Run one walk one – an easy ultra

Date: 13 January 2018
Distance: 60km

Time: 8.5 hours (and about .5 changing gear, eating and filling water bottles and food stuffs)

 


Planning for Gerry’s 50th birthday, we decided to do that “thing” where you run your age. Eyeballing the running calendars high and low for a 50km run the weekend before or after his birthday, delivered nothing. So what does Gerry do? He signs us up for a 100km event instead, only double his age. What’s a few kilometres between friends? (Goodness knows how we’ll manage a 100 miler when he turns 80!).

After the 12-day challenge at the beginning of December our training took a turn for the worse. We had the greatest intentions, but it all went awry in the first week after clocking one of our biggest running weeks in a long time. Christmas rolled over and during the Lake Waikaremoana hike over new year, I picked up a cold which just wouldn’t go anywhere. It was not getting better, but also not worse, and in fact, only after we starting to run again in the second week of January, did it help to clear things out a bit.

They say ultras are primarily a mind-game, and having a “final long run”, is definitely part of it. For instance, with marathons I like to do a last long run of about 32km three weeks out from the event. With a 100km, I figured a 60km run seven weeks out should be good. It worked well the last time, so this is now the thing I like to do. Without this long-run, I would probably feel totally unprepared (not that I’ve ever really been prepared for any distance), even if I’ve done the hard yards (which I haven’t). But, this distance gives me the confidence that I can just add a marathon to that, and I’ll be good as. It is all in the mind, eh?

With a whole month of little to no training and still harbouring a wee cough, I was not in the least bit keen to attempt a 60km long-run, let alone fathom the idea of running in all in one go. Which brought to mind the idea to run one kilometre and walk one kilometre. That sounded infinitely easier, and the main idea was just to spent the time on our feet. It was all going to be fairly flat and easy kilometres anyway.

Part of the long-run, naturally, is also to test hydration and nutrition. Since our previous 100km event where we had an array of food stuffs that I thought worked well, I’ve developed a gluten allergy (no, I’m not cutting out donuts and pastries because I think it is fashionable, or more healthy, or I will lose weight. I miss all those things terribly. But gluten doesn’t work with my system – simple as that.) The pretzels and bagel crisps that I loved to much, cannot be on the menu anymore.

This meant I needed a new plan of action. And the best way to test and try it all out, is by taking a full day and test what works and what not. You would do well to have a degree in food science. A minefield that can blow your mind away. The theories out there range from a “less-is-more” approach, to scoffing down everything you can lay your hands on. You primarily need easy carbs, and not too much fat or protein. I know that we usually err on the less-is-more side of things, but I also know that I’ve been extremely tired and out of sorts on some of our last ultras. So obviously I needed to eat more.

Taking one’s own body weight into account, again the figures out there vary from 100cal/hour to 400cal/hour for someone of my size and weight. That is a huge discrepancy. I opted to try a 200cal/hour approach (over the span of 9 hours that would be 1800cal in total).  For Gerry that would be 300cal/hour. Below are some of the food stuffs we considered and for this run it meant that per hour I needed to consume:

  • 2-3 apples (400g)  [100cal = 200g], or
  • 1-2 bananas (250g)  [100cal = 125g], or
  • 1-2 packham pears (400g)  [100cal = 200g], or
  • 4 Frooze balls (potentially too much fat and protein, but I was keen to try it anyway)  [100cal = 2g], or
  • 70g dates (roughly 15)  [100cal = 35g, 7-8 dates], or
  • 60g jet planes (roughly 8)  [100cal = 30g], or
  • 225g boiled potatoes  [100cal = 112g], or
  • 9 corn thins  [100cal = 4.5], or
  • 2 gels  [100cal = 1], or
  • 50g marshmallows (roughly 25)  [100cal = 25g], or
  • 350ml Powerade  [100cal = 175ml], or
  • 3 sesame sweets (sesame, peanut, ginger, tapioca starch and sugar) (60g)  [100cal = 30g]

It is very hard to track what you are eating (which is maybe why most people just opt to go the gel route), but looking at it afterwards I can now see how much I had and didn’t have. We also didn’t have the variety of stuff we were thinking of possibilities for a long run. In theory, getting your nutrition and hydration right means that you will not fatigue so easily – both body and mind. I did manage to eat much more than I’ve ever done before, and I did feel much better for it – mentally and physically. In fact, I would probably have been able to carry on for much longer if I had to.

Eat up
In total, between the two of us, we (roughly) had 600g boiled potatoes (250g in my case), two sesame sweets (1 for me), 8 gels (3 for me), 200g jelly sweets (80g for me), 50g marshmallows (20g for me), 12 frooze balls (5 for me), and 2 dates (1 for me), over the span of eight and a half hours. In every instance, Gerry had about a third more than me. Adding it all up (including the Powerade), I consumed about 1400cal/9 hours (instead of the planned 1800cal). Meaning I averaged out at about 155cal/hour with absolutely no ill effects. So maybe this is my sweet spot? I would, however, like to still try and experiment more by consuming more calories to see what that does at some stage.

Drink up
For hydration we totalled about 2.5 litres of electrolytes (that is 5 Nuun tablets), 750ml Powerade and 4 litres of water between the two of us. Gerry had a bit more. Roughly about 8 litres of fluids, including a sip here and there from a tap on the route. In my case, about 3.6 litres of fluid, boiling down to 400ml/hour.  It was probably not nearly enough, but it seemed to have worked. Again, previously I would dehydrate and end up with a terrible headache, but this time that wasn’t so much of a problem, despite the heat (28 degrees C).

