Friday, December 28, 2012


Have had a beautiful Christmas holiday week with the family in Queenstown.  It was so magical to be amongst the amazing mountains, baking in the scorching sunshine, and basking in the majesty of Central Otago.  Most of all, catching up with my sisters and parents after not seeing them all for a year was the best part of the trip.  We had a stunning Christmas day, complete with a festive feast of duck and roast vegetables, french pastries, champagne and antipasto.  I love excellent food!

Arriving in Queenstown after living in desperately flat farmed country side, was almost overwhelming.  I love feeling dwarfed by the mountains, their golden slopes towering out of the lake.  Being amongst the mountains that I grew up in, makes me feel really alive.

Invigorated and inspired by the fab landscape, I set out for my first run the morning after we arrived.  The blistering heat of the day before had been replaced overnight by moody cloud and drizzling rain, perfect conditions for me.  I woke early and started out before the sun had risen, and in the ethereal grey of dawn, I felt like the only person awake - I had the whole of Queenstown to myself.  My run took me all the way into Frankton and back, the return journey following the lakeside trail (19km return).  It was along this route that I discovered a map of the Queenstown trails.

I had heard about the trails when they officially opened earlier this year.  Over 100km of trails have been linked and mapped between Queenstown, Arrowtown, Lake Hayes, Gibston Valley and around the Wakatipu Basin.  I thought that running from Queenstown to Arrowtown would be picturesque and challenging, so the next day I bought some energy gels and chews (I had been meaning to try these for some time, and got a copy of the map to carry).  The shop assistant in R&R Sport was super helpful and recommended the route that he thought would make the most enjoyable and scenic run, he told me that he thought that the total distance would be equal to a half marathon.

Trail along Kawarau River at Sunrise
Bright and early the following morning, I set out.  Camelbak filled, and gels in my hip pockets, I was ready to run.  The first part of the trail followed Frankton arm, and then cut through Frankton township before heading to the historic Shotover bridge.  Parts of the trail in this area were dubiously marked, and I got lost a couple of times before meeting up with the trail just before the river crossing.  Marker arrows ambiguously pointing at junctions of three intersecting paths (rather than clearly marking the trail to take), and intersections with no markings at all made following the trail a bit challenging, as the trail progressed however, the markings became more frequent and clear.  I crossed the river over the Historic bridge before the sun crept over the peaks of the Remarkables, and then followed the trail around beside the Kawarau river.  The trail was well groomed and very comfortable to run on, and my early start ensured that the air remained cool well into the first two hours of running.

I had my first Gu energy chew after about an hour and then every half hour or so after that.  I didn't carry a watch to time the intervals between eating, but aimed to refuel before my energy levels lagged. Having never tried the gels or chews before I didn't know what to expect.  The chews were really tasty, easy to chew and swallow, and provided enough energy and caffeine to keep my mind alert and sharp, and my legs going.  I hydrated with mouthfuls of water, and never felt too "sloshy" or water logged on the run.

The trail followed the river bed for several km before climbing out of the river valley.  The uphill sections of the trail were a comfortable gradient, but rose quite high without reprieve.  I felt very proud to be able to maintain my pace over the steeper sections, it seems that my trail and hill work at home is having some positive effects on my fitness.  Through out the run, I kept looking down at my legs and thinking, "gosh, I am still going at quite a pace, I am doing quite well!" (I am in no doubt that the Gu could be thanked for maintaining my energy).  At one point a group of cyclists panted past holding their thumbs up for me as the went by me (head down, pushing ever upwards).  Reaching the summit of the last big climb was great, although the heat of the day was well on the rise.  I ran on across the golden paddocks of farm land, with amazing views of the mountains around me.

At the Arrow Junction, the signpost informed me that I had completed 20km and still had 8.8km to go.  I felt amazing.  I had run nearly the distance of a half marathon, but had so much more energy to keep going.  I had not flagged once on my run so far, and was pleased to keep going, knowing that I was going to set a new distance record for myself.  I walked along the road for a few hundred meters, taking the opportunity to admire the view, soak up the sunshine, suck on my bite-valve and slurp down my gel.  The energy gel went down really easily, sickly sweet and sticky, it reminded me of eating sweetened condensed milk as a child (similar consistency).  I had selected berry flavored gels and chews, and while I preferred the flavor and consistency of the chews, the gel gave me a bigger energy hit.  I will definitely use gels and chews for running fuel from now on, they make the run so much more rewarding and enjoyable.

The final part of the trail followed the Arrow River, and was in heavy use.  After crossing a couple of bridges, plunging into welcome river-bank shade, and with only a couple of km (or so) to go, I started to get a bit tired.  I gobbled down a couple more chews, and pushed myself to continue running.  It felt really good to keep the effort up, and push right through to the end of the trail in Arrowtown.  I completed the 28.8km in just over three and a half hours.

