Creatures of habit – Hatuma time again

Date: 17 September 2017
Distance: 21.1km (+11.1km)
Time: 2:25.28 (+1:16)
Previous: 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016

For our fifth running of the Hatuma Lime Half Marathon, we decided to add a few kilometres before the event start to get to 32km. It might be partially psychological, but I like to do a 32km long-run three or four weeks out from a marathon. Luckily the event was on so we only had to add 11kms to make up the distance.

Since we entered for the Tauranga International Marathon (happening on 7 October) ages ago, I’ve been trying to get myself on form, up the kilometres and generally just be half decently prepared. Unfortunately, it hasn’t materialised. By now I would have preferred to be on 70kms/week, but life got in the way and the best we could do was to get up to around 50km weeks, and only for the past month or so. Which brings me to the 50km per week mileage: it is only once I start to run at least 50km per week consistently for a couple of months, that I can actually feel improvement in terms of my fitness. Anything less, and it remains a slog to get through every run.

The weather was yet again atrocious leading up to the event. It was raining consistently, the wind was fairly strong, and Palmerston North even saw some hail the day before – the second time in one week. The weather prediction for the day didn’t look too flash either. But, on the morning of the event, things couldn’t be better. Cheryl joined us for the outing, and by 6:45 we were on our way to Waipukurau. This, if memory serves me well, this is the event we’ve done the most times of all events over the past 16 years. I can’t tell you why. It is just one of those things. Maybe because it is really cheap ($15 and you get a free T-shirt if you enter early)? Maybe because it is familiar? Or maybe we’re just creatures of habit. Who knows.

After registration, we quickly dropped our new Ts in the car, took off some layers, and were off on our 11km “warmup” run with seconds to spare before the walkers (and slow runners) were sent on their way. They started at 8:30. The “speedy” runners officially started at 10:00. I can’t remember it being this way in previous years, but the event now only allows 2:30 to complete the half marathon.

It seems to be the norm these days to have different starting times for fast runners, walkers, slow runners, fast walkers, other runners, the different distances and so on. Which I think is unfortunate. There’s something about a starting line and the masses of people, the chatter, banter and the sense of belonging – the “we are in this together”, no matter how fast or slow your are. With the separate starting times that start-line vibe is slowly dying out.

Our first 11km went by uneventfully. The idea was to take it really slow and just get the distance on our feet. We basically ran to the first water point and back. On the way back we saw all the walkers and early, slow runners. John Stuart was doing his 50th half marathon and a few of the Manawatu Striders members were walking with him for support and camaraderie.

Back to base, we had 14 minutes to take a drink of water, have a pee, and tape a hotspot on my foot before setting off on the half marathon. We were still trying to start the GPS on Gerry’s phone, and make a FB post (don’t ask) as we watched the field of runners disappear out the gate on the first out-and-back stretch in front of the race course. We were way behind everyone else (we could have been the official Tail-end Charles’s!), and it remained that way until about the 10km mark at the second water point. We passed four participants, one of which overtook us again a few kilometres up the road. It was only in the final few kilometres that we passed a few more. And it was only at these rare moments, as well as at the three water points, that we were not by ourselves. For the most part, it was just the two of us on a Sunday long-run.

The last seven kilometres tuned into quite a challenge as it was “virgin” territory again. Since my regular running excursions came to an abrupt halt about a year ago, we haven’t done much more than a few half marathons, and those were few and far between. My legs got that “lack of oxygen and blood flow” numbness/pain and the struggle was on. All I can think was how on earth was I going to get to the finish, let alone through 10km more in three weeks time!

We met up with Cheryl at the finish and saw the Striders gang who was having a wee celebration for John’s 50th half marathon. Prize-giving was short and sweet and unfortunately no lucky spot-prizes for us. Damn – I was looking forward to winning that fertiliser!

[Hip update: it has been nearly nine months since I started my self-help rehab and I can honestly say that my hip is in a much better place than what it was before. My core is getting stronger and I can now manage to spend very long periods of time on a foam roller. My hip mobility is probably the best it has been in 20 years. I’m extremely aware of my body’s movements, tightness, weaknesses and am constantly focused on that aspect of my life. It is literally all-consuming. I’ve spent hours and hours reading articles on hips, all the muscles in that area, ligaments, fascia, and watched endless amounts of videos on YouTube. I’m obsessed about getting to the bottom of it. It’s been proved over and over – running is good for your joints. I just need to sort out the mechanics: mis-alignments, tight spots, and weak spots, before I can really move forward.

We’ve slowly built up our mileage during this time, going from about 20km per week in January to 50km in September. My fitness levels are picking up nicely. Although I’m not where I’ve hoped to be by this time due to lack of proper planning, being scared and uncertain whether I’m doing the right thing (because that is what doctors manage to be good at – instilling fear), but I’m really looking forward to see what is going to happen at the marathon.]

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.]

The Great Forest Events – Waitarere

Date: 8 April 2017
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 3:30
Previous: 2014, 2016

A few months ago, a friend of ours won an entry for the marathon of this event. She has been keen to do a marathon for such a long time, and what better motivation than to win an entry. It was going to be her very first marathon and Gerry and I thought we’d like to join her. But, life had other plans, and we couldn’t get the miles done in time for a full marathon, so decided to join only for the second half of her run.

