Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Enforced Rest

Never let it be said that I'm lazy. Knowing that I was due to have my wisdom teeth out today and will have to rest for a few days I packed the workouts in on the two days available to me.

On Monday I put myself through a full-body circuit workout that felt hard, hard, hard. The sweat was streaming off me and the shoulder work felt much more intense than usual. Towards the end of the workout I took a look at the 8kg barbell I usually use for those particular exercises. I found myself looking at a 9kg barbell. That would explain a few things! I'm normally pretty good at catching when someone has put a weight back in the wrong place. Not that day apparently. Still, I would never have attempted the squat/lift/stepback move with a heavier weight otherwise, so I was well pleased.

After work I went out on another hot Wellington evening and ran 7km. Just lately it seems that all the runs I expect to be bad turn out to be blindingly good. In this case, with Taranaki and circuit-session fatigued legs, I had a blast. Hello quad and glute muscles, nice to see you taking part in our runs again! I kept the run flat, but I couldn't keep it slow.

I sorta lived to regret the two workouts on Tuesday morning during Dee's RPM class. It didn't help that she chose a series of very difficult tracks. Blast the Speakers for a track 2 anyone? Turn It Up for track 5 and Night Train for track 7. It wasn't until track 5 that I managed to shake my legs into a state of awakeness and actually cox them into a bit of speed and some dial.

By the time I got to Body Balance at mid-day my hamstrings and glutes were telling me all about the sets of leg press and all the squats of the day before. As I mentioned in an email to Sarah, I was hobbling like a hobbled penguin. It was, however, an unexpectedly lovely class. I arrived early and got to lie on my mat for a while listening to the music and the sound of rain falling outside the open window for the first time in ages. I was feeling great until the class (and the hurting) started. My back was still locked up from Saturday, my quads just weren't going to do any more, and my hamstrings badly needed at least three repeats of the hamstring track.

All that pain seemed minor however in the knowledge that I was finally losing four redundant teeth today. I was feeling ok about the operation, despite reading about the side effects, until I started reading a few studies questioning the value of having wisdom teeth removed when there were no obvious problems with them. Sometimes Google is not my friend!

For some reason I had a brilliant night's sleep last night, although that might have had something to do with the disrupted sleep of Monday night. Hamish decided to lock the cat door exit to try to catch a cat that has been coming into our bedroom at night and stealing our cats' food. As a result we were waking up constantly to let our own cats out as they scrablled at the door. By 1.30 Hamish decided to give up and opened the door again, only to have Tissy bring a live mouse in a few minutes later. She chased it around the hallway then brought it into our bedroom. At 2.30 I managed to catch it and throw it out the back door then it was back to bed to beg for some sleep, given that I had to be up in three hours' time. Yep, that might have had something to do with the good night's sleep last night!

The surgery was taking place at the Southern Cross Hospital in Newtown, and everyone was absolutely brilliant. I had two wonderful nurses and a very comfortable private room to myself. I got a special red band on my wrist as an alert to remind the anaesthesiologist that he needed to give me cortisol via drip, and he visited me before the surgery to reassure me. Given the horror stories I've read about the ignorance of some American specialists I was a bit anxious to make sure the correct procedures were followed!

On our way down to theatre the nurses covered me in a HEATED BLANKET. Heated blankets are the bomb! Once I was on the operating table I got a very lovely sedative and then that was it - I was out without even realising it. I had some interesting and pleasant dreams under the anaesthetic (unfortunately I can't remember the exact details) and then woke feeling very warm and cozy. That feeling lasted a few short moments before I registered the pain in my mouth, and then the post-anaesthesia shakes started up. The nurses got me a second heated blanket and wrapped another one right around my head. Bliss! As always once I was awake I was really awake, so I lay there blinking at the Filipino nurses from my cocoon until it was time to go back to my room.

It was about that time that I worked out that I could open and close both eyes simultaneously, but I couldn't blink my right eye. This was, in the context of potential facial nerve damage, a little disconcerting. One of the nurses phoned my surgeon, who was already pulling someone else's teeth, and he was quick to assure me that this was just a normal side effect of the local they'd given me. I wasn't quite sure I believed him but I was prepared to wait and see. Certainly all my pain was on my left side of my face. My right side was completely numb.

Back at the room I lay around watching television until Hamish arrived. An hour or so after the surgery my ability to blink suddenly reasserted itself, which was a great relief. Once I'd shown I could move around on my own, drink some water and eat some icecream I was allowed to leave. I spent all afternoon moving from the sofa to the study and, with the exception of one small nap, have felt disconcertingly full of energy. I suspect I'm on a cortisol high. At the anaesethesiologist's recommendation I doubled my 1.00pm dose of Hydrocortisone, though I only took my usual 5km tonight.

