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.