Monday, 30 June 2014

XTERRA Woodhill recap

Boy, were we lucky with the weather for Woodhill!  It had been raining off and on all week, with some pretty impressive thunderstorms thrown in for good measure, but Sunday morning was completely rain-free.  Today it's been pouring pretty much non-stop, so thank you weather, for allowing us to have a drizzle-free event ;)

One thing this year and its many events has given me, is the ability, finally (it took a while!), to not stress about races any more.  The day before is just like any other day, maybe a little more relaxed and without a long run.  Definitely no alcohol consumption (I've learned that lesson), but I'm cool to just roll with whatever happens.  People over for dinner?  Fine.  Late night?  No problem!  Lack of sleep?  Not the end of the world.  The morning of, I'll just pootle about getting my stuff organised.  Breakfast is a non-event because, again, I've learned that worrying about it gets me nowhere.  If I'm hungry, I'll eat a banana or some toast.  For Woodhill, I ate a power cookie (recipe below) and took a cup of tea for the car ride.  Martin picked me up at 7am and we trekked on out to Muriwai, parked, and took the shuttle bus to the event HQ.  Because of the distance from car to HQ, and time we would be waiting around before and after, we both took our gear bags with extra clothes to drop before the race.  We visited the portaloos, grabbed our race numbers and transponders, and fluffed about chatting to people while we waited.  Although we'd arrived quite early, our leisurely meander took up most of the wait time, so race briefing wasn't too long after we'd organised ourselves.

At 9am, we headed off on a wide gravel forestry road.  I was determined this time to start out slow, since the last few races I've gone out too fast and worn myself out too early.  I was getting passed by what felt like the entire field of long and super-long runners, but once we were a few kilometres in, I overheard a couple of guys chatting and one mentioned that we were still in the 'lead group'.  I was surprised, but felt a little better anyway.  I lost Martin quite early on (I started out reaaaaaaaally slow!) and ran a couple of kilometres by myself.  We caught up again when he stopped to stretch his achilles.  The trail, once we got to it, was quite soft and spongy underfoot because of the thick layer of pine needles, and thankfully it wasn't too muddy.  I was expecting a quagmire after all the rain we'd had!  The scenery wasn't particularly exciting, but the silence was lovely.

Some poor, lost soul who died alone...

Barren, wintery pines

Whilst the ground underfoot was relatively easy to run on it was constantly undulating, much like a BMX track.  I found it rather irritating after a short while, and it was quite draining on the legs.  Still, Woodhill was a relatively flat course overall, so I guess you've gotta have something to make it a little more challenging ;)  I had gone in to the race thinking my hill strength was pretty good since I'd been working on it a bit lately, but discovered after a while that whilst my road hill running is definitely improving, my trail hill running is still pretty crap.  The unevenness of the trails prevent regular, smaller steps which I find I can manage continuously - instead, there were small steps, large steps, and soft, shifting, sandy dirt which altered your stride with every foot fall.  There's no chance to get into a rhythm on the uphills.  Having said that, I was getting passed by a lot of people on the uphills, so it's probably just me ;)  The longs and super-longs split relatively early, at about 4km in.  I said goodbye to Martin and carried on my merry way.

There were quite a few tree roots and things to snag your feet on, but thankfully I avoided a full face-plant.  Several runners were less fortunate, but had the benefit of soft, springy ground to hit instead of unforgiving rocks or hard-packed dirt.  Still, I have now begun to think of it as tr(ip-and-fl)ail running ;)

I took a few walking breaks, particularly on the uphills, and had a gel at about 8km in, knowing it was going to be a longish race - estimated at 19km.  Since trail runs usually take longer than road runs, I figured I'd be out for over two hours and decided a gel was warranted, particularly after only a cookie for breakfast (even though said cookie is nearly 300 calories!).  The mid-section of the run was pretty uneventful although there were some pretty cool downhill sections - soft dirt means you can really fly down and not worry too much about falling and hurting yourself!  We joined the super-long, mid-distance and short-distance runners at various points along the way.  There was some nice scenery whilst running alongside the stream with a wood bridge to cross, and some open grass areas.  The sun was out at that stage, so it got a little hotter than I was expecting and I considered taking my sleeves off, but couldn't be bothered undoing my watch so decided to just leave them on.  The finish wasn't too far away.  The last section was a bit more of a slog than I was expecting - a gentle uphill on sandy dirt and grass.  Sounds like it wouldn't be too much of a challenge, but I took several walking breaks anyway because my legs were pretty drained.  Soft ground sucks the energy out of you!  I still managed a smile for the camera, and crossed the finish line in the middle of the pack, at 2:08:09, 13th out of 24 in my age group, and 68th out of 110 overall for the long distance.