I have a major case of chipmunk cheek on the right side of my face and the left is catching up. The surgeon did say that the right lower tooth was the most difficult to remove, and that's where the swelling is. My left side of my mouth hurt pretty much from the moment I woke up, and the Tramidol and Panadeine have only really taken the edge off. Still, it's a steady ache that I can deal with. My right side of my face has slowly regained sensation and is now also sore, but not as sore as the left. Twelve hours after surgery I have a slight numbness where my cheek is all swollen, so I suspect that will eventually come right.

When I got home from the hospital I drank a glass of chocolate milk, which I don't normally allow myself, and it was fantastic. I ate some yoghurt a little later in the afternoon and for dinner I had soup. Unfortunately I was silly enough to eat a corn chowder for dinner and then got a bit freaked out about all the bits of corn I could imagine catching in my back teeth or getting messed up in the wounds.

The string from one of my stitches is bugging me a bit, but I can open and close my mouth ok and am generally happy. I expected my dodgy jaw to completely seize up but so far so good. I haven't even really had any bleeding.

I'm a heap better than I thought I'd be and I'm very relieved. Now I just have to get through to Tuesday for my follow-up appointment. One of the nice parts of the day was the nurses commenting on my wonderful tan and, when they put the monitor on me, on my low heart rate. Thankfully my blood pressure registered as reasonably normal. Given the stress I was feeling at the time I expected it to be sky high. It was certainly at the high end of normal, but that's where it tends to run anyway thanks to the Fludrocortisone and a family history of high blood pressure.

I'm just not quite sure how I'm going to survive the next couple of days at home without going stircrazy. You guys better all get blogging because I'm going to need the reading material!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pip Rides Round the Mountain

Well, I made it round the Yarrows Cycle Challenge today - riding over 150km round Taranaki. Just a quick post now as I'm off to New Plymouth soon for prize giving. In summary though, it was hot and it hurt. I made it round in under six hours, which was what I wanted, but I should have been a lot faster than I was. I knew right away that I wasn't quite right. My legs were missing something. I forced myself to eat and drink constantly to keep myself going. The climb from Opunake through to Kaponga was particularly nasty and I lost time here as I slowed right down. Stopping at Kaponga helped and I should have done so earlier. I got a bit of a surge after that and found someone to ride with. Mike from Lower Hutt and I rode the rest of the way together and I think he saved me (though he reckons I saved him).

It was hot, there was very little wind, and despite drinking a truckload I'm dehydrated and I'm sunburned as well. It was a gorgeous day and I did enjoy most of it. It definitely felt harder than Taupo and that seems to be a common opinion. At least with Taupo you get some nice downhills. Around Taranaki you seem to be constantly on a gradual climb!

First event of 2009 done and dusted. Next up the Grape Ride.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happiness is a good ride (or run)

If you ask me why I do this I will describe for you the way I feel right now, the way it feels to be sitting here on the sofa after a fabulous ride. I will tell you about the slight burn in my quads, the endorphins still floating around my bloodstream, the quiet sense of satisfaction and the calm that accompanies it. I will tell you about the beautiful things I have seen and the people I have spent the morning riding with. I will tell you how GOOD this feels.

All that and I nearly didn't ride today. I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and my left glute seized up. I found myself limping painfully back to bed. At 6.45 this morning it was still all cramped. I could barely walk down the hallway and figured I was going to have to pull the plug. However stubborness kicked in and after a little more walking around whatever muscle was in spasm decided to let go. I could walk again and it didn't give me any more trouble. Strange.

A small group of Gearshifters riders assembled at Freyberg on what was an encouragingly still and sunny morning. We set a good pace all the way out to Petone, then headed north towards Silverstream. The lack of any real wind (a slight Northerly, but nothing worth worrying about) meant that we sat on around 5kmph more than we did a couple of weeks ago when we rode this way. Familiarity bred reassurance and, knowing how far I had to go, I felt comfortable with the pace we were riding and that I wasn't about to burn out any time soon.

The skies started to darken as we approached Upper Hutt and it looked like we might be in for a bit of a drenching. We stopped briefly at the Caltex on SH2 and then it was onto the Akatarawa Rd. Dee and some of the others were planning to ride to the top. I was going to ride to Staglands then see how I felt. We got spat on a little but the threatening rain held off. I took the undulating road at a faster pace than last time and it seemed a lot easier. After a couple of kilometres I saw one of the other Gearshifters women, Angela, up ahead of me and that gave me enough momentum to push a little harder and pass her. She sat behind me the rest of the way out to Staglands. She's normally a stronger rider than me but hasn't been on her bike much since Taupo so was feeling the hills a bit.

