Sunday, August 31, 2008

Happily Hunting Hobbits

Once upon a time, a couple of years ago, I was training for my first half marathon. One Saturday Duck and Ingrid took the Jog Squadders out along the waterfront, up Maida Vale Rd and then onto the City to Sea walkway. Eventually we made our way up onto Palliser Rd and from there ran to the top of Mt Victoria. We then ran down the other side to the bottom of Alexandra Rd and back to the gym via Newtown. I pounded down the mountain and that was the start of my knee issues but the run remained legendary in my imagination.

I had 10km on the cards today, in honour of my friend Deb running the Nike Human Race in the UK. It felt like spring outside and I was fuelled by buckwheat and blueberry pancakes with chicken bacon. With my Garmin strapped to my wrist I headed out with a vague idea that it might be fun to run the city to sea walkway again and somehow make it to 10km.

I had no plans to try to break any speed records. It took a while for my legs to loosen up after yesterday's ride, however it seemed to take no time at all to reach Maida Vale Rd and even less to find the entrance to the walkway on the downhill side of Carlton Gore. Soon I was on the undulating gravel and board-walk path that runs along the side of Mt Victoria.

I remember walking a fair bit of the trail a couple of years ago but today I walked only a little of one of the longer, steeper stretches. It might sound silly, but it still amazes me that I can run up long flights of stairs without dying. I can run up longer, steeper stretches of hill than I ever could have imagined. I'm still obviously on the same high I've been on for the last couple of weeks!

It was a gorgeous day in the capital and I'm going to be running this way again. The views of the harbour along the route are spectacular and, on my own, I was able to run a little more slowly at strategic points in order to enjoy them all the more.

I only got a little lost once on the way up. It took me a little bit of confused running up and down to find the entrance to the next stretch of the path where it connects with Grass Street. There is a rope swing where the paths meet and a group of locals hanging around watching me with great amusement. However I eventually found my way and kept running back towards the city.

Finally I was staggering up the final steep stretch of path to Palliser Rd. I remember that a couple of years ago it had felt like a huge distance but that today it felt like almost nothing at all. Last time I had stopped here to spill a gel all over myself. This time I stopped briefly to catch my breath then, with a fair way to go to make up the 10km, kept running up to the summit. I even ran the last steep bit and the final flight of stairs to the older lookout.

Once up top I took a little time out to admire the view as it's been a while since I was last up there. I ran over and up to the new lookout as well, being mocked extremely rudely by a family walking up the stairs behind me. Charitably I ignored them but the adults weren't exactly setting an example for their children.

After a quick stop I turned and jumped onto the walkway back down towards Majoribanks Street. It's fair to say that things got a little interesting at this point. Parts of the track where extremely steep and other sections were very wet and slippery. I didn't really know where I was going and I was happy just to be upright and not on my butt in the mud. I tried to have faith in the signs to keep me heading vaguely in the right direction.

I got a bit lost but somehow found my way back to Majoribanks Street and from there it was a quick run back to the gym. I was feeling really fresh and could quite happily have kept going. In the end I ran just under 10km in around seventy minutes, which I don't consider to be too bad given the amount of hill climbing, stopping and starting and clambering around strange trails.

Afterwards I took care to stretch thoroughly. I've got a little ITB-related pain in my knee which I think is being caused by the position of my cleats on my bike shoes. I had similar issues with Lola. The physio recommended a bike-fitter and I'm going to hunt him down just in case. I'm so injury-phobic right now it's just not funny! In any case, it seemed like a good idea to spend some time with a foam roller and a tennis ball.

Tomorrow - weights and another run. I've told Sally my legs are likely to be a little sore. It will be interesting to see how things go.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Another Ride!

Julia and I went for another ride this morning. We met up at Freyberg at 9 on a rather fresh but not unbearably windy day. It's true that once we rounded Pt Jerningham we hit a Southerly so cold that we nearly turned around and rode straight back to our cars. However wimping out would have been ridiculous.

We agreed to ride up Mt Crawford and see how we felt after that. I sat behind Julia until Cobham Drive then overtook her, thinking it was about time she got a break from pulling. Unfortunately, by the time I got to Maupuia Rd I had managed to drop her and, being somewhat faster on the hills anyway, I had a bit of a wait at the top. Next time I'll ride back down to meet her.

Julia took the lead down the hill to Awa Rd, even if I did ride it faster than I would have done alone. I need to move the brake levers a little closer to the drops I think. They're just a little too high for my hands to reach comfortably and it's a bit un-nerving!

I took the lead again at Seatoun with Julia catching up on the way down from the Pass of Branda. At some point however I lost her again. It wasn't a deliberate thing at all. I thought she was right behind me but then she was gone. Next blonde moment of the day - I should have waited for her but kept going regardless. My stunning lack of regard for cycling etiquette astounds even me at times.

Riding up through Happy Valley to Brooklyn I had a great tail-wind but I had a nervous moment as I was approaching the lights at Brooklyn. The lights turned red as I was approaching, then a truck passed me followed by two cars. The truck stopped at the intersection indicating left, so I couldn't creep up on his inside. A third car was following behind the other two but there was enough of a gap for me to get onto the right-hand side of the lane. The pedestrian light turned green just as I was coming up alongside the truck, leaving me enough time to get past him and back into the left-hand side of the road before the three cars came through. I hate that intersection!

I stopped at the bus stop and a couple of quick txts established that Julia wasn't too far away. I decided to try eating the banana I'd brought with me and had a little of the Replace in my water bottle. I was chatting to a couple of guys who'd pulled alongside when Julia arrived. After that things went pear-shaped again. I saw Julia moving off so swapped a couple more comments with one of the cyclists then went to follow. Looking around, she was gone. It took some time to cross the road and I got stuck at the lights so I assumed she was ahead of me and spent the whole ride down to the Southern Coast and then around to Lyall Bay caning it trying to catch up. I was fighting that cold Southerly again and was very glad I hadn't taken my leg warmers off, as I'd been considering doing at the top of the hill.

