Monday, December 21, 2009

Progress

I really hope this stops being a documentation of my crummy health some time soon, however today I have some (hopefully) good news to report. I'm not going crazy!

I went to an Optometrist today to see if I could get some answers as to why my eyesight felt all crazy. By some extremely lucky coincidence he had had a patient with Hydrocephalus before. He started off by telling me a big long story about some issues he'd had with treating her vision problems. We went through the usual tests, which were all fine, then he through in another test and, well hey, Houston we have a problem.

Turns out I have EXACTLY the same problem she had. He likened it to being vertically cross-eyed, as in my eyes aren't working together properly. It explains the strange visual issues, the unsteadiness, and even the neck issues. He guessed that I might be having a tendency to tilt my head to the right, and guess what? I am! Apparently that's an innate attempt to try to correct the eye problem, and it's causing my neck muscles to seize up.

Needless to say he's writing a letter to my GP, and I have an appointment with her tomorrow, and he's strongly recommending we get in touch with the Neurologist again. Of course now we're butting up against Christmas, so I may just have to deal for a couple of weeks. I have (don't laugh) a few tips, including covering one eye (and even a nifty wear-at-home children's eye patch) and he's bent my glasses to sit slightly crookedly.

It's nice to know that I'm not imagining things, but it's frustrating as all heck to have to deal with, especially when there is no quick solution. He can treat the eye problems with new lenses, but there's a bigger question as to whether I need more surgery.

So I'm not done with being a medical drama yet!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hospital Lesson Number One

The treatment for a lumbar puncture headache is caffeine. Lots of it. Two cups of coffee later, I was reminded again of how caffeine sensitive I am. I was wired, and not in a good way! I couldn't face any more that night, and only managed another two cups the next day.

Back at home today I'm feeling much better. We're planning Christmas and a huge calendar of weekends away over summer/autumn. It's good to be having something to look forward to!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Quick update

I'm home. I went into hospital on Sunday afternoon after three days of a crushing lumbar puncture headache on top of the other issues I was already having. The neurosurgeons decided the problems I was having weren't the result of anything they've done and I spent three terrifying days waiting for a neurologist. However, according to him there's nothing clearly wrong with me. Apparently this is stress manifesting in some bizarre and distressing physical symptoms. I'll write more tomorrow, but I just wanted to give you all a quick update. Thanks for thinking of me!

Friday, December 11, 2009

And more arghhh

Ok, I'll admit that I'm starting to feel a little sorry for myself now!

I put in a full day of work on Wednesday. I had lots of meetings to resolve lots of thorny issues. That night I ended up back at hospital again. My balance is going on me and I feel like I'm about to have a vertigo attack - all - the - time. So yeah, it's a bit draining.

I had a referral from my GP so went straight through this time with no waiting around. I had a CAT scan and was told it was fine. Given the option of a hospital bed or my own, I went home again and dosed myself up with a sleeping pill to get some sleep. It's impossible to drop off when you feel like everything's in perpetual motion.

On Thursday morning I was back at the hospital, where they admitted me to a bed back in my old ward. The woman in the bed next to me was regularly having some kind of full volume screaming fit, which led to me fleeing to the hallway each time. The nurses took pity on me and I was offered a room of my own which, of course, I took.

I was too far down the queue to have an MRI on Thursday and elected to stay in rather than head home again. Another sleeping pill and some medication designed to help with the dizziness (which made me groggy more than anything else). It took a while to drop off but eventually I managed it.

I spent a lot of today just sitting around waiting. Finally I was able to have the MRI. If you can imagine how it might feel to be constantly dizzy, then to have your head shut into a small tube and stuck in a loud imaging machine for 20 minutes then you'll understand what an ordeal that was. I was quite panicky and shaky by the time they were finished.

The MRI was fine as well, so then I had to endure a lumbar puncture. The worst bit was the injecting of the anaesthetic into my back. Boy did it sting! The actually drawing of cerebrospinal fluid itself was fine. Now that the anaesthetic has worn off though I feel like someone's kicked me in the back.

Surprise, the lumbar puncture was fine as well. So here I am at home, waiting on a referral to see a Neurologist. It seems like every time I think I've hit rock bottom I slip a bit further. Honestly, at the moment I don't know how I'm not a quivering, crying wreck.

During this time Hamish has been working 11 hour days, so I haven't even seen him. He's tired and stressed and I'm mentally and physically exhausted. I need a hug badly. I want someone to tell me they know what's wrong and how to fix it. I want all this to be over.

I miss my life and I want it back!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Aaarrrghhhhh

I walked into the doctor's office today (not my usual doctor, as she wasn't available, but a guy I have seen before) and asked for help. I'm sick of this. I'm sick of this pulsing, tight head. I'm sick of the pounding every time I stand up or move my head the wrong way. I'm sick of not sleeping, of feeling like I'm about to have a vertigo attack, of having no appetite. I want to be able to run and cycle and enjoy my life and to have it back again.

Thankfully the doctor agreed with me. I got told not to worry about taking the sleeping pills. I could worry about getting off them when I was feeling better. He wrote to my neurosurgeon to ask him to look at my case again. He was wonderfully sympathetic. He even suggested anti-depressants to get me through this patch. He suggested I might have a cerebrospinal fluid leak, but also that I'm still getting used to having normal brain pressure. How long that might take to get over, well who knows?

So I snivelled a bit, felt grateful to him for letting me feel sorry for myself, accepted the prescription, and went home to hide. I even skipped the celebratory party I'd been invited to at work.

There's a part of me that wants to scream that this isn't fair. Two months ago I was feeling great and enjoying life, other than that niggling little headache that seemed to be getting worse. Of course life isn't fair. Some people have horrid things happen to them. Chances are I will eventually return to normal, pick up the pieces, rebuild my muscle and ditch the weight. If that happens I will really, truly, be grateful for every chance I have to don my running shoes or jump on Cleo for a spin around the Bays. Right now though I've lost perspective. I can't really see a way out of this.

So in the meantime I'm doing what I can. On Sunday that was a 4k walk/run round Belmont. I ran little bits, walked the big hill. Afterwards my left eye started to do something funny on me and I started to freak out. Thankfully after around ten minutes it came right again. For the rest of the day the pounding in my head was even worse. Having managed to get around five hours' sleep the night before without a sleeping pill, on Sunday night I was feeling too demoralised to try to sleep without the sedative.

Yesterday I decided to go for a walk. From Tawatawa Ridge at the Southern end of Kingston I dropped onto the City to Sea walkway in reverse. All was going well until the path turned into the steep descent of doom. With only loose dirt and gravel underfoot I slipped over three times, grazing and bruising my left hand. I battled anxiety and threatening vertigo the whole way down the slope.

Eventually, and with a huge sense of relief, I reached the Berhampore golfcourse. My relief was shortlived as the path I was following took me through the course itself. I ran the gauntlet of the many golfers out on what was a stunning evening. One young guy whistled, as if he were calling a dog. Not realising he was trying to call to me (he didn't appear about to swing a club any time soon) I kept walking, only to have him mutter something to his companion about someone (presumably me) being completely oblivious. In my already fragile state I was completely demoralised. If he'd just called out to me to ask me to wait a few seconds I would have done so.

All up I was out for an hour, and really it was good to be out in the fresh air. I discovered a whole network of trails I hadn't even realised existed, and some lovely old streets and houses. However it wasn't the same as going for a run. It also didn't relieve me of the need to take a sleeping pill that night.

So sorry, the pity party's still firmly in place here. I just have to accept my current state and try to have faith that things will improve. I still can't quite believe that this has happened, to be quite honest. I'm scared I'll never return to normal. I still want to be Pip. I don't want to be this strange shadow of myself. I need your cyber hugs and good wishes, and hopefully I will soon be able to be updating you with the news of my recovery.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Guess what I did today?

Walked for five minutes then ran eight sets of one minute slow jogging intervals, with ninety seconds of rest in between. I then went on to walk for at least another half hour.

I could have run more but I wanted to start out with a Couch to 5K run just to make sure I wasn't going to do myself any damage. I was running so slowly that I never broke a sweat, despite it being really warm out there. My legs however - boy am I going to have to start hitting the lower body weights.

I still have the same issues with a tight, pulsing feeling in my neck and head and I've been letting the anxiety get the better of me. I'm still having the same problem with standing up or moving my head too quickly and I'm still taking sleeping pills. I hate having to do so but I need the sleep. However the more I get up and do the better I feel. Sitting around thinking too much makes things worse.

I have to hold onto the hope that I WILL get better. I'm seeing a physio, accupuncturist, massage therapist and cranial osteopath. However nothing much is happening at the moment because I'm so stressed I spasm up again as soon as I walk from the therapy room. I really just have to give myself permission to relax and to get better, but that's not as easy as it sounds!

