Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Auckland Half Marathon - A Belated Race Report

You know you're not particularly proud of your achievement when it takes you a full week to dash to your computer and write up a race report!  And when you do, lots of other internetty things present themselves to you that better suit your desire for procrastination - and very soon one week rapidly turns into three.

And then you finally start writing, but because you didn't actually achieve your goal, everything you write starts to sound like an excuse.  Or maybe the excuses are really lessons to be learned.  The most important lesson being:  "You can take in all the advice, but on the day you may whimsically decide that none of this actually applies to you."

I slept poorly, tossing and turning all night, continually looking at the clock, and when it finally read 3:28am I hopped into the shower.  I had slept well the night before though, which may or may not have had anything to do with the consumption of 4 glasses of wine... mmm, perhaps that's lesson #1?

Pre-race, everything went according to plan.  We managed to park close to the finish for a quick getaway, and walked the 10 minutes to the ferry terminal.  This was a semi-surreal experience in itself - with many fellow yellow gear-baggers intrepidly walking the 5am streets, converging upon the ferry terminal with their cushioned footsteps and hushed conversations of nervous excitement.

Nervous excitement being evident in the camera shake on my arrival at Devonport
Auckland CBD in the distance
The 15 minute ferry ride felt like only 5 minutes in the dark, and before we knew it we were in Devonport and heading straight for a toilet queue.  This early some of the queues were only 5 persons deep, so within a few minutes we were at the marathon start and hanging with the elites!  (PS, although they had their own allocated toilets, they still had to queue too!)

Steven contemplating what he has got himself into.
(He ran a 1:41 - his first half!)
The 3:15 pacer - maybe next year?!
We watched the elites warming up, admiring their slight physiques and bouncy strides, and generally wishing we had a few of those genes right at this moment.

Marathon start
To be honest I felt the complete opposite - heavy and sluggish. I hadn't run for two weeks, my body felt stiff and joints rusty.  A week ago I almost certainly wasn't running this race.  But my foot improved rapidly during that time, and two days prior I decided to run.  My podiatrist was happy with my progress and decision to run, and strapped my foot to help stabilise it.  I had no idea how my foot would handle running again and had visions of having to withdraw and arrive at the finish by ambulance.  Looking back, I realise that I hadn't mentally prepared for this race like I had last year, and I think I definitely benefit from visualising and having a plan.

I did a few stretches to try and limber up, before handing in our gear, and lining up with 20 mins to go.  Steven disappeared somewhere up with the rat pack, and I found a space which happened to be near the 2:00 pacer, with the vague notion of keeping them in sight.

I had done a quick 'back of an envelope' pace plan at lunchtime on Friday.  My average pace last year was 6:10, so I planned to start out at that pace to the motorway (9km), pick it up to 5:50 to the bridge (14km), then 5:30 after the bridge, (6:30 was allowed on bridge and hills) and give it whatever I had in the final 1-2km - maybe 5:20? Maybe even 4:something?



Well the plan worked, but in reverse.  My first kilometre was 5:20.  I knew I should slow down, but I felt great, my foot had loosened up and was fine.  The lady next to me was puffing and I was breathing easy.  Maybe I could run sub-2 after all, even though none of my training indicated so.  Maybe I was different, a super-talented runner who defied all previous statistics and could pull magic out of thin air.  My head tried to slow down but my legs wanted to keep pace with the runners around me.  This is the stuff you read about all the time in magazines like Runner's World - what not to do.  But I did it.

Why, I do not know.  Maybe my legs loved running again after a 2 week break, maybe I thought I may as well give this sub-2 goal a shot, maybe I had brain fade.  Yes, that is probably it.

I started to falter around the 8km mark, which was no surprise as I had been running at 5km pace. The sun had come out and I took a moment at the drink station to down some fluids.  The 2 hour pace group passed me here.  I carried on to the busway but by Akoranga station (11km) I took the first of several walk breaks.  This is where I started getting passed by multitudes of other runners, and the demoralisation of failure set in.  It was a calm sunny 20 degree morning and slightly humid, but I felt like it was 32 degrees.  Despite being outside by the harbour, there was no fresh air.  My heart rate seemed to elevate at the slightest exertion, and at one stage I felt a bit dizzy and squeamish.  I said goodbye to my goal, and settled for the best I could do on the day.

