Thursday, April 05, 2007


This week I've been learning about listening to my body, and trying to determine the subtle difference between stopping because I need to, and stopping because I can't be bothered.

Following Saturday's lacklustre effort I had pretty much decided that this should be an easy week of training. My session with Duck on Monday morning confirmed that decision for me. Once again I experienced that sensation that the energy levels just weren't quite where they should be.

Having said that, Duck did make me work pretty hard. We started off by four rounds of a circuit she set up in a corner of the weights floor of Xtreme. This is what she had me do:

  • 30 seconds of full pressups
  • 30 seconds of chest press
  • 30 seconds of bentover row
  • 30 seconds of shoulder raises
  • 30 seconds of tricep dips
  • 30 seconds of bicep curls
During each circuit I had to go straight from one exercise to the next without a break. I'm used to this kind of session, and I usually enjoy them, but by the end of the first round I was already feeling the pain. Duck commented that she'd expected me to have more muscle endurance, and I had to agree. This was harder than it should have been.

Nevertheless, we continued with the next three rounds, taking a slightly longer rest between each, and dropping down to a lighter weight for the chest press and shoulder raises when the first weight started to get too much.

Halfway through I asked Duck what weight I was using for the bentover row, and she told me it was 20kg. Now, 20kg isn't excessive, but this looked like a much heavier barbell than that, and it was more difficult to lift than I would have expected as well. It was only afterwards, when Duck was putting the weights away, that she realised she'd picked up 27.5kg by mistake. Now that explained a few things!

Next it was upstairs, where I had to do a series of sprints across the floor, dropping to do an increasing number of pressups at each end of the room. After stopping to allow my hot cross bun breakfast to move back down into my stomach (it's a four floor sprint down the stairs to the bathroom if I need to vomit), we followed that up with another set of sprints, this time dropping to do knee drives. As I lay there on my back at the end of the exercise, gasping for breath and grimacing in pain, I reflected that this may well have just proven to be the most difficult thing Duck had ever asked me to do.

Just enough time to catch my breath, and then I was up and sprinting again, this time dropping to a hover. Now things are really bad when you end up relieved to be dropping to a hover!

Monday night's run wasn't the joyeous pushing-of-the-boundaries my runs of the last couple of weeks have been either. We ran up Taranaki Street, down Buckle, around the Basin and into the Mt Victoria tunnel. As we ran through the tunnel the speedies pulled slightly ahead, and I didn't fight to keep up. Mt Victoria was horrific - hot, stuffy, smelly and noisy. Halfway through I had to fight down the claustrophobia, look forward and focus on getting the heck out of there.

From there it was past the Velodrome, and in the cool air I began to slowly catch up with the speedies. However it took me forever to cross the road, and they disappeared off ahead of me, not to be seen again. Rachel, another of the Les Mills staff, caught up with me and we raced each other all of the way back to Courtney Place.

The climb up over the hill to Newtown was, as always, horrid, but from there I managed to get into a good, steady pace. Now the speedies were gone I decided to focus on maintaining the sort of speed I would usually have to use to run with them, but on my own. This called for both physical and mental endurance, on a day when I already felt there was slightly less than usual in the tank. However I'm pleased to say I managed it, even on the climb up Ellis Street and the rollercoaster along Austin. I kept up the momentum all the way back to the gym, and although it was frustrating to return behind the others, I felt satisfied with my personal effort.

On Tuesday I took some time out to go to Body Balance, and then the Welly massive turned up enmasse for Duck's first Tuesday RPM class. There was a reasonable amount of noise, a lot of sweat, and some very good instruction by the new instructoress. Even better, there were burgers to follow. Poor Hamish wasn't quite sure what had hit him, and I'm not sure whether he's coming back, but the rest of us had a blast.

Autumn finally decided to arrive on Wednesday. Sarah and I spent the day emailing backwards and forwards, whining about the rain and the cold, and having to run 2.4km in the rain and the cold. My body went into hybernation mode, and I wanted nothing more than to be tucked up under a blanket on the sofa with a good book. However, knowing that the latest Jog Squadders have proven to be rain phobics, and wanting to prove outselves hardcore, Sarah and I headed up to Xtreme as scheduled. A bit of girly dress-trying-on enroute helped out.