At Staglands we stopped for a bit then Angela decided to push on to see if she could find the others. It started to rain a little and I was getting a little cold. I was about to start heading back when she returned with Dee and one of the other guys, Stu. Rob and his friend had gone right to the top but the rest had stopped about a kilometre further down the road, at the base of the real hill.

While I was waiting I tried a chocolate gel I got free with my Powerbars. At first taste I thought "mmm, like melted chocolate", but after that the novelty wore off. It was extremely thick and I couldn't finish the whole gel. I think I might have felt sick if I had. I stuck to my Powerbars the rest of the way back to the city. I guess if I can't enjoy a chocolate gel then I'm just not a gel kind of girl.

We rocketed back to the main road and when we got there I decided to take some more Hydrocortisone. That did the trick, just as it did when we rode Paekakariki Hill Rd. I could truly feel my stamina increasing, and it wasn't just the effect of the gel, Powerbars and gummy lollies. I felt really strong. I kept up easily the whole way back down State Highway 2 and then to Freyberg. I kept up even though the wind had now swung south, meaning that we once again had a headwind (the cruelty that is Wellington weather). I even made it back to the pool before anyone else.

It turns out that today's ride was nearly 118km, which means it was my second longest ride ever (the longest ride other than Taupo being 115km). I don't feel the slightest bit tired, other than a slight burn in my quads. I'm really looking forward to riding Taranaki on Saturday.

I had another of those moments on the way out this morning. I saw myself holding my own with the others and not being afraid of being dropped or making a fool of myself. I realised how far I've come with my riding in the last year and I was pretty darn pleased with myself. I wonder what I will achieve over the next twelve months?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Feeling the Fear and Riding Anyway

I was a very small, anxious child. When I was around six years old my teacher wrote on my school report that I should stop worrying so much. I remember being scared of pretty much everything. The school maypole made me quiver and I could never scale the rope climbing frame in the playground. Easy bush walks in the nearby bush made me quake, especially if there was a drop off to one side of the track. I remember in particular a walk to a waterfall that included a two metre wide rockface that required scaling and which terrified me every time.

Silly things scared me. The motor of the machine that produced oxygen for the classroom fishtank used to vibrate slightly, and I remember one of the boys in my class scaring me by claiming that it could give me an electric shock. You can imagine how terrified I was of actual electric fences, which were common in the rural area where I grew up. I was scared of the leaches I was told lived in the local stream. I was even more scared that an eel might bite me if I walked through the water.

My father used to like to fish off rocks at the local beaches. My parents still laugh that, if they wanted to go home, all they had to do was tell me that the tide was coming in. For some reason I had a terror of being trapped by the incoming tide. Even today I still have vague issues with that one. As a young child I developed a fear of going underwater, which led to me tell the teacher that I had left my togs at home. I never learned to swim and it was only a year or so ago that I actually managed to put even my face in the water, let alone put my whole head. From that perspective it's amazing that I can now swim at all, even the few yards that I can currently manage without flippers or a wetsuit.

In my teens, for some unknown reason, I developed a fear of not getting enough sleep. I am still very reliant on having access to an environment conducive to easy slumber. Your average campsite next to a dance party, particularly one where the kids in the campervan nextdoor are playing Gatecrasher at full volume 24/7 is the kind of environment guaranteed to produce more than a little anxiety for me. And yet for years I worked as a volunteer at dance parties in Golden Bay.

I still have a fear of getting stuck in situations in which I can not get out of, and dance party campsites are a real trigger for that one. Being hemmed in by other vehicles will always stress me out. A few years ago we got rained out while camping next to a river setting up a party. Our little car couldn't get back up the hill and I ended up howling out the fear in my tent while a torrential downpour pounded against the tent fly. Did I mention I grew up on a flood plain, where regular flooding was a part of life?

If there is another pattern here it is that at some point I obviously made a decision not to give in to my fear. At some point I started deliberately putting myself in situations that scared me. It started in my mid-teens in a fairly obvious and typical manner. For a year or two my friends and I become theme park junkies. I sought out roller coasters. I even did a static line parachute jump. I left home and lived in Holland on student exchange for a year.

I no longer have panic attacks and I don't currently suffer from depression, although I did intermittently throughout my twenties. When I first read the definition of a generalised anxiety disorder I recognised myself in it. These days although I still live with an underlying disquiet, particularly when I get stressed, it doesn't really affect me too badly. I think I'm a fairly happy person, and perhaps my nervous tendencies do lead me to challenge myself more. Exercising definitely helps keep things under control.

