My First Trail Run

WAITOMO_2016_001997

There’s nothing quite like a last minute change of plans and signing up for a race the week before the start…  But that’s what I did a couple of weeks ago and last weekend I ran my first serious distance race, I did the 22k version of the inaugural Waitomo Trail Run.  Janes mum had seen it advertised in the local paper so I checked it out, it looked like fun so I entered.  I probably would have entered the 11k distance except that it was fully subscribed and so entries to that distance were closed.

The only distances still open a week out from the start were the 33k and the 22k, I was definitely not ready for 33k but 22k sounded achievable, I had run a few 18’s and done 23 a couple of weeks earlier, so I figured that I should be able to get around the course.  Looking at the course I was a little concerned at the amount of climbing (789m) but there was little I could do about it apart from set my goals accordingly.

I went into the race with fairly modest goals, firstly to finish the course, it was my first trail run and I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for.  Secondly I would like to finish somewhere between 3:30 to 4 hours.  This was about an hour longer than my previous attempt at 22k and felt achievable.

Race day was perfect weather, sunny with little wind and the temperature was in the high teens and the scenery was fantastic, even if the amount of hills was giving me a little cause for concern.  Still I knew what I was trying to achieve and while I felt a little under prepared, I was certain that I could last the distance.

This was the first year the race has been put on, and we got to run over some pretty beautiful countryside with quite a lot of the course running over private land so the opportunity to see it is pretty limited usually.  The first half of the run was REALLY hilly, I knew I wasn’t the fittest runner in the field, but those hills were pretty intense, and the off road aspect just added to it.  I got to the end of the first major climb, probably about 100 meters but quite steep and undulating terrain, and I came to the “shortcut” which was a route option that would cut 5k off the total route.  It was reallllly tempting, in fact if I hadn’t been chatting (I say chatting, I mean gasping) to the people around me I would possibly have taken it, but no one else was heading down that route so I just kept going.

We ran over narrow rock escarpments, through native forest and across undulating farm tracks.  It was fantastic, the most frustrating parts were where there were a couple of pinch points where only a single runner could pass at a time.  One of these was a small cave that required a bit of gymnastics to get through – unfortunately this meant a 30 minute wait to get my turn to go through here.  While the rest was welcome, it did take a bit longer than I would have liked and I did start to get cold.  Once through the run continued through the fantastic scenery and looped round back to the start, seeing the start line again was a mixed blessing, it was great to see my supporters and hear them cheer me on, but it was a bit disheartening to realise that I had only run 11k and it had taken the better part of two hours.

The second half of the race was a mixture of farmland and some native bush.  Running in the bush is great, its cooler than in the paddocks, and the ground is springy as a lot of NZ forest is, but the single track is a lot more technical and required a fair amount of concentration to ensure that you didn’t trip.  The path was well marked though so route finding was pretty straight forward.

Eventually my race drew to a close, though I will say any course designer who places the finish line at the top of some stairs is a special kind of sadist, but as usual the sound of people cheering you on makes you dig deep and find some last reservoir of energy to ensure that you run across the finish line.

So there you go, my first trail run, my first official half marathon distance, so what did I learn…

  1. Although I thought my training was going well I wasn’t as fit as I had hoped
  2. I don’t do enough off road running, while we don’t have rivers like the Coast to Coast course, running in the forest teaches some of the skills needed
  3. Running in five fingers worked really well and I had no issues with grip or ankle support, but my feet did get tired
  4. It was fun, although it may not have looked it by the end of the race, I did enjoy myself
  5. Must Do More Hills… I need to build hill legs, after the event I couldn’t walk down stairs forwards for 3 days…

 

Training…

  • Monday – Run 18k
  • Wednesday – Walk 9k
  • Thursday – Bike 22k
  • Saturday – Run 22k – The race

Two Weeks Holiday

WP_20160112_17_00_53_Pro.jpg

I’m back at work again after two glorious weeks off in the Wairarapa at the bottom of the North Island of New Zealand.  I do have to apologise for the tardy postings while I was away, I had written the two articles that went out the other day and scheduled them to publish at intervals while I was away but something went wrong and for some reason they never published.  To make it worse I then published them in the incorrect order – never mind, I’m sure the 15 of you who regularly read the blog can work it out.

