Sunday, November 15, 2015

The big day finally dawned!

Simone and I headed down to Rotorua on Friday 13 November 2015 in readiness for the Tarawera 50km event taking place the next morning.  It is quite a surreal feeling to face the realisation that we really were about to run 50kms (somehow when you train each week you never expect race day to actually arrive - but here it was less than 24 hours away). Once we had registered and collected our race numbers we headed off to pick up takeaways for dinner (burger fuel) and then decided it might be wise to get an early night.

To be fair I didn't sleep at all well - I was awake at midnight, 2.30 am and then 4.30am.  I finally got up around 5.45 to have a hot shower followed by a light breakfast (banana and cup of tea).  Coach Sue and husband Graham were picking us up at 7.15 to take us to the starting line, so we were ready and waiting by the time they pulled up outside our motel.

It was a stunning day with clear blue skies and no wind -  perfect for such a big day out.  The race started at Te Puia amongst the geysers and mud pools - it was such a relief when the start was finally underway.  The 50km walkers left first at 8am followed by the rest of the field (marathon and 50km participants), 30 minutes later.

Strangely enough it took me about 10kms before I felt I was part of the event  (this has happened before for events that really take me well outside my comfort zone) - it also took an hour and 20 minutes to get to the 10km mark.  I was starting to realise that the Tarawera trail was going to be one of the most gruelling events that I have ever taken part in. The terrain was quite unforgiving and there were some parts that I literally had to crawl up on my hands and knees due to the steepness of the trail.

Smiling for the camera (anything for a break)
There were aid stations every 7 kms and I was blown away by how well catered the event was but also wondered how on earth the organisers were able to set up tables in middle of the forest laden with every possible food imaginable. That must have been quite a feat in itself.

Just past the 28km mark
There were parts of the day where Simone and I felt quite physically sick (thankfully not at the same time) - but possibly from the sheer challenge that the trail provided - on some occasions our hearts felt like they were going to burst from pumping so hard.

The scenery was magical but to we were so focused on putting one foot in front of the other that I doubt we enjoyed our surroundings.  By 28kms (4 hours 15 mins) we were asking ourselves what on earth we were doing (in language that wasn't quite so pretty).

We managed to run together through to the Buried Village (or just slightly beyond) which was at 35kms.  This aid station put on scones, jam and cream which are a vice that I couldn't pass up and unfortunately I didn't feel too well afterwards (no surprises there)!  The trail out of the Buried Village was up some very steep steps and I had to let Simone go on whilst I slowed up a bit to get over the feeling of nausea.

I went through the 40km mark in 6.5 hours and realised given the terrain that there was another 2 hours ahead of me.  However, I knew at this point that I would definitely finish the event despite my toes being very blistered and sore.  There was a shock to come at the 46 km mark on hearing that the next two kilometres were practically vertical and at this stage of the day there was very little left in the tank.  However, persistence pays off and at 48km the last two kilometres were all downhill - albeit a very steep trail down which was quite slippery due to the gravel.

It was such a relief to reach hot water beach - 50kms - I don't know where I got the strength from to run to the finish line but it came from somewhere.  It was awesome to see Simone there who had finished about 15 minutes ahead of me - we were both so relieved to have survived the day.  It was now after 5.00 pm - 8.5 hours after we had left the start line.  The longest day out that either of us had ever had in any sporting event.

We then had a two hour wait to get on a boat back to mainland - the queue was so long and there were only two water taxis - we were beyond tired although managed to inhale a sausage and glass of beer while we waited.  We then took a shuttle and a bus back to the start where we then had to walk a kilometre back to our motel (I don't know how we managed that).  We finally arrived back at the motel at 8pm, ordered an indian takeaway, sat in a spa, then ate dinner hardly able to speak a word to each other. I did manage to phone Sue to see how she had done on the course and was very impressed to hear she had finished in just over 7 hours (such an awesome result).

Then blow me down if Simone didn't say she thought she might do it all again next year   Really?

