Merry Kepler and a happy new year.

The day preceding the mighty Kepler Challenge started at 4am and felt long – five hours waiting in an airport (Jetstar misplaced a plane and a cabin crew), and then a one-sided splitting headache appeared upon the descent that didn’t go away. By evening I was a sore zombie. And it was raining. Woe is me, etc. The darkest hour is just before the…yeah, yeah.

At 4am I woke up and felt suddenly ready. The rain stopped. The lake sparkled, the marshalls had flaming signs, and the excitement was palpable. Kepler time!

A handy diagram, for anyone wondering about the difference

A handy diagram, for anyone wondering about the difference

I seeded myself in the 6.30 start zone and bantered with Mr Law as we rolled along the first 5k of trail. I knew from the last few weeks that my achilles wouldn’t be keen for running up many hills, so I walked a lot once we hit that – probably at least 70%. Matt Bixley wrote an excellent article on BCR about running Kepler. I borrowed ‘if it feels comfortable, you’re doing it right’ as a bit of a mantra, and stuck with it as reassurance. I then found myself walking every miniature rise and musing on the grey area between smart pacing and laziness

Coming out of the bushline the views hit with a marvellous jolt. I’d seen photos but it’s bigger and better to be there. It was fun to see Amy cheering. I whizzed through Luxmore aid station, having utilised Matt’s packing tips for the compulsory gear check. Walking up the gravel section afterwards I tripped over, cos I’m good like that. Better pick up the feet more. BAM! Over again (still merely walking), and blood spurting out my knee, wrist and fingers. I was glad I’d packed fabric plasters in the little front pocket of the pack.

Across the glorious tops I noticed a pink dot amid the climbers up ahead. A lady perhaps? Admittedly it could have been a sartorially-bold guy, but it wasn’t. I gradually caught up and marvelled at some fabulous calf muscles. These belonged to Kami Semick but I was in happy running dreamworld and didn’t register that. After this came lots of descents and switchbacks – welcome, after all the up. I passed quite a few people and hoped I wasn’t smashing my quads.

I bought some Vfuel gels from BCR to try and they were going down pretty well. But whether it was the caffeine or the downhill, I had to divert at Iris Burn. The balloons in the woods here were beautifully whimsical. Coming into the aid station I was caught on camera uttering the philosophical question “Where’s the toilet?” Heading out again a lady mentioned I was in 6th place for the women, which was a surprise.

Apparently I was enjoying the view more than this guy.

Apparently I was enjoying the view more than this guy.

Several of us got a great ‘train’ going at this point, chugging contentedly along at a consistent pace for a good ten kilometres or so. I don’t remember anyone’s names as I’m vague like that, but it was a sociable highlight. Our train ‘engine’ had been training (ha! Get it?) in Zurich due to work, which sounded very nice. We passed Shireen Crumpton going over some rocks and invited her to jump on, but she seemed to be having a tougher time than usual.

After the 30k mark, I was conscious of feeling pretty fragile and had to pull myself back periodically to regain strength – an ongoing balancing act that was to last the whole way.

Our train drifted to pieces after an aid station dressed as a Maori tribe. I proceeded to mosey on, periodically tagging on to fellow monosyllabic sufferers. My one proper long run for Kepler had been 48k, on a flat trail by necessity of injury, three weeks prior. I’d assumed this was pretty inadequate in the elevation sense, but looking back, it was at least useful at prepping my legs to turn over metronome-style for the second half.

I saw Matt B at Motorau and said thanks – I’d taken his advice to keep it easy. ‘I haven’t,’ he said wryly. He mentioned that I might see South African runner Landy Greyling ahead who wasn’t having the best day but I didn’t feel in racing mode.

SO PRETTY. Up on the tops.

SO PRETTY. Up on the tops.

With 15k to go, the ‘comfortable and easy’ had gradually given way to ‘stupid challenging and ridiculous quite hard’.

‘The next lady’s only 2.5 minutes ahead – you could catch her,’ said a volunteer at Rainbow Reach. Finishing was the sole focus though, and that was finally coming closer, albeit slowly. Baby hills required more walking. It’s just one relaxed Eastside run, I told myself at the 5k aid station. No problem. It was great to see Chris there cheering, as she waited for Dot.

A group of teenage girls applauded enthusiastically too. These fast woman runners make me so proud!, one said to her friend, which I thought was lovely and added a spring to my step. I’m a fast woman runner! Woah, feeling a bit woozy. Baby steps, just keep running.

