Monday, January 27, 2014

Race Report:Tussock Traverse 26km

I did it!  I ran the Tussock Traverse 26km -  traversing east to west between Mt Nguaruhoe and Mt Ruapehu - my longest run ever!

By the way, this photo was taken the evening before the race when I was excited.  I am not sure I was capable of jumping at all the evening of the race!

But let's start at the very beginning...

We drove down to the Chateau Tongariro on Friday afternoon, in time for the evening registration.  Registration involved a gear check (jacket, hat, thermals, emergency blanket) and a clean shoe check (to prevent Didymo spreading into Tongariro National Park), before picking up our bib, transponder, and goodies*.  I bought some more GU products and admired the (weightless) Marmot jackets (maybe next year!).

I didn't sleep that well, and woke before my alarm - plenty of time for some Weetbix and blueberries, and some last minute organisation (got in a little tizz about closing the bladder on my hydration pack until I realised I had folded it wrong...!)  and I made it to the 26km runner's bus in plenty of time.

The bus journey took us right around the mountains to the start - well almost.  We had to transfer to a smaller shuttle to the actual start line, which was up a 4WD road towards Tukino ski field.  It was a bumpy will-we-get-stuck-in-the-sand lunar alpine experience unlike anything else in NZ, that transported my mind back to my backpacking-around-the-world days.   Here's a quick snap out the shuttlebus's back window...

The first thing to do at events like this - even if you don't want to go - is join the toilet queue. You can guarantee by the time it is your turn you will need to!

You can always leave the queue if you want, but here there wasn't much else to do!  That is the start line down there, with Mt Ruapehu still shrouded in morning cloud.

If you are a runner you will naturally have noticed that uphill gradient.  This race starts with a 2km climb, probably to spread out the field for what is to come.  Here we are at the race briefing ready to face the challenge:

By the start Mt Ruapehu had cleared, and the initial uphill grind began.  It was actually good to get moving as it was quite cold and windy, and I had made the decision to strip down to my T-shirt for the race.  The climb soon warmed me up, and I passed a lot of runners later stopping to undo their packs and remove their layers so was glad of my decision.  I could have done with a buff to cover my ears in that wind though!

At the crest the views were awe-inspiring, and I had to stop and take a photo even though it cost me my age group win ha ha;)

As you can see by that line of runners we descended steeply into a rocky valley, and from there it was a gradual descent for the next 8km, bar a couple of uphill/downhill sections (those hills in the middle distance).  I may have run a bit harder than I should have here. I felt good and wanted to take advantage of the downhill, but possibly paid for it later.

By that, I mean I hit a bad spot.  By the 12 km mark I was jog/walking, and not just the uphill portions either.  I began to think that I was not even halfway, yet physically done.  I had gone out too fast. All those people I had passed were now passing me.  I took a second gel and jog/walked the next couple of kilometres.  I fell behind the group I had been running with.  Can I tell you that I actually started crying here?

I wimpered feeling sorry for myself for a hundred metres or so until I heard someone run up behind me, which prompted me to get my act together. "Suck it up, Buttercup" suddenly popped into my head and seemed to jolt me back into a better space.  I know this saying came from reading Christy's blog, so I've gotta give you a big thanks Christy!

I nibbled on some dates and pecans while I struggled onwards and upwards, walking the hills, jogging the flats, taking a tumble (grazed knee), and running the descents as fast as I could.  Eventually the kilometre markers started popping up with more regularity.  The course headed west between the mountains following a relatively dry river bed, sometimes crossing its tributaries, sometimes serpentining through knee-high scrub, but mostly across gravelly tussock-strewn desert.

I forgot to charge my watch fully and it died somewhere around the 21km mark!
At one stage I looked up to Ruapehu and suddenly realised we had almost made our way to the other side of the mountain.  Soon we came to the Tama Lakes (which were dry) and I knew we would soon be joining the 13km course that I ran last year.  Something about being familiar with the course gives you a new confidence, or maybe it was the end in sight, but I felt a lot better by now.  My hips were stiff but my legs still managed to shuffle along on auto mode.  I even found myself running some little uphill sections!

