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.