I stopped my run walk to take photo on the bridge - always a good excuse...!
I walked up the bridge even though I ran up it last year.  Coming off the bridge I saw the first of about 5 runners on the sidelines being attended to by medics, I guess they were suffering in the heat, and I was glad I had made the decision to take things a bit easier.  For the last 4km I adopted a run/walk strategy, trying to run a bit faster during run times to make up for the walk breaks.  Overtaking, then being overtaken.  Yo-yo runner. Leap-frogger. That was me.

One thing I did notice is that there seemed to be more supporters this year cheering from the sidelines.  Starting through the streets of Devonport, at the Takapuna on-ramp, Akoranga overbridge, and especially Curran Street onwards they were out in force.  They gave me a lot of encouragement, although I probably didn't look as if they did.

Still, I managed to have a fast finish (where does that final energy always come from?) and overtook some runners in the finishing lane.  I finished in 2:14:41 - only 4 mins slower than last year, but it sure felt a lot harder than that.
To compare, last year my net time was:
48.43% total finishers
63.66% female finishers
72.36% F4549 finishers
I'm not that unhappy with my time, I'm not even that unhappy with my performance considering the warm conditions.  I suppose I've just had a lot to process after this one, what went wrong and why, what I could have done better, and how to improve from here.

Not every race can be a personal best - or where is the personal challenge? The best thing is to learn from your experiences, and I think I've learnt a lot from this one.

Or maybe it was from Runner's World in the first place...

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Tomorrow I will run

This training cycle has been a real mixed bag, where I've experienced both the highs and lows of running in a zig-zag fashion.  There has been a lot of inconsistency and missed runs due to injury, Arthur's Half recovery, even travel to a funeral, but also some nice long runs and a couple of confidence boosting tempos - which is what I'm going to have to focus on tomorrow to keep all my negative thoughts at bay.

One morning down south we managed to fit in a nice 10km rural loop - lots of newborn lambs :) 
 My niggling foot that I never told you about flared up big time on my 18km run 2 weeks ago and I haven't run since.  Let's call it a forced taper.  I visited a podiatrist (prerequisite - had to be a runner!) and he doesn't think it is bony which is reassuring, but I have some foot biomechanical issues he'd like to sort out after this half marathon.

If you had've asked me a week ago I would have said it was 90% likely that I wasn't running tomorrow, but magically over the last few days my limp has disappeared and the pain has gone, and my foot suddenly feels the best it has in 6 weeks.  Podiatrist guy is happy for me to run, and so the decision is made - tomorrow I will run!

But my confidence is flat.  My legs feel like their arterioles have degenerated. I've spent the last 2 weeks moping around the house, and u-turning into a positive race mode is not happening quickly.  I need to think happy thoughts, go pick up my race number, soak up some pre-race atmosphere, get my gear ready, and make a race plan!

*****

So I did:

It was a sea of yellow bags outside the Viaduct Events Centre,
although this snap doesn't really do it justice!

The obligatory shot of my name on the race car...

The souvenir T-shirt is nice this year - it fits!
I don't think I'll be running a sub-2.  I'll be taking it easy to begin with to see how my foot handles running again, and ramp it up a notch if I start feeling confident.  My guesstimate time is 2:06:15 - well that's what I put on the Tauranga Half competition, if I get that I win an entry!

Let's leave with some positive thoughts:

  • I'm looking forward to the ferry trip over to Devonport in the early morning - it's kind of surreal!
  • I'm excited about Steven running his first half marathon!
  • Go Michelle - I hope you get your sub-2!
  • Looking forward to seeing Jody volunteering at the finish, yes I might need you to remove my timing chip for me!
  • Luke will be waiting for us at the finish - if he get's up in time!
  • I'm happy that I can run at all - really :)
  • The support from YOU!  Little things like "run strong" from supergeneric girl and "good lucks" from across the Tasman really help when you're feeling a bit down!
  • Anna Frost left this quote on her facebook this week - "Think easy, light, smooth and fast" - that's tomorrow's mantra :)




Sunday, September 14, 2014

Running in the Footsteps of Lydiard

Yesterday I had the pleasure of running Arthur's Half - the little sister to the Lydiard Legend Marathon.  It was the 10th anniversary of this iconic event, first organised in 2004 not long before Arthur Lydiard died.  The course is based on the local training routes of Arthur and his athletes, in the Waitakere ranges on the western outskirts of Auckland.


I've always wanted to run this race.  I remember Arthur visiting our school when I was about 15 and he left a huge impression on me then.  Even if he did talk about running for an hour at a time - my 'training' at that stage involved running a kilometre down the road to the Whitestone bridge and back as fast as I could!