With 1500m or so to go, I glimpsed Landy ahead and had to find out if I had anything extra left for a finishing surge. But I really can’t be bothered, wailed the body. I’m tired, I don’t care about positions. Somehow I rallied and passed, running scared for an interminable kilometre. She didn’t challenge, but I didn’t wait to see.

Made it!

Made it!

Finishing was so good – it always is, but I was proud of how I paced this one and found some extra at the end. 6 hours 30. 4th woman! There may have been tears. It was nice to see Grant Guise there, who’d had a fantastic run, and Angela’s mum, and Steve. I wanted to take a photo with Landy and Kami but wandered vaguely into the lake instead. Watching Angela finish was even more emotional, somehow. What a star. Speaking of stars, Ruby! A lack of training runs is obviously not an excuse I can utilise. 

Next came the first aid tent for a rinse of the gory cuts but they were enthusiastic and I got the thorough treatment, including all the gravel fragments dug out with a needle (!). Luckily there was some euphoric hormones still floating around. I love those hormones. They can go both ways though, and I missed Carl and Alba a lot. 

Technically I should have seen them the next day but Jetstar flew to Christchurch instead of Queenstown, so I endured a night at the Rydges in a big bed with a lakeview and had to miss work on Monday. But it all worked out in the end.

Huge thanks go to Angela and Steve and Dot and Chris, for sharing the adventure and the training and the support. Kepler Challenge: fantastic. I see why people like it. I’ll be back.

Running for a cause at Kepler

So. After my previous entry about being ready to start some long run training, I immediately injured my achilles again, in a similar manner to pre-Tarawera, at a similar timeframe out from Kepler. “NOOO!” I wailed to an unsympathetic herd of cows, before limping home from Horsham Downs. Thankfully it has responded better to treatment than last time (quick action and acupuncture FTW?) and had a couple more week’s grace, so I will be at the Kepler startline feeling genuinely grateful to be there, albeit very short on the long (60k is not so far, right?). It will be the strongest field I’ve ever had the pleasure of running with and I’m looking forward to the experience. There might even be snow.

Hurting myself initially was frustrating, but didn’t stress me out nearly as much as before Tarawera. Partly this was due to having gone through it before, but partly it makes a difference having reminders of perspective. This year, I’m joining Angela McEwan in raising awareness of ovarian cancer as we run Kepler. Angela has a very personal reason to be doing this – her sister Suzee is in the advanced stages of the disease, after a sad sequence of misdiagnoses initially. I can’t really fathom what it’s like to have a sister with a terminal illness.  Suffice it to say I have a huge amount of admiration for Angela and the way she’s managing in the midst of these challenges. Even when you like running, it takes a lot of impetus to fit in regular training runs of 4 hours plus around work, a baby and supporting a sick sibling. You can read a bit more about Angela’s story on Scoop if the image is too small.

Angela McEwan in the Piako Post

Her main aim is to have more people aware of what the symptoms of ovarian cancer are, and seek a second medical opinion if required. I hadn’t realised that ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in NZ women, with one dying every 48 hours, or how often people can be diagnosed as having Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue or just being overtired when in fact there’s more going on. If you’re female or know one, tuck the below info away in your brain just in case.

 From the OCANZ website: the most frequent symptoms:

  • Persistent pelvic and abdominal pain
  • Increased abdominal size / persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes
  • Difficulty eating and feeling full quickly

Sometimes you may experience these symptoms on their own or at the same time:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Urinary symptoms
  • Back pain

Having these symptoms does not mean you have ovarian cancer. However, if your doctor cannot find a more common cause for your symptoms, it’s important that your doctor then considers the possibility of ovarian cancer. If you remain concerned after seeing your doctor, you should seek a second opinion. A smear test does not detect ovarian cancer.

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You can donate directly to OCANZ (and organise to sell teal nail polish) here. Mention the BEAT acronym of symptoms to a friend and see if they know it (Bloating, Eating difficulties/feeling full, Abdominal/pelvic pain, Tiredness/Tell your doctor). Early detection saves lives.

At the Great Cranleigh Kauri Run last week I was chatting to someone in the shower, and happened to mention our Kepler plans. It turned out she’d had ovarian cancer herself, including a very similar experience with medical misdiagnosing, but thankfully with a good outcome. Again, it reminded me of how widespread it can be for something I hadn’t previously heard much about.

I ran the sensible 23k demi-marathon option at Kauri as a bit of a test. In previous years I’ve done the 32k or the 70k and the former was sorely tempting, but with two weeks to Kepler and an injury the sophomore 23k event seemed a better call. It also had a small and relaxed field. At the start I reminded myself it was simply a training run, and then ran high-knees to the front to amuse Alba. Aside from a couple of guys nobody came with me, and once they’d pulled ahead around 2k I didn’t see another runner until the end at 23k. Odd but peaceful. The niggles kicked in when we started going uphill (Kepler doesn’t have any hills, right?) so I walked most of it.

