Friday, May 23, 2008

Death by Treadmill

Phew! Today I finally got to do the second of the two treadmill interval workouts Duck had scheduled for me back when I was training for the Rimutaka Incline last year, before my ankle went bung. It goes like this:

  1. Two minute walk to warm up. So far so easy.
  2. One kilometre at setting 8 (approximately 7.5 minutes per km). Hohum. So strange to think that this used to be my maximum pace when I first started out two and a half years ago. This almost feels like a waste of good exercise time.
  3. One kilometre at setting 9 (approximately 6.40 pace). Curse stupid new treadmill controls that make it impossible to change pace easily. Mess around and finally hit right setting. Still waayyyyyy too easy.
  4. One kilometre at setting 10 (6 minutes per kilometre). Still slower than my easy run pace, but at least no longer feeling like I'm wasting my time.
  5. One kilometre at setting 11 (just under 5.30 pace). This feels a bit more like it. Floating along, feeling strong. Heartrate climbing a bit.
  6. One kilometre at setting 12 (5 minutes per kilometre). This is my goal 5km pace. Heartrate really climbing now. Sweat flying. Feeling incredibly happy to approach the end of the interval!
  7. Slow back down to 8. Oops, hang on, I'm still on 9. Slow down properly to 8. Resist urge to slow to walking pace. Wait for heartrate to come back down. Wait some more. Curse heartrate. 7.5 minutes pass remarkably quickly.
  8. Back up to 9. Hmmm. This should be feeling easy, but it feels a little faster than I thought it would.
  9. Up again to 10. Only 10, no, 16 minutes till this is all over.
  10. Up to 11. The endorphins suddenly kick in. Those glutes are firing, the knees are lifting. I'm floating along. 5.30 seems to be my golden zone.
  11. 12. Only five minutes left. Please let this time go quickly. Sweat going in all directions. Heart firing. Feeling strong and dead at the same time. Focus on the darn music, not the silly little display climing .1 at a time.
  12. Finished. Over 10km in total. Hit stop. Die quietly. Watch heartrate slowly (too slowly) falling back down for a couple of minutes. Feel sweat slowly trickling down arms and chest. Wipe sweat off treadmill. Stagger back up stairs to stretching area then crawl into shower.

I felt remarkably exercised after this workout. It's harder than you'd think it would be, given that much of it is spent at an easy pace. All that time on the treadmill leaves a lot of time to 'watch' yourself running. I really noticed today that my left glute is lazy. If I don't focus on keeping my heel down and driving through then I start running toe-to-heel and deactivating the large muscle groups on that side. The solution seems to be to continue to focus on keeping my torso upright and pushing off with the rear foot, imagining myself lifting up so that my heel comes through and the glute stays engaged.

I'm guessing my calves are going to be really tight tomorrow. As for the ankle, let's wait and see. I'm so happy to have this workout done at last. 30km so far this week, and another 17km planned for Sunday. I finally feel like I'm starting to get back into some real running training.

Miraculous Recovery?

After feeling off all Wednesday I told myself that I was delusional if I thought I'd be better by 7.30 Thursday morning, so at 10p.m. I sent Duck a txt to cancel our session. I woke up at 6a.m feeling well enough that I would otherwise have gotten up and headed for Extreme. It was just as well I'd already sent off the txt. The sensible voice in my head told me it wouldn't be a good idea to push myself so soon after the stomach upset.

At about mid-day on Thursday I was sitting in a Select Committee meeting (aaah, the excitement that is the life of a Project Manager) when a little voice in my head started complaining that it was starving. It seems my digestive system had suddenly decided to start working again and that the bread and soup I'd nibbled and sipped on the day before was not enough to sustain me long term.

By mid-afternoon I felt fine. In fact, I was feeling in major need of a good hard workout and was also feeling very Duck-deprived. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when you're gone, Ms PT! I wanted weights. I wanted functional exercise at a high intensity level. I was jonsing bad ... And I know you told me not to work out again until after this weekend but you had to know that was never going to happen. Which is why I'm glad you weren't around to see me sneaking into the gym after work last night!

Six flat kilometres around the Bays later at a sub 5.30 pace and I decided I'd done enough for the day. It's possible my stomach was perhaps only 98% better and there was the slightest hint of nausea floating around. I called it a day and went home to a chicken stirfry dinner and small glass of wine.

