Saturday, February 28, 2009


I like my gym, I really do, but sometimes it can still annoy me. See if you can spot what might annoy me about this video.

Now, I've read about Spartan training before. It's not a new concept and it's taken a while to get here. I thought it sounded quite interesting. Apparently though, Spartan training isn't for women. 'Cause, you know, if we swung too many of those kettle bells we might get, you know, muscles or something. And that would be unfeminine. Because, you know, we're not supposed to lift more than 3kg at a time.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Tinakori Hill

Some blatantly stolen photos of the views from Tinakori Hill and the Northern Walkway. Above is Wellington harbour at dawn (on a very still morning).

Wellington City from the walkway

Looking out to the harbour across the city. the large round construction is Westpac Stadium, also known as the "Cake Tin".

The trail itself, near where I entered it. Very wide, open and level at this point! It moves into pine trees as it climbs.

Looking up at the hill from the city.

Week Four, Month One of Marathon Training in the Bag

Another week and the first month of marathon training down. Today is my day of rest but, truthfully, I’m feeling pretty good. I’m going to have to continue to monitor my ankle but it seems to be holding up ok and getting stronger. This week I started to experience a little tightness in my IT bands, particularly on my right side. My sacroiliac and glute on that side were muttering a little as well but I spent some time on the roller on Wednesday and Thursday and they’re settling back down again. I need to make sure that I continue to stretch, and I think I’ll make a precautionary appointment with my physio for next week so that she can make sure my hip isn’t freezing up and so that she can stick her elbow into the knot in my butt. Hopefully if I continue to be proactive I’ll continue to be ok.

After Monday morning’s slow-but-supposed-to-be-fast 8km, when I was just too tired, I reluctantly skipped my upper body weights workout. My neck and shoulder are still in spasm from last week’s incident and doing anything to tighten them even further didn’t seem like a particularly clever idea.

All the same, I was still feeling a little fatigued on Tuesday morning during Dee’s RPM class - low heart rate, nothing in the legs. I missed Balance thanks to a meeting (stupid work getting in the way of working out) and after work my neck and shoulder were too sore to even contemplate swimming. I wouldn’t have been able to roll to breathe and every stroke of my right arm would have been agonising. I went home and collapsed instead.

It seems though that the rest did me some good. Greg, one of the personal trainers, was holding another training session with the Gearshifters on Wednesday after work and I wanted to be there. That meant getting up to run before work. Now, I am not a morning runner. I can get up at 5.30am to go to a spin class. I can put in a hearty weights session. For some reason however I’ve always felt fatigued and prone to queasiness if I try to run too early in the a.m. Well, today I had no choice! I had sixty minutes of hills to get through.

Given my general lethargy of the last couple of days I really wasn’t sure what I could expect. I was running from the Terrace gym so decided to head up to Wadestown to test my legs then decide where to go from there. I took Grant Rd and by the time I got to the top I was feeling fresh and steady and was making good time. I’d left at 7am so it was well before 7.30 as I headed up the incredibly, stupidly steep Weld Street at a slow walk. Honestly, Sarah claims to have run up there but it kills my heart rate and my calf muscles just to stagger. One day, perhaps, I will skip up there like a spring lamb, but Wednesday was not that day.

Given the early hour I did wonder whether I was being a little cavalier with my personal safety as I headed into the town belt. I was running along the Northern walkway, a trail high on the hills overlooking Wellington harbour winding through a mix of bush and old pine trees. I ran the trail completely on my own, with not one other person crossing my path. This could have been a good thing (no one around equals no one to mug me) or a bad thing (no one around means that the bad person lurking in the bushes could mug me and no one else would be there to save me). It did occur to me that I was running without any ID other than my Medic Alert bracelet, and with no phone.

In the end I had only cicadas and birds for company and the pine trees that creaked eerily in an imperceptible breeze as I passed. The temperature was perfect - just ever so slightly cool, and there was the lightest misty rain falling. The trail was just damp enough to not be dusty but not wet enough that I risked slipping and falling unceremoniously on my behind. On the open sections of the track the harbour was visible far below me, silent and atmospheric on this grey, cloudy morning.

The first part of the trail climbs steadily uphill. When I last ran this way with Sarah a couple of months ago, I found myself walking several sections of the ascent. Today I didn’t really care how slow my pace was, I just wanted to keep moving. I had a ‘no walk’ motto engraved on my forehead. However I needn’t have worried as I powered up every little rise, my heart rate barely spiking.

I was enjoying myself so much that it seemed a shame to stop but I ran all the way along the trail to the Botanic Gardens then down through the cemetery and back to the gym. The whole run took just under an hour, and I had a blast. I was on a high for the rest of the day and was an immediate convert to morning runs.

I was still feeling fresh when Greg put us through our paces on Wednesday night. We mixed it up with some box steps, jumping squats, clapping press ups (on our knees), bent-over row, butt kicks and some core work. The bent over row and press ups perhaps weren’t such a great idea as they spasmed my neck and shoulder up again, and then I slept on my stomach with my head turned to the right and tightened them up even more. No swimming again then, and one taped shoulder.

With no swim workout on Thursday morning that just left a 70 minute run to do that evening. I figured I should probably try a flattish route given that most of my runs lately have involved a heap of hills. I set out again from the Terrace gym at around 5.30, determined to run at a medium pace.

The run didn’t start terribly auspiciously, when my Garmin refused to latch onto any satellites. I resolved myself to just having a time and heart rate record of my run when it also decided it was running low on battery power. Not wanting to lose any of the data from my last few runs I decided to switch it off. I was running around the Bays so knew roughly how far I could run in 70 minutes.

I concentrated on running powerfully and on keeping my legs turning over. Every time my left foot started to get lazy I focussed on lifting it. I refused to let it start slapping around. After a while I no longer had to think about running well and I simply focussed on what was around me. At Oriental Bay a group of wetsuited swimmers were entering the slightly choppy water. At Hataitai Beach the water was mirror calm and an instructor was teaching a group of beginner kayakers. At Balaena Bay a couple of cyclists were stopped at the changing rooms for a bit of on-the-road maintenance.