Not racing today. Not much.

Not racing today. Not much.

Overall the 23k is a nice enough jaunt and cuts out the zigzag up and downs across the ridge. For me it remains a less exciting alternative to its longer siblings, lacking the sociable sea start and double coast views of the 32k and the sheer epic-ness of the 70k, but I still managed to hit trail euphoria for a while after cresting the tower around 11k. It’s just so damn pretty and so much fun.

IMG_3165Finishing felt great but also like I’d forgotten some kilometres. It took 2 hours and 21 minutes, precisely 6 hours less than the 70k in 2012, and was enough to secure the women’s record (new events are nice like that). I then got to watch lots of people ace their races and take photos. Sleeptime now.

Bring on the training

I just realised it was nearly November, and November is really close to the beginning of December. Ergo, I should be doing some training for Kepler. Where did those three months go?

2009 100k world champion Kami Semick is doing Kepler too, BCR just announced. I’ll admit to getting a bit of fan-girl frisson upon reading that.

“I’ll be running in a race with Kami Semick! ” I enthused to my beloved, who proceeded to successfully restrain his excitement (once I’d explained who Kami Semick was).

“It’s not really with though, is it?” he said pragmatically. “More like a long, long, way behind. You should say you’re starting a race with her..”

I have been running some, of course, and apparently can’t hide that from anyone. Due to an appointment mixup I had a different acupuncturist a month back, who explained very kindly and logically why I should, perhaps, run less or not at all. My achilles would then have no problems. I nodded seriously, agreeing that this was almost definitely true, and looked forward to never having to follow up on the conversation.

Roll on this week, when I was getting merrily pricked by my usual practitioner. Mr Sensible poked his head round the door and asked how things were going. “Kelly says you’re running nearly every day!” Sprung by social media and the small world of Hamilton.

Hawks SW all smiles. Photo by Sophie Corbidge.

Hawks SW all smiles. Photo by Sophie Corbidge.

In truth, the achilles is doing pretty well and I can get away with an amount of running that would seem quite reasonable if not for a little ultra on the horizon.

I got slightly distracted from Kepler by National Road Relays, held in Takahe to Akaora. This is a highlight of the harrier year, and one I’d essentially ruled out early on – Hawks seemed to have a plethora of fast women (that should be a marketing strategy). However, sneaking back towards pre-sprog fitness somehow scored me a spot on the team and off we flew. It was an excellent trip, and felt pleasantly full-circle going back to the same place as my last NRR. Runwise, I’d call my leg of the relay solid rather than transcendent. It was a minute under the time predicted for me (good) but half a minute off my 2009 time over the same course (irritating). My team were splendid. If descending can be transcendent, Kovo can claim that adjective with pride after an epic run. Ultimately we won bronze, which was exciting for me as a first NRR medal. Go team go.

After relays, I was a little bit tired, and then briefly got distracted with a few other things (win undead beauty pageant as decrepit Lloyd-Webber-adapting Egyptian mummy, tick). Labour weekend is completely out due to childcare responsibilities. But next weekend – the training is ON. And then it should be time to taper, right?

Living (and running) Below The Line

IMG_2442

Foooooood!

I love food, I really do. I’m that person at work throwing date balls and nut butter sandwiches and cookies into my mouth every few minutes while Weight-Watchers-enrolled colleagues look on with mild irritation.

As a runner and breastfeeding mother, I need the calories, right? It sounds good, but part of me suspects it’s just mild greed.

The Live Below The Line intrigued me last year when a friend did it, and seemed like a great cause to support. You spend 5 days living on $2.25 per day, the New Zealand equivalent of the global poverty line, to get a small insight into how 1.2 billion feel using that amount to provide everything. I liked how you could choose a charity from a variety, and the challenge element.

The grocery total (note dahl only part cooked at this pointed).

The grocery total.

In terms of the eating, I made things harder for myself by preferring gluten/dairy free, not wanting to buy non free-range eggs, and not accepting anything free or raiding the garden/orange tree. The latter two are part of the ‘rules’, from what I understood – the $2.25 is meant to be the worth of the food that you consume.

The shopping list:
Buckwheat groats: $3.84
Red lentils: $3
1/2 cabbage: $1
Jumbo oats: 94c
2 onions: 60c
Brown rice: 54c
Cumin seeds: 45c
7 5c bananas from sale box: 35c
Oil: 20c
Salt: 12c
Peppercorns: 11c
Whole cloves: 10c

Total: $11.25

The regime, x 5:

I still enjoyed dahl and buckwheat every time I had it.

