouldn't have been able to cover quite so easily.

Karen writes: Wellington marathon this weekend

Flights to Wellington...check
Dog booked for kennel...check
Parking at airport...check
Paperwork printed, tickets, registration, accommodation etc...check
Running clothes packed...IN HAND LUGGAGE THIS YEAR...check
Shoes, yuck, they are dirty and haven't had much chance to dry out recently... double wrapped in plastic...check
Gels (mmm, new flavour salted caramel flavour sounds just fine, I'm sure they will be fine until I've used them a few times then I wont be able to stand the taste), pre-race breakfast things for the hotel room.
Whanau...check
Everything else...somewhere

I started packing a couple of days ago, what goes into the suitcases tends to have a habit of coming out again though when the younger members of the family can't find something they want in the clean washing pile. There comes a point when the sensible mother-in-charge-of packing looks at the luggage padlock with a considering eye.

Oh, and marathon training.  I'ts 7 weeks since the Rotorua marathon and I never really stopped running. This time I focused on making my 'long' runs longer than I ever have before, peaking with two 34+kms in two weeks (usually I aim for one or two 27-30km), and a 21km the weekend just gone (usually 18-19km). The body has coped with it, did have two sports massages which HURT but apparently progress was made on the long neglected tight muscles and tendons and things. Will it all make a difference...who knows? What may make a difference is the developing cold kindly donated by snuffly, cuddly kids. The weather could be influential, according to one out of the three different forecasts I've been following it looks ok. And of course whether or not I make any previously un-tested pre-race food choices like last year when the very nice chili-squid was just too tempting...it did not work out well.

So roll on Sunday.  The field isn't that large so there may not be a whole lot of people to talk to but I can usually find entertainment somehow, there should also be a few familiar faces to keep an eye out for. The route is flat and pretty going out along the waterfront at Wellington to a turnaround along the coast, a short retrace then back to the turnaround, then back to the start at the Westpac stadium where the whanau will hopefully be waiting having done their own race, the kids 'magic mile'. Should be good!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Karen writes: Chocolate moment

21km into a 34km run on Sunday morning I was slogging along the main road out of Maraetai heading towards Whitford Forest.  I was tired and getting grumpy. The cars were whizzing past, I was dusty and sticky and not keeping up with my nutrition plan and I was aware I still had a long way to go.

It's all about head games. I was playing a game spotting anything more interesting on the roadside than empty cigarette packets and the new most common item of litter, the disposable coffee cup. I'd already picked up a nice water bottle and figured out how to attach it to my waist pack alongside the two I already had and I had played mad smiley runner with the cyclists but I was contemplating turning around and going back home. Then I saw something shining in the distance.  A tiny glimmer on the grey tarseal background, it sparkled in the intermittent sunlight, what was it?  My legs plodded out more distance, that looks like a Roses chocolate.  It was, as I drew nearer I could see this solitary piece of confectionery, it reclined wrapped and complete in it's distinctive wrapper, pristine twisted ends perpendicular to the edge of the road like it had been arranged just so, and a delicate scatter of small stones lay around it.  There was a sheen of moisture on it from the overnight rain.

Fortunately it wasn't one of my favourites, otherwise I can't guarantee that I might not have made the slightly gross decision to pick the thing up and put it out of it's chocolate misery. I kept running, the odd image of that solitary Rose kilometers from anywhere kept me company for some time to come and I completely forgot I wanted to give up.

Karen writes: Fear delayed

Kate was on annual leave the other day.  I had a bit of a brainstorm and sent her a text message to say "next challenge the enduro cycle 2 x round lake Taupo in November".  She mustn't have thought I was serious, her response was "ha ha".  I'm not sure if I was serious either at the time, but I wrote on the whiteboard at work in very big writing a number of statements around the theme of "twice is good" and drew a picture of a bike. The rest of the team were undecided, would she or wouldn't she?   When Kate came back to work her response was a "No" on the whiteboard, but as someone in the team pointed out, it wasn't a very big no, the 'o' wasn't a capital letter, it wasn't a very emphatic circle she had drawn around the word, perhaps she meant 'maybe'?