Through Kilbirnie without any abuse this time and back to Freyberg at speed, only to find no sign of Julia. Oops. Another couple of txts and a few minutes later she was pulling alongside me. Apparently she'd waited at the bottom of the hill then ridden back up looking for me. I couldn't work out how we'd missed each other and then something clicked. She said she'd ridden back up to Central Park. So when I'd been riding down through Happy Valley Julia had been riding down the city side of the hill. When she said she'd gone back up the hill looking for me she'd ridden back up the steep side. Um, once again, oops.

Today convinced me that I am definitely faster on Cleo. Poor Julia proved that! I'm having a lot of fun with my gears, spending much most of my ride on the large cog (that's right, isn't it?) and taking a lot longer to move through the gears on the hills. More power must equal more speed. It might just be my own changed attitude, but I also feel like I'm taken more seriously on this bike. The other cyclists today (including a woman who passed me on the way up Happy Valley) were all extremely friendly and chatty. Never have I exchanged so many smiles, waves and one-liners when riding.

I'm also finding that I'm not getting anywhere near as fatigued on Cleo as I used to get on Lola. Even as I was supposed to be chasing Julia down on the way back to Kilbirnie I found myself looking up Houghton Bay Rd and thinking 'hmmmm'. I'm happy with my bike fit and my bike fitness and am feeling psychologically and physically prepared for the first Gearshifters ride in a week's time. The word that comes to mind to describe riding this bike is, once again, exhilarating. Yes, I really do love my Cleo.

A classic moment in the carpark this morning - Julia and I are just clipping in and moving off and I make a comment about how I took her out a couple of weeks ago and the roads were quite wet and about how I was feeling sad that she was getting dirty. A guy walking past overheard and asked "New bike?" Cue nods, smiles and sheepish looks on my part. Thank heavens she's a sexy champagne gold and not pink. I felt like enough of a girl as it was!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ultramarathon Man

I just came across these quotes from Dean Karnaze's new book. Somehow they seem to sum up a bit of what I was trying to say in my last post. This is, I think, why I got so hooked on running:

"Running is not fun. It's too hard to be fun. Even the most devoted runners would not describe the experience of performing a typical workout-let alone competing in a race- as fun...I'm not saying running doesn't feel good. It does feel good, in a way that any form of hard work feels good to those who have a taste for it... A hard run leaves you exhausted and glad to be done with it. Some days you dread even starting a run. But the overall running experience just feels right, like an expression of who you really are."

"Running teaches you that there's a difference between working hard and feeling bad. Consumer culture tries to teach us otherwise. How many television commercials talk about 'making life easier'? ...But it's just not true. Challenging and testing your mind and body, even to the point of exhaustion, failure, and breakdown, can feel as wonderful as anything else life has to offer."

"Every runner has the potential for mental toughness somewhere inside. Whenever runners allow suffering to defeat them and consequently fail to do their best, it is not because they lack mental toughness but because, for some reason, they just didn't have the courage that day to access it."

Type A

I have sometimes wondered why I got so badly hooked on running and then on this whole fitness business in general. I have a wide variety of interests, including poetry writing, music and conservation. In the past it was Budhism that captured my imagination. I don't have any particular talent for running, so exactly why has it become so central to my existence?

The closest I've ever been able to come to an answer is that running provided me with a series of goals to work towards. Once I'd met one milestone there was another to aim towards. I like challenge, I like success and I like reward. Running (and now cycling) provides me with all of those.

Unfortunately, being Type A does not make for an easy, settled life. I know the things that are important to me and I am ambitious. It's not easy for me to sit still for too long if I can see an open door in front of me. If I can see a path but the end is hidden around a corner then I will be driven mad with curiosity to see what lies ahead. This isn't to say that change doesn't scare me, and I still have a fear of being caught in a situation from which I am unable to escape. Financial risk, for example, is particularly difficult for me because I associate a steady income with security.

Type A has, however, struck again. I have tentatively pushed at a door to see if it can be opened. I have stepped out onto the ice to see whether it will hold my weight. It seems I'm not ready yet to settle for the easy option.

If things work out then you'll be hearing a lot more about my latest challenge. If things work out then you'll be one of the first to know!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Faster, Stronger - Scooter!

Who knew? Mr Garmin seems to be telling me that my 'easy' running pace is now 5.30, down from 5.40, and my go-to pace is more like 5.10 to 5.20. I like Mr Garmin. I set out tonight to run seven easy flat kilometres and ended up so inspired I ran 9 kilometres with a jolly big hill in the middle. Even so, if I'd continued for another kilometre I would have PB'd. All that on tired achy legs! Plus it was a beautiful Wellington evening, with the associated molten silver harbour skimmed by rowers and small yachts.

Admittedly, the last couple of 'hard' weeks started to take their toll yesterday. I made what ended up being a smart decision and didn't run with the former Jog Squadders. I was too sore and too tired and I would have injured myself if I'd tried. Instead I went home and rested. Even so, my sleep was broken by a series of vivid dreams. I was awake well before my alarm went off at 5.50 this morning and out of bed like a shot.

In a day of PBs I started off my morning with 20 full pullups over three sets. I think that's a record and I think I could probably have made at least 22 had I really pushed it. I supersetted the pullups with one-legged full pushups. At a certain point I became aware that almost all of the guys in the cardio area were watching me. I guess it must be hard watching a small skinny chick kicking butt! I'm working the weights hard at the moment, knowing I will have to back off a bit when Gearshifters cranks up. I'm feeling in great shape and am really satisfied with where I am at.

I'm wondering whether I am genetically the type of person who benefits from a lot of recovery. These days I don't seem to need as much as I used to and it could be that I'm strong enough to cope with the loads I place my body under. However I've made big gains this year despite training curtailed by an ankle injury. I have to remember that two days of rest in a week aren't going to turn me into an unfit blob!

