Monday, 1 September 2014

XTERRA Riverhead (the second) recap

When all you can hear the night before a trail running event is rain pounding on the roof, you know you're in for a muddy one!  And that's exactly what we got on Sunday at the sixth XTERRA event in Riverhead.  I made sure to pack my phone so I could snap pics of the beautiful toadstools around the course, but was disappointed to discover they were absent, replaced by large amounts of sticky clay mud :(  Oh well, maybe some other time...

Thankfully, Riverhead Forest isn't too far away so we didn't have to get up ridiculously early for this one.  A 6am wake-up seems quite reasonable these days!  I scoffed some breakfast and took my time getting ready, and am forever grateful that the pre-race nerves have all but disappeared and I don't have to contend with multiple bathroom trips before heading out the door.  We arrived quite early as usual, but this time we had to park a little way away from the event base.  The morning was a little drizzly, but nothing like the rain we'd had the night before, so hooray for small mercies.  It was a little chilly but still in double digits temperature-wise, so shorts, a singlet and merino sleeves were sufficient for the run.  Martin and I chatted to a few people before the start - you get to know quite a lot of them after a while.  Regulars, I guess you could say ;)  Malcolm Law complimented me on my High Five-0 head cover, lol ^_^

At 9am we were off up the gravel forestry road before heading onto the single track into the forest and our first taste of mud.  The course took in alternating chunks of road and trails, and each change was welcomed as you'd get a little bit sick of the mud so would be happy for some gravel, then would get bored with the gravel and be happy to slog through the mud for a while.  It was very slick and slippery, but squelchy and sticky at the same time.  Being 4WD tracks, there were deep gouges in the mud quite regularly, along with the odd puddle or two.  Some of the puddles were quite deceptive in their depth and several people got caught out, ending up waist-deep.  I managed to get one that was about mid-thigh, so not too bad.  I was also lucky enough to avoid a face- or butt-plant in the mud, and my hands remained relatively clean - I was quite determined not to trip and have to break my fall with my hands!  I joked about the girliness of it with a few guys during the run - ewww mud!  Hahaha!!

Wow, look at those pristine-clean legs!

Not any more!

About three quarters of the way through the run I stripped off the sleeves.  It was still fairly cold, but I run better when I'm not too warm.  Sleeves are awesome for that very reason.  You should totally get some.

The super long course was (by my watch) 22.4km, and I completed it in an official time of 2:35:23, placing 76/100 overall, 18/31 female, and 13/20 in my age group.  I was expecting about that time, so was pretty happy with it.  It was quite a good run, I was just really looking forward to seeing the toadstools.  Blah.

Very soon after I'd finished, I met Kath.  Hi Kath!  I'm sorry I wasn't particularly chatty right that moment, but I'm glad you found my advice helpful.  Good luck with your afghan!!  I hope it goes really well (I'm sure it will).  Just a quick piece of extra advice - keep track of your knitting row by row, so you don't get lost in the pattern.  That's what I did, and I only ended up having to tink back a half row once.  Considering the size of the afghan and my ability to screw up the simplest of patterns, I think that's pretty good.  I just have one question - you live in Auckland, you're a knitter, and you run trails.  How are we not BFFs already?!?  Seriously, we should hang :)  And just quietly, I'm a little envious of your ability to totally rock those short shorts ;)

After we'd finished, we headed to Hallertau for lunch.  I just threw my jeans on over my shorts and the caked-on mud, then had to deal with the chunks of dried mud digging into my legs and getting all itchy and annoying through the next two hours.  I was really looking forward to the shower when I got home!!  I'd heard good things about Hallertau, and it's always so busy, so I was a little nonplussed to discover that apart from side dishes, they had only one vegetarian meal on the menu, and it was so rich and full of cheese and cream that I could barely get through it!  I didn't feel too well afterwards.  I couldn't even just get a salad, because both their salads had meat in them.  Stink.  Everybody else's meals were good though, so I can see why people flock to the place.  Just not many vegetarians/vegans ;)

Speaking of food, check out the breakfast X and I had on Saturday:

Mini chocolate pancake stack for me

Mini pancake super-stack for X

He ate all but half a mini-pancake - pretty good effort!  So y'all know I like cooking by now, and every now and then I whinge about having a small kitchen.  Deane kindly built me a spice shelf over the weekend:

Pretty cool, huh?  Sadly, the cupboards are still crammed full, but this at least stops things falling out onto my head on a regular basis ;)  Thanks Deane!

