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.

 

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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.]

Taihape Half

Date: 18 March 2017
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 2:29
Previous: 2015, 2016

After a long hiatus and battling to fully commit and get back into things, I thought participating in an event might help me find my running mojo, so we entered the Taihape Half. (Boy was I wrong – it’s been a week since, and I’ve managed one run …) Not having done the hard yards, I knew this kind of distance wasn’t the “right thing to do”, but throwing caution to the wind, I figured if I take it really easy I should be able to cover the distance. Even if it means having to walk most of the way. Continue reading

A Buffanatic

It has to be said that I’m probably the biggest Buff fan ever since I first discovered these neck scarves. Was it 2003? Or maybe 2004? Just for those wondering where the name comes from, Buff is short for “bufunda” which means scarf in Spanish. It was developed around 1992 by Joan Rojas, a motorcyclist, who was looking for something to protect his neck from the wind and cold.

Will I ever forget the first five Buffs we bought. Five! Not one or two to try them out first. No, it had to be at least five. That probably consumed all our savings, but it just sounded (hadn’t even seen one in real life yet before ordering them) like the best invention since sliced bread. Continue reading

New Plymouth half marathon

Date: 2 October 2016
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 2:31.27
Previous: 2011

We have now officially exhausted the last bit of our running memory. No more long-runs without a bit of training first.

When friends invited us to join them for the half marathon, I thought to myself, yeah, why not. So we entered, knowing very well that I’m tempting fate (more accurately, tickling the lion’s testicles) and it’s only a matter of time before the wheels come off. As it rightfully did. Continue reading

Running on memory

Date: 18 September 2016
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 2:21
Previous: 2011, 2014, 2015

All photos by us, except where otherwise indicated.

The Hatuma Lime Half Marathon reminds me of a mini-Rotorua marathon: once you’ve done the first busy section through town (in this case, the short out-and-back stretch outside the race course), you head into the country where on a good weather day, you cannot ask for a better setting while you make your way around a lake (Lake Hatuma here). Great community support on country roads where you can just cruise along admiring the scenery, until you reach the final quarter of the event – the stretch from the airport (a small rural air strip in this instance) which takes you back through town, not as scenic and also the toughest part to the finish. Continue reading

A “user-friendly” test in endurance

When Gerry first told me about the Ultra Interval Challenge, I was very excited as this sort of thing is right up my alley. It is a worldwide initiative where everybody started at the exact same time, irrespective of where you are in the world. In NZ our starting time was 10am on 23 July. The idea was to run 10km every three hours over a 24-hour period. Therefore 8x10km, totalling 80km. Our initial intention was to turn it into a wee event, by having a base camp with supplies, access to toilets, etc, and hopefully, manage to lure some friends into joining, but then we got busy with other stuff and all but forget about the challenge. Continue reading