Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Tussock Traverse - Race Report

On Friday afternoon we drove down to National Park in the central North Island where the pre-race registration was being held.  Here's a few road trip shots for fun:

1, 2 and 4 - Somewhere between Te Kuiti and Taumarunui
3 -  Progress being made in the knitting department!
5- Tussock Traverse signboard outside Taumarunui
6 - Latitude 39 South sign, Owhango
7 - Sunset on Mt Ruapehu
I picked up my race pack and went through a gear check on Friday night.  Even though the forecast was fine and warm, we were still in a a mountain environment and had to carry water, a thermal top, beanie and a wind/rainproof jacket - just in case you get stranded out on the course for a while with a broken ankle or something.  And we received a cute tussock seedling in our race pack to plant at home as a memoir!

I counted my Icebreaker Tech T as the thermal top and actually wore it on the day - it was perfect for the warm-but-not-humid conditions.  I rolled the jacket and beanie up tightly and tucked it into the bungee cord on my Camelbak belt where I never even noticed them during the race.  The belt however, jiggled and bounced around, and caused my Tshirt to keep riding up and I kept having to pull it down and I even heard a race bib safety pin rip it at one stage - despite this sort of thing not happening in training.  After a kilometre or so of hitching and adjusting I thought this was not going to work for thirteen kilometres, and I was tempted to ditch it until I realised that it just needed tightening a notch... ;)

Apart from fiddling with my fuel belt, the first kilometre was a long queue with everyone juggling for position until a natural hierarchy formed and the line gradually spread out.  The run pretty much involved ascending ridges and descending to mountain streams the whole way, on a packed gravel track with a few steps, rocky areas, scrub and bridges thrown in for good measure.

Around the 9km mark we descended steeply through some native bush to the Taranaki Falls where I think I was so run-happy hopping around like a mountain goat that I may even have yelled out WOO-HOO while jumping off a rock at one stage!

Can I tell you a secret?  I love picking people off as you run the last half of the race! (I try to emphasise this to myself as runners usually pass me during the first half of the race!)  The best places are 'technical' areas where many runners are concentrating on preserving their ankles, but if you concentrate at rock hopping you can overtake with relative ease. I overtook three runners close to the finish just by going through the puddle instead of around it!

This of course, was before I tripped.  Yes.  In the shady bush my shoe clipped a root and in spectacular fashion I hit the ground horizontal skidding forwards with both arms outstretched, and I have grazes on both palms and knees to prove it.  All minor, but it tweaked my back a bit and shook my confidence for a while.  It happened so suddenly the girl running behind me gasped "OMG, are you alright?" I assured her I was fine and replied that maybe this was a good excuse for me to splash out on some new trail shoes ;)  She laughed and agreed, and I know you all definitely agree too, so I am going trail shoe shopping next weekend.

There was some unwelcome uphill before the finish which I power walked as I was starting to feel it, and I didn't feel too guilty because everyone else was too.  Then it was a narrow rocky track and a hop skip and jump through thigh-high scrub down to the finish where.....

Steven was waiting camera in hand for a finishing line photo!

I finished in 1:42:01 - 42nd female out of 113, just sneaking into the top 36%.  My current aim is to finish in the top third so I wasn't far off - maybe I could push myself a bit more especially at the start where I am always afraid of going out too fast.

We stayed around for the awards and spot prizes, and watched the first few runners arrive in from the 26km event.

Then we headed up the road towards Taupo, and I devoured a delicious Em's Power Cookie Bar on the way:

...then stopped to photograph the steam escaping from the crater that erupted recently on Tongariro:

...had a nice post-run ice bath in Lake Taupo to ease my shattered legs:

...ate a hearty meal while enjoying the view south to the volcanic plateau:

... then retired to nether nether land dreaming I was Anna Frost the second...

... and awoke to sore quads and dirty shoes!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Improving, I Think

It might just be that the weather is not as hot and humid as it has been, but I do feel like I am improving lately. Since doing a time trial and establishing some training paces from that, I have been training a bit faster than I had been previously, and these paces feel more natural to me.  Some days I look at what I have planned and think: how am I ever going to run that far at that pace, but I somehow manage, and feel good doing it without being tired afterwards.  Which shows that my training plan is working, and that a lot of obstacles are in my head!