There was a Northerly blowing again, which came as a surprise as I expected it to be going south. When I got to Greta Point I kept on going and before too long I was at the Wind Wand. I didn’t feel like turning around so I headed right over the saddle to Newtown, running over the rise without stopping.

I kept pushing myself all the way down to the Basin Reserve and down Cambridge Terrace. I ran back down onto the waterfront and continued back past Frank Kitts to the Meridian Building then back up to the gym. All up I think the run would have been around 70 minutes, more or less. I did start to feel a bit tired over the last ten minutes or so. It worried me that I was feeling slightly worn out after only an hour, but I consoled myself with the thought that this was day six of a long week. I figured that with fresh legs I would have been fine. I also knew that I’d been pushing the pace quite hard throughout.

I’m taking a complete rest day today. Although I used to like to do Balance on a Friday I’m realising that, for my sanity if nothing else, I need to take one full day out each week. No running around in the morning packing a bag of gym gear. No going to the gym. No putting on running shoes. I’ve spent today sitting at my desk or eating vegan chocolate beetroot cake. I’m looking forward to burgers for dinner, a bottle of cider and an early night in my fabulous new bed.

In other news I had my annual Endocrinologist appointment yesterday morning. At least, it will be annual from now on. My Endo had missed scheduling my six-monthly appointment and, given that I’m so well, we’ve mutually agreed that there’s no point in her seeing me more than once a year. I’d rather she spent that time helping her more needy clients.

As always she ordered a barrage of tests and this year I had seven vials of blood drawn. We talked a bit about exercise-dosing my Hydrocortisone and she pointed me to some information on the UK Addison’s website. However her main advice was that I should just work out through trial and error what works best for me and she approved of my experiments so far.

In addition to yesterday’s seven vials, today I am two blood draws through a day curve (three draws in total). We are trying to determine how fast I metabolise my meds. If I metabolise them slowly (which I suspect I do), then I can get away with taking one bigger dose before a long workout. If I metabolise them quickly then it may be better for me to take smaller doses throughout the workout. It will be interesting to see whether we can draw any meaningful conclusions.

The weather forecast is looking pretty horrendous for this weekend. I’ve booked into two RPM classes tomorrow morning in case it’s too nasty to ride (120kmph winds anyone?). Hopefully it will be better for Sunday’s two hour run. In theory I’m heading into a slightly easier week after that with a 21km time trial next Sunday.

Looking back I’ve complained about feeling tired a bit this week but the reality is slightly more optimistic than that. I had quite a big weekend of training, which I felt on Monday, but after that I went through a process of active recovery so that I felt better each day. Admittedly I was two swim sessions and a weights session down, but I think I got the most tiring stuff done. Next week, with no more RPM classes, I will make sure I’m at the pool before work on Tuesday and Thursday. That way there are no excuses (other than that of my still-taped neck and shoulder spasming again).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fast Fail

So, today's 8km run at a 5 to 5.15 minute per km pace? Yeah, not so much.

Given that I didn't get back from yesterday's long run till around 6pm it may not have helped that I had to run before work. leaving at 7.30am. It also didn't help that I'm not normally a morning runner. The strong Northerly didn't exactly contribute anything positive either.

Still, even if I was well off pace I got it done. That's got to count for something, right?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fighting to Find the Enthusiasm

Dave had me down for another 110 minute run today and, to be honest, I had to really push myself to get out there. After yesterday's cycling and running efforts Hamish and I spent a few hours wandering around the Cuba Street Carnival and then I spent the evening messing around at home and got to bed too late. I woke up this morning late as well and lacking in energy. By the time I was out of bed the temperatures were already skyrocketing and the northerly was whipping past our house at a pace that was sending all the trees sideways.

I had a few things on my to-do list, including giving the bathroom a thorough going over, tidying and weeding the courtyard and throwing load after load of washing through our machine. In the end I managed to wash, dry and fold all our clothes, clean half the bathroom, spray a bit of Roundup around and sweep the stoop. All up not a complete failure, but not enough of an effort to get this place up to scratch. I escaped by heading into town with Hamish for a bit of shopping, but felt so lethargic that it was a struggle just to walk around. Shame I still had that run to fit in then.

Enthusiasm. Missing.

By 3.30 though I was filling up my Camelbak and throwing on my running gear, switching on my Garmin and heading out the door. The good thing about living where I live and running from home is that it's always possible to convince myself to get started by turning left at the end of my street and running downhill for a couple of kilometres, so that's what I did. Down to the bottom of Farnham Street, then right at the bottom and all the way to Island Bay and the Southern Coast.

I could tell that this was going to be a different kind of run. Where once upon a time I used to suffer a lot from sore, aching leg muscles these days I experience fatigue more as a feeling of slowness or heaviness. I was still moving forward but I fel like a heavy sack of bones. Realising I wasn't going to be fast today I gave myself permission to run at Dave's prescribed long run pace and concentrated instead on maintaining my form, which can slacken off when I'm tired.

Twenty minutes in I started to warm up a bit, as expected. Forty minutes in I once again found my long run rhythm. Not that anything about this run was particularly effortless or even terribly joyous. I wasn't in the mood to be out there running. The novelty had, for the time being, worn off. I wanted to be hanging out on the sofa. I felt almost bored with the whole thing.

I had a few vague ideas about where I was going to run but mostly I was making things up as I went along. I ended up turning left at the Southern Coast and running around to Lyall Bay. As I ran past Island Bay the sand was blowing in my face. Rounding the point where the Marine Centre was to have been built the headwind was so punishing that I was at one point stopped dead in my tracks. Randomly I bumped into a colleague at around this time, both of us in the middle of nowhere.