Concentrating on my footing

Those photographers snap pics of you before you even realise they're there!  Allan Ure and his team at Photos4Sale do a fantastic job :)

Yep, my running outfits are getting weirder...

For 19km (and the fact that my 'starting out slow' tactic ended up continuing for the entire race, lol) it was a little quicker than I expected.  Taking into account the lack of serious hills, I guess it makes sense.  The next XTERRA run is in Dome Valley, and is listed at 19.5km.  I imagine my time for that will be quite different, because the hills are much more... hilly.  Sadly, the elevation profile isn't available so I can't get a good idea of what we're in for.  Oh well, I guess we'll find out in a few weeks!

After the run, I managed to find Sheryl and catch up briefly (it was good to see you Sheryl!) before heading off to get changed and go have lunch with the group.  All in all, a pretty good day :)  Discussion (for myself and Martin at least) has moved to training for XTERRA Waihi, which is a little over three months away now.  Time to start increasing distance and really working on the uphill trail endurance!  This is one race I am freaking out about!

As for the 50 Days of Winter Running challenge, things are going pretty well.  That was a 55km week from Monday to Sunday, which I'm quite happy about.  On the days I don't run, I walk a lot so although my cross-training ambitions have fallen by the wayside (again) I'm still getting something achieved.  My fitbit is really helping me keep track of activity levels, and motivating me to get off my butt a little more.  Hopefully I'll be able to keep it up (injury-free) heading in to the later months of this year, with the training increase for Waihi.  Now, as promised, the power cookie recipe.  These things taste amazing, and are a great energy source for long runs.  I got the recipe from a runner friend, who found it on the internet.  I'm sorry I can't link to the original source :(  I might go for a hunt at some point to see if I can find it.  In the mean time, here you go:

Power Cookies
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews, chopped
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup peanut butter
5 medjool dates, chopped into six pieces
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup dried fruit (currants, apricots (chopped), cranberries, blueberries, raisins etc)
1/2 cup dessicated coconut

Heat oven to 160°C.  In food processor, pulse nuts, agave, peanut butter, dates, flaxseed and oil.  Add fruit and coconut and pulse until just combined.  Tip into a bowl and mix well with a spoon, then using a 1/4 cup measure, form 2cm thick rounds and place on a lined baking tray, leaving about 1" between each cookie.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until browned around the edges.  Cool completely on the baking sheet before storing in a container or wrapping.  Makes 11.  As an added bonus, they're gluten free and vegan too :)  Great for sharing.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

This ride is moving too fast! Can we stop for a bit?

Wow, this year is zooming by so quickly!!!  I've been focusing on one thing at a time, trying to navigate my way through the crazy chaos.  Unfortunately this seems to be a bad tactic because I keep getting broadsided with stuff I've overlooked or ignored.  (Missed my niece's birthday for example... oops!).  I just discovered today that school holidays start next Friday.  I mean, I knew they were coming up soon, I just didn't know it was THAT soon!  I need to improve my note-taking skills, particularly when it comes to important dates.  I thought I had until today to finish my last assignment for the trimester, but found out last Tuesday that it was due on the 19th, not the 26th.  This is not something you want to hear two days beforehand, especially when you've barely started!  I went in to freak-out mode and drank all coffee within reach, stayed up late every night working on it (thankfully Deane was in Sydney (again!!) so I had no distractions), and managed to get it done by about lunch time Friday.  We all got an automatic one week extension because the due dates were ambiguous (19th June listed in one place (which was in week 16), and 'end of week 17' everywhere else, including on the assignment info), but were asked to submit it as soon as possible.  Knowing how this week was likely to pan out, I hauled ass and got it finished before the weekend just to be on the safe side.  That may have been a good call considering this week's events and the fact that I still haven't even managed to get around to doing the housework, but I haven't got my mark back yet so the jury's still out.

