Saturday, February 23, 2013

Race Report: The Coastal Challenge

Today I ran the Coastal Challenge along the beaches and coastline of the North Shore.  There are several distances to choose from, and I did the 11km version from the north end of Milford Beach to Windsor Reserve in Devonport.  Here I am at the start looking fresh and raring to go!

This is the start - I'm in there somewhere!  If you look closely you can see some runners from the longer distances rock hopping and wading through the water around the coast north of us - maybe that will be me next year!

It was a bit cloudy to start with, but that soon burnt off and we had sunshine the rest of the way.  Look at the cute kids sprinting off to the side, you can see them in the previous shot too - I wonder how long they lasted!

It wasn't all beaches - there was quite a bit of rock hopping around the bays.  I love those parts and somehow manage to overtake people there, although there were a couple of narrow parts that created a traffic jam and we had to queue up - frustrating!  Sometimes that little rest was welcome though ;)

Here's Narrow Neck beach - I had already gone through when Steven and Luke took this photo.  The 33km race starts way off at that distant peninsula:

This is what the coast is like between each beach - it was so much fun.  These runners are approaching Cheltenham Beach:

Cheltenham was the last beach but the hardest to run - with soft cushy sand that really slowed you down.  Halfway along I ventured up to the top edge to seek out some harder ground but that wasn't very successful, so I stopped a little longer than intended at the drink station which was ideally located at the south end of the beach.

Then it was about 1k or so on the streets to the finish, where I gave it everything trying to keep up with 'the girl in the blue top'.  Some kids in Mackay Ave had the garden hoses out which was wonderful - I made sure I got well showered!

I felt I ran really well at the end - around 5:15 pace for the last km - I didn't know if I could keep it up or not  but I was determined 'the girl in the blue top' was not going to get away, and I managed to keep going to finish strongly.  Unfortunately Steven and Luke were probably still at Narrow Neck beach waiting for me and they missed my finish, but they snapped this shot where you can see more runners coming along the final stretch, if you squint:

At least that meant I got to eat the Jacks Links beef jerky and the Pop'n'Good Popcorn that was hiding in my race bag all by myself!  Here I am proud-ish and but tired when we finally found each other:

OK - official results are in now - I ran in 1:11:08 - 10/36 in my age group, 52/145 female overall.   28% and  36% respectively.  
Next year it's going to be 25% :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Next Up: The Coastal Challenge

The last three weeks of my training have almost been a repeat of a couple of months ago, and as I mentioned in the last post they felt relatively easy.  But I've been really good and resisted the temptation to jump ahead, as it is all part of base building, and it does increase slightly next month.  Patience, patience!

I've signed up for the Coastal Challenge next weekend - an adventure run around the North Shore beaches. (Click the link to check out the amazing pictures!)  I did this race a few years ago and loved it immensely - it follows the coastal track around the Shore, running along white sandy beaches and clambering over black volcanic rocks, combined with a bit of water interaction if you are lucky.  I'm doing the same 11km race as last time, from Milford Beach to Devonport, but there are other distances (6, 17, 23 and the 33km Full Monty all the way from Whangaparoa Peninsula).

This similar route is actually part of the Te Araroa Trail
The Coastal Challenge clings even closer to the coastline!
In 2005 the course finished at Cheltenham Beach and was about 1km shorter, and I finished it in 1:06 - it will be interesting to see how I go this weekend.  One resounding memory from that last race was when I stopped to walk about a kilometre from the finish, and I remember some rapidly gaining footsteps behind me saying:  "Come on, you can do it, not far to go now!"  It was one of the longer distance runners coming through, and as he powered past me I started running again and thanked him, and I actually ran all the way to the finish - that bit of encouragement was just what I needed!

Oh, and I remember I got my first and only running blister on that race.  Sand + Water = Blisters!  I plan to stick some Vaseline on any potential blister spots prior to the race, but I notice the aid stations have Vaseline for any blister emergencies.  I will be wearing my trusty Supernova's as I haven't managed to buy trail shoes yet.  They are starting to feel well worn in, so I decided to tally up the distance I've run in them so far and it is 440km - time to start looking for a back-up pair already.

OK - I'm starting to get excited about this race now!
  • Have you ever done an off-road coastal race before?  Tell me about it!  
  • What about encouragement from other runners - have you ever been a receiver, or do you give it?  I came across a tweet from Women's Running that said the best running gift you could give was encouragement - it worked for me!
  • Blisters - what are your magic tricks for preventing them?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Heeding Alberto's Advice

The lead up to the Tussock Traverse race coincided with a 10k training plan in my book where the mileage and intensity gradually increased, but now for the next two months the schedule cuts back to shorter distances, and to be honest it is all feeling a bit easy.

I've been toying with jumping ahead to the next stage of the training cycle as I'm a little impatient and have a few races on my calendar where I'd like to do the best I can.  But something this week has convinced me to stick to the plan, and resist the urge to skip ahead.

That something was in the book I'm reading at the moment - Alberto Salazar's Guide to Road Racing.  I'm enjoying it a lot - it covers a lot of the usual stuff but explains it in a way that gels, and there are a lot of additional pointers that I haven't read in other books.  I've learnt a lot and I'm only up to Chapter 5!