Tomorrow I'm hoping to walk/run a 10k race in Belmont. Unfortunately it looks like the weather's going to turn bad before then. Today it feels like summer here for a change!

Monday, November 30, 2009

One month post-surgery

Well, apparently it can take six weeks or more to feel normal after an endoscopic third ventriculostomy. I wish they had told me that when I left the hospital, or I wouldn't have spent the last month trying to get back to a routine that I clearly wasn't ready for. I had an appointment today with a really sweet Neurosurgical registrar who very gently told me to stop stressing out and that everything was fine. He may even have laughed at me, but in the nicest possible way. He showed me my three CAT scans, pre-surgery, two days post, and the one I had last week. They clearly show things are returning to a proper size. He also told me that the pounding feeling I've been feeling when I stand up is to be expected.

I actually had a great day yesterday. The weather was stunning and Hamish and I finally got the vege garden planted. Unfortunately I then spent the night tossing and turning in another bout of hellish insomnia. There can be nothing worse than lying there wanting to sleep and being absolutely exhausted but being unable to drop off. At 5.30 I finally gave up and formed a nest for myself on the sofa where I read until Hamish got up to go to work.

Unfortunately with all that tossing and turning I've spasmed up my neck muscles again, and I can quite categorically state that it is my neck which has been causing that pounding sensation at the base of my skull. I am really annoyed with myself, but I know that I can deal with it again and that massage will help. I did, however, beg my GP for some more sleeping pills. I am developing an absolute hatred of Valerian and I need a break for a night or two. A couple of stress free sleeps and I'll try sleeping sedative-free again.

Onwards and upwards I guess. I did at least get in around 40 minutes of walking between the hospital and the GP's office, exploring some new trails I didn't know existed. Now it's raining very softly in the most romantic kind of way. There is no wind out and the tui are singing loudly in the Norfolk pine. Now all I need is some sleep!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

And no, this is not how recovery was supposed to go

In the post I wanted to write I would be telling you all about how I was running again, and cycling again, and had spent heaps of time in the pool. I would be describing the weights workouts which were restoring my lost muscle and how I'd been getting heaps of stuff done around the house with a slightly lighter exercise schedule.

Well, that's not quite what has happened. I've been to the gym once. I sat on an exercise bike for half an hour, wound up feeling like I was about to have a vertigo attack, got off and went home. I went for a lovely long walk around the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary with Jo, walked home from the hospital earlier this week (around half an hour), walked into town once (around an hour), and walked around the block a couple of nights back (again, around a half an hour).

I haven't even been able to return to work full time. I've managed a few full days, had a few days off, and worked a few reduced days. I haven't taken back my team manager role officially yet, and probably won't now till next year.

I hate this. I feel like I'm letting my office down. I feel like I'm letting everyone else down as well. I want to be the mad, hardcore, bouncing back quickly person everyone thinks I am. I hate worrying the people who care for me. I want to be the active, positive and happy person they are used to me being. This is, I know, very silly, but it doesn't stop me thinking that way.

All my life I've had periods of time where my body has done things which have thrown me into a spin. Some of those incidents have been triggered by earlier neurosurgeries. There were the two months spent trying to find the Addison's Disease diagnosis. There was the horrific viral illness I came down with after my Masters degree that led to a year or so of depression, panic attacks and weight gain. During each of those times I wondered whether I'd ever feel normal again. However I've been so well for the last few years that I guess I'd come to believe it couldn't happen again.

Instead I'm left with some kind of weird post-surgery thing that has left me feeling trapped in my head. It got so bad I went back to the A & E on Monday. At least this time I only spent three hours in the waiting area, and another three hours out the back. I had a CAT scan, was told it looked fine, and was sent home. The neurosurgical registrar couldn't really offer much advice, other than to suggest that my brain might still be trying to get used to normal pressure.

It's been a month since surgery and I don't in any way feel normal. I still experience a pounding sensation like blood rushing to my head when I stand up or move in a way that increases the pressure in my skull. I still often feel like I'm about to have a vertigo attack at any moment. At times I feel like I have a thousand little electric shocks going off in my skull. There's a strange kind of pressure sensation - not pain, just like my head is being squeezed. It centres mainly around the base of my skull, but can move elsewhere at times. I can't get away from it and it's extremely hard to relax. It has at times driven me to distraction and to tears. I've once or twice caught myself on the verge of a panic attack, but have so far always managed to get my breathing under control.

I've done what I can to rule out contributing factors. I had huge issues with my neck after the hospital bed rest so have been getting massages, physio and accupuncture. They've helped to some extent. On Thursday I went to see a cranial osteopath, which did help calm me, but didn't really help resolve my symptoms.

I've had big issues with sleep. I ended up getting some sleeping pills and then, when they ran out, trying Valerian. The first night without sleeping pills left me staring at the ceiling for most of the night, however sheer exhaustion led to me sleeping solidly for ten wonderful hours last night. Bliss!

I have no appetite so have been eating utter rubbish just to eat something. Eating also distracts me from the unpleasantness, so I've been eating even when not hungry. Of course that's leading to a little weight gain, which isn't helping with the general stress or with my sense of needing to live up to people's expectations. I also worry about how much harder it will be to get myself back into form once (hopefully) this is all resolved.

I have another hospital appointment on Monday and will be pushing harder for some reassurance. The problem is that there really won't be any. It seems likely that the issues I'm facing are indeed due to the change in cerebrospinal flow. However I doubt anyone will able to give me any advice as to how long I can expect to feel this way. I am again left afraid that I will never feel normal again. I realise it's a bit soon to be pushing the panic button, but it is what it is! There's another part of me which dreads having to be operated on again, with the resultant sleepless nights jacked up on Solu Cortef and the discomfort.

It's not all bad news. My sense of humour is still holding in there and I haven't completely lost the plot. In my more rational moments I know this can't last forever and that there will be an answer. I will never again take feeling normal for granted, and I'm sure that I will appreciate running and cycling and all that so much more when I can do it again. A big part of the challenge is simply finding ways to distract myself so as to not let it all get on top of me, and thankfully I have some well-honed coping strategies which I'm having to dust off and put in place again.

Oh, and there are the cats, and there's Hamish, and there's my great friends, who are all helping. It's been hard reading all the Thanksgiving blogs when I feel so rotten, but I am grateful to you all.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Random Hospital Memory

Someone had brought pretzels for the ward and the night staff were particularly fond of them. For a while there the nurses doing my two hourly obs all had garlic breath. It got to the point where I was starting to wonder whether I was also experiencing scent hallucinations.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rehab

Well, I don't know how quickly I thought this whole recovery thing was going to go. I mean, I've had shunt revision surgery before, but not for nearly 15 years, and an endoscopic third ventriculostomy is a whole different beast. How long is it really supposed to take for someone to recover from having a hole drilled in their head, and a probe stuck into their brain to make another hole in there?

What I can tell you is that I've been tired - much more tired than I expected. Thankfully I haven't had too much disassociation. I guess the change in brain pressure from a ventriculostomy is more subtle than a shunt revision, and my brain didn't freak out too badly. However it has become clear to me that I really wasn't that with it before the actual operation. Hamish reminded me that I'd had a CAT scan and x-ray the night I was admitted to hospital (I could only remember the CAT scan). He also reminded me that he was there for both of them. I even had to ask whether he was there when the neurosurgeon was discussing whether to install another shunt, or whether to do the endoscopic procedure. I'm glad he was, as he's been able to reassure me that I went with the surgeon's preferred option. I'd started thinking that the surgeon actually wanted to put another shunt in, and that the ventriculostomy was something I'd pushed for.

I really wasn't myself for those first couple of days after the surgery. I felt overwhelmingly grateful to everyone who was so supportive to me, but I had to deal with a bit of guilt and dented pride, feeling like I'd become a bit of an overanxious, whining nuisance. Of course the nurses are used to dealing with far worse than me, but I wanted them to know that I'm normally a lot more rational. Stupid woman - you just had brain surgery. Of course you're allowed to lose a little perspective!

In the aftermath I've been dealing mainly with neck and shoulder issues, which were brought on by having to lie flat for two days and lifting my head off the pillow in an attempt to eat. I didn't have a headache as such, but my head felt really tight and standing up was causing my blood to pound in my head. In my more paranoid moments I was worried this meant there was still something wrong, and that the operation had somehow been a failure. I spent too much time reading up on ventriculostomy failure rates and ended up having to tear myself away. It was this tightness, as much as the actual surgery, which was causing me to feel so worn out.

In my defence, I didn't exactly take the weekend quietly. I got up on Saturday morning and went grocery shopping (one week post-procedure), and then Hamish and I went shopping for a new bathroom vanity and taps. I rested up that afternoon, but on Saturday night we walked down the hill to visit friends at their new house. I drank several glasses of wine then walked back up the hill again.