Ah yes, this week has been quite jam-packed with adventure!  Deane is, I think, secretly moving to Sydney on a permanent basis - he's been there all week again :(  I sent X to stay at a friend's place Tuesday night so I could take T to camp (I had to go with him, otherwise he wouldn't have been allowed to go - long story).  So Monday was full of catching up on random stuff and organising to go away, and Tuesday morning I sent X out the door to his school, then lugged our bags across to T's school ready for camp.  T was super excited and wanted to be there as early as possible.  Good thing we live across the street!  The double-decker bus arrived on time, we helped load all the bags, head count was checked and double-checked, then we were off to the Marine Education and Recreation Centre in Long Bay.

The kids were really excited.  You could tell by the horrendous level of noise they were creating (my poor ears!).  Thankfully it was only a 25 minute drive, and we got stuck in to activities after a short briefing about the day's events and a break for morning tea.  T was in a different group so he could enjoy his camp experience (I just had to be nearby), so I had a group of eleven kids to wrangle with the help of another parent and the MERC instructors.  The weather was a bit cold and windy, so the activities had to be planned accordingly.  Our group got all land-based activities for the first day, which included archery, stack-em, and tree-climbing.  Archery is something I haven't done since I was a kid, and it turns out I'm just as good at it now as I was then.  Which is pretty shit.

I got to redeem myself though, with the stack-em activity.  It involves stacking milk crates one on top of the other and climbing up as you go, until they fall over.  You're harnessed in so you can't injure yourself, and they have a rope rigged up so people can keep handing you crates via a pulley.  I got the camp record!  Yes, it is supposed to be a kids camp, not an adults camp.  But hey, you take what you can get ;)  Our last activity was tree climbing, and that was quite the challenge - physically it was quite easy and you were harnessed in so there was no danger of falling out of the tree.  Getting over the fear of heights was what challenged most kids (and the adults who accompanied them).  Our group got about 20 feet up into the Norfolk Pine, but couldn't go any higher, a) because it was really cold and windy and they were concerned about safety, and b) because a kid in our group freaked out fairly early in to the climb and we had to go super slow up and back down again, with her crying and complaining the whole way.  There wasn't much else to do since the six of us were roped together in a chain, but the instructor was amazing and coached her the whole way - he got her all the way up, and all the way back down again.  She did it despite her fears, and everyone was really glad.  Mostly because we were freezing and happy to be back on the ground (since we had to hang around in the tree for so long, not moving around much while we waited).

The tree

Birds-eye view, haha

I can see my house from here!  Just kidding...

T's group had tree climbing first (he didn't do it), then another activity (that he also opted out of), and a water activity which, surprisingly, he did do.  They went out in kayaks with little wet-suits on.  He had a ball!

OMG would you just look at those freckles!!!

After that it was time to hit the showers and get ready for dinner.  I had gone to camp fully prepared to feed myself, but the catering ladies were amazing and made me vegan options for each meal.  There were several vegetarian kids at the camp, and they assured me it was no big deal to go a little further to veganise some of the meals (rice pilaf made with miso, vegetarian hot dogs sans cheese, using margarine instead of butter).  I was so impressed!  All I ended up needing was the soy milk I'd brought with me.  They were so lovely :)  Of course, staying vegan wasn't the issue - I ate sooooo much food over the two day camp, I put on a kilo!

That night, the kids had a wee talent show (super cute) and then watched a movie before bed at 8.30pm.  I was sharing a room with the other mums, and came prepared with my Kindle (hooray for being able to read in the dark!) but we were all quite tired and I ended up putting my book down at 9.30pm.  It didn't take me long to go to sleep either.  The next morning, the boys were awake and being rowdy by 6am, ready for the day's activities.

Sunrise, sadly a little lacklustre...

Cold, windy, and preparing to rain

All water activities were called off for the day due to the crappy weather (which suited me fine, because I wasn't keen to get wet in that weather!) so my group had rock-wall climbing and slingshots (big, wood-frame slingshots, not the hand-held variety) but I got roped in to cleaning the dormitories so missed out on most of it.  T had archery (which he struggled with - the bow was almost bigger than him!) and stack-em, which was the activity he was most looking forward to.  The wind was really strong though, and the stack-em activity was right in it's path, so nobody managed to get past four crates that day.  T got to three.  He's vowed to go back at a later date when it's not windy to try and break my record ;)

After the activities and lunch, it was time to go - the bus arrived early so we could avoid most of the rain.  Good decision on the part of the teachers!