But let me share with you the bit that convinced me to stick to my plan.  We all know that an increase in training volume should be done gradually, and Salazar does mention the popular 10% per week rule, however he "prefers a slower buildup of no more than 10% per month" followed by a plateau period.  He states "it is unwise to increase your weekly mileage by more than about 25% in any given 6 month period.  Even at that rate, you could go from 20 to 50 miles per week in two years - an enormous change".

Conservative eh?  Are you tempted to speed up your progress faster than that?  I know a lot of runner's definitely do! Here is Salazar's reasoning why not to:

"If you're tempted to accelerate the process, the risk you run is a succession of nagging injuries.  There are several parts of the body that have to adapt to the stress of increased mileage, and they do so at different rates.  Aerobic conditioning comes first, with muscle strength following closely behind.  That's why so many people try to proceed too quickly: once your muscles and cardiovascular system have adapted, workouts feel deceptively easy.  What you need to remember is that tendons, ligaments, and bones also need to adapt - something they do fairly slowly.  Bones are the slowest, and the potential injury, a stress fracture, is the one I most fear in beginning racers."

So your heart and legs feel strong relatively quickly when you step up your running, but the connective tissues and bone take longer to increase in strength. Muscles have a rich blood supply allowing them to grow and repair at a faster rate, compared to ligaments and tendons that have a relatively limited blood supply.  Since these are what keep our joints and muscles working in alignment, they can be the weakest link when it comes to injury (remember my knee niggle...).  Obviously this fact is even more important for beginner runners (me!), and with age (me again!).

So - no more thoughts of jumping ahead in my training plan!  It might take a bit longer to reach my goals, but I want to run for the rest of my life - so I've got all the time in the world!

How rapidly do you allow yourself to increase your training volume?
Have you suffered any injury because of increasing too fast?
Read any books by Alberto Salazar?  I remember him being a rock star runner when I was at school!

Monday, February 4, 2013

How To Find The Perfect Running Bra (IMO):

We all know how difficult it is to find the perfect running bra, but I'm going to make it easy for you!  Just follow the steps below:
  1. Go to Elliott Street* in downtown Auckland.
  2. Enter the Rebel Sport store at ground level.
  3. Go past the counters on your right and turn right.
  4. Proceed about halfway up the long aisle and then turn right.
  5. Straight ahead of you hanging on the wall, you will discover the perfect running bra - that is, the Under Armour 'Armour Bra'
  6. Pick your size off the rack, try it on to double check, then go buy it.
  7. Warning: DO NOT buy the 34B whatever you do.  Those are all mine.  You can buy any other size you like!
  8. Second Warning:  DO NOT look at the price.  Just fork out the $120 and know you are doing the right thing! 

Honestly - I am so happy with my new Armour Bra - after running in it today and I didn't want to take it off!  I suppose it is going to have to be washed at some stage...

Even the ladybird on my shoulder likes it!

My quest for the perfect running bra has been going on since I started running (again) in Jan last year.  When I used to run the compression tops were enough support for me.  In your mid-forties they certainly are not!

Spot the difference!
At first I started out with this Bendon Sports Bra:

Although it is supportive, economical and I like the "underwire" ventilation, the cup doesn't fit me well, nipples show through, and it is just generally ugly.  Currently it is reserved strictly for emergencies.  No photo of me wearing it will ever be available.

Then I bought Lululemon's Ta-Ta-Tamer 2 - this has been my go-to sports bra for the last few months:

I bought the 34C, but due to all the running I've been doing I have gone down to a B cup.  Guess what?  Lululemon don't stock Ta-Ta-Tamers in B cups in New Zealand.  I would have bought one for every day of the week.  The only disadvantage I can think of about this bra is that the contoured straps don't convert to a racer-back style that comfortably, otherwise it is lovely.  I tried all their other bras and they either don't fit me as well or are not supportive enough for me for running. (I still love you though Lululemon!)

Recently I tried a Shock Absorber bra from Shoe Clinic - it looks really good but I couldn't find my size.  I am also interested in trying Moving Comfort's sports bras but haven't found a New Zealand stockist yet.

Meanwhile, while I was out shopping the other day I thought I'd take a quick innocent browse in Rebel Sport, and the rest is history.  My new Armour Bra is ultra comfortable while still being supportive, shapely, uplifting, compressing, immobilising and modest.  Plus it is a racer back style like most of my summer running tops - no more of this!:

Being a clothing designer type I always check out the construction and this bra has some clever design details:
a) satin faced elastic - so smooth next to the skin, and
b) anti chafe seam tape - also satiny and smooth:

c) underarm mesh insert to increase evaporation/prevent chafing.  It also conceals any unsightly overhanging skin - genius!  All bra designers please take note!

d) I love it's futuristic sporty style - charcoal with a splash of colour (each cup size is a different colour - B=blue), metallic flatlocking, coloured hooks and eyes - so cool it can be worn alone:

e) it is beautifully made - look at all that nice neat stitching, super flat and anti chafe:

And the negatives?  Well, I'll try to think of something...
? hard to do up hook and eye - it was tricky the first time, but I've got the hang of it now.
? cost - if it does the job well, I'm prepared to pay whatever!
? no fancy colours or patterns... 
As you can see I'm really pushing for negatives here - there really aren't any!  This is just a great running bra full stop.
And I'm a very happy customer.
Well done Under Armour!

Have you found your perfect running bra yet?  Have you tried this one, or is another brand your favourite?

* Any Rebel Sport or Under Armour retailer will do :)
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