I'm finding that my sleep patterns are still a bit disturbed, and Saturday night was a good example. The tightness in my head bothered me to distraction. I couldn't relax and got maybe a couple of hours maximum. It took a big dose of Hydrocortisone and a long hot shower to get me moving the next morning.

On Sunday I drove Hamish to Paraparaumu for a glider flight. The weather was perfect and he escaped without air sickness, even flying the glider himself. He landed with a huge grin on his face and it was nice to do something for him after putting him through so much stress. Now both of us have expensive hobbies ...

We followed that up with lunch at a beachside cafe, then returned home where I felt unable to rest. Instead I headed out into the garden for an hour or so, and only after that did I allow myself to crash. Thankfully I did at least sleep well.

On Monday the weather changed and it was cold and wet as I made my way to my office for morning tea. My neck and shoulders were still bothering me, the tightness in my head in particular an issue. It was great to be back at work for a while but catching up with everyone was overwhelming. I had optimistically taken a gym bag with me in the hope of sitting on a stationary bike for a while. Instead I headed straight back home again. I put a DVD on and snuggled up under a duvet on the sofa, but fell asleep a few minutes in and woke as it was finishing.

It was only then that I think I really accepted recovery was going to take a little while. I fell asleep quite quickly last night but spent an hour or so in the middle of the night tossing and turning. I made an appointment with my physio as soon as her office opened. A few good cracks of my back later and some gentle kneading of my neck and I was feeling more human. It was becoming clear that the strange head sensations were indeed neck and shoulder tension and not a sign of anything more ominous.

I've taken it easy all afternoon. I have no plans for tomorrow, and although I've said I'll head into work for a few hours on Thursday if it feels too much I'll head home again. As much as it kills me I think any form of workout is going to have to wait till next week. This resting stuff is hard!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

In which normal transmission is postponed by a bit of neurosurgery

Well, without wanting to sound too dramatic, I have been in hospital this week. I got home yesterday and am still trying to fully comprehend the last few months! Well, obviously I went silent on the blogging front and part of that was that it all just got too hard. The marathon went well, then there were the two disastrous half marathons, followed by an awful 80km cycle race in Featherston. It was cold, wet and very windy. I cycled most of the way on my own, got poured on, hailed on, finished ten minutes slower than I did last year, and injured my back. I spent the last 15k in excruciating pain, wanting badly to just stop and let the SAG wagon pick me up.

After the horrid race I got a cold which knocked me out for another couple of weeks, during which time my back refused to settle. I got the physio's permission to try the next race on the Taupo lead-up schedule, a four-loop 100k'er in Waikanae which was mostly flat. In the end I made it round one loop, with the back injury taking all the power out of my legs. I didn't have it in me mentally to keep going as I watched pack after pack fly past me.

At the same time I was battling more hormonal issues. My doctor and I suspected I was going through premature menopause, so I came off the pill so we could really see what was going on. I'd been blaming the poor training and the roller coaster of emotions on that. However over the last month it felt more like depression. I couldn't run because of my back, I couldn't seem to cycle for peanuts, I lost my appetite so was eating crap in an attempt to just enjoy eating SOMETHING, and my swimming wasn't going to be ready for the Rotorua half Ironman. In fact, my bike form was so dire that I even doubted I'd be getting around the Taupo Cycle Challenge.

To make it worse I then started suffering from increasing migraines. I spent Labour weekend on the sofa with no energy to do anything, with my head pounding, kicking myself for not cleaning our untidy house or running or cycling. Jo and I had been planning a Rimutaka incline run but I was in no state, and the Gearshifters had headed out to Paekak hill without me after I failed to keep up with even the slowest riders (having the day before finished second to last in the time trial).

I battled my way through work this week but by Wednesday night it was fairly clear there was something more ominous going on. I wanted to get through Thursday before heading off to hospital. I had to sit in on two interview panels and the Immigration Bill was due to go through its third reading. I didn't want to miss the event I'd been working towards for nearly four years, and I didn't want to miss celebratory drinks! I somehow made it through the interviews but twenty minutes into the third reading my workmates were bundling me into a cab and I was off to the A & E. Six hours in the waiting room in horrendous pain (nearly crying each time they called out someone else's name), then six hours out the back, where I at least had a cubicle for most of it, I finally made it onto a ward at 3am.

By way of explanation, on top of my four autoimmune disorders (Addison's Disease, Hypothyroidism, Pernicious Anaemia and Premature Ovarian Failure) I also have Hydrocephalus, or water on the brain. I was diagnosed at six months, had a shunt inserted to drain the cerebrospinal fluid, and managed to live a fairly normal life after that. I've been lucky in that the shunt remained unblocked for nearly 15 years. However it seemed my luck was finally over. The increasing buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in my head was causing a rise in intracranial pressure, horrific headaches and nausea. I was not in a good way!

I spent the next day waiting for surgery that never came, on nil-by-mouth and a drip, and then most of the next day as well. By the end of the next day the intracranial pressure had increased to the point where I was sleeping most of the time anyway. Finally I had the operation. I thought I'd just be getting the shunt repaired, but the surgeon recommended an endoscopic third ventriculostomy (slight crustiness warning). This meant that they drilled a hole in my skull and inserted a probe through my brain and actually made a hole in the wall of one of my ventricles to enable the fluid to drain away more naturally. The video I've linked to above shows the probe being inserted into a guy's skull and the hole being made in the ventrical. It explains the procedure quite well.

Because they'd actually made a hole in my brain I had to spent another couple of days completely flat. It wasn't a particularly pleasant time. The change in brain pressure caused the poor organ to freak out a bit so that I apparently didn't always make a lot of sense, and I had a reaction to the Tramadol I was on. I had some extremely unpleasant auditory hallucinations. It sounded for all the world like there were flies buzzing around in my head. Plus I was on such a high dose of my cortisol medication post-surgery that I was completely unable to sleep.

Thankfully my cortisol medication was dropped just enough to finally enable me to get a little sleep. I also took myself off the Tramadol and the hallucinations gradually eased. To my surprise I was hauled off for another CT scan which showed the procedure seemed to be working and my ventricles were returning to a normal size. With no signs of any brain bleed I was slowly allowed up and, with the exception of a brief vertigo attack, I was able to convince the physio and occupational therapist to let me go home. Question from the physio "So, what kind of activity do you usually do?" My response: "OK, really?" followed by a brief description. He decided I'd probably be fine after that! I mean I was at the gym doing shuttle runs and burpees the night before I was admitted to hospital FFS! And yes, hello stupid!

So now I'm home with seven clips in my skull and some reducing brain-pressure related disassociation. All things considered I'm feeling remarkably good. However obviously the Taupo Cycle Challenge is off, Rotorua is off. I'm feeling bad about being so hard on myself over the last few weeks when there was obviously something wrong. I don't know how many months my shunt's been blocked, as the pressure builds up gradually so it could have been affecting my training for some time. All I know is that it's good to know I came second to last in our time trial for a reason!

My plans now ... well, I don't think I should really have any because I have no idea how long I'm going to take to return to normal. I just wish I could have the very cute hospital physio as my very own to develop my comeback plan! I think I should probably just take the next couple of months to get better and enjoy myself and slowly rebuild the muscle I lost lying around in bed not eating. Sigh!

I'm feeling so much better that I'm contemplating a little time on a stationary bike next week, and then some walking with a little running thrown in after that. I'll get a PT to throw a rehab weights programme together for me so that I don't completely lose my muscle. Once the wound in my head heals I'll be back in the pool a fair bit I think.

So, well, that's my life! How's everyone else?! Mike - planning to travel to Welly for that U2 concert? :)

Now that I'm back you'll probably be getting reasonably regular updates on my rehab. I have a new pink pair of MiAdidas and a cute pink and grey 2XU set of trishorts and singlets to try out, so you can bet I'll be wanting to get some use from them!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

An Email Exchange

On Thurs, Oct 7, 2009 at 9.05 A.M, [Pip] wrote:
I may have just died and gone to heaven
Though it would be a Leo-style "must have more, can't have more,
must have more" kinda heaven ...
http://www.pimpthatsnack.com/project/302/1
Pip
[Note: Leo was a friend's cat who was notorious for his inability to stop eating until his plate was clean, even if that plate was a bowl of melted icecream with chocolate sauce]

Husband:
and only 10,000 calories! :) (How many circuits of Taupo is that?)

Pip:
Er, that's about three times around the lake. No worries!

Leonie:
yeah Hamish, Pip can do that BEFORE breakfast, then go back and run it twice before lunch!

