Thursday, July 30, 2009

She's Back

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

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

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

Sunday, July 26, 2009

So Much to Catch Up On!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'll be back soon, I promise

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