I met up with the family and we traveled over to Wanaka for lunch and to do some tramping in the Matukituki Valley.  The day continued to get hotter and hotter, and I drank liters, but walking after all that running stopped my legs from getting stiff, and I had no soreness the next day.

On Christmas day, and with only one more full day to go, I decided that i wanted to run to Arrowtown again, but this time take the shorter trail that circled Lake Hayes.  Being Christmas, no shops that sold energy gels were open, so I thought that I would try and use wine gums and an energy substitute.  Another early start, and I nearly didn't go for the run, my calves were a bit sore, and the weather was humid and hotter than it had been for the precious run.  I persevered however, and after a few km my legs warmed up and the pain subsided.  The wine gums were no substitute for GU however, and although I am sure that they were better than eating nothing at all, they didn't keep me bouncing along.  The route itself, although shorter, was steeper and less picturesque.  I enjoyed the challenge of the steeper climbs, but felt a lot more tired and slower (also a product of taking on another long run so close to the last one).  It was probably a bit soon to run again, but I wanted to make the most of running in such a beautiful place.

I dragged myself into Arrowtown over three hours after I started (over a distance closer to 25km).  Again the signage on the trail confused me, with distance markers contradicting each other along the way.  I passed a sign reading 4.6km to Arrowtown, ran 500m down the road (closer to Arrowtown) and passed a second sign reading 5.7km to Arrowtown.  Overall, the reduced levels of energy and the residual tiredness made this run feel harder and less enjoyable than the first.  However, completing nearly 75km in such a short space of time is pretty good I think, and all that running has inspired me for future training - its amazing to think that six months ago, the idea of running a half marathon seemed impossible, and that after my half marathon, the 32km of the Routeburn Classic seemed as though it was going to be difficult to achieve.  I can see that continuing training, and lots of hill work will make running the Routeburn classic more achievable than I ever thought possible.  It is amazing what can be achieved.

Things I have learned from my long, holiday trail runs:

  • Carrying water is essential and fantastic
  • Drink before a hill and then once breath has been recovered after a climb - trying to drink while panting is hard and unpleasant
  • Energy Gels are amazing and worth while carrying and eating
  • Wine-gums are not energy gel substitutes 
  • Rest between long distance runs should never be skimped on
  • My Camelbak is perfect for running, those hip-belt pockets are so useful
  • Stretching and short periods of walking during a run are the best methods of keeping my legs limber and pain-free
  • Running in inspiring landscapes is captivating and addictive
  • The support of family, friends and strangers is uplifting and motivating
  • Keeping the legs and arms moving when exhausted leads to longer distances and better times
  • The Skins shorts and Mizuno trail shoes are perfect for me (if they are ever on sale, buy two!)
  • If I work hard and push myself I can achieve things I never thought possible

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Birthday yesterday.  I received so many fantastic running related  gifts - a subscription to runners world (including some Brooks socks), Skins shorts, my early gifted Mizunos, inspirational messages from friends and some wonderful books to enjoy reading during my down time and on rest days.  I gifted myself a fast 12km run in all my new gear, and it was lovely to be spirited along in all the gifts I have been given by my wonderful family and friends.

Eric Murray
I heard a really inspirational interview on National Radio this week with Rowing Olympic Medalist Eric Murray.  Murray discussed his Lydiardesque training regime, attributing his and Hamish Bond's success to working ridiculously hard in training.  Murray spoke of gaining confidence in racing because he knew that the distances and times required for winning would be less challenging that the rigor's and slog of training.  

Murray's words and training philosophy resonated with me, and made me realize that working harder in training would improve my race day results (this sounds like a no brainer, but the idea of completing really hard and challenging training sessions improving my performance of race day really appealed).

I think that with the calf pain I have been coping with, I have become a bit lazy with my running in the last few weeks.  I have been running reasonable distance, but mostly very slowly (12km without getting out of breath, and barely breaking a sweat), so this week I have begun to push myself a bit harder.  I have been running more trail and hill sessions (which are so much fun, and help me to really feel the burn), and pushed myself quite hard on my birthday 12km, finishing in 50min.  It is more satisfying to push harder, and quite motivating to know that I am going out to do a training session that will "hurt".  I am also doing more core strengthening work, walking and lots of stretching.  The extra work seems to be helping.

I suppose the old adage "no pain, no gain" is somewhat true.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

3 Bridges

First official half marathon today, and it was awesome.  There was a huge turnout for the Wanganui 3 Bridges Marathon (3/4, 1/2, 10km and 5km), and the course was beautifully laid out along the banks of the Wanganui River, crossing all three bridges.