When I got to Lyall Bay the Garmin was telling me that my planned route was going to get me back to Vogeltown too quickly, but I was sick of fighting the wind so I turned up Queen's Drive and started climbing up towards Newtown. I'm in a weird place at the moment where I've been doing so much hill climbing on my runs that I feel better uphill than I do on the flat, and so Queen's Drive and Crawford Rd were one of the better parts of this run.

When I got to the roundabout at the top of Crawford Rd my Garmin was again warning me that I was going to have to stretch this run out. I should have turned down towards Evans Bay but I didn't want to run on the flat, nor did I want to battle the northerly again. Stupidly I stuck to my plan and ran down into Newtown, however at the bottom of the hill I turned right instead of left and then turned right onto Adelaide Rd to extend things out a bit.

It was at about this point, nearly 90 minutes in, that I started to find a little of that enthusiasm. I remembered how a couple of weeks ago I was suffering a meltdown of monumental proportions this far into the run. At about this point in time I'd been slumped over at the bottom of a hill trying to work up the mental fortitude to keep going. There was none of that today. I might have been slow but I was steady and strong and my legs didn't argue at all as I climbed to the top of Adelaide Rd, descended and then headed up Britomart. The climb up Britomart and onto Liardet that had nearly killed me a couple of weeks ago posed no problems at all.

Unfortunately time was an issue and I got to the dairy with twenty minutes still to run. I turned and ran back to McAllister Park, skirted its boundary, ran back onto Adelaide Rd and then continued down towards Island Bay for another five minutes or so before turning around and running back up the hill, finishing on the corner of Britomart Street right on 110 minutes, 25 seconds. Right next to another dairy, where another Fruju iceblock was waiting.

I can definitely mark an improvement in my long runs compared to my 90 minute run. I thought I was really slow today but I was actually on average running within Dave's target pace, albeit at the slower end of it. If the wind hadn't been a factor and if there had been slightly less hillage then I would have been faster. If I hadn't spent yesterday doing hill repeats on Cleo then I would have been even faster still.

The key factor in today's run was the mental side of things, which is why I'm proud of myself for just getting out there and doing it, even given that I didn't really feel like it, and even if I felt so slow and heavy. Even my bad runs are still a lot better than they were a few weeks ago. However I won't lie when I say that, when I was messing around during that last twenty minutes, knowing how much further I will have to run on the day of the marathon did scare me slightly. I have so much more work to do and so little time to get it done in. I will do it though, even if I have to write HTFU on both arms and my forehead!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Burning the candle at both ends

Well, I posted some pictures of our Northland holiday, so it's probably about time to pad them out a bit. My ability to enjoy life at all ends of the spectrum can sometimes be a little disturbing. I love my running and my cycling and I believe in eating to fuel my workouts and in a healthy lifestyle in general. However that doesn't mean I don't sometimes through down the food like a Captain Cooker pig, and my liver must sometimes suffer as well. It wasn't that long ago I was spending all night on the dancefloor and sleeping all day, even if these days I'm likely to be meeting up for a ride as everybody else is leaving the clubs.

Our Northland holiday was a chance to catch up with some very dear Auckland friends, with whom we have spent a fair bit of time eating, drinking and dancing over the years. We were celebrating a commitment ceremony and an engagement. The exact nature of the relationships is somewhat complex and unorthodox, but it's exactly right for the people concerned. We were also thrilled that we were going to be there for our tenth wedding anniversary, and that half our wedding party (the male half) would be there with us.

We drove to Auckland on Thursday, but not before I'd fitted in my scheduled 6.30am RPM class. We stayed the night in Albany with members of Hamish's family and, after having driven from Ohakune with the air conditioning on, it was rather a shock to open the car door to get hit with a rush of humid air that felt like it belonged in Suva, not in the northern fringes of Auckland. Needless to say we were grateful for the breeze that got up later that night, but very little sleep was had.

Up early the next day we drove to Whangaumu Beach on the Tutukaka Coast, north of Whangarei. We got there at around mid day and I was handed a glass of wine. I pretty much had a glass in my hand for the next ten hours. The afternoon was spent outside next to the beach, but a fierce wind blowing in made things interesting. We women all dressed in our best frocks, the wine continued to flow and, by the time waiters were bringing around platters of food I'd had just enough to drink to make the idea of trying delicacies like chicken livers seem appealing. Needless to say the chicken livers weren't a big hit, and thankfully I was still sober enough to avoid the oyster shots.

The ceremony was gorgeous and brief and then the food and alcohol continued to flow. By 10.00 I was dozing off at my table but, as the party moved to the room next to where I was staying, very little sleep was had. At 7am the baby in the next bedroom started crying and, realising that three hours was going to have to do, I got up and prepared for my long run.

I was scheduled to run for 110 minutes, mostly flat with a few hills. Unfortunately there was no way I was going to get in a mainly flat run, unless I ran back and forth along the beachfront for nearly two hours. I warmed up for a kilometre or two by doing just that, and then it was on to the first of four monsters. The only way was up, and up was steep!

At the top of the first hill I took a side road which undulated for another couple of kilometres before ending at a signpost to a lookout. I clambered up to the top (it was really, really steep) and took the photos from my earlier post, then ran back down again. Back to the main road, over another big hill, down another side road, this time down to water level, more photos, back up to the main road, over another hill, down another side road, back again, over another big hill, and then another. As if that wasn't bad enough, I then had to turn around and run back over all those monster hills again.

Now in considering the success or otherwise of this run, let's note the following:
  • I was hung over a bit, or at least, I was certainly dehydrated
  • I was suffering from a severe lack of sleep
  • The hills were insane
  • Being Northland at the height of summer, it was extremely hot.
So yes, I walked up little bits of some of the steeper hills. I stopped to take photos. I stopped to answer a txt during a brief patch of phone reception. However I had a thoroughly wonderful time. I enjoyed running on the shoulder of the road, whether through bush or past farmland. I smiled and greeted passing locals. I skirted around fresh roadkill. I came across a peach tree growing on the side of the road and hunted unsuccessfully for ripe fruit. I guess you could say I went sightseeing.