Nic:
But would she have the mega-egg for breakfast (between the cycle and the runs) or before? or after?
and how many times could she so around if she put 10 shots of espresso in it?
[Note: I'm also notorious for my extreme reaction to caffeine]

Pip:
Definitely not for breakfast- too much sugar and it would cause serious gastro issues! I'm contemplating whether it would be possible to pour some of the fondant into the feedbag on my top tube, every now and then reaching in and scooping some out instead of sucking down gels on the bike. The chocolate would melt in my shirt pockets, and that would just be nasty. For similar reasons it wouldn't be terribly portable on the run, but I imagine that, combined with a little chocolate milk, the egg would make a great recovery meal.

Give a calorie intake target of only around 200 calories per hour during exercise though, and even allowing for around 600 calories of recovery meal intake, there'd still be plenty of egg left over for my supporters!

And I'm now wondering how I ever wound up in a universe where I sit at my desk on a Thurday morning calculating calories burned during exercise versus the calorific contents of a giant Cadbury crème egg and its nutritional value.

Pip: (a few minutes later)
Thinking about it, I'd probably be able to add 5k per hour in speed on the bike per shot of coffee, and drop 30 seconds per kilometre on the run (these are genuine calculations, btw). I'm sure if I thought about it I could calculate the reduced calories burned as a result of the reduced exercise time resulting from the coffee intake, but I should really stop now and get some work done ...

Leonie:
Picture me LMAO right now

Friday, August 14, 2009

Another Poem


I'm having a bit of a rethink about the direction of this blog. I'm toying with the idea of leaving Blogger for greener shores, and broadening out the scope of my posts. If I do so then I'll be making a commitment to post more often and more widely. I'll finally get around to creating that blog roll and I'll be posting on a variety of topics. If I decide to make the switch I'll start posting more commentary and more links to other sites. There'll still be the training posts most of you read this blog for at the moment. However there will also be a return to more regular poetry posts. If I get my act together I'll be posting on the issues that are important to me, and I'll be posting on daily life and happenings here in Wellington.


In the meantime, here's another (still very draft) poem! This was inspired a few weeks back by a news article stating that the current government is looking at loosening up the rules around overseas investment in New Zealand.


That Which Was Ours


They came across the border
when our eyes were averted,
too busy looking inwards
to notice the attack from outside.

They took us on the beaches
first of all, our defences weak,
their firepower stronger.

While we were still dusting the
sand from our arms and gathering
together the possessions we had
clutched to ourselves as we
scrambled to retreat they
turned on our utilities.

Before we knew it our
water and our power
were no longer our own,
left begging at the
doors of strangers to
cook our last suppers,
scraping together cash
to pay for enough light
to see as we tucked our
children into their beds.

But it will all be ok, they
crooned to us, as we lined up
to fill buckets so we could
heat water for our weekly baths.
You see, things are more efficient
this way. Your dollars
are still your own.

So we sat on cliff tops
looking down at the waves below
us while we sipped on Pepsi and
Bud, unable to afford to drink
what used to flow freely from
our taps. We kept bees for
the wax and felled trees from
the local reserve
for firewood.

That which was what ours
was not truly quantified
until it was listed on the
asset sheets of those that
came.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's all about performance


You know you're a cycling geek when you find yourself laughing hysterically at a video like this! Although I had a few twinges of feminist guilt at doing so ...

Anyway, funnily enough it IS all about performance. At least, it's all about this Sunday. If certain other Wellington bloggers hadn't already posted their own ambitious goals (you know who you are) I wouldn't be feeling my own performance angst. It doesn't help that my last race attempt was a dismal failure.

So, the game plan is to just go out there and run the race that plays out on the day. That could mean just finishing, or it could mean hardening up and sprinting it. I have no idea! My training has been more consistent this time around and I'm feeling more tapered. I ran a good solid 6km on Tuesday at a pace Dave thinks I can maintain, and 4km today at what was supposed to be easy, but was a bit faster than that. However ....

Anyway, it's not like I can do anything now other than continue to try to put myself in the right frame of mind.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Inspiration

A Poem

Because it's been a while. This poem was a response to a Read Write Poem prompt. I have also recently written a second poem, a response to an article on the current government's plans to open up international investment regulations. Unfortunately I thought I'd emailed to my hoe address, but apparently not. Posting it will have to wait for another day. Neither are my best work, but it was so good to be putting pen to paper again that I think it's still worth having them online.

Spooky

When the cancer

spread to his brain he

began seeing five cent

coins on the floor.

My uncle spent hours

on all fours groping around

for the invisible currency,

keeping him happy.

After he died the same

coins materialised

in the corners of

our bedrooms and

sat gleaming on

our desks, shelves and

coffee tables,

gleaming in the

twilight, winking up

at us from the floor.



Sunday, August 02, 2009

Diversifying

Well, I'm ashamed to admit that yesterday's ride left me feeling remarkably shattered. Only 50k, but much hillier than anything I've done of late. So come 1.30 and facing stupidly gusty winds, predications of rain and thunder storms and general lethargy, I did, in fact, not go riding with Dee. Nor did I do that 18k I was supposed to be running.

So what did I do? I downloaded 90 minutes of kicking RPM tracks onto my iPod, then drove in to town to Extreme and sat on one of their old yellow spin bikes for a bit of a pain fest. Yes, I had a grin on my face the whole time, and yes, sweat was dripping down my face.

I'm sure everyone else on level 4 thought I was insane, but hey, a girl's gotta do what she's gotta do. I'll just run that 18k tomorrow instead!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Fronting Up

I've written before about my complicated relationship with cycling. I have a tendency to talk myself out of really putting the effort in. I hate riding in the wind and at the start of a long ride my mind can sometimes get the better of me. I'm slow and I have a loathing of getting spat out the back of the pack.

Dee's been nagging me for ages to ride with her and the SANZ pack. Unfortunately, the first time she invited me along, she warned me that they were fast. Game over as far as I was concerned! Except that it's about time to start gearing up for Taupo again, and I have some serious goals for this year's ride. It's time I stopped making excuses for myself and laid it on the line. I need to stop holding back. I need to take a few risks, put myself out there, see what happens.

Which is how I ended up getting up this morning to meet Dee at Freyberg at 7.40a.m. (on a Saturday morning!!!) for a SANZ ride. If I hadn't told everyone there was no way I was backing out then I would have, er, backed out. Yesterday the weather forecasts were for galeforce winds and showers. I wasn't going to give way to my wimp tendencies though, so I sucked it up, got dressed, and headed off in the half-light to meet her.

The fast pack was planning to ride out to Porirua then through Titahi Bay and back to Wellington via the Haywards. Some of the slower riders were planning on turning back at Porirua. There was a girl there who hadn't ridden in a bunch before, and who was not feeling confident she could keep up at all, so I was quite happy to say I'd turn round at Porirua with her if she felt the need. I was talking myself out of the full ride and I hadn't even started.

It was windy as we set out, but it could have been worse. I quickly found myself at the back and as we headed up Ngaio Gorge it started raining. My sunglasses started to fog up and I battled my way to the first meet-up point. The new girl had turned around already, so it was up to me to keep up with the slower of the regular riders. I was cold and wet but my legs hadn't felt too bad on the way up the Gorge, so I was willing to see what would happen.

I ended up riding down the hill to Johnsonville with a lone rider, Chris. I'm incredibly grateful to him for sticking with me. We were only 100m or so behind the main slow pack, but in the wet I wasn't feeling confident enough to push it around the corners hard enough to keep up. We rode towards Kenepuru, expecting to regroup in Porirua, but when we got there we couldn't find the other riders, and when we got onto the Expressway they were nowhere in sight.

Wet, cold, separated from the pack. Chris made the decision for me, and we turned right at the turnoff to the police college and started climbing back up towards Johnsonville. At that point I was feeling slightly disappointed, and had we been in sight of the others I think I would have gone all the way to the Haywards. I was certainly feeling ok and could easily have gone the distance. And when I say I was the slowest of the slow pack I was still sitting on around 30kmph (in the wind and the rain and the cold), so I wasn't a slug, just a little out of my league.
I wasn't eating enough so the ride back towards Ngaio wasn't quite as powerful as it could have been, but then we were on our way back down the gorge and I was again focussing on cornering downhill and not sliding out in the wet. I was covered in road-gunge from sitting on Chris's wheel the whole way. My shoes were sodden, my feet were cold, and I wasn't wearing my leg warmers so my knees were bright pink from the cold. However I was feeing remarkably upbeat. I knew I could have gone the whole way and I was proud of myself for getting out there at all.

We settled in at Bordeaux with our hot chocolates and eventually we were joined by the others, all looking like they'd been out mountain biking rather than road riding. We were all mud covered and soaked. I sat there in my happy little bubble, knowing that I'd actually gotten out there and done it, and loving my bike all over again.