I had left leaving home to the last minute, so enjoyed a vaguely frantic drive to Wanganui, wondering if I would make in on time for the 8:45am registration cut off.  I was lucky enough to make it, and find a handy parking space with 15 min to spare.  There was a massive que of last minute competitors (being unable to register online was probably to blame!), and I was glad not to be the only runner puffing up to the sign-up desk before the race started.  After registering I raced back up to the car, to change my shoes and jettison my excess gear, before running back to the start line to catch the last 30 sec of pre-race briefing: "...please abide by these instructions and rules as they are important for participant safety, now everyone have a great race, and you have 15 sec till start".  The upside to all the rushing about was that I was well warmed up by the time I crossed the finish line.

There were probably 200 (maybe more) runners entering the half marathon, making this by far the biggest field I have entered so far.  The niggly calf pain has been ailing me again recently, so I was planning to take the race pretty easy with a goal of completing the 21.1km.  I was hoping for a time around the 2hours 30min mark.  A couple of days ago I went for a short run and gave my hamstrings a good stretch half way through, to my surprise this alleviated the calf pain a lot, so I made sure that all of my legs were well stretched before the start (the whole length of my legs, rather than me having a collection of legs).

Despite my prayers for refreshing rain, the sun was shining (not that I am complaining about that), and the pack soon thinned out as we wended our way along the trail.  I took the first 5 or 6km very easy, but half way through the first lap felt energetic and was magically lacking any leg pain, so I sped up for the next 6km and powered through the half way point feeling strong and fast.  The second loop of the course was, as I expected more challenging, and my knees and hips started to feel twingy. At my final crossing of the third bridge, and with about 4km to go, my energy had run out, and although my body didn't feel too tired, my legs felt sluggish and heavy.  I had to keep a constant and very positive internal monologue to the finish "come on body, you are doing so well", "keep going legs, you are doing awesome", which really helped, and somehow kept all the right limbs  working, and me, moving forward.  I suspect that my high energy fast mid-race run probably didn't help my energy levels towards the end of the race.

I crossed the finish line in 2 hours 26 min, a time I was really happy with, although I must have looked pretty rough, because one of the officials kept asking me if I was alright.

I really enjoyed this race, it was so fulfilling to complete the distance, and the course was lovely (it reminded me of running in Hagley park, which I really miss after leaving Christchurch).  The other competitors and spectators were supportive and encouraging, one woman I saw several times, she moved around the course to shout support to all runners and cheered me on "go bright and shiny girl, go!".  Other amusing sites included a group of lithe young inline skating racers speeding around a circular track (much in the form of ice-skating sprinters) in Lycra body suits and streamlined helmets, and a very fast male competitor running shirtless with an impressive tattoo of a V8 engine on his back with the drive belt running down to his legs - steam-punk and poetic all at once.

Showers at the finishing line were an excellent idea (you didn't have to pass through them as you crossed the finish line, or anything like that, but this was the first race where they were provided, and despite the flooded floor and plethora of nude runners, they were deliciously refreshing).

The day concluded with the prize giving, with special mention and awards given to the numerous competitors who had completed 100 or more marathons, one man was celebrating his 501st marathon, and others were recognized for completing their 250th and 200th marathon runs.  The members of the 100 club were mostly rich in years, and I found it rather inspirational to see that there are many more years of running to be enjoyed.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Things I love about running:

Rain - refreshing and rejuvenating, keeps me cool, the thrill of being chased along by squalls

Music - my ipod brings the motivation, and the sound track to my dramatic running experience, contains masterpieces from Antonio Vivaldi to Jay-Z, my current favorites include: Monsters and Men, Rudimentals, Swedish House Mafia

Oscar - my faithful and tireless running companion, enjoys running in the rain less than I do, always on the hunt for road-kill or rubbish to carry proudly along as he runs circles around me

Hills - exhausting and rewarding, the more I do the more powerful I feel, always culminates in a dose of glorious downhill to rest legs and recover the lungs

Racing - the pre-race nerves, the thrill of lining up before the start, the training and the anticipation, pushing myself harder to run the best that I can

Endorphins - I always feel so good (mind. body and spirit) every time I run

Shoes - wicked colour, comfort and grip, makes me smile when I am watching my feet

Runners World - magaziney goodness, inspiration, nutrition, advice

Trails - trees, rocks, views, more challenging and with more variation than the tar-seal 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Run For Relief

The Wellington Run for Relief is a fundraising run organized to raise money and awareness for the displaced people of Burma.  With the extremely generous support of friends and family, I ended up raising $115.00.  A huge thank you to Mum and Dad, Annabel, Laura, Gabrielle, Rangi, Jack, Reva and the anonymous donors.

When I left home the weather was really overcast and not particularly warm, but by the time I had driven to Wellington, the sun was beaming down, and I was beginning to wish that I had worn shorts instead of 3/4 length, black compression tights!  Heaps of runners and walkers gathered at the start line, and we set off into the heat.  As we headed up the Hutt Valley, alongside the river, we left the cooling ocean breeze behind, and after about ten minutes I was leaving a trickling stream of sweat behind me on the trail.

