Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hamish saved us from ourselves

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Marathon photos!

Oops - wrong way around!  Finished .... and I swear I'm not leaning on that fence just to keep myself upright!

Before, and trying not to feel too nervous!


Hiding under a duvet on the sofa on a Saturday afternoon

That's the sound of an Arctic southerly blowing through the empty halls of this blog.  Guess I kinda disappeared after the marathon huh?  Well, the good news is that the head cold never turned into anything serious.  I've been continuing to train - three runs a week, a spin class, a ride (or two more spin classes), and three LBN workouts (which are kicking my butt).  

Post-marathon I had good run after good run, felt strong and powerful, fell in love with running all over again. I kept training even as the weather deteriorated to the point of being ridiculous.  I guess I couldn't have expected the good runs to last forever, and on Monday night I shuffled my way around what was supposed to be five fast kilometres and ended up being more like four. It was windy and wet and very cold and I was tired and just not feeling the love.  I didn't regret calling it quits early one little bit.  

Wednesday's hill run was an improvement, and I'm hoping I'll get a 1 hour 45 minute run in tomorrow.  However the prediction is for a high of eight degrees and snow down to 200 metres.  Jo and I were planning a huge run on the Karori trails, but that's looking a bit doubtful right now!  We've agreed that if we think we're heading into hypothermia territory we'll head off to a cafe for a hot chocolate instead.   

It's a cold, cold winter of discontent here in Wellington, but at least the cats are warm!

Monday, May 11, 2009


After an unintentional rest day yesterday I had a satisfying workout with the Look Better Naked crew this afternoon.  Lots of squats, lunges, full press ups and crunches.  After work I ran a blisteringly fast (like, holy heck fast) Kelburn loop.  A tall, athletic guy passed me on the flat through Kelburn and I made a mental note to keep an eye out for him on the downhill.  He was a bit faster with his road crossings and I lost sight of him until he ran out in front of me by the university.  He must have stopped for some reason.  It was game on by that point.  

I didn't get past him but I sat on his tail about five metres behind right until he crossed the road again and I lost him on the Terrace. He may have turned down Boulcott Street.  Now he was about six foot and was loping down that hill pretty easily.  I felt like a demented chihuahua running after him.  My feet were turning over incredibly quickly and in my mind my ears were flapping behind me and my tongue was dangling out the side of my mouth, just like an over-stimulated little dog attempting to chase a car.  Ironic really, because I'd nearly tripped over a similarly sized dog in Kelburn when it decided it wanted to sniff at a tree to my right. It was a close call whether I was going to trip over the dog or its leash.  Thankfully I managed to slam on the brakes quickly enough to avoid doing either.  The dog's owners were more than a little embarrassed, poor things. 

Anyway, there I was going too fast down the hill to check the Garmin. It was all I could do to remain upright, but it felt good to be letting loose and I gave myself permission to be reckless just this once.  I think at one point I may have noticed something in the low four minute km's, but I didn't get a really good look so can't be certain.  All I know was that I raced up Glenmore and that my overall pace was excellent.   

I kicked it just a little more as I headed up the last slight rise to the Terrace gym.  I'm not going to lie, it felt fantastic to be running at speed again.  It gave me hope of running a couple of fast half marathons this year!  

Afterwards I was telling Dave that I wanted to run another marathon in the first half of next year, and he suggested the Mountain to Surf in New Plymouth.  It's fast, the timing's right and I can stay with my parents in Stratford.  Sounds perfect!  Anyone else care to join me?  

Oh, and I think I'm getting a cold.  Crud.  Definitely getting a cold.  Ironic really, when I was so careful to stay away from sick people after the race.  Looks like I let my guard down too soon ...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Rotorua - The Marathon

As I ran over the start line it was difficult to collect my thoughts.  The Maori warriors were gathered at the entrance to the Government Gardens but I was on the other side of the road from them and didn't have much of a chance to take them in.  We ran through the city streets and turned to start heading out of town.