Until next time…..:)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Auckland Marathon Day

The Auckland Marathon / Half Marathon is the biggest event on the running calendar for us so it was with great excitement this morning that we made our way down to the Devonport start line.  The excitement was made all the greater with the All Blacks playing in the Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham against The Wallabies and so there was a big flat screen TV just next to the start line so that we could all watch the game finish.  Thankfully the mighty All Blacks won - so what a great start to the day. 

It was also exciting to be running today with lots of good friends, including my running buddy Simone who will do the 50km with me in two weeks time, my gorgeous daughter Soph and my awesome niece Orla who was running her first half marathon and had flown up from Christchurch to take part.  We also ran into Suzanne at the start line who Simone and I worked with at ANZ a number of years ago.

The half marathon started at 6.50 am (50 minutes after the marathon which my friend and neighbour Helen was taking part in).  Once the race started things moved very slowly given the thousands of runners who were taking part.  Simone and I had decided to start the race together but potentially split at the 15 km mark if one of us was feeling better than the other.  The day was perfect for the event, no wind, no rain, and temperatures of about 16 degrees.  It is always great to see friendly faces supporting the event and so it was wonderful to see coach Sue at the 9km mark at Smales Farm.  She took a few snaps of us running past so will look forward to seeing those.

The highlight of the run is going across the Auckland Harbour Bridge - the top of the bridge happens to be the 15km mark which is where Simone left me as she was feeling really good. Then at 18km Soph crept up behind me and went past - her goal for the day was to beat me across the finish line and to be honest I didn't think she would manage it given all the training I have been doing - but off she went and whilst I was very comfortable maintaining the same pace, I didn't have the energy to lift my pace to keep up with her.  There was a turning point down by the Viaduct at 19kms and I noticed Suzanne was very close behind me and I knew she was wanting to run a 2.15 half marathon so I shouted out to her that she was close to being able to achieve her goal.

Finally the finish line was in front of me and I was so grateful to see it.  Just as I went to cross the line Suzanne flew past just pipping me at the post - I was really happy that she achieved her best half marathon time.

Other results - Orla finished her first half marathon in 2.06, Simone finished in 2.14, Soph finished in 2.15 followed very closely by me at 2.16 (along with Suzanne).  Helen also had a great marathon finishing in 3.20 - just awesome but inconceivable for me!

We enjoyed a great family brunch before Orla flew back to Christchurch down at the local cafe where we were joined by my mum and dad.

There are 13 days left now until the 50km run and very little left for Simone and I to do other than a few short runs/walks which will allow our legs to freshen up for their big day out at Tarawera in Rotorua on Saturday 14 November - start time 8.30am.

Until then!!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

We aren't the only ones who are winning...

With 4 weeks to go now, this weekend was the biggest week of training for Simone and I with 6.5 hours training in total to be completed.

So at 6.30 am on Saturday morning Simone and I headed off once again along the beaches and coastal walkways up to Torbay and back - we ran for 4 hours and 6 minutes and covered 30kms - which from a distance perspective doesn't sound a lot but the terrain really does slow us down.  The crazy thing is that four hours doesn't seem as long as it did a few weeks ago now that we have some seriously long runs in the bank - I guess thats the purpose of building the distances over a period of 10-12 weeks.

Then this morning with the All Black's playing France starting at 8am I got up extra early to finish the next 2.5 hours of training so that I could enjoy watching the game with good friends (as I suspect all New Zealanders were doing today).  Coach Sue had told me just to spend the 2.5 hours on my feet whether it was walking or jogging so I took her advice - actually I mostly jogged along but towards the end I stopped in at the Takapuna Beach Cafe for a spicy chai latte (made with almond milk as I have dropped dairy out of my diet) and then stopped in at the Takapuna Markets to get some strawberries to take to breakfast.

Soph and I then headed off to Clara and Jason's for an awesome bacon and egg breakfast whilst watching the All Black's play and win an amazing game of rugby- absolutely outstanding result.

Then once the business end of the weekend was completed it was time to jump into the spa pool to take the aches out of my very tired legs - whilst continuing to enjoy such great company!

Until next time….