I think it must have been at least thirty degrees and with the sun blistering down I was scolding myself for not having slathered on some sunscreen (Mother's precautionary words of sunscreen preparedness from my youth ringing in my ears!).  The course followed the Hutt River from Petone to Lower Hutt City in a loop, and those of us running the 12km race, did the loop twice.  The benefit of the heat and the distance provided plenty of time to sympathize with the plight of the Burmese.

There were no drink stations, and after the first loop was completed, and with a mouth so dry that I couldn't swallow, I was beginning to wish that I had bought my Camelbak.  I managed to pass a few runners, and had to really push myself in the last couple of kilometers (urging myself "come on" pant, pant, pant "come on"...etc), powering as fast as my dehydrated body would carry me, to the finish.  My time was somewhere between 1 hour and 1 hour 15 min (no official time was recorded, and I didn't have an exact time that I had started).

Dehydration and hot conditions, made the reasonably flat run seem an awful lot harder than the hilly run in the rain the previous weekend.  The experience is an amazing example of how important adequate hydration is, and how the ability of the body to maintain physical processes is reduced under dehydration.

In other news, I went for my first official trail/hill training session on Thursday, running a trail circuit in the hills, and doing some hill sprint repeats.  The weather was also super hot that day, though most of the trail was blissfully shaded, so apart from the burning lungs, the workout was quite bearable.  Training to be able to maintain speed and endurance on hills feels like such an uphill battle at the moment (pun intended), and it is such a long time ago that I found running on the flat to be challenging, that I feel as though I will never get fit for hills.  But then I have to remember that I have only done hill running a hand full of times, and that the more I do, (gosh I hope) the easier it will become.  Also, I enjoy the variation of hill running much more than very long flat distances.

So here is to the coming weeks of training: in the spirit of the Hobbit and in the words of Tolkien "may  the road rise up to meet [me]"

...though not so hard or fast as to hit me in the face. :-)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Kahuterawa Classic

My first classic, first true hill run and first race in the pouring rain.  The Kahuterawa Classic is a marathon held over two days, with three legs (the race has three legs, not the runners).  I entered into the two Saturday races, a 7km trail run and a 15.42km hill/road/trail run.  The third race on the Sunday was a 21km half marathon.

Bright and early on Saturday morning, the keen and the hardy gathered at the start line.  The other competitors all looked very fit and experienced, and I mentally prepared myself for finishing in last place and a long time after everyone else.  I never enter races with even the vaguest hope of a podium finish, that is not why I run, but there is always a bit of me that wants to be better than last, and not embarrassingly slow.  I want to feel that my training and fervor count for something akin to athleticism.

The starting horn sounded, we trotted of up a hill, and the pack spread out.  I passed a few runners on the first uphill stretch, (and was passed by several more), and felt pleased that I was even able to run up a hill (nearly all of my running has been on the flat).  The 7km leg, was full of lots of short quick climbs, descents, and different terrain.  At the half way turn around point, I was pleased to see others were still coming behind me.  Everyone was very smiling and encouraging, and I think I smiled throughout the whole race (though my running face may have translated the smile into some sort of Stewie-like grimace).  I was having a brilliant time.  On the return trip I marveled that I had run up some of the slopes that had seemed quite steep as I ran down them in the opposite direction.  The finish was down a hill (a glorious thing), and I powered into the finish in 46:47.

The 15.42km started in the pouring rain.  We all gathered in the farm shearing shed before the race began, and I heard one of the seasoned runners telling a younger competitor that this leg of the Kahuterawa Classic was the most challenging of the three, "its the most scenic, definitely the hardest work, but its well worth it".  Oh joy I thought, and besides, how much of the consolatory view will be obscured in the grey of the weather?  The race started off up a different hill, with a gradual but noticeable gradient.  Well fueled for the afternoon race, my legs felt energetic and powerful.  I was soaked and the driving rain was forcing the sweat into my eyes.  Mostly my eyes were on the road, but at one point I glanced up:  I could see distant figures bouncing up the side of a small mountain, dear god, I was going to have to run up there.

I toiled upwards, lungs burning, and the up some more.  It was such hard work, but, slowly I was doing it.  I reached the summit, and let gravity do its thing, legs propelling me down the other side as my lungs stopped bleeding.  After a couple more, slightly more civilized hills, I plunged into bush and mud.  Each challenging up hill stretch, rewarded with a wonderful charge downhill.  After a few true off-road kilometers, the bush gave way to road, and a blessed drinks station.  I neatly deposited a large cup of water down my front, mostly managing to avoid my mouth.  Then followed a long stretch on tar-seal, before struggling up the final really steep uphill section.  The last 3.5km of the course followed, the return section of the 7km race.  This part of the run was brilliant because I knew how far I had to go, and the sort of terrain I had to cover, and consequently could allocate my energy, so I could put in every last effort to the finish line.  I crossed the line at 1:42:37.  I was so thrilled to have finished in under two hours.