And now I will leave you with some pics from our training run from the previous weekend - we ran from my place to the Waitakere Dam, then ran Fence Line Track, Waitakere Dam and Waitakere Tramline Walk.  All up, about 34km.  Hard work!  But the scenery was, as always, beautiful.

View of Auckland from Henderson Valley Road

Have a great week, people!!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Arataki to Huia and back... sort of... and some other things

Last week turned out to be a little craycray - I finished my assignments in time and submitted them Tuesday afternoon (phew!).  Dying to know what marks I get for them...  Wednesday through Friday was full of home-schooling a nine-year-old.  We did science experiments, maths, baking, reading, origami, word puzzles, some online school work, and went for walks.  Fun, educational, interesting, and very time-consuming!  I got the bare minimum of housework done, and absolutely no study or running.  Saturday I was mentally pretty wiped, so I just kinda pottered around doing bits and pieces - cooking, knitting, reading etc. So to fix that (well, the running at least), I hauled Martin out on Sunday for a long run.  He drove though, so I can't be held entirely accountable ;)  We were planning an out-and-back to Huia from the Arataki Visitor Centre, but ended up doing more of a loop, taking in Tom Thumb and Twin Peaks Tracks.  I lost GPS satellite connection partway around so I don't have an exact route.  Plus, my memory sucks and I can't remember if we ran Summit Track or Christies Track, or which combination of the other tracks around the area.  I know there was a tunnel somewhere...  The Twin Peaks track is hard work, and not as well-used as much of the Waitakere tracks, but oh, the views were amazing!  Sadly, my phone was doing its usual 'play dead' trick so I missed getting a picture of the most beautifully stunning scenery (I'm still annoyed about it and vow to one day go back just to get that photo!!), but we did get some lovely pictures along the way all the same, including a snap of the sign marking the highest point of the Waitakere Ranges - Te Toiokawharu:

This is what it looked like on the way up:

The picture doesn't really show it, but this whole area was covered in bright green moss.  It was beautiful.  Stupid useless phone camera...

Twin Peaks is bloody steep, and very overgrown!  Fallen trees were everywhere to climb over, and I was amazed at the amount of mud we had to trudge through (not in these pics though, obviously).  It made for very slow going, but the views were worth it, and there is nothing quite like being in the middle of the boonies with greenery all around you and the sound of native birds.  We saw and heard tui, kereru, fantails, and even spotted this beautiful pheasant:

The only other scenic shots I got were these, on the Pipeline Track (or Hamilton Track, I'm not sure), and one looking out towards Huia Dam (or Nihotupu Dam, again, not sure.  I should start taking notes...)

There was about three or four hours where we didn't see another single person.  I guess 'off the beaten track' (ie: not on the official Hillary trail) isn't all that popular.  I'm not complaining, it was actually kinda nice...  The day was a lot longer than we expected, but it was a goodie - we ended up doing 34km (or 31km, depending on whose watch you looked at) and 1,564m total elevation.  And the Danish Delight ice cream stall in the car park was still open when we got back - bonus!  It took us about six hours all up.  Essentially, this was three quarters of what Waihi will be in distance, elevation and time.  So a pretty damn good training run and indicator of the potential outcome for Waihi.  The good news is, we should finish before the 8 1/2 hour cut off.  The bad news is, its very unlikely we'll win it ;)  Hahahahaha!

This week so far I've managed to fit in a bit of everything - study, running (on the treadmill because the weather's been poop), parent/teacher interviews, etc etc.  Although I am seriously considering whether its worth paying $40-$60 a week to have somebody else come and do my housework so I can fit in more study and running... at least until my marathon's done and dusted...

