Tuesday, September 06, 2011

One week till we leave for Europe

Three and a half weeks till the Budapest marathon.

The training's been going well. I ran 35k on Saturday, incorporating the Havelock North half marathon, and was playing beach cricket that afternoon. The travel plans took a while to come together thanks to both H and I being chronic procrastinators, but they're locked in now. Holland, London, Budapest, Italy.

This blog has been sadly neglected, but there will be lots to report on over the coming month!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bashed by a Duck Again

Never let my dedication to my workouts be questioned. It was only a horrendous cold which kept me on the sofa last week. Unfortunately, although I don't get sick often, when I do I do it in style. Even more unfortunately, the cold coincided with the Wellington half marathon. Goodbye $55 worth of entry fees. At least I didn't spend another $45 on the t-shirt! I also missed my 'big Saturday', a 15k Squad run and the 5k XTERRA night run. I was extremely gutted to miss the night run, as I've really enjoyed the XTERRA series this year. I still owe a race report from the third event out at Catchpool.

I tested my return to semi-wellness on Monday night with a wheezy, snotty flat 7.5k round the waterfront. I felt better than I'd expected, if somewhat slow. I followed that up with RPM on Tuesday night, and made it a point to keep the dial locked in. I was certainly feeling the burn by the end of the class.

I was expecting it to be wet and cold for my catch up session with Duck yesterday morning, being, as it was, winter solstice. I don't think we've really had a winter yet to be honest. Instead it was calm and warm and, thankfully, dry. I expected Duck to take it easy on me but there wasn't much hope of that as we ran stair repeats, threw in some one-legged squats, and did a series of kettlebell drills. In the face of another workout this morning, I decided caution was the best strategy, and didn't follow that up with a run.

If I thought I'd been worked hard yesterday I had no idea what was going to hit me today. Duck has a male client who used to be in the army, and while he's older now and apparently a bit unfit, for some reason she thought it would be a good idea to put me through the same workout for time as she'd just done with him.

We started off with a few hill repeats. Both of us noticed that my leg lift and turnover are suddenly hugely improved. It seems sitting on the sofa for a week equaled rest and recovery rather than physical diminishment.

From there it was on to the main workout. It went like this:

Complete 1 squat with a 16kg kettlebell, then one pushup (on toes), then one kettlebell swing, then rest. Each round is a minute long, so you then rest till it's time to start again. The next round you do two reps, the next round 3 etc, until you can no longer complete the exercises within the allotted minute. In other words, you get less and less rest.

Duck's client managed ten rounds, dropping to his knees for the pushups after about six. I got to halfway through round 11 before dropping to my knees. At the end of round eleven Duck told me that one of the other Squad girls had completed thirteen rounds. By about eleven the squats turned into the origin of all that is nasty in this universe. I've never really felt like I've maxed out on squats, but I got pretty damn close today. To add to this, the remnants of my cold were revealing themselves as it got harder and harder to catch my breath. By the last round I sounded like an asthmatic as my lungs did their best to push through the air.

I ended up taking 1.10 to finish round thirteen, but then I also slowed the squats right down because we knew I probably wouldn't finish it, so it seemed to make more sense to do them well. I do think that if I could breathe properly I probably could have finished within the minute.

We followed that up with 10 of a move where you start in a plank then reach out as far as possible to touch the ground, alternating arms. That was followed by 10 medicine ball throwdowns, squatting to catch the ball, then 8 plank reach moves, then 10 medicine ball throwdowns, then 6 of the plank, then 10 of the ball, etc.

By the end of this workout I never wanted to do another squat ever again. I can honestly say that I have not felt this shattered by a workout in a long time. It seemed deceptively simple, and yet it was incredibly hard. There was no way I could have even entertained the idea of a run after that!

I know I worked hard because my appetite went insane afterwards. Thankfully I've been feasting on brown bean soup for lunch all week and it does an excellent job of filling me up. As I sit here I can tell that I am going to be rather sore tomorrow. My biceps are already sore and I couldn't work out why till I realised it was from holding the kettlebell up under my chin during the squats. My lats are not going to want to move at all tomorrow. My glutes are quietly crying and my hamstrings are shriveling. I can also feel my core starting to kick in. Ouch - and I just poked at my pecs and it seems they're a bit sensitive as well! Hmm ... come to think of it, so are my shoulders.