The Kahuterawa Classic taught me three things:
  1. I really love running up hills.  I love how I can really feel my legs working.  I love how hard and challenging hills are and I love that every up hill leads to the glorious down hill afterwards.
  2. I find running in the rain refreshing and enjoyable
  3. That I want lots more training over challenging and interesting terrain.
The old legs have been a bit tender for the last couple of days (nearly to the point of paralysis), but I quite like the pain: I know I have worked really hard.

 Now I want more.
More hills, more trails, more training, more muscle ache.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Finally, after what feels like the longest exam period ever, I had my last exam today, and am all finished with Uni for another year. Huzzah!  It has been a frustrating week running wise, as my tight exam schedule, last postgraduate assignment and really sore calves have resulted in my running less than usual.

I went to the physio in the hope of gaining some advice on better stretching techniques, but it turned out that the culprit was most likely that my poor old running shoes were at the end of their life.  I don't know about the other runners of the world, but for me, my running shoes are my friends, and having a good pair in good condition is super important.  So it is a bit sad when they are past their best, and I was worried, because, being a vaguely impoverished student, I wasn't sure that I could afford some new ones right away, but I also couldn't keep running on the old ones because they were hurting me so much.

Amazing parents to the rescue!  Mum and Dad had offered a while back to gift me some shoes for my birthday, so I was able to get some new running shoes today...and they are beautiful!  Thank you M & D, you have saved my sole!

I have been procrastinating over getting trail shoes, not sure what to buy, which brand to go with...but all that angst was ill founded, because once I had stomped across a foot-print-shoe-fitting-pad, run on a treadmill equipped with cameras and analyzed all the data, tried on the appropriate shoes, and run, stomped and waddled some more, there was only one pair that were comfortable and that I loved. 

 Check these babies out!  Mizuno Wave Ascend 7, with trail running sole, super comfortable interior and great aesthetics!  I also get a 30 day trial period, so if they don't work out, or hurt me, or I just don't like them, I can return them/swap them no questions asked. Win - win.

I am looking forward to taking them for a proper test drive tomorrow.  Bring on holiday training, some serious mountain work, and the sunshine.  YAY.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

In My Dreams I Am Built Like A Gazelle...

...but in reality I am build like a sausage dog.  I feel a lot of envy for people like my running friend Kristy who was granted all of the right proportions to be a naturally fast, athletic, first-place getting runner.  And while I don't run for a place on the podium (although a little part of me would like to be fast enough to win), I like to think that I am at least in some ways vaguely athletic.

So it was with more than a little dismay, that I received some feed back on my style, and I was told that I looked as though I was putting in loads of effort, but not really going anywhere fast. 

In the ever-lasting progress of trying to improve my running style (I will be the first to admit that I don't really know what I am doing), I decided to try the highly scientific method of the watching-my-shadow-while-I-run technique of self assessment.  When I was running at a steady pace, I thought that I didn't look too bad, my stride was smooth-ish - however all this changed when I transitioned to a faster pace.  My upper and lower body were pumping away, and I felt fast, stream-lined, and powerful. 

I glanced at my shadow.  Limbs were flailing wildly, legs kicking high into the air behind me, and I appeared to be gaining more vertical height than forward momentum.  Bugger - I was more or less sprinting on the spot.

Yesterday when I went out for my run, I focused on keeping my gait smooth, less bobbing up and down, longer strides initiated from the hip region, and faster leg paces.  And the results were impressive.  I was suddenly traveling a lot faster, with a lot less effort.  I was far less tired out by the end of the 12km, my breathing was less labored and I even managed to knock about 10 min off my usual run time without really making an effort.  There wasn't enough sun yesterday for me to conduct a comprehensive shadow test, so for all I know I still look like a windmill on a pogo stick, but maybe, just maybe, I have found a way of improving my speed, and making more efficient use of my energy.

In other exciting news, I have bought a pair of New Balance trail shoes to try out, will be interesting to see how they go, as they were a bit of an internet bargain.  I think that I might invest in some Salomon's or Brookes down the line, but I will see how these ones go first.

Hopefully I can keep steam-lining my technique, and find my inner gazelle!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Ran my first trail race yesterday, and LOVED IT!

I started out nice and early, dragging myself out of bed at six.  Porridge and bananas for breakfast, then a bit of a frantic scramble to get all of my gear together (which I had valiantly intended to to organise the night before, but then didn't).

Akatarawa Rd c.1910 - The route I took over the Tararua Ranges
little has changed today except, there are less horse drawn carts
The route Google maps gave me, took me over the Tararua Ranges to the Rimutaka incline, through what looked like a gentle mountain pass.  Gentle mountain pass my ass!  The well groomed highway gave way to a single lane, narrow, twisting imitation of El Camino de la Muerte.  I must mention here that I am relatively new to this driving malarkey, and while I am used to pottering along country roads, well groomed highways and small town streets, driving up what appeared to be the road version of an alpine slalom run was a test of my skills and nerve.  The mountains grew around me, and this narrow track (barely wide enough for my little car) was framed by a plunging valley on one side, and steep bush-clad peaks on the other.  I suppose that the landscape was probably devastatingly picturesque, but my eyes remained glued to the tar-seal (thank goodness it wasn't gravel.)