Performance-wise, sure I walked a few brief bits, but on the flat my pace was easily within my target range. Even as I was running the last few kilometres and making up time up and down the beach again I felt great. I had a very, very good run.

Clever me, I even made it back to the beach in time to smell the aroma of bacon wafting over the neighbourhood. A brunch had been organised for guests down by the beach. Still in my running gear, still with a Camelbak on, I jogged through down the side of the motel to the makeshift bar overlooking the water. I slugged down two glasses of water and then picked up a glass of bubbly and the drinking started all over again. All class, that girl!

The day was spent lying around consuming leftover wedding food and working our way through the considerable amounts of leftover alcohol. My diet pretty much consisted of cupcakes and wine. That evening a huge storm rolled in and all plans for a barbeque had to be abandoned. Once again the lounge outside our bedroom became party central and I ended up snoozing for a while on the sofa of an adjacent flat. Despite that I once again managed little more than three hours of sleep.

Sunday continued in much the same manner as Saturday, albeit with a slower start to the day. We ate cupcakes and drank wine. Midway through Sunday afternoon I decided it was as good a time as any to do my Monday homework run. It was either that or mash my legs trying to get a ride in on those insane hills like I was supposed to be doing.

The scheduled run was supposed to be 5km long, flat and fast. About the only part of that I actually achieved was the 5km part. I did my little up and down the beach thing but that still left me with around 3km to go and, in my slightly sloshed, exhausted and overheated mode my legs got stuck in second gear. There was no speed to be had.

Instead of continuing to run laps of the beach I took off up a sideroad from the base of the hill along a route recommended by one of the guests. This still involved a climb, but a slightly less meaty one. It was still damn long though, not to mention airless. Its major consolation was the opportunity to indulge in holiday home porn. There were some seriously nice houses to be oogled.

At the top of the hill was the consolation prize - more beautiful views. After that it was down, down, down, and back to the house for a shower, followed by more cupcakes. There may also have been more wine. It's highly likely there was more wine. I disgust myself.

At 8.45 that night I came across Hamish lying on our bed (actually a mattress on the floor). He muttered something about grabbing a nap while things were quiet and he had the chance. Seemed like a smart idea to me. I lay down next to him, fully clothed. Well, it turns out that my body was quite keen on extending that nap, and neither of us moved for the rest of the night, not even when the party geared up next door again.

Ten very heavy hours of sleep later we were up and away, driving down to Taupo for the night. We were both still very tired but it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity so, after finding a motel room with a lake view, I got Cleo out of the car. The idea was to ride the 20km to Kinloch then turn around and ride back again. Unfortunately the road was full of cars, four wheel drives and trucks and they were all intent on getting home as quickly as possible. After being passed too closely at over 100kmph a trillion times, and after one too many loud honks, I did something unusual for me these days, I thoroughly lost my nerve.

Turning around I rode back towards town and discovered that the first part of the Taupo Cycle Challenge course is indeed all uphill. Riding back took half the time riding out did, which unfortunately got me back to the motel far too soon. Trying to salvage something from the day I kept going, riding south towards the airport, stopping at the lookout to check out the view, and then riding back to the motel. What was supposed to have been a two to three hour ride lasted no more than one and a half. However Hamish was waiting back at the motel for me and it seemed rude to keep him waiting. Besides, Nic and Leonie had given us a bottle of Moet for our anniversary and it was speed-chilling in the motel room fridge's freezer.

After one violently strong shower (my skin was literally pierced by each drop of water) Hamish and I sat in the window of our motel room looking out over the lake and enjoying our Moet. It had been just over ten years since our last bottle - which we drank straight from the bottle, standing up in our student bedsit flat on the day I handed in my Masters thesis (once again with the class).

One highly delicious glass down we put the bottle back in the fridge and headed out for pizza. We enjoyed a meal at Portofinos (and another glass of wine), then returned to our room to finish off the bottle of Moet. I even managed to locate a peanut slab in my backpack, left over from the Taranaki race, which we shared for dessert.

On Tuesday we were back in Auckland by 1.30 so that Hamish could make a 2.00 meeting. Seeing as I'd only had a short ride in Taupo, and given that I hadn't done my 20 minute post-ride run either, I decided I had some catching up to do. The Gearshifters RPM class was on at 6.30 so I checked into Stefan's 5.45 class as well. I got there early and knocked off 20 minutes on the treadmill, monitoring my reassuringly low heart rate.

I don't think my heartrate stayed low though. We went pretty hard throughout our 90 minutes of spinning. Dee chose some great tracks for her class, including KD Laing's "What's Going On" (especially for the Gearshifters backrow chorus singers) and "Run Away" - the one with the lyrics "Oh, Oh, Oh - I've got to run away", which incite even the most reluctant vocalist into song.

And that's about where things all went a bit pearshaped. I slept badly on Tuesday night and wrenched my neck and shoulder, then aggravated it by still doing my (otherwise brilliant) 55 minute hill run at lunchtime on Wednesday (including part of the city to sea walkway) and following that with weights on Wednesday night. By Thursday morning I was at my desk nearly in tears and in so much pain I was nauseaus.

A few desperate calls got me a last-minute physio appointment which loosened me up enough that I at least stopped feeling sick. However I had to face facts. I was not going to be able to complete my one hour run that night. After putting so much effort into making sure I got my workouts in while away I was absolutely gutted. I consoled myself with the thought that I could make it up on Friday if I felt better but unfortunately I didn't. A second physio appointment made only a little more headway and I still felt extremely sore. I was ordered to rest and take voltaren with the intention of loosening everything off enough to attack it properly on Monday and I was banned from running and from cycling.