So I'm supposed to be running 18k tomorrow, tapering for the Five Bridges half marathon. However Dee is riding from Freyberg at 2, and I can't resist coming along. If need be I'll run after work on Monday. Cleo and I are going to get back out there again, and I can't wait!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

She's Back

Saturday: 70 minute hill run up to the turbine and back, two hour bike ride
Sunday: 27k run
Monday: Upper body weights
Tuesday: RPM class and fast, flat 8k run
Wednesday: Lower body weights and 60 minute hill run
Thursday: Full body weights circuit and interval run (8 x 200m with 90 second rests)

I feel like I'm back! I also feel like I've earned tomorrow's rest day. My legs are certainly letting me know that it's been a while since I did any serious lower body weights. It's a good kind of pain though.

Oh, and it's spring. It's really, truly spring! I thought it felt a bit that way when I was running around Wadestown in the twilight after work on Wednesday night. However today's circuits of the sports field under a warm sun in the Botanical Gardens, to the chorus of tui and the scent of new flowers, confirmed it. The Northerly's back too, and will probably stay till the end of summer. Who cares though when it's that gorgeous out?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

So Much to Catch Up On!


So I won't even try right now. Remind me to tell you about my 22km adventure trying to run round South Auckland and getting more than a little lost, and about my failed attempt at the Harbour Capital half marathon.

My running's been a bit up and down. I had a few brilliant weeks but over the last couple I plateaued and then started to feel a little burned out. It's safe to say I'm on the comeback trail. I am ready to shift focus a little bit though and am looking forward to spending more time on my bike as I gear up for my second go at the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge.

The weather this winter has been too awful for a wimp like me to spend much time on my bike. I get cold too easily and I've been spending a lot of Saturday mornings doing two RPM classes in a row. Steven was filling in for Stefan for a few weeks and that was enough to keep me entertained, then last Saturday I assumed the weather would be bad, only to discover afterwards that I'd cheated myself out of a perfect Wellington winter day - crisp, windless and sunny. Things only got worse on Sunday when I had to skip riding with Dee to go to a film festival movie (which, in itself wasn't a bad thing, as we saw Ponyu, which I thoroughly enjoyed).

After the film I had planned to run 17km, but as I set out I could just tell it wasn't going to happen. The weather truly was stunning and I should have been on top of the world. Instead I was in a foul mood and muttering darkly as I dodged the many thousands of men, women, children and small dogs clogging the footpaths around Oriental Bay. My legs felt leaden and I realised that my foul mood was a sign that I needed a rest. I ran 8km and called it a day.

I managed 12km on Monday night, on another beautiful evening. I was overtaken soon after Balaena Bay by a tall lanky guy who then just settled into a good pace around 10 metres ahead of me. He kept me honest and I drafted off him to Hataitai Bay, when it was time to turn around. He slowed to chat for the last 100m and I seriously considered staying with him all the way to Lyall Bay then returning via Happy Valley for that 17km I'd missed the day before. However I'd used up quite a bit of energy chasing him and I crawled slowly back to the gym, struggling to maintain a 5.45 pace. So much for a fast run, but I know I hadn't eaten much that day, and that probably had a lot to do with it.

Things got better on Tuesday, with Dee's RPM class in the morning. On Wednesday I was going to do 70 minutes of hills, but found out from my manager as I was about to leave that there was a chance the Bill I've been working on for the last three years might be going back into the house that night. I dashed home for some food and spent the evening watching Parliamentry television online in case I needed to head back into town. Unfortunately at 8.15 it was clear we weren't going anywhere, so I got changed out of my work clothes and headed sulkily off to bed.

On Thursday the weather descended. Outside it poured with rain and the wind rose to gale force. I admonished myself for my lack of general hardness as I retreated to the gym for a treadmill interval session, however the day's rest had done my legs some good and my usual pace felt like a walk in the park. I threw in one extra 200m interval, kicked it hard, and felt my mood lift instantly. Unfortunately that didn't translate into renewed hardness on Friday, when I was planning to do that 70 minutes of hills I'm missed on the Wednesday. So, our team may have started drinking around 4.30. Once upon a time I would have not joined in, or I would have had one small drink then run anyway. That particular Friday night? Not so much!

So I felt like I had something to prove to myself when I woke up on Saturday to another of those stunning Wellington winter mornings. I wanted to get that 70 minutes of hills in, and I wanted to ride. Once upon a time I used to put this exercise stuff ahead of most everything else, and I wasn't pleased with the choices I've been making of late. It was time to show myself what I was made of.

So it was that on Saturday morning I set off from my house in Mornington, up the small hill to the Ridgway, down Mornington Rd and then up to the intersection in Brooklyn. From there it was all about the hill. Swinging left up Todman I told myself it didn't matter how slow I was going, I just had to keep moving. So move I did. Someone once told me parts of Todman reach a 20% gradient. I have no idea how accurate that is, I just know it's steep. I used to live in a house on Mitchell Street that was also accessed from a set of stairs off Todman. I remember how hard I used to find even walking up there, so now the fact that I can run it, well, it makes me happy!

Which isn't to say I was loving that climb of course, though coming across a pair of starlings who, um, obviously thought it was spring did prove somewhat distracting. That said it was a relief to turn into Karepa and run on the flat for a couple of minutes before turning left into Ashton Fitchett. When I got to the turnoff to the turbine I decided to run up the track alongside the Sanctuary. I had, however, forgotten how steep and nasty sections of it are. There are three or four short, serious hill climbs, followed by the type of slippery, muddy descent designed to make you end up on your butt or kill your quads.

A few years ago I could barely walk that track. Now I had Jo and Dave on my shoulders, one in each ear, whispering "shuffle, shuffle, shuffle". I was moving slowly, not much faster than the woman I came upon halfway up, but I was moving damn it! I ran nearly all of that track, except for the second to last little hill when my calf muscles caught fire and I just had to turn around and stand there for a few seconds to calm them down. The beauty of those hills though is that, although they're stupidly steep they're also short. Interval training for the crazy ... and I guess I'm crazy!

The reward, of course, other than the absolute and very beautiful silence on the climb, is the view from the Turbine. I haven't been up there since they started installing the West Wind turbines, so I spent a few minutes admiring them as they spun slowly in the distance, then turned and looked out over the flat, calm harbour. I considered continuing upwards towards the radar station, but that would have taken me over my allotted 70 minutes, and I really did want to get out on Cleo, so I ran back down to Brooklyn via the road. The camber was awful, so I think I'll try to avoid going that way again in the future.

When I got back to Karepa I turned left and ran down Apuka etc, then back to Brooklyn and back up Mornington Rd towards home. I felt great the whole way and Mornington Rd felt like nothing at all. I flew up there! I reached our mail box right on 70 minutes. Perfect!

I sent off a round of txts inviting everyone I could think of to meet me at Freyberg at 2 for a ride, then I grabbed some lunch. It wasn't even worth showering. I just threw on my riding gear and put Cleo in the car and set off. Unfortunately I ended up being a solitary rider, but for once I didn't mind. I was mindful I was supposed to be running 27km today and I wasn't expecting my legs to be up to much after the climb. Instead I decided to sit on 28kmph (slightly less into the wind, slightly more out of it) and just treated it as a fun spin. I didn't do anything more than ride around the Bays, up to Brooklyn via Happy Valley, and down through town (where the traffic was insaannnnneeeeee) back to Freyberg again. Just enough to make me feel like I'd done something, not enough to make me feel too worn out. It was truly beautiful out there and the snow on the Kaikouras was stunning.

I focussed on my downhill technique coming down Brooklyn Hill, forcing myself to lean properly into the corners and keeping my hands off the brakes as much as possible, and was happy with my effort. I was also happy with clipping in and out of the still newish pedals. Given that I was cruising I was able to concentrate on keeping my heels down. My saddle was feeling slightly too low, which doesn't make sense given that we raised it when I bought the Looks, but if it still doesn't feel right after another couple of rides I'll take it in to Pennys and see what Shane has to say.

On Saturday night I was filled with the kind of euphoric mood which reminded me of why I like the longer workouts so much. Being out there for that long just puts me in a good frame of mind. I also regained some of that sense of being hard core. All that Vitamin D probably helped as well. I was in my happy place until I fell sleepily into bed not long after 10.

I had a few things to get done today, so it was 2.00 before I could head out for my 27km run. As always I had to do a major job on myself to get myself out the door, even going so far as to promise myself I could pull out after 8km if I felt bad (though that would mean running 27km after work tomorrow), and starting off with the descent down Farnham Street to ease into it. I'd been so cold sitting around the house that I'd jumped into the shower to warm up before getting into my running gear.