I still enjoyed dahl and buckwheat every time I had it.

Breakfast: soaked rolled oats and a banana
Lunch + Dinner: buckwheat groats with lentil dahl and chopped cabbage.

Day 1 wasn’t bad at all. I ran to work to score some distracting morning endorphins, ate a late breakfast of soaked oats with banana, enjoyed both dahl meals on schedule and marvelled at the fact I was actually capable of not constantly snacking. Maybe it is possible to just be hungry and experience the sensation. So far, so zen.

Day 2 went fairly well until about 4pm, when I felt a tad grumpy. After work, I didn’t have much finishing power in the 1500 x 4 hill interval session. This was probably the energy slump beginning.

Tummy rumbling was occasionally noticeable.

Tummy rumbling was occasionally noticeable.

Day 3 was a nosedive. I felt fuzzy and lethargic but stubbornly stuck with my plan of doing a 90 minute easy run. Cue grovelling around the river path with all the momentum and leg-lift of a wet teatowel. The feeling was reminiscent of getting all woozy at the end of Tarawera ’11 – presumably the same sort of wonky depleted homeostasis kicking in. I then got Alba to bed early (miracle!) but had no impetus to do anything remotely constructive with the evening time. Sat drooling aimlessly and seriously considered negotiating some sort of out-clause on health grounds if day 4 was more of the same.

Day 4 dawned, and I felt ok(ish) again. Hooray! Just a nutritional hump-day wall to push through, perhaps? Still constantly hungry, naturally, but I regained faith I wouldn’t randomly keel over. I did postpone the evening tempo run because it just wasn’t going to be worthwhile. Also it was followed by a BBQ which isn’t quite so exciting when you can’t eat the food. Ditto Fringe opening, filled with delectable snacks. Incidentally, my milk production went down around then and Alba was unimpressed. This is no major for a comfort-snacking 2.5-year-old, but would be pretty stressful for someone nursing a small baby.

Sweet dreams.

Sweet dreams.

On day 5 I felt pretty relieved that I was hitting the home straight. Running to work felt ok again but I still had to survive not consuming any of a very impressive farewell morning tea at work (oh, woe is me). Hungry afternoon. I had a decent amount of food left for dinner, and that was that. Write a blog, go to sleep, dream of pancakes and smoothies.

Conclusions? It’s a really worthwhile thing to experience, albeit in a charmed environment with hot showers and a warm house, and the support from friends and colleagues was lovely. I think I chose the food pretty well – the meals were healthy and tasty. If I did it again I’d consider swallowing my scruples and swapping some eggs into the mix, similar to Mikki’s approach. Nutritionally, mine was a bit short on protein and greens but there’s a limit to what you can get for $11.25.

Breakfast on the Saturday was a happy (and early) affair

Breakfast on the Saturday was a happy (and early) affair

It was also short on calories, coming in just under 1000 per day. The omniscient internet backs up at least some of my greed-justification and suggests I need around 2300 (go the snacks). My scales said I either lost no weight or a kilo, depending on their mood within the same 5 minutes. I was very low on energy on Friday but it seemed to flow back over the weekend. The main thing it’s prompted is gratitude, which I imagine is the idea. Gratitude for pancakes and smoothies, variety, and having the choice about whether to subject yourself to such games.

So a loose conclusion: 1.2 billion people are living on a diet potentially leading to lethargy, malnourishment and breastfeeding issues. It’s a sobering thought. Give it a go next year? HUGE thanks again to the people who donated, raising $520! Pranesh, Katie, Yasmin, Andrea, Sandra, Mira, Nicolina, Adrienne, Megan, Linda, Jenni, Helen, Sarah, Julie, Christina, Sarah W, Tania, Geoff, Mary, Jenny, Brian, Dylan, Kovo, Fiona, Tracey, Oscar and Anon x 2 – you’re awesome. Without you I’d just be moping around making dubious food choices.

Strawberry and banana pancakes, I missed you.

Strawberry and banana pancakes, I missed you.

Smoothie

Smoothie-tastic

Cambridge Half Marathon recap

Soggy. From Tauranga Ramblers' Facebook.

Soggy. From Tauranga Ramblers’ Facebook.

I ran Cambridge Half Marathon last Sunday and scored a PB – admittedly a soft one, but notable for providing the first Post-Baby Personal-Best. There are hopefully more coming. Hear that 5k? You’re going down.