Getting down to it
When we woke up on Saturday morning, we reluctantly started putting stuff together for a long run. In the back of our minds, we still thought of maybe rather postponing to the Sunday, or another weekend. But when we did the sums and checked the weekends, we realised we were out of time. If it didn’t happen this weekend, it was not going to happen at all. And that scared the shit out of me. While we were having breakfast and getting sorted, we also got some potatoes on the boil. My absolute favourite for any endurance event.

After stopping in at the parkrun to catch up with a few friends, we were finally off at 9:15am, not entirely convinced of what was about to take place. Following the Bridle Track downstream, we decided to go explore the trails on the other side of town and basically circumnavigate Palmy. Not sure of the exact distance, I thought that would give us about 25km. A very nice off-road walkway goes all the way (clockwise) from the Fitzherbert Bridge to Milson line. From there it was unfortunately a bit of hit and miss on the pavement, zig-zagging through the industrial area, until we reached Napier Road. Shortly before that it started to rain. Or rather, is was pouring with rain! Pretty soon we were totally drenched head to toe. Running along Napier Road, I watched as the massive droplets were bouncing on the road making little fountains, and I fell happy to be amongst the dancing and splatter all around. We finally reached Te Matai Road that would take us back to the Bridle Track. By then we knew it would get us to about 30km, before we would be back at the car. After a few kilometres of getting soaked, the rain started to ease and we could dry out somewhat.

Back at the car, we decided to change some clothes and stock up for the second half. We changed into dry socks and shoes (from road shoes for the first half, to trail shoes for the second half), and Gerry also got a dry shirt. We ate most of the potatoes, a date and a sesame sweet, and some water, before heading off in the same direction for round number two, not sure if we want to just do the same loop again, or try and avoid the industrial on-road area. Finally we decided to do an out-and-back section on the trail, so turning around before we get to the road stretch. We weren’t far across Pioneer highway (about 8km in on the second lap) when the second round of rain came pouring down. This was even more intense than the first round and lasted for about 15 minutes. We had rain jackets and decided to put them to the test this time, as the wind also picked up and I was feeling a bit cold.

By the time we reached the main road on Rangitikei Street for the second time (where you have to make a big loop across and under the bridge to the other side), we were at the marathon mark. After high-fives, we turned around and ran back to the Fitzherbert Bridge, thinking we will just add the outstanding kilometres around the Esplanade or on some of our usual trails, instead of negotiating the industrial area on the roadside again. Back ‘home’ at Fitzherbert bridge (passing right by the car!), we only needed 4km and opted to do the duckies loop, one of our go-to trails. About halfway through we walked into our third shower for the day. By then it really didn’t matter anymore, as we were already sitting on two pairs of wet shoes (add to that another pair while out on the Nae Nae road track two days after).

We managed to keep up the run-one-walk-one schedule right to the end. And I can honestly say, it didn’t feel as if I have covered 60km. I felt less sore and much better than on my last marathon. Obviously, we were going at a significantly slower pace, but the mere fact that we used different muscles every other kilometre, made a huge difference.

The only challenge on a trail run would be to take into account that there will be hills. Some of which might not be runable. We still have to figure out how to exactly translate this onto a trail event, but the “run bits, walk bits, you’ll get there” still applies. Someone shared that encouragement at a 5-day stage race with us some ten years ago.

In the aftermath, I can feel that I’ve done a significant distance two days after, but I’m not totally buggered like one used to be after this length of event. I will go so far as to say that this was really “easy”. Planning out the next seven weeks, is going to be much harder. Still stressed about the prospect of the 100km event, but in a much better headspace.

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Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk

Date: 29 December 2017 to 1 January 2018
Distance: 46km (give or take)

“The Lake Waikaremoana track has the largest area of native forest in the North Island. This region is the ancestral home of the Maori tribe Ngai Tuhoe – the ‘Children of the Mist’. Entirely within the boundaries of Te Urewera, the track mostly follows the shores of the great lake. Over three to four days, it leads you through pristine rainforest, regenerating shrubland areas of wetland, rush and herbfield and a magical ‘goblin forest’. You will also discover magnificent rivers, waterfalls and ghostly valleys of mist.

The Tuhoe people have lived in the Te Urewera region for centuries and they have deep spiritual links with the land. Isolation and the Tuhoe’s respect for their forests, mountains, rivers and lakes have kept foresters and farmers away from Te Urewera. It is a living treasure where nature is totally in charge. Home to nearly every species of North Island native forest bird, the area also gives visitors a glimpse of the avian culture that once flourished in New Zealand. The melodic call of the tui is likely to follow you everywhere as well as the Kereru (wood pigeon); make sure to listen for the call of the kiwi bird at dusk.” [100% Pure New Zealand]

After a week of merriment with friends from far and near, we were on our way to Lake Waikaremoana. It has always been on the to-do list as one of only three Great Walks on the North Island. Two, if you don’t count the Whanganui River canoe/kayak trip as a walk.

Whenever I thought about this walk, I always felt that it is close-by and easily accessible, and something we can attempt running occasionally as training for longer events. As it turns out Lake Waikaremoana is quite out of the way and a long drive to get to, so I guess using it as a regular long-run loop is not really an option.

On the way over from Opotiki the day before, it started to rain. By the evening if was pouring and the wind was blowing a gale. Metservice issued a severe weather watch and it suddenly crossed my mind that the Rhythm and Vines festival (happening in the same region) gets rained out just about every year!