Tomorrow is a rest day, for which I am extremely grateful, and then it's back into the running and Balance on Saturday. I'm starting to set everything in place for my marathon programme, starting in a few weeks. I'm eating a lot cleaner after a slightly disastrous binge while I was sick. I'm going to get back into the regular yoga and I'm going to stretch more. I also know I need to start up regular massages again.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

While I'm getting over a cold

Check out these beautiful photos (taken with my iPhone, so not the best quality) of my gym, Frank Kitts Park, at 7.15 one late May morning as I was waiting for my personal training session with Duck.

I love this sculpture - The Albatross.

Wellington Harbour, with the port to the far left.

Oriental Bay and Mt Victoria to the right.

So beautiful.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

A bike ride

Hamish and I had originally planned to be in Central Otago for the first couple of weeks of April so I'd taken time off work. Unfortunately Hamish couldn't go (something about taking a month off later this year - bah), but I'd already booked mine so I found myself gifted with over two weeks in Wellington, with some surprisingly good weather.

One fine sunny morning I loaded up my car, stopped into work to print off a map, and headed over to Masterton to ride the Tour of the Wairarapa course. I decided on TotW because I've only ever done the 50k ride before. Several of the Gearshifters had complained that the 115k course was hard and hilly, but I was just generally curious to see what it was like. With sun, mild temperatures and no real wind forecast it seemed like a good time to give it a go.

I was of course a bit nervous about heading out all that distance on my own, especially when I knew it was likely there'd be no cellphone reception for much of it, and that there was no one handy should I need rescuing. I regarded it as a kind of personal challenge though, so sucked down another harden up pill.

By the time I got to Masterton it was already 11, so I took a little more Hydrocortisone, ate a banana, and got going. I didn't see another cyclist the whole time I was out there, and on the country roads there were hardly any cars. I was in this on my own.

The first 25k were familiar territory and went past fairly quickly. I stopped at the 50k ride turnaround point to have a bit of a drink and a bite to eat, and to psyche myself up. From here on in it was all unknown. I'd never even driven out that way before, so I had no idea what the roads were like or what the hills were like. I was just hoping I could stick to the map and not get lost.

After a bit of a climb I had a rather nerve racking descent on roads covered in wet pine needles. For the record - wet pine needles are not a good surface for cycling, especially with the race tires I've never bothered to change, which have very little tread. From there though I found myself in a lovely valley, surrounded by rolling green hills. I tucked down low over the handlebars and got into a zone, flying through this beautiful location on a deserted country road, feeling rather awesome.

The awesomeness lasted to about the intersection with Dagg Rd, where I suddenly hit a cold and surprisingly strong headwind, which I guess the valley must have been funneling. From there it was a mental battle to Alfredton, as I started to freak out just ever so slightly. I was so tempted to make it an out and back and go back the way I'd come, which would still have made for around a three hour ride, but I knew I'd be disappointed in myself if I did. I had to have faith that the headwind would turn to a tailwind and that I'd be ok.

Eventually I made it to Alfredton, which I'd suspected to be a little town but in fact was just a dot on the map. I got to an intersection and turned right, rode a few metres, stopped, looked at the map, turned around and went left. I nearly ended up riding way off course, but the left turn wasn't as obvious because the road narrowed, and turning right seemed more logical.

Unnerved ever so slightly I started to freak out even more as the wind grew rather than eased, and my average speed plummeted. For some reason I started to worry about getting back to Masterton before it got dark, even though it was hardly going to take me six hours to ride 115k. Sometimes when I'm riding I lose my ability to summon up rational thought! However I was going to get back late enough that it was going to be early evening before I made it back to Wellington.

Between Afredton and Eketahuna was probably the worst part of the ride. There were two fairly gnarly climbs which ordinarily wouldn't have bothered me, but on my own and not knowing how long they would go on for (or how steep they would get) they messed with my head. It was also obvious that there had been lots of stock on the road. If I thought descending over wet pine needles was bad it was just as well I didn't know ahead of time I'd be riding down steep, winding hills on roads covered in cow shit, into sneaky head and crosswinds. Mind you, I didn't expect to find a fallen pine tree blocking most of the road halfway up the second climb either. Thankfully there was just enough room to cycle around it.

At the bottom of the second hill I found myself in a narrow valley surrounded by more rolling hills, not knowing what I was going to have to do to climb back out again. I figured I had at least one more climb to get out and into Eketahuna and was feeling rather anxious about what that would entail. All that talk about there being nasty hills out this way had done a number on me. During the moments when the wind dropped though it was all very beautiful and scenic, and I did enjoy myself in between the moments of panic!

