Sunday, October 26, 2008

Adventures in rain, more rain, and mud, and popping the Makara cherry again

Right- grab a coffee, some chocolate and a cuddly blanket, cos it's time for another mammoth update from the girl with no concept of focus...

Well- what a fantastic weekend! Only a nutty triathlete can enjoy a weekend of ice cold rain, southerlies and odd patches of sun. The fact that it's a long weekend, so I have tomorrow to recover before 1:45 of hill repeats (bike) on Tuesday. Eeek...

Not much to report, but it fit in chronologically.. Went for our first sea swim of the season- P's first wetsuit swim ever! It was salty and lovely and cold. Did two trips around the fountain- about 1500m in total. No watch, so no idea how long it took.

Only got one bike in this week- we were supposed to head out on Thursday morning, but the weather was awful, so made it Thursday evening, then P remembered he had a beer tasting, and I couldn't face hill reps up busy Mt Vic alone. Also couldn't face the evil trainer, so ended up running hills by myself, and decided to give the poor legs a rest on Friday when P got up for his ride. Instead, I had a gorgeous sleep- and don't regret it a bit, as the legs were in for a big weekend.

We headed out for our ride on Saturday afternoon (about 12:30). P had some big gear reps on a false flat, so we decided to do them on the Makara loop. I was a little nervous- I've run Makara a few times, and I knew the descent was steep and windy (when I've run it, it's been a climb), and that the climb up the other side was steepish (turns out it's not bad at all, but I didn't know that).

It was relatively clear when we left, but we knew it was likely to rain later in the day. We headed around the bays from home, and stayed on the road along the quays, up Bowen and then up Glenmore. I was a little nervous about Glenmore- not because it's hard, but it's longish, and there's plenty of climbing after it, and even though I'm losing weight and gaining leg strength, I'm still sturdy, and my legs are weaker than my lungs. Sailed up fine, and found the ride up through Karori a lot easier and funner than expected. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the ride up Makara Road which was, quite frankly, a bitch of a climb. Short, but just steep enough to be a bloody pain! I really will have to start doing P's hill reps with him!

I was pretty nervous about the Makara descent, and it wasn't my best work, but it was not too bad at all. I don't think I'll be climbing it any time soon, but it's in the future somewhere! There were a couple of nasty corners, and quite a few cars out, but made it to the bottom unscathed, and exhilarated. The next bit, notsomuch. My poor old 100% aluminium bike really does not like rough roads, so lovely country roads are more of a chore than they should be (Whitemans too....) That led to slacking off, which led to shouting at P (for people who like each other a lot, we shout plenty on the bike....), which led to working hard, which led to frustration and deflation. Climbing up the J'ville side was just what I needed- as I mentioned earlier, it feels harder when you run down than when you ride up, and included some lovely respites to really hammer. I love hammering :)

P warned me that the descent down Ironside would be tough, so I readied myself and prepared to brake. As we cruised over the top of the hill, the heavens opened, and we spent the entire descent being absolutely pummelled by rain. You'd think this would bother me- anyone who's ever read this blog knows what a moaner I am when it comes to cycling- but it was abso-freakin-lutely brilliant. Just mad fun!

From J'ville, it was back through Ngaio again. The rain eased until we hit the descent (the one I was so proud of a couple of weeks ago). I rode down sensibly, but not too overcautiously, loving the rain and the riding, and whooped when I met P at the bottom. Back round the quays and the bays in the bouncing rain. We had another hour or so to get in, and some 85% efforts, so we headed for the safety of the bays. We started our first 85% effort after the pedestrian crossings along Oriental Parade, and it just went on and on and on. 15 minutes is a bloody long time! It was at this point that I discovered my biggest problem on the bike- my legs! I was pushing the poor wee things as hard as they could go, but my HR was stubbornly stable... P was in sight for the first few minutes, until the headwinds got the better of me, and I lost him. It seemed like forever before I saw him again, spinning along towards Shelley Bay. The second effort (Scorching to,depressingly, not far past Breaker Bay) was beastly. Headwinds the whole way, going all out to hit 26-29 kph. To give some context to the wind- I was pedalling in my big ring down the Pass of Branda, and getting absolutely smashed by the wind- I'm not sure I even got over 30. Then cruised home, the tail wind pushing us through Kilbirnie at 29-30kph. Total of 70-something ks, a pathetically slow average speed, and a lot of confidence.