Friday, October 9, 2015

5 weeks and counting

There are now five weeks remaining until the 50km and today was the biggest run for Simone and I in the lead up to the Tarawera trail.   Where to go was the biggest question for us as we needed to run for a little longer than the 4.5hours we did a fortnight ago.  It is amazing how much of the North Shore can be covered in that number of hours.

We decided to head off towards Devonport and pick up the route of the 25km race that I ran a few weeks ago which has similar terrain to what we are expecting on the trails of Tarawera - boardwalks, cross country (up and over North Head), beach and coastal walkways.

In the last few longer runs I have experienced some nasty chaffing on my back from carrying my camelback so wanted to try a new cream to reduce/eliminate that and also today was a good day to test the nutrition requirements.  I had some gu chewys and also a peanut butter bar as well as my electrolyte drink in my camel bak.

What never ceases to amaze me is that Simone and I never run out of things to talk about while we are pounding the boardwalks - it is amazing how fast the hours pass by when you have great company.

Once we completed the Devonport /Belmont / Hauraki loop we then headed back along Takapuna Beach through to Milford and did a few loops before heading back along the coastline.

The chewys went down a treat - they have caffeine in them which provided some well needed boosts and we stopped a few times to refill our camelbaks - we started to be aware how much water we took in during the latter part of the run.

The good news was that we both felt really good for the whole way - eventually completing 4 hours and 40 minutes - only 10 minutes longer than a few weeks ago but still long enough to test our stamina at being on our feet for that amount of time - the good news is that there was no chaffing today and the nutrition worked out a dream.

I did need to refuel at the completion of the run - and after a hot shower, where better to head than to Burger Burger - Soph told me that they made the best burgers in town and she was right - it really hit the spot.

Until next time….

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Time on our feet

I don't think any of us slept well last night as we were due to head out for a 4-5 hour run this morning at 6.30am - the clincher was that it was the start of daylight saving so 2am became 3am - we were all worried that our clocks wouldn't change and we would miss the start.  None of us did.

It was dark though at 6.30am (what would have been 5.30am) and the tide was high so we planned to run from Takapuna to Murrays Bay on the road and then head on the coastal walkway to Long Bay and over to Okura River.  As the sun came up it became clear to us that it was going to be a stunning day after weeks/months of winter and rain.

We live in one of the most stunning places in the world and as we headed along the countryside from Long Bay to Okura some of the views were stunning.

My anxiety levels were rising today as I thought about the time that we were due to be out for - 4-5 hours is a long time on your feet but as coach Sue reminded me the 50km event may take in excess of 7.5 hours due to terrain so its good for the mind and body to spend a significant time in training on your feet.

We turned around when we could go no further at Okura and at this point we were getting close to having been out for 3 hours.   We were also testing nutrition today and the thought of some of the gels we had with us wasn't appetising - thankfully Sue had some yummy treats that were equivalent to great lollies so I will be looking to purchase some of those before the next long run.

When we got back down to Long Bay beach we decided to take a chance and run back along the coastline - the tide was going out by now so it would be another change of scene and terrain.  What we hadn't anticipated was the slimey rocks - some so slippery it was preferable to wade through the ocean - which actually was very refreshing on such a warm sunny day.

At the 4.5 hour mark, Sue's husband very kindly arrived at Waiake to pick us up - what a relief it was to finally sit down.  

I have to say I was starving at this point so once I got home and had a shower Soph and I walked down to Burger fuel and picked up a burger and kumera fries - absolutely delicious and hardly touched the sides after our busy morning.

What a great morning out with two awesome friends…..Until next time.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Devonport Classic

Today was the day of the Devonport Classic - 25km/15km/10km and 5km events.  Thankfully the day (weather wise) turned out much better than we hoped after torrential rain had kept me awake for most of the night - I began to wonder whether the event would be on or not - but good news - it was :)

Helen, Sue and I were all doing the 25km and Soph was doing the 15km.  The 25km started at 8am - I had been worried for a few weeks as to whether I would finish before the cut off - there was a 3 hour time limit which is a little unusual in these types of events.  The course was full of twists and turns, trails and boardwalks as well as loads of hills.

