Sunday, May 30, 2010

Xterra Race Number 1: A Race Report!!!

Wow, how awesome is it that I'm writing race reports again? Yes, it's true that I haven't been posting much here, but I am training again, and it's going reasonably well. For example, last Saturday I ran for an hour, on Sunday I spun for an hour, I ran Monday and Wednesday, did RPM on Tuesday and Thursday, did a weights workout and had a Duck session in Frank Kitts. Yesterday I ran for ninety minutes, which is the longest I've run in I don't know how long!

All of this has been done in the midst of some of the worst weather. There have been floods all over New Zealand. Wellington has had day on day of rain, freezing temperatures and bone chilling Southerlies. Somehow, however, I've lucked out and stayed fairly dry throughout my runs. I keep waiting for my luck to run out.

Yesterday the rain held off till we were minutes away from the end. The heavens opened up while we were having post-run teas and coffees and I fully expected that today we would get drenched. It continued to pour down all day and, after my run, I spent most of it on the sofa in tracksuit pants with a book. I did not believe I could possibly stay dry today. Against all probability, however, today was indeed rain-free. In fact there were even some blue skies. The wind, however, was strong and arctic.

I was signed up for the short course Xterra run today. The start of the race is only a couple of kilometres from our house. Given the conditions we were very grateful that a local school had agreed to allow us to use their premises for registration. As it was double the anticipated numbers signed up for the race, and we were all packed into a hall like sardines waiting for the start. The start was half an hour late.

The long, medium and short course races started about thirty seconds apart from each other, on Happy Valley Rd across from the school. Within minutes of going outside I was cold to the point of my teeth chattering. I was wearing a polyprop, t-shirt and windbreaker with a merino beanie. With my car directly across the road from the start I made a last second decision to ditch the windbreaker and put on my merino jacket. It was a decision I did not regret one bit, and the only time I got a little warm was as we ran back down the hill again.

The race starts with a roughly one kilometre run up a very gentle incline along the road to the base of the Tip Track. At the race briefing we were told most people walk the Tip Track, and this indeed proved to be the case. I have a new respect for my friend Jo who runs the thing! I ran the first 100 metres but then surrendered to the might of the crowd and slowed to a walk.

It took around 20 minutes to walk to the turnoff for the short course. The track was quite rocky and therefore not muddy, which was a small mercy. We were also sheltered from the Southerly. The track is very steep and my hip was hurting so I took it reasonably slowly. As the track snaked up the hill it was possible to see other runners (and walkers) far ahead, so it was best not to look, or instead to look down at the landfill below.

As we got to the turnoff we were hit by the full force of the wind. This part of the track wound its way along the ridgeline, with views out to the Cook Strait. The Southerly was whipping in fiercely and it was all we could do to stop ourselves from being blown off the side of the track. It was extremely exhilarating but the wind made my eyes water terribly so that it was also a little difficult to see!

The track turned into a mix of long grass and clay, deeply rutted and with young gorse growths that attacked and bloodied my ankles. I wanted to take the downhills faster but it was just too slippery and, after nearly going over, I resigned myself to a conservative pace. To add to that my vestibular disorder was manifesting visually by making everything jump up and down in front of me. This was disconcerting enough to slow me!

After a while we hit a gravel four wheel drive track and I was able to speed up a little. We wound up at some kind of signal shed, where we turned around and ran back up the track. The woman in front of me stopped about 20 metres of the turn around so I made it my mission to overtake her. I did so and never saw her again.

After the brief out and back the track turned sharply down the hill back towards Bata Street. This would have been a great section to have really opened up the pace but the gravel surface was more than a little treacherous. I zig zagged and chose my path carefully and kept my footing the whole way. It didn't take too long to get to Bata Street at all, given how long it took to get up to the ridgeline.

From Bata Street we turned right onto Happy Valley Rd again and ran down to Owhiro Bay. Here I decided to overtake a woman in front of me so put on a burst of speed. The last kilometre was flat, into the headwind along the coast to the Red Rocks car park. It seemed to take forever and I was ready for it to be over.