So it rained at the race. Everyone stood around soggily under eaves, reluctant to take off protective clothing. I knew I’d warm up quickly though, and did. Cue a relaxed start, complete with banter and sandbagging. Several of us settled into a comfortable group around the 4k mark.

Stealing coaching advice

Stealing coaching advice

Hadley was supporting Shanel to do 1.33. I’d been thinking 1.35 – 1.38 would be fine given minimal long runs, but when he mentioned that goal it sparked a ‘maybe..’ in my mind. The pace was feeling right and we trucked along consistently for the next 10k. Hadley seemed to be a terrific pacer, incidentally. It felt almost sneaky having good advice intended for someone else drifting forward on the wind, but hey, I’m not fussy.

A consistent time trial was always the aim and that held together – no super surge at 15k but no great drop-off either. It was good to meet some 10k-ers to spur the legs on, especially Oscar. I felt heavy-legged in the last 2k or so and probably slowed up, but got there in 1.32.45. Hooray! Lots of PBs on the day, including Sandra carving a mighty 4 minutes off her 10k time.

I zipped home, got small girl to sleep, and proceeded to squander a lot of time – probably almost 1 hour 32 minutes 45 seconds – trying to find out whether I had in fact done a PB. Sad. Why couldn’t the advanced technology of Gmail find “results from that fun half marathon in Rotorua where I won a bike a few years ago”, I wondered? But the nostalgia-hit of old Hawks newsletters was pretty fun.

All done. Seem happy. We're wet. From Mike Tennant's Facebook.

All done. Seem happy. We’re wet. From Mike Tennent’s Facebook.

I’d pretty much given up when Jacqui helpfully recommended athlinks.com and bam, there it was. 1.32.58 at the 2009 Rotorua Forest Half. Sweet, one soft PB thanks. (Passing thought – you could do some great athlete-stalking on that site).

To backtrack on the glacial-paced achilles recovery front, I’ve having my first experience of acupuncture. It had somehow passed me by entirely that you can have a course of acupuncture as well as a course of physio under ACC. I only found out when Vegan Buffet happened to give me a $20 voucher (hooray) towards some acupuncture, which turned out to cost $115 a session (argh), unless you can bring in an ACC number next time for a big subsidy (hooray!). Although it’s on the other side of town (argh) but could help (hooray).

Turning up to have multiple needles wiggled around in my delicate wrist in order to fix my achilles (go figure) isn’t that much fun in practice but it’s worth a try. So far my enduring impression is of Alba relentlessly trying to feed me her snot while I’m needled and thus immobilised. Charming child. She calls the visits ‘the akka punch’ which sounds like a knockout martial arts move, and is entranced by the nearby Bin Inn because it has a budgie.

5 reasons for runners to love aquajogging

Yes, this is what I look like when aquajogging.

Yes, this is what I look like when aquajogging too.

Aquajogging has a reputation of being, well, dull. There’s something about thrashing your legs around doing laps in tepid water that just doesn’t match the pizzaz of skipping along a hilly trail.

I’ve been spending some time in the pool myself, by necessity. If I’d known in March the achilles still wouldn’t be fully healed 5 months later I would have been dead unimpressed, but it is what it is. There’s a gradual improvement which has allowed an increasing amount of running, so I’m sticking with an aquajog a week for now. Here, partly to convince myself, are some reasons it’s not so bad:

1. Eavesdropping on older ladies’ chat.

My new gang have an average age of 73, and after two hours in the water I can be nearly as wrinkly. But there’s something very refreshing about listening in on their conversations.

So-and-so has a reprieve on the big illness, but his hip’s playing up again. The soup kitchen was really busy on Friday night, so we’re taking along more rice next week. The grandchildren are staying over on Sunday. There’s something weird about seeing your children turn 60 when you don’t feel old..

These charitable, cheerful women (it’s 95% women, not sure why) give my perception a good kick and temporarily having a bit of a sore foot suddenly doesn’t seem too big a deal.

2. It makes real runs seem great 

When I’m in the pool, I stare wistfully out at Minogue Park and imagine I’m springing around barefoot on the grass – admittedly, in winter, Minogue Park is often indistinguishable from the dive pool.

Thus, when I am springing around barefoot on the grass or doing any other run that doesn’t involve togs, it feels excellent in comparison. During the Hawks club cross country we pass the pool so I gazed through the window and thought ‘Suckers! This is SO much more fun.’ And also, ‘See you on Wednesday.’