In the end the climb out was long but gradual and nothing much to be concerned about at all. It was, however, nasty chip seal. About halfway up there was a noise like my back tire deflating. I jumped off but both tires were fine. Nothing seemed obviously wrong but when I spun my back wheel there was a rasping sound like something rubbing. Eventually, after a few moments of nervous investigation, I located a piece of gravel sitting above the back brake. I couldn't get to it with my finger so fished out my car keys and after a few more moments of fiddling I managed to get it out.

That small moment of potential disaster lightened my mood for a while, but once I got to Eketahuna I was keen to keep moving and get this thing over with. All plans of a relaxed lunch in the sun went out the window. The next few kilometres were along the highway. Thankfully there was a bit of a shoulder because there were a lot of stock trucks and milk tankers whizzing past. Thankfully also I seemed to have a bit of a tailwind at last, and I fairly flew up another long, gentle incline and down the other side.

At Kaiparoro I turned left off the main road and into cycling heaven. With a true tailwind I soared along a narrow, gently undulating country road through trees and fields at around 35kph. No cars passed to destroy my zen. At one point I stopped for a farmer moving his sheep and he commented that it was a nice day for it before waving me through. I had another near-map malfunction but was undaunted, with victory in the air. I also started seeing signs pointing to Masterton. I was still expecting there to be a final climb before dropping down to Dyer's Rock, but I was no longer nervous.

Finally I got back to what I thought was the intersection that would take me back along the undulating 25k I'd rode at the start. I turned right and pedaled happily onwards, stopping once more briefly for sheep. After cycling along blissfully for some time (the late afternoon sun was turning all the autumn leaves even more golden) I realised something was amiss when I crossed railway lines. Damn - they weren't there before. Checking my map I discovered I'd gone right when I should have, you guessed it, gone left. Story of my day. However I also saw that if I kept going the way I was I would come back onto the highway at Opaki. I was, therefore, not majorly lost. I'd just taken a slight detour.

In the end the detour was a blessing in disguise as it lead to me taking a slightly faster, shorter route back down a long flat road. Still distrustful of my faulty navigation skills I stopped occasionally to check on my progress, but almost before I knew it I was in Masterton. I ended up riding just under 110k on my own, through unfamiliar territory, on my own. I'd only started to tire over about the last half an hour. My average speed was slow, but with no one to draft off it was a speed I was prepared to accept.

I finished off the last of my second Em's Power Bar, loaded up the car, stopped at a dairy for a drink, and drove happily back to Wellington, where Hamish organised dinner and I collapsed happily on the sofa with a bottle of cider. I'd just done something I would never have thought I'd be brave enough to do, and I was thrilled.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

More milestones!

First, a duathlon report. This duathlon was the first event I ever did, the event that started everything. It's a women's event, 3.5k run/walk, 10k bike, 1.5k run/walk. The first time I did it it took me 59 minutes and I was ecstatic to do it under an hour. The second time it took me 57 minutes.

This time I was ambitious and set a goal of 50 minutes. The event had moved to another location a few more kilometres round the waterfront. This meant that the bike course was two loops of a 5k circuit, and that the second run was ever so slightly undulating. I decided I'd push for a sub-5 minute pace on the run, but knew I'd easily average over 24kmph on the bike, which would give me a little additional cushioning. The two transitions would eat up some time due to the fact I needed to change shoes and didn't have Yanks laces on my running shoes.

Of course everything hinged on the weather. Saturday, the day of registration, was completely calm and sunny. Sunday was overcast and by the time we got out on the bike course there was enough of a headwind to be a nuisance. So how did it go?

One of the things I wanted to make sure I did this time was a warm up. I knew I wanted to start out fast and I had to warm up to do that. I got to the start extremely early, parking a short walk away. It was coolish but I decided I could get away with my event t-shirt and arm warmers with my trishorts. I checked on my bike then had a little bit of a jog around. I did some drills and finished up with a few short sprints up the first bit of Rata St. At transition I was set up next to a woman who I knew does the Scorching Triathlons. She's very tall, slender and athletic so I decided if I could I would try to stick with her. Unfortunately when we were lining up the marshalls put her wave behind me.

I entered the race late so was one of the last to start. My number was 411 and we were started in waves of 50 one minute apart. I stood at the front and when the starting gun went I just went for it. Duck had asked me earlier that week if I'd ever gone so hard in an event I just couldn't go any more. Of course I never had so I had it in my head that I should at least try, just for a change. If I failed I'd be the only one who knew.