Treadmill running has been made a little more interesting by digging up different workouts online.  Sure, the treadmill has built in programs, but they're unpredictable in terms of speed and incline with no indication when its suddenly going to kick up to 14kph - I can't run that fast!  So having a workout written on a wee piece of paper and taped to the bottom of the screen has worked for me so far, I just adjust the speed/incline at the right times.  Hill workout, speed workout, whatever, you can find a pre-written plan to suit.  Ah, the interwebs.  So very handy...

Today I'll admit to not getting any study done, but I got to meet one of my favourite authors - Rachael Herron!!  Looklooklook:

Author selfie!!!

She is just so lovely, and her wife Lala is awesome :)  I love them, and am so glad I got to meet them both!  Rachael is on tour to promote her latest book, Fiona's Flame (which I haven't read yet.  So many other things to do, not enough time for reading. Ugh).  Happy happy happy :)  And, true to form, I gave her a knitted gift.  This time though, I managed not to make a complete dick of myself in the process.  Small victories, you take 'em when you can ;)

I'm looking forward to this weekend - we have our family movie planned (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - X and I just finished the book last night), and another long run on Sunday, somewhere around the 30km mark. Yeehah!  Have a fabulous weekend! :)

Thursday, 14 August 2014

XTERRA Waharau race recap

Very (very) early on Thursday morning I rolled out of bed - 4.10am to be exact - and met Martin for a 26km run.  We didn't muck around that morning, only stopping briefly a few times, and finished our run in under 2 1/2 hours.  We didn't chat much (Too early?  Nothing left to say after so many long training runs together?  Who could say?).  But we did discuss the upcoming weekend's XTERRA event in Waharau.  I had made a tentative decision earlier in the week to move up from the long distance to the super-long, as the event stats sounded like the perfect training run for Waihi - 21.1km with around 1,400m elevation gain (only about 400m less than Waihi, in half the distance!).  With compulsory gear required such as seam-sealed waterproof jacket, thermal top, gloves and hat, and emergency blanket, it sounded like just what I needed to gauge my progress and fitness (and mental preparedness) leading up to Waihi.  After discussing it with Martin (ie: he insisted) I committed to the idea.

So bright and early Sunday morning we all (Vaughan, Martin, Lindsay and I) trekked on out to the Hunua Ranges, with a bit of a close call on petrol - bless the people that built a service station on the corner of Kaiaua and East Coast Roads!!!  As always we arrived nice and early, and because we had a car-load we got to park really close to event base (and the portaloos - bonus, or drawback?  I can't decide...)  I officially 'upgraded' to the super-long distance and got a new race number, then hung around until race briefing.  They had a little more to say this time, particularly concerning the ruggedness and remoteness of the course, the compulsory gear requirements that were 'definitely going to be checked', and personal safety.  It was going to be tough, with a 'toughness factor' of 5 out of 5.  I was ready!

The start horn sounded, and we were off.  Martin, Vaughan and I stuck together and chatted off and on during the hard slog up the hill.

Yep, everybody's walkin'...

By 1km in my calves were burning and my shin splints were screaming at me!  There was a nice bit of downhill a little way in that helped relieve them ever so slightly before more relentless uphill.  We stopped at a viewing platform about 4.5-5km up the hill to take some photos of the stunning view, because why not?

The Firth of Thames, looking out towards the Coromandel.  Absolutely beautiful.

Then it was straight back into uphill slog before reaching the aid station and peeling off from the longies.  This is where they were supposed to be doing compulsory gear checks.  They didn't.  But it was where the course got really fun!  Rugged and remote, you say?  Yeah, I'd call that a pretty accurate description...

Those little orange triangles nailed to trees were often the only way of telling where the trail was!  Stomping through the bush riddled with gnarly tree roots and low-hanging branches, fallen trees and vegetation, rocks and mud with a barely discernible single trail made me feel pretty bad-ass, I'm not gonna lie.  Martin lost a shoe in a giant mud-puddle, and the polite thing would've been to wait for him to locate it and put it back on.  I managed to hang around long enough for him to find it and shake some of the mud out before I took off.  I couldn't help it, I was itching to keep moving!  (He lost a shoe a total of three times over the duration of the event.  Hopeless... ;P).  At a little over 10km in we arrived at the trig station - the highest point of the Hunua Ranges at 688m.  Martin and Vaughan were a little way behind so I took the opportunity to climb up to the viewing platform and snap some pics:

