Sunday, October 26, 2008

Long Slow Distance

Today is exactly one week out from the Auckland Marathon. This isn't really an "A" race for me, but never the less I do have some unfinished business to attend to with it. Last year I finished with a personally disappointing 4 hours 2 minutes, this year I'm hoping that my finishing time this year will have the 3 in front of it. Whether or not that actually works out remains to be seen. I haven't exactly had a smooth build up this year.

My last big workout before the marathon was scheduled in for today and was a little different to what I'd normally do. And just as well as otherwise I probably wouldn't have gone.

The difference was that today I ran with a mate of mine. He's a guy who got all inspired after coming down to support me in IMNZ this year and has now picked up running. He finished his first half marathon two weeks ago and now is amped for something bigger and better. He hopes to have a crack at IMNZ in 2010. It was actually really good, its not often you get to spend three hours chatting to a friend (at least in my rather busy life its not often!)

This morning was cold wet and windy, with squally showers blowing over on a regular basis. I probably would have opted out of the run if I hadn't been going with someone else. Generally I do most of my runs by myself, this is primarily because with a young family I find it hard to commit to a set time. However today was different!

Today's run (30k) was going to be the longest my friend had ever done. For me it was scheduled as an easy run (as I've just gotten on top of an muscle strain and didn't want to set it back this close to the marathon) and was more about spending time on my feet. In the end my friend ran really well and we finished the run just shy of 3 hours. I found the pace pleasantly easy and came through without any aches or pains, which is encouraging.

The run itself was 30 very hilly k's. A little mean of me perhaps, but running hills (up them anyway) is a great way to have a god workout without loading up to many stresses on the old joints etc.

It started raining almost as soon as we left and continued on and off for most of the run, gradually getting better as the day wore on. The result of course was that my feet got wet early on and I developed a couple of healthy looking blisters on my little toe - could have been worse.

The run wound it way out into the country and we were treated to some nice views along the way. I really do live in a beautiful place!

So from here its only a short span till the Auckland Marathon, and I think that as long as I can avoid any mishaps I should be in for a reasonably solid race!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Its Done!

That's right, I've parted with my hard earned cash and have finally actually entered the 100k race! As I type this my entry form is in the post and winging its way to the race director (yes oddly enough no online entry - its done the old fashion way).

So now I really am committed to my first ULTRA, wish me luck (and no injuries!)

Speaking of injuries I had to cut a run short last Sunday as I had a steadily increasing pain on the front of my lower leg. I was terrified that it may have been the start of something serious (like a compound fracture etc - always jump to the worst possible conclusion). Happily it was only a strained muscle coming up the front of my shin (Extensior Digitorum Longus I think for those geeky nough to want to know). And is now feeling just about back to normal after four days with no running and lots of gentle stretching. That will teach me for wearing old shoes!

I'm going to try and go for a gentle run tomorrow, so hopefully that will go without a hitch!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Long Run - But Why?

Its been a pretty easy week for me this week after last Sundays half marathon. This was more driven by circumstances than anything. I had a rest day on Monday, a long steady swim on Tuesday, a short easy run on Wednesday then I had a conference for work that tied me up for all of Thursday and Friday.

The Thursday night of the conference was an "awards dinner" complete with open bar. I was a little unusual as I was just about the only one who wasn't trying to drink away the year profits, in addition I left pretty early and was snuggled up in my bed shortly after 10pm. I got a little bit of jib from my work mates for calling it quits so early, but I guess thats simply a reflection of where my priorities lie.

Anyway by the time I got back to the conference on Friday morning there were a lot of tired, unhappy people throwing back all manner of pain killers etc. There were also rumors circulating about a mishap that had occurred that night. As it turned out one of the other advisers from my team had gotten well and truly boozed, decided to go swimming, dived into the shallow end of a pool and broken her neck! My decision to a. Not drink, and b. go home early was now not looking so bad with lots of people saying they were definitely going to join me next time. (We got an update during the day, it turns out that she was reasonably "lucky" - which strikes me as being rather subjective - and will now be spending the next week in hospital and a further three months with a halo fitted!).

It was with these thoughts racing around my head that I went out for my long run this morning. Over the last couple of days I've had quite a few people ask me why I run (and interestingly a few people on Friday ask me how they can get started ...). There are a whole bunch of answers to this question, and to be truthful the answers change each year. The reasons why I run now are quite different to the reasons I had when I first started. When you get right down to it I run because I CAN first and foremost. And this is something that I'm really grateful for! I also run because I really enjoy it. I like the way it makes me feel, both during and after (... maybe not so much during ...), and in general life as well.