Ironically, I really only started down the running and cycling path because it scared me. I took up the challenge to do a duathlon because the very idea was terrifying. And when I'd done that, the next most terrifying thing was a 10km race. And then it was time to run a half marathon. So now I'm training for a marathon and planning to do a half Ironman at the end of the year. I think it would have been much simpler not to be so afraid of everything, and then I could have gotten away with doing nothing!

Cycling is definitely still more of a courage thing for me than running. Running involves putting on a pair of trainers and telling my mind to shut up while I struggle up another hill. Cycling involves the fear of, well, death. Particularly times like today when my 8kg bike and my 56kgish self are out there battling 40kmph winds (gusting up to 60kmph). Actually, I think the winds worsened as we rode, so I hate to think what they were in actuality!

So today I'm proud of myself for even setting foot out the door, and for not getting straight back into the car when I got to Freyberg and saw that it was just as windy there as it was up at Mornington. I was gagging for a ride, and I was completely not thrilled by the idea of ninety minutes or so on a trainer. I was NOT going to let a piffling Northerly stop me!

We did the best we could to avoid the wind, but there's little you can really do. At some point the wind is going to be either in front of you or blowing across from your side. We rode up Brooklyn hill (flying, thanks to a lovely tailwind) and halfway up I totally managed to pass poor Stu, who was on a borrowed bike with far bigger gears than he was used to.

Down through Happy Valley to the Southern Coast and, although I was second-to-last, I managed to pull a record speed. Head down, hands on the drops and not once touching the brakes, I just went for it.

We hit the first headwind around Island Bay but it was at Lyall that things really got interesting. At that point I very nearly cut through Kilbirnie back to my car but then I realised something. I was still terrified by the wind, but I was more excited by the challenge of staying upright than I was scared. I was riding on an adrenalin rush and I was kicking it.

Today's ride was a victory for that very reason. I felt the fear and fed off it rather than giving in. I sat with the pack the whole way around the coast until we turned in and rode through the Seatoun tunnel. The headwind riding back through Miramar was ferocious and, in a moment of stupidity, I nearly got myself run over just past the cutting as I moved right to ride onto the cycle path. And then we were on Cobham Drive, with its inevitable crosswind.

That crosswind was, indeed, insane. However I knew it was coming and it was fairly steady, not gusty, which meant I could lean sideways and compensate for it. I was squealing like a girly girl for about half the distance, but I was squealing partly from the fun of it. It was the type of squeal I might once have let out as the roller coaster I was riding went into a corkscrew. The chance of death or injury was slightly higher on the bike, but I was older and braver to compensate.

At Kilbirnie we rode up to the top of Coromandel Street and it was there that I finally decided I'd had enough. Some of the Shifters turned up Alexandra Rd but I knew that the wind coming down the other side of Mt Vic would be awful. There were three other riders who wanted to skip the hill, so we rode together through Newtown and back down Cambridge into town.

So there it was. A completely terrifying but even more fun ride. I took my fear and enjoyed it. As Frayed Laces would say, today I refused to let myself deny my awesomeness. DDYA!! There was a little bit of WWCWD going on as well!

As a footnote, the running continues to go well. Yesterday, thinking I was going to be riding 100km today (something the poor weather put paid to), I set out from home for a short run. I ended up doing five very hilly, windy and extremely fun kilometres. I was feeling very lethargic and tired beforehand but, again, once I actually started running the magic happened and I found myself flying along easily, my heartrate and perceived effort both low. I danced back up Mornington Rd and was feeling quite smug until I realised that I was being benefited by a killer tailwind (which had not that long ago been a killer headwind as I ran along the ridgeline towards Brooklyn). I sprinted the last 500 metres or so. I definitely have my running mojo back!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Running Good Times

Another day, another holiday. Summer brought another sunny day with that familiar gusty Northerly. I threw a few things in a backpack and headed south on foot. I walked to the end of Kingston then dropped onto the City to Sea walkway, emerging a few kilometres later on the Southern Coast. From there I headed east towards Island Bay, and when I got to the beach I stopped.

I read a magazine and I listened to the radio and when I was tired of both and the Northerly kept blowing sand in my face I just sat there and looked.

And there was nothing happening. I spent an hour or so sitting and looking, but there was nothing to watch. When I was walking I had seen a loaded fishing boat returning to shore with a flock of seabirds following it. I had seen ferries coming and going. But in Island Bay no one walked past. The occasional car heading towards Lyall Bay was the only visible evidence of life. So, in the absence of a pressing need to do anything else, I just looked.

And when I got tired of that I walked to the Island Bay shops where I stopped in at the butcher's to buy some of his wonderful sausages. I then crossed the road to the supermarket and bought a few more things for dinner. When I'd finished I jumped on a bus to Berhampore then walked under the hot sun, with my two shopping bags, up long, steep Farnham Street to home. I made a chicken sandwich, drank a cider, and rested for a while.