The marathon is a double-lapper, so it was easy enough to just enter for the 21.1km and join in on her second lap. Unfortunately, the full and half marathons started only an hour apart, so we thought we’ll wait and start an hour late for the half marathon. But, as it turned out, Cheryl opted to start another hour earlier with the walkers, so she was already two hours in by the time our race started. Not sure at what pace she was going (I was thinking she might be able to do the first half in about 2:15), we started off on a very slow walk, thinking she might catch us in the first 10-20 minutes.

But let me just take a few steps back. Apart from being unfit, I also landed myself the migraine of the decade. We had a very hectic week, some very late nights, including a 150km work trip in the middle of the night in stormy weather, and all the stress just started to add up. For two days leading up to the event, my head felt like it was being pelted with a 10-pound hammer and all I could think of was how not to barf my lungs out. When Friday rolled around, my only thought was to die – the sooner the better. Not keen to take pills in any form or shape, I finally succumbed to Nurofen. That didn’t do anything, so a few hours later I took a codeine tablet (leftovers from a dentist prescription). Still, no improvement and a couple of Advil’s later without any change, I realised the problem was more serious than any pills we had in the house. By then I was convinced I had food poisoning from a function we attended on Wednesday night, as that was the only day Gerry and I ate different things. Since he was fine, I reckoned that must be it.

When the alarm when off on Saturday morning, I would much rather have been laying in my coffin than having to get ready for a run. But, I really didn’t want to miss Cheryl’s maiden marathon (ah, the euphoric first), plus we had entered and paid already, and all I had to do was turn up and do it. I suspected it might be a slow one with lots of walking, so the pressure was off to try and run much on unfit legs, while my pounding head was in a universe of its own. Besides, I thought a run was the only thing that might fix my upset tummy and exploding head. I couldn’t stomach anything, so didn’t eat much on the Thursday or Friday, but managed to get a grated apple down as my pre-run meal on Saturday morning.

We drove the 40km to Levin, parked in a paddock and got ready to start our slow meander through the forest on a gorgeous Saturday morning. A bit chilly at the start, but the air warmed up soon enough as we strolled down the forest roads. It was quite liberating to see everybody speed off into the distance, while we were having a nice stroll down the road. After a few kilometres, we (first heard! :), then) saw Cheryl and Steph (who kindly offered to run the full marathon with Cheryl so that she won’t have to be on her own for her first marathon) coming from the front a few metres to our right on a different road, nearing the end of their first lap. We knew then that they were about 3-4km behind us, and would catch up with us soon enough.

Having lots of time on our hands in the first 6kms (at which point they caught up and we started to run bits) we could really appreciate the forest and just being out there in near perfect weather conditions. Not something we had much of in the days leading up to the event with the remnants of Cyclone Debbie creating havoc in the region. Unfortunately, my head was still pounding, so at the first water point, I decided to have more pain killers (which again, I might add, didn’t help whatsoever). Slow learner, eh.

To entertain himself, Gerry started taking pics of all the fungi in the forest. There was quite a variety and I was very pleased to spot a basket mushroom – not something I’ve ever seen in real life before.

When Cheryl and Steph caught up, we started to jog bits. The four of us were by ourselves for huge parts of the run and being out in mother nature, was good for the soul. But, truth be told, I don’t have a clue how I managed to get around the course. Being nauseous with a pounding head is definitely not the way you want to spent making your way through a half marathon course. Luckily, Cheryl was in such high spirits, I couldn’t help but feel better. I was amazed at how comfortable she looked, despite having a stress fracture which was obviously causing her a lot of pain. But she was happy and seemed to be in seventh heaven. Isn’t that exactly what running should be about? I’m sure she could have done another lap if she wanted to!

Spending some time with friends at the prize-giving (I have to apologise for being rude and for the most part, ignoring everyone), I couldn’t manage anything other than laying on the grass, holding my head. I haven’t had this much pain from a headache in a very long time.

On the way home, Gerry went past a pharmacy to try and fix his broken wife. Back home and with pills for nausea and pain in my tummy, I crawled out of the car and straight into bed – dirty as one can only be after having done an off-road half marathon. I could not face standing up, let alone try to shower. Luckily the pills (and maybe spending the next 20 hours in bed) worked a charm. By midday Sunday, I could almost face life and food again.

Needless to say, I don’t remember much of the event. What I do remember is that they’ve changed the venue, and also the course (slightly, to compensate for some muddy patches and logging in the forest), and also to go in the opposite direction from before. The parking area was a bit disastrous having to squeeze cars and pedestrians through the same narrow gate, with a constant flow of both cars and pedestrians continuously going in and out. The sound system really wasn’t up to it, and prize-giving went by in the background.

A somewhat morbid and self-centered take on the event, but I just had to put it out there as a reminder to my future self (for when I feel doubtful about something): just drag your sorry arse out there and make a start. It may not seem possible, but it will be. Just do it.

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

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