Two runs of note this week. The first was on Thursday,after I decided I wasn't going to do Mt Vic reps alone and I sure as heck wasn't going to be hanging with Coach Troy. I planned a route through some unexplored hills, and was raring to go (it's a little sad that I get so excited about unexplored hills). It was one of those fantastic runs- just me and my ipod, and a good, strong, solid pace. One of those days when you get to an intersection and think "Hmm. Up, or down? Why- UP of course!" I even added a super extra hill at the end. Nothing super flash, but after a decent week (I'd done 2 gym sessions, a hilly run, and 2 swims before it), and before a decent weekend, I was happy with how strong I felt.

The other run was Xterra race 3. This was the last of the series (boo!) and might just have been my favourite- if only because of the sheer madness of it all. The course can be divided into two parts- the first up 4wd trails over some farmland. Great fun terrain- not a hard hill by Xterra standards, but hard enough. I started off running with my sister's fiance (as of last weekend!!)- with me reining him in, and him spurring me on. I loved being able to power up it "in my big gear", rather than huffing and puffing up with tiny goat steps. And, of course, I loved having a 9 at the front of my (mile) pace instead of a 17!! I even loved the ice cold run, though I wasn't such a fan of the brisk, strong southerly headwind that seemed to meet us every time the climbing eased off. After a decent slog (20 minutes?), we reached the top and turned into the forest. By this point D was a good bit ahead of me, and I'd given up any hope of catching him. It stayed reasonably easy- undulating with some decent enough climbs, and some fun downhills, plenty of mud, puddles and water flowing along the trails. It was GREAT seeing 6s and 7s on the Garmin during a trail run- the other two had such awful downhills that even those were in the teens.

Then, after 1:20, it was into the bush for the dreaded technical section. I had a bit of a *moment* here, as the time suggested for "leisurely" runners was 1:45, and the technical section was supposed to take a good half hour. Feeling slower than "leisurely" did nothing for my confidence, and having no idea how much was left threw me a bit. The sharpish rocky uphill didn't help, as my legs had had a hard week, and a particularly hard Saturday. Plus, I'd failed to heed the RD's warning, and I'd left way too much out there on the easy bit of the course. Luckily, I had the foresight to preserve some shred of confidence by starting a new lap, so that the nasty roots and rivers wouldn't mess up my lovely 9:29 average.

The first part of the single track (after the beastly rocks) was great fun. BIG puddles of goopy mud, river crossings (for "ankle deep" read "upper calf"), and a complete wild goose chase trying to keep to the track. I was drenched, my feet hadn't been dry for 90 minutes, and I was having a ball. Unfortunately, I was getting hungry, my glasses were spotted with raindrops, I'd dropped my last jelly bean in the mud, and the sunlight glinting through the canopy was messing with my vision and depth perception. People started passing me again. The worst moment was seeing the way out and running past it to complete an extra loop (*as it turned out, lots of people thought this was so unfair that they just skipped the extra loop, and some people couldn't find their way out at all, so the "official" times will be a complete mess). Finally, I was out, and I could see my sister's fiance across the river. I shouted out, and splashed my way across, then realised he was walking. I caught up and found out that both his calves had cramped up (while he's a natural athlete, he hasn't run over 10k for years, and this was about 18...) Luckily, he could manage a jog, and we didn't have far to go.

One more river, with Jenn and P cheering from the other side, up the bank and we were done. I was irritated to see a colleague of P's finishing in front of me as I'd passed her early on and hadn't seen her again, but it turned out she'd made a couple of mistakes with the course, and no-one thought she'd actually beaten me (yes-I'm a bit sad, but I worked HARD to beat her!!)

I can't praise the Xterra events enough- great race shwag for series entrants, great courses, great tunes and GREAT post race food. For anyone who has a chance to enter next year- DO IT!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Happy thoughts distract me from Day 2 rumbly tummy. invites! nearly done!

...Wellington on some good days:

Sunset, from Mt Vic lookout during our Thursday night run

Oriental Bay on Sunday afternoon

Phil up the stairs on the Eastern Walkway (I kicked myself after resolving to run each set of stairs on the way back...)