I maintained a sub-5 pace for most of the first run, which really pleased me. I had to run on the road for most of it to get around everyone I was overtaking, but thankfully the road was closed and no one was out on their bike at that point. About a kilometre into the run my Scorching Tri rabbit went flying past me and, as hard as I planned on going, I knew there was no way I could follow. That woman was fast! However she was the only person to overtake me on the first run.

I lost time in transition undoing my laces but it gave me a little time to catch my breath before the bike. I'd tied my timing chip round my ankle with some ribbon so at least didn't need to worry about that. I wasn't sure whether they'd have timing mats at transition but it turned out that they didn't, so in the end it wouldn't have mattered if I hadn't transferred the chip to my cycling shoes, but it was one less thing to think about.

Before long i was out on the bike. I didn't look to see what my bike average was but it was of course easily over 24kmph. Even with the headwind on the way out to Balaena Bay (which was disappointingly strong) didn't slow me that much, and I was sitting on well over 30 with a tail wind. No one overtook me and I think I would have gone faster if there had been someone to chase. Instead I just got down on the drops and concentrated on my cadence (and not running over the photographer standing in the middle of the road on the corner).

The two lap bike leg was a PITA as it meant three turn arounds and I had to go really slowly to account for all the other cyclists (many of whom were beginners and not very confident). The slow turns really affected my average speed. When I got back to transition the marshalls failed to point us towards the entrance back in. One said to go straight ahead and I thought 'huh, that's odd' but thought perhaps we had to cycle a little bit further and turn around again but when I set out he then yelled out after me so I had to turn around and go back again. I was extremely frustrated and suggested a little brusquely that the marshalls might actually want to marshall. It was nice to get into transition though and to see it still full of bikes! My Scorching Tri rabbit was the only bike nearby which was gone when I got back.

The last 1.5k included the tiniest little bit of a hill, but I really felt it. I just had to keep repeating '1.5k, you can do anything for 1.5k'. The turnaround came very soon but I soon realised that was because we had to run round the back of Cog Park on the gravel path so going back was a lot longer. I tried really hard to keep myself motivated to go hard, but I just couldn't, even as I saw my 50 minute goal ticking by. Mind you, when I looked down at the Garmin I was still not far off target pace so I guess I can't have been that bad.

So that was that. I did the event in just under 52 minutes, and I call that a success, especially given time lost in transition and due to the bike stuff up. Although the results weren't sent out by placing a rough count indicated that I was somewhere around 20th, which I will take. It's probably the highest placing I'll ever get.

Given that my car was parked so close I went back there, dropped off my helmet and shoes and picked up some warm clothes then stood at the finish line cheering people in. I grabbed my bike out of transition before prize giving because it was by far the nicest bike there and no one was checking that the people taking bikes out were actually their owners. The prize giving was thankfully short. There were some great prizes and some slightly dud ones (Powerbands!) but I didn't win any of them. I went home still feeling fresh, like I could have done a longer event. Hamish cooked pancakes and then I spent the rest of the day just keeping warm and hanging out.

That's enough for one post. Coming up next - Pip goes crazy in the Wairarapa, otherwise known as Pip cycles 110k on her own and barely manages to not get lost.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

It's been a big weekend

I haven't been posting much here sorry. The last few months have been full of happenings, but I haven't been able to find the words to describe them. Since the aftermath of the surgery I've been a lot more pragmatic about a lot of things. If something doesn't work out then it just doesn't. If something good happens, then it happens. I'm not so quick to believe in miracles, nor to look for some great purpose in life. I just get on and do what I can. I've learned to choose my battles, or rather to choose what is important to me and not stress myself out about the things I feel I 'should' be doing because everyone else is. This is my life and it's pretty damn good as it is.

Lately, however, the 'what I can' has been increasing in its greatness. I'll recount the last nine days' training as an example. Last weekend we were in Tauranga for a wedding. I woke up early on Saturday to torrential rain, but go up and jogged my way soggily round the estuary, exploring a scenic trail and particularly lovely boardwalk. 12km done.

I had Monday off and fortuitously, back in Wellington, was greeted with a stunning day. I got up, got on my bike, and cycled for 80km. Despite always having been nervous of cycling Makara on my own, I went out there and did it. I didn't get a flat tire, I didn't get stuck out in the middle of nowhere with no cellphone reception, I didn't get lost in Johnsonville, or any of the other horrors of my worst imaginings. Instead I tootled my way through the gorge then back to town via Ngaio Gorge. Still feeling good I kept on going around the Bays, then back up Happy Valley to home. 80km on my own! Believe me, this was momentous.