The holiday was great – the weather was a bit windy at the beginning, but nothing a crayfish and some fish couldn’t help.  We were pretty  much completely alone in our little bach on the beach, with beautiful sea views and empty farmlands all around.  I was excited to be somewhere different to go for a run and explore.

I managed to get 3 runs in a week as well as some hiking and kayaking – although the kayaking was in a sit on top fishing kayak, not a sea kayak or multi-sport boat.  Still I figure that at this stage any paddling will help to build kayaking muscle and I needed something a bit more stable to drop the cray pot with and fish from.

Once the weather sorted itself out the days were hot and sunny with beautiful sunrises and cloud free skies, the temperature was hot and the best time for any exercise was either first thing in the morning or at Gin O’clock – needless to say I was running first thing in the morning.  Behind our bach was a big hill which Chicken and I decided to climb on one of my rest days – we followed a ridge line up to the summit of the hill, a short 4k round trip, but the 250m elevation in the mid-morning sun made it a bit of a chore, not to mention that my 15yr old step-daughter is Waaaayyy fitter than I am.  To add a little insult to injury, Buddy had decided to race us to the top and came directly up the front of the hill – a far steeper and direct route.  We won, but only just.

As for fitting in training, well I had week 8 and 9 to complete which were to be 28 and 30 minutes of constant running, which to be honest I had already been doing the week before.  So while I finished the podcast series I was already running for 30-40 minutes by the end of the holiday.  The NHS Couch to 5k series has been really good for me, it forced me to pace myself as my fitness increased and made my progress much more linear than it had previously been and is a really great way to get yourself running.

The long lazy days were perfect for pushing out the length of my runs, with no real calls on my time and the ability to have an afternoon snooze, it just felt right to push my run duration out to 40 minutes.  Needless to day the distances covered while on holiday are a bit longer than I’ve been doing in the past, but I’ve felt really good about the additional distance and my body seems to be ready to stretch the distances I’m running.

On Saturday I felt like I was ready for a new challenge and I decided to go on a longer run than I had done previously, so I readied myself for an hours run and decided on an appropriate course and set off.  I was listening to an audiofuel podcast of 160bpm music and monitoring my heart rate as per the Maffetone method and busted out the 10k of my chosen route in a little over an hour, not bad considering my Round the Bridges 6.5k was 52 minutes.

Holiday Training.

Week 1

  • Tuesday – Run 6k
  • Wednesday – Walk 4k
  • Thursday – Run 5k
  • Friday – Paddle 8k
  • Saturday – Run 7k

Week 2

  • Tuesday – Run 7k
  • Tuesday – Paddle 5.6k
  • Wednesday – Paddle 6k
  • Thursday – Run 6k
  • Saturday – Run 10k

Back to Work

PC300214.JPG

Yep, all too soon the Christmas break ended and I’ve been back at work, although a 4 day week went some way to making the transition a bit easier.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while now, you may notice that the picture looks a little different today.  Normally I try to get a good shot during my warm ups (or turn rounds) on at least one run of the week but because I got the chance to paddle last week I managed to get some shots while I was in the boat.  The one above is from the limestone rock formations in the Raglan harbour.  As you can see the weather was fantastic even if the rock gardening was a little tame in the harbour.  Strangely enough I was a bit busy paddling in the rougher stuff at the harbour mouth and didn’t manage to get a decent picture, I’ll have to work on something to make that a bit better.

It’s been quite a good week for exercise too, I managed to get out on my bike again for the first time since starting the couch to 5k series and I can see the improvement in my bike times just from the additional fitness.  Who knew, getting fit in one area has benefits in others, its almost like its a conspiracy 🙂  I managed to drop a couple of minutes on my round the block time and did it keeping my heart rate in my training zone.

