Saturday, 22 March 2014

Karen writes: The Scott's New Career

I had thought about taking the gas-axe to the old condemned Scott bike, perhaps burying the bits behind the retaining wall up behind the house along with my favourite pairs of deceased running shoes, an ancient teddy bear and other things too damaged to keep but with too many sentimental attachments to be put out in the rubbish bag.

Instead, looking at the componentry I had spent so much money on in recent times, I decided someone else could surely get some use out of some of it and a Trademe end was the way to go.  I nearly still ended up taking the gas-axe to it when idiots started wanting to see photos of the frame crack (why if not to repair it?) and wanting to know details of frame size and structure and minute details about small parts, I mean the thing was on for $30, one wheel was worth more than that.  I couldn't make myself deliberately inflict damage even if it was the responsible thing so had to make do with beefing up the warnings that the bike was for parts only, absolutely not suitable to be put back on the road.

The winner of the auction turned up today, the new owner promised to look after her carefully and the old girl is now to be mounted on a wind-trainer and have a new career as a spin-bike.  That's a great outcome, but a spin-bike, what an irony!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Kate writes: The bee passed away

Karen was just commenting on our problems. Well here is another one. I was out riding on Tuesday, going really fast down a hill when I was hit by a bee! I know it was a bee as I brushed it off my face I saw this big black thing! It hurt. Well I'm a nurse and so a hypochondriac, so I though I was going to die. I mean to say I was going into shock. I asked one of the other riders to look at my face and they said it was ok, so off I went for the rest of the ride.

The next day my nose was a little swollen but I did not worry about it and that evening I went swimming. I thought the goggles were a little tight but did not think about it. Well the next day i had overslept and jumped out of bed to find i could not open one eye! looked in the mirror and saw this swollen face. A quick look for my strong antihistamines and off to work. The drugs worked well.

I was working at a gp clinic so like all good nurses asked the GP to have a look. I was advised not to swim or exercise, may need antibiotics and concerns about cellulitis and infection. Not what I was expecting. So again like all good nurses we take the advise we want. Only a little bit of exercise, no antibiotics but some cream for the eye. One of the nurses put the cream in my eyes and that made may vision blurred.

We have an eye clinic at the office so off to see what advice they would give me! Visual acuity alright to drive, no retinopathy (i do not have diabetes so that's good), but I did have a shadow on one eye which was described as a freckle.

Friday is swim day. So I borrowed a pair of diving goggles and a snorkel. I was the only one in the pool so around and around I went. But they did not fit well so I gave that up. So I'm now at home with feet up and a good book. back to running tomorrow.

The Bee died and that was the sad part of the story!

Karen writes: Tale of a knee

My left knee hurts.  It clicks and aches. It was being grumpy at spin last night and when I put my hand on it, I could feel a grind behind the kneecap with every push down on the pedal. OH NO MY NON-CAREER AS AN ATHLETE IS OVER I WILL NEVER RIDE OR RUN AGAIN!  So I practiced pulling up rather than pushing and what do you know, there was less clicking.  Not sure how I can apply that to running with 10+ km with some speed intervals which is on the plan tonight.

Now I know that the things we capture in this blog are often about aches and incidents, mistakes and minor disasters. Thing is, having these sorts of things happen isn't always bad.  Apart from when something spectacularly good happens, the minor dramas are sometimes the only things that stand out in all the hours of one foot after another and of everything being the same. They also act as small but significant punctuation marks making you consciously think about what you can do better. I don't remember the thousands of kilometers that went along just fine with any great clarity, I do remember the last time a near miss happened and came out ok. I do remember figuring out the best way to keep going when a minor injury occurred and the wonderful relief and happiness I felt the following morning because whatever magic that happens with some panicky stretching, a handful of supplements, a good sleep and some wishful thinking had taken the pain away. When you go out onto the road jungle, or push your body, even slowly and carefully as we have learned to do, you have the occasional glitch, and you get over it, at least so far we have.