Luckily, we found a cabin for the night in Wairoa Riverside Motor Camp where we could sort out gear and get the backpacks ready for a 4-day hike. The alternative would have been to pitch the tent somewhere – the same tent that had to go in the backpack as we were not going to use the huts. The storm picked up through the night and by the morning it was still bucketing down with strong wind while we loaded everything in the car. The approximately 60km drive from Wairoa to the start at Onepoto Shelter takes about one hour fifteen minutes, and from shortly after about halfway up the windy road, the paved road makes way for a gravel road.

Needless to say, it took some mind-gymnastics to leave the warm, dry car for a walk in the pouring rain. The carpark looked like a mini lake and the lake itself was only a figment of my imagination, covered under a veil of rain and mist. A last cup of coffee and a peanut butter sandwich from left over bread, and we were ready to make a bee-line to the shelter. With the warm clothes and rain gear on and not in our backpacks our packs already felt a kilogram lighter.

Day 1 – Onepoto Bay shelter to Korokoro campsite (20km)

Starting at 600m above sea level, the track winds its way up the Panekire Bluff through the forest until you reach the Puketapu Trig (1180m). Along the way, quite a few lookout points over the lake could potentially make for some great scenes – “breathtaking” as the brochure pointed out. Unfortunately, we could only see short of absolutely buggerall in the thick mist. Just as well, as I had a sneaky suspicion that we were on the verge of some sheer drop-offs on occasion.

Not long before we reached the hut, we had to make our way around a rock cliff where steps and a wee single person path was built and anchored onto the rock face. Presumably, we were in thin air with a whole lot of nothingness beneath us …

Some undulations over the mountain/bluff kept us from freezing stiff, as it was very cold by then. Despite four layers of clothes, my fingers were completely numb and the moment we stopped I started to shiver uncontrollably. Note to self: don’t pack the gloves too deep, as you never know when it will come in handy – even at the height of summer.

When we reached the Panekire Hut (where most people stayed over for the night) after about 4.5 hours we stopped for lunch. The hut made for a nice reprieve from the rain. As we started late, we couldn’t stay long and had to push on to reach our campsite before dark. Donning muddy boots, wet rain coats and backpacks over wet clothes, we were off again.

The undulations continued through the fairytale wonderland until we finally started going down the other side of the bluff. This has to be the highlight of this walk, as the way down had the most scenic forest with waterfalls and streams, amidst the lush green ferns, beech and podocarp trees. In fact, the whole walk is beautifully green and lush – almost to the point of boredom. Everywhere you look are green fronts of newly formed fern leaves and other plants.

Slogging on for another five hours in the rain, while the path turned into little streams in some places and mud-slides in others, we only reached the camp site after 7pm. It was still raining for the most part, only stopping once in a while for very short periods. With wet clothes and mud up to our knees, trying to make a semi-dry, clean bed in a tent, is near impossible. But we managed okay – not too much mud and not too many wet spots. All the soaking wet gear we hanged in the shelter in the hope that it might dry out a bit overnight. Evidently, if the humidity is solid rain, nothing gets dryer.

At the campsite we discovered that (obviously, being a lake and all) there were boaties making a holiday of it. A family of four greeted us, and while they were fully kitted out with BBQ and all, we started our late dinner of quinoa, onion and tuna, and while that was cooking we poured a tipple. A tramp will not be a tramp without a shot of bourbon during the evenings!

While still cooking, a possum decided to join us in the shelter, and the wildlife just got progressively more active during the night, with deer poop and prints all over. It rained through the night, and we knew the prospect of packing up a dry tent was zero.

Day 2 – Korokoro campsite to Maraunui campsite (7km – or so they say)

After a long, hard day, and a late night we only got under way at 10:40am. With everything still pretty much soaking wet, we started off in a drizzle, hoping it would clear at some stage.

Although the mist made for a magical walk in the forest, I was looking forward to a change in scenery. I’m sure even the fairies went into hiding as all we saw were the odd tree monsters. What was meant to be a two and a half hour walk, turned into almost four. I knew I wasn’t going very fast, but we are usually a fair amount faster than the DOC times. This made me question my own capabilities and DOC’s estimates.

Finally the rain stopped (for the remainder of the trip) and when we reached the campsite mid-afternoon, we decided to spread out all our gear to dry out. Boots, socks, rain jackets, backpacks, clothes, tent, fly-sheet, mattresses, even the sleeping bags got wet from sweat or damp (and a spot from my leaky 20-year old backpack where the sack-liner must have had a hole). Some locals were towing people on a tube behind a boat, and later on a noisy bunch with loud music were screaming and cajoling from another boat in the inlet. Luckily, it didn’t last too long, and we had peace and quiet throughout the evening.

During our leisurely afternoon, reminiscing on the day, the walk, and life in general, some more campers (about 10) arrived and it turned out everyone took much longer than what DOC indicated as being the distance.

In the evening we cooked up a storm of green lentil curry, accompanied by a couple of tipples, before turning in for a good night’s sleep.

Day 3 – Maraunui campsite to Waihoruru campsite (7km)

I’m surprised at how busy this walk is. Droves of people coming and going, some with day packs, others like us with backpacks, a few runners with only hydration packs, kids and even a whole extended whanau, dogs and all, who chose to spent new years in the Marauiti Hut. After exchanging some greetings and personal information, we learned that the family are some of the landowners of the area. The bulk of the group walked in while others stayed behind to cook up a feast for the whole family that would be brought by boat later in the day for a huge year-end party. As the head of the family said, they are “meat and potato whanau, not noodle people”.

Another leisurely walk in the forest, occasionally reaching the lake shore where swans were peacefully floating around, while fishermen from boats and kayakers completed the scene.