Balance tomorrow, and if I'm feeling good it will be hard not to want to fit in an extra run. I'm riding on Saturday and hopefully running Belmont or similar on Sunday. Onwards and forwards, at speed!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Serious Bike Crush

I am seriously in love with my new bike! My ride today was, in one word, exhilarating. I can not believe how different Cleo feels compared to Lola. I own the large chain ring now! On Cleo I just zip along the road. She even seems to corner better.

After realising yesterday that I was a lot lighter on the scales than expected I relaxed a bit after work and had a few drinks with my colleagues, along with a few too many potato chips. Hamish wanted burgers for dinner so I then had a chicken, bacon and avocado burger from Burger Wisconsin and some fries. All of this was a big mistake! I spent the whole night feeling seriously ill. Note to self: you have once again proven that you can not eat junk these days without your stomach seriously hating you for the next twelve hours. Do not do this again!

I was still feeling sick when I woke at 7am to a stunning, stunning Wellington morning. The forecast had been for showers later today and when I went to bed last night I had been hopeful that it might hold off long enough to get a ride in. I could never have hoped for weather this perfect. Outside it was sunny, warm and calm, perfect Cleo weather. Nevertheless, the nausea kept me in bed long enough to hear the 8am news before it finally abated enough to let me get up.

After my standard breakfast of porridge I drove down to Freyberg, pulled Cleo out of the car and set off. I was so thrilled to be riding in this city on this gorgeous morning on this bike. It was so warm that I didn't really need my legwarmers and I left my windbreaker in the car. I was feling very happy to be feeling so fresh from my single day off. The harbour was a deep blue and perfectly still. Now that I am no longer riding so stretched out I was able to sit a little more upright and enjoy the view. As I climbed steadily up Mt Crawford I played with my new gear ratio, finding that I had a much wider range of gears to play with and that I was maintaining a much faster cadence. Wellington stretched lazily out to my left as I ascended.

Stopping at the top prison carpark for a drink there was no sound other than the Tuis singing. Such an oddly appealing place to have a prison! Starting off again I rode downwards. At Awa Rd I automatically turned right instead of left and ended up back in Miramar so I rode back through the cutting and hung another right to head around the Bays. Riding a little further than intended wasn't going to be a great hardship. With no headwind I was humming along, only being overtaken by a couple of people. I wasn't trying to ride too fast, concentrating more on keeping my heels down and enjoying the scenery.

Turning right at Lyall Bay I cut back through Kilbirnie to head back to Oriental Bay. As I slowed to approach the first set of (red) lights a car honked at my shoulder. A blonde, middle-aged, middle-class woman in the front passenger seat turned to abuse me. Even as I type this I'm still not sure exactly what she was upset about. I thought at first she might have been upset that I moved into the edge of the straight-ahead lane rather than hugging the shoulder. As I rode past her car window (the driver was stopped at that same set of lights) I looked in at her and commented that I had simply been riding in my lane. It may also be that she thought I was riding too slowly and holding the driver up (in which case it's unfortunate for him that the lights were still red, holding him up from his obviously urgent business even longer).

As tempting as it was to stop and knock on her window to query the matter further I wasn't really in the mood for confrontation. The only other thing I could do was shrug my shoulders in confusion. Their car moved off past me a little further down the road without incident and the rest of the ride back to Freyberg passed without drama.

Back at my car I really wasn't in the mood for the day to be over. The fountain in the Bay was pluming into the air and small children thronged around the climbing frame in the playground. Grabbing a quick drink I was pleased with myself for having had the foresight to bring my running shoes. I whipped off the leg warmers, ditched the helmet and changed my footwear. My cycle shorts make it look like I was running in nappies but I swallowed my pride and headed back out of the carpark for a quick brick.

My legs felt heavy for the first few hundred metres but loosened up more quickly than I expected. It occurred to me that I'd cycled at least 40km today and that if I now had to run 10km I could totally do it. So now all I have to do is, as I've said before, learn to swim!

Back to the present day though, have I mentioned how much I love my bike? Have I mentioned how much I love this city on a good day? Have I mentioned how much I love riding my bike in my city on a good day?

Pity it's supposed to rain tomorrow!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Eat more pies

Or, Pip is an idiot.

Somehow over the last couple of weeks I've gone from being a little heavier than I would like to losing around two to three kilos and returning to the "OMG, I need to eat" range on the scales. I haven't been this light in around a year.

It seems all I need to do to lose weight is monitor what I eat a little and run. I returned to the lighter end of my weight range much quicker than I would have liked. I decided a few weeks ago that it would be good to start Lake Taupo (for my overseas readers, a 160km, very hilly and challenging cycle race) training a couple of kilos above my ideal. I realised at the time that the long cycle rides were likely to make it a challenge for me to keep my weight up.

Now I need to seriously revise my nutrition plan. Out is relying on fruit for snacks. In is snacking more on yoghurt and grains. I should have realised over the last few days when my wedding rings started falling off my fingers again. I should have realised this week when two hours without food would lead to a hunger crisis of monumental proportions.

Unfortunately I am contaminated with a Weight Watchers philosophy. My psyche is infiltrated by a philosophy built around eighteen points of food a day plus bonus points accumulated from exercise. No standard Weight Watchers programme assumes the range of calorie consumption required to sustain the type of training I am preparing to engage in over the next few months. Weight Watchers for me right now is a mode of thinking I need to wipe from my memory.

Food is fuel. Food is not about control. Food is about being kind to my body and giving it what it needs to stay healthy. Without wanting to sound corny, food is love.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

You know you're a runner when ...

Despite having spent half an hour doing a hill programme on an exercycle this morning, and despite having followed that up with an intense circuit workout, the warm sunshine and lack of wind at lunchtime were too much to resist.

Seven very pleasant but VERY slow kilometres later .... I think I'm done for the day!