Me enjoying getting out there

It also gets me out of the rat race and allows me to spend some quality time with myself (and when you have a young family time to yourself is a very precious thing).

The way to the rat race, I happily ran over this today ... and kept on going ...

Todays run was quite hard as I targeted a bunch of fairly descent hills. The course I choose largely followed one I use to use for hill training on my bike. It took me just over 1 hour 40 minutes to cover the 20k's I ran and I was actually fairly happy with this effort. My half marathon season is now over and its time to start to slow the pace down and increase the distance.

Todays run

I've been thinking a bit about my time goals for the upcoming Auckland Marathon (2nd November). I really want to put in a good show which for me means getting home in under four hours. Previously I've had a problem with crumbling in the last 15k's of the marathon and seeing my time goals slip away. However this year my endurance is miles better than it was last year (which is just as well given my "A" race is going to be 100k long), so I'm confident that I will be able to run and maintain 5 minute (or just under) k's. This will see me comfortably get a marathon PB. The trick will be to not run to fast in the first half.

From here on in I will be starting to really ramp up my k's. At the moment I'm doing about 50k's a week, I'll be increasing this to closer to 70k per week by November and then getting up to 100k by the end of December. I don't know if time will allow me to be able to do much more than this.

Roll on summer!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Waitakere City Half Marathon

Well that's another race down and I'm actually fairly happy with the result. Not quite the triumph that I'd hoped for five weeks ago, but still a good result considering two weeks ago I was in hospital hooked up on IV drip and feeling pretty sorry for myself.

Now for the RACE REPORT

I had the usual pre-race nerves last night. It seems that regardless of how many races I do, I still get nervous. I think its a good thing as its a reflection of my excitement. If every I lose that nervousness its probably going to be time to re-assess things. Despite the nerves I actually managed to get a fairly good sleep (although I did have to get up at 4am to settle my three year daughter down - bless her little heart).

My alarm was set for 6.10am and as advertised, it woke me up. Breakfast was my usual, two pieces of toast with a banana squished on top washed own with a cup of coffee. Nice and easy and doesn't give me any problems. From then on its just sipping a sports drink until race time. I was a bit spoilt this time as I was getting picked up so didn't have to worry about getting myself to the start line, or that annoying question of "what to do with the car keys?" - someone elses problem today!

At 7.10 (a little later than planned - race start was 8am) my ride turned up. I headed on down to the race with a mate of mine and his friend. This was going to be my mates first race, and needless to say first half marathon. He got all inspired after coming down to support me for IMNZ this year. So this was a big day for him.

It was going to be an even bigger day for his friend. He has literally only just started running after years of boozing and smoking and being a self confessed workaholic. Today marked a big turn around for him.

We got to the start venue and found that the car park was packed out meaning we had to drive around a bit to find a park. By the time we found one, got geared up and made our way to the start line there was about 10 minutes to spear - enough time for a last nervous pee ... Happily the toilets were right next to the start line, and (in my experience) for the first time ever there was no queue. Unbelievable yes, but I'll take it!

After wishing the boys good luck, I made my way a bit closer to the front to await the starting gun. The hooter went and we were off ... for a typically slow start, there were a lot of people trying to get onto the course. I spent the first 5k's working my way through the crowds who really should have seeded themselves further down the starting grid. But never mind, its all part of the fun.

At the 1k mark I was running below 4min 20sec (k) pace and kept that up fairly comfortably for the first five k's. The plan was to go out and run a pace that would give me a shot at a PB. The big question was always going to be whether or not I could keep it up as my training plan hit a big glitch when I got sick (I lost just over 2kg over the course of two weeks while sick and it put an 18 day break in my training plan).

The run was two roughly 10k laps, the first 5k was pretty flat, however the second 5k was surprisingly tough with a lot of small undulations. This ended up slowing me down a bit and put some unanticipated strain into my quads. With 7(ish) k's into the run you hit the major climb. Unfortunately yesterday when I checked out the course we got the wrong hill. The actual hill was both higher and longer than what we saw yesterday - no problem, love the hills!

I went through the 10k mark in 46 minutes. I shade off my goal pace, but still good enough for a PB - but once again the question, could I hold it?

I was still on pace for a sub 1.35 until the 15k mark, at which point I started to suffer - I was about to get my answer. Getting sick knocked my conditioning and my pace started to slip. My quads also started getting pretty sore on the undulations, and just to compound things both my shoe laces came undone, one after the other, resulting in two quick stops to re-tie them. This probably cost me a total of 30 seconds. "No big deal" I hear you say, but in a race like this every second counts!