We picked up my number on Friday night from the event base, and did a recce of the course while we were out that way.  I'm so glad I forced convinced Steven to drive it because having knowledge of the course really helped me on the day.  Always do a course recce!

The first 8 km or so undulate through the suburban streets of New Lynn and Glen Eden to Oratia, with a few small climbs to warm you up (and some nice downhills to compensate).  Then the real fun begins - with a long climb up Carter Road.  Starting gradually and ending with a few steeper bits, it was actually over sooner than expected even though I did quite a bit of walking.  By this time of day the low cloud had cleared, the sun had come out and it was humid+++.  At the 11km drink station someone mentioned it was 100% humidity - I'm not sure how true that was but I was certainly sweating a lot - and it might have explained why I was feeling sluggish.  I'm really glad I decided to take my small Nike handheld - I nearly left it behind but decided on it at the last moment. Lucky, because as it turns out I had drunk everything in it by each drink stop, where I filled it up again - as well as another full cup for myself!  I took a GU gel before the 6km and 11km drink stations, and although I opened another one at the 16km drink station I couldn't stomach it.  When I finished the race it was still in my hand!


After the Carter Road climb, the course begins to descend to Scenic Drive.  It took me a while to recover and get into descend mode, there was still a long way to go and I didn't want to thrash my quads too early.  But I settled into a short stride/quick turnover pace and soon started gaining on the others and overtaking them. Then they overtook me at the 16km drink stop.  Then I gradually reined them in again!  Once through Titirangi Village it was 5km downhill all the way, so here I really tried to up my tempo - I felt great and it was fun to run fast!

Well, I thought I was running fast...!

Let me tell you that the final stretch of Godley Road is a longer than long 2km, if that is possible. Even when you have made a mental note of this particular fact while doing the course recce!  A guy passed me on the flat (not sure if he was a marathoner or halfmarathoner) but he was going at a nice clip so I hung in behind him.  Until I realised we weren't even at the golf course and I would never be able to keep up his pace til the end, so I eased off a bit.  I actually walked for a few metres to catch my breath again, and then it was a final surge around the corner and along to the finish.  Looking back I am disappointed in myself for not keeping up with that guy.  I don't know why but I always doubt myself and get scared of becoming too breathless - something makes me give up when things get tough.  I found this advice from Kilian which I might tattoo on my forearm for when this next happens:


I ran through the finish chute and suddenly there was a guy standing right in front of me smiling and holding out a 10th anniversary Arthur's Half medal to place around my neck - I was speechless - my Best Running Moment ever!

My Anna Paquin moment!

Someone called from the sidelines and it was Sheree, who I had chatted to while running through Glen Eden - about our injuries of course!  She gave me a congratulatory hug and vice versa, and in the moment I forgot to wish her a good hamstring recovery and best wishes for the Waihi 60k which she is running in a month - so I'm doing it right now!

All the best Sheree!

Here are my results:
Time: 2:15:51
10/25 in F40-49 age group
154/206 overall

My only other road half marathon was the Auckland Half which I ran in 2:10:22 last November, probably a faster course.  Carter Road was a bit of a killer today, but then I still had a fast finish.  I'm going to say my performances were about equal!

As usual the volunteers were great and supportive, but I have to make a special mention about the wonderful spectators!  Along Carter Road, which is semi-rural, there were a few families standing at their gates cheering us on, some with placards waving. Coming into Scenic Drive where we joined the marathon course there was quite a group of people encouraging us, and throughout Titirangi Village the people in the cafes were standing and clapping - it was so nice to see and made you feel like an elite athlete really special and inspired - awesome support 100% appreciated!

I really hope I can run this event again next year.  I think what I loved most about this race apart from it's meaningful history, is that long final descent - you can have a fast finish and it leaves you on a massive runner's high!  I love my trails, but roads are great too!

Have you ever run Arthur's Half or the Lydiard Legend?  Tell me about it!
If not, tell me about your weekend of running!
What keeps you going when the going gets tough? (Obviously, I need tips here!)


Monday, August 25, 2014

Goal Setting vs Injury


As I begin training for the Auckland half marathon this week, I am hoping that I can still reach my goal of a sub-2 time. I get really annoyed at the stupid injury that prevented me building a solid base over the winter months.  That would have been handy.
 

But instead of dwelling on that, I get out my trusty foam roller, and do another set of clams and bridges to keep my ITB happy.  And I try to think about how my first half felt kind of easy and how I know I can do so much better.  And as I run up my local hill that happens to be a similar grade/distance as the Harbour Bridge, I actually pretend it is.