I don't remember a lot about the early minutes of this race.  I was focussing mostly on trying to keep control of my pace as I was worried about going out too fast.  Even so I caught up with the 4.30 pacers and kept overtaking large numbers of runners.  The guys who had been standing next to me dropped off and I didn't see them again.  

My legs felt ok. Not amazing, but not that bad either.  I got ahead of the 4.30 pacers then told myself off and slowed down a bit.  I found myself running alongside them and, feeling comfortable with their pace, decided to stay with them for a while.  I don't normally try to stick with pacers as trying to hold that constant speed drives me nutty, but I figured doing so for a few kilometres would keep me in check.  

Looking at the elevation map the first 6km or so trend gradually uphill, but honestly it's such a gradual incline as to be almost unnoticeable.  I figured this early part of the run would give my legs a chance to warm up and that I would enjoy the very short, slight downhill at 7km.  We hit 5km in around 30 minutes, which would have felt ridiculously slow were it not for the distance still to cover.  

My legs were still feeling ok, but my bra was showing signs of chafing.  What the heck?  I'd worn this particular bra all through my training and it had never given me any problems and NOW it was going to rub?  To add to this the four gels and medication in the pocket of my running tights was causing them to fall down, and I was nervously tugging at them ever few minutes to avoid giving the runners behind me a bit of an eyeful.  

Oh well, nothing to be done, so I kept running.  Around 7km in my stomach started acting up.  Fantastic!  The nerves and the huge amounts of sugar in my cereal were combining to make me feel less than stellar in the gastro department.  

I kept running regardless.  I had planned on taking my first gel around 10km in but with my stomach not playing nice I decided I would instead concentrate on walking the first few drink stations and sipping on some Leppin until I started to feel better. This proved to be an excellent strategy.  I continued to be a bit burpy throughout the whole race, but I never felt like I might need to pull over for a bit of a vomit. Given the inauspicious end to my first half marathon (my first and only DNF), that much was a relief!  

At 10km I was feeling fresh and happy to be at the start of a long gradual downhill.  We had climbed a short but noticeable hill and were about to lose most of that altitude gain over the next 5km.  From memory I knew there was a flat stretch past Hamurana Springs before the biggest hill around the 18km mark.  

It was lovely to turn onto Hamurana Rd and to be running along the lake. This road is normally closed to traffic but today was open to allow travel to and from a tangi.  Even so, traffic was light.  Had it been a clear day it would have been beautiful, but today it was grey and a touch gloomy, with a bit of a wind stirring up the water.  

At the 12km mark a local group always sets up a champagne breakfast.  I could hear the music playing as I advanced and when I rounded the corner there they were - all in fancy dress and holding out cups of bubbly.  I would have loved to have downed a few mouthfuls, but with my stomach still grumbling it wasn't an option.  I vowed that I would return next year and ran regretfully past. 

Up till now I had been running with the 4.30 female pacer.  In fact at times I had been running on her left shoulder with the balloons bumping in my face.  At each drink stop she would get away a little, and then I would catch her.  At 16km we hit the big hill. This was the hill I had been stressing about, the hill which had me running up Mt Vic in the last few weeks of my training trying to get my hill stamina to kick in.

In the end the hill was an anticlimax.  The old guy next to me who was Gallowaying his race agreed with me that it wasn't that bad, but I left him and the pacers behind me as I cruised upwards.  So THIS was the feared hill? Admittedly it did get steeper and more windy as I neared the top, but I'd run much worse back home and it gave me huuggggeee confidence.

I let the pacers catch me again on the way down, then fell back in with them.  Around the 18km mark I finally felt ok enough to down a gel, and from that point on I took a gel every 45 minutes or so.  I didn't get the whole gel down each time, but I would have gotten at least half.  I didn't notice a huge lift from them this time around but psychologically it helped to know I was getting some calories in.  

As always, it was the flat parts of the course which I found hardest psychologically.  The next big hill arrived at around 26km in and it was almost a relief.  I felt a bit cheated to arrive so quickly at the top, although the downhill was lovely!  