I've adjusted my schedule slightly to fit in with the Tussock Traverse race next Saturday, and this meant dropping another time trial that was planned.  I might run a 5k the week after to establish a new base time instead, as whatever time I run in the Tussock Traverse won't really be reflective - being a trail race and all!  Plus, I really want to slash my 5k PB which is practically my current training pace!

For the Tussock Traverse we have some compulsory gear, most of which we probably won't need because the weather is looking sunny and 27*C according to my resident meteorological expert.  I will definitely be carrying water though, so I've been taking my Camelbak belt with me on my long runs to get used to wearing it.

Excuse the bra straps - I haven't found a racer-back bra that fits yet!

I bought this in a rush the day before Xterra Waihi as it was recommended to carry water for that race, however as it was raining (and I had never even run with it!) I never actually used it.  It is working quite well - it doesn't feel too hot and sweaty, if I wear it at the waist it doesn't jiggle, and I can carry treats and my phone in the front pocket.  The weight of a full water bottle is noticeable on my abdomen when I am starting to tire, but I probably should be doing more planks or something to fix that ;)

It is worth inspecting these things closely as they have all sorts of features - I've just noticed there is a bungee cord around the water bottle case that you could strap a windbreaker to, and the back pocket has a keyring and additional pocket for little things:

The front pocket is where I keep snacks/gels and my phone (ie running camera), and there is a gel bottle that I've never actually used:

So, apart from wear-testing my fuel belt, here's what I've been up to lately (Monday and Friday are rest days):

Tuesday -3k jog, 200/400/800/400/200m fast with recoveries half as long, 3k jog
Wednesday - 6k slow
Thursday - 7k steady up Mt Eden
Saturday - 10 mins slow, 20 mins brisk (6:00), 10 mins slow
Sunday - 10k slow

Tuesday - 2.5k jog, 3x800m fast (5:50), 3 min recoveries, 2.5k jog
Wednesday - 8k slow (6:30-7:00)
Thursday - 7k steady (6:00-6:20)
Saturday - 3k jog, 8x1min hill climbs, jogging back down, 3k jog
Sunday - 12k slow (6:30-7:15)

Tuesday - 2.5k jog, 3x1000m brisk (supposed to be 6:00 but I ran them a lot faster because I couldn't remember what I was supposed to be doing...), 4 min recoveries, 2.5k jog
Wednesday - 9k slow
Thursday - 10 k steady
Saturday - 10 mins slow, 15 mins fartlek, 10 mins slow
Sunday - 13k slow

Next week is a slight taper towards the race.  With the kilometres building up I think I'm ready for that!

PS - How do you carry water and stuff for trail runs?
(I think this belt is quite good for medium distance runs, but I'd like to get a hydration backpack when I start running longer distances.)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Next Up - The Tussock Traverse

We're heading down to the Volcanic Plateau in the central North Island in a couple of weeks for another running adventure!  

This time I will be running around this rocky tussocky terrain on another TotalSport event - the Tussock Traverse - the first of my 13 in 2013 trail races:

There won't be any snow at this time of year though - my photos were taken on a winter ski trip!  If you check out the Tussock Traverse link you will find some photos of the awesome scenery in summer. 

I will be running the 13k event which starts at the Chateau Tongariro - at 1200m elevation I expect my sea-level lungs to be huffing and puffing more than usual!  

The volcanic plateau is amazing and is essentially an alpine cluster of volcanoes - Mt Ruapehu which has ski fields, Mt Ngauruhoe which is the photogenic cone you see in my photos, and Mt Tongariro which is the location of the Tongariro Crossing - this one had a small eruption in November last year so I hope it stays quiet!

We will be running up, down and around some of the local tracks, crossing mountain streams, hopping over rocks, past waterfalls, and through native bush - can't wait!  I'll try to remember to stop for a breather take photos for you along the way!

take only photos, leave only footprints...

