Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Not a walk in the park: AKL Half marathon

John and I were up at the crack of dawn so that we could make it down Queen St to catch the ferry sailing across to Davenport where the start line was. We made the 5.10am ferry, so that gave us plenty of time before the start of our event. It was quite a buzz to be amongst so many people, all preparing for a big run.

The organisers did a good job with the number of port-a-loos available, but there was still quite a long queue prior to the start of the race. I guess it's always going to be a logistical problem with over 8,000 participants looking to empty their bladders at around the same time.

Just before the start, I embedded myself in the middle of the pack - it was hard to see much past all the other bodies cramped around mine, a bit of a disadvantage being so short I guess.

The race started at 7am and we were off. It was a calm cool morning, but the sun had risen and it was certain to get much warmer as the morning progressed. The first part of the route was "undulating" (as described in the route info.... An experienced
friend who had done Auckland before described it as "hilly"). So prior to the race, I was trying to ascertain the exact definition of "undulating" - for example, how steep does it really get? How long are the uphill parts?

But even in my darkest imaginings, I did not appreciate what a toll the "undulating" parts of the first half would take on my body. I felt fine while I was doing the hilly bits, and seemed to be on target for a decent time right up to the 10km mark, but by the time I got to the start of the Harbour Bridge, I was feeling the fatigue.

I knew that once I got over the bridge, I would only have just under 6km to go, and I had been told that the rest of the route would be completely flat. So I pushed myself up the bridge, one step in front of the other, refusing to stop even as bodies around me peeled off as more and more people started walking the bridge incline (it was also getting pretty hot by then). I was feeling pretty chuffed when I finally got to the top of the bridge, even mustering up the energy for a quick cheeky thumbs-up and smile for the camera. What came after that was a whole lot uglier....

Just past the bridge was a little loop which seemed to go on forever. I could see runners heading back on the other side of the road, which only meant there was a turnaround point coming up, but I'd turn a corner and would still be unable to see the turnaround point. And right up to the turnaround point was a bit of an uphill incline. Only, it felt more like scaling Mt Everast. That's when I started to fall apart mentally. And when I finally got to the turnaround point, my body had disconnected completely from my brain and was no longer receiving the messages of encouragement to keep moving - it was only transmitting pain signals. My calves started to cramp up and every time my feet hit the ground, it felt like hot needles were shooting up my legs. I gulped down as much Powerade as I could at the final water station (16km), but it did not seem to refresh me at all.

The final 5.2km was slow and painful (at least it truly was completely flat by then). The finish was pretty cool though. The crowd that lined the sides carried me through the final 500meters into the finish chute. It was finally over! And despite the struggle and agony, I felt pretty good at having completed it and having been part of a record crowd of some 15,500 participants in all events.

As the organisers had promised - it was more than just a race, it was an experience. As for whether I would do it again next year? Hmmmm... You'll have to ask me when my sore bits are no longer sore.

Not a pretty sight (at finish):

Monday, May 16, 2011

Full circle: Curves to Vauthier

Has it been a year? How time flies.

A year ago I marked my re-entry into formal running events with the Curves to Curves 21.6km run. This year's event was sponsored by Vauthier, and I chose to do the half option which is a 13km run from Bunnythorpe back into town.

The day started out with blue skies even though the weather forecast had been predicting stormy rainy weather. On the bus We even joked about how wrong the weather people had been... but upon arrival at Bunnythorpe, the skies darkened considerably and we could see that rain was in store before the day is over.

It was drizzling slightly off and on when we started at 9.30am. But just as I arrived at Kelvin Grove, the heavens opened up and it simply poured with rain. By the time I reached the Bridle track, there were puddles everywhere.

Overall it was a good challenging run, and a good event with bananas and sausages for everyone at the finish.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Inaugural local event

The classic (cycling) race on April 16th went well though it was quite a different experience for me to ride mostly on my own throughout most of the final relay leg of the 160km race around the Manawatu country roads.

Team Saddle Bags made a effort - we had a proper team meeting 2 weeks ago and everything... sorting out the logistics of getting ourselves and our bikes to the transition points at the right time. But there was a major flaw to our plan - we underestimated ourselves. And at the last minute, we had to scramble when we realised there was a hole in our plan. Or maybe someone just decided to do something else completely.

In any case, being the last rider, I got to my transition point 20minutes after the last rider had arrived, so the minute I got my bike off the car rack, I was off. Ten minutes into my ride, it started raining.... and it did not stop once throughout my entire ride.

We were clearly in the back of the pack. I passed 4 riders very early on just outside of Colyton, but was completely on my own until the finish. And so I arrived in town completely soaked, no other riders around me, and a few marshalls braving the rain awaiting the final stragglers. An appropriate end to a very lonely ride...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Weekend event at Waitarere Beach

The Great Forest 2011 event sponsored by Brooks was held at Waitarere Beach just outside of Foxton/Levin on Saturday, Apr 2nd. Claiming to be NZ’s premier off road running and walking event, there was a variety of options available, from 5km to a full marathon. This year attracted a crowd of around 2000 runners and walkers.