After that little effort I didn't feel up to a squad run that night. I had a Wild Workouts session the next morning, and Duck warned me we had a hard run on Wednesday night so she didn't want me to do anything else so as to ensure my legs were fresh. It was hard not to do my usual RPM, but I managed it. It was just as well because Wednesday night's run turned out to be a 5k time trial.

I haven't run a timed 5k since my 24.24 PB back at the start of marathon training a few years back. Needless to say I was not in the mood to try again today. I flew out way too fast and was on track to equal that, but I'm heavier and slower these days and faded on the way back, having to employ every possible mental trick to get me to the end. So not sub-25, but at least I have a baseline now and something to work on.

I had another Duck session on Thursday morning and she went easy on my legs, then after work I set off to do the workout I'd missed on Monday night. I jogged up to Drummond St in Berhampore, and there before me stood a flight of steps that looked like some Mayan ruin. The Drummond Street steps are a newly-laid tower that goes straight up before you like a cruel joke. I can't find an image online so you'll just have to take my word for it! Someone said there are around 100 steps, but I didn't take the time to count.

I stopped at the bottom of the steps to get my breath. My instructions were to repeat the steps up to ten times within 23 minutes. I was aiming for seven, as some of our group had only made eight and I figured I'd be slower on my own. However I found I was recovering enough on the way down that I didn't need to take the full one minute break Duck had recommended, and managed ten repeats in 22.30. I triumphed over the stairs of doom!

Unfortunately I also had a full weekend planned, and the aim of ensuring my legs were fresh for it wasn't exactly achieved. After the stair repeats my calves were like rocks. Walking down the Farmers Lane stairs to catch the bus after work on Friday had me wincing. They were still tight when I woke on Saturday morning to meet the squad at Eastbourne for a 70 minute run. Thankfully Duck knew most of us were running Xterra the next day, so she kept it flat. We set out towards Pencarrow. It was cold at the start but running warmed us up and it was so incredibly beautiful that it was an absolute pleasure to be out there. The photo at the start of this blog is from that day. Wellington - cloudless, still, the harbour mirror calm. I love this city.

The other girls went out quite hard at the start but I wanted to settle into a long run pace so stuck to six minute kilometres. My legs were still tight but my calves could cope with the flat so I just cruised along in my little happy place. Scores of other runners and cyclists were out enjoying the conditions and the flat, well-graded gravel road. With squad runners ahead of and behind me I focused on enjoying the beautiful scenery as cargo ships and ferries sailed past nearby.

I turned as ordered at 35 minutes and cruised back again, only really starting to tire slightly at the 60 minute mark, but still maintaining my pace and achieving an almost perfect split. We celebrated with coffee at Chocolate Dayz cafe before I headed off home for a big bowl of pasta and cider.

I knew that I was not going to be feeling fresh for the first of this winter's Xterra Trail series. Despite the end of daylight savings giving me an extra hour's sleep I still woke at the old 6.30 and lay there more or less sleeplessly for the next hour. The forecast was for drizzle but our luck seemed to be holding and, even though it was again cold, it was dry. The Northerly had of course risen as predicted. I was at registration not long after 7.30, and scored a park on the road not far from the Makara Park mountainbike park, where the race started. I had my photo taken by the Xterra crowd with other random racers, and eventually we were off.

Here's where I had to take my harden-up pills. The medium course was supposed to be 10-12k, but the organisers weren't happy with the course, so had changed it, meaning we were now to run 14. I didn't know whether I was up to running 14k on my tired legs, but I wanted to run more than 6.5, which is what the short coursers were doing. In the end I decided I'd start with the medium distancers and take the short course turnoff if I didn't great when the time came.

Off we went, and I soon decided that if I didn't blow out and kept my pace comfortable I should be ok for the medium distance. However the short course people were only five minutes behind us so I spent a bit of time dodging out of their faster runners' way. Eventually I found a nice quiet little spot with no other runners around me (which in reality, I think means I was last) and just got on with enjoying the beautiful trail.

The first few kilometres were undulating to slightly uphill, and it was only after four kilometres that we hit a real steep section of the track that I walked a bit of. From there the course went downhill a little, then up again. When we broke out onto a four wheel drive track I could see the Peak way off to my right. It seemed like an incredibly long way away. I took a harden up pill in the form of a gummy lolly and kept going. By this point I was being passed by long coursers, but do you think I cared? I think I have finally given up caring about being slow!