It wasn't long before we were off - there was quite a bottleneck at the start as we wound our way along the Devonport waterfront and then up a number of steps and onto the road/boardwalks.  I saw Sue on the course twice where she reminded me to take in a gel and then Simone was waiting at the 13 km mark to cheer me on - she had decided not to enter this event - so it was really nice to see her on the side of the road and then run along next with me for a kilometre or so before she went off in another direction to finish her training run for the day.

I had an idea of where I needed to be at the conclusion of the first hour and the second hour so was really happy to see I was on target -  that was until we turned a corner to run up North Head at the 20km mark - it is  a really steep hill and all on grass which was very muddy after the heavy rain.  But by the time I ran down the other side I had worked out that from a timing perspective I could walk the last 3km and still make the cut off.  I kept the pace going though and was really happy to finish the 25km in 2.46 - 14 minutes under the cut off - such a great feeling!

It was great to see the others at the finish line - Helen had finished in just under 2 hours (very impressive) and Sue had finished in around 2.20 (also very impressive).  Soph ran the 15 km in 1.35 which I think she should be really happy with as her training hasn't been as good as she had hoped for.

There is now 6 weeks to the Auckland Marathon (Helen is running the marathon and Soph and I are doing the half marathon) - that will be just 2 weeks out from the Tarawera 50km - so at this point I am well on track.

Now i am off for a nap!

Until next time ...

Friday, September 4, 2015

Over or Under?

It was great to catch up with Simone this morning given we had missed running together last weekend.

We had a 90 minute run on the programme today which seemed very short after 4 hours last Saturday. I have to say that it took me most of the week to recover from that long run and a few early nights were needed to bounce back.

It has been a miserable week weather wise with torrential rain and gale force winds so it was a slight relief to head off under grey skies but without the rain.   We headed towards Devonport which is a nice undulating run and then decided to make our way back along the coastline.

Because of the heavy rain during the week the rocks along the coastline were green with slime and very very slippery.  After taking 15 minutes to complete 1 kilometre on the rocks and a nasty fall by Simone, we found a steep staircase which we hoped would take us back up to the road.

It was quite a climb up to the road so we were very disappointed to find that there was a fence that had been put up to stop people going down the staircase to the beach but it was also going to prevent us from getting back to the road.

However, where there is a will there is a way.  Simone very confidently climbed over the top of the fence but I am not so agile and after attempting to go over the top and failing I found another route out - under the fence.  I was absolutely filthy when I got up after crawling out but pleased not to have had to return to the rocky slippery coastline.

We headed back along the road and then Takapuna Beach taking nearly 2 hours in total as opposed to the 90 minutes planned.  Never mind - ultra distance run training is all about time on your feet.

Until next time…..

Sunday, August 30, 2015

How Long did you say?

I was a bit freaked out this week when I saw that I had a 4 hour run scheduled in my training programme this weekend - I don't remember running for that long previously other than whilst taking part in a half ironman or marathon event.

So it was with some trepidation that I headed out at 7am yesterday morning with my camelbak securely fastened to my back with enough fluids to last 4 hours.  Simone wasn't able to join me on this run as she had a crazy busy Saturday planned with family activities.

I decided to pick a fairly challenging course which is a different approach to previous years when I tended to find an enjoyable easy training course.  I think picking a more challenging course will only be of benefit on the day of the 50km.

The first 18 km flew by in 2 hours and then the coastal walkway slowed me down significantly.  I headed up hills, steps, ran along beaches and roads stopping at a dairy to buy some additional water as the fluids I thought might last me, didn't.  The third hour signalled 25.5 kms and as I headed in to the fourth hour I slowed even more.  My legs were tired - I was hungry but didn't feel like eating.  I really need to nail the nutrition in readiness for the big day as food and water play a major part in the training plan.

I finally arrived home at 11am - 4 hours after I had left - although actual running time was 3.45 as I had stopped off for traffic lights and buying water along the way etc.   I had completed 30.5 kms which I was happy with given the challenging terrain.  Goodness knows how long the 50km will take as I had slowed more and more with each passing hour!