Today I was supposed to meet with Emma and Dave and co for a run up to the Gardens, but work got away on me and I lost track of time. Besides that, it's cold, wet and windy out there. I've been hanging out to do a treadmill interval session so I think I'll head next door some time this afternoon instead.

I'm getting on a plane tonight to spend the weekend with H's mother, and tomorrow I'm meeting Marshmallow for RPM at Les Mills New Lynn. On Sunday my Garmin and I are heading out for a long run around Auckland's central suburbs. I'm planning on 17km and have vague plans of running from Epsom to the Domain and environs. It's also tempting to head towards Ponsonby, but that involves running down and then up Newton Gully! I have unfinished business in Ponsonby though - my first (failed) attempt at a 10km race went that way.

The other good news - halfway through a meeting this morning I realised that my ankle isn't hurting at all, even with the fairly up-tempo run last night. It seems it may be recovering.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I woke up at around 2a.m. this morning feeling distinctly nauseous. I crawled into work because I knew I had a two hour workshop that I needed to go to, then discovered it had been canceled. I mooched around at my desk for a couple of hours, then shuffled off home where I went to bed and slept for two hours.

So, no Wednesday run then. My ankle will probably be thankful, (though it wasn't actually too bad yesterday) but I'm feeling very thwarted. I hope I'll sleep whatever this off and that I'll be able to make my session with Duck in the morning. If I feel up to it I can always run after work tomorrow.

I hate feeling like this!

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Beautiful Evening

Deciding to give my ankle an extra day's rest and swapping Sunday's run for RPM? Sensible but emotionally difficult.

Running 14km round the Bays and back through Newtown tonight under a full moon while the harbour glows? Priceless.

I was aiming for anything from 12 to 15km tonight, depending on how I felt and how my ankle held up. I decided to run at a very easy pace, wearing my Garmin but choosing my speed based on feel. This was to be the furthest I've run since I injured my ankle back in November. I wasn't at all sure how I would feel.

I ended up running at around a 5.50 pace which, given I was realistically expecting to run at a six minute pace, I was pleased with. Like I said, this was to be an EASY run and I know I could have easily knocked at least 10 seconds off if I'd pushed myself a little. The whole run felt great, with the exception of a stitch that appeared briefly after around 15 minutes but quickly disappeared. Oh, and the steeper bit of the climb over to Newtown totally owned me tonight. I think I shuffled up it more than ran. I was cheered only by the sight of a tall, blond, pony-tailed gazelle in skins on the other side of the road who was only managing to match my pace. She disappeared off towards the Mt Vic tunnel but then passed me near the hospital, so I'm not quite sure which way she went to get there. I toyed with the idea of taking her on, but I'd chicked a guy near Balaena Bay, so I'd already bagged my trophy for the night.

My ankle started to ache just a little at around the 8km mark. By that point I was committed to the full loop so I simply concentrated on keeping my footfall as light as possible. Let's see how it feels tomorrow. I suspect I was a little overly-ambitious tonight. I'm rather frustrated, because in all other respects I'm feeling very fit and strong. My body felt like it could just keep going and going and it was easy to convince my legs to continue past the turn-off to the gym, continuing on towards the railway station. I really want to do a PB at the Harbour Capital Half now. Before tonight I wasn't fully committed. Now I want to go all the way.

One other point of note: it's possible that I have simply backed off the intensity slightly in general, or it could be that I'm actually stronger (as evidenced by the way I felt tonight), however I'm not having anywhere near the muscle soreness I was suffering last year. I would once have found it difficult to contemplate 14km on the back of four consecutive days of leg-focused cardio. Today my legs still felt completely fresh.

The only other casualty of the night worth mentioning? This is worthy of a Steve Stenzel photo, but I'm stuck on the sofa with a cat on my lap and too lazy to fetch my camera. I'm not sure whether it's my new shoes or just that my feet have gotten soft from the lack of long-distance running, but I've got large callousy blisters on the balls of both feet. It hurts a little to walk ...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

More Please!

After weeks of cold and wet and wind Wellington turned on the charm offensive this morning, just in time for Lola and I to ride around the Bays with Julia. After breaking my 'no wine on a Friday night' rule I was feeling pretty lethargic, and Julia was feeling in a similar bent. As we looked out at the mirror-calm harbour basking in the sun it was easy to decide on an easy cruise around the Bays.