View of Breaker Bay from Eastern Walkway

And, in the distance, on the right, those white blurry bits aren't clouds, they're snow topped mountains on the South Island. Trust me- spectacular in real life

Happy, Mr Scott? ;)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Retrospective blue

I'm off sick today (trying to shake off a cough and a bit of a chest- I'm absurdly paranoid about bronchitis as a few colleagues have been sick), and what better to do than reading my archives.

Not a good idea. It feels like I haven't improved anything. Same old issues, only I'm 15lb heavier and a minute/mile slower. Whoopeee. My fellow beginners from back then are running 45 minute 10ks, and sub-5:30 half-IMs, and here I am, wondering if I'll ever go sub-50 again, and just hoping to get round the damn course.

Also got my nutrition plan from the nutritionist today. It's depressing how little I get to eat, and I'm feeling very glum about the shape I'm in, and lettng myself get this way. I'm sad to say goodbye to chocolate, PB and cheese.

Oh, and I'm sad that I'm not working out today. And that I can't do anything to undo the leftover panang gai (homemade, at least). And that I'm back to adding (/wanting to add) workouts to remedy calorie splurges.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Blue mountains

Following last week's successes on the bike, I was looking forward to the mission of the week. In fact, I spent Tuesday planning adventures on the bike for every weekend until the Half IM. This week, P's coach had set him a time trial up the blue mountains and through Whiteman's Valley out to Wallaceville Hill, so we decided to adventure out together (though I planned to ride the "TT" at a much easier pace).

We set off a little later than planned (about 9am), and cruised around the bays. There was a headwind, but it wasn't too bad (though it did stick with us for a good 2 hours...) We rode along the waterfront rather than along the quays- the quays are fine for the way home, but there isn't much room for bikes on the way out. Not as many pedestrians to dodge (last time, although the weather was average at best, it was around midday and the waterfront was pretty packed).

Our speed along Thorndon Quay and SH2 was nothing to write home about. Spinning, easy gears, headwind. I felt much more comfortable in the traffic (a few lane changes getting onto the motorway). I ate a piece of Clif Bar (mmm- choc mint is my favourite!!!) every half hour, and drank a lot more frequently than usual (I'm starting to get the hang of this thing).

Stopped in Silverstream to take off the arm warmers and have a bit of a stretch and regroup before the TT. Pilfered some water from P, and he gave me some directions. Cyclists everywhere- it's a popular route. There was a race out there this afternoon, so we wanted to be well out of the way before we started.

Then it was time to climb. Here's the "TT" section of the ride:

So, not crazy nasty, but not easy either (note- numbers are miles, not ks). I am not used to climbing (and sadly, my power to weight ratio is not best suited to it), so the next few weeks are all about becoming better acquainted with my triple. Fun times. This climb taught me that I can keep moving up, even when I don't want to. I even caught people. I later saw that they were both relatively husky, so not surprising that they weren't the strongest climbing.

I thoroughly recommend this ride. The climb's a challenge, and the descent isn't really long enough to make up much speed, but it's lovely. Views out over the Hutt and towards the Rimutakas, surrounded by bush, changing to farmland. The roads are narrow, but drivers seemed used to cyclists and were mostly very polite. Apart from one SUV filled with very cool kids, who clearly enjoyed cyclist heckling. I'm not sure what they shouted at me, though it ended in bitch. P got "nice pink jersey, faggot!" (fair point, the jersey's pretty gay...) Just realised that they must have had at least some familiarity with cycling- would a non-cyclist say "jersey"?

I cruised down the hill, and for a good part of the next few ks. The descent, as you can see, is punctuated by tiny ups, and with the wind, it felt like a false flat to both of us. The husky dudes passed me, and I debated joining the back of their back, but couldn't really be bothered- the sun was shining, the chip was pretty rough and there was a slight headwind, so I decided to take it easy. Met P coming back from Wallaceville hill. He said I wasn't too far behind him, but I was. I was a bit worried about the next climb, until I discovered it wasn't really a climb at all- it's just the wee lump at the end of the picture (though I swear it was bigger than that). The descent was OK- not easy, but not too bad. A bit windy (as in corners, not as in wind), and a bit lumpy, but not bad. Still not great on the descents, but getting better.

