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.

2pic1

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? 😀

IMG_0246fixeds

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!

 

 

 

Advertisements

The David Fletcher Mortgages Urban Trail Run

Date: 11 June 2017
Distance: 12.5km
Time: 1:40

While we were in New Plymouth for the weekend, we figured we might as well participate in another Cut a Trail event. The previous one was most enjoyable and since this one was cheap enough, we thought we’ll give it a go.

As an out-of-towner you can’t pre-enter, meaning you inevitably pay the late entry fee of $15 ($10 for locals if you pre-register at the Frontrunner shop during the course of the week). You also don’t come into account for certain of the spot-prizes if you enter late. But, I guess, these events are small and low-key community events – not really meant for outsiders. That might also explain why there were no water points or toilets. The latter being a bit of a problem when you have x-amount of people queueing for the one public toilet in the area. On the bright side, the banter while waiting in line turned out to be fun. When all the men turned to the bushes (on the East End Reserve, main beach and playground area no less!) one lady casually commented, “it is already full moon, a couple more won’t make a difference”.

Another beautiful day greeted us in the morning, with just a bit of a nip in the air. I decided there and then that we in Palmy most certainly have the most miserable weather in all of New Zealand. Quite sad actually, especially taking into account that Palmerston North had the least amount of sun last summer. So, excuse me for being a bit sad (or make that grumpy) from lack of vitamin D! 😀

The run follows the urban trails around town. We’ve covered most of them on training runs with friends before, but we did see a couple new areas. The first approximately 3km out-and-back stretch on the opposite sides of the Te Henui stream, makes up the loop for the 6km course. But after the first 3kms where the short course runners crossed a bridge to go back down, the longer course carries on to do another 3km loop higher up in the suburbs, twice. A decent hill reduced me to a walk, especially on the second lap. At the highest points on the course, we got lovely views of Mt Taranaki. When we finally hooked up with the second half of the 6km course on the way back, we got treated to another monster hill. But from there, the home stretch is mainly downhill back to the sea.

It took a fair bit longer to complete the course than I had hoped. But, on the bright side, my hip didn’t give any troubles. It might seem that the little bit of mobility and strength exercises are doing the trick. My hip does feel a lot less tight and sore, especially getting up from a sitting position.

There’s hope still.

Next up? Probably the Norsewood to Takapau half marathon on 9 July. A small, country event, which we’ve enjoyed doing in the past.

For a good course (and cause, of course)

For the past month or so, Gerry and I have been scouting trails and routes in the Tararuas for an Ultra event. Yep, we want to add another distance to the 25km North Range Traverse and 12.5km Hall Block Humdinger. A 50km Ultra, we thought, would nicely round off the offering.

It was suggested to us after last years event (thanks Michael), that we could maybe add South Range Road to North Range Road and some, to make an Ultra. We were very keen to get to the 50km mark and with South Range Road only about 14km long, and Sledge Track at about 3km from bottom to top, it meant we needed roughly 8-10km to get to 50. We tried from Scott’s Road side and from Kahuterawa, adding the Back Track etc, but nothing really added up to the right distance, or otherwise proved too difficult to access by bus, or too far to drive, to drop off participants.

But finally, we managed to solve the puzzle, and all the scouting these last few of months, from both sides of the mountain, finally paid off. Adding up the bits and pieces, I’m super stoked to announce that we’ve managed to find a fantastic 50km ultra course!

Starting at the Wairarapa side of the Tararuas (same side that the other courses start and finish), participants will be dropped off at the start of Naenae Road and make their way down the 2.85km gravel road to warm up and spread out the field a bit. After crossing a stream (about ankle to calf deep), the next 600m is mainly on farmland, which is very muddy and will no doubt be a mudfest in winter. Following the valley going up the mountain, the next 400m runs up the creek, zig-zagging through the water. It is a beautiful little gorge with numerous wee waterfalls, ferns and native forest. And then the big climb starts. For the next kilometre or so, you scramble up the new track (thanks to Ian Argyle!) that links the Wairarapa and Manawatu, until you reach the top of the mountain. This is a very technical, steep and difficult section. Not for the faint hearted, that’s for sure!

Once you reach the Otangane loop, you turn left to follow the loop track clockwise. This is an undulating stretch on top of the Tararuas with lovely views in all directions in the clearings. If you feel up to a couple of minutes detour, you could even make your way up Nipple Peak for a 360 degree view of the Manawatu and Wairarapa. After about 3km, you reach the connection track that takes you through to the Toe Toe loop track. Following the Toe Toe loop anti-clockwise for roughly 1.8km, you reach a side-track that takes you all the way to South Range Road. This marks the end of the most difficult and challenging section of the Ultra course. With the first few kilometres along Naenae Road on gravel road, and everything else from here also on gravel road, the terrain is for the most part very run-able, with the exception of the roughly 9km in the first quarter of the course.

Running on top of the Tararuas next to the water catchment area on South Range Road and then through the windfarm on North Range Road, makes for a beautifully scenic run. The stunning vistas and easy terrain underfoot for the last 39km, should add up to a very enjoyable Ultra.

Needless to say, adding an Ultra to our event offering is not something we take lightly. It will not be suitable to all abilities, mainly due to the very challenging section scurrying up the mountain. Being the middle of winter, could potentially also up the degree of difficulty a notch or two. But, we’ve found trail runners to be a staunch bunch and usually up for a challenge.

Currently we are thinking of having a drop-bag point at the first link up with South Range Road, where participants can change into dry shoes/socks/clothes for the remainder of the course. This will also double up as a aid station with portaloo.

Still a lot of detail to work out, but the course is set and that’s the main concern. It’s beautiful, totally do-able, a bit tough in sections, and maybe a bit exposed on the mountain, depending on the weather. A combination of trails and off-road. Should be a fun day out!

Doing a hip hop on a half*

*Thanks for the title Graeme!

Date: 14 January 2014
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 3:23

On all accounts, I should not have done this event. Apart from doing two half marathons, one in September and one in October, we haven’t been running for about five months, except for maybe the odd 3 or 4km slow trot-walk-run once every few weeks which is not even worth mentioning. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that you don’t go running races unprepared. Mind you, I’ve never “run a race”. Rather, I participate in events – there’s a huge difference. 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

Tauhara Half Marathon

3 July 2016
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 2:48.56

After four days on the road travelling to Auckland, back down to Wellington and back to Palmy the night before the Tauhara, I was a little reluctant to get up at 4am to travel to Taupo for this event. It was just all becoming a little too much. But, we were entered, and events usually cheer me up, so despite no running (and a lot of sitting!) for four days, we took to the road once again to see what this event was all about. Continue reading

#2 T42

Date: 7 May 2016
Distance: 42.2km
Time: 5:27.32
Previous: 2011

 

Our second event in the challenge turned out much better than I expected – great weather, good physical condition, and manageable terrain. After a not-so-nice experience at Rotorua, I feared that things can only get worse. I was still tired from the Rotorua marathon, and on top of everything I’ve picked up a couple of niggles. Continue reading