3. It helps your injuries.

This, after all, is the main reason we aquajog. I’m still not convinced there’s much of a cardio workout in there, but there’s something, and it seems to help inflammation. Last week the pool was closed so I went wild and did a 30 minute jog the day after the Hawks speed session. The achilles responded like a grouchy two year old: “But I don’t LIKE consecutive days of real running. WHERE’S MY AQUAJOG?”

Speaking of two year olds, our resident one informed me yesterday she’d hurt the achilles in her elbow. Perhaps mine’s had too much air time.

4. Deb Nicholl does it.

Deb Nicholl is awesome. I’ve suspected this for some time, but she recently ran nearly 240 kilometres in ONE DAY. That’s 24 hours. That’s an average of 10k an hour. But 24 times. (I’m pretty impressed by this feat, as you can tell). Anyway, Deb supports her run training and staves off injury with a solid amount of aquajogging, like ‘2 hours a day before it’s light’ kind of carry on. We chatted about this at Tarawera, and her dedication has stuck with me when I feel grizzly about getting in the water.

Also, the Chiefs aquajog, if you’re into that kind of thing. The other day they were doing a water session in the adjacent pool and I was trying to indicate ‘not perving, just trying to steal your aquajog moves. Really, I’m not at all into rugby’ in my glances, with limited success.

diver5. Peace and thinking time

Another word for dull is peaceful. Aquajogging demands very little thinking, and makes a nice respite from home/work/activity. You can write blogs in your head (voila!), plan for work, and generally meander mentally. You can watch the deep sea divers training underneath and hope their bubbles don’t tickle you. You can give scores to the kids/adults doing bombs, or the actual divers doing actual dives.

Um.

You can count the pool seats. You can muse on why only certain parts of the diving boards are consistently dirty underneath..

OK, after an hour or so, it sometimes just is dull. That’s when the quietness drives you to hitherto unplumbed depths of ingenuity. I conceived of a plan involving these items:

cap ipod and breastmilk bagAdd some of my favourite UltraRunner podcasts and you have a recipe for true contentment. Would it work? I tried a prototype and got in, without realising it looked odd. Eventually the lifeguard couldn’t contain herself any longer.

lifeguard

Overall, the invention gets a big tick (despite effectively negating my points 1 and 5, but you need variety). Instead of puddlng round in circles, I’m now chilling with Hal Koerner at Hardrock. It’s not so bad.

What I really think about when running

I was able to run for an HOUR today, which is quite significant. It was actually about 70 minutes, because I was in a happy daze and forgot to turn around. Anyway, it reminded me of this phenomenon:

what think I think about when I runThat’s overly glib though – in truth, I can do both simultaneously. Multitasking! (I don’t define food as trivial.)

smoothie and almond butter

What’s not to like?

 

Otherwise fine

achilleshowyougoingMy mum was over this weekend and we attended a race at the Hawks. “Runners seem to just greet your achilles,” she observed afterwards. Ah, runners. We understand each other, and the awesomeness of running, and thus civilities take a logical unrepressed order:

– “How are you?” (ie, your injury).

– “Still haven’t got the achilles right so that’s frustrating, but otherwise I’m fine.” (Done.)

Whereas everyday life non-runner greetings go more like this:

– “How are you going?”

– “Great!” (Inside voice: “Apart from NOT RUNNING. Nice operational legs and tendons you have there, which you’re rampantly wasting by NOT RUNNING on them”).

I’m joking, sort of. Cue blog tumbleweeds, anyway. I haven’t written anything for a while because I haven’t run much for a while. The achilles/plantaris injuries have been taking a glacial pace to improvement, but I’ve been super patient and not disobeyed the physio at all aside from some generous estimates on what might constitute a 3k jog. It’s currently in a 2 steps forward, 1 step back stage but hopefully, hopefully, heading in the right direction. Still eating almond butter off a spoon as consolation.

I attended a Kugs advanced running workshop a few weeks ago and enjoyed that a lot, especially tying Jenni up with elastic. Lots of interesting exercises and info – I recommend it.

Weirdly I have been way more tired and generally blah in the 6 weeks since stopping the 100k per week regime. A recent doctor’s visit was inconclusive, which I interpret as meaning I’m allergic to not running. First club race back on Sat though – hooray. It’s not quite the loopy NZ 100k champs, which I really wanted to do this Sunday (good luck all!). Or T42 and Rotorua Marathon (good luck to you all as well.)

If you didn’t catch it on Facebook, this excellent video of the Kauri Run has just come online. It’s 20 minutes, but it’s very good – great editing and coverage of the whole field. Kerry sings. I potter along (rambled about it last year).. There are hills and coast and trails and it’s funny. It definitely gives a real taste of the charm and challenge of Kauri.