The idea got stuck in my brain, the more I thought about it the more I realised that this was something I was absolutely terrified of.  I hadn't felt that way since way back before the first Ironman, was I even that frightened then?  The enduro ride twice round the lake is 320km of hard hills and probably at least 16 hours on the bike.  It starts at 1.30 am in the pitch dark.  It was the latter part that really bothered me when I thought about it, I couldn't imagine myself climbing on a the red Scott and riding off onto a dark road, seeing only rare street lights, being alone pedaling for hours, cold, perhaps in the wind and rain, braking furiously to crawl down those long windy hills because I couldn't see far enough ahead ... for hours and hours and hours.

Kate came into my office a few days later, she said she had been thinking about it.  I said NO NO NO, don't think about it, I'm not ready for it, lets just do once round like we usually do!  The official reasons I gave were to do with being sensible.  Like, it's already my heaviest training year ever after an Ironman, two marathons, first ultra-marathon planned and putting in a new supremely demanding physical challenge is probably not the smartest idea.  We have already booked the Rotorua half Ironman which is only two weeks after the Taupo cycle challenge, not much time to recover.  And is it sensible to risk next year's Ironman preparation by burning myself out in late November/early December?  Actually, we have never been sensible, the real reason, for me anyway, is FEAR.

I suspect...really suspect that now the thought has been planted the round the lake twice enduro challenge will have to happen one day.  This is that increasingly rare thing, a new challenge that I'm really not sure I physically or mentally carry out. It will require facing my personal demons and oh, getting on a dratted bike with a degree of seriousness not usually associated with me and cycling. It is frightening.  It is exciting.  There would be lots of new things to learn, some new equipment to buy, a new discipline, and a new label to acquire, 'enduro cyclist'. Can only walk away from that for so long.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Karen writes: The NEXT big challenge

I've done it.  I've signed up for my first 50km ultra-marathon.  This will be in Brisbane in August, involving a flattish run made up of different combinations of  legs on a river-side course, map below showing different colours representing different leg choices.  Anyway, this will take me into new territory, part of me thinks mad mad mad, the last 8km of a marathon is always SO hard, why would I want to add another 20% on? Another part thinks its all about the preparation and I would normally walk at least an extra 6km on the same day as a marathon anyway, this is just putting it all together. Ultra-marathon has been on my list of things I want to do, I admit to rejecting a few in challenging terrains with lots of hills in favour of this urban version for my first, it starts at 7am and I have to cross the finish by 3pm, I can do this! I hope.
So in 14 weeks I need to be 'ultra' fit. Before that on the 22nd of June is the Wellington marathon. I'm packing the whanau up and we hop on a plane for a weekend family adventure in the windy capital, might get a chance to explore a little with weather permitting. Hopefully this time we will have our luggage actually arrive with us so that I don't need to be trying to find replacement running shoes the evening before the event like I did last year. The thought has just gone through my head that my next marathon counts a training run, that makes me pause somewhat.

On the training front, straight back into a 3-4 run week with one day of cross training - spin, it's not a heavy load. New coach Garyth has got me doing intervals. Actually he has been kind in the last couple of weeks since the Rotorua marathon and let me do my own thing, but the detailed plan for the rest of this week is due to arrive later today and he did make the threat of both STAIRS and INTERVALS.  Cant stand the things but if I want to be a better runner...

Monday, 19 May 2014

Karen writes: Making Recovery Interesting

I don't do taper well, I don't do recovery well.  Well, that's according to some.  Actually my version of taper still seems to work as in I turn up on the day, feel fine and finish. My post marathon recovery works too as I very quickly return to normal and don't seem to have ill effects.  Last week was the case in point for recovery.  After the drive back from Rotorua on Sunday, hopped on the plane on Monday for a conference in Queenstown. I was up a mountain in my free time ASAP.  I love being fit enough to head out for a walk, and come back 5 hours later having climbed a mountain.  Albeit a fairly small one in the scheme of things. Did two mountains while I was there actually, and an early morning 5km quick run along the lakeside, this run is a traditional part of the NZ Society for the Study of Diabetes conference.
The mountain I'm standing on in the picture above is Ben Lomond.  The saddle where I got to was roughly 1300 meters high.  I started out just for a trip up to the Gondola, had a look around there, then headed down again.  I missed the turning to go back to where I started and ended up on a platform overlooking the lake.  There was a sign which said 'Gondola' or 'Ben Lomond'.  A young woman was there looking at the sign too, we decided we would head up the mountain together and see how it went.