When it was time I caught a bus back into town for my appointment with my dental hygenist. With clean teeth and dire threats about flossing I left and wandered down the road to the gym. After all of that I got changed, and I ran.

And it was good.

I have no idea why my run was so fantastic. I was on day seven of a running and cycling streak. My legs were much better than they'd been on Tuesday (when I could barely walk), but they weren't completely fresh. I'd walked a lot already today. It was hot and I was a little tired.

All my runs have been hilly lately so I decided I'd try for seven flat kilometres and set out towards Oriental Bay. From the first stride I knew everything was going to click. I felt strong and I quickly slipped into the zone that I've been searching for. I could have kept running forever. Another runner commented that it was a gorgeous evening as he passed and I could only agree. I wasn't sweating that much given the heat, my heartrate stayed remarkably low and I wasn't feeling any pain. I held a good pace without any real effort.

I ran on and on and didn't really want to stop but elected to rein myself in. On the return even the headwind couldn't pop my little bubble of running joy. Seven kilometres turned into over ten. Oh sure, I still spent the return half of the run checking out all the cyclists as they came towards me, but for once I was happy to be in running shoes, not cycling shoes.

The signs were there I guess. The last couple of runs hinted at a slight but steady return to form. My resting heartrate has been sitting around 52, which is the lowest it's ever been. I'm recovering well from each workout and I have plenty of energy. On the bus after the run I was wishing that I hadn't been so sensible and that I'd kept going.

Today's success has made it a lot easier to plan my weekend. I'm going to run for ninety minutes on Saturday then ride over the Akatarawas to Waikanae with Dee and co on Sunday, then on Monday we'll do a recovery ride to Eastborne. Tuesday morning I'll do Dee's RPM and then it will be off to Stratford for Mum's next round of treatment and the Taranaki Cycle Challenge.

And then it'll be time to get serious about the Rotorua Marathon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Question of the Day

Today's question is how can I get stronger on my bike? I'm stumped to know whether it's a power thing, an efficiency/technique thing, a power to weight ratio thing or whether I'm perhaps just lazy and ease off when the pain starts. I rode with several of the (fast) Gearshifters again tonight and, although I kept up with them most of the way around, I got dropped on the hills. What is up with that??? I don't want to beat everyone, I just want to be able to keep up.

Sigh. Frustrated.

It wasn't that big a ride either. We went around the Bays and up to Brooklyn then some of the pack decided to ride on up to the Turbine and the rest of us rode back through town. So it was short, but for me it was fairly fast. I guess I should also remember that this is day six of a week of stepped-up cardio.

Other than that I had a lovely day. I had lunch with a friend (hi Fi) who has just returned from London. She's interested in buying a road bike so I took her into Pennys. We wandered around and had a look at a few bikes and it turned out that the bike that seemed to best suit her needs was - Cleo. I said it would just be too weird for us to be riding the same bike so Dave offered to put some (truly hideous) pink bar tape on hers. He also showed me a gorgeous new full carbon Scott in my size. Only $9,000 (cough, splutter) and at 6kg, as Dave put it, scarily light. I don't think I'd ever feel brave enough to ride it in this city! We did talk about upgrading my (Tiagra) front derraileur, which I may do at some point. I really don't like the way it shifts.

I have another dilemma as well. I was planning on running tomorrow and doing some leg weights (bumping up the leg press incase my power issues are strength-based), then swim and Balance on Friday, a 100km ride on Saturday then a long run on Sunday. However Dee is riding Saturday (I'm not sure where), then on Sunday riding out to the Akatarawas and back to Wellington via Waikanae, which I really want to do. She's then planning a light ride on Monday. I want to ride with the Squad as much as possible but am also conscious that I need to start thinking about preparing for the Rotorua Marathon. I really want to do the ride on Sunday, but it will be quite long. So do I do my long run tomorrow and a shorter, easy run on Saturday so as to not completely smash my legs? Or do I just suck it up and do my long run on Saturday anyway and suffer trying to keep up on Sunday?

I need to get in touch with Dave and find out where that programme is. Perhaps I should just give him a call!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Beautiful Things

A few beautiful things:

Renewing my driver's licence turns out to be a very enjoyable experience thanks to the lovely young African immigrant customer service employee at the AA. I should really write a letter to his manager commending him.