By lunchtime, we reached the camp and spent another lazy afternoon in the sun. It is a beautiful and seemingly very popular campsite. Lots of other campers joined later on, and most went for a swim. Not brave enough to dive in, I watched from the side with my long polyprop pants and vest, being cold all the time. (As it turned out, I was at the beginning stages of a cold that would plague me for another week or so).

Later on we poured a tipple and started dinner, while the swans were tooting from the lake. It remains one of the nicest ways to see in the new year – somewhere in the sticks away from it all, especially if the weather is good, like it was.

The hut warden made a fire and encouraged everyone to join the festivities. Still later we made some tea by the side of the lake and ate the last of our chocolate, before retiring to the tent. Happy 2018 everyone!

Day 4 – Waihoruru campsite to Whanganui hut (6.5km)

We woke up at 5am for an early start to reach the water taxi in time for the 10am departure. We didn’t book ahead of time and were worried we might not get a seat. Should the first taxi be full, there’s another one at 2pm to try so we wanted to be sure to have both options. If both failed, we would just stay another night.

This day’s walk was easy and enjoyable. We reached Whanganui hut landing (a couple of 100 metres from the hut) before nine. We were 24 people waiting, and luckily being the legal limit of the boat, we could all jump on board. It was a very tight fit with everybody’s backpacks and all, and the boat was sitting quite deep in the water, but we made it back to Onepoto in about 20 minutes.

This walk is deceivingly difficult. A few reasons for this might be that 1) the DOC Great Walk brochure shows the walk profile as completely flat apart from the bit over Panekire bluff. This implies an easy flat walk. Granted, we should have bought a proper map which would show more detail, 2) the terrain is a combination of mud, tonnes of tree roots and stone, causing one’s feet to land at strange angles with every step, and 3) the DOC times and distances seems completely whack. And it wasn’t just us, everyone complained about the times/distance indicators possibly being wrong.

Also, the difficult terrain underfoot made sure just about everybody were nursing blisters every night. Even Gerry who never gets blisters, ended up with a monstrous blister that went from being a hotspot to no skin within a few kilometres.

There’s also some confusion in terms of the water taxis. I will confess we did not do our homework, but again, the DOC brochure shows the “landing” or pick-up spot about 6km further up the track. After some discussions with other trampers, we found out that there’s more than one operator and currently most people seemed to be using the Big Bush company who does picks-ups at the Whanganui Hut. They also have a campsite/accommodation not far from the start at Onepoto. When we searched for accommodation in the area for the night before the start, there was no sign of this place, and all we could find was the Lake Waikaremoana Holiday Park which was fully booked out.

The walk is mostly in indigenous forest, so in the shade, and thanks to the rainy start, we didn’t have the promised views over the lake. Unfortunately, we also missed the waterfall for that same reason, and also because the day was already quite long without the 30 minute detour.

Of the Great Walks we’ve done, the campsites at this walk are much nicer than any of the others. They are all nicely groomed with a cooking shelter and toilet.

We had a hectic year, always a few days (weeks!) behind schedule, packed very half-arsed, carried too much, didn’t prepare at all, and didn’t look at any info with regards to the walk apart from booking campsites and taking the DOC brochure map along. Hence, we have unfinished business with this walk. Whether we do it as a run, a fast-pack over two days or the whole walk again, but planned better – we will be back.

 

Lower Hutt parkrun

Date: 23 December 2017
Distance: 5km
Time: 29.14
Previous: Hamilton #1, Palmy #1, #2, #3Kapiti Coast #1, Porirua #1

Meeting up with friends who were visiting New Zealand for a few weeks, we happened to be in the Hutt Valley during the weekend and decided to fit in a quick run.

Too much eating out, way too much wine (and beer, and whiskey) and not a whole lot of running since the Twelve days of Christmas challenge, is a bad combination for attempting a “comeback”, so to speak. Full of pickled confidence she said, “let’s run to the event and back”. Including the parkrun, that would give us a solid 27km long-run. Great idea. Perfect idea! But…

When the alarm went off before 6am, I felt like the walking dead. When I finally dragged my lame body out of bed, we made it to the parkrun in time only to fit in a 2km “warmup”. Not exactly making true to my ambitious goal, but at least we managed a 7km run. It wasn’t pretty and I felt like shit all the way, but it’s done. Ultreia! On with the corpse.

This is by far the biggest parkrun we’ve done in NZ. At 266 (268 if you include us who forgot our barcodes), the narrow walkway can get a bit congested. Especially since it is also open to the general public taking their dogs for a walk, or a stroll to the local Saturday market close by. To make things easier, the organisers started all slower runners, people with baby-joggers and dogs, off on the stop-bank, where they merge with the rest of the field a few hundred metres futher up the road.

Ran on the Hutt Valley walkway, runners go downstream for 2.5km before turning around and running back. One of the nicest features of this specific event, was the happy newlywed couple who did the parkrun on the first morning of being Mr&Mrs (Megan and Geoff Ferry ), in their wedding outfits! And Mr Ferry and his best men are no average runners either, all finishing in the top (I’m guessing) ten of the field? Some of the best men smoked the course and one took the win in a time of 15:43. Mr Ferry managed a 18:01.

We are so far off schedule in terms of our training, but I’m glad nonetheless that we managed to get out the door, albeit for only 7km.

Palmy Christmas parkrun

Date: 16 December 2017
Distance: 5km
Time: 38.08
Previous: Hamilton #1, Palmy #1, Kapiti Coast #1, Palmy #2, Porirua #1

Another change in our work schedule meant we could fit in another backyard parkrun. The organisers decided to make it a Christmas themed event, so we all (okay, some of us) dressed up for the occasion.

