Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday run: Cambridge

No further comment...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


CAVEAT: This post sets out my personal opinion on what’s right for me. I’m not meaning to criticise anyone else’s decisions, but if you feel as if I’m being rude, please feel free to let me know- nicely!

Once or twice (ok, ten or twenty times) every season, and a few times every off season, I get a flash of the “should I?”s

Should I just bite the bullet and do Ironman? (well, an iron distance race… I’m a Wanaka girl at heart…)

Why not? I know it’s on my bucket list, I’ve built up a decent enough endurance base, I’m financially secure, child free, and working fairly predictable, ordinary hours. Now’s really the best time for me to take on that challenge…

But deep inside, I feel like Ironman is something that (for me) has to truly be earned, and I don’t think I’m anywhere near earning the right to race yet. I’ve always felt a little uneasy when non-runners or non-triathletes take the plunge from couch to marathon, or mini-tri to ironman. No disrepect to them- everyone chooses how they want to challenge themselves to achieve their goals, they put the hours in, and their ironman is as much of an achievement as anyone else’s, but that journey is not for me.

For me, respecting the distance and respecting the sport go hand in hand. I did 8 half marathons, and took over ten minutes off my time before I ever considered doing a full, and I think that’s the way I’ll approach Ironman too. I didn’t want to be a marathoner- I wanted to be a runner. And now, I don’t want to be an ironman- I want to be a triathlete. It’s not about how slow or fast you complete it, it’s about how seriously you take it. And for me, in my endurance sport journey, completing an ironman for the sake of striking it off the bucket list, just isn’t taking it seriously enough. I’ve said to Phil before, and I’m saying it *out loud* now:

I will not do Ironman unless or until I am fit enough to aim for a sub-13 finish (*or I turn 49, if that happens first…)

I don’t care if my first Ironman is sub-13 or not. But at this stage of my fitness, I want to know that sub 13 (or even sub 12:30) is in my reach, because that’s when I’ll know I’m ready. Does that make sense?

Stay tuned for my non-Iron race plans for the season later this week!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Guest Post!

I'm guest posting at Modernation today while Amanda rides a (full proper imperial) century. It's a post I'd been planning to use here with my tips for new cyclists, so please check it out and leave a comment there :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Huntly Half 2010: 10k race report

Today I ran my first standalone 10k since 2007 (when I ran what's still my disappointing 10k PB of 47:54 to finally break 48:00 ).

I had no idea what to expect- apart from my recent MAF test (and a couple of super sprint tris), I haven't run faster than about a 6 minute k, or at a heart rate over 155, since I started training again in March- but I thought I could do OK. I didn't really have a *goal* per se, but I think my rough ideas were:

Exceeds expectations: anything sub 48
Outstanding: anything between 48 and about 49:30
Acceptable: anything sub 52
Poor: 53ish
Dreadful: 54-55ish
Troll: over 55

I warmed up for about 90 seconds (lame), with a few pick-ups. I found that my "fastish" pace in warm up tended to be in the mid-high 4:00s (4:37-4:40 ish), which I thought was a good sign. But my legs were feeling stiff even from the start- I definitely should be doing more stretching, as this past week hasn't exactly been a tough one, and I probably should have warmed up better too.

I seeded myself in the middle-front of the pack- in a position I think probably roughly reflected my eventual finishing time. But I saw a disturbing number of baggy capris, logo t-shirts and sensible shoes around me, and realised I'd be running right into the back of people as soon as we started. So, I skipped forward another 7 rows or so, until I felt like I was seeding myself rather optimistically. But I was STILL surrounded by muppet walkers. Sigh! Why is this a problem in every race??!!! It's not rocket science!

Luckily, it didn't take too long to get through, and within a minute or so the field had spread out pretty well. I looked down at my garmin (which was set to show lap pace, time and distance, and to autolap every 1k) and it said 4:14. Oops!

Although I've done a few half marathons recently, most of my racing has been in tris or dus and it was strange starting running on fresh-ish legs. I checked my pace so it slowed to about 4:37, but it kept sneaking down again, and I finished the first k in around 4:35 thinking either I'm going to crush my PB, or I'm going to blow up spectacularly. I hoped for the former, but suspected the latter was more likely.

I kept a more sensible pace for the next couple of ks. They were a little hillier- with about 4 wee bridge climbs over ks 1-5, and a bit off offroad grass running. Nothing to complain about, but it does slow you down maybe 5-10s a k, I think. I certainly noticed that, although my pace stayed safely in the high 4:40s/low 4:50s on the road, it crept up towards the 5:00s on the grass and gravel.

