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 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 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.

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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!

 

 

 

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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 months 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 out way home with a thermos of coffee and some homemade Christmas cake.

Linking two towns – Ashhurst to Esplanade

Date: 19 November 2017
Distance: 21.1km (we measured 21.5km)
Time: 3:25
Previous: 2014

This year saw the fourth running of the Ashhurst to Esplanade walking and running event, which is a gem on the local calendar. Organised by the Manawatu Striders Running and Walking club it is a lovely walk linking two towns.

The long course starts at the Ashhurst Domain and finishes at the Palmerston North Esplanade, roughly following the Manawatu River. It passes through private land and as such, participating in the event is the only opportunity to experience a different part of the river track.

Being on Tail-end Charlie duties, Gerry and I decided to make a day of it. All dressed up and ready to go, we were armoured with a small backpack, stuffed with a first-aid kit, water, electrolytes, nutrition and warm clothing to last us all day. Also, we could help out a participant in need with more than just a plaster or bandage, if such a situation might arise.

Starting at 8:30am for the walkers, and 9:30am for runners, we were off shortly after the last participant crossed the starting line. As is often the case with official events, everybody is rearing to go and usually fast out of the starting blocks. But, the enthusiasm and excitement fueled by adrenaline almost always wears off within the first two kilometres. We had all day, and decided to just take if very easy at the back of the field as we knew we will catch up with the back runners soon enough. On a very slow jog, stopping to take photos, waiting for someone to tie a shoe lace, we made our way around the sports field at the Ashhurst domain, before heading down SH3 for a couple hundred metres towards the river, where you turn right onto the river walkway.

On this well maintained gravel walkway, we kept the last participants in our view while staying far enough behind so as not to unnerve them. We walked bits and jogged little bits, while enjoying the scenery. After about 4.5 kms we reached the first water point where the course enters private land. Usually, at this point one would have to turn right and follow Raukawa Road out towards SH3 (Napier Road). But, by participating in the event we could continue on along the quiet gravel path through the Higgins aggregates depot yard.

At the 9km mark we reached the second water point at the main entrance/exit gate of Higgins, which is also the start of the shorter 12km course. The course is marked every kilometre, counting down, so you know exactly where you are and how far to go.

After answering nature’s call (this water point also has portaloos), we turned left onto Te Matai Road for the next four kilometres. At this point, we were walking all the way as the slowest runner was going at a comfortable walking speed.

With the walkers starting and hour earlier, there was no chance that we would catch any of them.

At the far end of Te Matai Road, we turned left onto Riverside Drive to reach the third water point before getting back onto the River Walkway and Bridle Track for the remainder of the course. On a gentle stroll, snacking on everything we had, just because we had it, and chatting away we got to spent a lovely morning out on a beautiful track right in our backyard. The fourth water point was at the exit to Albert Street, about 4km from the finish.

Back at the Palmerston North Esplanade, we made a few twists and turns through the gorgeous gardens before the final “lap of glory” at Manawaroa/Ongley Park towards the finish line. The cherry on the cake was seeing the elated expression of the last person crossing the finish line, being cheered on by friends/family, the joy and sense of achievement. A first time half-marathoner who only started running some eight months ago.

Being a very supportive community event and a well organised one to boot, there is really no reason not to take part. Most people can walk 21.1km in four and a half hours (which is the time it took from the start of the walkers to the finish of the last person). Not having any cut-off time, means you can potentially take longer. All it takes is the will to reach your goal, and the determination to keep going even if you might experience some discomfort. Just a little bit of training will make your outing much more enjoyable.

Included in the entry fee of $30 for the Half ($20 for the 12km and $5 for the 3km events), you get free bus transport from the finish at Palmerston North Esplanade to the start at Ashhurst Domain, four water points en route and one at the finish, a sausage sizzle at the finish, and of course the course marking (so no getting lost or not finding your way back) and excellent traffic management.

Pencil in the date for the 2018 event, which will take place on 18 November. Hope to see many of you there!

For more information on next years event, please visit www.manawatustriders.org.nz or follow the club on Facebook.