Before I knew it we were at the 32km mark, but it barely even registered that I was now running further than I'd ever run before.  I'd settled into a really steady plod that just kept me putting one foot in front of the other.  Another step was another step closer to the finishline.  I never 'hit the wall', and I think that's because I took it really slowly, but this part of the course was again quite flat, and it again ground on me a little.  

There was one point where I was running up a long, very slow incline.  Looking at the course elevation I think this must have been around the 35km mark.  I could see a line of people running ahead of me with nothing to break up the monotony and suddenly, without giving myself permission, I felt myself walking.  I looked at my Garmin and gave myself a one minute walk break, after which I felt good again.  I did this one more time over the last few kilometres.  So strictly speaking, I didn't end up having to Galloway the last 10km, but I did take a couple of walk breaks.  I'm a bit annoyed with myself about this.  I feel that if I were a little tougher on myself I could have kept going.  

This last part of the course was also less scenic, as we headed back towards Rotorua.  The pacer I had been running with had failed to hold the correct speed and we were about five minutes behind.  The other 4.30 pacer had disappeared and taken most of the pace group with him.  He ended up finishing a few minutes too fast! I think the group of women I had been with at the start must have gone with him, because I lost them.  

By now we were passing people who were clearly in the death zone.  Men who looked like they should easily have run a sub-4 were limping or swaying along the footpath.  It was hard not to feel pleased with myself as I passed walker after walker and it gave me momentum to keep going.  

By now the runners around me were handing round bags of gummy lollies and I thought it might be fun to give one a go.  I slipped an orange jube into my mouth, chewed on it a few times, sucked it a bit, and then realised it wasn't going anywhere but out.  I just wasn't capable of swallowing.  Feeling a little grubby I spat it into my hand and dropped it into the gutter.  Sorry!

I knew the last 7km trended ever so slightly downhill and was counting on it to bring me home.  About mid-way through the run I'd gone into a strange little zone.  When I take part in cycle races I'm incredibly social.  I chat a lot to other cyclists and call out comments to supporters.  Running races? Not so much it seems!  I had been very, very quiet for some time.  I was totally in my head.  This was a shame because the crowd support out there was excellent.  

It was a woman standing on the side of the road as we entered suburbia who changed that for me.  "Only 6km to go," she called out, "enjoy yourselves".  I realised she was right.  Here I was, running a marathon, and I was going to finish!  And not only was I going to finish, but I was going to finish in a time I was going to be happy with.  

About now I was also starting to feel a little thirsty, so I walked one last water break and lost the pacer.  She wasn't that far ahead of me and I considered catching her again but couldn't bring myself to make the effort.  Instead I concentrated on actually responding to the people who were calling out encouragement.  I in particular remember one young guy about a kilometre from the finish who appeared to have finished the race himself some time earlier.  He called out that I was nearly there and that I'd done well.  For some reason he struck me as being really sincere, and I was so grateful to him.  I wanted to yell out that it was my first marathon, but for some reason I just smiled.  

Internally there was a little groundswell of emotion.  I was doing it.  I was really doing it!  I was overtaking people all over the place, and so I switched to picking them off one after the other.  It was at this point that my body decided to rain a little on my parade.  I'd taken an extra 5mg of Hydrocortisone three and a half hours in, just to be safe.  However I hadn't taken any extra Fludrocortisone, and with one and a half kilometres to go my heart started fluttering just a little.  I tried to ignore it but it came back and, feeling a little unnerved, I dropped to a walk for a few metres.  I was really frustrated to be walking so close to the finishline, and even more annoyed when a young woman I'd brushed past on the narrow footpath minutes earlier overtook me again.  

With the fluttering dissipating I picked up the pace again and overtook a few of the women who had just overtaken me.  I felt really embarrassed but determined not to lose too much ground.  Suddenly I was at the gates to the gardens. There were spectators everywhere.  My Garmin had consistently run 200 metres long the whole way so, looking at my wrist I could tell that I had 200 metres to go.  I kicked it a little to the finishline, but in my race photos I look like I'm barely lifting my legs!  I was looking left and right, knowing Hamish would be somewhere nearby, and hoping someone else would be there to cheer for me.  