My exercise stats from Saturday to today:

  • Four runs
  • 3 RPM classes
  • 1/2 hour exercycle
  • 2 weights sessions
  • 1 Balance class

The runs included the 14km Belmont trail run (2km straight up), an undulating and fast 7km on Monday night, a short but intense hill and stair circuit on Wednesday night and the flat, slow 7km today.

I'm feeling fresh, not terribly sore and reassuringly non-injured. It's all a bit of a miracle really! Now let's have some of that sun this weekend so that Cleo and I can continue getting to know each other ...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I found my legs

They were hiding in a 6.30a.m. RPM class and they weren't very happy with me! Things hurt a bit ...

I went on and did 11.10 Balance despite the sore legs, but was very glad to finish the class knowing that I wasn't planning any more leggy stuff until tonight. I made sure I got plenty of sleep last night and got up to do an upper body weights session this morning. I was feeling really keen to get to the gym and yet reluctant to get out of my nice warm bed at the same time. I forced myself to get up anyway and by the time I got to the gym I was feeling really psyched. Needless to say my weights session went really well!

Unfortunately though my morning's gym visit ended badly when the showers proved to be out of hot water. By around 8.00a.m. they tend to be a bit lukewarm, but this morning they were completely cold. I splashed myself a bit but couldn't make myself get completely under the water. Luckily I wasn't terribly sweaty, having only done the upper body weights. Afterwards I went downstairs to grumble a bit to the nice guy on reception, even though I knew my complaints wouldn't go anywhere. Luckily the maintenance man happened to be walking past at that exact moment and he headed off up the stairs to see what was going on. Nice! Really, it isn't acceptable for a gym to be running out of hot water. The fact that they often run out of towels is bad enough ...

So tonight I'm down for another run with Sarah, Sally and co. My legs are still a little sore but they're no worse than Monday so it will be interesting to see how I go. I've done a lot of hill runs lately though so I'm hoping someone will suggest a slightly flatter route. It's lovely out there right now so a run around the Bays would be ideal.

Monday, August 18, 2008

So whose legs are these?

Seriously, I don't think they're mine!

I went to bed last night feeling quite tired after a screening of The Dark Knight at the wonderful Empire Theatre in Island Bay (with a VERY good single scoop of chocolate ice cream that I'd been waiting for all day). I was sensible enough to know that I'd blow out if I tried to do weights this morning and the chance to lie in was too good to pass up. So I slept till 7am and woke still feeling a bit fatigued. It was such a big weekend, could I continue the pace without a little rest?

I continued to feel tired all day at work. I had to present a paper to a steering group and after that meeting finished at 3pm my brain pretty much checked out for the day. After the meeting I sat at my desk in a little pool of warm sunshine (hitting refresh for updates on the women's triathlon) until late in the afternoon when I looked up and saw clouds rolling in from the Strait. It appeared the forecast Southerly change had arrived.

All the same it was still calm and clear when I met up with some of the former Jog Squad for a run at 6. None of us were feeling terribly energetic. The organiser of tonight's run was bowing out with a migraine. I wasn't sure how I would go after yesterday's Belmont run. Sarah had a chest cold and a couple of girls had raced in the Five Bridges 10km event yesterday.

Karen set a reasonably challenging run for us along the waterfront almost to the base of Tinakori, then up a side-street to Tinakori, up Tinakori to Bowen, down Bowen, then up and over the Terrace and back via Dixon Street. Sally took off up Taranaki Street and I thought there was no way I was going to keep up. My legs felt a bit heavy as we ran along the waterfront towards the railway station but I held my own and was still on pace when we got to the railway station. From there Sarah, Sally and I stuck together all the way to Tinakori Rd.

As we were running along Thorndon Quay Sally commented that she thought she had felt a drop of rain. A few seconds later I felt another drop of rain. As we reached Tinakori Rd the heavens opened. Within seconds we were drenched and cold. It was about this time that Sally started complaining about her legs feeling dead. I was just amazed I was still keeping up. We decided the weather was too nasty to be fun and none of us felt like running up the Terrace. We all agreed to run down Bowen then return to the gym via Lambton Quay and Willis Street.

With Sally's legs bothering her and Sarah's chest holding her back I somehow found myself in the lead. The further I went the better I felt. I bowled down Bowen and would have been first to the bottom had my silly Formotion shoe laces not come undone in the wet.

Sally and I met up again at the Terrace/Bowen intersection. We decided to run up the Terrace to Woodward, then cut down to Lambton Quay. Sarah was some way behind us at this point and I thought briefly that she might mistakenly think we'd gone the whole way to Dixon. Unfortunately I was right and Sarah went the whole way up the hill.

Once we got down to Lambton Sally and I were really sprinting along. I dropped my arms and concentrated on staying relaxed and keeping my shoulders down and chest high, trying not to lean forward. I tried to keep engaging my glutes and pushing forward. I was doing really well too, then about two thirds of the way to Willis Sally seemed to engage that other gear that I've always suspected her of having. She got ahead of me slightly and I couldn't haul her in again.

As we neared Manners Street there was a flash of lightening and a crack of thunder. The temperature had continued to plummet. I was nearly all done from trying to keep up with Sally and I let her pull ahead a little more. All the same I finished fairly strongly and couldn't work out where tonight's display of speed had come from.

We were all freezing cold and soaked so it was a very quick stretch before we all headed for the showers. I got an itchy rash from being frozen then warm from the hot water in rapid succession. By the time I got to the bus stop I was cold again, and continued to cool as I waited for the bus. It was a relief to find the heater blasting when the bus eventually did arrive.

I can't believe how well tonight's race went. I should have been barely able to walk after the weekend's exertions and yet I managed to fly through most of the run. I can only conclude that two and a half years of consistent training are finally paying off. Perhaps I finally have the strength and endurance to be able to push myself daily and yet still recover. One thing is for certain, I run faster when Sally is around. I just need to be careful that I don't get so competitive that I overdo things and injure myself.