I raced a blonde girl in a baby blue t-shirt, and a guy with gross hair, a way too loose offwhite wife-beater and too much visible underarm. Really, I should have made it my aim to pass wife-beater guy and find some tastier eye candy! I think I hooked up with this group at around 3 or 4k, and I finished within probably 30s to a minute of all of them. I think the fact that, on the whole, I spent most of the race with roughly the same people suggests that although I undeniably started too fast, my gradually slowing pace was due at least in part to the changes in the course- from road, to bridge, to grass, to gravel.

I hit 5k in about 24:20, and knew a PB was out of the question. I wasn't supposed to be looking at my HR, but I caught a glimpse as I whizzed past it to check time and average overall pace at 5k, and it was in the mid 180s. I was definitely starting to feel it, but knowing I only had lap markers 6, 7 and 8 to go before I got to drop the hammer for the last km kept me moving along- and so did my ongoing race with baby blue girl!

The last few ks (I think from 7 to 9.5ish) were almost entirely on the gravel lake walkway. Although I think it slowed me down (I saw some disturbingly high 5:20s and worse during this section), I really liked the feeling of making my way around the lake- I could see roughly where the finish area was on the other side of the lake, and chipping away at the remaining distance bit by bit was remarkably satisfying (unlike at Blue Lake, where the beach seems to keep moving away as you run around the lake track!). My race with baby blue girl intensified- we were at the awkward stage where we were running at about the same pace, so neither could properly pass the other. Every time I moved to pass, I had to keep the pace up for quite a while before moving back to the left. And sure enough, as soon as I did it, she'd be ahead again- but just close enough to my pace that she felt slightly "in the way"... if that makes sense.

I finally passed her for real around the 9km marker. I knew the last k would not be over quickly, but was pretty confident I could pick up the pace a bit. I remember looking at my watch 30s or so after the autolap changed over and realising that I only had an 800 left. I remembered all of those fast 800s I did, back when I was a runner, and tried to knuckle down.

Not far before the finish line, we joined the half marathoners again. They were going for a 2 hour finish, and were cutting it pretty fine, so although we 10k-ers were a little faster, pace-wise, they were more determined. Some were just slow enough to get in the way- but the finish line of a multi-distance race is the one place where I (as a total mid-packer*) don't think the usual "slow gives way to fast" rules apply. If they've run 11ks more than me, I'm not going to get too irritated if they're in my space! I had enough in me to start a couple of sprint-offs with some of the half-marathoners- but not quite enough in the legs to keep them up. Ah well- I feel good knowing I spurred a couple of people to finish 3-5s faster than they might otherwise have ;)

In the end, I crossed the finish line at somewhere around 49:40 on the clock. I probably crossed the mats 10-15 seconds after the gun, so I guess my net time might just slip into the 49:20s, which would be nice. My garmin time is 49:08. That's wrong (I started it a little after the start mats because the damn thing switched off JUST as the gun went off), but if I extrapolate it, I end up with 49:26 or so, so I guess 10-15s off is about right. I suppose that instead of trying to conjure up an answer, I can just wait and see what the official time is!

So, I guess that puts me somewhere between acceptable and outstanding. It certainly feels like an "acceptable" effort to me. But "acceptable" is pretty good really, for an unfit and overweight me!

Splits, for Paul:

AHR 1780 X1.00@ 00:04:37
1830 X1.00@ 00:04:48
1820 X1.00@ 00:04:54
1840 X1.00@ 00:04:55
1850 X1.00@ 00:05:04
1840 X1.00@ 00:05:06
1840 X1.00@ 00:05:11
1850 X1.00@ 00:04:58
1860 X1.00@ 00:05:07
1880 X0.93@ 00:04:25

*of course, it'd be a whole different kettle of fish if I were actually WINNING the 10k and some slow-ass half walkers were in my way. Then there'd be swearing.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

An easy ride

Today's ride was bliss. Because I'm "racing" tomorrow, coach allowed me an easy run or ride, so instead of riding any of our usual hilly loops (Kairangi, Te Miro/French Pass or Maungatautari) we cruised through Cambridge for an out and back towards Te Miro.

The weather was just perfect- clear, sunny and pretty still, and just crisp enough to put our knee and arm warmers on. After 45 minutes, we'd just started to hit the hills, but they were still nice spinny ones and although they screwed our average "out" pace, pedaling fast and hard on the downhill on the way back well made up for it :)

Anyway, there's no great story in this. It was just nice to do an easy ride for a change, and to come back with a semi-respectable average speed for a change too! It was a nice reminder that our shared love of hills mean the routes we usually ride are actually not that easy, and that I'm not quite as slow as I think I am.