I got to the 19k mark and watched 1 hour 30 minutes click by on my watch (plus a further 30 seconds) - sub1.30 will have to wait for another day I'm afraid.

Before you get to the finish you run a lap around a track in a stadium, which was a new experience for me. I managed to get into a sprint finish with another guy (which I won - yay) so it was quite a nice way to finish off.

End result was 1 hour 40 minutes and 25 seconds (see the 30 odd seconds I spent tieing my shoe laces may have meant the deference between getting a sub 1.40 - every second counts!).

Once I was finished I went back onto the course to wait for my mate and his friend. They turned up eventually and I ran along with them. My mates friend was doing it really hard and he was not in a happy place. My mate has stuck with him throughout the run to push him through, but with less than three k's to go, running a sub 2.30 half was looking questionable. With such a short distance to go his friend was definitely going to make it so he kicked on and I paced him for 5 minute(ish) k's to get him home on time. In the end he got home in 2hrs 30min and 57sec, close enough. He was pretty stoked and is already planning the his next race. He would have gone quicker as he was looking really solid, but he stuck with his friend - which is a really nice thing to do.

So the numbers (this should keep a certain Sub6 happy).

There were two distance options, being 11k and 21k (half marathon)

There was a good field of 1348 energised people

In my category there were 378 finishers

I finished in 74th place with a time of 1 hour 40 minutes and 23 seconds

My average pace was 4min 33sec k's (shade over 7min miles I think)

All in all a really worth while workout which should give a good kick to the upcoming Auckland Marathon (2nd November).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pre-Race Thoughts - Half Marathon

Well its now the night before by next race and I thought I'd quickly put down some thoughts.

I headed out to the course to register this morning with a friend of mine who is also doing the race. This will be his first half marathon - in fact it'll be his first race ever! He only started running after getting inspired by coming down and supporting me for Ironman New Zealand, he's now planning on doing his first half ironman next year with maybe a crack at the full distance in 2010.

While we were out there we drove arond the course (well most of it, part of the course is along a riverside track wich obviously we couldn't drive). The drive confirmed that the course is indeed very flat and looks fast. There's one sharp hill (every good run course needs a hill!) but its not very long. Its a two lap course so I'll get to head up that hill twice, I can't see it being to much of an issue though.

Five weeks ago I had high hopes of going sub 1 hour 30 minutes on this course, and todays course viewing showed that my hopes weren't unreasonable. Five weeks ago I was getting my splits down and sub 1.30 was on.

Then I got sick and couldn't run (or do anything) for two weeks. Since then I've been for a grand total of four runs and I'm not confident of going sub 1.45 let alone sub 1.30!

The plan now is to run the first half as strongly as possible and basically see how it goes. I figure one of two things will happen ... either I'll get a good tempo going and I just might surprise myself, or I'll blow to pieces on the second half and have a horrible time.

Watch this space ...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Feeling Better!

That's right, after two weeks of feeling lousy I'm finally feeling (close) to normal again and today managed to get out for my first run in just on two weeks! Not being able to get out and moving has been driving me nuts ever since I got sick, its amazing how you take good health for granted until its gone.

But now my health is back, the run went really well and I actualy felt pretty good by the end of it, so there's hope yet for a decent half marathon next weekend. Whether or not that will mean a personal best is something that I'll just have to wait and see what the day brings.

So what does one do when your crook and can't run or do pretty much anything for that matter?

You study our upcoming 100k race of course! The course has changed for 2009. Previously it was a point to point run two thirds of the way around Lake Taupo. Now its a two lap out and back. 25k's out, 25k's back done twice to get you your 100k's. It actually looks kind of cruel as 25k's is just enough to see you over a certain Hatepe Hill. This hill has been made famous thanks to New Zealand's largest bike race, the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, which reguarly attracts upwards of 35,000 people each year. This bike race is a 160k ride around Lake Taupo with Hatepe Hill being the biggest climb of the day right when you're feeling your most tired.

To insert this hill twice into a 100k running race seems kind of mean. Here's an outline of the corse elevation. Hatepe Hill kind of sticks out ...

Also today I went out with the kids and hit some trails that are within running distance from home. I've been meaning to check these trails out for a while, but the weathers been lousy meaning the tracks would have been slush.

We had a great day, we were out for a couple of hours and the kids did really really well. The track basically starts at the top of a hill and heads down (quite steeply). You then cross over a small stream and head up another steep hill. At the top of this hill you get some great views before heading down again. At the bottom you cross another small stream before coming face to face with what is apparently the oldest tree in the Rodney district, a rather large kauri. From here you head up again until you get to the end of the track. Then you turn around and head back.

We took our time and stopped at a couple of places for some well earned tasty treats.