Over the first of the sensors and I got a huge shock when the announcer called my name.  Good - anyone nearby would know I was finishing!  Over the finishline, making a conscious effort to look up and not at my wrist.  I didn't want a finishing photo of myself stopping my Garmin.  As soon as I was over and I thought it was safe I hit stop.  4.37.  That'll do!  

And there was Hamish.  Just over the finishline he was on the other side of the barrier with the largest grin on his face.  I got my finisher's medal and had a photo taken.  The finisher's medal felt soooo heavy and incredibly good around my neck.  The woman in front of Hamish shifted to let him through and he leaned over the barrier for the longest hug.  I got a little teary.  

I'd finished.  I'd run the Rotorua Marathon.  And it didn't even feel that bad!  I'd never really hit the wall, just got a little psychologically weak once or twice.  I knew I had in fact paced myself really well.  I tried not to let myself think I could have gone faster.  

Hamish was a little naughty and jumped over the barrier to join me.  I wanted my cider but he hadn't been able to find any in any of the nearby stores.  As soon as I stopped I started hurting.  I had a blister on one of the toes of my right foot and boy was it now letting its presence be felt!  

I was in a huge daze as I shuffled the 10 metres or so to the volunteers removing transponders.  That 10 metres felt like an eternity.  I slumped down onto a bench next to another finisher.  He asked if it was my first marathon and I replied that it was.  He then asked if it was my last and I replied "NOPE!"  Hamish continued to hover with a huge grin on his face.  

I pulled myself to my feet and shuffled into the expo centre.  I was now incredibly thirsty so took a cup of Leppin.  Bad idea.  I took a cup of water.  For some reason I ignored the broth, which would have been perfect.  I got my finisher's shirt and I honestly don't remember ever having been so happy to receive a piece of clothing, or ever feeling that anything had ever been as well deserved.  I also grabbed the standard banana.  

Still in a daze I told Hamish I needed to sit down for a few minutes, and I shuffled into the auditorium and found a couple of empty chairs.  H handed me my merino (clever boy) and I put it on, but completely forgot about the polyprop around my waist.  As I sat down all I could think was "ouch - my glutes".  My poor butt was on fire to the point where it almost made my eyes water.  I've never felt anything quite like it!  To add to this my quads were stiffening up quite spectacularly. Walking back to the car was going to be interesting. 

However walk back to the car I did.  I walked incredibly slowly, but I got there.  It probably did me good.  After running all that way it felt good to think that there was no longer any need to worry about getting anywhere and no need to hurry at all. 

As soon as I got outside I started to shiver, and I had difficulty getting warm for the rest of the day.  I made it back to the hotel and somehow even managed to walk through the hotel lobby back to the room.  I even managed to make it into the bathroom for a very long, hot shower.  After the shower and a bit of a time spent on the bed txting and Facebooking I picked myself up again and shuffled back to the car.  By this point everything was stiff, but it was the blister on my foot that was causing the most difficulties.  Time to numb the pain - we drove back towards town in hunt of cider.  

Cider was easily found at the local Belgian pub, but unfortunately the publican was on his own and, stuck behind the bar, he couldn't cook us any food.  No frites met mayo. Oh well - the cider would do to start.  I found a table by the fire and celebrated my successful race.  Dehydration, a huge run, no food and a big glass of cider.  Hmmm - this could only go in one direction! 

The cider went down waaayyyyyy to quickly so we shuffled a few metres down the road to the Fat Dog cafe.  I found another table by a fire, as I was still having difficulty keeping warm.  All I could imagine eating at that point was a bowl of wedges, so that's what H ordered for me.  A huuugggggeeeee great big bowl arrived and I tucked in eagerly.  Unfortunately, although I was mentally ready for food (by this time it was at least 3.30 and I hadn't eaten since breakfast, having only managed a mouthful of the post-race banana), physically my stomach still wasn't working.  I managed a good stab at getting some food down, but I left a woeful pile of potato behind me. 

Back to the hotel (sharing wry laughs with other shuffling people on the street) and I found myself lying facedown on the bed.  Well, that wasn't exactly where I'd intended to end up, but it seemed to be working for me so I decided to stay there.  I may even have dozed.  