Stay tuned for:
  • a "race" report; and
  • my very first guest post
Happy weekend everyone!

PS: I've added some "Pages" at the top of the blog. If you're new or just curious, have a look!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blogland etiquette and a promise

Updated: check this link out. Rachel says it so much better than I do.

First, I should say that I'm not saying this in response to any one incident- anyone who knows me in real life can testify that I've held these views for a long time.

Blogland etiquette has been a subject of interest recently. It seems that, all too frequently, I see bloggers responding to "critical" comment,s or- frankly- anything other than a simpering, "way to go", by playing the victim, and all of their friends jump in to support them, or to take down the "troll."

I'm not talking about rudeness, or meanness. I've seen some horrific comments left on people's blogs, and "trolls" are not some fantasy creature. Reading someone's blog even though they irk the crap out of you, so that you can leave them offensive and nasty comments is never OK. I don't think the fact that a blogger has put his or herself out there is reason enough to abuse them, or treat them with anything other than respect.

But, at the same time, sometimes bloggers, like all people, do things that are wrong. And readers have a right to their own opinion on those things. Bloggers have a lot to gain from attracting as many internet "friends" as possible, and letting them into their lives. When readers come back to a blog again and again, it's because they feel like the blogger's friend, or they wish they were the blogger's friend, and the blogger has succeeded as a personal/exercise/food blogger by cultivating that artificial friendship.

If you want someone's compliments on your race reports, you have to accept their constructive criticism, their frustration and their disappointment, unless it is expressed in a rude or hateful way. If your decisions affect the people who have invested emotionally and financially in you, expect them to hold opinions on those decisions and to react to them. The old adage "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" is helpful, but it has its limitations.

The problem is that if anyone who says anything negative is turned into a "troll", the blog is going to become less and less realistic, and more and more of a fairy tale. Commenters start lying, rather than risking the wrath of the blog world.

My favourite example of this is the food blogger who recently complained about the lack of hummus and falafel at a local Greek restaurant. I don't think any commenter had the guts to point out that hummus and falafel, while delicious, are not Greek! Now, this blogger is not an example of someone who overreacts to criticism- in fact, I've seen her handle it with real class - the example is just there to illustrate the nervousness commenters seem to feel about saying anything remotely controversial.

Maybe this is easier for me to say- I've never been a famous blogger and I never will be. I'll probably never get an offensive comment (*unless too many people read here and assume I'm bagging one of their own*), and I've never had anything other than friendly, well-meaning advice, from my few friends and readers. I have no doubt that I'd be hurt if I did get told off. I'd be hurt if a real life friend told me I was behaving badly, too!

But guys, dear readers of mine, I'll tell you now that you can feel free to tell me to pull my head in when I need it, offer me advice, disagree with any rant or rave I publish, or correct any misguided advice I give. If you're a walker and it upsets you when I complain about clogged race starts? Go ahead and tell me. Maybe I'll learn something. If you're a swimmer with an explanation for the lane hog behaviour I hate- I'd love to know how to understand things better. If you think I'm training too hard/too easy, too long/too short or too slow/too fast. In fact, if you want to tell me to stop bitching about my weight until I'm willing to stop laying off the beer and the curly fries would help me drop the kilos- go for it. But don't call me a fat, moany, knowitall b*tch. Say it nicely, say it with respect, and I hereby undertake to respect you right back.

Who's with me?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cycling: a progress report

My cycling hasn't received a lot of attention here recently, but it's going well.

I built myself a real base last year, and I'm feeling like I'm actually making new gains now, rather than starting over again. I know, it's kinda obvious, but it feels as if I've now finally turned a corner with my cycling, once and for all. I've said goodbye to scared-y Kate once and for all (though there are some things I'll NEVER like), and I'm learning how to avoid hitting my cycling wall as the rides get longer.