Home time!

We had a lot of fun, and it wasn't as awful as I was expecting it to be.  Having said that, it was a one-night camp.  My opinion may be different if it was a longer camp.  I was told several horror stories about the four day/three night camp...  I might send Deane on that one next year... ;)

Today I had planned to get stuck in to the housework, but after my run this morning, appointments and errands, cooking dinner and helping X with his homework, it didn't even get a look in.  Tomorrow, maybe...  We have house guests from tomorrow through to next Tuesday and my weekend is booked up with plans so hopefully I'll be able to get it done, otherwise it'll have to wait until next Wednesday and by that stage CYF will be knocking on my door!

Have an awesome weekend people!  I'll tell you all about XTERRA Woodhill next week - wish me luck!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Double Rainbow recap

Well heck, if that wasn't the best day ever, then I don't know what is.

I went to bed Friday night at around 10pm, which was later than I was aiming for but I wasn't overly concerned.  My plan of attack was to just relax, enjoy the experience, and take everything as it comes.  I set the alarm for 4am, made sure everything was packed, and put a big sign on the door saying 'TRAIL SHOES' since they were still drying in the hot water cupboard - there'd be nothing worse than driving all the way to Rotorua and discovering you'd left your running shoes behind!

I managed to get a bit of sleep, but it wasn't particularly restful.  I was awake some time after 2am and didn't get back to sleep, so just fluffed around checking social media for a while then got up at 3.30am.  Figuring it would be pointless having breakfast at 4am when the race wasn't until 10, I just made myself a cup of tea, another for the road, packed all my extra bits and pieces then headed out to get petrol, pick up Martin, and we were on the road south by 5.15am.  The drive was lovely, the sunrise was amazing, and it was really cool being able to see the full moon to our right and the sunrise to our left.  I didn't get any photos since I was driving and didn't want to pull over, but y'all have seen plenty of sunrise pics already, right?

We stopped in Rotorua for some breakfast and a coffee, then continued on to Lake Okaro.  We got there at about 8.30am, which gave us over an hour to fill in before race briefing.  We were more than okay with this!  The cool thing about smaller races is the chilled out atmosphere - there is a significant lack of crowds (yay), everyone is relaxed and in no particular hurry, there are no issues with parking, no booming loud speakers... just a handful of people in beautiful surroundings, there to have a good day and enjoy some trail running fun.

We checked our gear, packed our snacks, got our race numbers, and bounced around a bit to keep warm (it was about 5°) until it was time to go.  As usual, I started out too fast in the first few kilometres and was really feeling it.  Also, because of the low temperature my nose was running constantly and I had to keep sniffing so it wouldn't drip everywhere.  Gross, I know.  And the annoying thing was, this continued for the entire race!  Ugh.  Anyway, after a while I managed to regulate my breathing to my usual rhythm for running (breathe in for three steps, breathe out for three steps) and we got into a good steady pace.  Martin was kind enough to stick with me the whole way and go at my pace which included a lot of walking up the hills.  And I mean a lot!  It wasn't until quite far into the run (about 9km) that the hills got steep enough to justify walking, and from there it was very stop-start all the way to the top.  At the bottom of the steep incline there were some marshals jotting down race numbers and clocking times, and another set of marshals doing the same up the top, so they could give you split times for your ascents.  Unfortunately, it appears they only logged our first lap and not the second so I can't compare.  We took 26:25 to get up the hill - the fastest ascent was 15:43 by the machine that is 15-year-old Reegan Absolum.  On his fourth lap no less!  I suppose for someone who runs the full Hillary Trail for fun, four laps of Rainbow Mountain isn't going to be much of a challenge...

The views from the top were, as expected, rather spectacular.  Unfortunately my phone battery died and I only got a couple of pics:

Part of the trail on the way up

The view from (nearly) the top - geo-thermal activity included

The view from the (actual) top.