Getting off the bus on the way home I notice that someone has been playing with chalk on the footpath. A green line extends all the way down the middle from the bus stop to the garden seat a neighbour placed halfway down the pedestrian accessway to our street. Someone has marked out a circuit workout down its length. Every ten metres or so there is a new activity, including walking, skipping, hoppping, jogging, running, acting like a dog, acting like a chicken, side stepping, and a monster walk. The last direction is simply to 'rest', with an arrow pointing to the bench with its lovely view over the mountains and the Cook Strait. I briefly consider following all of the instructions and contemplate how I might 'monster walk'.

Hamish and I open one of the 'quaffing' red wines my parents gave him for Christmas and it turns out to be a very pleasant drop. One can't ALWAYS drink the Guthrey family international award winning Pinot Noir (especially given that we probably shared the last bottle in the country with Nic and Leonie).

After a beautiful ride through rural Makara I have a case of post-ride insomnia. Hamish and I stand on the veranda as a full moon rises over the mountains. Below us Berhampore and Newtown are lit up like a Christmas tree. I sleep with the bedroom curtains open and the moonlight on my face.

After showering post-6.30 a.m. RPM and eating a breakfast of Bircher muesli with yoghurt my stomach continues to demand food and I placate it with fruit. Realising that I'm going to fall asleep on the sofa I briefly debate what of the activities on my holiday list I should indulge in today. The weather seems a bit cool, overcast and windy so I decide to walk to Brooklyn to watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at the Penthouse Theatre. There are only four of us attending the session and I have a whole row and a big comfy seat to myself. I start crying about halfway through and keep crying for the rest of the film.

Walking back home from the theatre I pass the young Chinese family who have taken over the local dairy. The mother already waves to me every time I run or cycle past her. Today the father is playing outside with his two young sons. The grandparents are strolling leisurely down the footpath. Back at home I am starving again so heat up some delicious leftovers from the freezer, followed by more fruit.

I clean the fridge (another item on my to-do list) and wipe down all the kitchen surfaces then clean the bathroom. Afterwards I reward myself with a little more of that quaffing wine and a sweet, juicy peach. I then call a friend who has returned to New Zealand from London after having been away for several years. We arrange to meet for lunch tomorrow at Parade in Oriental Bay. At the same time I am exchanging txts to organise another evening ride. I'm a little worried about the state of my legs.

I enter both the Taranaki Cycle Challenge and the Grape Ride.

Two things that have become very clear to me:

If you smile people will smile back. If you are friendly people will be friendly back.

Left to my own devices I will quite happily sit here on the sofa all day (once the day's exercise is out of the way). However I am self-aware enough to know that I will feel bad about wasting my 'time off'. I operate better when I have a schedule and have decided to plan the rest of my holiday to ensure I get some of my planned activities in. However some things are going to get left by the wayside. I doubt, for example, that I will get around to painting over the feature wall in our lounge. However Hamish and I have made real progress in getting the vegetable garden organised, so I'm not too upset.

Tomorrow's forecast is for more sun and less wind so I have plans to make my way slowly to Oriental Bay where I will sit on the beach until it's time for lunch. I need to rest before tomorrow evening's big ride!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Beautiful, beautiful ride

Hannah at the top of Makara Hill

I rode the Makara loop tonight with Julia and Hannah. It was a beautiful, beautiful Wellington evening. The low sun turned the fields of Ohariu Valley a soft shade of gold and the hills rippled with shadow and light like a McCahon painting.

Waiting at the top of Makara Hill

We had a headwind climbing out again but nothing like the gales I rode through last time with the Gearshifters. I spent the entire ride smiling and wondering at the scenary. My only issue was a lack of food which caused me to blow up ever so slightly as we cycled towards Johnsonville. I was too happy to really let it get to me though.

I love Wellington and I love cycling in Wellington. Evenings like this make the scary rides through high winds totally worth it. The payoff on a good day is immense.

I guess that right now I'm still more of a cyclist than a runner. Let's hope for an equally beautiful evening on Wednesday so that I can even the score.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

If this keeps up

I might actually start to enjoy my runs again!

I just ran 11.5km from home down to the Southern Coast and back up via Happy Valley. I managed to average around six minute kilometres, which wasn't bad given that around seven kilometres of the run was uphill. On the flat I was managing around 5.40 without too much effort.

The thing that made me think I still don't quite have the running mojo back though? I kept myself occupied on the long, slow trudge back up to home by thinking about .... cycling.


A Lazy Morning in Mornington

Still too horrid out there to ride, unless I want to be blown all the way to Palmerston North. I'm trying to summon up the motivation to go for a run.

I forgot to point out the implications of starting our ride half an hour late yesterday. If we'd left on time we would have been well into the Makara loop when the storm hit. We would have been stuck in a rural valley with no shelter and no way out other than to keep riding. There would likely as not have been no cell phone coverage and hence no rescue. We would have had to keep going through solid rain and cold gales for another hour or so.

