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 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.