Luckily, we had another glorious day in Palmy, and the festivities got us all in the mood for the Christmas season. Gerry forgot our barcode cards in the car, so had to run up ahead to go fetch it. I was going so slow taking photos and chatting away, that he was back and well rested before I made it back to the finish. Another fun morning out in the Manawatu.

 

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …

The Big Christmas Feast – A Greatest Virtual Run Challenge, raising money for kids on the spectrum

Date: 1-12 December 2017
Distance: 200km
Previous GVR: 2017

My middle name is procrastination. And Gerry’s first, middle and last names are procrastination. Maybe it is just a severe case of student syndrome? But, it only took us until well into the first of December, the day the challenge started, before finally entering. It might just be a classic case of an already out-of-hand hectic life, with work, this time of year, and all that jazz that the fun things in life tend to be ignored and end up falling by the wayside. Luckily we had two minutes of sanity to quickly enter.

Named after The twelve days of Christmas, a Christmas carol dating back to the 1700s, this Greatest Virutal Run Challenge is intended to keep accumulating kilometres to reach a certain target over a twelve day period. Whether you choose to do the Rudolph’s challenge 12km, the Great Santa Marathon 42km, Running with the Elves 60km challenge, or the 200km Big Christmas Feast, you are sure to “bank” some burned calories for the festive season. 🙂

Traditionally the twelve days of Christmas would start on Christmas day. The Christmas carol is a cumulative song, and was probably meant to be from a children’s memory and forfeit game. So on the first day, “my true love” would sent me one gift, on the second day it would be two, on the third day three gifts, and so on. The gifts would remain the same, except each day a new (different) gift will be added.

To go with this theme then, and to reach 200km in twelve days, we should have done the runs in a cumulative fashion as well. Starting at 11km the first day, 12km the second day, 13km the third day, and so on, you would reach 198km after 12 days, with the biggest final day being 22km. Not quite the correct distance, but what’s a couple of kilometres between friends. And if you’re a purist, you should keep to the same course and just add another kilometre each day. 😀

However, being a particularly difficult time of year, things don’t always go according to plan. We knew when we signed up that it was going to be hard, with Gerry’s working on weekends and week nights, just to reach the right amount of kilometres (it roughly boils down to about 17km per day) let alone follow a strict cumulative plan. Allowing flexibility, we sometimes had to almost double the daily average to make up for days when it was really impossible to get out the door. We also couldn’t (didn’t want to) run all those kilometres, and opted to walk at least half or more to make up the distance. Being pressed for time walking isn’t really the best way to add kilometres, especially if your walking muscles haven’t done much in the last year. But we just had to make it happen as running it all is not an option (you cannot jump from 60km/week to 120km/week – that would be stupid).

Here is how it panned out in our case.

1 December 2017 (Friday) – 20km
“Bunking school” so to speak, we decided to start off with a run/walk of 20km. It was a perfect day, sunny and just a slight breeze, and to make the most of it we chose to do our favourite course up in the wind farm on North Range Road. We parked our car where the 4X4 section starts, and ran out for 10km (down to the power station) and walked back. We knew it was going to be hot, so we slip, slap, slopped. Unfortunately, some of my sloppy sloppping were wiped off by my hydration pack, and other spots on my legs I’ve just applied the sunblock too half-arsed, therefore getting rather sunburned in spots. The result was something that resembled a vanilla and strawberry marble cake later that night. Roasted lobster anyone?

Overall it was a most enjoyable outing. Since we’ve been doing 60km+ weeks most weeks the last few months, these outings are not as daunting as before, and definitely much easier than when we were only doing between 30 and 40km weeks.

2 December 2017 (Saturday) – 15km
Gerry had a five-hour training session in Wellington, and with the four plus hours on the road, some preparation and packing up afterwards, it always turns into a very long day. One where the only thing you want to do when finally back home in the evening, is pour a glass and sit with your feet up. We knew the weekend was going to be a challenge, so we decided to do the Porirua parkrun on the way to work. Meeting Gary there, meant that we couldn’t bail last minute, even though it resulted in a very early start, having to get up before 5am. But, If all else fails and we only manage one run for the weekend, we would at least have 5km in the bank.

The course is a steady climb to the halfway mark, which makes for a relaxed and easy downhill back to the finish. A huge-ish field of 129 parkrunners and perfect weather to boot.

When we got back home at 6:30pm, we off-loaded the car and changed clothes, before heading back into the suburbs for a 10km walk. It was 7:30pm by the time we started, and at a 10min/km average pace, it took about an hour forty minutes to cover the distance. This was already turning into a huge challenge and it was only the second day!

3 December 2017 (Sunday) – 10km
Another working day in Wellington, so another ten hours of the day allocated to work and travel. We decided to leave half an hour earlier (to be sure to find parking in Wellington close to Te Papa on market day), and go for a walk around the bays on Oriental Parade before work. Apart from a strong-ish wind, the weather was good, so we managed to fit in a 4km walk in the morning.

Back home early evening, we forced ourselves to go out for another 6km walk. It was a good change from all the sitting while traveling and working on a laptop all day (in my case). It also was a pleasant evening out, although very muggy, but I’m glad we could manage to fit it in.

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We came, we ran, but we were still some way from finishing…

4 December 2017 (Monday) – 0km
What can I say – we’ve gone from bad to worse. Life got in the way and we could not find a single minute in the day to go out for a run. Two days (Monday & Tuesday) of First Aid training for Gerry, while I’m catching up on photoshop work that has fallen behind due to other work commitments. And still three hours photography training in Whanganui in the evening. What was meant to be a late night, turned into an early morning only making it to bed after 12am.