So, I kinda, sorta may have rode AND run today. In my defence the voltaren really helped, although I supsect it helped only in the sense that it hid the pain rather than actually coaxing my neck muscles out of their spasm. However by Friday night I was feeling improved enough that I kidded myself into thinking I was ok enough to ride this morning. I am my own worst enemy! In my defence I couldn't face the idea of not riding with the Gearshifters again. I'd already missed the first ride by being in Northland.

Whatever, however, at 7am this morning I was up and preparing to ride. Whereas the weather had been perfect all week this morning it was foggy and windy and wet. Even that wasn't enough to stop me, which is just as well, because I ended up having one of the best rides in ages.

A small group of us left from Freyberg just after 8.30. We headed out past Evans Bay and around the Bays. A stiff northerly made things fun and we took the opportunity to practice bunch riding - drafting, riding two abreast and rotating the lead clockwise. Rapid cycling our positions I ended up having to share the lead more often than I would usually feel confident with, given how much I suck at riding into the wind. Plus, we rode fast. Sure, we had a tail wind a lot of the way but even into the giant headwind we still stayed over 25kmph. Dee told me afterwards we averaged about 35kmph over that section of the ride. I was working hard to hang in there. I felt like I was having to surge on a regular basis but for a change I had the power to push it. Perhaps all that hill running is giving me a little extra pedal strength as well.

I did the whole standing on my pedals thing up the Pass of Branda and, for once in my cycling career, held my place in the bunch all the way to the top. I was well chuffed when we stopped in a car park on the other side to regroup and things continued to improve from there. Our next task was to climb to the top of Sutherland Rd in Lyall Bay. Sutherland Rd is a nasty, nasty hill. It climbs and keeps on climbing and gets steeper and steeper as it goes. I've been up there once before and it nearly killed me but I was ready to give it another go.

Up we went. I started near the back of the pack and by two thirds of the way up I was overtaking one of the instructors. I was WHAT? Oh yes. I am, it seems, still a climber. One of the other new riders, Nick, who is easily the fastest in the new squad, and I ended up leap frogging the rest of the way up. He beat me to the top, but it was a close thing and I beat him back down to the bottom.

From there it was up Crawford and three five minute hill repeats up Alexandra Rd on Mt Vic. Then it was back up again to the top and then I grabbed the tail of one of the other women on our way back down Palliser Rd. She was flying and I was nervous but there was no way on this planet I was going to wimp out and grab my brakes. My cycle computer shows my maximum speed was 57kmph and it must have been at some point during the descent. Wow.

Back at the car I threw my running shoes on and did my required twenty minutes. My Garmin has some interesting stats for that run as well. Sure, it was only a short spurt but I hadn't exactly been spinning my legs out over the previous two hours. All the same I was holding my pace at around 5.30 minutes per kilometre (if not under) and it felt easy. There is something seriously going on with my fitness right now. I don't completely understand it but I think it's good. I'm pretty sure it's good.

I guess the short version of this blog involves the words 'eat', 'drink' and 'train'. I guess a life lived at full volume is a life lived well. However, given that I value both my liver and my waistline I'm picking that a little moderation might be advisable over the next few weeks. Maybe.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


A commitment ceremony, an engagement and a 10 year wedding anniversary. Lots of wine, lots of food and good friends.

Good times!

Running on the Tutukaka Coast

Photos from my 110 minute run when we were up north on the weekend. The hills were monsters and the heat got pretty oppressive, but who wouldn't enjoy runs with these kinds of views? I think it was worth the time taken to stop and pull out my phone to take a few pictures!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sorry to Bore You All

But I had another great run today.

Despite yesterday's RPM class.
Despite this morning's lower body weights.
Despite my legs in no way being fresh.

I don't now whether it's the B12 shots. I don't know whether it's simply that cycling increased my fitness more than I realised. Perhaps starting from a more advanced place means I'm getting my running legs back more quickly than I thought I would.

All I know for sure is that today's run rocked. My metabolism was going insane all morning. Despite the cereal before my weights session, the yoghurt after it, the fruit afer that - by 11.00 I could ignore the hunger pangs no more. I caved and bought a noodle broth from Boxo then waited until 12.00 for it to settle.

By 12.15 I was off on my 50 minute hill run. The weather was perfect. It was overcast, a little cooler than it has been of late, and there was no wind. I headed up Bowen then up Glenmore past the gardens. At the top, instead of running over the viaduct I turned left towards Karori.

I was second guessing myself the whole time. I wasn't sure I would make it back to the gym within 50 minutes. However I was feeling great. My heartrate hardly spiked running up the hill and I was maintaining a 6 to 6 and a half minute pace for most of the climb. I wanted to see if I could go all the way, so once I was through the Karori tunnel I headed for Aro Street and enjoyed the bush outlook and the long downhill into the valley. I didn't push the descent, letting gravity do the work. Once I was back on the flat however I picked up the tempo and was mostly able to keep the pace under 5.30.

The bypass has ruined Willis Street for running, so I got to sprint from intersection to intersection pressing stop on my Garmin each time. I should have run up onto the Terrace and avoided all the lights, but I got a bit lazy and didn't want to face another two steepish climbs. Instead I headed up Boulcott Street, which felt insanely easy. I got back to the gym on the Terrace with five minutes to spare, so ran to the end and back, finishing a shade under my 50 minute target.

I'm still a little nervous about my right ankle though. Thankfully all that is on the cards for tomorrow is an RPM, then Friday is a complete rest. I have a twenty minute run off a 2-3 hour bike ride on Saturday, then Sunday is a 110 minute run. Hopefully my ankle will be able to cope provided I continue to rest it. It's getting stronger, it's just taking a little time.

We're off to the Bay of Islands in the morning for a civil union. Cleo is coming with me and I'm taking a camelbak and lots of cool running and cycling gear! I'll be back online Wednesday and hopefully no disasters will have befallen me in the interim. Happy training everyone in the meantime!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Becoming a Runner Again

As Dave sent through my programme exactly three months out from the Rotorua Marathon I knew this was going to hurt. I went into this training knowing that I was going to be really stretching myself, that I was increasing my mileage more than was really advisable, that I was being really ambitious.