We headed back to Silverstream the back way- past Rimutaka prison, and through the burbs. It was 12:30ish, we'd done 60k, and we had 35ish to go, so we paused for lunch from the world famous Silverstream bakery. Best chelsea bun ever!

Then back along the motorway. The first bit's quite nice- a big wide verge, and the road's OK. We had a tail wind, but stayed in medium gears and cruised at 30km/h instead of pushing the big cog. Not as satisfying, but I think the right decision.

We rode through Frank Kitts again on the way back. It was a gorgeous day, and the wind had pretty much died down, so unsurprisingly it was completely jam packed. I am much more confident riding slowly than I was a few weeks ago.

Home at 97.23 km. I couldn't be bothered pottering around to add the extra, not least because we live on a hill (like everyone else in Wellington), but I have to say the legs felt fine. It seems food is a very good idea!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ahh, Thursday!

Thursday is swiftly becoming my favourite day of the (working) week.

At 5am the alarm goes off, and we turn to each other. There's no debating about whether or not to get up. We just do it. Fruit toast, coffee if I'm quick, on with knee and arm warmers, bike shorts, hi-liter vests. Water bottles filled, bento boxes packed.

By 5:30 we're on our way. Bright lights flashing, cruising to Cobham Drive, and spinning it out to Miramar. Around the loop, up and down over and over again, until it gets light enough to head out round the bays.

Past the Interislander as the sun rises, pushing the pace around Shelley Bay, and laughing over the speed bumps. Powering over the Pass of Branda, coming over the crest, looking out to the lighthouse. Cruising down the other side, and pushing along Breaker Bay, before rounding the corner, straight into the Kaikouras in the distance.

Through Lyall Bay, watching the buses waking up, and gritting teeth as the bike vibrates. Savouring the small stretches of smooth road!

A wave to our reception venue on the way up the hill ("hill" in the loosest sense of the word), then letting go of the brakes on the way down.

A quick stretch in Island Bay, then back we go. Finishing strong, dodging buses. Up the hill, and then we're home.

Seriously- what a way to start the day!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A confidence booster

Today we finally got round to having the bike adventure I've been planning for weeks. It was thwarted by Xterra races, wind and travel, and I'm actually glad we waited til today- partly because I was feeling a little more confident after Thursday's morning ride, and partly because it meant we got to ride with our friends D and A.

We headed out to ride the long way to Freyberg (to avoid the Cescent, which was my undoing last week). We were running a bit late, and it was fun pushing a slightly faster pace in a bigger gear for a change. Met D&A and headed around the waterfront (hate that part- blimmin pedestrians everywhere). I was a bit nervy about the lights, but they were fine- thanks to P, who now knows how to guide me through traffic.

We rode along Thorndon Quay, then onto the Hutt motorway. I hadn't ridden the motorway before, but it was fine. About 20k or so along, we turned up to go over the Haywards. A tough climb, made tougher by my bike's reluctance to shift down into my triple (thank god for the triple!) Stopped briefly part way up, so P could fiddle my gears. The descent was pretty fun-I'm getting much better at letting go of the brakes, and P said he was surprised by how soon after the boys I arrived. The seal wasn't the greatest, but at least it was consistent.

Next we headed around Whitby. I was a bit stuffed by this point (only 40 or so ks in!) and took some time to enjoy the view of the Pauatahanui inlet, which looked lovely, even on a grey day. P was too far ahead, so I was pulling D&A (both of whom I'm sure were cursing being stuck behind me), and my legs were fading fast. I wonder if running 1:50 on the road yday had anything to do with that??

Then it was out to Porirua, and round towards Tawa. I called another stop in Tawa- bought a Mizone rapid to fill my water bottle, and stretched my shoulders out a bit. I felt like a bit of a wimp, but I knew there was another climb to J'Ville, and also some nasty roundabouts. I realised on Thursday just how much being hungry affects me on the bike, so I'm going to work MUCH harder on nutrition. The J'Ville hill was one of those nasties that shouldn't be so bad, but because it's on the way home, it really is. I made full use of my triple, and made plans for lots and lots of leg strengthening work.