I'm off to bed soon because I'm going to be up at 5.30 to do Dee's RPM class. I expect that if I thought I was tired today I'll REALLY be tired tomorrow. It's not idea finishing a run at 7pm at night then doing RPM less than 12 hours later. However Dee's classes are good enough to warrant it. Once Gearshifters starts I'll be able to do her RPM classes at night, and that will make things easier.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Trail Bunny

I wrote earlier about how the weather wasn't looking good for a ride on Saturday. I decided to wake early on Saturday and make a call then about whether to ride or book into a couple of RPM classes.

It was quiet and calm all night and I was feeling cautiously hopeful. At 6am it started raining. At about 6.15 the thunder and lightening started. Soon after that it started hailing and then the wind started up. I decided not to gamble on it clearing later that day so at 7am I started trying to call the gym to book my classes.

By 7.40 there still wasn't anyone answering the phones so I jumped in the car and headed into town. Thankfully there were still enough places for me to claim my bike. RPM was, well, RPM. I did my two classes. I went reasonably hard. I chatted to a friend from Gearshifters between classes. I left the gym to find that it had cleared earlier than forecast. It was now a beautiful crisp day. Gutted! Sure, I could have taken Cleo out anyway, but I had other things I needed to do and a trail run scheduled for this morning. I will just have to try and commute a couple of days this week.

We went to a housewarming last night and I was conscious of having drunk a couple of glasses of wine and eaten not quite as well as I might have done. We watched the Olympics and cheered Mahe Drysdale as he bravely rowed his way to bronze then collapsed vomiting. Winning bronze with a 'Beijing Belly' must have been one of the most heroic things I've seen so far. We also cheered on the Evers-Swindell twins as they rowed to gold by some ridiculous fraction of a second. Even they weren't sure whether they'd won or not, clearly pointing to themselves and mouthing "us?" as the news came through.

I got home and off to bed a little later than I would have liked, a little less hydrated than I would have liked. I was up at 7.30 and pleased to see that it looked like it was going to be a gorgeous day. A quick bowl of porridge and a few glasses of water and it was off to Belmont Park to meet up with Emma and co.

I've never run Belmont before and I haven't done a lot of trail running. I had an absolute blast today and I think I'm addicted. I just want to get out there again! We met up at Cornish Street before 8.45 and from there we headed out to the Korokoro dam. We were following a narrow trail along the side of a small river. The trail was gently undulating but on an almost inperceptable upwards incline. With all the rain it was amusingly wet and muddy in places and my shoes definitely weren't waterproof. I was running in a retired pair of Adidas, not wanting to ruin my new pair.

We were running at a really nice comfortable pace and I was having a great time. We were having to regularly dodge other runners and very happy dogs and the constant attention paid to dodging puddles, tree roots and very slippery rocks was distratcting my brain from any pain. In fact my legs weren't feeling the big week too badly and I wasn't even feeling the effects of last night's wine. The first five kilometres were over before I knew it. I'd only been planning to run 10km, but it just didn't feel like time to turn around just yet.

We decided to run another 2 kilometres up to Oakleigh Street. This section of the trail includes several stairs and some very steep, slick sections with lots of tree roots. Even when the trail was in a better condition it was still relentlously uphill. I walked a little bit more of this section than I would have liked! My goal is to be able to run the whole way to the top without stopping. I don't think I did too badly for my first real trail run.

We paused at the Oakleigh Street entrance to drink from a water fountain then it was back down again. The downhill portion of the track was in better condition and I was able to pick the pace up a bit. As is often the case the big climb had woken my legs up and I was feeling really strong. Before long we were back on the undulating track along the river. Five kilometres to go! I couldn't believe how good I was feeling and thought I was flying, although in fact I wasn't really. It just felt like I was. The last two and a half kilometres did seem a little long though and I was quite happy when we made it back to the cars. However it really didn't feel like 14 kilometres. Perhaps it was that running on trails is a lot easier on your legs than running on concrete footpaths. Perhaps it was just the novelty of the new environment or the social side of running with other women.

Afterwards we stopped off at Caffiend in Petone. It was about 10.45 so I didn't want to eat anything lunch-like because I knew I would just be hungry again later in the day. Instead I settled for a bottle of guava nectar and a bowl of fruit salad with yoghurt. By the time I got home though, just before mid-day, I was starving. I must have used up a lot more energy than I'd thought. I cooked up a big bowl of rice with marinated tofu and inhaled it.

As I've been typing this 38 year old Tomescu Dita from Romania has won the women's marathon in 2.26.44. Kenya took second, but only after an intense sprint against a woman from China. Tomescu was inspiring to watch, particularly as she entered the stadium and started waving to the screaming crowds whilst rounding the track and entering the last 200m. Afterwards she continued to jog slowly out while the Kenyan woman a minute or so behind her dropped to the ground. Tomescu looked like she was hurting over the last few kilometres but her pace stayed strong and she managed an impressive negative split. Now she seems to have a second wind and she is still running around the stadium for her fans with a flag around her shoulders. Amazing. New Zealand just finished in 15th place in 2.31. Still a good, solid effort.

I want to run. I want to ride Cleo. I want to ride Cleo to Belmont to go for a run. Oh dear. I really am an addict!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Phelps and Food

There's been an interesting discussion on Diet Blog (and elsewhere) lately about the 10 to 12,000 calories American swimmer Michael Phelps is rumoured to put away. His diet is said to consist of copious amounts of fried eggs, French toast, chocolate chip pancakes and ham and cheese sandwiches.

My first reaction was that I felt sick just thinking about eating the amount he was putting away, and that it seemed high in saturated fats and refined carbs and low in fruit and vegetables and whole grains. However I also noted that I'm not a sports nutritionist and heck, his diet seems to be working for him ...