On the advice of the hotel receptionist we'd booked a 6.30 session at the private mineral spa at the QE Hospital near the lake.  The spa turned out to be the hospital's hydrotherapy pool so not exactly luxurious, but what the heck, it was private and it was hot and it was thermal.  Now of course a hot spa is exactly the last thing you're supposed to have after a marathon (all those muscle tears and inflammation don't need any more heat), but there was no way I was leaving Rotorua without a dip.  As a compromise I turned one hot shower nozzle on my shoulders while I ran cold water on my quads before jumping in.  It was bliss.  Total bliss.  I may even have stopped feeling cold for 30 minutes.  

Out of the pool and it was time to shuffle back to the car.  We headed back to Fat Dog where I huddled under a gas heater while Hamish fetched me some vegetable soup and bread.  Unfortunately my stomach STILL wasn't working.  I managed one piece of bread and about half the bowl, and finished that up with some chocolate back at the hotel.  

Still suffering from temperature regulation issues I was quick to jump under the duvet back at our room.  I went through a brief spell of feeling more than a little miserable.  I was just aching so badly everywhere!  In addition to the temperature issues and aches I was also feeling sort of uncomfortable in my skin - a kind of internal or psychological itchiness. In retrospect I suspect I was also low on cortisol.  I'd taken that extra 5mg during the race at around the time I'd normally take my mid-day dose, and hadn't taken any more at the finish.  I'd followed that up with my standard 5mg at 6pm.  So in total I'd taken only 10mg more than usual.  NOT ENOUGH!  I think if I'd doubled my 6pm dose I would have felt a lot better.  Duh ...

I slept very heavily that night, waking after around ten hours, still feeling very stiff and more than a little lethargic.  Realising that my body was still playing catch up I did at least have enough sense to double my morning dose of cortisol, and boy did that help.  I actually started to feel a little more normal. Still sore, but normal!  

Back to Fat Dog and I ordered a bowl of muesli with fruit and yoghurt.  I managed about half of that again.  It seems my stomach still wasn't working ... I was starting to feel a little concerned by this point, but there wasn't much I could do about it, so I let it go.  I did, however, ask Hamish to start off the driving.  I wanted to feel a little more on top of things before I jumped behind the wheel.  

I ended up taking over the driving at Waiouru, and was fine the rest of the way back down the country.  Still no food though.  We didn't snack at all while driving and didn't stop anywhere for lunch.  We dropped into a client of Hamish's in Waikanae so H could do a quick bit of work for them, and then we stopped by some friends' in Titahi Bay.  I was a little concerned about how I was actually going to get to their house, as they are up a long, steep and very badly formed path.  To my surprise my legs were feeling a bit better and it wasn't as much of a challenge as I'd expected.  

One glass of wine later and it was late-afternoon.  I looked over and there was a bag of potato chips.  I ate one.  It tasted good.  Minutes later the bag was almost gone.  H looked over at me and I looked back at him.  Time to go then!  We didn't stop until we were at Mavericks, our local fish and chip and pizza place.  Back home I wolfed down an entire Margarita pizza and it didn't even touch the sides.  It seemed my stomach had finally decided to work again.  It only took 30 hours.  Sheesshhhh.   

So I did it.  I ran the marathon and I finished in a time which was slow, but which was pretty much exactly the time I'd expected to finish in. I clearly had a realistic idea of my capabilities.I think I went out there with a really good knowledge of my strengths and weaknesses and where I was at with my training.  I knew from experience what works for me and what doesn't.  The best part is that I know I can easily improve.  Even if I simply don't walk the water stops next time I can cut a good chunk of time off.  If I do a few more long runs and don't have gastro issues I'd be looking to finish closer to four hours.  Even though flat courses do my head in it's tempting to find a flat, fast marathon and to attempt to really go for it.  However with so much else on my plate it's likely to be Rotorua again on next year's dance card!