Which is a nice segue into a change I have made to my training.  I’ve been reading quite a bit around endurance training and different methodologies and came across Phil Maffetone who is a proponent of purely aerobic training dictated by HR and keeping it in a specific zone.  Once I got my Garmin watch with Heart Rate I decided to give this a try and see how it worked for me.  It’s early days but it seems to be showing some promise and I will keep using it for the time being, and write a more in depth post about it in the near future.

I have found it invaluable on my longer run, I’ve run around the block twice now which is a nice even 6k and have managed to run the entire distance (YAAAYYY) and more importantly have done so without hurting myself or feeling like I was dying, which is probably more important at the moment.

  • Monday – Run 5.24k
  • Wednesday – Run 5.34k
  • Thursday – Bike 17k
  • Friday – Run 6k (the block)

We’re off on holiday for the next two weeks so posts will come when I can get to the internet.  Have fun and I’ll talk soon.

 

 

 

 

Running while the sun shines

PC300210.JPG

By the time you read this I will be sitting on the wairarapa coast of New Zealand looking out over the sea wondering if I will be having shellfish or fish for dinner.  Yep, summer is a great time the world over and New Zealand summers can be some of the best in the world.  Those idyllic days where the sky seems bigger than the whole world and time ticks by at 80 seconds to a minute, nowhere to go and nothing to do other than bait hooks, move the umbrella so you’re out of the direct sun and swim to cool off whenever necessary.

Which is fantastic, but how the hell do you fit some running into that mix and not get it in the way of spending quality family time which is actually the real purpose of going on a beach holiday in my opinion.  You know the kind where you just hang out together, no plans other than probably meeting for meals, perhaps a walk in the evening enjoying the last rays of the sun and then some games together before bed.   Yeah, running doesn’t really fit into that picture, but if I’m going to keep progressing with my training I will have to go for six runs in the two weeks we are away.

I have been thinking about this and I think I have a few options that will make this not only possible but potentially enjoyable not only for me but also the rest of the family!  I’ve outlined them below, have a read and let me know what you think in the comments.

  1. Run Early – I know that early mornings and holidays are a bit of an oxymoron, but I am finding that I am waking earlier in the morning even when my alarm isn’t set.  Throwing on my running kit and going for a run before everyone else gets up is a great idea to get my run in without taking away from family time.  Best case scenario, I get back everyone is still in bed and I can take Jane a cup of tea.  Worst case scenario is that Jane and the kids get up while I’m out and I come back to find breakfast is being cooked and a coffee waiting for me. (or is that the best case??)
  2. Introduce some cross training, we’re taking bikes with us this holiday so there is always the option to switch out a run for a bike with the whole family.  This is a good option as I’m probably the slowest in the family on the bike so I’d get a good workout and hopefully prove to the kids that old age and treachery can overcome youth and skill.
  3. Make the run part of a larger adventure.  We’ve always loved coastal walks where we all clamber over the rocks and look in rock pools for life and interesting stuff and gently make our way around the coast.  I reckon that there is no reason why I can’t start out with the family on my normal starting walk, then when its time to kick it up a gear go for my run in the same direction that they will be walking and have them follow me.  As long as I turn round about 20 mins into my 30 min run I should get back to them about the time I finish.  Then we can walk on together.  There are a few problems with this – mainly running on the beach or rocks will be difficult but the C2C run is pretty brutal off road so this will be good practice.

So there you go, three as yet untried techniques for fitting runs in around a family holiday.  I’m hoping that at least one of these has some legs and I do actually get my runs in.  I am of course taking a kayak (well two actually) so there will be plenty of paddling and some biking, so the chances of getting no exercise are pretty much nil.  I’ll let you know how I get on when we get back, in the meantime if you have any thoughts about the suggestions above or any of your own please leave a comment.

 

Shawn

 

Happy New Year!!!