Those of us hard core squadders jogged off to the fitness test of doom. It was cool, but the rain had stopped and the wind was non-existent. We amused ourselves by jumping in puddles and complaining about our running shoes getting wet. And then things went odd in Pip world.

It wasn't that I couldnt' run 2.4km. It was more that I got to the quarter turnaround point, and realised that I didn't WANT to run 2.4km. So I got to the end of the first lap in under 5 minutes, with Duck and Emma screaming at me that I was doing well and to keep going, and I just stopped. They continued screaming, and I continued to calmly refuse to go any further.

Of course I kicked myself afterwards, but that didn't stop me from pulling out when the rest of the squad headed off towards Hawker Street. I headed back to the gym, got on a bus, and headed home. So what was up? Was I being lazy, or did I genuinely need the break? My knees were a little achy, my legs were sore, I had pushed it hard for the last couple of weeks, but did I really need to stop?

The question will remain unanswered. However the question of whether I could increase my 2.4km time did not remain unanswered. I went to bed knowing I was going to get up today and run. All morning at work the goal was there at the front of my mind. And at lunchtime I left work, got changed, jogged gently around the waterfront, and cut another 30 seconds off my 2.4km time. 30 seconds improvement in under a month. From 12.36 minutes a year ago to 10.34 today.

Which isn't to say that it was easy, or that it was pretty. I stopped for a few minutes at the startline, trying to calm my breath, and trying to psyche myself up. Young girls on their Easter break watched me quizzically. Suddenly I got up the nerve, pressed go, and floored it past Frank Kitts.

I went out hard. By the time I reached the turnaround on the first lap I was already fighting the urge to stop. It was all so tempting to just pull out and write it off as a sore leg day, or a stitch day, or just an 'I don't actually need to do this' day. But I knew I'd feel even worse if I stopped. I knew I'd feel like a quitter. So I kept going. And I made it to the 1.2km mark in 4.52.

I know I slowed after that, but I also know I managed to keep a hold on the mental dialogue and to keep putting one foot in front of the other. By the time I made it onto the bridge between the wharf and Frank Kitts I could see from my stop watch that I could make it to the finish in under 11 minutes. I didn't care how much under 11, I just wanted to break that barrier.

I can honestly say that there was no extra sprint to the finish, because I was already sprinting at full tilt, and there was no more to give. I crossed the finish in 10.34 and, despite knowing I needed to walk it out, I instead sat as quickly as possible down on the concrete beside the harbour. It took absolutely forever to get my breath back, and it was a good couple of minutes before I could drink from the fountain next to me. My chest and throat were burning, and continued to burn for at least ten minutes. I spent the rest of the afternoon coughing, then my nose started to itch. I'm fighting off something that I think wants to be a headcold. I obviously pushed my body to its absolute limit today, and my immune system is holding up its hands in surrender.

But I can still improve. If I can hold my pace for longer I can improve my time over the second lap. I think I can still knock perhaps another 15 seconds off before I start to hit my maximum capacity. It's something to work on, in any case.

So let's pause for a moment and look at where I'm at. I haven't jumped on the scales this week, but my clothes are all pre-half marathon loose again. However the biggest difference over the last month has been in the amount of muscle I've gained. My legs are remarkably hard to the touch. I'm developing pecs that are giving the false impression of a bust again. I have shoulders. My butt is a solid mass of muscle. And, as I discovered this week, all this ab work has led to me developing a visible V of muscle in the Iliac Crest area. Could I possibly end up being ripped?

I'm stronger, I'm faster, I have endurance. I'm really looking foward to running the 10km event in just over a week, and I'm looking forward to half marathon training. Let's make the most of this week's easy training schedule, because it'll be straight into half marathon prep after that, and the constant leg pain situation isn't going to get any better any time soon!

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