Tarawera: ramble from the sidelines

Ultrasounds were easier when Alba was in the womb

Ultrasounds were easier when Alba was in the womb.

If you’re forced to be a spectator at Tarawera Ultra, you might as well be placed at central aid station Okataina on a ‘fire course’ year. Upon hearing I was out, Paul C considerately organised the race to run back past so I could watch everyone in action twice. What a guy.

For anyone following my big moan last week, the verdict turned out to be a small tear in the achilles and a complete tear in the plantaris tendon (a weird and apparently ‘unimportant’ vestigial item that is not mirrored in my other leg). So that was that. Maybe six weeks off running and definitely no 40k of relay (I may have got a glare from the physio upon facetiously throwing that back in the ring).

My body actually wouldn't let me not carbo load, so I had to bow to it's whims.

My body actually wouldn’t let me not carbo load, so I had to bow to its whims.

‘How did you even run on it?’ queried both the physio and masseuse. Dumb optimism, I tell you – it’s powerful stuff.

Thus I was in the cheering squad for Tarawera thanks to Barefoot Inc taking me along for the ride. And while I would have loved to run, watching was actually kinda cool. What I liked most was seeing so many friends running and getting a true overview of what has become a MASSIVE event. From speedsters Sage and Ruby and Tim and Vajin and Brendan and Mick and Beth and Shona and co flying, through to Brian rocking in ten minutes before the cut-off – and cruising out carrying nothing but one gel (tough man). I really enjoyed the athlete’s seminar on Friday too.

Some random observations:

*Everyone knows the top runners are fast, but it was a bit humbling to realise just how fast. We got to Okataina, a bunch of people came through, we put up a tent, ate nuts, talked smack, some more people came through…and I noticed that Imaginary-Dawn was still half an hour off arriving. (Imaginary-Dawn had a good day overall though, for anyone wondering, despite slowing a bit on the hills.)

One runner mused on how to avoid single track congestion without being reported.

One runner mused on how to avoid single track congestion without being reported.

* Kristian copes well with every second conversation being about how Ruby’s going, what training she’s been doing, how cool she is, what she has for breakfast and her favourite brand of toilet paper. Luckily he likes her a lot.

*After a few hours the carnage began and it was slightly worrying to realise I was envious of peoples’ pain. Well, not pain as such, but the intensity of the experience they were having and the challenge of testing themselves on the terrain and distance – I wonder how I would cope with this? It’s these extremes that draw us to ultrarunning, I guess. It was also gut-wrenching at times though, especially when people were truly hurting or getting told they couldn’t continue.

Masochist much?

Masochist much?

* It was also humbling to be reminded than spectating/supporting is enjoyable, but even in an awesome race full of guns, it’s really not as exciting as running. Presuming I’ll be back, supporters get extra kudos next time! Having said that, having the opportunity to help a few friends fill a pack or just cheer them on was one of the coolest aspects of watching.

*I think watching Jenni was also one of my favourite parts of the day. So proud! I knew she could do it.

*Watching Ruby was amazing too but I’ve never seen her do anything except win decisively so had difficulty envisioning anything else. Didn’t have to. Star.

*I finally got to meet Deb Nicholl in person and she was awesome.

* Loved seeing someone else casually breastfeeding at an aid station mid-race, and a wee one too. Go Nadine!

Ruby and Kristian and their sounds on the last leg

Ruby and Kristian and their sounds on the last leg

* Another (obvious) realisation: even when you get to the start-line fine, anything can happen. People hurt themselves, their tummies don’t work, they cramp, they bonk, they fall down hills. So many class athletes throughout the field had issues and that’s just what happens when you attempt hard unpredictable missions. They can come back in style though. Vicky pulled out at 40k, only to pace Darren 17k further to his finish. It was sobering to see elite runner Jason Schlarb walking v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y into the aid station on his return and having a good long sit (and great to see him sprint into the 100k finish later). Shona was really disappointed not to have the race she’d hoped for, retiring at 85k – and then one week later smashes the 100 miler at Northburn.

*Obvious realisation #3 or #4 – places and time really don’t matter so much. It’s all about the journey, man, and people have such amazing journeys irrespective of those measures. I’m remembering that next time I’m angsting mid-race too.

I’m not too phased about missing out now (promise). Tarawera is done and that’s how it was meant to be this year. It was a privilege to watch, and I’m enjoying living vicariously through some amazing blogs. Ironically, after several weeks of no running I’ve acquired a weird fatigue/virus thing, like chicken pox without the pox, so all I’m aiming for now is regaining my normal energy. Then we’ll get the running going again, and then…who knows.