A British journalist tried and failed miserably to consume Phelp's stated daily food intake, although it seems his leftovers kept the office happy for the rest of the day. I was interested to read comments from a real nutritionist who made the same observations I did about the high levels of saturated fat, but then also made the obvious point that Phelps wouldn't be able to take in the amount of energy he needs if he didn't eat the way he does. This is not a man who is about to turn raw foodist any time soon.

I have to admit to being slightly mesmerised by the sheer athletic freakishness of this guy. For example a few years ago he experienced an episode in which his heart began racing during training. As someone whose arm span is so much greater than normal he is apparently at risk for a particular type of heart condition and his cardiac functioning is therefore tested on a regular basis. Surely Phelps is the result of some kind of knife-edge genetic accident. History may or may not prove the man to be the greatest Olympic athlete ever, but his performance at the 2008 games will surely be recorded as legendary.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Now that's what I'm talking about!

It's been a good week, the first week in a while I've truly felt I've put the effort in. It's been the kind of week that I feel I can treat as a base, something I can now start to build on. I feel like I'm back ...

It started of course with that wonderful ride around the Bays on Cleo on Sunday. Being mostly flat and not that long it was a fairly easy ride and I felt good afterwards.

I would have gotten up for a weights session on Monday morning, but I had a conference to attend and there wasn't enough time to work out beforehand and still be there in time for registration. I ended up spending the whole day trapped in an overheated internal room in the Duxton with no idea of the weather conditions outside. To my credit, I managed to successfully negotiate the buffet lunch. I filled my plate with salad and, having assessed the various hot dishes, selected a small helping of vegetarian lasagne. It was the lesser of the available evils. Afterwards I piled up a small plate from the fruit platter while other conference delegates swallowed down a particularly delicious looking fruit crumble and a chocolate tart. I knew that, as good as they tasted going down, I would feel nasty afterwards, and I stayed away!

It was only as I was walking away that I noticed the soup sitting off to one side of the buffet. Given the choice I would have had the pile of salad and a bowl of soup. Foiled! However I didn't feel over-full (as has been the case in the past post-Duxton buffet). I did have a couple of mints from the bowl on the table in front of me as the afternoon went on, but I stuck to fruit for both morning and afternoon tea. No cake or biscuits for me! The Duxton always has a bowl of fruit in their conference rooms, together with a selection of fruit cordials and iced water. It's one of the few things about their conference facilities that I really appreciate.

After the conference the other delegates were being treated to free wine. I badly wanted a glass and I was tired. I started whinging about not being able to decide whether to run or not. My workmate Elaine ran out of patience. It was heads I run, tails I drink. The coin fell heads-up and I dutifully trudged off to the gym.

I'm glad I did despite being convinced I would have a bad run. Instead, confronted with a pack of speedy runners, I took the lead early on, got all Mad Dog on myself, and worked to stay there. We ran a very fast, undulating route from Taranaki Street up Adelaide to the BP, left and through to Newtown, through Newtown and back to Taranaki Street via Buckle. For the first time I really felt myself powering up the hills. At first I was simply trying to hold my place against other, stronger hill runners. After the first hill though I realised I was flying upwards without dying. I almost felt like I was experimenting as I continued to push the hills. I was having a huge amount of fun.

Afterwards, coming back down Adelaide Rd towards the Basin it was starting to hurt, but in a good way. As I turned up Buckle I knew the others were no more than 100 metres behind me. I jaywalked all the way back down Taranaki Street to try to maintain my lead. I think they'd gained on me by the time I got back to Extreme, but I put on a last minute sprint just to make sure I finished first. Yes, I'm competitive. Type A all the way ...

I was up early on Tuesday morning to do Dee's RPM class and boast about my new bike. My legs were a little sore from the night before. My calves had cramped up the second I'd stopped running and they were still a bit tight. I spun my legs out a bit and when they warmed up I was able to power my way through the class again. I could have done without Behind the Cow as a track 7 though. That hurt! I could also have done without Dee advising us that she'd managed to find the Irish Jig again. Ouch ...

I managed to fit in Mike's 11.10 Balance class. My back was feeling pretty tight and I knew I'd probably put it under a bit of stress up all those hills. My hips were complaining a bit too. I tried not to let it all get to me and elected to head home straight after work for an early night.

Wednesday morning I was back into it, getting up early in the morning and heading to the Terrace gym for an upper body workout. I rocked three sets of 10 horizontal body pull-ups then accidentally fitted in a few more one-legged pushups then were scheduled. I managed a third full set of 15 reps of swiss ball chest press, whereas last week I suffered muscle failure half-way through the final set. I felt strong and pleased with my workout.

By Wednesday night I was feeling a little fatigued but totally pumped. I was on a roll. It was a beautiful evening and I wanted to be out there running in it. I started out from the Terrace gym, running up Bowen then down Tinakori, then turning up Wadestown Rd. I managed to beat a cyclist to the top. I didn't feel fantastically fast but I was steady and didn't feel like I was going to have to stop. Once I got to the hairdresser's I turned around and ran carefully back down again. I wish I could have taken photos of all of the blossom that is out on Wadestown Rd at the moment. Perhaps it really is nearly spring!

It was all going so well, then I had a bit of an incident on Molesworth Street. I was approaching a sidestreet on the right-hand side of the road and I saw that there was a car approaching. There was a pedestrian crossing across the side-street so I had right-of-way but I slowed in case the driver failed to stop for me. He stopped before the crossing and I assumed he had seen me and kept running.

Molesworth Street is a one-way road and the traffic was flowing towards me. This meant that the driver had to look to his right to make sure the way was clear for him to pull out. I have no idea what he was thinking, and perhaps he had never seen me at all (but if so, why did he stop so far back from the intersection?), but as I ran in front of him I heard a scream. I turned to see the car heading for me at speed and the female front passenger with her hands in the air. I swore, rather loudly and the driver slammed on his breaks. I looked at the driver, who was making apologetic gestures and mouthing that he was sorry. I screamed out "You stoppped!", which was a bit of an incoherent comment in retrospect. Filled with adrenalin I turned and kept running. I broke all speed records on my way back to the gym!