Then we were off again.  There were a few more kilometres of up-and-down trail, some exposed with knobbly, uneven grass underfoot, some with super-steep muddy trail, and some with gravel track, all of it stunningly beautiful:

After around 13km, it was time for the wicked downhill section!  This is where I left the boys behind, and because there weren't a lot of people around (the fast runners were well and truly gone, and the rest of us were pretty well spread out), I spent large chunks of this section completely alone except for the few people I passed.  There is something quite magical about being alone and flying through the bush with just the sound of your breathing, your footfalls, and native birds singing all around you.  It is one of the things that makes me truly happy.

The shorter-distance events had finished already, so there wasn't a bunch of people to join up with for the tail end of the run.  It was pretty quiet, so I got a bit of a surprise when the photographers made a whooping noise to alert me to their presence right before a stream crossing.  I got a little disorientated with the unexpected sound and didn't get to go crashing through the water for an awesome photo - instead, I got careful stepping with a slightly confused look...

Oh well, you can't win them all.  After that, it wasn't too far to the finish line.  I heard a couple of people behind me just as we were nearing the end and I was determined not to let them pass me, so put on a tiny burst of speed to get across the line before they did.  Not that it matters ;)  I finished in 3:12:19 (84/122 overall, 18/36 women, 16/26 age category), Martin was five minutes later, and Vaughan a little while after that.  Linsday had finished her mid-course run quite a bit earlier and had kindly grabbed the boys a sausage and a beer each so they didn't miss out.  By the time we rolled in, people were packing up and getting ready to go home!  It was a tough course, no doubt about it, but it was most definitely my favourite of the series so far.

We have since been informed that the elevation gain was closer to 960m, well short of the 1,400m originally indicated.  Disappointing - here I was thinking I was totally kicking ass at the whole hill-climbing thing! Despite that, I'm still fairly confident my training is on the right track for Waihi.  I'm actually starting to look forward to it, even though the distance is still pretty scary.  Martin has a few daunting-sounding training runs planned over the next couple of weeks I think - he won't divulge details, but I reckon I can handle it ;)

Lovely bonus pic from Allan and his team - thanks for being awesome, Photos4Sale!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Busy week ahead

I have two assignments due Tuesday week, a total of about 4,500 words separated into five different essays/reports.  I haven't started yet.  I declare myself Queen of Procrastination!  Where's my crown? ;)  So this week will be dedicated to trying to get these things done, in amongst the marathon training and other essential life functions, household duties and myriad appointments and errands.  Wish me luck!

Last week's training involved a 6km treadmill run on Tuesday, 11km hill run on Wednesday - three climbs of Mt Eden:

It was a beautiful day with signs of Spring about - I spotted a New Zealand kingfisher and a goldfinch at Mt Eden, but they were too quick for me to snap pictures.

On Wednesday I got up at stupid o'clock for an 18km hill run with Martin:

Seriously, who gets up at this time?  Is that even a real time?

Bare winter trees looking fabulous in the street lights

On the home stretch, with a beautiful sunrise in the distance

Friday was a rest day, Saturday was another 6km treadmill run while we watched War of the Buttons (cool movie), and Sunday Martin and I headed out to Okura for an out-and-back.  I'd heard about the Okura-to-Stillwater trail but had never been out that far.  Given the weather (wet), it ended up being quite a good choice.  There was minimal mud (at least in comparison to recent trail runs, yay Winter) and a bit of coastal running, with some decent hills and beautiful surroundings.  All up it was about 13km.

Hard-packed gravel trail

Love the rock formations!

Drizzly day, but still beautiful

Mini stream :)

It was a good little run, and one I am sure to do again.  That brought my mileage for the week up to 54.8km.  I'm not sure how this week will go due to the rather pressing assignment work, but I have runs planned that will equate to about 77km.  Doubt that will happen, but you never know ;)

Even with all this running, I'm still inhaling enough food to put on weight, so once again, it's time to reign in the junk-food binge-eating (chocolate, I'm looking at you!) and late-night snacking.  Time to get serious about nutrition so I can properly fuel this body of mine for the hard work ahead.  Right now though, it's time for a coffee and some study!  Have a great week everyone :)

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

A random assortment of things I have learned...