The bottom-clenching excitement of the drive was accompanied with nervous worry as the minutes till the race ebbed by, and as the kilometers twisted on, with the desperate discomfort of an increasingly full bladder!  After a while, the twisting ascent turned into a twisting descent, and I was faced with the terrifying prospect of an oncoming vehicle.  The strength of my bladder and resolve were tested to the limits as I edged my tyres to the crumbling edge of the road, desperately trying to make enough room for the ginormous four wheel drive monstrosity to scrape past.  Surely any trail run would be a piece of cake in comparison to this harrowing experience!

Other exciting aspects of the journey included real live rocks rolling off the hill onto the road in front of my car, watching at least two dozen stoney-faced cyclists bravely concentrate all of their life force into conquering the hill, and arriving at my Google maps dictated destination (with less time to spare than I would have liked) to find that instead of a speedway car park, I had been directed to a quiet suburban cul-de-sac: BLOODY BUGGER!

Crisis was dually averted, and I make it in the nick of time to the beginning of the race (the bus driver transporting the last stragglers from the car park to the start line, kindly dropped us at the bottom of a hill a couple of kms away, so I even had time for a warm-up dash to the start).

Illuminated Tunnel
The race itself I LOVED!  The first 5 km followed the gently-sloping ex-railway line into the Rimutaka ranges, climbing quite steadily up to the summit (about the 10km mark). I had been quite worried about my ability to cope with the hill work, but I really enjoyed it, the slope wasn't too steep, so it was was the perfect introduction.  After the summit we were plunged into a long rail tunnel, delightfully illuminated with bare light bulbs strung along the wall.  I know that the lighting was for practical purposes, but my tired brain found something quite magical about the prettily glowing tunnel.

Then the glorious down hill.  It was much steeper than the uphill I had previously completed, and I steamed down, enjoying the more technical foot work.  There were a couple of steep deviations up and down rocky tracks and over a couple of streams (I enjoyed these sections the best), before the track gave way to farmland for the last couple of  ks.  Much to my horror and disappointment, I developed abdomen-wrenching stitch a few kms out from the end, which slowed me down quite a lot.  It was so frustrating, because I still had energy, and felt I could have really powered through to the finish.  I will definitely have to find out how to prevent/avoid stitch in the future (I haven't had it for years).   I finished in 2 hours 14 min, and was pleased to find out that the course had been extended by 1km (I didn't notice the distance) and I think that I could cope quite comfortably with a half marathon on the road.

My appetite for trail running has been whetted, and I am looking forward to including more trail work in my training.

Needless to say, I took a less exciting route home after the race.

  • Get gear ready the night before to avoid panicky race morning rush
  • Leave myself even more time to get to the race, to eliminate nervousness of not making it
  • Don't use obscure back country routes dictated by Google Maps
  • Carry something appetizing for post-run food, I don't feel like eating a sausage in bread after running 18kms
  • Get some three quarter, or above the knee compression pants (or similar) as a comfortable alternative to shorts
  • There are a lot of people fitter and faster than me, and it doesn't matter
  • The more training I do, the more I will improve (hopefully)
Today I feel a lot less stiff and sore than I expected I would, although my stair climbing strategy has required some alteration to accommodate slightly weak feeling quads.

Friday, October 26, 2012

First Race Tomorrow

...and I am excited, and a bit nervous too.  I am hoping that the weather will be kind, as it has been horribly windy now for what seems like weeks (cars being blown off the road windy!).  I did some interval training a couple of days a go, and finished off with a long run, which felt really good until the weather turned and then  I was freezing!

I find it such a challenge when occasionally I have a really rotten run, and it feels as though everything is unpleasant.  Normally I get such a buzz and sense of achievement when I run, and always feels refreshed and energized afterwards (even when the run is really difficult).  But once in a while I seem to have a really crap time, I am so glad that this latest bad run was not on race day!

My youngest sister has just completed an amazing sounding adventure race as a part of her polytec outdoor education course.  The race included a super long bike ride, a kayak, and a 10km run!  The members of the course are so lucky as they get a personal coach as a part of their course, and were able to spend hours of time doing endurance training as a part of their study!  (I have to admit that I am a teeny bit jealous, but super proud of my sisters achievement!)

