Saturday, March 31, 2007

Onwards and Upwards

I'm guessing that my continual posts about how well my training is going might be getting a bit boring for some readers. Certainly I don't think that my training posts have the audience that my poetry posts do, but I'm going to continue nonetheless. It's important for me to have a record of my progress, even if noone else is really interested in reading about it.

This week, which in all other aspects has been wonderul, has been tinged with a very real sadness. One of the gym staff, a lovely man who smiled with his whole face, a man with a kind word for everyone, a young family and another child on the way, was knocked off his bike while riding to work early on Saturday morning. The driver of the truck and trailer that hit him stopped but did not get out to check on him. Thankfully someone else was passing by and managed to get him breathing again. He was in an induced coma for several days. Apparently he is now out of the coma and is showing signs of responding to his family. However it will obviously be a long, slow route to recovery, and I'm guessing there's no guarantee of that recovery being anything like complete.

It's not like I know this person at all well. We exchange greetings as I'm coming and going from the gym. However the idea that this might happen to someone so full of life has been extremely difficult to accept. I've found myself genuinely upset, and the whole incident has been preying on my mind all week. It's not often that I feel compelled to offer someone my prayers, but I've come as close to praying as I ever do for this man.

The Women's Multis group spent a time discussing the accident on Tuesday before our training session. It was perhaps not the smartest time for Ingrid to decide to make us bike through town. Some of us are distinctly nervous about riding in heavy traffic, and I'm still not comfortable with the regular clipping and unclipping involved in cycling through the city.

However my days of wimping out seem to be over, and I simply set my jaw and rode off. Catherine and I took the lead, and we were lucky enough to hit nearly every green light going along the waterfront. We turned left at the Shell station and cycled up Bowen, past Parliament and the Terrace. Passing the Terrace meant riding in the right-hand lane, and thankfully we didn't have to stop at the intersection, as I'm still not sure I would have been able to clip in on a hill.

I was conscious of the need to regulate my cadence on the hill, but Bowen seemed much smaller than I remembered. I overtook Catherine early on, flew up the hill with barely a rise in my heartrate, and moved out into the centre lane again to turn right onto Tinakori. We did have to stop at that intersection, but I was able to push off with enough momentum to avoid falling off. From there Catherine overtook me on the downhill each time I cruised up to a red light at a slow pace, in the hope of avoiding unclipping. She also had a clear right turn onto Thorndon Quay, whereas I had to stop for a passing car. After that it was green nearly all the way back to Freyberg. I passed Catherine again shortly after turning onto the waterfront, and was first back, in just over 18 minutes. My city-riding demons seemed conquered.

A quick change of shoes and I was off again, running around Oriental Bay, up Carlton Gore to Maida Vale, down to Balaena and back to Freyberg. There was no off-the-bike weakness in my legs, and this was familiar territory. I overtook a guy on a mountain bike, stopped to let him pass to I could cross the road, overtook him again, stopped again, chatted with him as he passed, and finally left him to turn down Maida Vale. I stormed down Maida Vale then upped the pace as I rounded Pt Jerningham and Freyberg came back within view. I can't remember how quickly Ingrid said I made it back to the pool, but I know it was significantly faster than I'd managed the same route at the start of the squad.

From there it was a luxuriously slow ride back to the gym in the dark, thankful for my new bike light, where Lola was quickly thrown into the back of my car for the ride home. Brooklyn Hill is in my future, but not on the back of a hard Multis session.

I had gotten up early on Tuesday to get my lower body workout out of the way for the week, despite questioning my sanity on the back of the large session with Duck and run the day before. However it meant I was able to sleep in on Wednesday, and that I was fresh for Wednesday night's Jog Squad session. A small but keen group of runners headed up Taranaki Street to the Basin Reserve, where we ran intervals around the perimeter, practiced sprints up the grass bank, ran around the crest of the bank, then finished up with a relay that my team won. Faster, stronger? Yes! In the mood for an intense workout? Yes!

On the run back to the gym I broke out on my own, keen for a little more speed. Karen joined me soon after I turned onto Courtney. As is my custom I opened up a little and increased my pace. Karen increased and pulled slightly ahead of me. I increased my pace to match hers. She increased, I increased, she increased, I increased. By the time we reached Penny Farthings, 20 metres or so from the gym, we were both sprinting. Now, Karen is tall, with legs that go forever, so here was little Pip going flat out trying to keep up. I did it, and I was highly pleased with myself.

Thursday morning saw me rising early again for an upper body workout. I made it nearly to the end, but one set of star gazes saw me deciding enough was enough. Unusually for me I quit before finishing the entire session.

I made it through the rest of a busy day at work, then headed down to Freyberg for the last Multis session for the year. It was a warm, still night, and it was already starting to get dark. Predictably, Duck elected to have us swim and run.

Into my wetsuit, and out into Oriental Bay for what is likely to be one of my last sea swims for the season. It was a perfect night for swimming. The sea was calm and I was able to swim further than I've ever swum before. I decided not to try for the pontoon, content to leave that for next summer, and quite happily swum lengths of the beach, making it further each time. I reached that place of zen where my diaphram relaxed and my breathing clicked into place. In retrospect, had Duck been in her swimming gear, I might have been willing to try for the pontoon, things went that well.

