Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Windfarm and Other Adventures

A beaut week of fantastic runs.  I have done some interval training, the first in ages, thanks to a timely reminder about the benefits from Mum (it makes such an improvement to my lung capacity and speed).

I ran the Gorge track again, knocking half an hour off my previous time, and loving getting my teeth (or feet as the case may be) stuck into some good climbs.  I chose a cooler, and slightly rainy day for the run, and was protected from most of the weather by the thick forest canopy.  On the return, the evening was drawing a bit closer (although at around 6pm, its not particularly late, or dim) but the dense foliage cover and the grey weather, meant that I had to really strain my eyes to see the trail and dodge the tree roots and negotiate the slippery board-walks.

View from the look out just before the descent
After the recent 'experience' of the Mt Lowry Challenge, I have decided that a slower and more steady approach to some of the steeper hill work, will give me more energy, and allow me to keep up a steady up-hill pace without exhausting myself. "Relentless forward progress".  I utilized this philosophy for the steepest sections of the run, and was impressed with how I was able to maintain a run without gasping like a fish out of water.

The run went really well, and I was able to run very fast on the downhill sections.  I find that keeping my knees bent, my center of gravity low, and the running posture of my arms wide from the middle of my body, I am able to stay very stable and balanced on down hill sections.

In the middle of the week, after a morning of hard study, I decided that it would be interesting to explore a trail that I had read about a long time ago, a mountain bike course that travels the length of the mountain range where the wind farm stalks it's way along above the plains.  I love the wind farm.  Apart from my appreciation of harnessing the wind for electricity, I find something intriguing and alien about the massive, stark turbines.  Its just my opinion, but I have always found the contrast between the man-made and the natural landscape strangely beautiful.

I found directions to the trail on a mountain biking website, and cross-referenced the route with Google maps to work out the distance I would cover (I planned 30km in an out-and-back course).  I had packed plenty of gear, but checked the weather forecast which predicted fine sunny/cloudy weather with rain at night.

The road up to the point that I chose to start my run wound up above the plains below, and from where I parked my car, I could see the ocean of both the East and West coasts.  The sun was shining, the sky close, and a brilliant blue with cotton wool clouds drifting between patches of sunlight.  I set off up the road, and
into the mountains.  The wind farm was all around me.  The track, providing construction and maintenance access to the towers and turbines, followed the ridge line, turning in and out of bluffs, and running within meters of the foundations of these monolithic structures.  Throughout the first section of the wind farm, the turbines were smaller, the towers constructed of scaffolding, less imposing than the gargantuan solid structures.

The big turbines have blades that rival the size of the wings of large planes.  They really are enormous.  The blades slice through the air, making a sinister, deep swishing sound.  I found them a little terrifying (and thrilling) to be so close, but I have to admit that on more than one occasion, I wondered where I would escape to if a giant bade fell off!

The further I ran, the greyer the sky became, clearly the forecasted night time rain was closer than predicted.  The wind was constant, and although not particularly cold, I was wearing a long sleeved poly prop which kept me comfortable.  I could see the first wisps of rain breaching the horizon, and I was grateful that I had my waterproof jacket in my pack.

The trail climbed steadily (though not steeply) for several km, following the ridge line. By the time that I reached the 10km mark, the weather was really starting to close in, and as I had started a bit later than I  had originally intended, I was worried that I would end up trying to negotiate the mountains in the dark.  As the ominous gun-metal-grey clouds boiled over head, and the curtains of driving rain began to advance across the plains, I made the call to turn back early, and run only 20km instead of 30km I had originally intended.

I have been trialing some new flavours of Gu Gels, and gobbled down a "Chocolate Outrage".  Not as sickly as I thought it might be, and very chocolatey, I think I have found a new favourite.  Incidentally, I have been looking around to find the best price for buying these gels, and MACPAC turns out to be by far the cheapest, but sometimes only have a limited selection of flavours available.

As I pressed back, the wind grew, and on the loops of trail heading into the gusts, I struggled to maintain momentum, the wind was really getting strong (adding to my fear of toppling turbine blades).  I put on my jacket, an instant relief from the wind, and tightened the hood around my face.  I had to fasten the hood-cords so tightly to hold it in place against the wind, that I could only see out of one eye.  I ran on as a cyclopes for quite some time.

The trip downhill back to the car was faster that the assent, and I was pleased to get back to the car and out of the relentless wind before the worst of the storm hit.

In other news, I have also been orienteering a couple of times.  I really enjoy thinking and map reading while running, and it is fun to do a shorter, faster run while being so distracted.  Yesterday marks three weeks till the Routeburn Classic, and tomorrow I have the Porirua Grand Traverse. Love it!

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