There was a much better view over the other side with lakes etc, but I missed it.  Marty got pics, but I don't have those to share with you yet.  The aid station at the top was awesome - they had marmite and potato chip sandwiches!  YUM!!  We had a bit of a munch, grabbed a few lollies, chatted with the lovely volunteers, and headed down.  The first descent was pretty full-on, and required a lot of concentration.  A little further down the mountain there were spots of frost - you could actually feel the temperature change on your legs while running through it.  It was pretty cool (har de har har).  The second trip up wasn't too bad I guess - knowing what you're in for kinda helps.  It was during this trip that Reegan blitzed past us - he was fair booking it, so I figured he'd be in for a good finishing time.  We stopped to chat to some people the second time around too - remember the cute little Asian couple I mentioned that were at The Hillary?  The wife was at the top of the mountain, ready to take pictures of her husband (whose name is Ronald).  Turns out he was doing the 46km event.  Impressive!  (And even more impressive is that he ran a 10km race the next day!!)  We've seen them at a few races (he's doing the XTERRA series) and every time I see them, it just makes me happy :)

The second descent was less steep, but longer in distance and it got kinda boring since it was mostly gravel road.  Marty's a good conversationalist though, so it wasn't too bad.  We had quite a few laughs during the race - running with somebody else definitely makes for a better race day I think.  My finish time was 3:31:57 - I was 5th in my division.  Out of six.  LOL!  It sounds a tiny bit better when I say I was 23rd out of 39 in the 25km distance...

We grabbed a beer and a bite to eat (there's always plenty of food at Lactic Turkey events, we didn't need any of the gels or snacks we packed), washed the cow poop and mud off our shoes in the lake (sooooo cold!) and changed into some warmer clothes so we could hang around for the prize-giving.  We saw Ronald come in from his race, and his wife was in such a rush to run down and get pictures she dropped her bag!  Bless her.  So cute!!  I won a case of Auro gluten free beer from Kereru Brewing Co. as a spot prize - this beer was also the after-race beverage (and wasn't actually too bad*, so I might even drink some...).  Then it was time to get back on the road and head home.  The sunset was just as beautiful as the sunrise, and the moon was even more impressive than the one we'd seen that morning.  Again, no photos.  Slack.

I was very happy to come home to freshly made pumpkin soup for dinner :)  It was a long day, but a very good one.  The run was challenging, but I enjoyed it, and know I could've put more effort in if I wanted to.  I'm saving some up for Waihi ;)

Happy happy happy

* Opinion of a non-beer-drinker.  Might pay to check for yourself.

Friday, 13 June 2014

XTERRA Shakespear race recap and #50DaysofWinterRunning

I had a blast on Sunday!  The hills were pretty meaty, but they had the most amazing views!  And the downhills... there is nothing quite like haring down a hill at breakneck speed, whizzing past everyone!!  Of course, they're plodding past you quite successfully on the uphills later on...  (Note to self: put in more hill training time and sign up for 'Beat the Hills').  So anyway, recap!

The morning started out beautifully:

I managed some PB on toast for breakfast, and a whole cup of tea!  Yay me!  I picked up my 'extra', loaded the address for the race into my phone GPS, and we headed off to Shakespear Regional Park.  Again, we got there with loads of time to spare so there was no rush to grab our race numbers and timing transponders.  It was a little chilly but not too bad, so I didn't mind standing around in my shorts with one extra top layer.  There was a 100% chance of water, so I figured shorts were the way to go.  The temperature was hovering around the early teens so I knew I wouldn't get too cold during the run.  I had decided to go with my small, basic hydration pack rather than the full trail pack this time, and just stuffed a couple of gels in my back pocket, which was sans phone because of the expected water section.  I found Martin, we shucked our extra layer, then headed to briefing with no particular hurry.  We could hear what they were saying this time, but didn't really pay attention anyway.  As I've said before, they're all pretty much the same.

At 9am the starter horn blared, and we were off.  Surprise, surprise, the start of the run was an uphill section!  It started with a gravel road, then we got to the grassy hill part of the heritage trail, which was quite steep in parts.  The views were spectacular, and the field opened up quite a bit before we got into the trails.