In a way, that attitude is going to stand in my favour. I am prepared to push my pain barrier in a way that I haven't for some time. Over the last year it's mostly been about the cycling, and somehow cycling doesn't induce the same kind of pain that running does. The running that I was doing was casual, leisurely almost, focussed on maintaining a minimal base. Having a training programme has given me focus and discipline. The discipline goes both ways. It makes me work hard when I have to work hard, and it stops me from going over the top when I should be resting.

Excitement got me through the first week of marathon training. Marathon training - even typing the two words sends shivers up my spine. Somehow those words make me feel like a real runner.

After my fast 5km run on Monday I was back in the gym early Tuesday morning for a customarily intense RPM. On Wednesday morning I was back at the gym in the morning for a leg workout. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I set out after work for a 45 minute hill run. I certainly wasn't expecting to have one of the dreamiest runs on record. Earlier in the day as the wind had threatened to knock me off my feet and the rain had poured down on me as I crossed the road to buy some lunch I had a What Would Steve Stenzel Do? moment. Steve is the guy who runs in temperatures so cold that vital bits of the male anatomy freeze up in a disturbing fashion. If Steve can risk his masculinity I can certainly run in a bit of rain!

Thankfully by the time I left the gym the rain had eased to a drizzle and the wind was in an almost kind frame of mind. I took off up Grant Rd, a nice, long and sufficiently challenging gradient, at a steady pace. To my surprise I held that pace the whole way up. Last time I'd run that way with Sarah I'd completely failed.

It was up, up and more up, all the way to Wadestown. The views out over the harbour were mesmerising, and they continued to flirt with me as I ran back down via Wadestown Rd. I fell into an an almost meditative state.

At the bottom of Wadestown Rd I turned right back onto Grant Rd, which undulates gently past a string of historic villas. At the bottom of Grant Rd I turned right onto Tinakori all the way up to Bowen, then it was a lovely smug downhill all the way back to the Terrace and the gym. I clocked that run up as a major success. It was enough of a success to carry me through a post-run Balance class with a smile.

I was up early again the next morning for another RPM, and it's fair to say that my legs were starting to feel the pain by Thursday afternoon as I stiffened up a bit. However I rested completely on Friday (other than a bit of dancing in the sun at the One Love concert) and I was good to go again by Saturday morning. B12 is a wonderful thing, and I certainly recover much faster these days now that I'm receiving monthly shots.

Saturday was down as a two to three hour ride, and I met up with some of the Gearshifters girls for a bit of a workout. I had a simple goal for today Frustrated by my Taranaki performance I decided it was time I finally started standing on my pedals to attack the smaller hills. The Pass of Branda provided a good opportunity, as did the climb up to Brooklyn. The strong northwest headwind provided the rest of the challenge. It wasn't the fastest or hardest of rides, but it was enough.

By Sunday there was a heatwave sweeping the country, kept company by that ever-present strong northerly, and I was down for a 90 minute run with a few hills thrown in. Against all reason I didn't get up early in the morning to get it out of the way while there was still a slight coolness in the air. I didn't leave until after 10am. I also ignored sage advice to take lots of fluid with me. I was only running 90 minutes. Why did I need to hydrate?

I'd mapped out a route in my head that enabled me to leave from home and, following on from some advice Kate gave me a long time ago, finished at a dairy at the bottom of the hill below our house. From the end of my street I turned left and ran downhill for around a kilometre, up another slight hill, down some more, and then I turned left and started running towards the city and the waterfront. By the time I got there I was starting to second-guess my planned route, wondering whether it was too ambitious. I made a pact with myself to run to 45 minutes and then, if I felt I hadn't gone far enough, to turn around and run back towards the city.

Wellington hosted the 7s over the weekend and as I ran down Kent Terrace and along Oriental Parade I dodged hoards of hungover sports fans disgorging from their hotels, blinking in the sunlight. I had to take evasive action more than once as slightly dazed individuals stopped dead in my path. I rolled my eyes and shook my head more than once.

I stuck to the shaded side of the road as much as possible, but by the time I reached Pt Jerningham there was no escaping the full force of the sun. 45 minutes in, however, I was well along my planned route, so decided I would keep going rather than turn around. I stopped at Balaena Bay for water, then plodded my way up over the saddle to Newtown. It was a very grateful Pip who took full advantage of the downhill to the shops. From the bottom of Constable Street I turned left and then the awful realisation hit. From here it was pretty much all uphill. Yes, I had planned my 90 minute run, the longest run I've done in months, so that the last half hour was almost completely uphill, without shade, and into a headwind. Yes, I am an idiot.

I ran to the end of the shops and then, at the base of the next hill, I started to crumble. I stopped and slumped against the side of a handy terrace house, looking up the slope that I normally tackled without issue, but which now seemed like a mountain. This would have been fine had a woman not emerged from the terrace house and flashed me one of those "yes, you really are an idiot" faces. Oh dear. Nothing much for it than to continue on. I shuffled up the hill, turned right, and enjoyed a very slight downhill to Adelaide Rd.

I wanted to weep as I turned right again onto Britomart Rd and faced yet another hill. By now the reserves were all used up. The only thing that kept me going was the thought that in a few short minutes I would be in the dairy buying a Fruju iceblock. I was obsessed with the thought of frozen orange-flavoured ice. I crawled to Liardet Street. Somehow my feet continued to follow one after the other past Macallister Park. As I got to the base of the next little incline, about 50 metres short of the dairy, my Garmin ticked over 90 minutes. I stopped.

I walked very slowly up the hill to the shop, picked up a newspaper, a cold drink and the lusted-after Fruju. I limped over to a seat outside the dairy in the shade. I started to gulp down the drink then realised I felt like I was about to vomit it back up again. I sat there for another five to ten minutes slowly sipping the rest of it. It didn't even taste appealing after all that and I had to force myself to finish it. As I did so the wind picked up and I started to feel chilled. Given that the temperature was still scorching I figured this was a bad sign. I realised that although I was caked with dry sweat I had stopped actually sweating some time ago. I realised this wasn't exactly a good sign either!

