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.