So.  Something hurts.  I went online and looked at the myriad of 'runner with sore knee' references, I tried to think back to last time something similar happened and remembered the physio telling me that due to a weakness in some obscure muscle my kneecap wandered off to one side and the cartilage was being damaged.  Then I thought about how 3 weeks ago I was rather...shall we say...hard on my body.

Conclusion: 1) I've let the exercises the physio recommended go because things were good. 2) I possibly have not had good running posture in recent weeks while all that micro-damage of the muscles was healing, actually haven't even given it a thought.  And 3) I've had such a merry old time congratulating myself on how good I'm feeling that leaping straight into the business end of a marathon programme and expecting nary a problem made complete sense.

Plan:  Practice a bit of blind optimism ( it has always worked in the past) and re-start the exercises the physio gave me. Historically I have done these one legged squat things in the shower so I'd remember twice a day, until I forgot of course.  Then use the roller for the niggling of a tight ITB, it all tends to be related. In addition some work to strengthen quads/glutes per exercises from excellent new trainer (that's another story) wont go amiss.  Next bump up the supplements for a bit, glucosamine twice daily again, some extra fish-oil wont hurt. Lastly, take the running easy (stay away from hills and cambers) and miss Monday's spin.

Well, that's the sensible approach, take it easy now to come back stronger.  This picture from favourite run is probably closer to the reality of how I'll feel though....

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Karen writes: Spinning

In the third week post Ironman, its all a distant memory.  Again.  I thought I would be sensible, starting off by taking the whole first week off (except for a run on the Sunday), then taking the second week a bit easy running only short distances. These runs didn't actually turn out to be shorter distances, I felt too good so ended up slotted straight into the 1st week of an 8 week marathon programme (Higdon Senior as usual).  On top of the nearly 37km of running (short run 6km, middle run 12km, and long run 19km), I managed to sneak in two spin sessions.

Now I have a love hate relationship with the spin sessions, the first half hour I absolutely loathe. I look around and think this is all so daft, a whole lot of grown people furiously pedaling away in the corner of a big room, uselessly burning energy to achieve nothing and go nowhere when there is a whole world outside.  I look obsessively at the clock, I count how many minutes to go, calculate how many interval or hill sets can be fitted in, and figure out when can I legitimately develop a cramp and get off the bike and go home.  That last quarter of an hour though everything starts working, I sweat, I feel great, I could keep on going and when I get in the car afterwards I'm buzzing.  I am now very reluctant to miss these sessions as I feel I'm just starting to see the benefits and I don't really want to go back to where I was before when it was all that much harder. I'm keen to see how the ongoing spin work helps my efforts to get stronger in what is now marathon season. If you are getting a bit stagnant with training and haven't tried spin sessions (I say sessions because you need more that one, the first few are likely to be not so much fun) I would say have a go. I'm convinced the spin made some of the difference for my much surprisingly improved Ironman time and there is plenty of evidence around to say that cross training such as spin is of benefit, especially to those of us who are, shall we say, 'mature' runners. In particular it seems that a different sort of exercise works on cardiovascular fitness but reduces pressure on joints from doing too much of a high physical stress exercise like running.

Things to remember about turning up at a spin session:

  • if your session allows try to start a few minutes early so you have warmed your legs up and can get the most out of the class when it starts, most sessions are pretty short.
  • forget about everyone else no matter how easy they make it look or how fit and fab they are, this is about you.
  • spin bike seats are as unforgiving as ordinary bike seats, wear your cycle shorts even if everyone else turns up in itty bitty matching outfit thingys or short shorts.
  • you get hot in a spin session even on a cold day, sport fabric singlets are good.
  • take a small towel to act as a mop, it also can be used as padding across the handlebars when you are down in 'aero' position.
  • it is possible to cheat on some bikes when the instructor says "turn it up", some people don't turn it up as high as others.  Alternatively if you don't feel like working that hard, you don't have to, it's your choice.
  • probably not smart to go to spin straight after a big meal, or alternatively go having eating nothing at all for hours.  I have a milk drink or a banana an hour or so before and if I run or cycle to spin my normal nutrition habits (gels etc) apply.
  • drink.
  • A run to spin, spin, run home combination DOES work as brick training for triathlon, really well actually.
I still absolutely cannot make myself use the spin bike effectively at home, ineffectively in times of desperation...yes.  This is one situation when I really need someone pushing me!  But the benefits seem to be there.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Karen writes: Signed up again...oops

I've done it again! Booked and paid for (well, the Visa has paid for it) the 2015 Taupo Ironman, I'm committed. Of course it is the only sensible way to use up all the leftover gear lying around, it would be a waste not to. In the spirit of economy I'm re-using last years 'athlete-in-training' badge too...