  • It is apparently quite acceptable to wear running/workout gear whilst shopping at the supermarket.  Indeed, for some it seems to be their normal daily attire - the latest Nike, Lululemon, what have you...  However, it is apparently not acceptable to wear said workout gear after a workout or run whilst shopping at the supermarket.  You will be met with mildly horrified stares.  Sweat is, evidently, not socially embraced as an outfit accessory in the somewhat more snobbish areas of Auckland Central.
  • I knew there was premise to calling it Ponsnobby... (I've called it that for years, even before I lived here).
  • This pretentiousness was evident even back 100 years ago, as I discovered while perusing old Observer newspapers for a library and information study project recently.  (This edition in particular).  I guess some things never change.
  • I cannot be trusted in the confectionery aisle.  If there is new chocolate, I will buy it, regardless of the knowledge that it will be awful.  Case in point, the new Whittaker's Hundreds and Thousands chocolate.  I had asked my children if they wanted to try it and after some discussion, came to the conclusion that none of us would really like it because it would be too sickly-sweet.  So what do I do?  Buy it anyway.  Who ended up having to eat it?  Me.  Why?  Nobody else liked it (except for T, he did have some of it).  Did I enjoy it?  No.  Did that stop me?  Of course not.  Nor did the knowledge that nobody else in the family likes peanuts combined with chocolate stop me from buying a whole block of Whittaker's Peanut Butter chocolate and then laboriously chomping my way through it.  In about four days.  And I haven't even started on the bittersweet peanut slab three-pack...
  • I can quite easily pack away enough food to feed two people at every meal.  Plus snacks.  Marathon training.  Thankfully, most of it is of the healthy variety.  Let's not mention the chocolate again...  Fruits and vegetables for the win!
  • I may not be entirely pleased with how its arranged, or the exterior view, but this little body of mine is pretty powerful and is constantly surprising me with its ability to do anything and everything I set my mind to.  Weekly mileage is still on the increase and I'm coping with it pretty damn well, if I do say so myself.  This year to date has been free of major injury and I am deliriously happy about this.  Bring on Waihi!!  Just over two months to go...
  • Dry shampoo actually works!  Colour me surprised.  Thanks for the tip, Runner Girl NZ ;)
  • Apparently, Spring is on the way:

Have a fabulous week people.  Y'all are awesome :)

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Run fun

I had a pretty good weekend, how about you?  Mine started a little slowly with a lazy Saturday morning.  I had planned on heading out to Parkrun, but decided to flag it at the last minute because a) I'd run Tuesday through Friday and thought I should probably take a rest day, and b) my bed was super cozy and I didn't quite want to get out of it at 7.30am.  The weekday runs weren't bad - a couple of treadmill runs, and I took in a few of my standard routes that I don't run as often as I used to - through Westhaven/Cox's Bay Reserve/Ponsonby (10km), and Hobson Bay/Ayr Street/Newmarket/Grafton, which is normally 15km but I finally figured out how to bypass Ngapipi Road and use the Hobson Bay Walkway without getting lost, which dropped it down to 13km :)  I decided my hill endurance was up to the task of taking on the dreaded Ayr Street incline, and wanted to give it a go.  That hill has been in the back of my mind since I first took it on over a year ago and it kicked my butt.  Since then I've always run down it, with the thought of 'one day...'.  Well, Thursday was that day.

See that?  Barely a hitch in my stride ;)  Ran the whole thing without stopping.  Yay me!  (In case you're wondering, the first dip in pace (the red section) is when I was going up the stairs on the Point Resolution bridge, and stopped to take some photos.  The second, smaller dip (orange section) was Ayr Street).  I snapped a few nice pictures along the way too, before the rain caught up to me at the end:

Rangitoto, looking fabulous as always

Hobson Bay Walkway

The sky over K Road.  Here comes the rain...