Here's what's been happening this week, cycling wise:

Monday: 45 boring minutes on the trainer. No comment- except that I'm now riding my trainer on resistance level 2, after spending the last couple of years on "L" (i.e: not even 1)

Wednesday: 55 minutes of spin at the Cambridge Tavern. We do an aerobic workout not too dissimilar to the sessions Paul gives us- with one-legged drills, some super-spinning, and plenty of big gear work. Oh, and lots of choice nineties music to listen to. The reason I want to talk about spin is because it's made me realise just how much stronger I am now. I watch my HR and my cadence on my Garmin, and when we do our big gear work, it just seems I don't have enough gears ;) On Wednesday, I was working hard not to overdo it, because I was shocked by the gears I was riding, but every time Mark visited me, he'd flick my gears UP. I almost had a heart attack when he pointed out I was riding in a higher gear than Phil, and asked if I kicked his ass on the road!! But then we realised it's because Phil's sadistic trainer increases the resistance exponentially when he's producing more power.. Oh well- I was stoked for a few seconds there!

Saturday : Saturday was our longest ride so far. Phil planned a fairly unforgiving 72k loop, that took in most of the half ironman course (basically, we did the Maungatautari loop from Roto-o-rangi Road, but skipped Norwegian Rd, and finished at home, not in town!) Our legs were stuffed when we started, but we soon started feeling much, and on the whole, it was one of my most successful "long rides" ever. The hills in this route weren't as brutal as the hills on our usual Cambridge rides (Norwegian/Kairangi and Te Miro/French Pass), but there were definitely some steep climbs, and it was one of those rides that was very rarely flat, so you were always concentrating, or climbing, or recovering. The main things I noticed about this ride were that my climbing cadence was much higher than usual, and that I wasn't struggling as much to keep up with Phil. Phil's average power for the ride was 137, and his normalised power was 174, I think. That's pretty good for a "with Kate" ride, and although my numbers would obviously be lower (I'm usually a little behind, and Kate+bike weighs- a wee bit- less than Phil+bike), I can still use Phil's numbers as an OK indicator of my performance, relative to other rides with Phil). One thing I can now say for sure is that I won't be doing the Karapiro half, at least not for a PB!

Sunday: We did our Norwegian/Kairangi/Norwegian route. It's a lovely country loop (including some bits of the Half IM course) with some jolly steep climbs, some fun and some technical descents, and what is (usually) a very fun roller coaster (but wasn't so fun with a headwind). We were both pleasantly surprised by how good we felt after yesterday's efforts and, although our pace was slow, our average and normalised power were pretty good (average 128, norm 172).

So, all in all, a very solid week of cycling, building up on some other pretty solid weeks. Cycling at the moment is my favourite discipline- who ever would have thought it??

Friday, May 14, 2010

In which Hotpotato runs her MAF test and tries not to inhale

Coach Paul has added regular MAF tests into our training, starting from this month. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, visit Phil Maffetone's website (watch out for the dinky music) and this article here.

Briefly, the MAF test is done on a flat piece of road or athletics track. You warm up for (say) 15 minutes, then run 8km at the upper end of your aerobic zone (for me, around 165 bpm), recording each km split, and your average HR for each km.

Phil and I decided to try out the Cambridge track for our MAF test this evening. Since it's so bloody dark and Cambridge spent all its money on freakin' trees instead of streetlighting, we loaded ourselves up with lights (Phil was kind enough to lend me his headlamp, and he ran carrying a MTB light in his hand..)

As soon as we got to the track, it started persisting down. Then we discovered that the Cambride athletics track is made of grass. Great. Running around in the grass and the mud for an hour. Probably not the best "test" surface either, but by this stage it was too late, there wasn't anywhere else we could go, so we sucked it up, and got moving. Oh- and even better. The grass on the track wasn't the only grass around. Some wee Cambridge miscreant was partaking in the space between the track and the neighbouring football field, and the smell was just short of overwhelming every time we looped past!

I found that the 8k main set went by fairly quickly, even though I was running around and around and around a grassy circle. It was quite interesting to identify the *slow* areas in the loop, and to watch my speed pick up while my HR went down in the *fast* areas. As Phil lapped me for the third time, he confirmed that he was finding the same thing.

Anyhoo, the point is to compare progress over time, so here are my splits, for posterity.

AHR 164 1 X 1.00 @ 00:05:29
AHR 166 1 X 1.00 @ 00:05:36
AHR 165 1 X 1.00 @ 00:05:38
AHR 166 1 X 1.00 @ 00:05:35
AHR 166 1 X 1.00 @ 00:05:41
AHR 166 1 X 1.00 @ 00:05:38
AHR 167 1 X 1.00 @ 00:05:40
AHR 167 1 X 1.00 @ 00:05:42

I'm actually pleased with this. Well, it's roughly what I expected to see, anyway. And based on previous research into MAF and race times, it suggests my 5k race pace would be 21:45, which would be a pretty epic PB for me (20s better than my best ever, and about 1:30 better than most of my recent efforts). Huh! Yeah, right!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

MaxWell Overture

Hey-ho, do you know
That mountain biking is really neat
A day in the trails is such a treat
Away from it all, you’ll have a ball
And just pray you don’t have a fall….