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Karen writes: BUT

Again I wait, early entries open for Ironman at 11.59 for members of Tri NZ, I want to be signed up and paid for so... so... so... actually I don't really know why.  Is it so I know what I will be doing in a years time?  So I have another year of everything I do being viewed in the context of  'being ready for Ironman'.  So I have an excuse to use the new bike?  So I have guaranteed early Sunday morning starts for as far as the mind can imagine?

Perhaps it's because I loved it, being part of Ironman was 'me', and I'm really not ready to roll over and crawl back to the couch yet to just watch other people do it.

I've become a bit of an annoying Ironman evangelist lately, I think everyone should do it.  At spin yesterday a woman asked me how I did in the race, and in my enthusiasm I raved a bit.  Her response was typical.  Responses fall into one of two categories, one category is the slight glazing of eyes which tells me the person feels the normal academic interest of one who sees something a bit odd but probably not overly poisonous in their breakfast cereal, the other category, into which this woman fell, is the "I would love to do that but don't think I can".

My visceral reaction to that last response is "well bl%%dy do it, what are you waiting for, it's wonderful!". That reaction on my part isn't the most constructive so I've learned.  There are plenty of people out there who have a wistful 'what if' thought but no desire to actually translate it into action, but hidden in amongst that group are those who with a bit of encouragement you see the light go on and a serious 'oh perhaps I could' epiphany occur.  Trouble is, 'perhaps I could' is usually followed by a whole list of items starting with 'BUT'. Commonly (in no particular order):
  • But I have no time
  • But I have (injury, chronic illness, etc)
  • But I have (children, husband, cat, assorted significant other responsibilities)
  • But it costs too much money
  • But I'm not fit enough
  • But I CANT swim (at all, fast enough, far enough)
  • That date is taken (hmmm, ironclad excuse that one, maybe next year?)
All I can say is that as far as I can see all of these things apply to almost everyone to different levels, and certainly no less to those who do turn up at the start line.  The difference for those who turn up at the start is that they wanted Ironman sufficiently to go past BUT, and for some it took years.

Anyway, I watched this clip of highlights from the 2014 Ironman.  If you belong to the 'I wish' category, imagine yourself at the different stages, imagine signing the big flag as an athlete, imagine having the armband put on you that says you will be an IRONMAN within the next 48 hours, imagine waiting with everyone else at the swim start, most of whom are just like you, ie, worried. Imagine your number being called out as you head to the tent to start the bike leg, imagine yourself on the bike, zooming along the country road with all of those others, imagine making your way through the crowds on the run.  Lastly, look at the final section of the video at the faces of the finishers and volunteers, look at the expressions, the tears, the joy and I challenge you not to be a little bit affected, and maybe it might add one more tiny bit of weight to the thought that you would possibly like to be an Ironman one day.  Dont forget though, 'one day' left too long has the distressing habit of becoming 'never'.

So today I'm signing up again.  I have my big list of 'but's' already lined up, BUT I'm ready to start ticking them off.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Karen writes: Sometimes its better not knowing

I swim in the sea during triathlon training season, spend hours in it.  Sea swimming is my main form of swim training because I cant stand the endless grind of going up and down and up and down and up and down in a pool.  Sometimes when I'm doing my version of swim training at the beach I watch intrepid, wetsuit clad, athlete-type people swim way out past the moorings, off into the DEEP water. I don't do that, too worried about what lurks below. Now logic tells me that no-one has ever actually been eaten off Maraetai Beach, not even nibbled a little bit by anything bigger than a sealice, but I still lurk close to the shore.  I do things like swim under the wharf rather than round the outside of it and get worried if a few strokes don't take me back into ground touching distance. I generally act like a bit of a water wimp.