We ended up having a lovely ride. There was hardly any traffic further out so we got to ride two-abreast a lot of the time, chatting away and admiring the scenery. I debated a variety of layers, but ended up settling on a short-sleeved polyprop under my shirt, arm warmers and Duck's sleeveless cycling vest. The layers worked well, and I warmed up quickly.

That isn't to say the ride went smoothly. We left Freyberg and had only managed a few kilometres when Julia got a flat, right outside the cafe at Greta Point. After three CO2 cannisters and some energetic pumping we discovered that the new tube was faulty. Another tube worked ok and we managed to get enough air in using the hand pump to make it to Burkes Cycles in Kilbirnie to get it pumped up properly. By the time we got the tire changed I was chilled to the bone and my legs were all goose-bumpy, so it was great to be moving again.

From Kilbirnie we cut through to Lyall Bay and headed towards the Pass of Branda. It really was a stunning day. I was happy to find my cycle legs again and to be taking it easy, but I sped up the Pass at a good pace, then almost stopped at the top as the view of the harbour unfolded below me.

Once through the pass we hit a Northerly, so it was into a headwind all the way back to Freyberg. We picked the pace up a bit and were back at Freyberg surprisingly quickly. A quick lemon, honey and ginger drink at Parade, and it was off to get some groceries and drag Hamish out into the sun.

So, a short ride today but a welcome return to the bike. We agreed that it would have been a good day for the Makara loop or for a ride out to Eastbourne, so perhaps we'll do one of those next time.

Oh, and I think my face is sunburned.
And the weather's supposed to be good for my run tomorrow as well!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Quick Update

Well, the ankle's holding up, but then it's been a fairly light week. On Tuesday I made it to Balance at lunchtime, then followed that up with RPM that night. On Wednesday I met with Emma and co for a run at lunchtime. We ran from the Terrace around to Freyberg, then back to Majoribanks Street, up Hawker, and then continued onwards up Mt Vic. I didn't get as far as I would like, partly because I was worried about my ankle, partly because I had to get back to work. It was a good strong run though. I followed that up with a 6.30p.m Balance class after work. Nice!

On Thursday morning my ankle was a little achy, but not any worse than it had been previously. I did a 35 minute hill programme on an exercycle, bumping it up a level higher than normal before being subjected to an hour of Duck. As a result my lats and abs are, well, a little sore. Sore in a good way though!

Today I ran again. On Emma's advice I stuck to a short, flat run. I managed to fit around 6 brief kilometres in between meetings and I managed to keep up a good, strong pace. I'm becoming rather good at negative splits. It was such a gorgeous day I would have loved to have just kept going and going. I didn't seem to do too much damage to my ankle, and I think the trick may simply be to not run consecutive days for a while until I build its strength back up. I did notice that my shins felt tight today, so I'll make a point of stretching them out next time I'm near a foam roller.

So the plan for this weekend is to fit in two solid workouts. Tomorrow I'm getting back on Lola and meeting some of the Gearshifters. We'll be at Freyberg at 8.30 should anyone else be interested. As always I'll be the blonde on a red, silver and black Diamondback Interval. If I have time I'll fit a Balance class in as well.

With that in mind I'm planning to fit in a 80 to 90 minute run on Sunday. I'm thinking of running from the Taranaki Street gym and around the Bays to Kilbirnie, then up over to Newtown and back towards the city. That's only 10.6km, so I'll continue running around towards and down Thorndon Quay as far as needed to make up the extra time.

Cross fingers!

Monday, May 12, 2008

So how do you know?

I've 'run into' a common Pip dilemma. Sigh ...

Last week my left ankle (the good one) was feeling very sore after each run. If you'd asked me to locate the pain I would have been hard-pressed to do so. It was a kind of jarred, bruised feeling, vaguely localised within the ankle itself. I decided I needed new shoes, and bought some on Saturday.

Yesterday I did my Monday leg weights. It was cold at home and I had plenty of time before 4.30 RPM, and I figured doing them on a Sunday afternoon would mean I could sleep in this morning. Which I duly did! My last run had been on Friday, and I anticipated that my ankle would be good to go for a run tonight. I was even getting excited about doing a few treadmill intervals.

However by this afternoon I had a nagging feeling that my ankle still wasn't quite right. I jumped up and down on it a few times and, although it wasn't painful, there was a slight ache that threatened to turn into something more serious if I went out and ran on it for an hour. So, with a big sigh, I headed home instead.