5 December 2017 (Tuesday) – 22km
With only 45km in the bank after four days, we were well and truly behind schedule. We still had 155km to go by the next Tuesday, meaning only eight days to get it all done. Fortunately, we’ve been having the most gorgeous weather with no rain and only light wind. Unfortunately, this drought also means our water tank is down to only a third and with no rain in sight, we will soon have to pay for showers at the pool or library! And with all the running and walking we’ve been doing, the laundry pile was also taking on monstrous proportions. Not good for our limited water supply.

And as if the water crisis isn’t enough, our laptop decided this was a good day to kick the bucket! Total meltdown and panic stations all round. It’s been a bad year for computers in the Le Roux household. First the Big Mac in June and now the laptop. Everything we do is on the laptop, and although we’re both fairly diligent with backing-up our work, we have been too flat out with bucket loads of stuff to do every day, that we’re about two weeks behind on backups. That’s many hours of work potentially gone. Including this story, that was an ongoing process…

For a few days we both went through the five stages of dealing with loss: denial (not even looking at the damn thing, let alone think about what to do next), anger (stupid stupid laptop, stupid stupid me for not backing up my work), bargaining (maybe just tell the client everything is gone and there’s nothing any one can do about it – a good, solid two weeks of work), depression (pour another tipple, please) and acceptance (shit happens. Walk it off).

A day later Gerry took it to the doctor, who diagnosed the hard drive to be buggered, installed a new one, charged an arm, and claimed they couldn’t retrieve any of the information. Another round of denial and anger on my side. Luckily Gerry has a colleague who is just amazing with technology. He has a wee gadget he created for just such an occasion, and thankfully Gerry could retrieve everything through Thursday night, even in the same folders and structure everything was before! Disaster averted. We owe said colleague big time.

Back to Tuesday’s run; one would think that a day off would make a huge difference as to how capable you feel physically, but boy o boy, stress takes it out of you. With nerves in a knot and having to fit in a longish run, we tried to find a course with a bit of everything while still being close to the car at any given point, just incase we needed to bail. We did the 4km Summerhill trail first, and from there on it was flat all the way, up and down the river on both sides. After 12km we called the running bit quits, and walked the remaining 10km.

6 December 2017 (Wednesday) – 20km

Still stressed about the laptop and all the potential lost data, we did not feel like having to think about anything (where to run, where to find water, toilets, the burden of taking a hydration pack), so we went for our usual 2km ring road circuit on Massey campus. It remains one of the easiest ways to get the job done. We could only fit it in in the evening, and with the car parked on the course, so to speak, we could hydrate and fuel every two kilometres. And, if at any point we needed more/less clothes, a change of shoes, whatever, we had it all right there. After 18km we were tempted to stop, but figured we might as well do another lap and get to 20km.

The intention was to run one lap, walk one lap. But, being constantly pressed for time, we ended up running most of the laps and only walking small bits.

7 December 2017 (Thursday) – 33km

Being in catch-up mode, and physically and psychologically exhausted (with still no good news in terms of our data recovery at this point), we decided to just “walk it off”. Gerry could get the day off of work, as he’s accumulated quite a lot of hours overtime.

The aim was to do about 30km over 6 hours. This was also the day that Jason (the challenge creator – bugger!) was going to run 60km at school with the kids, creating awareness and collecting money for the Running on the Spectrum charity. So we figured we should roughly be out on the road for the same length of time as he would be, but we would only be covering half his distance.

Again we opted to do laps, but this time went around two of our usual loops with the car in the middle. Two toilets on course (three, if you count the one that is about 200m out of the way) and at least two water points. Having the car in the middle, again meant that we didn’t had to carry everything with us in a hydration pack.

Walking is hard. It doesn’t come natural to me (not that running is much better!) and I have to work really hard to keep my turnover high. Although I love walking, I always find it a bit tough on shins and under-utilised muscles. Needless to say, this was one of the more challenging outings of the challenge so far.

8 December 2017 (Friday) – 10km

Another late night (had to get the Christmas cake done) and another early start. Lack of sleep is the last thing you want when you up your kilometres. We all know that rest/sleep is when your body recovers, so going without enough sleep, is a recipe for injuries. Apart from some niggles here and there (Gerry’s plantar fasciitis and shins being the worst offenders on the walks), we were holding up surprisingly well. Touch wood.

Before six in the morning we were on our way to meet Ian Argyle again to help for a few hours on Nae Nae Track. This new track is progressing well, and Ian and a bunch of other volunteers has already put in a lot of effort. Between the three of us, we managed to do three hand railings and a few steps on some of the steepest parts. One of the big issues is having to carry all wood, pegs, waratahs, tools, screws, drill, nuts and bolts, hammer, you name it, up the track. And the further the track progresses, the further you have to carry everything. A good workout which, sadly, we didn’t record as that would have added a few kilometres to our tally. But, never mind.

Back home some four hours later, we could fit in only a 10km run, before heading off for another commitment. The easiest option was to just do our usual on-road Massey loop, and some. So that is 132kms done.

9 December 2017 (Saturday) – 21km

Gerry had his final session in Whanganui with the short-courses photography students, so I decided to run the local club’s annual half marathon to kill some time while we were there.

More on the event here.

As Gerry was now behind on the kilometres, he went out for a quick 11+km run down the road once we got back home early evening. Only 10km more for him to catch up.