Despite my misgivings it actually didn't take that long to get up to the Peak, via a series of switchbacks which took the sting out of the climb. Up at the top it was really windy. We turned along an extremely exposed ridge, and between the quite technical trail (narrow and lots of rocky downhill surfaces to gingerly lower myself down) and the wind, it was a struggle to keep upright. At one point I nearly did get blown off the side of the hill, but somehow managed to keep my feet.

I was a little bit disappointed that the downhill was so technical, as I had to take it extremely slowly. It's really only on the downhill that the remnants of my vestibular issues come to light, as I find it difficult to accurately judge the depth of the descent, plus everything tends to bounce around in front of my face. However, as I said above, I'd long since given up worrying about being slow. Eventually we came out on an easier trail, and from then it was a fairly fast, undulating-trending downwards four kilometres back to the car park. I was being overtaken by lots of long-course runners, all of whom commented on how great the trail was, and I absolutely had to agree.

Finishing was great as, about 500 metres out, there was a break in the treeline and the squad, waiting at the finishline, spotted me and started cheering. Just before the final turn there was another group of spectators who also knew me, so they were cheering me as well. All I could hear was 'go Pip'! I felt like a rockstar and came over the finishline with the biggest grin ever. All I could say was "that was awesome"!

And indeed it was awesome. A year ago I was walk-running the short course and today, even though I doubted I had it in me to go the distance, I finished a fairly tough medium. So, as I said at the start, what I've been achieving has been, relatively speaking, rising in greatness. I am getting there on my own terms, and at the moment that's exactly the way I like it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Highlights

Run for Christchurch has raised over $18,ooo. We went global and people were amazing. Check out our blog for more details. If you've ever been curious to hear me speak then you can listen to my podcast there as well!

Work has finally quietened down again and it's pretty much back to Business As Usual instead of earthquake recovery. I actually had performance review interviews with my team, though I haven't written up the reports yet. I'm in the middle of writing a project plan, about which I'm ridiculously excited.

Hamish and I are off away again up the island this weekend for a wedding. It's normal to immediately start planning new running and cycling routes, right?

This week I completed a monster (as in insanely steep) 1.5 hour trail run on Saturday and rode a solo 40k on Sunday (I was supposed to do around 70 but ended up riding on my own and lost my will to live). On Monday the Squad mixed it up a bit with a run around Mt Victoria and Newtown - a mix of trails and road. I ended up on my own after trying to find some tail-enders who'd gone another way and had to sprint back to Te Papa to make sure someone didn't send out a search party.

On Tuesday Duck's morning workouts started up again. Lots of squats, lunges, pushups, step ups and tricep dips later we were done. I followed that up with an RPM class after work.

On Wednesday it was 1k interval time. We warmed up then did four intervals. I did surprisingly well for the first two but my post-workout/RPM legs weren't really having it for the last.

This morning it was time for a one-on-one Duck bashing in Frank Kitts, the highlight of which was me skidding on the slippery surface of the playground while doing side shuttles. My right leg went one way, my left went the other, and in an attempt to not rupture an abductor I found myself on my back laughing hysterically while people walked by. I am still loving the kettlebell work we've been doing and am feeling very strong.

This afternoon the autumnal weather was perfect for running. It was clear, calm and wind free. I headed out at lunchtime for a bonus 5k up to Kelburn and back through the Botanical Gardens. My legs were tired but did their thing obligingly.

Oh, and I have a new marathon training programme!!!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Getting away from things by cycling

I've been sadly neglecting this blog. There have been rides and runs. There has been a lot of thinking about life and uncertainty, and getting to grips with that. I've been feeling a lot more grounded. So it was a shock on Tuesday to get back from a meeting to hear that there had been a huge aftershock in Christchurch. It was quickly clear that this time there would be a death toll.

H and I are lucky. We have no immediate family in Christchurch, but we do have extended family, all of whom are, as far as we know, ok. For a few days I thought a friend may have been in Christchurch when the quake hit, but she was located on Thursday in Abel Tasman. Hamish's parent company's office is a write-off, and they have a container-load of stock on the port which they'd been waiting for since the last quake. They have no idea whether it has survived. I've spent the week dealing with business continuity stuff as our own Christchurch office is out of action. Still, it's been hard to know what to do to help.

So when a friend asked me to help organise a virtual charity run I was eager to help out. Since then things have gone viral. We're getting blogger coverage around the world, we've been on National Radio, and events are being organised everywhere. On day two we're already past our fundraising target.

By this morning it was all getting a bit overwhelming and I needed to think about something else for a while. I drove out to Upper Hutt and went for a ride.