As I mentioned, by Sunday evening my legs were already starting to feel a little better and by Monday I was still stiff but able to walk with a semblence of normality.  By Tuesday I was brimming over with energy and itching to get back into some exercise.  By Friday night I was being gripped by waves of euphoria as my body tried to work out what to do with all that stored energy.

To my credit I held off till Saturday, when I allowed myself a run around the Bays and back up over Maida Vale.  It's only around 7 to 8km.  I expected to feel really weak and horrid but in fact I had a great run.  Again, I tried to start out easy but on the way back got the bit between my teeth and concentrated on chicking a few guys around Te Papa.  So although I didn't wear my Garmin I think I ended up setting a really good pace.  I then followed that up with a wonderfully relaxed Balance class in a warm little puddle of sun by the windows overlooking the Terrace.  

All that training hasn't put me off running at all.  I'm focussing now on running two fast half marathons this year and I'll hopefully be able to mix that up with a few trail runs. I know that I really achieved something on Saturday.  It'd be one ticketed off the bucket list, if I had such a thing.  I ran a marathon - a freaking marathon!   

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Rotorua Marathon: The Buildup

As I've posted here previously, I didn't have the perfect buildup to this, my first marathon. As I entered the last week I found myself under considerable pressure and unsure as to how to prepare. I was having real difficulties with my sacroilleac so, after Monday's 15km, ended up not doing any of my other scheduled runs. However my hip seemed to get worse as the week went on and my legs stubbornly refused to feel fresh.

To add to the stress of trying to decide whether to run or not, I seemed to have scheduled a week of errands that saw me dashing all over town like a mad thing. On Monday I felt like I was coming down with a UTI, so booked a doctor's appointment for 5.00 on Wednesday. On Tuesday morning I dashed to Penny's to drop Cleo off so that they could upgrade her derrallieur and swap the SPDs for a new pair of Look Keos. Unfortunately I'd forgotten I'd booked a 5.00 hair appointment, so at 4.00 I found myself dashing back to Penny's to pick her up again and check out my bike fit. I'd also forgotten a bike lock, so had to buy another before dashing across the road to secure her in the gym carpark, which is next to the hairdresser. I made it to my appointment with minutes to spare. Out of the hairdresser and a quick call to Hamish, who happened to be leaving work at that instant, secured our ride home in the Honda.

I had to leave work again early the next day to catch a bus back to Brooklyn to see the doctor, then ended up walking the 20 minutes from Brooklyn to home in my high heeled boots. Not so good for my hip!

I was aiming to leave work early again on Thursday, but a last minute conversation with my manager saw me carting home a heap of documents to read through that night. With little time to spare I dashed across town to Rebel Sports. I think I've already mentioned that my lucky running bandana disappeared a few weeks back, and that I think my cat stole it. Well, in a last minute fit of race-buildup paranoia I'd decided I needed another. Rebel didn't have anything, but I bought an ordinary bandana from a nearby store as a back up, then headed across to the gym. Unfortunately the Les Mills store no longer sells their branded bandanas. Another quick dash saw me in Shoe Clinic, where I finally found something I thought might work. It was getting late and cold by this point and it took forever for a bus to arrive, so by the time I made it home I was exhausted.

I spent the rest of the night reading through a heap of documents and providing feedback via email. I allowed myself to sleep in a bit the next morning and then ran around the house packing. I packed EVERYTHING!

We had a few errands to run before we left town. First we stopped off at the local Mac store to order my a new laptop, and we picked up a new iPod at the same time. After that I ran halfway across town to pick up the prescription I'd forgotten to collect the day before. I also ducked into the local health store. I have a tendency to suffer from insomnia the night before a big event and I'd decided I wanted to buy some herbal sleeping pills. The saleswoman talked me into buying some anti-insomnia/anxiety drops, and then I was off running through town again to meet Hamish back at the car.