XTERRA Series - for the cheesiest race photos ever!  It's all about experimenting, to see what works best ;)

At the top of one of the hills I saw signs with arrows pointing in opposite directions - 1st lap and 2nd lap.  Another lap with these hills?  Ugh!  I quite enjoyed the downhill trail section, although it was rather brief.  We soon arrived at the coastal section of the run.  It was remarkably long, I think about 8km all up.  The rock formations changed considerably along the length of coastline - there was a lot of rough stuff which sometimes ran parallel, other times perpendicular, to the water's edge, and then all the times in between where it had no rhyme or reason - just crazy, uneven rock.  Smooth, jagged, seaweed-covered...  It took a lot of concentration, and I quickly remembered how challenging the aptly-named Coastal Challenge had been!  Granted, it was a different section of the coast, but much of the rock type was similar.  It was fun, but hard work.  There were two sections where we had to get wet - the first was relatively minor, and the water came up to just past my knees.  The second dunking was a lot more fun, and came up to my waist.  The water was really cold, but sooooo refreshing!  I actually really enjoyed it :)  I spotted quite a few purple jellyfish washed up on the beach, and one really huge clear/yellow/pink one that looked like a giant, bloody snot blob.  Mmmm...  The only rain we had during the race hit during the coastal section, so I wasn't bothered by it at all.  It wasn't overly heavy, and I was already wet anyway.  Rain, shmain ;)

Eventually, we hit the soft sandy part of the beach, where we (the 'longies') had to split off from the 'super-longies'.

"Okay, I can do this..."

"Wait, how much more sand is there on this beach?"

"Oh right, THAT much..."

I said goodbye to Martin and headed on up towards the hard-packed, much smoother earth that my legs were craving after the jagged, uneven rocks and soft, giving sand.  The relief was short-lived though, as we were quickly climbing the steep grassy hills again.  There were more of them this time, but those downhills... oh, such fun!!!  I did become a little concerned that I'd made a wrong turn at some point though, as I was surrounded by mid-distance runners and couldn't spot any of the longies I'd seen earlier in the race.  Deciding there wasn't much I could do except follow the course, I kept going, enjoying the views as I went.  I could only assume I had gone the right way, with nothing to tell me otherwise.  After a bunch of hills and a little more trail, there was another sandy beach section before heading to the finish line.  I walked a few steps, and a guy gave me a smile and said "go on, not far to go now!", so I started running again, did a bit of a sprint finish with a girl who was running the mid-distance (so it totally didn't count but whatevs, I felt pretty badass anyway, lol), and completed the 15.8km run in 1:45:19 - 19th out of 50 in my age category (105th out of 184 overall), so a slight improvement on the last race.

When comparing my GPS tracking with the race map, it matches, so I must've got it right :)

Ooh look, Nike have changed their display settings...

This time we all had other engagements so didn't hang around long post-race (sorry I missed you Sheryl!).  I did grab a couple of slices of bread to munch on, having left the gels in my pocket, and bought a large soy flat white (drinking a lot more coffee these days).  I did a classic towel-around-the-waist car park change into dry jeans and a top for the drive home, we caught up with a few friends in the mid-distance, saw Martin come in after his super-long, then headed on home.

The next XTERRA race is out in Woodhill on the 29th June, and is listed as a 20km.  Before that though, Martin and I have the 25km Double Rainbow tomorrow morning.  I'm looking forward to the run, but not the getting-up-at-stupid-o'clock-to-get-there part...  Ah, the things we do...

As for the 50 Days of Winter Running challenge, the first week started off with a hiss and a roar - I clocked a 50km week!  Sadly, due to Deane being in Sydney Tuesday through Friday, and having to finish off the giant assignment of doom, I didn't manage any run time during this week :(

I scored myself a fitbit though, and today was my first full day of wearing it.  Who knew you could walk 10,000 steps by just wandering around your house over the course of a day?!?  Okay, fine, I did walk to the supermarket and back, but that's only 600 metres from my house...  I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of mileage I get in an average week!

Right, time for a hot drink and an early night, to get ready for the 4am wake-up and 3+ hour drive to Rotovegas tomorrow morning.  I'll let you know how we get on next week.  Until then, enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Staying the course

After speaking to the student adviser last week and discovering that the ├╝ber-challenging level six paper is stand-alone in the enormity of the assignments, I've decided to continue studying two papers per trimester (and one over the summer trimesters, because who wants to be studying all Christmas and New Year holidays?).  I began work on the giant assignment of doom on Tuesday morning, and am going to try my best not to stress out about it.  I have 13 days left to complete it, so I'm just going to focus on little chunks at a time and work methodically through it, rather than looking at the whole thing and becoming overwhelmed.  At least until the revising and editing stage, when you kinda have to look at the overall bigger picture to make sure what you've written actually makes sense.  Theoretically though, by that stage the work will be mostly done and I won't be on the edge of panic any more.  Hopefully.  I'm also pretending that there isn't just a week left afterwards to finish the last assignment for my other paper.  The freak-out for that can happen after I've finished having a heart attack over this one.  Hooray for study, and trying to better oneself!  Ah, life is a journey...