10 December 2017 (Sunday) – 20km

Meeting up with the Striders at 8am for their weekly club run, we were uncertain what to do. Not a lot of runners pitch up at these runs, and the ones that were there are too fast for my current state. We thought of going out with the walkers, but chose the slowest group, which I was led to believe would go at a 6km per hour pace, but it soon proved otherwise as they were clearly out on a very leisurely stroll.. So a few hundred metres into the walk, we decided to just do our own thing. Initially we thought of walking 10km in the morning and run another 10km or so in the evening, but once we got going, we just kept on going and managed to run a bit more than 15km, and walk back to the car (about 5km).

Back at the car, Gerry decided to run another 6+km to get closer to where he’s supposed to be. That left him with only about 3km still behind schedule. At this point I was on 174km and Gerry on 171km.

A bit more windy and cooler than any of the other days so far, but happy that we’ve done our bit for the day, we went home to get a Sunday roast in the oven and pour a glass of red.

11 December 2017 (Monday) – 21km
Hard to believe we are on the second to last day of this challenge. Being on the home-stretch, I feel like a horse that smelled home – I just want to get there already. Before Gerry had to clock in at work, we went out for a 15km run. The plan was to run 15km and walk another 5km or so. But, being in no state to make it out of bed early enough, we could only fit in the run, after which Gerry quickly covered his last 3 catching-up kilometres.

After work (and my dental hygienist appointment) we had another nice walk of 6km around the duck pond and through the Esplanade. By the way, did you know that running is actually bad for your teeth? “’The triathletes’ high carbohydrate consumption, including sports drinks, gels, and bars during training, can lower the mouth’s pH below the critical mark of 5.5,’ Cornelia Frese told Runner’s World Newswire. ‘That can lead to dental erosion and cavities. Also, the athletes breathe through the mouth during hard exercise. The mouth gets dry, and produces less saliva, which normally protects the teeth.’” Read more.

But that’s a worry for another day. The bubbly is on ice. Only one more sleep. One more run.

12 December 2017 (Tuesday) – 7km
With only about 5km left to complete the challenge, we went for the easy way out. And what is less arduous than just covering our familiar Massey ring-road. But, unlike we usually do, we decided to go out the back of Massey and straight back to the car. Being only 5km, it took some serious motivation to get going. Why bother with only 5km? 😀

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Still warm, but with some cloud and light wind, we managed to finish the whole 12 days without a single minute of inclement weather – and not a drop of rain. As it turned out, NZ is in the midst of one of the biggest droughts we’ve seen in ages (as can be seen from the brown grass in some of the photos).

And so another challenge is done and dusted. We weren’t always equally excited about having to go out for long runs, but after a few days it started to get easier. And as is always the case, once you go long, your mind grows strong.

bubbly_shoes

These are the shoes that carried us through the 200km challenge. Evidently, I’m a bit of an Altra fan.

Thanks to Jason, Shona and the Greatest Virtual Run-team for dreaming up these challenges. It is a great way to get going and a good motivator. If I make the next 100km event, I will think back on some of these days and the word, Ultreia! It loosely translates to onward/forward. Which bring to mind the tale about this old man who lived in a very small village, and who was extremely lazy. One day the town folk decided he’s not worth the hassle anymore and they would bury him alive. Pleased with the decision, the old man was laying in his coffin while the bearers carried him to his grave. One old lady was particularly concerned about the decision to bury the old man alive and asked if there wasn’t maybe something the old man could do to pull his weight in the village? A small task like chopping wood or something? At which point the old man shouted from his coffin: “On-with-the-corpse!”, “On-with-the-corpse!”.

On ultras, this will be my new mantra – Ultreia! On with the corpse!

 

 

 

Three bridges and three ditches

Date: 9 December 2017
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 2:12.20
Previous: 2010, 2014

The Whanganui 3-bridges event was only the third event we’d done in NZ (in 2010) and I still have fond memories of the day. We only did the 10km back then, but having done the Mountain to Surf marathon in 2008 during a visit and tour of the country, and the Kahuterawa Classic 7km also in 2010, we were starting to get a feel for NZ events.

This year the event day was Gerry’s final day with the 10-week short course photography students in Whanganui, so I decided to do the Property Brokers Whanganui 3-Bridges half marathon to kill the time. NZ is in the midst of a very dry spell – we haven’t really had rain for more than a month and our water tanks are dangerously close to empty with no sign of rain in our region any time soon. On top of that, we’ve had an exceptionally warm summer so far, with temperatures in the high twenties, and scorching sun every day. Blue skies! Yay!

Not surprising then that most participants battled with the conditions, which might have impacted on some runners’/walkers’ times.

Like an idiot I didn’t bother to read the race information on their website, and just assumed that I would be able to enter on the morning. As it turned out, the organisers also made a FB post on their site (I’m not following it) stating that there will be no on-the-day entries. Thankfully, the organisers where flexible and decided to take my money in exchange for a bib. 🙂 Entry sorted. Phew.

After race briefing we all lined up in the road (Somme Parade). I decided to use my phone Strava app to track my run. So with a phone in one hand, a bag of jelly sweets and hanky in the other, we were off. I can confirm this – I’ve run with bags of jelly sweets plenty times, but a phone is just a pain in the butt. It’s a clumsy stupid thing to hold onto, while making sure not to accidentally press a button to turn it off, or to call someone mid-run. I was particularly concerned I might stumble or lose my grip while on the bridges and see it flying into the river!

