Friday, June 26, 2009

Enviro Schools

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A few more ramblings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 14, 2009


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

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

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

Thursday, June 11, 2009

But what if I don't want lemonade?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 08, 2009

Note to self ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you will remember why it is you run.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Reasons why I would one day like to do an Ironman

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

Monday, June 01, 2009

Pip Goes Trail Running in Arctic Wellington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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