I am planning to go on a short, gentle run this afternoon, and then have some home-made pasta for dinner.  Then it is an early start in the morning, with a couple of hours drive to the race, and a 10am start.  Bring it on :-)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pancakes and Camels

Pam Anderson’s Multigrain Medallions
(click here for recipe)
It was with great joy that I found an article in the latest version of Runners World magazine expounding the benefits of pancakes!  I LOVE PANCAKES.  The article included a fabulous recipe for Multigrain pancakes, which I promptly made for dinner.  These "multigrain medallions" are super healthy (with a minimum of fat and sugar), cook beautifully and taste amazing!  Runners World also included 10 recipe variations formulated especially for the nutritional needs of runners (for example stomach soothing, caffeine delivering, or muscle building).  I dressed mine with dates, cinnamon and maple syrup (potassium rich dates are good for protecting against muscle cramps, and cinnamon reduces soreness, but mostly the combination is mooreishly delish!) NOM, NOM, NOM.

On Friday I decided to go to a Les Mills Body Balance class, but went to the gym a couple of hours early to do some cycling and weights.  I did 40 min on a 'hill program', then focused on leg and core strength.  I wanted to make sure that I wasn't overdoing the weights, so didn't use anything too heavy, and focused on reps and technique.  The last thing I want to do is pop a muscle a week before my first trail race!  Then I went to the body balance class.  I have done a few of the Les Mills classes before, and I have always really enjoyed myself (and felt terribly uncoordinated in the presence of the other lithe and talented attendees).  Body Balance was great, a nice mixture of yoga and Pilates, with a few challenging poses that were new to me.  I have been doing yoga for a couple of years, and only attended the odd class, but it was really handy to have an expert coaching us through the poses and giving motivation.  I especially liked the balance poses that build strength through the ankles, knees and hips.

And now to the camel. Well yesterday, I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a hydration pack!!  After weeks and weeks of reading reviews, trying packs on and asking for advice, I finally found a pack that is light, comfortable, and roomy enough to transport the various bits and pieces that I am required to carry on the Routeburn Classic (and other races).  Introducing my new Camelbak Octane 18X.

I love that this pack compresses down a lot when it is only carrying the bladder, that it has a highly variable sternum strap and feels really light (even when full) when I have it on.  Despite all this, I have never run with anything on my back, and I felt a bit apprehensive about trying it out for the first time.  I diligently rinsed the bladder, strapped myself up, and dashed off around my usual 12km route.  The weight and movement of the pack on my back was far less noticeable than I anticipated, although the sloshing sound was a bit weird.  I experimented with various combinations of strap configurations, and found nearly all of them really comfortable.

For me, the most challenging parts were, a) getting used to drinking while running (as usually I stop to drink), and b) the amount of water that ended up in my stomach because I suddenly had it on hand (normally I would go for 12km without drinking at all, and then rehydrate at the end of the run), but I found that being able to slurp the odd mouthful, meant that I ended up feeling a bit bloated a yucky after my run (although not very thirsty).

Apparently Camelback makes electrolyte tabs that are specifically designed to go into their reservoirs, so I might experiment with these to see if increased salt intake is more hydrating. Anyway, I found my first hydration pack experience much more successful than I anticipated, and I am really happy with my first serious trail running purchase.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Enter First Trail Event...Tick!

Yay, what an awesome day.  Not only is it my second last day of lectures for the semester, but I also ran 17km this morning, and after having three rounds of eggs on toast, I entered my first off road/trail running event!

The Rimutaka Railway run is held on the site of the old Rimutaka Railway incline.  At 17km it will be the longest official event that I have entered, but shouldn't be too hard at all, as the gradient is shallow.  The course apparently takes us over the hill (only about 100m altitude gain) and through a couple of tunnels.  Its good to have entered an event, a step in the right direction, you could say.

I also ran 17km this morning, with barely any extra effort for the extra 5km above my usual 12km.  The secret, I believe, lay in the bottle of powerade that I stashed at the end of the 12km mark.  I could only manage a few mouthfulls (filling my stomach during exercise is really uncomfortable), but it woke my brain up, and added a refreshing level of springyness to my legs.  Its really satisfying to add a bit of distance.  I felt as though I could have easily kept going - its exciting to think that I could actually complete a half marathon with a few extra ks.  Also, 17km is about half of the 32km of the Routeburn Classic! Awesome!

I think that Oscar was a bit gutted when I turned around to do the last 5km (at the junction where we would normally head for home).  He started jumping up on my legs as if trying to tell me that I was going the wrong way, and that he was tired and wanted to go home.  Then he ran dejectedly behind me for a couple of k's, until he forgot and went back to being a mad terrior again.  There have been times in the past, when the weather has been pretty foul and he has come out for a run, made it a couple of hundred meters through the squally rain and galeforce winds before turning tail and heading for home.

I have started keeping an active log of the distances and times that I am running, and the other training that I am doing.  This is something that I have never done before, and its amazing, I have run about 56km in the last 10 days.  When I take into account that I have been running 12km, two or three (and sometimes more) days a week, for months and months, I have clocked up way more kilometers than I have ever thought about.  I was getting some advice about trail shoes the other day, and I was told, that (all) running shoes need replacing every 800-1000km, and I thought to myself "yeah right, like I would ever cover that sort distance"...but as it turns out, the distances add up pretty quickly.  Might be time to get some new shoes sooner than I thought.