I'm normally one for punctuality, but I'm quite glad for people sleeping in yesterday!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A fun if somewhat abbreviated ride!

Julia, Hannah and I met at Freyberg this morning for another ride. The forecast was for a Southern change and drizzle turning to rain but at 8.30 it was still only overcast and humid with that reliably gusty Northerly.

Both Hannah and Julia ended up running nearly half an hour late so I hung around the car and chatted to Dave Creamer, who suggested that I join a group of triathletes who were also heading off to do Makara. I looked at these lanky, athletic guys with their gorgeous Cervelo and Scott tri bikes and politely declined!

Eventually the three of us were underway, riding into a Northerly that was just strong enough to keep things interesting. We kept an easy pace and also kept up a steady stream of conversation the whole way around the Bays. Hannah led at first and I took over the lead around Scorching Bay. I sat behind another cyclist for a while then picked him off on the Pass of Branda, losing both Julia and Hannah in the process. We regrouped and picked up Darren, a friend of Julia's.

I dropped Julia and Hannah again on the way up Happy Valley then Darren came up alongside me and we rode two abreast for a while before the road narowed and I dropped in behind him. So he obviously didn't pull me the whole way up but with company to keep me honest I certainly got up there at a faster pace than usual.

Darren turned off at the Caltex to head home and we women regrouped again at Brooklyn. We were less than completely committed to Makara but I wanted to do some hills so we agreed we'd ride to Karori Park, meet up again and then decide.

I was surprised by how easy the climb up to the top of Aro Valley felt and thoroughly enjoyed myself the whole way. I had to wait for several minutes at the top for the others and by the time they got there I was totally fired up and keen to keep going around Makara. Wellington, however, had other ideas.

Setting off again I remarked that the weather appeared to be turning. It had suddenly gone vey still. A few seconds later it was spitting with rain. The decision not to continue on to Makara was instant and unanimous! Calling over my shoulder to the others I proposed turning left and heading down Glemore and Tinakori Rds and back to the city via Thorndon Quay.

From that point it was a fast sprint back down the hill, during which time I apparently hit over 50kmph. We rode back along the waterfront as quickly as traffic would allow. When we got back to Freyberg we'd only done just over 40km and the weather, while looking forboding, was holding. Looking South the clouds were bruised and gathering in a manner reminiscent of the scene in the Ghostbusters movie when the portal opened over the city. We figured, however, that we probably had enough time to get out to the naval base and back before it hit.

Whereas Oriental Bay had been choppy when we left it was now completely still, a good indicator that the wind had gone South. This was confirmed as we rounded Pt Jerningham and into a building wind. The air was thick with the approaching storm, the harbour was looking extremely dramatic, and I found myself feeling quite exhilerated. In the end we made it not quite as far as Greta Point before it finally started pelting down. Julia was in the lead and, behind her, I told her she could feel free to turn around any time she wanted. We did a u-turn and then opened up the throttle to sprint with a tailwind behind us back to Freyberg. The rain was driving against our backs the whole way. Crazy fun!

All up we did only 50km, but we all felt fresh and could easily have kept going. I really enjoyed myself! We're going to try again on Monday, so touch wood this weather will blow through in time.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Cleo Needs a Sister

See, isn't she sexy? How could I not fall in love?

I have been seriously neglecting this blog

And all you lovely people who read and care about what I'm up to. I haven't been terribly good at commenting on your blogs either and when I'm feeling pressured I do tend to disappear into myself. I appreciate you all very much and hope that I can be there for you as the year goes on. I'm looking forward to meeting up with more of you for training runs/rides/swims and at various events around the country. Don't let me get away with anything!

It's not exactly a secret that I'm struggling to find my running mojo at the moment. Poor Kate had to put up with me apologising every few metres when we finally met up for a run on Monday. In retrospect, running Kelburn after two RPM on Saturday and 100km on Cleo on Sunday (a stunning ride out to the Akatarawas on a beautiful Wellington morning) was perhaps not the smartest idea. I do also tend to freak out when I run with someone for the first time, which inevitably leads to cramp. Thankfully the freakout effect usually only lasts for the first run!

I went on to do another RPM on Tuesday morning then was back in town a few hours later to do a Body Balance class. I then crashed and ended up sleeping on the sofa for at least an hour and on Wednesday felt so sluggish that it seemed like a good idea to rest. Which left me with a mission today and a set of clearly defined goals. I wanted to run the 10.6km Bays/Newtown loop and I wanted to run it without stopping. Pace didn't matter but I needed to feel I could still run!