WP_20160106_06_10_02_Pro.jpg

I love being on holiday, its a fantastic time of the year to get some good training sessions in and then with few demands on my time I can relax and recover to my hearts content.  Of course there is still plenty to do on the socialising front and beer and wine to be consumed with friends in the warm summers evenings…

I also had the opportunity to test a new kayak this week.  I had the pleasure of taking out the new Paddling Perfection Adventurer kayak so that I can write a review for a kayaking magazine.  I was a bit worried that my skills were a bit rusty after nearly a year out of the cockpit and the first time I headed over the hill to Raglan I arrived and the wind was pretty ferocious and I turned around and headed back home, not the day to be testing a new boat.  The next day though was beautifully sunny and calm and the perfect day to test a new boat.  I’m not going to give a review here just yet, but getting out in a kayak again reminded me of why I decided on the Coast to Coast, I can take or leave running, I have always enjoyed cycling as a form of transport but I love kayaking and the kayaking section of the race is the bit that I’m looking forward to the most.

Getting out in the Adventurer was great fun, I worked some long neglected muscles and also felt the benefit of my recent training as my aerobic fitness.  I played in the rock formations around the coast and then paddled out and surfed the bar at the harbour mouth, excellent fun and a great way to spend the morning.

I also completed week six of the couch to 5k and because of the way that I rejigged my training to fit Christmas and New Years celebrations I also started Week 7.

Tuesday – Run 5k

Wednesday – Paddle 8.25k

Thursday – Run 6k

Saturday – Run 5k

Sunday – Walk 10k

 

 

Merry Christmas!

WP_20151227_15_06_50_Pro_LI.jpg

Well a merry Christmas to everyone, I hope you enjoyed the festive season and Santa was kind to you.

Santa (aka Jane) was extremely good to me, I’ve been lusting after a bit of exercise tech ever since I started on this get fit kick and Santa was kind enough to ensure that it was waiting for me under the tree this Christmas!

So amongst the presents under our tree was a brand new Garmin Forerunner 920XT and a set of sensors for my bike!  The Forerunner 920XT is a premium multisport watch and even has a quick release kit to allow it to fit on a standard Garmin bike mount.  It collects a heap of data from your run/ride/swim or paddle and will help me ensure that I’m training as efficiently as possible, plus it looks the part which is always important.  Once I’ve worked out all the functions and how to use it I will post a review (to add to the many that are already out there) and my thoughts on it.

I did manage to get in all my runs this week, although there was some juggling of the program so that I wasn’t running on Christmas morning and had a couple of days off over the busiest part of the Christmas break.  The weather has turned extremely hot in the last few days, so running early is really important otherwise I just burn to a crisp.  The upside is that I’ve been in the pool quite a lot and have been putting in some lengths which is working my shoulders and other paddling muscles in preparation for our holiday later in January and the beginning of my kayak training.

  • Tuesday – Run 5.0k
  • Thursday – Run 5.0k
  • Sunday – Run 5.0k

 

Little Changes

WP_20151102_06_07_52_Rich_LI

I’m always amazed at how quickly time passes when you’re busy with life and how easy it is to fall into bad habits when you’re not paying attention.  I mean, that’s how I ended up being 44 and seriously unfit, slowly eating more than I was burning, walking less and less until one day I woke up 20Kg’s heavier than I was in my 20’s and unable to run to the end of the road.  But the last three months have been pretty transformative and I am starting to see the benefits.

Hard to believe that I have been on this “health kick” for three months, that equates to exercising 54 times in 13 weeks! Looking back at my training diary I am amazed at how consistent I have been, for people who know me they will be aware that I don’t do routine well and it has to be said that I have definitely had to work to avoid boredom in my routine.

One way I have been tackling this is to mix up my routes when I run, heading the other way as I leave the driveway can really change my outlook on the run in the morning and makes it a little more interesting.  Of course heading overseas a couple of times has also provided some much needed variety in the scenery as well as the added challenge of running in the heat.  Given that the Coast to Coast is run in the height of summer this is all good practice for the big day.

I have also discovered that little changes can have marked effects on how I feel after a run.  I was struggling with some knee pain which would also come with a sore hip joint, changing where I ran to a road with a little less camber (well a lot less camber really) helped this enormously.  I also changed from my Innov8’s to an old pair of Vibram 5 fingers I had.  These made me run a little slower and altered my gait subtly which meant that the knee pain has now completely disappeared.  I intend to give the Innov8’s another try mainly because I can’t get 5 fingers in New Zealand (or Australia) anymore and I need to find a pair of shoes that I can run in when the event finally does roll around.