I set off towards Foxton Beach from Palmy just after 8am. It was slightly chilly but it was a clear day without a cloud in sight, and so as the sun rose behind me, the day promised to get a lot hotter! I got there in plenty of time to pick up my race pack (which was pretty much just my race number and timing chip). There were already food stalls and a coffee barista operating out of the back of a specially fitted car boot/trunk. It was a pretty festive carnival-like atmosphere, complete with a big top which housed Registration.

The event centre(big top) was just at the edge of the Matariki Forest, and the run would take us through a mixed terrain through the forest, mostly hard packed gravel and clay, some loose sandy bits, a stretch of soft pine needles, with a short sprint finish through a grassy patch. I opted for the 10km run, and caught up with a couple of friends who had been my teammates in the round-lake-Taupo relay run. I knew Bernie was going to be slightly faster than me, and so I tried to hang onto her from the very start for as long as I could. By the 6km mark, I was surprised to find myself still keeping pace. It started to become a mental game, and I clung on (by my finger nails, I think). The last 2km was painful – we were out of the forest by then and the sun was blistering. I finished 18 seconds behind Bernie, and set my own personal best which I was quite happy about.

It was a brilliant day for running – no wind, though a bit hot by mid morning. The course was excellent – scenic, but you had to watch your step with loose bits of gravel and uneven surfaces. Not too hard for a clutz like me to fall flat on my face, which fortunately didn’t happen though it nearly did. The toilet facilities were also excellent – no port-a-loos, instead there were a couple of trailers with proper clean flush toilets. Always a good thing, as I don’t do port-a-loos.

Overall, it was a very good day for all of us. I hope to be back next year!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Athletics track events: M Games

The weather over the weekend couldn’t have been better for a camping-type weekend. Even though there was a hitch with the borrowed tent (i.e: I didn’t know what went where and how it all worked...) So I had to play damsel in distress. My knight in shining armour had a wooden leg, but he was a very nice guy and together we managed to get the tent up. That was a relief!

Friday evening the first event was the 1500m. I wasn’t sure how it would go. I hadn’t timed myself for that distance in a long time and I was a bit nervous about the competition and the pace. But it worked out OK when I finished with the Gold. Later on, I collected the Bronze for the 200m.

Just after winning the 1500m (Gold)

Saturday morning’s event was the 400m. By then I had gotten to know a few of the other competitors and between events would hang out chatting and watching the other races with them. The 400m was a tough race but managed to grab the Silver. I was pretty happy with that as it was a close one and I almost dropped that spot at the end.

I left the stadium around lunchtime and wandered around Wanganui’s main street where I was quite tickled by the fact that some things have not changed since I lived there back in 1998/1999. Some of the shops were exactly as I remembered – or some with minor changes. There were differences too, of course, but everything looked like it had been spruced up a bit more.

After lunch, I was back into the serious business of my next event in the afternoon. The 100m was fast and furious. I came off the blocks fast (which surprised me) and was off to a good start but lost some ground around the 40 or 50m mark when my heel started to hurt. I barely clung on to finish with the Silver. The pain became increasingly worse, so I went to the Games Village to see a physio. He said I tore something in my foot. I forgot what exactly. Well, I can’t pronounce it anyway. He did an ultrasound on my foot, then strapped it up and told me to rest it.

Overnight, I agonised over my last event – the 800m on Sunday. Should I pull out? Should I run anyway? Would I aggravate the injury if I ran? Would I always regret it if I pulled out?

Sunday morning, I got up early to dismantle the tent. The foot was no better, but I headed to the stadium anyway. Once there, I realised I was never going to pull out before I even started. So I found myself on the start line for the 800m. Within the first 300m, I knew I was not going to be able to keep up and dropped off the pace and had to be content with holding second. I finished with the Silver and though I was disappointed at what could have been a Gold, I was happy I started and finished the race.

So 3 days, 5 events, 1 Gold, 3 Silvers and 1 Bronze medals (+ an injured foot).

Overall it was a great weekend, met some really cool people and I had a blast!

My weekend haul

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Masters Games Duathlon

I got up early this morning (too early!) to prepare for the race and make the 75km drive over to Wanganui. It was a rainy and dreary morning, though when I left it was only raining lightly and I was hopeful that it would be dry over in Wanganui.

There wasn't much traffic on the road that early in the morning, but as I drove towards Wanganui, the clouds became greyer and greyer and it wasn't just raining at some spots, it was pouring cats and dogs.

Fortunately it was only lightly drizzling when I got into town and made my way over to the start point. I was one of the early arrivals. The briefing was supposed to start at 8am, and I wanted to make sure I made it. It turned out I shouldn't have worried about it - the briefing didn't start till 8.45am, 15mins before we were due to start.

I did meet a couple of women from Auckland, though, which was nice. We chatted the time away and made me forget my nerves for a bit!

When we started it was drizzling, so got a bit wet, but it dried up quite quickly. The first 5km run leg headed back towards town with a turn around at Kowhai Park. It was a 2.5km loop which we had to do twice. A part of it was on a soft shellrock track (easier on my knees!) and the other part was on road.

The 30km bike leg was also a double loop, each loop was 15km. It was fairly flat, which was good!

The final 5km run leg was a repeat of the first leg. Getting off the bike and trying to run was tough. The double loop did my head in a bit. And everything was definately hurting. I just tried to keep moving.

Not sure what my time was, but I brought home the gold medal! I haven't won any medals since high school!