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 :)