I'm really glad I wasn't chugging up and down the beach last weekend when a pod of Orca decided that they would hunt a stingray into the shallows. HEY you big things with teeth, that's MY swimming spot!

Pictures sourced from

Monday, 3 March 2014

Karen writes: 2014 Ironman experience

Flag with athlete signatures
Wow, never would have thought when we started this journey that I would have turned up for my 3rd Ironman, taken nearly an hour off my time, and now be talking about a dose of the same again next year.

What can I say about the experience?  I nearly slept in, you know how it is, turn the alarm off instead of hitting the snooze button expecting to get straight out of bed...then not.  But I woke up with a fright ten minutes later, still time for some breakfast, whew.  As for the race, it didn't go as expected, but it was unexpected in a great way.  It just goes to show that you cant always predict based on recent performance. Training was patchy, the only good thing I can say is that it was relatively injury free and I put the lack of damage down to knowing better what works, taking it easier rather than harder, using a roller at the first sign of tightness, some stretching and keeping an eye on muscles known to cause problems in the past. While I cant guarantee the 'science' behind this I swear by the fish-oil, glucosamine and chondroiten, and magnesium as daily rituals. I went into the race a full 6kg heavier than last year, I felt a bit sluggish, my clothes didn't fit as they should, but the 81kg I am at the moment isnt the same as the 81kg I was post baby some 8 years ago, long before I started doing endurance training.  There is something in the muscle weighing more than fat argument, but I'm still carrying too much fat.  Not, you could say, an auspicious beginning.

So the race itself...

Swim - lots of nervous energy around me on a dark, mild morning as everyone waited for the swim to start. I caught up with a few people, sorry B, I had to hurry off as I thought I had mislaid my new goggles, they were actually still in their case in my bag, not lying on the grass somewhere as I had suspected.  Great to see you K, I thought about you during the swim and figured your kids are probably such fabulous athletes because of the example you set them, hope to see you at the start as a competitor in the not too distant future.  Anyway, the swim took me a few minutes longer than last year but once I was in I felt good in the water. After a bit of shall-I-shant-I I wore my neoprene bonnet under the swimcap and didn't regret it as I like my ears warm and water free.  I felt like I was doing well until about 500m from the final buoy when it seemed like as hard as I swam I was barely moving, almost as though I was working against a current, then the feeling went away as I turned towards shore. I'd decided not to take a watch with me, the swim would take as long as it would take and stopping to check was a distraction I didn't need. This worked out fine, a bonus was that I didn't need to worry about taking my watch off to get the wetsuit off then putting it back on. Out of the water and up the beach running felt good, much better than how I felt in training going from the horizontal to the vertical. My plan said walk to transition, I didn't, the slow jog along the carpeted area, walk up the stairs, jog to the transition tent felt just right.

Transition - 10 minutes, probably took more time than other people as I paused to put on arm and leg warmers.  No particular mistakes (have been known to think about putting shoes on before shorts etc).  The people helping were so wonderful, they must be exposed to some sights that dont bear thinking about as the clothes come off in a hurry and extreme contortions are needed to get some items on, then cream is applied to all sorts of places normally not exposed to the light of day. They try to predict what you need and hold things ready, then pick everything wet and dirty up and pack it all away...without complaint.  Fabulous people.  Anyway, I was out the door with nothing forgotten.