Finishing was rather anticlimactic. I ran over the timing mat and had my chip removed. We finishers were all huddled in the new display area in the car park, sipping on sports drink, sharing war stories and sheltering from the wind.

After I finished I found myself in an extremely good mood. I'd had an absolute blast. I had gone into the event not worried about whether I walked or where I placed. I'd enjoyed myself, I hadn't fallen over. I'd gotten out of bed on a cold winter Sunday and explored a rugged, exposed part of the city. This was an excellent race!

One of the Squad girls, Karen, gave me a lift back to my car and I drove happily off home. After a hot shower I'm on the sofa in my tracksuit pants again. The central heating is going. Hamish is cooking pancakes and bacon. There is cider in the fridge. Life is pretty good really!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Some Spin and a Run

I was extremely pleased with how I felt after Saturday's run. I wasn't sore at all. I was, however, rather sleepy. I went to bed mid-afternoon and slept for a couple of hours. For someone who has battled sleep issues for the last seven months this was absolute bliss. I even woke up at one point with Ede perched on top of my hip. She'd crawled up there and I hadn't even noticed. That nana nap got me through a night out on the town, and I eventually got back to bed at 2.30am.

Naturally I also slept late on Sunday morning, not waking till nearly 9.30. Hamish made pancakes and I walked up the road for a paper, indulging in a little weekend laziness as the rain came down steadily outside. Mid-afternoon I got my lazy butt off to the gym for an hour of spin. I plugged in my hill playlist on my iPod and sweated it out for an hour. I didn't use too much dial - just enough to get my heartrate up a bit and to get myself a little sweaty.

As I was leaving I bumped into some friends preparing for a two hour charity RPM class, and there was a free bike. And the instructor was urging me to join them. However I had no fuel on me and the car park was closing before the class ended and, well, doing two hours of RPM after an hour of solo spin when I'm still on the comeback trail just wasn't sensible. It was hard to say no but I managed it. I turned around and hit the showers and spent the rest of the afternoon uploading a heap of new music onto the iPod.

The hour on what must have been a slightly badly set up spin bike did, however, aggravate my knee a little and I also woke this morning with a slightly sore back. I was feeling a little sluggish when I met up with the Squad tonight to do a few warm-up shuttle runs in Frank Kitts. It was another nice evening. It had been raining half an hour earlier but the rain had eased off and it was warm and still.

Tonight's run was a simple out and back - twenty minutes down to Spotlight and back. We were supposed to aim for a negative split on the return. I wasn't sure what my legs were going to do but to my surprise they decided they wanted to play. I felt strength tonight that I haven't felt since before the surgery. It wasn't just my legs either. I could actually feel my lungs expanding again.

The three speedy members of the squad got ahead of us as we passed Capital Gateway, but I found myself running with another young blond woman in the same pair of Adidas running tights. We kept pace with each other all the way to Spotlight, then when we turned around I picked the pace up a little and got slightly ahead. I stayed ahead until we were back at the railway station then she caught me at the lights and we kept pace again the rest of the way back to Te Papa. We slowed a little after we crossed the road back onto the waterfront as we started concentrating on conversation rather than tempo. However we put in a mini-kick from Frank Kitts to make it look like we were really working it. In the end we had a tidy negative split, which surprised me.

I'm going to have to keep an eye on this knee. I'm conscious that my fitness levels are quite possibly coming back more quickly than my muscle strength, and it's crucial that I don't allow myself to get carried away and injure myself. I'm also aware that I'm running in a different Adidas shoe from that I've traditionally used, and that may be a factor. However hey, I'm having fun.

I'm doing an RPM class in the morning and I'll either do a Balance class or some weights on top of that. Duck's discouraged me from racing back into the two-a-day workout habit I used to have. I still need to do weights, but I need to fit them in before or after the run, and do a trimmed down version of my former programmes. It is all still about moderation at this point.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My first 'long' run

This morning I had my first 'long' run with the Jog Squad. The members who are training for a half marathon were meeting at 7.40a.m. to run for twenty minutes before meeting the 10k runners. I'm only planning on running the 10k in June, but a couple of the girls in the squad who run at my speed were going to be there for the early start and I decided I'd join them. I had no idea how well I'd do, as I haven't run for much more than half an hour in around eight months.