Speaking of journeys, I wanted to share a very inspirational one with you.  Not one that I am embarking on, for I am a lesser being, but one that is being undertaken by the astoundingly impressive, kind-hearted, amazing Malcolm Law (I am surmising, since I've never actually met him).  He has already achieved great things (seriously, read his book), and continues to set seemingly unattainable goals (at least to mere mortals).  Next year, he will be completing his biggest challenge yet - to run 50 peaks in 50 days, the equivalent of 50 trail marathons, taking in all the mountain ranges New Zealand possesses - this challenge is named the High Five-0.  Now tell me that isn't freakin' impressive!!  Not only that, he has set a goal to raise $250,000 for the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.  He's already a quarter of the way there, and has been training his butt off in preparation for the challenge.  It runs from 31st January to 21st March 2015, and he'll be travelling up and down New Zealand - both the North and South Islands - and running.  Every.  Single.  Day.  He won't be alone, because he'll have plenty of support runners and support crew along the way.  I will not be one of them because seriously OMG cannot run that far, but my friend Martin will be joining him for two or three days.  Apparently support runners are allowed to sign up for a maximum of three days - only Malcolm will be running the full 50.  Ha!  I probably wouldn't even be able to manage one...  But what I'm really excited about is the fact that my friend Vera (hmm, more like acquaintance... Don't want to sound all overzealous and stalker-like, I've only met her twice!  But she's awesome.  Okay, enough waffling!) will be going along for the ride.  She'll be reporting on the entire 50 day challenge and will undoubtedly do so in her usual hilarious, honest, incredibly entertaining style (check out her blog - soooo funny!).  And if that wasn't enough, she'll be running the Tarawera Ultramarathon 100km right in the middle of it!  Words cannot express how blown away I am with impressedness (yes I am aware that isn't a real word).  Amazeballs.  People.  Just... People.  So freaking awesome.  I need a moment... (Deep breaths).  Okay.  So, if you want to donate to a good cause, feel free to hop on over to Mal's fundraising page.  While you're there, you can check out all the places he'll be running, and just be amazed all over again.  I know it's still months away, but I can't wait to read the reporting on it!  This time though, I'll try not to make a dick of myself by saying "Hey Vera, when are you going to be posting about [insert event name here]?  I'm dying to read all about it!".  Jeez, pressure much?  I did that to her when I saw her at The Hillary in March, re this year's Tarawera Ultra (she ran it.  In a freakin' cyclone no less.  And it was her first ultra.  Just... awesome.  *End fan girl moment*).  I shall wait patiently for information, and keep an eye on progress through Facebook and Twitter.  Social media - it's not all bad ;)

Now for much less impressive challenges, I've been getting in to the 50 Days of Winter Running challenge which started on the 1st June.  Yes, it's only the 4th June now, but still... Day 1 was a leisurely solo 19km run through Mt Eden, Cornwall Park, and the streets in between.

Mt Eden crater

Cornwall Park, from a slightly different view than usual, looking rather pretty in the lovely weather

I love this gnarly old tree :)

Day 2 was two days worth of ab, burpee, squat and push up challenges, because I didn't do them on the first day (19km run, y'all).  I also threw in a little cross-fit circuit training workout I found on Pinterest - that'll be my mini workout for the days I don't run.

Day 3 was a 12km run in the early morning before the kids got up.  I love running before sunrise.  Sadly, sunrise isn't until about 7.20am now, which means I end up missing it and all my photos now look like this:

You know it's early when the Sky Tower is still lit up when you arrive home after your run!  Yay for winter ;)

Today is Day 4, and I think it'll be a yoga day.  I haven't done any yoga for ages.  Not to mention my muscles are really feeling the ab and squat challenges.  Definitely in need of a good stretch!

For now though, I must get stuck in to the giant assignment of doom, lest I run out of time.  Have a good week!