Finally we reached the long descent into the bush.  My legs were a bit shaky on the downhills by now so I had to be a bit careful.  Last year I skipped happily past the Taranaki Falls like mountain goat, but this year I felt like an ultramarathoner just trying to make it to the finish in one piece!  The bush provided welcome shade, and I concentrated on lifting my feet here as this is where I tripped on a root last year.  I did come across a runner who had fallen, she looked pretty shaken but was OK and being assisted by others.  

The last kilometre of this course is an uphill climb out of the bush and towards the Chateau - which I mostly walked.  I managed to put on a running performance for the photographer though!

Thank you photos4sale for the awesome shots and cheery face out on the field!
 Boy, was I glad to see the course marshalls directing us into the downhill track about a hundred metres to the finish!  With newfound energy I ran as fast as I could, passing a couple of runners, through the puddle, over the bridge to the green lawn and the finish line.

Whew!  I sat down to take off my transponder and didn't want to get up!  My hips felt really tight, but a lot better after a few stretches.  My finish time was 3:37:59 - that's 12/29 in my age group, and 49/103 women overall.  It was a great feeling to lie down and relax at the event base with some GU recovery drink and a Speight's Cider (probably counter-productive, I know!)

Thanks to Total Sport and the awesome sponsors - Marmot, GU, Rocktape, Inov8, Speights, Jack's Links, Blackmores and the Chateau Tongariro :)
 My husband had a good day too, running the 13km and finishing second in his age group!  He asked me yesterday if I would do the 26km again next year or stick to the 13km.  I hesitated, but said 26km.  Today I know I wouldn't hesitate - it is such an amazing experience I couldn't let another opportunity to run it pass.

Go on - put it on your bucket list!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Summer Running

I officially declare it too hot to run in Auckland.  Every run lately has been a suffer-fest, so I advise that everyone stay at home in air conditioned comfort rather than attempt feats of endurance outside.  

running skirt, knobbly knees, and Mizuno WR16's #2
Today I wore my HRM to make sure I took it easy on my long run (short 12-13k taper version), and I can assure you that my HR was about 10bpm higher than usual. Especially when I saw all these people lazing around doing things like this:

Pt Chevalier Beach
Do they not have anything better to do?  I briefly considered what their heart rates might be but that only made me feel hotter, and look at the blatant cheek of this person:

...So you get the picture - today's run wasn't great.  I'm starting to think I've over committed myself with next weekend's 26km off-road run.

Full of negative vibes and convinced I would be walking most of the Tussock Traverse, I turned down a road for home and saw this sign speaking to me:

 Race mantra sorted :)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tussock Traverse Training

Training lately has been aimed at the Tussock Traverse 26km mountain run which is coming up on January 25th.  Last year I ran the 13km event and had such a great time that I have decided to step up to the 26km - the true 'traverse' that crosses the volcanic plateau between Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe.  Exciting, no?  It will be my longest distance so far, and I'm starting to feel slightly err, intimidated.

I've found running lately really hard, I think due to the humidity we've been having here in Auckland, so hopefully running will feel a lot easier down in the central plateau. I've been following a half marathon training plan that I found in an old Runner's World magazine, but it has been interrupted a few times.  After the Speight's West Coaster my quads took almost a week to recover, and what I thought was an easy jog/walk up and down Baldwin Street in Dunedin, which just happens to be the steepest street in the world, also took a few days to get over.  Moral of that story - never cool down with a 4 hour car journey!

I'm pleased to report that I did run regularly on my holiday (which was mainly driving around the South Island visiting family).  The most memorable run was an awesome 9km trail from Queenstown to Sunshine Bay around the edge of Lake Wakatipu - while the sun rose over the Remarkables (heartjumps!) (I wish I took my phone and some photos to show you!) (better still, come and run it yourself!)

Just to give you an idea, here are a couple of shots from the next day as we drove up the lake to Glenorchy:

Back home in Auckland I have done a long 17km run, and hope to get an even longer one in next week before I start to taper for race day.  The 17km was a struggle - it was 28C, 95% humidity and I decided to run up Mt Eden first.  At the top I felt so bad I considered turning for home, but the descent was kinda fun so I stuck to my original plan and continued on to One Tree Hill.  At this time of year my small water bottle is my friend on runs around town as I stop to refill it at water fountains as needed, but I struggled to find water on the route home - and silly me had no money!  Eventually I ran past a cafe with a beautiful looking jug of iced water sitting tantalisingly close to the entrance, and they didn't mind a hot, sweaty, salt encrusted runner quenching her thirst and appreciating a moment of air-conditioning.