I had a couple of glasses of wine last night at work, but stuck to water once I got home. However I did eat a rather large serving of Dal Makhani for dinner and wasn't sure how my stomach would feel this morning. I've always been a notoriously bad morning runner, and have had a lot of early morning stomach issues.

I lay in bed all night listening to a steady downpour of rain, and it was still dark and damp when the alarm went off at 6.30. I lay there wondering what the heck I was doing! However sheer stubbornness got me out of bed. I made a small bowl of porridge and let that digest before heading out to meet everyone at Te Papa.

To my horror the two girls I was to run with didn't show. As Duck took off with the three 'speedy' runners I told them I'd just hang back. However all went well. I had no stomach issues and, after a creaky first few minutes, I found myself running at their speed and only about ten metres behind.

It was a good morning for running. The rain held off, there was a slight northerly and it was pleasantly mild. I ran with my windbreaker on in the wind, and took it off when it was sheltered. We really have been lucky with the weather so far this winter.

Our little group of runners headed up Kent Terrace and into the Basin Reserve. Duck sent the other girls on and she and I turned back slightly earlier. I realised I was feeling really good. I kept feeling good all the way back to Te Papa, where we picked up the rest of the group. It was a flat run this morning and we headed off round the bays. We ran twenty minutes out then headed back.

On the way back I got a second wind around Fisherman's Table and picked the pace up to pick off some other runners. By the time we were back at Te Papa I was ecstatic. We'd run around 10k and I could easily have kept going.

We headed off to Mojo for tea and coffee then I did a bit of grocery shopping before heading home. Hamish was just getting ready to head off on a job, so it felt like old times. After a shower and (for old time's sake) a pie and cider I spent the rest of the day alternating between reading and doing housework. At around 3.00 I curled up in bed and slept for a blissful hour or so.

I'm really happy with how quickly my fitness level is returning. It's tempting to sign up for the half marathon but my track record with the Harbour Capital event is not the best. I'd rather put in a good, solid 10k and focus on the Wairarapa Country Half later this year. It's good to be back though!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, the first of Gaffer's cat cam videos. Here he hangs out in the hallway before heading down the side of the house, into a neighbour's property, back across the bottom of our garden, into the neighbour's property on the other side of our house, and then heads up our stairs. In future installments he will wander widely through a range of strange backyards.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tap Tap, Hello?

Just a quick note to say sorry for disappearing, and yes I will be back. I owe you an update. To briefly summarise, I'm back running with the Jog Squad and have had three training sessions with Duck. My fitness levels are returning reassuringly quickly, even if it did take several days for me to be able to straighten my arms after our first workout in Central Park. Duck's also had the squad doing lots of high intensity stuff (hello eight stair climb repeats and eight hill sprint repeats) which is really helping.

Psychologically I'm doing a lot better, physically I'm learning to work around my vision and balance issues. I'm even considering attempting to get back on the bike. I'm also planning big. Hamish and I had always said we want to get out of New Zealand while the Rugby World Cup is in town next year. I've been looking for a convenient European marathon and it looks like Berlin might be a goer. I wanted to do a larger international marathon and Berlin has 40,000 participants, plus you get to run through the Brandenburg Gate.

As I'm sitting here it's raining outside on a surprisingly warm Friday night. After a couple of glasses of wine and a curry (not quite what I had planned) I'm hydrating in preparation for our first 'long' squad run in the morning. I'm going to run with the half marathon girls, even though I'm only planning on doing the Harbour Capital 10k. I'm confident I can hang with the slower members of the group over the distance, however opting for the longer run means I have to be at Te Papa and ready to go at 7.40. All that and Hamish and I are supposed to be going out tomorrow night. I have a funny feeling something is going to give!