We rode from Upper Hutt over the Blue Mountains (which were steep and sweaty), down through Whiteman's Valley and Mangaroa, over the hill, up over Wallaceville, back through Mangaroa again, and then headed back to the town centre again.

It was a perfect day for cycling - not too cool, not too hot, very little wind. I didn't feel fabulous on the hills but the others thought I looked strong. We were flying on the flat without too much effort.

Sometimes the best way to deal with a traumatic event, and to build yourself up before diving back in again to continue helping, is to spend some time cycling with friends in the beautiful outdoors.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Run for Christchurch

As you probably know, New Zealand's second largest city, Christchurch, was devastated by a 6.3 earthquake at lunchtime on Tuesday 22 February 2011. There have been at least 113 fatalities and two days later over 200 people are still missing.

Kiwis out of Christchurch and people around the world want to know how they can help, and the answer's short. With money. But we all want to feel like we're doing more than just typing our credit card numbers into a box and clicking submit. So, Mike, Pip, Kate, Phil and I thought we'd go for a run. Wearing red and black, to show the people of Canterbury we love them. And we'd like you to join us for our virtual fun run. Wherever you are.

If you’d like to participate, just follow these easy steps:

•make a donation of as little as $5 at our fundraising page •follow us on twitter!
•tell the world you’re in. Share the love on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, whatever. Use the #run4chch hashtag
•on the 12th or 13th of March, pop your red and black on, and hit the streets, or the pavements, or the trails, or wherever it is you run
•send us a link to your race report, and we’ll post it on our blog

We’re hoping to get at least 100 entries, so please, please share this with everyone you know!

For more information


https://twitter.com/#!/Run4CHCH use the hashtag #run4chch


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Taranaki Cycle Challenge

I'd always planned to do the Taranaki Cycle Challenge. My parents live in Stratford, so I can stay with them and drive there on the morning, plus it's the week of Dad's birthday so I am usually up there anyway. It's also a lovely ride, circling round Mt Taranaki. I did it back in 2009 and had a great time, despite being in pain with a hip injury.

Unfortunately this year it just wasn't to be. From a couple of weeks out meteorologists were predicting that we'd get hit by a cyclone, and as the day grew closer Cyclone Wilma presented an ever growing threat. To add to that, I suddenly developed right piriformis issues. I've been having trouble with my left piriformis off and on, ever since the Rotorua marathon, but up till now I've only had sacroilleac issues on the right side. This was very different from my sacroilleac though. The pain in my glute was deeper and at its worst I was limping.

I honestly don't know what caused this particular issue. I've been dealing with ongoing muscle soreness for the last six months - shin, quads, calf muscles, glutes .... With my exercise load there seemed to be no obvious reason why everything would be getting so stiff. I put it down to more hill running, my Miadidas (particularly as they aged), and perhaps the kettlebells. I certainly pushed it when it came to the running shoes, and on the Saturday before the piriformis really started to play up I ended up with sore ankles of the type which had me straight off to Rebel Sports for a new pair. I bought another pair of Adidas, this time reverting back to a stability shoe, but also downgrading to their slightly cheaper range. I ran on Monday and they felt fine. I then woke up on Tuesday morning very, very sore.

All the squats and lunges in Duck's Tuesday morning workout in Frank Kitts wouldn't have helped. I skipped RPM and then on Wednesday woke up with my right hamstring completely spasmed. It was on Wednesday that I found myself limping around the office. I wanted to run that night and thought I'd try keeping it to the flat, but eventually saw sense and went home.

I met Duck for our usual session on Thursday morning, and in retrospect the kettlebells probably weren't the best idea. I limped my way to a massage and left at the end of the hour able to walk slightly more easily, but still in pain.

On Friday I drove to Taranaki and went for a short walk with Mum, which was limp-free but which killed my left shin (Mum walks extremely quickly). Duck had already let me off the hook with the Taranaki race (not one of my goal races, bad weather, soreness, not enough time on the bike), but I planned to get out there and support some of my friends. I even contemplated riding out to meet Julia and pull her a little way around the course.

In the end I woke Saturday morning to strong gales and early rain. Yeah, I stayed in bed. By 11.00 the rain had stopped so Mum and I drove the short distance up Pembroke Rd to the local school to cheer everyone on. We got out of the car and were nearly blown away. We moved the car so that we were positioned so we could see the riders approaching, then sat there until the first pack came through. Riding into the headwind they certainly weren't setting any speed records.

We stayed out there for two hours, clapping everyone by and cheering the rather gratifyingly large number of people I knew. It was, in all honesty, difficult to stand up, let alone ride. We were blown backwards more than once. I was happy not to be out there but impressed by all of those people who were. They did not look to be enjoying the conditions at all.