From dumb optimism to dumb rehab!

From dumb optimism to dumb rehab!

100 – 0 = Lame.

“The field at Tarawera is AMAZING this year. I’d almost rather watch the race than run in it.”

Talk about being careful what you wish for. I uttered this glib statement several times during training for the 2013 Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon. The first part is true enough – here’s the men, and naw, I even snuck in at the bottom of the women’s – but the second isn’t so much. I entered the 100k race around July, meaning I have been looking forward to it for seven months. Build up to Kauri 70k, run lots over summer and come in properly fit this year, went the plan.

The friendly atmosphere and meeting new people was a highlight of the training camp.

The friendly atmosphere and meeting new people was a highlight of the training camp.

This plan went well until two weeks ago. Really well, considering, although of course I’d been complaining it wasn’t enough. Kauri was great. 2013 brought semi-consistent 100k weeks and solid long runs, notably a very enjoyable 60k with fellow Tarawerans at Lake Ngaroto, a double ascent of Te Aroha, finally ticking ‘run to Raglan’ off the bucket list, and Mal’s excellent training camp. I even got my iron levels soaring into the normal zone.

So it was all going just dandy until an innocent 5k buggy run brought it crashing down. That achilles is unusually sore, I mused, stepping on a wonky brick during the last kilometre. Ooh look, we’re on track for a buggy PB. Sprint!

I got the buggy PB – 22 minutes and some change – and lost the 100k. Didn’t know that at the time though, so I ran and hobbled us another 5k home. From there my hopes and progress looked a bit like the revised Tarawera elevation chart.

*”This seems to be a proper injury. There’s three weeks to go though! Heaps of time.”

*”This still really hurts.” Sulk and eat almond butter with a spoon.

Thinking positive

Thinking positive

*Feels a bit better! Maybe I can make it. I WILL make it. Think positive and spend money, ordering all my gels for the race and some new shorts. Draw quick picture depicting my awesome healthy legs and put it by my computer – that can’t fail to work.

*Wait 4 days. Try to jog, for 20 minutes, at walking pace. Can’t. Sulk and eat more almond butter.

*Race course gets changed due to fire risk, so I’ve covered the distance before. Slight consolation, except I still really want to run it.

*Start to ogle less munted achilles, including speedy two-year-old offspring’s (so lithe and undamaged), and contemplate transplant. 

*Wait two more days. Jog for 40 minutes, with minimal pain. I love running! Running is awesome! I’m going to be all healthy and fresh for Tarawera.

*Figure I should test out running for an hour if I’m going to be running for 12 or 13, so I try it, nice and slow, on grass, followed by an aquajog. Screw you, says the ungrateful achilles and transforms into a sore spongy mango-like shape.

It was downhill from there, really. With help, I slowly talked myself into letting the 100k go and doing the relay – only 38k! This was a good intermediate step. After work yesterday, the physio said the injury was as bad as it had been initially and implied that while I might get to the end of 38k, any running was a dumb idea in regards to

Being a good sport in recovery

Being a good sport in recovery

future endeavours and the speed of healing. So, bye bye Tarawera. That’s ok, I thought. It’s just a race. There’ll be more. This faux-zen exterior revealed itself as pure denial as I set off biking home, got a huge lump in my throat and pretty much bawled. (You can kinda get away with that on a bike.)

Kids are cool for perspective though, aren’t they? After an extra lap or so round the block to calm down I got back. Mummy! said Alba, sprinting up (with her lovely undamaged achilles). Did you have a good day at work? Can we lie down in your bedroom and have some milk? And pretty much just like that I felt ok again. Rich chocolate ice cream helped, and the massage that was booked ahead to get me ready for the race. I have to make more almond butter, because Alba’s started eating it by the spoon too.

It still sucks when you can’t do something you’ve been building up to for ages. It will be bittersweet seeing everyone run away in a surge of adrenaline on Saturday at 6.30am, and I get a slight envious ache at seeing all the fully-warranted excitement on the Facebook group. My gels and shorts arrived this morning.

Ultimately though, it’s not that important. It’s a peculiarly niche issue, not being able to run an ultra, and would pale beside family health issues or anything like that. I’ll be back.

As I’ve said, the field at Tarawera is AMAZING this year, and there’re worse things in the world than watching a world-class ultra. After being out for ages Ruby Muir knows all about lame injuries, which must be doubly frustrating when you’re phenomenally fast. I think she’s going to smash it. It will be cool to cheer, especially my lovely running mates Jenni and Oscar and Brian, and the Barefoot Inc athletes, and everyone, really. Go hard and treasure the opportunity.