I'm pleased to say that I achieved my objective although it was so hot out there that I did stop at Hataitai Bay for a quick drink from the tap and to splash some water over my head. The saddle over to Newtown kicked my butt but I felt good all the way back to town. My left knee and right ankle behaved themselves and I felt reasonably strong. Oh, I was slow, but not as slow as I could have been. I remember how I used to almost treat that route like a time trial, but I was running five days a week back then. I'm looking forward to having the excuse of the Rotorua Marathon to start cranking up the number of runs again. I don't really need to do anything special to train for the Grape Ride, as 101km is just a standard weekend distance for me now!

Now I just have to decide how long I want to run for on Sunday and where. I'm in need of an inspirational route, preferably a trail. It might be time to finally run some of the tracks in the Karori Sanctuary, although if it's a nice day they might be a bit crowded.

On the way back to the gym after my run I stopped in at Pennyfarthing to see Dee and the tri bike she's been raving about. I am in love. $5,400 worth of full carbon white and pink Scott sexiness (but with a 20% discount, so actually quite a bit cheaper). I wants, I wants badly, but thankfully it's a small and I suspect I'd need an XS.

Finally it was back to the gym and as I was standing in front of the mirror checking my appearance before I left the changing rooms one of the other trainers came up and gave me an amazing compliment. She told me that she remembered me from when I first started training with Duck and that she'd been meaning to tell me how great I look these days and how much she admired all the work I've put in over the last few years. Her compliment was so specific and so unexpected that I fairly floated out of the gym on a little cloud of joy and with my motivation to do a half Ironman this year well and truly restored.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

It's a hard life being an emo cat

Gaffer was asleep in Ede's spot on the sofa when I left for the gym at 7.45 this morning and is still there now at 11.45. At some stage he'll wake up and start demanding cuddles or food (or both) but right now I'm enjoying the peace.

I was planning to ride today but watching the weather reporter on TV3 last night struggling to stand upright with Freyberg in the background it occurred to me that I didn't really have a death wish! Wellington is in the grip of gale Northerlies again and a wind warning was in place. So RPM it was. I booked into two-in-a-row and hauled myself out of bed and through a drizzly, blustery morning off to Extreme.

I felt good in RPM yesterday, like my bike fitness was returning, so was keen to see how I felt today and, sure enough, I had two really good classes. Things didn't start terribly well - I managed to break the bike I was riding when I stood for the first hill during Track 2. Something to do with the chain, apparently. The bike next to me was free so I quickly swapped and by the time Track 3 kicked in I was good to go.

From there on in I went into the zone - the zone that I've been struggling so hard to find during my recent rides and runs. The strength was there in my legs and the pain was meaningless and the sweat ran in rivers down my arms and from my face and I just went for it regardless. I kept thinking about the 150km ride I have coming up in a few weeks and kept reaching for the dial. I guess it says something about how much time I've spent on a spin bike over the years that I can reach down and turn it up without opening my eyes!

So now it's over and I'm stretched out on the sofa while outside the wind blows and the grey skies weigh heavily on the Orongarongas. It's a good day to be inside with a stack of books and DVDs.

I've been thinking about the things I learned in 2008. I learned a little bit more about balance and perspective. I learned not to keep training through an injury! I became a cyclist. At the start of this year riding clipless terrified me and now I can ride through the centre of town in rush hour and feel what might pass as a frisson of excitement! I became addicted to racing. I stopped stressing out about performance so much and in the process stopped having nausea problems mid-run. I learned how to eat to fuel my activities and stopped being terrified that I was going to put all that weight back on again. I actually started to see myself at the size I was and was finally able to walk into a store and not take something off the rack that was two sizes too large for me. I started thinking like an athlete and believing that I was one and that line of thought took me to the point of deciding to do the Rotorua half-Ironman this year (oh, and the Rotorua Marathon).

It was a pretty good year really and deserves its own wrap-up post. Right now however I think Hamish is in the kitchen cooking pancakes, and I'm starving!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The dirty secret at the bottom of the garden

The view from the bottom of the garden is picture-postcard and framed by Ponga and Cabbage Tree, but lurking amongst the shadows was a remarkable amount of rubbish!

The garden waste not suitable for mulching. This will all have to be carted to the top of the section and taken off to the landfill.

The huge pile of rubbish that was hiding under the weeds. A television, an old wall heater, a fan heater, downpiping, guttering, bathroom fittings, old timber, countless rubbish bags, bottles, cans, chocolate bar wrappers, empty tobacco packets, spray bottles, plastic containers, garden gloves, carpet underlay, pegs, marbles (!), a blue tile and other, random detritus.

If we'd known it was going to be this bad I don't think we would have started. Hamish keeps reminding me that one day there will be a lovely box vegetable garden growing here. It's just going to take a little bit longer than planned.