We alternated swimming and running along the beach a few times, adding in a few pushups in the water, and practicing running in and out of the sea. Fially it was well and truly dark, and I reluctantly ceased floating around and headed for the showers. Multis was over for the summer.

Most of the girls from Multis are keen to join the next Jog Squad. From here on in the running gets serious. Duck's talking about lots more interval training, and five to six runs per week. I know I'm ready for it, but I feel a deep need to continue the cycling and swimming. Dee's been hinting I should do a Gear Shifters, so that may be a consideration once the half marathon is out of the way. Monday and Wednesday will be Jog Squad runs, as will Saturdays. I figure I should try to get in the pool on Tuesdays, do a homework run on a Thursday, and perhaps a light RPM on a Friday morning. Add in Body Balance on either Tuesday or Friday, and on Saturday morning, plus a Duck session and a couple of weights sessions, and that's me sorted for the rest of the year.

A few hours' sleep and it was Friday morning, and I was getting up to do RPM again. Unlike the first 'hard week' of training, where RPM seemed needless, stupid and unpleasant, I still felt stupidly fresh. Al got to have 'Push Push' for track 3, and I got Nirvana for track 7. Rog was absent again but the rest of us were feeling suitably vocal, and I went hard without fear of killing my legs.

In fact I felt so good that I even took time out from writing a paper for the Minister to do Body Balance at 1.00. Claire, the Body Balance instructor, was complaining that her legs were still sore from Jog Squad. She knew that I'd followed that up with Multis and RPM, and she knew that my quads were a little sore. So she really didn't need to look at me when she told the class that some of us could get lower in the Warrior poses, and she really didn't need to laugh at the expression of pain on my face during all the standing lunges.

Two glasses of wine after work on Friday night and I was toasted. It was early to bed and I don't even remember Hamish eventually joining me. My alarm went off at 7.45am, and it was up and back to the gym for a 40 minute hill run with Sarah. The gorgeous weather from the day before was replaced by a muggy grey morning and a stiff breeze. Luckily (and yet not) Sarah had an inland run planned, sheltered from the wind. For the first time this week I was not in the mood. My legs felt every one of the kilometres I'd run this week, and all I wanted was a little light cardio on a bike and a Body Balance.

However there was no rest for Pip. Sarah had absorbed my week's worth of enthusiasm, and it was straight up to the Botanical gardens via the cemetary. I knew immediately I was in trouble. The tank was empty. I'd pushed myself too hard over the last few days, and my body was unwilling to go any further.

So it was a quick slog up Glenmore Street, then we turned right and onto an almost vertical path up the side of Garden Rd. I walked the steep bit, then rallied with a slow jog up the long, winding slope towards Kelburn. I made it at least halfway before I suddenly found myself walking. From there it was a run-jog all the way to the top of the hill.

Sarah met me near the top, having jogged back down to try to find me. We crossed the viaduct then loped gently back down the hill, into the Botanical Gardens, and onto a gravel trail back down to the rose gardens. From there it was a quick hop back down through the cemetary and along a path beside the motorway, back onto Aurora Terrace and down to the gym, right on 40 minutes.

Claire was there to teach the 10am Body Balance, saw we had been running, and chose release 34, a class notable for its intense standing lunge poses. It's so good to have a merciful Balance teacher! Despite my tiredness my poses felt strong, my body felt in control. My hips were tight and my hamstrings felt short, but other than that everything else flowed, especially the tai chi.

So that was it, another hard week of training out of the way. This was the second week of hard training in a row, and the third in a month. The different between this week and the first were glaringly obvious. I had energy to burn each night from Monday through to Thursday, and was then still able to get up on Friday morning and work hard in RPM. It was only on Saturday that I started to feel like I'd worked hard enough. It's obvious to me that my body has been able to respond to being worked hard, and the payoff has been an increase in both speed and endurance.

So I'm torn now as to what to do this week. It's two weeks until the 10km. I don't want to back off for two weeks, but I don't want to burn out by trying to do yet another hard week either. On the other hand, now that Multis is over I have a little more play in my schedule. Tuesday and Thursday nights are now free. Duck starts teaching RPM at Xtreme this week on Tuesdays, so I'm planning on going along to her class. I can do one homework run on Thursday, and one on Saturday. That will leave a session with Duck on Monday morning, an upper body and a lower body weights session to fit in during the week when I'm feeling fresh, Body Balance on Saturday and on Tuesday or Friday as I can fit the classes in, and possibly a swim on a Sunday. That doesn't leave any time for any cycling, so Lola might have to wait a little while longer. I would also like to continue with my Friday morning RPMs, but I don't know how realistic that is in the long term, particularly once the long Jog Squad Saturday runs start kicking in.

There was a brief moment this week when I wondered about my sanity. Several people have asked me what I'm training for, and although obviously I'm training for the half marathon, I'm training way harder than I actually need to. I guess at the moment I'm pushing myself this hard because I can, because I'm getting results, and because I'm curious to see how far I can take things. There may come a time where I really do want to back off, but I doubt it will happen before June. I'm still playing things by ear, and that seems like a good way to continue. I'll keep this up as long as it still seems fun.


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