A little shaky on A-trail
then Tickler was an epic fail
gripped handlebars til my knuckles were pale
then up and up at the pace of a snail

from frontal lobotomy we had to get down
so we hucked our way down Huckleberry Hound
my love for rollovers was newfound
and adrenaline rushed as we rode around…

Corners with its sweeping berms
and rutted, rooty, crazy turns
I swooped and whooped into the ferns
and up the climbs, I felt the burn

We split for the next half an hour
cos D decided to devour
Chop Suey, Spring Roll, and Sweet and Sour
while I stuck to the roads (because I am slower)

Then it was time to end our ride
Our spouses were waiting and our legs were fried
So after Dragon’s Tail, we turned and sighed
And rode back to base bursting with pride!

But of course we could not go away
without coming out for another play
so we went back for more the very next day
for more adventures- hip hip hooray!

PS: not the original post, I couldn't face writing that novel again!
PPS: I hope you can figure out the tune for this, leave a comment or email me if you want a hint!

Sunday, May 09, 2010


A long, long, LONG post about my MTB adventures on Saturday (with links to all the trails I rode, and videos and EVERYTHING) is ALL GONE.

I'll be back later- but now it's time to drink tea, eat homemade ginger kisses, and watch Modern Family.


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Out of my depth

Phil and I went along to the Hamilton Hawks evening run after work tonight. Phil's been once before, but I missed it because I was in Rotorua for work.

For those of you who haven't who been around since 2005, this was by no means my first foray into club running, so I thought I knew what to expect. I ran with Wellington Scottish (aka best, most awesome running club in NZ) for a couple of seasons when I first started running, and tried my best to maintain my links with them when I started finding Saturday runs more difficult to fit around work and my long Sunday marathon runs.

... but it turns out that the Hawks' Thursday night run was a far cry from my Scottish mid week runs. When I turned up, I noticed a whole lotta tights, compression sleeves and compression socks, and a whole lot of dudes. There were maybe 5 women there, with an average weight of 40-something kilos, and an average body fat percentage of about 12%.

I realised pretty quickly that I wouldn't be able to stick with the group, so just took off and let myself drift back. Before too long, I met an injured ultra marathoner who was kind enough to run with me, a good few minutes behind the rest of the pack, and a hundred metres or so behind the tail end charlie. But it was a mixed blessing, as my new friend's "easy, lagging, recovery" pace was a little over 5:00/ks, even on the undulating course.

I let my ego get the better of me, and, miraculously managed to bluff it for the 7-odd ks we ran togetherjust well enough to hold a semi-comfortable conversation, without puffing too much.

We finished the loop at an average pace of about 5:15/k (AHR 173), and I jogged back for about ten minutes to find Phil, bringing my average pace and HR to more sensible levels.

So, won't be doing that again! (but I am secretly happy that I could hold a semi-respectable pace while chatting and running some wee hills....)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Training together, apart

Now that Phil and I live together, we don't need to spend quite as much of our training time together.

But it's still good to run and ride together when we can, and our training plans are co-ordinated so we are doing roughly the same things one the same days. But running with Phil means I'm huffing and puffing and certainly not running in E1. Or it means he has to run so slowly he's practically walking, which leads to him getting injured because it throws off his gait.

So, we're finding new ways to train together, apart. We've been warming up together, then splitting up, running an out and back, then "cooling down" together, or trying to run loops that will mean we bump into each other part way through.

We discovered a goody the other day. About 2 minutes into our ride, Phil realised he'd forgotten the pump, so he headed home to get it while I rode on. I tried to hold a decent enough pace so he didn't catch up to me too quickly, while he hauled some serious ass to catch up with me by the time I got to the hilly loop that makes up most of our usual ride (he didn't succeed).... So by the time he joined me again, he'd worked a bit harder than usual and was happy to cruise up the hills with me (it helps that my climbing legs have come back pretty quickly)

Pride kept us both motivated while we were apart, and by the time we met I was feeling confident- stoked that I'd held him off for so long, and he was feeling chuffed enough with himself not to get frustrated with me. We got to spend the tail end of our ride gabbing away on the country roads, enjoying the late summer, late afternoon sun.

Training WIN!