I was glad I'd decided to take a rest day on Saturday, when it came to Sunday's run.  I needed the energy for that!  It's a case of "you know you're a runner when...".  I had the alarm set for 5.45am (yes, on a Sunday.  Only runners and crazy people do that!) to trek on out to Bethells and meet a couple of guys for an out-and-back run along Te Henga.  I grabbed all my gear, scoffed a banana for breakfast and made a cup of tea for the road, then headed out the door.  I arrived at 7.15am but had failed to clarify exactly where we were supposed to be meeting, and couldn't check the Facebook post because there's no coverage out there.  Oops...  I hung around for a bit, drank my tea, then decided to drive around and see if I could spot them.  Luckily, on my way back towards the beach I spotted them out on the road (they'd come up to see if they could find anyone - good timing!), parked up, grabbed my pack and headed towards the trail.  The weather was quite changeable, and we had it all that morning.  It started out lovely:

Unfortunately, the combination of tea and no easily accessible toilets before the start of our run culminated in my first 'answering the call of nature, trail-side' experience about 20 minutes in.  Luckily, there were plenty of bushes to hide in!  A little while later, we reached an exposed part of the trail and it was about then that the freezing winds and drizzly rain decided to arrive.  It got pretty chilly for a while, but it soon passed, and we were rewarded with this:

A little bit of sunlight, breaking through

The trail got pretty muddy in parts, and I (stupidly) tried avoiding it to start with.  Bad idea.  Why?  Because I ran into a fence instead:


Not to mention that fact that I should know better by now.  All trail runs invariably end up with your shoes looking like this:

Trying to avoid the mud is kinda pointless...

We chatted along the way, but I found the discussion a little different than what I'm used to.  Having only met Richard a few times, and Vaughn once, I guess we're still at the 'polite conversation' stage of the relationship ;)  The group I usually run with are all about lighthearted jibes, joking around, and as much hilarity as possible, which makes for an interesting few hours.  This run wasn't bad though, we still had some pretty good conversation (and there were a few laughs as well).  We made it up the 'stairs of doom' to Constable Road in two hours which was about 9.5km, give or take a few hundred metres, from where we started at Bethells Beach.  After a short break and a chat to a guy who was just starting out doing the opposite of us (Constable Road to Bethells and back), we headed back the way we came, down the stairs and along Te Henga again.  By this stage the trail was pretty busy - there was plenty of traffic going in both directions.  Richard and Vaughn had slowed a bit at this stage, so I ran off ahead.

Richard (black top) and Vaughn (red top).

Due to my complete lack of navigation skills, I managed to get a little lost and ended up wandering up a random hill and losing the trail.  After stopping and looking around a bit, I saw Richard and Vaughn much further down the hill below me on the actual trail, so had to backtrack to catch up.  When I found them again, they'd stopped to chat to the Thomson family, who were going to be joining us but ended up starting out on their own later in the day (mum and dad Thomson ran the full Hillary together in December 2013, and the twin girls ran the full Hillary Trail with their dad in March 2012 at age 13, in case you were wondering what kind of family heads out for a trail run together on a Sunday).  Richard had just been asking them how far ahead I was only to be answered with blank stares.  Cue my arrival behind them, confused looks, and my sheepish explanation about being directionally challenged :)

The Thomsons' shoes were all pretty clean - they obviously have far more experience at dodging mud than I do.  After a quick chat we were all on our way again, and again I ran ahead, although this time I didn't get lost.  We were only about 5km from Bethells at that stage so I couldn't really go wrong unless I fell off the side of the cliff...

It could happen...

I got back to the car park just before the rain hit.  Richard arrived five minutes later, and Vaughn was several minutes after that.  It had taken us about two hours to get back too, so four hours total, with a little over three hours actual run time.  Not bad.  The more time I spend out west, the more I like it.  The trails (or at least this section of it) is becoming familiar - except for the occasional accidental detour of course.  In my defense, that was the first time I'd run it in that direction!

Afterwards, we decided not to stop for lunch so I just jumped in the car and headed home to a nice hot shower, home-cooked food, and a movie with the kids (The Addams Family - love that movie!).  I'm looking forward to the next Waitakere outing, which will hopefully be soon.  It's good training for Waihi!  Have a good week :)

PS: I missed out on signing up for the Queenstown Marathon - it's all sold out.  Boo.  But I am on the waiting list - got confirmation yesterday.  Fingers crossed!