Halfway there I found Hamish with his nose pressed up against the wall of a local art gallery. When we were in Queenstown we'd fallen in love with the Lonely Dog paintings by Ivan Clarke. It turned out that a local Wellington gallery was in the final days of a Lonely Dog exhibition. Faced with a large print of our favourite work, Marmelade Mountain, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

So it was an expensive and tiring morning before we even left Wellington, and then it was a long drive to Rotorua, with a stop in Te Horo for lunch. It was already late in the afternoon before we arrived at the hotel. When we checked in we were advised that we'd been upgraded to a premium room. Excellent! The room was on the ground floor and we were able to park right outside, with ranch slider access. We still had to walk through the main entrance to get inside the hotel itself, but if I needed to at a later point, H could let me out the french doors (or back in again), minimising the distance I would need to walk. As it turned out I never needed to ask him to go to the trouble, but it was nice to know I had that option!

Race packet pickup went smoothly and while in the exhibition hall I took the opportunity to trial a roller stick thing and ball on my calves, glutes and IT band. I think even the small time I had available really did help and I repeated the exercise with my own roller and tennis ball when I got back to the room. I still wasn't pain free, but I was walking much more normally.

Dinner ended up being bread, dips and chicken pasta with a side salad at a very good and surprisingly cheap Italian restaurant. We got in early but the restaurant quickly filled up with fit looking runner types. I stuck to lemonade while enviously watching H sip on his beer. I was sooo going to enjoy my celebratory cider the next day!

Back to the hotel room via a supermarket for breakfast supplies and I decided it was time to get organised. Running tights, sports bra, technical T and a polyprop top in one corner of the room. Running shoes tucked under a table with my Drymax socks stuffed inside. All my medication was laid out on the table next to the television. Next to the medication I placed the bowl, spoon and can opener I'd brought from home, with the cereal and tin of fruit salad next to that. In the bathroom I set out my contact lens case and fluids and my hairbrush.

On another table I put everything else I would need for the run. I assembled a small pile of gels and another little plastic bag with extra medication. I put my Garmin next to the gels. I placed the transponder in one of my running shoes and attached my race number to my shirt. That was all the obvious and pedantic stuff out of the way.

In another little pile I also gathered my fuel belt, a merino beanie and the new head band. I wasn't sure about using the fuel belt as I hadn't had a chance to test it on a long run and I was worried about chafing or that it might annoy me. I didn't in any case want to fill up all the bottles, but thought that one or two might be useful, and that the zip pocket would be useful for carrying the extra gels. I also wasn't sure whether I felt comfortable with the new headband, so was going to make a decision in the morning whether to risk it or to go with the beanie, which I had used before but which I was worried might get too hot. You see how much I was dithering that night?

In accordance with the instructions on the bottle I downed fiften drops of the anti-insomnia remedy and hit the shower, then jumped into bed to read for a while. When I was ready to turn the light out I took another fifteen drops and then ....

I'd like to say I drifted off to sleep, but it didn't happen. The medication didn't help me sleep - it just made me a calm insomniac. I wasn't dreaming - I just wasn't tossing and turning and getting frustrated like I usually do. I was however comforted by the sound of the guest in the next room regularly getting up to use the bathroom, figuring I wasn't alone in my night watch.

Some time around 4am I started to dispair ever so slightly, and it was around that point that I finally dropped off. I was awake again at 6 however, and lay there trying not to think too hard for another hour. I felt more awake than I would have expected. I have heard that insomniacs often only think they've spent the night awake, when actually they've been sleeping, so perhaps that was the case with me. However I saw the clock by the bed often enough during the night to know that I was awake for an unfortunate part of it!

Sleep or no sleep I was up and into my regular routine. Quickly dressed I downed triple my normal 5mg dose of Hydrocortisone and the rest of my other usual meds. I grabbed the newspaper from outside the door and tried to eat a bowl of Special K with the tinned fruit. I managed to get it all down, but I'd bought the wrong (overly sugary) brand of Special K, so it wasn't overly enjoyable. Breakfast would come back to haunt me.

Outside it was cold and overcast. I tried out the headband, then decided it wasn't going to work for me so swapped it for the beanie. I looked at the fuel belt dubiously and in the end decided to try stuffing four gels and meds into the little pocket in my running tights. To my surprise everything fitted. Right then - no fuel belt. I tossed my polyprop on over the top of my t shirt then put my merino jacket on over the top of that. The Garmin went round my wrist, the transponder was threated through my running shoes, and I was as ready as I was going to be.