I was still feeling pretty neutral about running long as I jogged down towards Island Bay. I was having to give myself a bit of a talking to and also having to make myself slow down. Plus my legs were feeling a bit heavy from the previous day's exertions. By the time I turned left onto the Southern Coast though I was telling myself I was in for the long haul. Suck it up buttercup. You're going all the way!

All the way, in theory, meant out to Breaker Bay and back. However by the time I got to Lyall Bay it was clear that there was too much traffic on the road for me to feel comfortable running past Moa Point where the footpath finishes. So I set off on an adventure. I had a cash card, a Snapper (bus) card and a mobile phone. I decided I'd just run and see where I ended up. I turned left at the last roundabout and kept going.

Where I ended up turned out to be a little lost. I turned down a street I thought would set me off towards Cobham, only to be confronted with a big hill. Huh? I turned in a different direction and ended up running through an underpass below the airport runway. Cool! Oh well, at least I knew where I was now. Can't get lost running alongside the runway!

Onto Cobham Drive and round to the city. Now I was looking at my Garmin and trying to estimate where I would have to run to make up 27km. I decided the best tactic was to head to the railway station then run back to Kent Terrace and then up to Newtown and Berhampore. If I timed it right I could finish at the dairy opposite the BP on Adelaide Rd, then walk back up Farnham to home.

I was running with three bottles of Peak Fuel in my fuel belt, some Natural Confectionary Company lollies and a Leppin gel. I ended up not using the Leppin, drinking all of the Peak Fuel and three of the lollies. If I'd started to feel my energy levels dropping I would have downed the gel, but I've hated the taste of Leppin ever since the marathon. I wanted to avoid it unless I absolutely needed it!

To my delight I found that I got stronger as the run went on. Around 1.5 hours in I slipped into a nice little happy place where the mind chatter turned positive and my legs were just powering along without me needing to nag them. I found (oops) that I was running sub-six's. Random ... I really started to enjoy myself.

As I'd planned, I ran to the railway station then turned back and ran to the pedestrian crossing outside Vista near Oriental Bay, then continued up Kent. Of course now I was having to stop for traffic lights, which I found infuriating. I was also running up a very slight incline. It was now mostly uphill all the way home.

Round the Basin, up Adelaide Rd. Up, up, up to the top of that potentially soul-destroying hill. I'm not saying I beat any speed records going up there. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Truly. Down, past the dairy and, in a true demonstration of willpower, past Britomart Street and back DOWNHILL towards Island Bay. Only when the Garmin told me to did I turn around and run BACK to the dairy, where I bought water and chocolate milk and walked slowly back up Farnham towards home. That chocolate milk was possibly the best recovery drink ever ...

So, around six hours of exercise this weekend and yes, I am definitely back in my happy place. The more time I spent out there, the better I feel. The trick of course is to not get carried away and burn myself out. The riding will help with that. Once this half marathon is out of the way I expect it will be a case of maintaining the running as we start to focus on the bike again and on swimming.

There have been times of late where I've felt a little lost, and when I've doubted my commitment. I'm still here though. I just need a few more weekends like the one I've just had to remind myself of that. It's been what, three years? More now? Not every week can end on a high note. Life isn't always a journey of discovery. Sometimes it's just a case of getting out there again and again and keeping the faith that there's still some point to it all. This weekend was that point. Lesson learned. Time to go to bed!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'll be back soon, I promise

In the meantime, enjoy this satirical take on 'nutritionists'. Sadly, it's funny because of how accurate it is.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Enviro Schools

I deliberately don't blog politics here, most of the time. There are others out there who mix blogging and work, but I don't feel comfortable crossing that line. Which isn't to say that I deal with environmental issues at work, but the video below takes a particular political stance, against policies held by the current government. I'm ok with saying "hey, I support green policies", which is why I raise them here occasionally. Anything more than that though and I might have to consider how much I can really say. That bugs me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A few more ramblings

This post is probably going to be a little rambling, so please bear with me. A workmate commented today after reading on Facebook about yet another of my runs that I was a rock star. My response was that I wasn't a rock star so much as someone who was a touch obsessive, stubborn, goal focussed and in possession of an unfortunately high pain tolerance.

The truth is, I do this stuff because I love it. Sure, not every workout is enjoyable. Sometimes I hurt. In fact I often hurt. Sometimes I get injured. Sometimes I get tired or just want to blob out at home in the warm. However the joy I get when the training is going well is worth a bit of discomfort to keep pushing on through.

I've shuffled things around a bit this week, but I'm feeling really great about my training. With the exception of an 8km flat run which I will do on Friday, I've ticked all the boxes on my workout calendar. What's more, every run, if not every workout, has been outstanding. There are times when I feel like such a newbie at all this, like I'm still such a total beginner. Sure, I ran a marathon this year, but I've yet to clock a half marathon in under two hours. I've only ever run that distance that fast in training. My fastest official 10km time is still only a slowpoke 59 minutes, even though I know I'm capable of much better than that and routinely mark 55 minutes over the distance on my Garmin on medium-paced training runs.

I ran the marathon, then immediately understood what I had to do to improve. I'm continuing to open up new doors as I start exploring the opportunities that trail running can provide. There's still so much I want to do, so much I want to achieve. I want to tick off a 24 minute 5km, a half marathon in under 1.55 (preferably closer to 1.50), a marathon in close to four hours. There are so many off road races I could get involved in.

Until this year I've been held back by a succession of injuries. Every time I got close to my desired run fitness something else would go. I'm not sure what's changed now, but I suspect it's partly a matter of accumulated distance. My body's finally catching up with my aspirations. It is finally strong enough and acclimatised enough to cope with everything I want to subject it to. That's not to say that I'm pain free. I will always need to watch my dodgy hip, ensure that I stretch everything that has a tendency towards tightness, monitor my ankles. An important part of staying mobile is being able to recognise, as I did following my peak week of marathon training, when my body needs a break and would benefit from some time out of running shoes. As much as I beat myself up for not completing all of Dave's programme, I know that, had I not taken it easy while in the South Island, I might not have made it to the start line. As it was I turned up feeling slightly undercooked, but in physically better shape than I might otherwise have been. My hip was feeling decidedly grumpy, but I wasn't completely destroyed.

Somehow something seems to be clicking right now. It's not just this sense that my body is finally catching up. It's also that I seem to be in a place right now where I'm prepared to start upping the ante a little. Running with Jo is great. She kicks my butt, keeps me honest and pushes me way past my comfort zone. As a result I'm starting to run my solo runs with her on my shoulder. What does a week with a phantom running companion look like?

Well, the week started a little slowly but gathered momentum. Last week I missed a 7km fast run (doing Dee's Friday RPM instead) and I still had this vague idea that I wanted to make it up. However there was the added issue of a bit of a cold, which was going to my ears and causing me some discomfort. There were also my plans for Saturday night - a Fly My Pretties concert at the St James. Dave had me down to run 3 Peaks on Sunday morning, but I didn't want to go out Saturday night then have to get up at 6.30am on a wintery Sunday to chase Jo on the trails for nearly three hours. Besides, I really couldn't face the idea of a whole weekend without a sleep in, and the cold was getting worse.

I had booked into two RPM classes on Saturday and sweated my way through them next to Julia. The first class was a little lacklustre but my legs loosened up and I was cranking it by the end of the second. Fly My Pretties were excellent, and I slept solidly afterwards, waking on Sunday morning at around the time I should have been setting out from the Harriers clubrooms with two very blocked and sore ears and a running nose.

By mid-afternoon I decided that, if I wasn't in physical shape for a two plus hour run, I could at least do 7km. It wasn't going to be a fast, flat 7km run, not unless I drove into town, but I figured an undulating 7km would do. That resulted in the surprisingly good run described in my last post (and the bloodied, bruised knees).

On Monday the cold had mysteriously vanished, and my ears were clear. I threw myself with gusto into my LBN workout then sat at my desk in my running gear, psyching myself up for the two hour run I should have done the day before. I figured that I needed to throw in at least one decent hill climb, given that I should have been running up Hawkins Hill et al. I wasn't going to be running trails, not in the dark, but I decided to run up Mt Vic and then go from there.

I cruised out to Carlton Gore and then it was just up, up and up again. I'm sure it felt much easier this time than it did a couple of weeks ago. I ran to the bottom of the steps that lead to the lookout, but it was so dark I stopped to walk the steps and path. Falling over the day before had seriously dented my confidence in my ability to stay upright.

It was really, as mentioned, really really dark and the lookout was completely deserted. As I was walking up the path someone came running up behind me. I had brief thoughts about my blatant disregard for personal safety, but I also figured that a guy who could run the path at the speed this one was had better things to do than attack me. We ended up chatting for a few minutes at the top about running the hills of Wellington before we both set off in our respective directions. He liked the fact there was no lighting, which to me marks a major difference between the genders. He didn't need to worry anywhere near as much as I did that someone might jump out of the bushes at him.

