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!