I have to admit that I did very little else over the weekend - I sat in the movies with Soph, got a rotisserie chicken take out for dinner - then lazed on the couch all day Sunday with the exception of walking Bella for about an hour on Sunday afternoon to loosen up the muscles.

Until next time…..

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Coastal Walkway

Well it was good to be back in training this week after a nasty head cold last week which resulted in a few days horizontal on the couch.

Yesterday (Saturday) my great friend and neighbour, Helen, organised a fun run for her husband Andy who was turning 40.  When I say a fun run - I soon found out that Helen, Andy and their friends run at a blistering pace despite pushing strollers with their pre-schoolers inside holding on for the ride of their lives.  Having started off very confidently at the front of the pack things only deteriorated from there and I arrived in second to last place at the finish spot 6km later (when I say second to last I am not sure that little Danny peddling as fast as he could on his scooter counts).  Anyway I was very grateful to another great friend, Clara, whose nephews were roaring along the pathway with Clara's triplets holding on in their stroller so Clara had borrowed her nephews bike and very kindly rode the last kilometre or so with me as I gasped for air trying to keep up.   We arrived just in time to see the pre-schoolers taking part in some races along the beach.  Everyone then headed back to Helen and Andy's for an amazing feast of bacon and eggs which were devoured after the mornings exercise (see the photo below of some of the shoes and strollers on Helen and Andy's doorstep).  I am sure its no surprise that I needed a lie down in the afternoon.

Then this morning after a quick walk with Bella the dog, Simone and I headed off at 7.30am along the Coastal Walkway from  Campbells Bay to Torbay and back - it is quite a steep, long and winding walkway but it was a gorgeous day for a 2 hour run particularly because for the first time in a long time the rain stopped and the sun was shining.   Simone and I have picked out a few challenging training runs which we hope will get us into good shape for the Tarawera 50km Trail run which is now only about 12 weeks away on November 14. 

These photos were taken at Browns Bay Beach on our way back to Campbells Bay - it was still fairly early in the morning so the beach wasn't as populated as it was later in the morning - everyone was out by midday enjoying the winter sunshine.

Until next time :)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Training Begins

I haven't blogged in over 14 months since my return from Singapore where I spent almost two years living and working.  So I thought now would be a good opportunity to pick up the laptop and capture my next new adventure.

I have always liked a challenge and this year isn't any different - I have signed up to run my first ultra marathon - an off-road trail run in Rotorua, New Zealand - The Tarawera 50km.  I have a training programme all sorted (thanks to coach Sue Brewster) and a great training buddy (Simone Guy).  Sue and Simone have also signed up to run the 50km so we hope to have a blast.

Taking a break on a Saturday morning training run
The ultra-marthon journey actually started almost 12 months ago when I signed up for a 60km event also at Tarawera, but during the build up I completely psyched myself out and eventually withdrew.  I did travel down to the event though as both Sue and Simone were taking part.  It was such an incredible event and I spent the day cheering on Sue and Simone who finished the course in approximately 9 hours (just 10 minutes apart).  I was so in awe of their achievements that I thought I needed to get over myself and sign up again.  I have to add that the 50km distance doesn't scare me as much as the 60km so I am hoping I don't psyche myself out this time.

I have run (jogged/walked) a number of marathons over the years but they have all been on the road - so trail running is really new to me - I entered a couple of trail events over the last few months and it is so much more fun than pounding the pavements (apart from the day I lost my running shoes in the mud at Riverhead).  NZ is such a beautiful country and I am continually surprised by the many trails around that I never knew existed.

Training is now underway with just 14 weeks to go until the Tarawera 50km and early this morning Simone and I headed up to Long Bay, just North of Auckland, for a 2 hour training run - the weather was a bit gloomy with patches of heavy rain and hail (what can one expect in the middle of winter) - but nothing was going to dampen our enthusiasm to hit a new trail - the views were amazing and well worth getting up so early for.  Until next time…..

Heading towards Okura
On the way back to Long Bay Beach