The view from the top of Mt Vic was stunning on this clear, cold night. However I didn't want to push my luck and, still completely alone, I ran through the carpark and down the other side of lookout road back to Alexandra. The complete lack of company was eerie. Not one car graced the mountain top. I couldn't even see that clearly as I approached Alexandra Rd, and the first couple of hundred metres of Alexandra Rd itself were decidedly dicey. My lack of confidence in my ability to keep my footing slowed me considerably, and I'm not running that way again without a head lamp.

I had been nursing vague thoughts of running via Hawker Street and then along Austin, but of course I went the wrong way and ended up running back the way I came down Carlton Gore. Undeterred I ran towards the city and up Majoribanks, so got to do Austin after all.

I was still feeling good by this point, not at all tired and in a tranquil zone on what had become a beautiful evening. When I got to the Basin I swung left up Adelaide Rd, then right again and back into town via Wallace and Taranaki. From the bottom of Taranaki I ran back along the waterfront to the railway station then up Bowen and back to the gym. All up just slightly under two hours. A far hillier run than I would have done without Jo on my shoulder, and I still felt good at the end.

I was up early the next morning for Dee's RPM class, and this week it was my quads hurting, not my hamstrings. Once again it took a significant part of the class to loosen up. Undeterred however I was adamant I wanted to fit in another run that day. I knew I was pushing it a bit given the longer run the night before, but I wanted to get it done.

I had planned to do an 8km fast, flat run, though given my quads I wasn't sure how fast I would be going. However the weather conspired against me. A common theme emerged amongst my running friends as the day went on. As the temperatures dropped and the weather stations started reporting a windchill factor of -1 we all started talking about making a rare foray into the world of treadmill running.

I was NOT prepared to do 8km on a treadmill, so intervals it was. That wasn't ideal given the long run the night before, but they were only baby intervals - three sets of two minutes of hard effort, thirty minutes of running all up. I jumped on the treadmill and off I went. My quads were still sore, but they didn't really slow me as much as I'd expected. I was slightly conservative with the first interval but my heartrate didn't even hint at spiking. Castigating myself as I watched my heartrate plunge during the rest period, I cranked it up a bit more for the second block. It lifted a little more but still wasn't where I wanted it. Feeling good I seriously kicked the last interval. As the treadmill belt flashed beneath me my knees lifted, my rear foot shoved off, propelling me forwards. I was finding major air with each stride. I was really running! My heart was thumping but I felt fantastic.

Not wanting to sound repetitive, but the theme continued today. Another hardcore LBN workout, followed by another run. This time it was 50 minutes of hills. My quads were still killing me, but I set off up Grant Rd at a good pace. The first ten minutes were a case of trying to block out the pain of the cold temperatures, but while it was freezing there was no wind, and once I started climbing I warmed up a bit. My arms and legs were bright red by the time I'd finished though.

Up Grant Rd and then, at Sarah's suggestion, I headed right along Barnard Street. I had said that I wanted views and she assured me that I'd get them. She was right - the views were stunning, as were the houses. The traffic hummed past far below me while the harbour reflected a myriad of city lights. This was urban running in Wellington at its absolute best.

Finishing my loop I ran all the way up to the top of Wadestown, then up onto Wadestown Rd. I was still feeling fantastic, so I pumped my arms and floored it down Wadestown Rd, probably scaring the life out of the dozens of pedestrians walking the other direction. What part of 'keep left' do these people not understand? Onto Grant Rd, scenting the end of the run. I got to the bottom of Wadestown Rd in around 42 minutes, so knew I'd be close to 50 by the time I got back to the office. I made myself keep the pressure on up and down all of Grant Rd's undulations, then really floored it up Tinakori. I passed a male runner as we passed Government house, skipped across the pedestrian crossing and redlined it to Bowen. I flew even faster down Bowen and caught the lights onto the Terrace, making myself hold that pace all the way to my building. As I stopped I hit the Garmin. 49:28.

Now, I'm a little puzzled at the time, but I think it gives a true indication of how far I've come with my hill climbing in the last few weeks. I'm fairly certain that a month or two ago it took me 45 minutes to run that route, without the Barnard Street loop thrown in. So I've somehow added quite a long detour and somehow ended up with only an extra four minutes of running time.

Do you see why I think things are clicking right now? I seem to be in a place where I am again physically and mentally ready to push myself and to step it up another level.

Sorry, that was indeed rambling and perhaps a little repetitive. I'll try to think up alternative ways of saying "I had a fantastic run today". Rest day tomorrow, which is probably just as well!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ironic

After managing to stay upright over the last few weeks on muddy, step and uneven trails, I manage to totally faceplant on a, to all appearances, flat stretch of footpath about 100 metres from home. To my credit I did it in spectacular fashion - falling like a felled tree straight over at speed. I even managed to fall about 20 metres in front of a woman I'd just overtaken. If you're going to make an idiot of yourself you might as well do it in style and with witnesses!

On the positive side, despite being full of a cold and therefore postponing my two plus hour run, I found a fantastic new 7km hilly loop today, which I can run from home. It all started as I stood at the lights in Brooklyn and thought "hmmm, perhaps I should give running up Todman a go". That led to running left onto Mitchell past the house we rented when we first moved here, and then right onto Karepa. I overtook a guy along Karepa but he turned up Ashton Fitchett toward the turbine. My fluid-filled ears weren't cooperating with elevation climbs and were becoming increasingly blocked, so I skipped the larger climb and ran back down to Brooklyn via Helen Street, down Brooklyn Hill to Washington, and then back along Washington Ave/Mills Rd etc to home. All up some decent hillage and beautiful views.

I'm hoping my lungs will be a little clearer tomorrow so that I can fit a few more climbs into a long run. I'm surprised I climbed as well as I did today given my state of grottiness!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

But what if I don't want lemonade?

Bah. So I had that fantastic 80 minute run, got up the next morning and did Dee's 6.30am RPM, and by Tuesday afternoon my hamstrings were mutinying. I had enough sense not to attempt a fast 7km run!

I limped my way through Wednesday's LBN workout, but knew I was in trouble when my hamstrings forced me to stagger my way through warmup laps of the gym studio. It seems I was suffering the DOMS of doom.

The weights circuit wasn't too bad, even if my form during the squats was laughable. Unfortunately we followed that up with a 15 minute cardio block (5,5,5). Sitting on an exercycle I watched my heartrate lift a little more than I would have expected. I monitored it on the treadmill and, rather than sprinting, I set it to a recovery pace. My heartrate cooperated, and so I pushed it again on the crosstrainer.

I was still feeling sore after work that evening, but I was grimly determined to get through my 45 minute hill run, even if it meant running more slowly than usual. I did the same loop I did a week ago - up Bowen, Tinakori and Glenmore, through the Karori tunnel, over and down into Aro Valley, through the park and back along the Terrace again. Even though I felt like I was taking it easy it only took one minute longer. I ran up the stairs I'd walked up last week (mainly because this week I knew what was coming and was confident of my footing in the dark). As I was passing the Mercure Hotel it started pelting down and I howled in frustration then ran up the hill to the corner of the Terrace and Salamanca a little faster than planned. All up it was a surprisingly good run, and my hamstrings are on the way to recovery.

Unfortunately it seems I may indeed have pushed it too hard over Monday/Tuesday after all, and today I woke with a little bit of a cold. I'm fighting it off and it's really nothing more than a bit of a dripping nose, but it's annoying. I'm not sure why I'm feeling it all so badly. Sure, my exercise intensity was up a little bit, but it's nothing I haven't had on my schedule before.

I'm supposed to be running a very hilly 2+ hour race on Sunday, but the forecast isn't good and I'm reserving judgement till I work out what this cold has in store. I did, however, enter the Harbour Capital half on 28 June. Dave wants me to run it at a slow pace. Yeah right. What he doesn't know won't hurt him!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Note to self ...

No matter how cruddy life can get you will sometimes still set out after work for the 80 minute run you should have done on Sunday, except for the fact that you got home at 4am, woke at 1pm and spent the whole day sitting in front of the heater recovering.  

You will decide to ignore your Garmin when it tells you how fast you are, and you will run by feel.  It will be dark and crisp, because this is winter, but it will be unusually, perfectly still.  You will quickly realise that you feel better than you have any right to.  You will be just starting to decide that you might perhaps survive this run.

And then you will round Pt Jerningham and there, across that calm flat harbour, a new moon will be rising huge and golden over Mt Crawford.  And you will want to stop dead in your tracks to just admire the beauty, but you will keep going because it seems a shame to waste the good momentum you have built up.