When I started this crusade to get fit, I didn’t really consider the profound effects it would have on my day to day life.  Getting up at 5:45 hasn’t got any easier, but it has become routine.  I’m still not a morning person, but I do feel guilty when I hit snooze and contemplate staying in bed a little longer.  I also never really considered what losing weight would mean, I am not at my target weight yet, but even so I am seeing some changes in body makeup, and I’m going to have to buy a new belt in the not too distant future…

It is still 14 months until the Coast to Coast 2017, which seems like forever and not enough time at the same time.  My fitness has improved out of sight, but I still can’t run for 30 minutes without stopping.  On the other hand I regularly walk/run 10k’s which I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing before I started this and I am starting to hit 5k on my morning run, even with the walking sections of the Couch to 5K so I am definitely getting quicker and the stamina is building.  There is still a long way to go, but I’m feeling confident that these little changes will keep adding up until I am actually fit and will be able to complete the Coast to Coast.  That’s not too bad for a second hand dad…

 

Travelling again

WP_20151210_05_52_07_Rich

It’s been a pretty good year for travel this year.  Usually I don’t travel that much these days, but this year I have been overseas twice for work and last week Jane and I headed back to sunny Queensland to attend her uncles 70th birthday!  So yaaayyy for traveling, but its not so good for maintaining running schedule, still, I had already traveled and come up with my 8 tips for running while you travel so it should be fine right?

It’s amazing just how much difference 6 weeks can make to the weather, and whereas last time I was on the Gold Coast I was running in the mid-high 20’s this time it was hitting the low 30’s quite early in the morning.   I did still get out for my runs though, and Jane joined me for one as well – she would walk with me for my warm-up and I would then run and turn round at the end of my running sections of the Week 4 couch to 5k podcast and then walk back to meet her.  As a result I did a couple of days where I put in some decent K’s.

Planning my runs worked really well for the first few days in Coolangatta where the beach front path provides some of the best running scenery around, but I got it a bit wrong when we moved inland to stay with family.  I planned a route on google maps but the reality wasn’t as good as the map indicated.  The run started OK but I hit a fairly decent hill just as my run was about to start and there was also no footpath for one section.  Not to be discouraged I pushed myself up the hill and round the course I had decided upon, and then proceeded to get lost when I missed a fairly major “feature” on the run. (I mean how was I to know there was a railway line in the way).  Needless to say the run wasn’t my best, although with getting lost and a small detour meant that I covered about 8-9k in total.  To add insult to injury, Brisbane had decided that the previous days of 30+ temperatures were just not on and it rained on me for the entire hour or so that I was out.

We flew out on the Monday, which should have been a run day, but I’ve decided to redo week 4 this week so that I can do it justice and week 5 has some big runs that I thought some more training wouldn’t hurt to do before I gave them a go.

 

Monday – 5.0 K’s

Thursday – 4.75K plus 5k Walk

Saturday – 9k due to getting lost and walked about half.

 

 

The week that was…

Top of the hillLast week was a really good week for running, the weather wasn’t too hot and I managed to keep up with the couch to 5k podcasts.  In fact the runs were appreciably easier by Friday, so there is some definite improvement in fitness levels and endurance/stamina.  Saying that I’m still only covering 4-4.5k in each 30 minute session, but I can see that each week my average pace is slowly getting quicker as the podcasts have me running more and walking less.

I only went for one ride this week, a quick 10k sprint on Saturday morning.  My legs felt OK after Friday’s run, but they were definitely tired and the headwind heading out meant that I made a decision not to do my longer loop and just hit the 10k as fast as I could.  I was pleasantly suprised when I got home to find that I had dropped about 40 seconds of my previous best time and achieved an average of just over 28k an hour.  My aim for the bike is to get my average speed up into the low/mid 30k’s before I start to lengthen my rides, I figure I have plenty of time to work on the distance aspect and I would rather work on building some speed first before I work on the distance.

  • Monday – Run 4.7k
  • Wednesday – Run 4.2k
  • Friday – Run 4.0k
  • Saturday – Bike 10k