When I'm really desperate, I thank goodness my injury even happened - after all, technically I am more biomechanically sound than before!


At the end of the day you can only do what you can do, and I'm definitely not giving up on my sub-2 goal. Lately I've built up my mileage to around the same level as this time last year.  I hope to run more kilometres in training this year - via longer long runs, and an extra day of easy running thrown in during the week. Last year I felt like longer speedwork intervals benefited me more than the short ones, and I also felt improvements with tempo runs so I'll make sure to include them regularly too.  As well as regular runs up my local "harbour bridge" :)

Let's see how I go!


Do you think I can do it - drop 11 minutes off my time from last year?
If you're a half-marathoner, do you have any special tips?
What's your favourite half marathon workout?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Race Report: Blackmores Xterra Dome Valley

"Oh, it's only 9 km"  I thought, as I looked at the new revised distance for this race, which had had a few last minute changes.   Famous last words.  I should know by now never to regard any trail race distance as easy, as the course usually ends up being 9 vertical kilometres or something to that effect!

Xterra Dome Valley was a good example.  It was the fourth event in the Blackmores Xterra series.  I haven't signed up for the full seven race series, instead choosing to participate in each event separately as I can fit them into my life.  I was out with injury for the first two, but managed to run the last event out at Woodhill Forest.

We awoke to a cold wet and windy morning, and I wasn't sure what to wear so took a couple of options.  In the end I wore my Icebreaker Rush Capris (warm when wet), and an Adidas t-shirt with an Icebreaker bodyfit top underneath, which is so old it is starting to fall apart - it was either that or the one with paint on it...!  Everything worked well as I was never cold, and never hot either - perfect!  I also wore my Lululemon earwarmers for a while, they've been quite a good investment this winter.  Luckily the wind wasn't a problem in the forest, and the rain eased off for our race.


The first stage of the race was uphill, as usual!  Up the gravel forestry road we ran, and straight away my legs felt like lead.  My breathing went through the roof and it wasn't long before I was walking.  I mostly walked, jogged a bit as I felt able, and eventually we got to the top where there was a very welcome downhill. Now that's my type of terrain!

After a few more sneaky seconds walking to recover from the climb, I noticed a course photographer let loose on the downhill  - yeeha!  This downhill stretch went on forever and I was starting to wonder if my legs would hold up towards the bottom.  I tried to concentrate on landing lightly and good form, whatever that is.  Splash, splash, splash through the ford at the bottom and then on to another uphill to the 4.5km turnaround point.


You get the idea - this race was up and down all the way!  This next long climb had quite a few runners coming down in the other direction by now.  I first saw Jody who was running a longer course and looking strong.  Then I saw Steven who was running the same distance as me and about 5 minutes ahead already! I reached the turnaround, but knew that only meant another long climb back the way we had come.  I was starting to think this rearranged course wasn't much fun as it was all on fairly boring gravel forestry road - but I didn't know what was yet to come!



Eventually around 6km we diverted into the forest and immediately hit mud, and the woman in front of me slid over in spectacular fashion.  Not that I needed any warning - the trail literally became a sea of mud scarred with the skidmarks of previous runners!  At this stage there was a definite advantage to those who had good trail shoes, and those who didn't quickly fell off the pace.  In my Inov8 Roclite 268 's I gained more confidence with every footstrike and soon was running along quite happily with a group of similar paced runners.

At one stage a woman in front of us slipped and slid halfway down a slope on her bum - backwards!  So funny and she was laughing the whole way.  We passed a waterfall, well I heard it but didn't see it as my focus was continually on the ground.  Once I stood in a deep patch of thick mud where I was relieved to see my shoe was still on when I pulled my foot out!

Then came The Climb.  About a kilometre long in total and much of it steep, like 45 degrees steep, and extremely muddy.  Part way up there was a rope to help you up, but it was so slippery from all the runners prior, that I opted for the other side where you could occasionally find some pine needles or sticks to stand on, and some tree branches to grab.  My hands were put to good use in the mud too!

Next up was - guess what, more mud running, and soon we popped out of the forest onto the gravel track again.  I recognised that this was close to the finish, so ran as fast as I could, overtaking whoever and whatever, until I realised we had to turn into forest again for one final mud fest before the finish:


Phew - so glad to be done!


I met Jody at the finish line, and you can read her report here.  Steven had a hot coffee waiting for me, having finished about 15 minutes ahead, but thought his shoes were a problem in the mud.  The group he was running with got ahead of him and he never saw them again!  Guess who's getting some trail shoes soon...