Palmy parkrun #2

Date: 11 November 2017
Distance: 5km
Times: Gerry – 21.15 / Wouna – 26.37
Previous: Hamilton #1, Palmy #1, Kapiti Coast #1

When we have a weekend at home, we are like puppies that caught a car. We don’t know what to do with it. It happens so rarely that we were totally off guard when the weekend rolled around.

Luckily, running will always make the top of the list, and as if on autopilot we decided to do parkrun. Gerry opted to use this opportunity to see how fast he can go. He always runs with me which is way below his own capabilities, and would only once in a blue moon attempt a faster run by himself. On the plus side, he has never had any injuries in his life. I am convinced it is because he is always running much slower than what he is capable off.

After a 19km training run/walk the day before, I was feeling tired, lethargic and just generally not at my peak. Convinced that I would not be able to go much faster than what I managed at the Kapiti Coast parkrun (28.36), I still thought I might as well give it a go and see how far off of a 5min/km pace I am. To top it off, it was quite a chilly morning with a fresh headwind for the first half. Luckily that meant the tailwind on the way back would make things feel “easier” for the last push to the finish.

Also not sure how to really push myself, I just trotted along at a comfortable, but faster than normal, pace. Trying to run within myself, and not push myself to the maximum limit, I managed a reasonably comfortable finish two minutes faster than the Kapiti Coast parkrun. There’s hope yet to maybe manage a 25 minute parkrun some day!

I can see now why a lot of runners would use this as a time trial, rather than just a social outing. It is a perfectly measured and timed course. And you have runners of similar capabilities to pace yourself and keep things interesting. 🙂

 

Roy Lamberton Memorial half marathon – Feilding

Date: 4 November 2017
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 2:10.36
Previous: 2011

The previous time we did this half marathon (in 2011), the event started at the swimming pool and ran out of town in more or less the opposite direction than the current event before you turned around and ran back the same way. It was, still is, a lovely, small town, out-in-the-country-type event on an out-and-back course.

 

Leaving Palmy for the 35-minute drive to Feilding, we were pleased that the weather was playing along. It wasn’t too cold, although a cool nor-westerly of 21km/h was a bit of a nuisance. We arrived just in time to register ($50 for the half marathon) and catch up with some friends before race briefing and the start of the event. This was meant to be our weekend long-run, and would also be our longest week in ages, totaling 64km.

We started off on a faster-than-planned pace, but felt comfortable, so we just kept going. At 3.2km, we passed the first water point, which was on the other side of the road. After I grabbed a cup of water, I suddenly felt uncertain/bad as I thought it was probably only to be used on the way back. Being an out-and-back course meant the same water points on the way out doubled up as the water points on the way back. Although there were only two water points, we thus actually had four (at 3.2km, 8.6km, 12.4km and 17.8km). But, having said that, the water at the second/third water point was literally just a sip (less than a third of a cup). And with the heat and humidity on the day, this was not nearly enough. I should have read the race details beforehand, (which I didn’t – my bad) so was unaware that you would have been better off carrying your own hydration pack to supplement what was on offer. Luckily, I always carry a bag of jelly sweets with me to keep the sugar levels intact.

We were going well without many aches or pains, at a comfortable pace. With the marathoners starting an hour and a half before us, we got to see the front runners as they came speeding back at about the 8km mark. The half marathon front runners had all passed us from the front by then. After the turn-around point, we started catching up with some runners as we, by hook or by crook, managed a negative split overall. Okay, all right, 30 seconds faster over the second half hardly counts as a negative split :-D. So, let’s just say we kept an even pace throughout. But, with most people going slower in the second half, we managed to pass quite a few.

And then we got lost. Don’t ask me how. Actually, it is not that difficult if you don’t know a town well, if you haven’t studied the map and if there’s no signage to indicate which road to take in the event of a fork in the road. Yes, it is an out-and-back course, but have you ever noticed how your usual trot around the block in the opposite direction looks so different that it may as well be a new course altogether. So we had to stop and ask for directions. Luckily the runner behind us was a local lad and knew the way, so we were on course again in no time. As it turned out, chatting to others after the event, we were not the only participants trotting down the wrong road!