After two hours I was cold, hungry, wind-burned and my hands were sore and tingly from clapping. I'd seen all of the people I expected to see, and as much as I wanted to cheer on the stragglers, it was time to go. I went home and spent the afternoon with the family, sheltering from the wind.

The next morning I woke to a perfect day.

30km of cruising around the rural roads of Taranaki (that's the mountain behind the filmy clouds in the background) I ruefully turned back to home (Pembroke Rd is a fun fast downhill that made me realise why my average speed had been so slow on the way up). I would have liked to ride out to Kaponga but Mum was expecting me back and I still had to drive back to Wellington.

My piriformis is slightly sore again but not as bad as it could be. I'm going to keep stretching and will run tomorrow and see how I go. If things don't improve I'll see a physio, but until then I'm going to be spending a lot of time in pigeon pose and rolling round on a tennis ball.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lemon Tequila Sorbet

Running Mt Lowry with Jo

It seems a little odd to be posting a sorbet recipe when it's been so cold lately, but Kate recently took possession of an icecream maker, so this just had to be shared.

1 cup/250 ml water
1 1/2 cups/375 ml sugar
1 tblspn gelatine
1 tblspn hot water
1/2 cup/165ml tequila
1 tblspn grated lemon rind
1 cup/250 ml canned evaporated skim milk

Combine water with sugar, stir over moderate heat until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, and boil without stirring for five minutes.

Meanwhile dissolve gelatine in hot water. Add to syrup, stir until well combined.

Add lemon juice, tequila and lemon rind. Cool. Combine with milk. Chill in refrigerator for one hour.

Place mixture into an icecream machine and process according to manufacturer's instructions.

If making by hand: Pour mixture into a large freezer-proof container, cover and freeze until partially set. Remove from freezer, beat with a rotary or electric mixer until smooth. Pour back into container and freeze till firm.
Serves 8.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What I did on my New Years holiday

My New Years was spent sitting on a veranda looking out at Nydia Bay, in the Marlborough Sounds.
I was there with Nic,

Hamish, (of course)

and the lovely Leonie.

This was our home for four days. A tiny chalet off the grid. No cellphone reception, a small gas fridge and cooktop, a solar panel for power, and a wood stove for cooking and hot water. Bliss.

Our closest neighbour, Marty, the owner of the chalet had a house further up the hill with a turret bedroom for his youngest son.

The cabin was a short 20 metre walk from the Nydia Track.

Trail running heaven. I ran twice, for around 90 minutes a time, and we all tramped for around four hours one day. I also walked for around two hours one day, and around an hour another.

There had been a huge, 50 year storm the day before we arrived and there was significant trail damage and trees down all over the place. Marty's house had several broken windows. However we had perfect weather the whole time we were there.

A view from the trail around the corner from our small bay, with a view of the jetty.

Kanuka down on the trail.

A bridge over a lovely stream. You can see from the debris that the water was right over the bridge at one stage.

There were a number of pet eels in a large pond near the chalet. They liked smoked chicken and salami, but weren't so keen on tofu.

My runs were slightly lacklustre and plodding, but it was such a beautiful location I was just happy to be out there at all. I stopped a lot to take photos and to clamber over the kanuka.

About half an hour from the chalet there was a basic DOC campground, with a tap and a long drop.

Not a bad spot to stay the night.

One day I set out to climb to the nearby saddle, at around 367 metres. I was looking forward to the view from the top.

Unfortunately about a third of the way up the trail was blocked by a huge downed beech tree. I pondered for about ten minutes but decided I wasn't that committed to reaching the top, so turned around again.

When not running or walking we all spent a lot of time just sitting around in the sun reading and thinking.

The water was still very brown from all of the storm runoff, but it was scenic none-the-less.

The mornings were stunning.

The areas of native bush were also beautiful.

The trails were much more runnable than I'd been led to believe (when they weren't blocked by trees).
The chalet of the front of the chalet. To the left of the photo is the path up to Marty's house.

We caught a float plane in, and from above the flooded Sounds were very dramatic. This photo care of Leonie.

This and the next two photos are also from Leonie. Marty's house is the house at the top, the building in the middle is a shed, and the chalet is at the bottom.

Leonie was able to capture this truly stunning photo of a calm morning in the Bay.

Out walking, here through a flooded section of the Nydia Track.

Wine was drunk, food was eaten, books were read and thoughts were thought. Nydia Bay entranced us all, and I hope we will be back.