After J'ville, we headed through to Ngaio. The rollers seemed more like mountains to me, but around this time, the calories I'd ingested in Tawa kicked in, and I felt much better. Finally, we were at the top of Kenya St and ready to head down. I was crapping myself at the thought of riding down Ngaio, which I've only ever run up before (one of my favourite running hills). But it was fine- some of the switchbacks threw me a bit, and I had a few moments of screechy brake action, as I overestimated my cornering skillz ;)

P congratulated me at the bottom, as I was nowhere NEAR as gammy on the descent as usual. I was buzzing! It had started to rain, and the day was feeling pretty long, so we decided to skip coffee at La Cloche, and to just head home. D&A turned off, and P and I headed round the Quays back to Oriental Bay. The rain started in earnest, my tummy rumbled, and I suggested a number of far-fetched shortcuts to avoid the headwinds on the way home. Sadly, the only way to avoid the headwind is to Go Straight Up. No thanks! So we trudged back around the bays, me trying to stay tucked in behind P's wheel. The only thing that kept me going was the distance reading edging up to 80!

The last couple of ks, up Wellington Rd and through Hataitai, were uneventful. I usually power up the hills, but today I "practiced spinning". Finally got home, 82k's later. It took a good wee while, but I'm really pleased with today's effort- especially as we're about to head out to Masters now!

Last learning- crunchy peanut butter on fresh grainy bread is a damn good recovery snack.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Yet another update.

I never manage to blog when things happen, so I think we're going to be continuing in this vein for awhile. Using buckeye is partly to blame- now my wee rants and observations go straight up there, and then get lost to all but my remarkable team members :)

So, here we go again...

1- Swim

Nothing to report. Not swimming enough (it's been twice a week if I'm lucky, though this week'll be three). P will be smashing me in the pool before too long if this keeps up! Enjoying Masters and Monday Squad, in quite different ways. Also discovered, which is a bit limited but gave me a far funner workout than the standard ones at the pools!

2- Bike

All going well(ish), apart from the effin gusty northerlies that greet us every Saturday. Last week they got the better of me and we ended up grumpy at home on beastly trainer; this week I joined A for 2 hours of her 2nd to last long run, and, well, running was bad enough! Knock wood and fingers crossed for tomorrow to be a better day (rain clearing, southerly change).

Luckily our morning rides have been going well (if not, I'd be even more bitter about the cr*p hands we've been handed in the weekends). We've been doing 1-2 hours, 1-2 mornings a week, with some rollers, and some glorious coastal flats. Next week I'm planning to graduate to some actual climbing. Am feeling very VERY scared about Rotorua, but finally feel like I'm getting there on the bike, however slowly. I didn't even cry when rotten P took me through the manic roundabout by the airport at 7 in the morning.

3: Run

Run's fine. I did another of the Xterra races last weekend. It wasn't quite as hard a course as the first time, and the "long" course was disappointingly short (*not even remotely disappointing at the time!

The morning of the race was freezing, but the southerly passed, and last Sunday was a simply beautiful day (perfect for re-doing Saturday's aborted ride, but I had a baby shower to attend). This was lucky- because running up the tip track (which looks like this)

(Thanks Scottish!)

for THIRTY FIVE minutes (OK, OK- I ran slower than everyone else walked, at roughly the speed of an elderly tortoise) was worth it for views something like this:

(Thanks Phil C's flickr for the nicked pic)

.. only thousands of times more magnificent.

I've been doing a bit more running during the week too, and am happyish with my times- they're slow, but I feel strong, and ready for the nasty Rotorua run. That's if I make it there before 7 hours.....

I took some pictures of Wellington on a Good Day. More than that- an absolutely MINT day (Pip- I'm sure you remember Thursday...) After I strolled home along the waterfront (surrounded by smiling happy Welly people) and P rode home, we ran up to the Mt Vic lookout (from our place, which is halfway there) and jostled with half of Wellington and a bus load of tourists for a piece of the view. The Rimutakas were amazing! It reminded me of my old bootcamp route at Mt Vic, and we've decided to start doing it some mornings- we'll need the stair training! I'd love to make you all jealous, but my camera is flat,and I'm on P's laptop. Plus, today's a real stinker, so I'd feel like a bit of a fraud!