The ironic thing is that a couple of days earlier my medic alert bracelet had broken. I'd slipped it into my bag thinking "I must get this fixed before I get on my bike again". I had also been pondering the likelihood of getting hit by a car now that I had a great new bike. So of course I nearly get hit by a car out running!

I was feeling a bit tired and stiff that evening but still full of energy. I decided to go for it the next day. I had a great night's sleep and woke early on Thursday morning for a Duck-bashing-without-the-Duck session. I spent a half hour on an exersize bike on what I now consider a fairly easy level but which only a few months ago was incredibly difficult. Feeling suitably warmed up I progressed to a lower body workout - leg press, walking lunges, squats, leg extensions, side-steps, box jumps, swissball abductor press and hamstring curls. All the while a new trainer was taking a young female client through a fun-looking circuit that was clearly kicking her butt. I could see how his session was targeted to be both cardiovascularly challenging and to develop her balance and agility. I saw myself of a couple of years ago in her wobbly progress. I envied her! I decided I needed to design a circuit of my own to kick my own butt. Hmm ... must do that.

By now my legs were definitely letting me know they existed but I was still feeling pretty good. Against all predictions the weather outside was stunning all day - once again still, warm and sunny. After getting stuck inside all day in meetings and at my computer I decided to throw in an extra run after work. I decided I would do an easy flat run around the Bays for a while. I didn't want to be out there for too long but I was keen to make the most of an opportunity to up my weekly mileage.

As soon as I left the gym I knew something had changed. It was freezing! I had on a pair of short shorts and the long-sleeved polyprop I was wearing might not have existed for all the good it was doing. I watched all of my exposed skin turn an angry pink. For the first time this year I wanted gloves.

Around Frank Kitts I was hit by a frigid and strong Northerly. As I reached Te Papa it started to rain then, a few seconds later, it began to hail. I started swearing internally. I wasn't dressed for the conditions and my only goal for this run had been to do it for the fun of it. This wasn't fun! I'm ashamed to say I ran as far as Freyberg then turned around and ran straight back to the gym. I wouldn't have even been out there for half an hour. Pathetic!

Today was my scheduled day off and I elected to do 1.10 Balance with Mike. The class was ridiculously full thanks to a Balance promotion that is running at the moment. I ended up crammed in one corner at the very front of the class with another woman trying to find a bit of space next to me. The poor thing - it was her first class and she just couldn't see what was going on at all. She kept looking behind her to see what I was doing.

On the positive side I totally rocked the Balance poses on my right ankle. The glute strengthening seems to be working (it is probably the reason for the speedy hill runs of late as well). I also took the hip openers further than I normally would. I felt I had a much better class than I'd had on Tuesday, despite the week's workouts. My physio appointment later today even went well. I am making progress! I may be able to get through the Gearshifters training without breaking myself after all ...

The weather forecast this weekend is not looking promising. My plan for tomorrow is either a ride (obviously my first preference) or two RPM classes, but I may be faced with gale Northwesterlies and cold rain. I will have to get up at around 7am and make a call as to whether it's likely to be a ride-worthy day or not. If not then I will have to call the gym and book the two classes, hoping they are not already booked out.

On Sunday I'm supposed to be making my delayed debut at Belmont Park. After wimping out a fortnight ago there's no way I can wimp out again and ever expect to be invited back. I'm only aiming for the 10km loop until I have a feeling for how I handle the trails.

I want the rest of the week to be like this week, but with longer runs. I have a short window in which to extend the distances I'm running before Taupo training sucks me in and pins me to Cleo. It's going to be a fun few months!

A cold night in Mornington

This, in our household, is what is referred to as being 'kitty-catted'. A combined weight of nearly 12kgs of very happy Burmese ...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

First Ride

I picked Cleo up from Penny's yesterday. I took Lola along with me and Mike switched over the pedals and the drinks cage. He also fixed the handlebar tape on Lola and even wrote me a Trademe ad. What a star! I have been thoroughly impressed with the service I have received from these guys.

We fine-tuned Cleo's fit, lifting the seat, then lowering it, then lifting it. The last adjustment was only 2mm. We left the handlebars pretty much were they were. Finally we put both bikes on the scales. Lola is a full two kilos heavier than Cleo! Side by side the difference in fit was clear to see. Lola's seat was almost an inch higher and her handlebars far further forward. Poor dear, she really didn't fit me at all.

Unfortunately yesterday the weather was cold, wet and very blowy. Not a good day to get out on a new bike, especially one so much lighter than what I was used to. So I spent a lot of the rest of the day watching the Olympics. When I went to bed it was still raining and there was a fiercesome Southerly. By the time Hamish got home from the Black Tuesday afterparty at 4am however it was absolutely calm. The weather forecast had been for winds continuing today but dropping off this afternoon and I'd been hoping for a ride later today.

Fortune smiled. I woke early in the morning to a cold but beautifully calm and clear day. The snow on the Orongarongas was shining in the sun. I stayed in bed until the bike stores opened then dashed in to see Veronica at the Bike Barn for 20% off a pair of leg warmers and some full-finger gloves. By the time I got to Oriental Bay it was mad. There were people and cars everywhere and I had to drive right to the far end to find a park.

Nervously I unloaded Cleo from the car, clipped in, and I was off. I expected the ride to feel really strange. We rolled away from the curb and, apart from a few frantic seconds searching for the thumb shifter then having to remind myself how to use the new system, I was flying. The best part? Cleo felt right, right from the start. She rides completely differently, but in a way that feels natural. I am officially in love.

Today's motto was "heels down". Mike and the others had shown me quite clearly using the Penny's video system the way that my heels tend to creep upwards. Heels down was a bit of a foreign concept on Lola, but it's amazing what a difference a seat that's at the proper height can make! The physio had warned me I would be likely to feel my quads and glutes more for the first few rides, and I definitely did, but I was riding in the large cog comfortably for most of the ride. That's something that would never have happened on Lola! Large cog? What large cog?