I'm starting to get excited!
Tell me - what is the next exciting event coming up on your calendar?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

I Hope 2013 Is As Good As This!

I had a such a magic run yesterday!  Up Mt Eden I ran - taking the long road which gradually spirals it's way around the volcano to the top:

Parts of the path were carpeted crimson with fallen pohutukawa flowers:

I used to run up here a lot in the olden days and was expecting it to be a lot harder than it was, but maybe stopping to take some photos along the way helped!

Nearing the top, the 360 degree views always put me on a high - even those final steep steps up to the viewing platform felt like a breeze.

After a quick appreciation of the view, and a moment to snap a group shot for some tourists, I then flew down the soft grassy trails, arms like wings, free like a bird, elated by my effort.

I slowed to hop tentatively over tree roots, trotted rapidly down the stone steps as if they were the molten lava they once were, and cruised home through the city streets faster than normal because today had extra oxygen in the air.

I hope the rest of 2013 is as good as this...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 - The Trail Ahead

During the year I have been building a list of running must-do's in my head, and with the New Year underway I think now is the right time to write them down - just in case I forget!  So this is what I have planned for 2013:

(Disclaimer - this list is subsequent to change, addition or elimination, according to life events, injury, chauffeur resistance, or inability to decide what to wear)

Run TotalSport events whenever I can:
I have really enjoyed every TotalSport race I have entered, and the next event on their calender is often what encourages me to lace up and head out the door - I'm going to do as many of their Great Events in Stunning Locations as I can squeeze into my life!

Participate in Jill's 13 in 2013 challenge
There are close to 13 races planned on my calendar already - why not do a couple more so I can display this cute badge on my blog!  I plan to do mostly trails, and add a few road events into the mix to round up the numbers.

Auckland Round the Bays Fun Run - 10 March
This iconic fun run is one of the world's largest with 70,000 entrants - a flat 8.4k from the CBD winding around the waterfront to St Heliers.  If you live in Auckland and run, it is a no-brainer!

Total Sport's Xterra Auckland Trail Run Series - May to September
A series of 6 events through forests and parks around Auckland, culminating in the Xterra Trail Challenge Waihi in October - my type of fun!

Unitec Run/Walk Series - July to October
This is a build up series of six races aiming towards the Adidas Auckland Marathon and Half Marathon. Luckily the dates don't coincide with the trail run series above!

The Adidas Auckland Half Marathon - 3 November 
This is the major goal for my year - to run a half marathon.  I don't have a time goal yet but closer to the event I will think of something.

Remain injury free
I am sure this is every runner's goal!  Having my niggly knee has emphasised to me how important it is to look after yourself if you want to run forever, so I will try to be diligent about my stretching and strengthening exercises. Injury prevention is better than cure.

Try some Yoga and Pilates
Following on from remaining injury free, I'd like to try Yoga (so many of you swear by that!) and Pilates this year.  I might start with some free yoga sessions at Lululemon, and the Pilates for Runners at my local physiotherapist sounds worthwhile too.

Check out some running groups:
There are lots of run groups around and I'd like to join something to widen my horizons.  Options are local neighbourhood run groups, my local Lululemon group runs, the YMCA marathon club Sunday long runs, plus others!

Like everyone else I would like to improve my times. The goals I have set aren't high, but I will continually shift the goalposts once they are achieved!
5k time under 28 mins
10k time under 60mins
half-marathon - just finish
I also like a percentage goal - I tend to finish in the top 30% in my trail runs, let's see if I can sneak into the top 25% next year!

Purchases Investments:
The perfect sports bra - I love my Lululemon TaTaTamer, but I've dropped from a C to a B since I purchased it and they don't seem to stock B's in NZ (which is funny because the 12/34B bras anywhere else seem to be the first to sell out). While Christmas shopping I spotted some Shock Absorber bras that looked good, so must go back and try them on as soon as possible.
Also - I think I desperately need some trail running shoes.  Red ones just like this:

Right - I better stop now or I won't get any running done!
What are your plans for 2013 - do you have any new challenges on the horizon?

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