This was the 63rd running of the Feilding Marathon (organised by the Feilding Moa Harrier Club), the oldest in the country. It was the 21st running of the half marathon and to commemorate this achievement, all Roy Lamberton Memorial half marathon finishers received a medal. Sorry marathoners, you only get a beer, banana and the slice of orange. 🙂

With prize-giving more than three hours away, Gerry and I opted to go out for some salad, chips and a beer/bubbly. By the time we got back to the sports grounds, the hall was packed and proceedings were under way. Both Gerry and I received a spot-prize (a pair of socks and a frying pan), which was great.

It is a lovely event and well worth supporting. Next time I will bring additional hydration and make sure to familiarise myself with the course. With the roads all open, and fairly busy, just a word of caution to be mindful of the traffic. There are some maniacs out there. Oh, and to put a positive spin on the lack of water, being a bit dehydrated worked in my favour as there are no toilets on the course – always a bit more tricky for us girls to find a decent spot.

With thanks to Rob Dabb, the Feilding Moa Harrier Club and all the sponsors and volunteers who help make these events happen.

 

A 32km warm-up and 10km Sprint (yeah right) – the inaugural Tauranga International Marathon

Date: 7 October 2017
Distance: 42.2km
Time: 4:49:47

3:47am. The alarm was set to go off at 3:45, but for some reason didn’t. Unfortunately, luckily, neither Gerry or I slept much, and when Gerry checked for a second time what the time was it started sinking in that the alarm didn’t go off and that we are supposed to be getting up.

But, first, let us rewind to Wednesday. We were in Masterton for work that night, and by 9pm we were ravenous for junk food to keep us going on the trip back home. We stopped for take-away chips at one of the local spots. The chips were nice enough, although some tasted like fish, and I still remember telling Gerry that one tasted of egg! And, as is always the case, the aftermath of junk food far outweighs the pre-junk tastebud fireworks going off in your mouth, signalling to your brain that you absolutely have to have it or death will certainly set in! The brain is such a fickle thing.

By mid-morning on Thursday, my “it’s just a headache, ya know”, took on epic proportions and by 2pm, Gerry had to leave work early and get something from the pharmacist for migraine. Nausea settled in nicely, and by 3pm I was barfing my lungs out. What was supposed to be the time for me to pack, clean and sort out everything before our trip, tuned into one of the rare moments I wished I was rather dead. Feeling like an invalid, I was not capable of anything other than wanting to die.

Thursday rolled into Friday while all along I couldn’t eat or drink anything. Not even pure icy cold rain water straight from our tank could stay down. The pharmacist suggested motion sickness tables which didn’t have any time to work it’s magical powers before going down the drain.

This meant that during my incapacitated state, Gerry had to pack running clothes, work outfits and casual clothes for both of us for five days, camera equipment, and everything else, while preparing a pre-race meal, filling thermoses with coffee and hot water for tea for the trip, on top of still tending to last minute work commitments.

By Friday midday, Gerry packed jelly-belly me and everything else in the car, before setting off for Tauranga. It was raining most of the way, but being dosed and in a haze from serious pain killers (people killers), we slowly made our way North. By late afternoon I managed some grated, left to turn brown (fermented) apple, and a few sips of flat Coke. Some weak herbal tea followed an hour later, as well as a Frooze ball. When all that stayed put, I knew things were looking up. My headache was back to “normal”, and I briefly considered more tablets, but opted to sit it out.

We arrived at our very basic Airbnb at about 7pm, after passing by the quick and efficient event registration desk in town. After another cup of herbal tea and almost feeling human again, I decided to try some dinner: quinoa with boiled egg, chopped cucumber, onion, green pepper and tuna. By then I realised that I was severely dehydrated and under-carbo-loaded not being able to eat or drink anything for the better part of two days. Happy to be able to keep food of any kind down, the best I could add to that was an electrolyte drink, before dozing off into a semi-sleep not too long after 9pm.