The new, lighter wheels slid along the ground more than they rolled. All that carbon made it feel like Cleo had suspension. The bumps that used to rattle my bones on Lola barely even registered. This time I felt like I got a response from the bike that was in accordance with the effort I was putting in. I was flying along and it was all so easy. Bliss!

I stuck to an easy ride today, a simple spin around the Bays. This was a 'getting to know you' ride. I called out to a guy who was stopped at the top of the Pass of Branda to check he was ok, then he caught me a little further along the road and we talked all the way to Lyall Bay. He was riding a very nice Pinerello. At Lyall Bay I stuck to the plan and rode back through to Kilbirnie. I was regretting my decision though! Oriental Bay was even crazier with cars and people going everywhere, so I threw Cleo back in the car again and got the heck out of there.

I am sooooo glad I got a new bike now rather than try to train for Taupo on Lola. I am really looking forward to riding with Gearshifters now and seeing what I am really capable of. Let's hope this weather holds for a bit longer and I can get some more rides in before then.

Friday, August 08, 2008

New Bike

Here we go.

Lola is being replaced by Cleo. I'm being totally selfish. The money I'm spending on Cleo could totally be spent on a new hot water cylinder, or under-floor insultation, or a holiday somewhere.

But the second I got on this bike I knew. Lola's fit was completely wrong. Her seat was too high. Her handlebars were too wide. I was far too stretched out. Cleo feels so much smaller. There is so much less bike underneath me. She feels lighter, even on the wind trainer. The shifters feel a little strange, the proper fit (using some fancy computer geometry and video set-up) feels unfamiliar. But I knew. I knew this was right. Mike at Penny's said the same. I will have a lot more power on this bike. My quads and glutes will hate me at first. If I flew up hills on my poorly fitting, heavy Diamondback, how will I do on a light, properly fitting bike?

It's time. I can not train for Taupo on Lola. I will break myself. I love her, but I have to let her go. Goodbye Lola, hello Cleo. Tomorrow I take Lola into Penny's. They will weigh her and compare the fit, simply for my gratification. They will swap the pedals over. I will put on my cycle shoes and take Cleo for a spin. I will feel nervous. I will wonder again whether I am doing the right thing. I will probably take her up Mt Crawford in an attempt to compare the ride. I will return her to Penny's and buy her anyway.

Anyone want to buy one well-loved, slightly used road bike?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

This deserves a longer post

But I'm exhausted, so this will have to do for now. Will elaborate later ...

Anticipating showers on Saturday I booked into two RPM classes in a row, only to have it turn out to be a stunning morning and perfect for riding. I passed Lauren in the car park as he was untying his bike from his car. Gutted! All the same, Stephan was in fine form and the music was loud. I went hard and didn't spare my legs. For the first time I really felt like I had some strength back in them. I'm not coughing any more, although my throat still needs fairly regular clearing. The germs are finally leaving the building ...

I was supposed to run with Emma and co in Belmont Park this morning. Oh, and there was another storm on the way. It poured all night, rain so hard that it beat anything else we've had this winter hands down. Around 5.30 a.m. it seemed to be lightening up a little. At 7.30 my alarm went off. It was by now only drizzling but it looked pretty miserable out there. I wanted to be hardcore, I really did, but a few minutes before I was supposed to leave it really started pelting down again. All I could see of the city was water and trees buckling under some fearsome Northerlies. Today was not the day to start exploring trail running. I knew I would be cold, wet and miserable and that the trails would be mud. So what did Mad Dog do? She took off her running gear, slipped back into her pyjamas and crawled back into bed. Yes, really.

Let it be said that I made the right decision. The wind and rain died away, the sun come out. Driving to the supermarket I dodged a huge landslip that had blocked half of Farnham Street and buried some poor guy's car. Water was pouring from hillsides and the whole city was busy draining.

After a lunch of brown rice, veges and Teriyaki marinated tofu I got back into the abandoned running gear and headed into town. It was warm and there was the slightest of Northerly breezes. There were people everywhere and I ran 11 wonderful kilometres around the Bays and back through Newtown. My legs didn't fell fatigued from the prior day's spinning at all. I marvel again at the wonders of B12! Or perhaps I really am just that much stronger.

I stopped briefly in Penny Farthings to take another look at the EMC2, but am now tossing up the next model up Genius from the one I was sold on a couple of months back. I'm getting a bit of an unexpected cash bonus in a couple of weeks, so I might just have to be a little selfish ...

Back to the gym, in the shower and off to the Gearshifters workshop with no time to fit in any weights. This Taupo training is going to be sooooo much fun. We've got a great bunch of trainers and several returnees from previous squads. I totally need a new bike to keep up with them all! I deserve it ...

Straight out of the Gearshifters workshop and into a film festival shorts screening. By the time we got home it was after 7.30 and I hadn't eaten (other than a Horleys Replace drink after the run) in around seven hours. So not good .... The healthy chicken burger and salad I cooked for dinner went down darn quickly, as did the non-local, non-seasonal Californian peach I ate for dessert. Yeah, I've been doing really well at eating consciously, but when these little drops of sunshine are selling at $2.95 a kilo, sometimes a girl's ethics go out the window.

Walking back to our friend's Mt Vic flat after the film the smell of flowers was in the air and the temperatures were mild. For a short while it felt like spring. There is hope, people, there is hope.

Friday, August 01, 2008


No, I didn't run today, and I didn't do Balance either. However I'm booked in to two RPM classes tomorrow and the physio has given me permission to run Belmont Park on Sunday.

Right now though I'm seriously regretting Friday night after-work drinks, Whitakers Dark Ghana and Burger Wisconsin. I've been soooooo good all week as well.

My stomach hates me. By the end of this weekend my legs will hate me too. But Mad Dog will love me, and that's what counts when all is said and done!