(PS: I've since got another 17km run in.  It was slightly cooler and I felt a lot better for it!  I planned on 20km but my route worked out shorter than expected, and my knee started to get sore towards the end so maybe that was a good thing.)

Because the Tussock Traverse is in a mountain environment there is some compulsory gear for the race, like a jacket, thermals and stuff.  I just need to get an emergency blanket, and maybe another small water bottle to carry if it is going to be warm - my hydration pack carries 2L which is the minimum recommended, and there are no aid stations out on the course.

As far as shoes go, I'll wear my oldest pair of Wave Riders.  I've tried, but I don't feel comfortable running in my current trail shoes, so it is now official that they are retired to hiking duty.  Maybe one day they will be hiking here:

At the (eastern) start of the Routeburn Track

Do you have an event coming up that is exciting you? Yes!
Did you do any awesome holiday running? Yes!
What is next on your running wish-list? Trail shoes, Wave Rider 17's, sunglasses, a better sunblock!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Year of Running

Happy New Year everyone!  

Now that it is 2014 it is time to look back at last year in running - overall it looked like this:

You can see when I was injured in May/Jun, and in July my half marathon training built up until October's taper, and a subsequent recovery period in Nov.

Ignoring the fact that there were a few runs not recorded on my watch during the year (especially in Apr/May when it was in for repair), I ran a total of 1231 kilometres for the year and spent 144 hours running.

I'm getting faster!  My pace trend is going up and my average pace is now 6:47/km (although that's a rough guide as I don't stop my watch at drink stops/traffic lights/intervals/etc).

Let's look at my 2013 goals and see how successful I was.

You know I love Total Sport and I did run as many of their races as I could, although my injury prevented me running as many as I wanted to, especially the winter Xterra series where I only completed race 1.  My Total Sport list for the year goes like this:

All great memories, and I hope to do a lot more in 2014.

I also ran Round the Bays and race one of the Unitec run series.  I don't plan to do either again - Round the Bays is so crowded it is pointless, and the Unitec run series isn't my type of thing, especially if it clashes with my training plan.

The Auckland Half Marathon was my goal event for the year, and I ran a time of 2:10 which I am happy with for my first half.  Plus it gives me a new goal to beat next time!
That's a total of 7 events, not quite the 13 in 2013 that I planned for!  This goal expired when I became injured, but also because I realised that completing a set number of races didn't excite me. My motivation to run a race is the challenge, the experience, and the location, rather than the quantity.

This year I failed also in staying injury free.  My ITB flared up on a training run and took several months to settle down.  It still begins to niggle if I don't keep up my foam rolling and strengthening exercises, so I live in fear am pretty good at doing them (semi)regularly.  This year I also attended several free Yoga sessions at Lululemon, and Pilates for Runners at my local physio.  I enjoy the Yoga and intend to go more regularly, and I believe Pilates really helps me stay straight, balanced and hopefully injury-free as a consequence, so I'll definitely keep that up too!

I haven't done anything about joining a running group. I'm not sure I want that commitment now, part of what I like about running is you can do it anytime, anywhere, when you feel like it.  All independent like.

Personal Bests - wow, failure plus!  I set two really easily attainable 5 and 10 km goals and haven't even attained one - because I haven't run a proper race!  Actually I did run a 5km race but I was recovering from injury, and I wasn't too far off my 28min goal, finishing in 28:39.  I expect my goal of a 60min 10km should be attainable as I ran one in 63mins on a training run.  I'd like to make some personal bests a priority this year!

Purchases throughout the year went according to plan - and more!  I found a great running bra in the Under Armour Armour Bra.  I also bought some Salomon Crossmax trail shoes which are a great shoe but I'm not sure they are for me - my runs in them seem harder and I gravitate naturally to my Mizuno Wave Riders. Now they were a good buy - I now have two pairs!  I'm excited to try a pair of  Wave Rider 17's soon.  I'm turning into a real Mizuno girl with a pair of Sayonara's and eyeing their Ascend trail shoe too...

An additional purchase was a heart-rate monitor.  I wear this on my easy and long runs to make sure I run slow.  Another great purchase was my hydration pack - I love just looking at it because it oozes adventure, and I'm looking forward to putting it to good use next year - whoops, this year!

Have a good one!

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