Now this young woman, I will call her S, was from the Czech Republic and it seemed she was wandering round the world.  She was wearing shorts and a singlet in the cold (low single figures), and I found myself wondering if I was going to end up treating her for hypothermia on a mountain top somewhere.  I tend to be a bit paranoid myself and go over the top, carrying everything to excess. Take me out of my comfort zone and I'm in full survival mode, my pack had food, water, warm clothes, space blanket, first aid, water-proofs and more food and I still felt under-prepared. Eventually S reassured me that she was used to mountains where she came from, and that she had more clothes and knew when she was getting cold. Anyway, we hiked, and talked, and slogged up the steep paths to the saddle where she left me as she wanted to keep on going towards the summit.  I started on my way down again and the next thing S came running past, she had received a phonecall to do with a job and needed to be back in Queenstown in an hour and a half and could just do it if she ran all the way.  If you look very closely at the photo you can see a tiny figure in green running furiously.

I took my time, wandered back to the Gondola, then back to town.  I stopped for a milkshake (funny the things you crave after strenuous exercise) and a young woman in office attire comes running up to me.  It was S.  She gave me a hug, we wished each other luck knowing we would never see each other again and went back to our lives. My life would be much less interesting if I didn't run, I just know it.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Karen writes: Rotorua Marathon 50th aniversary

Been so busy I haven't thought about writing.  Too many other things to do. As happens.  Anyway, last night I went off for a short run along the coast as the official start of the newest training effort which is for the Wellington Marathon in 6 weeks.  I was feeling very grumpy by the end of my run.  It was a fast (for me) 6km, beautiful weather, lovely setting by the sea, but the consequences of inattention, a healthy dose of idiocy, and the biology of the overweight runner meant that I came home with nasty chafing in several places, and blisters on my feet.  I paused to reflect that just over a week before I had run a whole marathon with not one single problem, but a short run with poor preparation and I paid for it.

So to the Rotorua 50th anniversary marathon.  Kate and myself headed off on the Friday, shopped our way down the island, settled in at the hotel, did the registration, dinner, icecream and grocery thing and we were ready for a fun day on Saturday. Weather was just perfect, but I wasn't brave enough to set off in the morning without my trusty polyprop top.  It's a scruffy, fuzzy old thing with stripes, I always think I will throw it away in a bin along the roadside somewhere when I take it off but I always tie it round my waist and bring it home because it is an old faithful and 'I might still need it'. There was lots of hype down at the start and 1000's of people. The higher than usual numbers became more obvious when it took minutes to get to the start-line after the gun went off and the first couple of km it was a case of literally squeezing between people who were walking or had obviously started out way closer to the front than their actual speed should have indicated.  The field never did spread out that much, usually I can count on at least some time sort-of by myself, that wasn't the case this year.  So I had a captive audience and talked, talked a lot.  At one point I ran a whole 10km without noticing it because the conversation was so intense. I had met an amazing woman who had come out the other side of an extraordinarily traumatic experience, she had reached a point where the world was returning to some sort of order and her positive strength shone through, we shared some stories and I lost her at a drink station but ran on with plenty to think about. I just love these 'bubbles' where you share someones life briefly in the most personal way, you never see or speak to them again, but you end up with a joint point in time that you just never forget.  We had reflected on the strangeness of this as we talked too.