My one other concern was that I was about to have a really huge running week, being part of the 200km-in-twelve-days Big Christmas Feast, Greatest Virtual Run challenge, and I was already sitting on 85km for the week. This event would push me over the 100km mark which we only do when we enter for long ultras. Which, coincidentally we’ve done. Grrr. So, this challenge is a good way to kick us into action as our next 100km event (Gone Nuts in Tasmania) is already on 3 March 2018 – a little more than two months away. While I’m cussing at Jason right now, I also have to thank him for creating this challenge as it is a timely reminder that we really need to do higher mileage in the weeks to come.

What I thought would be a really slow trot around the course, turned into a nice, comfortable run/jog. I started off faster than anticipated, but just kept to a pace I knew I could maintain throughout the course. Not flat-out, but not dilly-dallying either. I was feeling good and running at a fairly decent pace of about 6min/km, despite all the kilometres on the legs. Yet I was still among the last ten or so participants at the turn-around in Kowhai Park on the first lap. NZ events really need more participants!

It was very hot and muggy, but it didn’t bother me too much. Being used to much warmer temperatures, I was really enjoying not having watery eyes and a runny nose because of the cold air. The day started off overcast and remained that way for the most part, but every now and then the sun would make an appearance making things even worse of you are not good at handling the heat.

Since the flood in 2015, the river path hasn’t been fixed. But in the past week, the council got going on the footpath and managed to create a temporary path to be used so that runners and walkers didn’t have to cross the road twice. Unfortunately, three cheeky little ditches had to be negotiated with every lap. As one marathon runner pointed out on my first lap going up one of these ditches: “this is going to be interesting on 35km!”. I felt sorry for anyone thinking of posting a PB. If the tight corners passing over and under the bridges, combined with the heat on the day didn’t get to you, these very steep down-and-ups certainly would.

There were three water points on the course, stocked with water and electrolyte to keep participants hydrated. Not sure if it would be enough, as it seemed that a lot of runners/walkers where struggling with the heat. I am aware of at least one person (a fellow Manawatu Strider) who was hospitalised later that evening with heat stroke.

By the time I started on the second lap, and keeping to a fairly consistent pace, I started catching a lot of runners. Apart from passing someone every now and again, I was on my own for the most part. Hard to believe that the field can get so spread out on a 10km lap that you run all by yourself for very long stretches. Although I had an enjoyable run, it would have been much more fun if Gerry could be there too.

Prize-giving kicked off at 13:30. The event certainly have grown over the years, and it is run more professionally every year. It was great to see so many fellow Manawatu Striders club mates.

With 107km under the belt for the week so far (with Sunday still to add more), I caught up with Gerry after his class, and we made our way home with a thermos of coffee and some homemade Christmas cake.

Porirua parkrun

Date: 2 December 2017
Distance: 5km
Time: 29.27
Previous: Hamilton #1, Palmy #1, Kapiti Coast #1, Palmy #2

On another work outing to Wellington, we decided to try the Porirua parkrun, which saw its first running in the winter of 2013. We haven’t done it before and aren’t too sure when we will get the opportunity again.

After the previous night’s couple of glasses of bubbly (we had some compulsory celebrations to take care of ;-)) and getting to bed quite late, it was a challenge getting out of bed before five in the morning. Driving down to Porirua, I was still trying to wake up over a cup of coffee.

We were running late. Not sure how it always happens, but you are still well on time the one minute, and then “nek minute”, you’re late. As luck would have it, we also missed the turn-off in Porirua and had to keep going on the highway for another 5km. That happens when you start to doubt yourself and rather follow the phone’s instructions, despite weak reception and the GPS still trying to catch up!

Luckily the Porirua gang is very relaxed and it turned out we were well on time and even a bit early arriving a few seconds before 8am. They have heaps of awards for PBs (chocolate mini-slabs) and multi-PBs (jet planes for 3 or more PBs in a month), and so on, meaning that it took quite a while to get through all the formalities. On the bright side, it is rather nice to see people being rewarded for their efforts, even if it is just in the form of a jet plane or a chocolate fish.

By about 8:15 the whistle blew and we were on our way. The course is a lovely off-road track in Bothamley Park in Cannons Creek. With the lack of rain of late, it was a bit of a dust bowl in the gorge, but as the field of runners spread out, the dust was less prevalent. The path follows the Kenepuru Stream on a slow incline (40m elevation in total) until you reach the halfway mark. Turning around and running back the same way you came, meant a nice long downhill (potential) sprint to the finish. We were in no hurry, and just took it easy on the way out and back. Truth be told, a 6min/km pace to me these days does not come as “easy” as it used to, and it almost did feel like I was sprinting.

It was great that Gary could also make the trip across from his usual hangout (Kapiti parkrun) so we met up with him before the start. The three of us ran together chatting away and catching up, making the kilometres tick over in no time.

The Porirua parkrun must be one of the largest in NZ, boasting on average about 90 participants. They’re probably also be one of the oldest, having started in the winter of 2013, with the first NZ parkrun being staged in Lower Hutt in 2012.

The Porirua parkrun have a start/finish sign post, kilometre markers, as well as the turn-around point which are all permanent fixtures. This parkrun definitely feels more “inclusive” and although we were still in the back half of the field, there are lots of runners/walkers just taking it easy. Some with dogs, others with baby strollers, and others just out on a walk. Another contributing factor to the size and social aspect of this parkrun, might be that it is also used as a “green prescription”.

Coffee afterwards at the McDonald’s is encouraged.

It was warm and humid and being drenched, we stayed for a while afterwards to dry out a bit and rehydrate before heading off to work. A quick wet wipe shower was the best we could do before getting on with life.