Bike - wow, there is no question that things have changed here.  The first leg from Taupo out to Reporoa I averaged over 28km/hour, a bit slower on the uphill way back, 26km/hour back to Reporoa again, then still slower on the last leg back to Taupo. I averaged nearly 25km/hour, I never ride that fast!  And I felt good, legs turning, no stress on back or neck, a world away from what I am used to on the bike.  What has changed...well a new bike would be the obvious cause, but it was the same brand of bike and I'm not convinced that technology makes that much of a difference when you are at the bottom end of the performance scale like I am.  Lighter bike...this was well outweighed by my ...ahem...higher racing weight. Two things as far as I could see made the difference, firstly the set-up on the bike, completely different, I could feel that I was using my whole leg on each pedal stroke not just pushing down with the quads.  Secondly, those extra hours doing hard spin sessions had given me a lot more stamina, together I think these things resulted in the amazing 12+% improvement.  I was also able to get off the bike and just run, that isn't what happened last year when I spent the first few km walking trying to get the legs working ok.  Nutrition on the bike didn't (as usual) go to plan. I took one of Em's gluten free bars with me to tide me over until the first support station, I love the taste of these, they have chocolate in them and are of slightly softer consistency than the other versions. At the support station I realised I had a problem, that I was being handed rather hard, dry bits of bar (I suspect from exposure to air), usually from ungloved hands.  Now food hygiene is at the bottom of your list of worries doing something like this, but after trying to choke one of those down I didn't have much of a battle with myself to give up and stick mainly to bananas, a few Roctane gels and more of the Horley's drink. It all seemed to work out ok in the end however, I had plenty of energy for the next stage.

Transition - 7 minutes, again, took my time here, extra sunscreen, anti-chafe, no problems with leg cramps getting my shoes on this time...again I think due to the bike set-up.

Run - off the wheels and hey I was running!  I walked up the hills as planned, the first lap was fairly comfortable but I didn't find the usual suspects who wanted to talk, perhaps because I was further ahead in the field than normal. Second lap I felt less enthusiastic with some abdominal cramping, but it went away by the third lap.  This year I walked less, but when I ran I was slower, and this slow pace has been a pattern through my recent training, I simply don't run as fast as I did a year ago.  On the final leg I met up with an amazing lady who was from Hawaii, she had done multiple Ironman events around the world, we chatted and walk-ran for most of the last lap.  She had a sore knee which was causing her problems and I eventually went on leaving her at the last aid station, I had a suspicion that I would be close to 15 hours if I kept going and the earlier I was home the sooner my tired children could get to bed.  I ran along the last stretch, round the bend with the noise of people yelling almost overwhelming me, down the final stretch and over the finish line.  This time...this time I got to see the whanau, I got to pat the girls hands and yell hi to W and Kate as I ran whereas last year I was so overwhelmed by the noise and lights I didn't even see them as I went past.

At the finish line two women came to give me my medal, they draped a towel round my shoulders and kept up with me as I paced, the usual story, I cant just stop dead after running or I feel unwell but a bit of walking fixes this.  Then they led me to the scales, the woman looks at the display and reads off "81kg", exactly the same as my weight pre-race.  "You've done this before haven't you" she says and smiles.  She can smile, you'd think that I would go down even a tiny bit after 14 hours and 49 minutes and 9 seconds of effort?  A lovely man came to take me through to get my bag, and make sure I had something to eat and drink and didn't fall over.  He kept looking at me suspiciously as though he expected me to do something odd, and I reassured him and sent him away, I felt terrific.

Kate and the whanau were waiting, I snagged watermelon and an icecream from the food table, had a look for the wonderful lady I had run with for that last lap but saw she was in the medical tent getting attention, so I went outside.  Water and a Georgie Pie in the car.  At home, more water, v8 vege juice (magic, if horrible stuff), shower, bed.  Overnight 2 bottles of water.  4am, toast and cheese.  6am, omelette and toast.  10am, I hate to admit it, but on the way home I felt desperate for another pie and the Brumby's bakery in Taupo had just what I needed, Thai curry pie.  Somewhere in that lot there was enough protein, carbohydrate, probably even the occasional  vitamin and other essential nutrient to leave me feeling just fine.

And not quite 2 days later I still feel fine.  No blisters, no sore mouth, no muscle or joint pains.  I have a dry upper lip as I probably chewed off my lip-balm on the bike-ride and got a bit of sun damage. I probably wouldn't feel comfortable on a bike seat today, and I suspect an early night is on the agenda.  I have to say thankyouthankyouthankyou to my fabulous family, Kate, friends and workmates who supported me on this seemingly never-ending journey, without you I couldn't do what I do. The question now is when do the registrations open for next years event?