I didn't feel great about my performance on the day, so was surprised to read that I came in 5th in my age group.  But better still, I WAS ONLY FOUR AG PLACES BEHIND SAM WARRINER!!!  Now for the real facts: I was 20 minutes behind her and the race was less than 10km, but because that is probably the only time in my life I get to say such things I will do so in Full Caps hehe :)


The official numbers:
9.34km
1:16:40
5/21 Masters Female (24%)
40/111 Overall Female (36%)
147/243 Overall Male/Female (60%)
0 Falls (thanks Inov8)
1 Nearly fell


OK, that's officially the muddiest run I've ever done!  Have you ever raced in mud and lived to tell the tale?  What shoes did you wear and how did they perform in the mud?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Race Report: Xterra Woodhill 14km Trail Run

Last weekend I ran in the third race of the Blackmores Xterra Trail Series, which was held in Woodhill Forest just west of Auckland.  I missed the first two races due to my niggling ITB, and even then I was a bit nervous about running this race which happened to be about twice as far as I've run recently. But my physiotherapist thought I would be fine, and sure enough I was.  Woodhill is a pine forest right out on the west coast so the ground is mainly sandy soil coated with pine needles - a nice low impact surface that suited me perfectly!


As you can see from the above picture there was also a few muddy patches - it's winter here and there was quite a lot of rain during the week.  My Inov8 Roclite's were brilliant - I could plough straight through the mud and puddles with no fear of slipping.  Being a Southland farm girl helps of course! 


 And you can tell by my dirty knees in this shot that I came a gutser at some stage.  You know the scenario - "what's he doing sitting down..." thud. faceplant.  All in one nanosecond.  I just know TotalSport design their courses to have a hidden-but-exposed tree root somewhere that manages to trip every second runner as they go past!


The course was beautiful in its own way, and the atmosphere inside the forest is like being in another world.  We ran on a mix of forestry roads and single track winding around and around, up and down - a course designed to disorientate!  Although the elevation profile showed a climb around the 5km mark, it was not steep, and it was over before I knew it.  There were lots of ups and downs, and even when it was flat there were ups and downs - like moguls - rather fun to run!

At the 5km drink station I looked down to see a dog on a leash with a race number on his back!  Hehe I haven't seen that before!  (Couldn't find anything in the results either...!)

A few weeks ago I bought some arm sleeves.  They have been a great investment for this time of year when you have that long sleeve/short sleeve dilemma.  This morning was ideal - I needed them for a 9:30 start in the shady forest, but took them off about halfway into the race and stuffed them in my front bungee pocket. Perfect.  How did I ever survive before arm sleeves?


This photo is toward the end where you wind your way around a creek to the finish.  I was walking a bit by this stage, and remember coming around the corner, seeing the photographer and telling myself to keep running for the camera!  Vanity running pure and simple.  The fact that I managed to keep running under photographic duress means I'm obviously lazy to consider walking in the first place, doesn't it?  Must try harder.

Talking of trying harder - if I had finished a mere 3 mins earlier I would have placed in the middle of my age group instead of well down the rankings.  Another reason not to walk!

The numbers:
14.4km forestry trail
Time: 1:38:39
30/43 in age group
255/333 overall
PS - never mind me - my superstar other half was 5th in his age group!


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

50 Days of Winter Running and May Highlights

I'm participating in TempoFit's #50DaysofWinterRunning Challenge, so from 1 June to 20 July I will be posting a photo a day via Instagram about running related things.  Click the 50Days image in the sidebar to follow my Instagram if you're interested, and consider joining up yourself!


In the meantime, I've collected a few of my favourite links over the last month to share with you!

On 26 April the Routeburn Classic was held down in Fiordland.  I really want to run this one day, as an ex-local it has special significance to me.  Here is a race report from the winning female Sarah Douglas.

The 50th running of the Lion Foundation Rotorua Marathon was on May 3.  I enjoyed reading  Rotorua Marathon by Numbers, and the Women's Line-up, and to hear that the winning female was 50 too - awesome!

This month Salomon released a limited edition collection of New Zealand running gear in conjunction with Anna Frost - check out her video here.  I really want the skirt!

Speaking of Anna Frost - it was great to see her back in top form again winning Transvulcania and breaking her 2012 record - amazing.  Lots of links here.

Meanwhile back in NZ, the 2014 Hillary Ultra video has been released - don't watch it or you'll want to run the whole thing!

Enjoy!

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