The other reason for keeping a log of my training, is so that I can upload a log on this blog.  I am not offereing any sort of training program or advice.  But when I decided that I wanted to run the Routeburn Classic, I was hoping to find the blogs, or advice of other athletes who had completed the event.  It turns out there isn't much out there (or my Googleing skills are very sad), but I wanted to provide some insite into how I have prepared.  I will let you know how that worked out for me afterwards.

(I am sure that you are all far too clever to require a disclaimer about being sensible in your training, and to keep in mind that I am an ametur, and am not offering advice, but then I take solace in the fact that blogger tells me that I have had only 7 readers of my blog....and they are all probably laughing.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sunshine in the countryside

There is something magnificent about running through the country after it has been raining.  Everything seems to glow in brighter shades of green, under clear skies...or maybe that is just the musings of my glucose deprived brain.

I ran 12 km yesterday, and would like to think that it was more than just my imagination that made me think that my first batch of interval training the other day had already helped lengthen my stride.

It was a good run, at a decent pace, and even seemed to have unusually theraputic effects on my sore shins!  Who ever heard of a 12 km run curing leg pain?

Before my run I scouted out a couple of hill trails that I thought had looked promising on the map, but in person were ominous and filled with thundering logging trucks driven by hairy, leering men!  Might have to re-think some of my hill training locations.  I want to train somewhere that I am less likely to get run over, and maybe even come across some other trail runners.  That seems to be the draw back of living and training where I do.  It is pretty flat almost everywhere, and available hill routes consist mainly of roads.  I wish that I had access to a Mt Iron, or Mt John, or even the streets of Dunedin (where I grew up).  You never have to go very far in Dunedin to find a good hill to run up. No wonder the amazing young Whitney Dagg (or Anna Frost for that matter) have turned into such trail running super stars! Even Christchurch has the bridle path.  My trail training will prevale though.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Interval training

I'm itching to get into some hill training.  Most of my running so far has been road running, mainly on the flat.  It is so easy to get distracted while I am supposed to be studying for my end of year exams.  I keep window shopping trail gear and planning which local races I can enter before the Classic.  Did 5km of interval training yesterday, ran every 2nd 200m at VO2 max and slowed back to a more relaxed pace in between.  I thought I did quite well, and was able to do the interval training for longer than I thought I would manage.  Most of my running has been slogging away at long distances at a steady pace, so being able to get up some speed is reassuring!

I have done quite a bit of reading about increasing endurance, and interval training seems to be a feature of a lot of training programs.  I have also received some training advice from some of the sports students at uni, so am starting to put together a bit of a long term training plan.  I want to incorporate cycling and swimming into the running, hill and trail work, and back these up with some yoga/Pilates, core strengthening and maybe the odd aerobics class for some variety.

My attitude towards training has always been to include heaps of variety, and keep it fun.  I get such a buzz out of just being in the wide open spaces, and pounding away the km's.  I would be keen to hear of how others out there train, what they enjoy and what they think really works for them.  I have been reading Anna Frost's blog, and she has such a neat attitude towards her training and racing, its so inspirational to see how other people achieve their running goals.

Oh, the other thing that I have to mention, is my running companion Oscar, our little terrier.  He has  been accompanying me on runs since he was tiny, and because we live in the country, comes out with me all the time.  For some reason, his pure love of tearing through the outdoors (and rolling in bird shit), is quite a joyous source of inspiration (the running, not the shit-rolling) while I am running.

My first few training goals include, building my running speed and distance over the 32km mark.  Training with a 12 uphill (500m altitude gain) consistently under 2 hours.  And to build up my trail experience on some rough ground.  I know just how rugged the Routeburn is, so getting in heaps of practice on ball-bearing-like rocks and slippery surfaces is a must!

I can't wait for the semester to be over, so that I can focus on more training without feeling guilty about not studying for exams! EEK....Bring it on.

Friday, October 12, 2012


About two weeks ago I decided that I was going to run the Routeburn Classic in 2013.  Running endurance events has been on my bucket list for years, something I thought that I would do "one day".  Time to start.  I currently run about 40kms a week, and can do about 20km in a single run if I really go for it. 

I have read heaps about the Routeburn Classic, its a challenging (grueling) 32km endurance race up and over the Routeburn track.  I have walked the track three times, and am under no illusions of how much training and stamina will be required.  My goal is to complete the event.  My training beings now.  I am keying this blog as a scrap book of my journey to this event.  Maybe someone in the deep realms of cyber space will read it, maybe they wont.  Either way, completing this event is all about achieving something awesome for me.

I hope to share my training experiences, my discoveries and my goals.  I cant offer advice, cos Ive never done anything like this before, but I will share my honest opinions of my journey Chasing The Classic.