Not wanting to sit there on that bench any longer I picked myself up, started on the Fruju (which thankfully DID taste very good), and slowly walked my way back up the very steep hill to home. Before long I was covered in sticky melted iceblock juice as the thing melted faster than I could lick it.

At home I showered, ate blueberry and buckwheat pancakes, and then spent the rest of the day guzzling water like a maniac. Lesson learned. Hydration is essential if one is not to bonk in the most dismal manner when running in a heatwave.

Somehow, even with all the suffering, I managed to maintain Dave's target long run pace. I'm not quite sure how. Call it a miracle. What's even more of a miracle is that I didn't really even feel too sore afterwards, other than a little calf tightness. Sure, I wasn't keen on doing much more than sitting around on the sofa for the rest of the afternoon, but I was still in one piece. Worse things have happened.

So once again I really wasn't expecting to have a good run tonight. My legs were feeling fresher than they had a right to, sure, but yesterday's efforts would surely catch up with me. 7km at a fast pace? Hmm, maybe! The weather conditions weren't promising either, with that northerly threatening galeforce. This was going to have to be one of those suck-it-and-see runs again. Set off, see how the legs feel, push it as hard as possible. I wanted only to keep it honest.

Target pace was 5 to 5.15 minutes per km. To my surprise I managed that for the first couple of kilometres, in fact at times running at a 4.45 pace. I maintained that until I passed Carlton Gore Rd and hit the headwind. I fought that headwind all the way to the other side of Pt Jerningham, at which point it became a mammoth tailwind, which carried me all the way down the straight. I believe this may be where I recorded my fastest pace according to my Garmin - 4.07.

Right on 3.5km (thanks Garmin) I turned and headed back. The stretch of Pt Jerningham that I'd flown down seconds earlier became the stretch of path that at one point reduced me to 7 minutes per kilometre. Groan! I was running through mud!

The headwind was pretty dire the whole way back, and when it was bad I was struggling to hold 6 to 6.30. When it eased off a bit I could hold 5.30 to 5.40 without killing myself. When it disappeared I was back in the 5 to 5.15 money zone. With one kilometre to go I started really trying to kick it, and to my surprise there was some kick to be had.

All up my average pace was 5.35, so 20 seconds off but, given the winds it could have been worse. More importantly, my form was right up there. When I run slow I run lazy. When I run fast I push off more with each step and therefore my glutes actually fire. I actually lift my legs. I run more upright. The one thing I noticed tonight that I haven't noticed before was that I was running much more mid-foot than usual, even verging on running on my toes. It was helping me run fast though, so I wasn't going to analyse it too deeply.

The rest of the week is going to be a mad balance between trying to fit the workouts in and socialising. We're off North on Thursday for a civil union and if I thought running in Wellington heat was bad, running 110 minutes in a hilly area near Tutukaka is going to be torturous. Let alone the fact that I have to fit in a 2-3 hour bike ride and 20 minute run the day before! At least I will be able to catch up on some of that swimming I've been missing I guess.

I wonder how badly my legs are going to protest tomorrow morning in RPM? It will be fun finding out.

Note: Body Balance is one of the Les Mills stable of classes. It is a mix of Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates. The warm-up track is based on Tai Chi, followed by a sun salutation track, a strength track (warrior poses etc), a balance track, a hip stretching track, core (pilates), back, twists, hamstring stretches and a relaxation track or two. It's yoga light really as the poses aren't held for long, but it's free and it's fun and it does help prevent my runner hips from seizing up all together!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A Post for Calyx

A unicorn picture, to help you get over the trauma of the blister pic!

An abbreviated day of exercise today. I did my usual spin class before work but got stuck in a meeting so missed Balance. I would have swum but for the reluctance to risk getting pool germs in the still-healing wounds in my mouth.

Tomorrow calls for lower body weights and a forty minute hill run. Clare's taking a Balance class at 6.30 so I'll run then join in. Mmmm .... post-run Balance classes are the best!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Day One of Marathon Training

One for Steve. A blister to celebrate day one of marathon training. Can you tell how excited I am? Like, embarking on a major voyage excited? It turns out the enforced rest was a good thing as it gave me a physical and psychological break between BAU training and the commencement of my new mission. My interest is peaked. The idea of running a marathon in three short months (threeeeeee mmoooooonnnttthhhhs) terrifies me just enough that it has me enthralled and once again obsessed. Bring it on. Bring it on.

So, Dave's programme had me down for an upper body weights session today and a 5km fast run. No problems. I had already done the upper body session before I got his email, and the 5km run wasn't a huge deviation from what I'd already planned. Left to my own devices I probably would have run for around forty minutes. I may have included a hill or two. 5km fast though? Crazy talk! It's been so long since I allowed the word 'speed' to enter my vocabulary in relation to running that I wasn't even quite sure that I still knew how to run fast. And run fast after nearly a week of rest with a still slightly dodgy sacroilleac and a mouth full of stitches? Excuse me? Still, a short 5km and then a bus trip home to another glass of that award winning Guthrey family riesling? Now that was appealing.

Even so I was second guessing myself all the way out of the door of the gym. My deal with myself was to warm up by running down to the Meridian building and then to just start running and see how I felt. Right - that old 'see how you feel' copout thing again. I must be going soft! Please don't tell me I'm turning soft! Ok, the softness might have something to do with cider and fish and chips and Whittakers Dark Ghana chocolate and, damn it, the chocolate mud cake our PA brought in for morning tea (and I allowed myself a whole piece too, then sat at my desk feeling sick). Physical softness, now there's an explanation for that, if not an excuse. Mental softness? Someone set the mad dog loose on that girl.