Stressed about the fact that I was in fairly bad shape so shortly before the run, on top of the fact that our peak training week for the past year was 55.7km, resulted in not much sleep. But, being awake about a zillion times, luckily saw us following the minutes as they pass during the night. Just as well, as we might not have woken up in time for the event.

By 5am we were showered, dressed, breakfasted (yogurt with chia seeds, and grated apple) and on our way to catch the free bus at 5:45 from the finish to the start. As this was a point to point event, the organisers offered free buses from the finish to the start, before as well as after the event. While we were traveling to the start I was counting my lucky stars that I was feeling almost human again, and that the inclement weather from the previous days seemed to have subsided.

The weather was as close to perfect as you can get. Starting at around 12 degrees C going up to 17 at its warmest, overcast and virtually no wind. Drop bags was another nice to have, and we decided to keep a warm layer until shortly before the start.

As this is a city marathon, we started in the Tauranga city centre on The Strand Rd, as the sun started to light up the day. Waved starting times helped to spread out the field of about 300 runners and walkers over the first 200 metres or so before heading up a small path, past the police station and into a suburb. Shortly after the first kilometre we crossed SH2 before veering off onto a track next to the highway on the one side, and the sea/lagoon on the other. It was great to see Anita at about 2km (40 to go!) marshaling and cheering everyone on. After 2.5km we turned away from the highway and onto a beautiful path of boardwalks and tracks for five kilometres, before crossing Chapel Street and onto an out-and-back stretch of about 7km (3.5km each way) on Harbour Drive and Beach Road. We were still going great and I was surprised at how reasonably well I was feeling given the circumstances.

Back onto Chapel Street we crossed the bridge and took a left onto a pathway next to an area that smelled like the sewerage farm. After about one kilometre we were back on SH2 where we crossed the Tauranga Bridge next to the marina. Being a huge bridge on the highway, it was quite busy with lots of traffic. Running through the industrial port area for miles and miles (okay, 4km to be precise), we finally crossed Coronation Park before running along The Mall Drive for one kilometre to reach Mt Maunganui. In my mind I always think of city marathons as “city centre” marathons. But, I guess it is fair to include the industrial area (which makes up a huge part of this event) and surrounding suburbs. Only about 100 metres were in the city centre itself.

The Mount was a highlight for me. Maybe it was because I was using different muscles on the otherwise very flat course, but I almost got a second wind in the 3km around the mountain. It follows the beautiful and extremely popular walking track around the Mount. Lots of people were running, walking their dogs or babies and just having a stroll on a lovely Saturday morning. Although it was mostly overcast, the lack of wind made for some nice temperatures.

Unfortunately, my “high” was short lived. We reached Marine Parade after about three hours with 14.5km to go. I was suddenly knackered, not having done the hard yards in training, and the suffering got exponentially worse after 30km. I haven’t even done my 32km “warm up”, before I started walking bits. Making it to the finish seemed near impossible.

Again, following the advice we once got on day four of a five-day stage race from a fantastic supporter, of “run bits, walk bits – you’ll get there”, we plottered on as the kilometres ticked over slowly but surely. I lost track of where we were and how many kilometres we covered, just trying my best to keep moving forward.

The course itself didn’t help. After about 3.5km, Marine Parade turned into Ocean Beach Road (4km) and later Maranui Street, and Papamoa Beach Road (6km) – a flat, boring, straight, long run through the suburbs of Mt Maunganui and Papamoa. For the final kilometre, we followed an urban path between houses towards the finish at the Gordon Spratt Reserve.

Funny how the final seven or so kilometres usually goes by in a blur. The pain overrides most other sensations, which had me thinking about something I read a few years ago in a book by Brian Powell (Relentless Forward Progress). The author’s wise words were something in the line of “if it hurts when you run, and it hurts when you walk, then run”. So I tried my best to do just that.

Before we knew it, we were on the home stretch. It could not have come fast enough. For the first time ever, I had a numbing feeling down my right leg for a huge part of the final twelve kilometres. I was worried my sciatic nerve might be pinched. But, seeing the finish line and knowing that we got there in the end, almost brought some instant relief. It still remains one of the most joyous moments – being able to run that far and the contented feeling of accomplishment. I always think that for as long as you are capable, you owe it to yourself to keep moving.