The run went well overall, as at Ironman I walked less, but ran slower.  I felt strong, my inner ankles got sore towards the end, but nothing else hurt. I had a chat to a first-time marathoner from the local Te Puru runners, she looked strong as she neared the finish, and I crossed the line with my second worst marathon time ever of 4 hours 56, a full 15 minutes slower than my typical Rotorua time.  However, there was good news. I was 2294th out of 3513 finishers, that meant there was a good 35% of the total field BEHIND me, I'm usually in the last 10%.  Even better, I was in the top 55% of female participants, that is SO cool! So perhaps my poor run time was contributed to by something other than just my deteriorating running pace, there might have been an influence from having 42km of overtaking, going round and dodging out of the way of runners who had misjudged their own abilities.

I got my medal, always a priority. There was powerade at the finish which was an improvement from recent years where you had to find a watertank and help yourself to just water. Of course I walked back to the hotel via the lovely ice-cream shop, fig and honey icecream 2 scoops, 1 scoop of the new black doris and creme fraiche. I was in paradise as I wandered along the road, grimy, smiling idiotically, dipping into my icecream. I got a few grins back and lots of congratulations from people who were taking a more sensible approach to a Saturday.

The daylight hours after a marathon are almost impossible to describe in any way that makes sense. Everyone seems to react differently, but for me time feels suspended, you are flat but high, dont know what to do with yourself, feel like food then dont, thirsty then not, sleepy but strangely alert. I'm fortunate that I dont get the extreme pain others describe, but I find the post marathon experience weirdly unsettling but supremely satisfying, its an addictive sort of feeling, perhaps because the state is so hard to achieve.

So another one down.  We headed home via the Fat Dog cafe, my traditional waffles, berries with lashings of real whipped cream went down a treat.  In the car we dissected our experience, we always see different things but what we agreed on was that we are both carrying far too much weight.  While on this occasion I wasn't prepared to give up my post race treats, I really don't want to run another fat marathon. It's just too hard on my body so it's time to try yet another approach to get round the odd effects of endurance training and the ever annoying thyroid problem.  Back to the research, the challenge is on. Here Kate, would you like to finish off the last of my stash of mint chocolate?

Oh, and the T'shirt this year was yellow.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Karen writes: Preparation for Rotorua marathon

Sensible eating - yeah sort of, a week before a marathon is not a time to cut calories but also not time to go overboard.  I'm not being particularly successful here. In spite of my good intentions, it is far too close to Easter and there is still too much chocolate around, oh I have NO self control.  Good on you Kate, salad and pasta for lunch.

Gear stocktake - new tri-shorts, wore them last night.  They ride a bit lower than my old favourites, so I have to remember to pull the bottom of the legs up so I dont feel like there is a danger of them wandering down. New top - this works ok, no chafing problems so far.  New shoes, got a few km on them now, seem to be fine. Socks, new too, and it took ages to find the pair that I wanted. Buff visor hat, getting a bit shabby but I still love it, these things just dont seem to wear out, they just get ugly. Energy gels, got a few roctanes and some sportbeans already packed in my fuel-belt (with bib tabs) ready to go. Mans hanky, watch, sunglasses, anti-chafe, printed off e-ticket.  Oh, and raincoat and thermal and gloves just in case. I'm ready.

Tapering - I havent. I usually go for a two week taper, cutting training by half two weeks out, and half again in the final week.  Last week however turned out to be my second highest mileage week of the whole programme.  The thing is I have gotten to 191km so far in April and I would like to hit 200 in a month for only the second time ever, that means a few extra km will be tucked in this week.  I'm trying to think less of it being a case of ignoring the tried and true and more along the lines of it being preparation for my next challenge.

Which is my first ultra.  Australia.  August.  50km, I want to do it in 6 hours.  Now this is a little bit scary, especially when I think about how hard I find the last 8 or so km of a marathon.  Getting ready for this new event will mean that covering a full marathon distance will be just another training run. This doesnt sit well with woman who does a maximum of 30km to get ready for the 42. That attitude might just have to change...

Anyway, this Friday Kate and me will catch up in Papakura and join forces to head down to Rotorua, stopping only for food on the way.  Oh, and probably a bit of shopping, cant forget that.   We register with the other 9000 people attending, collect our t'shirts (big question, what colour this year?), raid the samples at the expo, annoy any promoters who make dubious claims by asking tricky questions, find more food and on Saturday we run.  Roll on Saturday!