Hamish dropped me off near the start line at around 8.15, taking a photo of me at the entrance to the park, looking nervous but excited. I left the merino in the car for him to bring to the finishline later. I forgot to ask him to do so, but hoped he would work it out for himself!

I found the bathrooms and wandered around inside the expo centre to stay warm. Too late I realised I'd forgotten to bring a banana for last-minute fuel. I couldn't find anyone I knew, so just found a quiet corner and collected my thoughts. I was feeling remarkably calm and focussed. All the years of running events had prepared me more than I'd realised. Even if I hadn't run a marathon before, I knew what I was there for and what I was supposed to do. I felt just a little lonely, but otherwise I was ok.

Before too long we were being told to gather at the startline. I placed myself halfway between the four and a half and five hour flags. Just in front of me were the two four and a half hour pacers with their pink balloons. To one side of me was a bunch of guys in their late twenties or early thirties who looked more like rugby players than runners and who were also doing their first marathon. On the other side of me were some experienced women who looked to be in their fifties and were making jokes about drinking beer. So far so good.

The start was totally without drama. I could hear but not see the haka at the start. I got a little teary. The starting gun fired loudly enough that I thought it might have deafened the guys at the front. It took two minutes to cross the startline. We walked and then a few metres before the start line we started to shuffle into a jog. I ran over the startline to the chorus of dozens of transponders engaging.

I was off. I was running the Rotorua marathon.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


I did it! I finished the Rotorua marathon in 4.37. I put down 4.35 as my finishing time, so I wasn't far off. I followed a 4.30 pacer pretty much the whole way, but unfortunately she was running slow herself (something about not having run much since her last Ironman), and would have come in a couple of minutes ahead of me.

I can't say I made my way around the course with a big grin on my face, but I certainly didn't suffer unduly. I realise now that I zoned out just a touch and went into a little Pip world all of my own! Unfortunately my stomach decided it wasn't going to play nice. I walked the water stations and sipped on Leppin until I felt confident enough to try a gel, but that wasn't until around 18km in. That was about the only bad part of the race though. The hills weren't scary at all for a Wellingtonian whose home turf is Mt Vic and the Tinakori Hills. The worst bits for me were the long flat stretches.

The weather wasn't perfect but ok. It was overcast and cool without being too cold. The Southerly dropped the temperature a bit over the last ten kilometres, but the headwind was pretty unthreatening.

I'm really proud of myself for going out there today and getting it done, even though I knew I was undertrained. There was never a question of not finishing, and I could tell from the halfway mark that I was going to come in near enough to four and a a half hours to be satisfied with my performance. 32km to 36km were a bit difficult, but then I got the bit between my teeth and kicked it a bit over the last distance. I had the biggest grin on my face at the finishline and when Hamish jumped over the barrier to hug me I had just the tiniest little cry.

I'm pretty sore now, naturally. My glutes were BURNING as I was sitting down recovering afterwards and my lower back is a bit sore to touch. One of my right toes has blistered up quite nicely and there was blood on my sock where the ball of my right foot tends to rub. My bra chafed a little as well underneath my cleavage, but not enough to break skin thankfully. However given how bad my sacroilleac has been this week I'm in excellent shape.

As I was getting my transponder taken off the guy next to me was congratulating me on my first marathon. He asked whether it would be my last and my instant response was "NO!" I've got too much room to improve and too much more to find out about myself. The only question now is which? Hmmm, Auckland?

Friday, May 01, 2009

I'm here ...

We made it to Rotorua without incident and we've been upgraded to a premium room (though premium in a 3 star hotel is still fairly standard). I've picked up my race pack (very ordinary), got foam rollered (ouch), and have carbo loaded at a good, cheap Italian restaurant with dozens of other hungry marathoners.

Now I'm back at the hotel room with gear scattered from one end of the room to the other watching bad television. I guess I'm ready to go!

The next time you hear from me I will have finished my first marathon. Woohoot!