So, did I do the right thing? Have I gone from one extreme (running in agony in order to stick to the programme) to another (an overcautious wimp)? Either way I'm still sitting here feeling huge and unfit. Stupid, I know, but that's just the way it goes!

It's not even like the rest of the week is going to be slothful. Tomorrow I'll do Balance and RPM. Wednesday I'll run with my new posse. Thursday I'll do my usual bike/Duck combo. Friday I'll run with my posse again. Saturday I'll aim to run for at least 70 minutes (preferably 80 to 90) followed by Balance. Sunday I'll ride if the weather permits, or try the weights/RPM combo again. So, ankle permitting, I'll still be getting three runs in and two RPM. If Duck fills in for Thursday RPM again then I'll end up doing three. Alternatively, if the ankle likes the new shoes I'll throw in a bonus run up Wadestown Rd.

So I'm praying to the ankle Gods. If they're merciful they'll allow me to increase my mileage this week to something vaguely resembling a half-marathon training plan again! Oh for the days I used to run for 90 minutes on a Saturday without even thinking about it ...

On a more sombre note, I was half-way through watching a 60 Minutes item on a "super-obese" (the term used by the journalist) woman tonight when I spotted some photos of her as a child and realised that we were friends at school. I remember her as being obese even then and that she appeared to have family issues, the extent of which she never spoke about but which were mentioned briefly during the item. I also remember her as being very intelligent, an A student who had a lot of potential but who also had some big walls to scale. It broke my heart when she said that she wished people wouldn't assume that fat people were stupid. She seems extremely self-aware and determined, and I hope with all my heart that she is successful in finding herself some happiness. She certainly deserves it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Sucked in!

Looks like Lola and I have a date with some running shoes and a couple of Wellington triathletes on June 8.

Now, the only fair thing to do at this point would appear to be to tag Sarah.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I'm still here ...

No, I haven't disappeared forever. I'm just not writing a lot at the moment and not really worried about it either! In the back of my mind there's been a little debate going on about what this blog is all about. I'm not producing any poetry at the moment, so that's out. I could choose to post on the many social and political issues of the day that I find interesting me, but there are so many other bloggers out there doing that sort of thing so well already. It takes time to post that sort of commentary, and I don't have the energy to put into it.

It's probably no surprise that the topics that do inspire me to write are mostly fitness-related. As time goes by I read more and more running, triathlon and general fitness blogs, and they tend to be the first I click on each day when I open my Google reader. I don't know quite when I accepted that running etc has truly become the centre of my life. I thought that it might be another phase, but as each month passes this interest of mine only grows stronger. It's an odd obsession for me to have chosen. It's not like I'm particularly good at running, or cycling and I sure as heck can't swim that well. I'm reasonably strong now and increasingly agile, but I have other, more natural skills that I'm neglecting in favour of these new ones.

Perhaps it's because my new hobbies continue to challenge me, that I continue to see both improvement and room for further improvement. I find them hard, but they reward me more often than they slap me around. They challenge me more than physically. They make me confront myself mentally, spiritually and emotionally in a way very few interests have before. Moreover, getting to this point has taken so much effort that I'm unwilling to stop, for fear of losing what I've gained. The pen is always there. The meditation cushion is always there. The arms that got me through three sets of pull-ups last week, the legs that can run five minute km's? They're going to disappear on me if I don't keep giving them attention.

In my mind there's been a small awareness that, at 35, I've only got so much time to milk my improvements. If I ever want to do triathlons (and a half-iron would be nice) I need to sort out my swim. My running's probably not going to get a lot faster, although I'm confident there's room for improvement on the bike. I've had a few really bad runs lately, but I've had more fast, strong, confident ones. My muscle-tone continues to improve. I look at myself and I see someone who could conceivably be an athlete. Duck has me working on some basic strength stuff that continues to build my confidence in what I can really achieve.

So I'm happily obsessed, and this blog will probably continue to be about that.

And on that note, a list of things I'm loving:
  • Bouncy new Addistar running shoes. Like walking on clouds.
  • Wednesday and Friday runs with tri-geeks from my gym.
  • Getting my Saturday run/Balance combo back again.
  • My Garmin telling me I'm speedy.
  • Pull-ups and push-ups and being able to flick a medicine ball up with my feet and catch it (David Beckham look out - this girl's got skills).
  • Hamish being excited about Geocaching.
  • Hamish taking his bike in for servicing (it's only taken 8 years).
  • The two-for-one rock-climbing voucher on my desk.