So what did I do? I got to the Meridian building, paused for a moment, and then ran. And what do you know? I ran fast. Just once, for a change, I ran so that my breath rasped from my lungs. My chest heaved. Pedestrians turned to see what was lurching up behind them in such a morbid state. I felt the burn. I wanted to stop. I didn't want to stop, damn it. I tried to slow, but each time I even entertained the idea the mad dog nipping at my heels forced me to speed up instead. I ran. I ran fast.

I had forgotten how wonderful the pain of a speed session can be. I had forgotten how the burn can make you want to vomit, and yet how exquisite that state of nausea can seem. I had gotten lazy with my runs, indulgent in my little aims of running forty minutes, an hour, up the odd hill when I felt like it. This was real training. This hurt. Training is supposed to hurt. This is not supposed to be easy.

Unfortunately I didn't have my Garmin with me. It was forgotten, left in my bedside drawer. I couldn't time myself and I had to estimate the 5km distance, based on what I knew of the Loaded Hog runs and the waterfront distance markers. All the same, I knew what my perceived rate of exertion translated to.

Kate, Sarah, you were right. I am totally capable of a sub-25 minute 5km.

When I got to the gym I was a sweaty, happy mess. I dripped sweat all over Dave as I thanked him for his programme. Then I headed to the stretching area. I was training. This was serious. Training includes preventative stretching. Training means doing what I need to do to not get injured. I stretched, extensively, and then I went home and drank riesling. And then I wrote this blog.

Readers, don't run, drink and blog. You may end up posting something as overly dramatic and emotional as this. Be warned, and be afraid!

I Have a Marathon Training Programme

And I'm a teensy bit excited. Dave finally came through for me!

The next few months are going to be insane though. I'm going to be building up the mileage pretty quickly unfortunately. Not ideal, but there you go. Hopefully fitting in a few rides will give me enough crosstraining to prevent me from destroying myself.

More details later as I'm blogging this from work. Naughty, but I just had to let out a virtual Woohoot!!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Feeling Twitchy

It's Sunday evening and I haven't exercised at all since Tuesday. I was tempted by a Gearshifters ride yesterday afternoon but the swelling from my wisdom tooth surgery on Wednesday was still causing me some pain and the stitches were bugging me, so I reluctantly flagged it away. Instead I went on a long walk around the Southern Coast (pictures to come), but it wasn't enough and by last night I was truly bouncing off the walls of our living room. My body seemed to decide to channel the excess energy it was dealing with through my brain. Suddenly everything was bright and shiny and interesting. I found myself feverishly researching beds online (our current bed is well past its use-by date). Celebrating my gradual return to eating real foods I drank a bottle of Scrumpy Cider and ended up completely toasted. Hamish and I watched an English programme that followed a couple as they hunted for a property that they could turn into an eco-lodge and I commented with fascination on every little plot twist. The situation started to get more than a little out of control.

Anyway, I thought it might be useful to post the Taranaki Cycle Challenge course profile. You'll probably need to click on it to view it properly. It's obvious that the elevation gains aren't huge, but that 30km or so of gradual climb inland from Opunake is a killer.

Lavender farm, Stratford, Taranaki

I'm reasonably happy with the progress I'm making post-surgery, despite the excess of energy. I've been taking my painkillers and antibiotics and doing the mouth wash thing. On Thursday I felt a bit achy but the main pain came from my scratched up throat, which made it difficult to swallow. I took it easy and took an extra 5mg of Hydrocortisone mid-afternoon when I started to feel a bit heavy and lethargic. I was taking Panadeine every four hours and each time I took it I would start to dose off, which I found odd because Panadeine shouldn't make me drowsy!

On Friday I started to eat a little normal (if soft) food again, after restricting myself on Thursday to chocolate milk, yoghurt and soup. My weight started to go back up to normal again after losing over a kilo following surgery. As mentioned above I stayed away from the alcohol till Saturday and, as tempting as it was to ride in the gorgeous summer weather, I figured I'd end up in too much pain if I tried.

By this morning I was almost able to talk normally again and my smile was almost back to normal. At least, I was able to mimic a real smile without looking like I was grimacing. Hamish and I set off to run a few errands - preparing for friends' commitment ceremony in a couple of weeks and bed shopping. Our current bed is ridiculous. It's around thirteen years old and falling apart. Hamish keeps getting a sore back from sleeping on it and when it gets bad he starts tossing and turning, at which point I start getting thrown around next to him. Add to that three cats fighting for space and you end up with a lot of disturbed sleep.

We stopped by Wellington Beds today to see what was available, knowing that we wanted a king-sized bed, and that motion-control was important to the both of us! To our surprise we ended up agreeing on a flexi-slat bed with a medium-firm mattress. We even liked the same headboard. Both of us agree that a tailboard would annoy us. Neither of us was keen on a base and mattress combo, due to the lack of under-bed space and the need to mess around with a valance. In any case, one of the cats would be sure to use one corner as a scratching post.

Old Taranaki farmhouse, Stratford (Mt Taranaki in background)

After another day of no exercise I'm more than ready to try a run tomorrow. I've decided to try to shave my 5km. I've never run anything shorter than a 7km race before so I have no idea what kind of time I am capable of but I'd like to think I can manage the distance in around 25 minutes. This week I'm going to do one of the 5km series of runs that take place each Tuesday night on the waterfront. Unfortunately they will clash with the Gearshifters evening RPM classes, but I'll keep working on my speed and do a few more of the 5km runs once the Grape Ride is over.

I'm feeling quite excited about switching back to a running focus now that the Rotorua Marathon is on the horizon.

Jet Trails over Mt Taranaki, Stratford

Tentative plan for this week:

Monday - Upper body weights, flat run
Tuesday - RPM, Body Balance, 5km run
Wednesday - Lower body weights, hill run
Thursday - Swim, Ride
Friday - Waitangi Day holiday. Sea swim then dancing at One Love!
Saturday - Long ride
Sunday - Long run