In terms of the event, I could not fault it. Everything was very well organised and the traffic management was next level. I think all the cones from the whole Bay of Plenty, including some from Auckland city council were on the course! The course marking counted down every kilometre, which is my favourite way of doing it. The marshals were abundant (my understanding was around 200), super supportive and generally just fantastic. Eight aid stations (at 5km, 10.5km, 14.2km, 18.2km, 23.8km, 29.1km, 34.9km, and 39.2km) were en route stocked with water and Loaded Isotonic Sports Drink. One had bananas and a couple others some jelly sweets. Each aid station also had a toilet. Only once on “the-green-mile” (times nine) stretch did I get really thirsty, and thought the water points were too far apart. But, that was probably because I only took some Loaded at the last water point which wasn’t nearly enough for the fairly warm, windless run through the suburbs.

Spot prizes were handed out as participants were crossing the finish line which usually doesn’t favour the back markers, and medals and a free beer courtesy of Speights were awarded to all finishers.

Prize-giving seemed a bit random and unorganised. First, second and third place winners were acknowledged and winners awarded with trophies for all distances from the 6km, 10km and 21.1km. But when it came to the marathon, only the winners were handed their trophies. Not a peep about the second and third place winners, who got prize money no less! Only when one of the placers talked to the announcer did they do a quick back-paddle in recognition of the second and third place winners. A bit after the fact, as people were on their way already.

But overall, Totalsports did a fantastic job of organising the event comprising of 300 participants in the marathon run and walk, 460 in the half marathon, 280 in the 10km, and 80 for the 6km (all based on the amount of finishers). Here’s hoping that next year will see the numbers increase with leaps and bounds, as a more social run would certainly help ticking over the final third of the run more enjoyably.

Seeing a lot of familiar faces on the course and catching up with friends afterwards, was just the cherry on the cake.  Thanks to everyone who helped make this event/weekend so special.

 

Hilder, honey and a half marathon

Date: 9 July 2017
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 2:17.26
Previous: 2014, 2015

 

The first time we did the Norsewood to Takapau half marathon, it was with family, who at the time lived in New Zealand. I will never forget the box filled with pots of honey that was handed out as spot prizes. Two out of the four of us received a pot of honey. When prize-giving rolled around the following year, I was audibly disappointed for not getting honey again, at which point the Hilders gifted us theirs. Last year the event was first postponed and later cancelled altogether, because of inclement weather, so definitely no pots of honey to be had.

In 2014 I was physically in better shape than any of the subsequent years, but this is one of those lovely, affordable events that you shouldn’t miss. And walking is always an option. Which brings me to this year. This was my first half marathon-length long run in a while and I was keen to see how my hip would behave. At the Great Forest Events, I walked most of the time, and when you take your time, you can do almost anything. So that one doesn’t count. These days, anything faster than a 7min/km pace I consider to be quite all right.

It was again very cold and wet underfoot with lots of rain leading up to the event and snow-capped mountains, but the weather was otherwise not too bad. One tends to forget the hills on this course! Just as well, or you might not come back for more.

I couldn’t help but thinking about Marian. It is a year since Stuart’s passing, and Marian will no doubt be reliving this very sad time. This event will, in one way or another, always make me think of Marian and Stuart. If not for Marian running, then the gifted honey, or Stuart’s passing. I do hope we will see Marian again on the course at a future event.

[Hip update: I had little to no complaints from my hip. Regaining strength if you neglected it for so many years, is really hard. It has taken a very long time for me just to be able to spend some quality time on a foam roller. That is how non-existent my core was. It is still no good, but at least I can stay on the roller for a bit longer than what I could a few months ago. I still do strength exercises very haphazardly, focussing mainly on rolling the knots out, which has helped my mobility and range of movement with leaps and bounds. Maybe it will be easier to join a gym for the strength exercises, but I’m hoping to find a solution that I can do anywhere and anytime on my own. Having entered for the Ring of Fire event scheduled for April next year might get me off my rear to start doing more, as I’m scared senseless just thinking of what we’ve signed up for.]