You will run the whole way to Evans Bay gaping at the gorgeous moon.  You will want to comment to people walking past about the gorgeousness, but you don't want to seem crazy, so you hold your tongue.  And when you get to Evans Bay and hit the lap button you are pleasantly surprised by your lap pace.  

You will lose sight of the moon as you head over the saddle to Newtown.  You decide at the last moment to run around the Basin rather than through it, and then something will compel you to swing right up Ellis Street.  When you get to Austin you will marvel at how easy that hill now seems, remembering how much of a mission it was a couple of years ago.  You will storm along the undulating Austin, and a woman walking by will tell you you are doing a good job.  

You will turn down Majoribanks and unfortunately by the time you think to yourself that you should run up Hawker you are already past and the moment is gone.  Instead you run back towards Oriental Bay and Martin Bosley's before turning around.  As you head back around Te Papa there is the moon again, this time resting above the eastern flanks of Mt Vic.  

You will run gladly back towards the gym, respecting the strength in your legs and your continued freshness.  The little climb up Bowen to the Terrace will feel like nothing.  You will go back into the gym, stretch, and chat to the friends you bump into there.

You will catch a bus home, eat a great dinner, drink a glass of wine ...

And you will remember why it is you run.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Reasons why I would one day like to do an Ironman

Because there are women who can finish like this, and who almost make it seem easy and fun ...


Monday, June 01, 2009

Pip Goes Trail Running in Arctic Wellington

Epic.  There is only one word that will do it.  Today's run was epic.  

I'm not ashamed to say that I was dragged kicking, screaming and weeping into today's run.  Jo rang at 10am when I was still in bed and I did NOT want to say yes. I wanted to stay in bed.  I wanted to be warm and fed and lazy and snuggled up with husband and cats.  So why did I say yes?  Because I am insane, a masochist, stupid.  You choose!  

So it was that I hauled myself out of bed, ate porridge, cooked and ate some kumara soup, and at 12.20 I shivered as I changed out of my nice, warm house clothes into running gear.  It was 9 degrees in the hallway.  What the heck was I doing?  By 1pm I was in the Karori recreation centre car park debating layers and donning my fuel belt.  To my surprise it wasn't as cold in Karori as I'd expected.  I'd thought the Southerly would be howling through the Western suburb.  I'd planned on wearing gloves and my merino jacket, but ditched the merino for my wind parker and decided the gloves would be excessive.  

Jo arrived and we set out on an adventure.  Today's run could be classed as an adventure because I had no clue where we were running and Jo sortof knew.  She had a (slightly inadequate) map.  That was good enough for me.  We started out aiming for Johnsons Hill.  This was probably the weakest part of the run for me.  It was steep and extremely muddy and I walked more than I would really want to admit.  

It was very windy and cold at the top but we stopped for a few moments to admire the view.  We continued along the skyline track where it only got muddier.  We had to divert from the trail a few times to get around cows reclining on the grass.  The same cows had really eaten up the track, leaving thick mud in their wake.  I wouldn't really count this first part of the run as running.  It was more a case of shuffling forwards trying not to wind up face down in cow effluent.  Surprisingly, despite a few close calls, neither Jo nor I ever hit the dirt.  

I've never run the skyline track before, though I'd heard a lot about it. The views are truly stunning, particularly of the new wind farm - a forest of elegant wind turbines in the distance.  The West wind development has been very controversial, as these things always are.  I sympathise with the Makara residents who feel they are being invaded, but I land firmly in the pro-turbine camp and find them extremely beautiful. Beyond the farm was the Sounds.  We could see that they were bathed in sunshine.  They seemed like a good place to be. 

The trail became increasingly exposed as we headed towards Makara Peak.  The trail continued to be extremely slippery, but thankfully never as muddy as that first stretch.  At times the wind caught me and threatened to send me flying, but I remained upright, which, given my lack of coordination, is a miracle.  

When we reached Makara Rd I have to admit that I looked wistfully in the direction of Karori, knowing how close I was to being back in my warm car.  Jo had other ideas however, and I was, by this point, in enough of a mood for an adventure to keep going.  We set off towards Makara Peak.  Cue another steep stretch of trails and switchbacks. but this time I managed to run nearly all of it.  

The top of Makara Peak was distinctly eerie, with the wind blowing through the transmitters creating a loud sound not unlike the signals being transmitted escaping and becoming audible.  The discordant noise followed us as we once again began to descend and were picked up by the looming power pylons.  In theory we were entering a more sheltered stretch of trail, but this wasn't reflected in my experience of rounding a corner and being thrown into the bank to my right as I got hit by a particularly enthusiastic gust.  

More mud, more down.  A little undulation. We stopped periodically to consult Jo's map and to step aside for the few mountain bikers brave enough to be out.  I was painfully aware of the Vorb message forum discussions in which runners on the Makara Peak trails are referred to in less than favourable terms.  However the cyclists we encountered were all friendly and thanked us for diving off the trail each time we encountered them.  

It became clear at some point that we were heading more for Jo's target of 2.5 hours than mine of 1 hour 45.  Jo was extremely apologetic but I was having too much fun to be worried.  It was only towards the end of the run, when we had about six kilometres to go, that I started to feel a bit over it.  I probably hadn't taken on enough fuel. I'd sipped on perhaps 250 mls of Nuun and had swallowed a couple of lollies, but the strain of running on new trails and the challenging weather conditions meant that I could probably have done with a few more calories.  I downed a gel and that helped me pull myself together for the home stretch.  

Before too long we were out of the trails and running along South Karori Rd.  I knew that we now had a couple of kilometres of uphill to go.  It may have been the gel, but I set upon a good, solid plod and sucked it up and got it done.  We even kicked it for the last 400 metres or so.  I reflected on the fact that I had in fact felt pretty strong for most of the run. The first bit up Johnson Hill had bitten hard, but most of that had been psychological.  

We ended up running for about 2.20, and it was all up a fantastic run.  It was cold, it was windy and it was muddy.  We were running in a very remote and exposed location and I realised belatedly that I'd left my phone behind, which could have meant trouble if either of us had wiped out and injured ourselves.  It was however also insanely beautiful and it made me grateful to be living here in Wellington and that I'm fit enough to be able to even attempt what I got done today.  Jo took me well out of my comfort zone, for which I'm extremely grateful.  I made it home with dried mud up my legs and dived straight into the best warm shower ever.  

I'm now sitting here with a duvet and a cider on the sofa feeling smug and happy, and a little dubious about getting up tomorrow morning for a 6.30am RPM class!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hamish saved us from ourselves

Well, at 7.30 this morning rain was being driven against the bedroom window by yet another formidable Southerly.  Hamish yet again rolled over and remarked that going for a run in the hill suburbs of Karori would be more than a little insane.  Thankfully Jo was of the same opinion.  When I got up to call her it was 10.5 degrees in the hallway and by the time I went back to bed it had dropped to 10. It's currently 8 degrees just after 4.00pm.  Outside it's reportedly 4 degrees with a windchill factor of around 0.  Needless to say, I stayed in bed until around 12, then retreated to the study by the heater.  Even so I'm wearing three layers, two being merino.  

At some stage this afternoon the rain stopped and the sun came out and I made a dash for the Brooklyn superette.  As I got there snow flurries started to fall.  While I was shopping they thickened until, when I got back to the car, the windscreen was coated in thick white ice.  It was frozen water that couldn't quite decide whether it was snow or hail, but the exact definition was beside the point.  It was freezing! Needless to say, I hurried back to the warmth of the study and have been here ever since. Various reports from around the city confirm that we would have been running through snow flurries had we ventured out.   

I had planned to head to the gym to do a short run on the treadmill, expecting the weather to be improved enough tomorrow to fit in my long run. However Dave has me down for a bonus RPM and no fast run.  So I'll do the long run tomorrow then fit the extra RPM in some time during the week - perhaps Friday.  I'm still doing all my workouts, just shuffling the days a bit.  In fact I feel like my programme's very light right now, but that's the whole point.  I'm supposed to be easing back into it, and as much as I love flogging myself I really should know by now that I can't do that all the time.

Congratulations to Nick Churchouse , who finished the Christchurch marathon in horrific conditions today in just over four hours, his first!  It was only a few short months ago that he was standing in his mother's kitchen looking horrified as we discussed my Rotorua training programme.  I didn't think he'd actually pull it together, but he managed it in style!  Congratulations too to Kathryn, my Jog Squad and Gearshifters training buddy, who also finished today, despite health and injury setbacks along the way.  I think that if hail started to fall at the start of my first marathon that I'd seriously consider heading back to the hotel for a spa!

Hamish has said he will venture out at some stage today for fish and chips.  Today has become an experiment in keeping warm via the thermogenic effect of regular food and alcohol intake.  Oops ...