Tag Archives: trail running

Saturday running along the Southern Walkway

The Mount Victoria Lookout is a Wellington must do, whether you are a tourist or a local.  It is also a top tourist attraction, ranking 4 out of 209 attractions in Wellington on Trip Advisor.  It has stunning panoramic views of Wellington city, the harbor, and beyond.  Sitting at 196m above the city, it is also not a walk in the park.

I had a 2.5 hour trail run on the agenda today, which I was really looking forward to.  However, I was also battling a cold, issues with my asthma, and suffering from long days at work followed by rehearsal, and had taken Friday off work to try to recover from the cough that had started to develop.  So I didn’t want to push myself too hard on the trails, physically or mentally.  I decided to stay close to home, and not venture too far in case I did need to jump out early or turn around.  So the Southern Walkway was perfect – close to the city, 11km each way, with lots of rolling hills, a few steeper ups and downs, but nothing too difficult or technical.  There was also plenty of shade, perfect on a sunny winter day like today. Mount Victoria is the tallest part of the trail, with Mount Albert a close second, so the max elevation is only 196m.  However, you basically start from sea level, so today’s run resulted in a total 509m of elevation gain…and as you can see there were quite a few ups and downs!

Southern Walkway Elevation copyI started this morning from Oriental Parade, near Carlton Gore Road, which is as good as any access point to the Southern Walkway – straight up a big hill, tough going but effective.  However, even that much of a climb was hard on the poor, tired and sick lungs.  I had to take a short break to catch my breath, before setting off again, joining up with the trails in the Mount Victoria Reserve.  Every single time I have run through Mount Victoria, I always get lost.  I take a wrong turn, and end up going the wrong way up a mountain biking trail.  I was adamant that I would not make the same mistake this time.  I was going to check every single sign, every map I came across and find the RIGHT way up to the Mount Victoria Lookout.

IMG_2421Despite my efforts, I ended up on the same mountain biking track I always end up on, and running the wrong way.  Luckily, there were no bikes and no collisions.  But still, here I was again, running a non-running path, getting lost…I could not understand how on earth this could happen to me again! Once I got over my frustrations, I found myself at the car park for the Lookout, and decided that I deserved a break, to take in some of the view.  And what a view it was today…no clouds, you could see all around, 360 degree views.  There were so many people out, so many tourists, locals, families, couples.  And what was best – no one on Pokemon Go.

I love the Mount Victoria Lookout because while you get a beautiful view of the Wellington Harbor, you also get to see all the buildings, all the suburbs, and it puts the city into perspective.  You feel on top of the world, it is a very special feeling.

IMG_2408From Mount Victoria, I ran towards Newtown, up to Mt Alfred, and out to Kilbirnie.  The link between the Mount Victoria reserve and the rest of the Walkway can be a bit tricky to find, once you enter residential addresses, but just keep looking out for signs.  Through Melrose Park, you run past the baboon enclosure at the zoo, and up to Mount Albert.  This was the main goal for me, no matter how terrible I felt, I wanted to reach Mount Albert, the trig station on top of it and stop to savor the view.

IMG_2417Once you reach Melrose Park, it is a brief run uphill to Mount Albert, from the baboons, followed by a small run along the narrow path (pictured above) towards the trig station marking the top of the mountain (for those who don’t know what a trig station is…don’t worry.  I didn’t know until recently, and Mal Law was the one who enlightened me during the sunrise run for RunFest, where we ran to this very point!)

IMG_2416And once you reach the top…Wow.  Just wow.  So much beauty all around.

IMG_2420There was a lot of stopping along the way, not only because I wasn’t feeling great and needed to catch my breath much more than usual, but also to enjoy the beautiful scenery and take some photos.  While I ran for 1:36, I was out for 2:10. I ran 13km overall, because once I made it to Mount Albert (9km along the way) I turned around, and headed to Hataitai to pick up my car (we were heading to a Karma Keg in Petone that afternoon so needed the car).  That resulted in a shorter return of 4km instead of 9km (pictured below).

Sunday July 16 Run And again, while my lungs and my body felt tired due to my cold, my legs felt great.  It was a really awesome feeling, and has been a really great experience, the past few weeks just going for some ‘long’ runs and enjoying them, not feeling any pain, any soreness, and feeling 100% afterwards.  It shows that I can push myself more, I can run longer, I am simply choosing not to.  Because I know, soon, I will have no choice and will have to run longer.  Run three, four, five hours on a Saturday.  Push myself and test myself, keep to a time, a pace, and try to hold onto the fun and the joy of running.  So for now, I am setting out with a goal, trying to keep to it, but not worrying too much if I don’t.  What matters most is the experience, the time on my feet, and the smile on my face when I finish.  Oh, and the Instagram photos, of course.  FullSizeRender(2)

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Beautiful Wellington Skyline

When I was training for Tarawera, I ran along the Wellington Skyline almost every second weekend.

The ‘Skyline’ is a 12km stretch from Makara Hill to Johnsonville, so it is a semi-central Wellington trail run.   There are a number of access points, which you can run, bus or drive to, and the whole stretch is 12km in length.  It doesn’t start right in the city, but it is accessible enough without a car.  If you are after a long run, you can run one way and back, equaling 25km.  Otherwise you can drop out along the way, depending on how you go.  I find parts of the track from Karori to Mt Kaukau pretty tough, so if I am doing it both ways, I often start in Karori, run to Johnsonville and then back (meaning that I get the tougher parts out of the way before the 1/2 way turnaround point…then it is somewhat smoother sailing on the way back).  I have also started and ended through Khandallah, using Mount Kaukau as the access point.  It is about a 6km run from the city to the Mount Kaukau access point in Khandallah, which can be a tough warm up, but a speedy cool down as you run down hill and along the flat waterfront to finish 🙂

What goes up must come down... Oh hello Mt Kaukau

What goes up must come down… Oh hello Mt Kaukau

The ‘skyline’ combines some single tracks, a number of farm roads with roaming cow and sheep, open grass areas and beautiful 360 degree views from one coast to another.  On one side of the ridge, you have vast views of rolling green hills, the sprawling wind farms along Makara Hill and on a good view, like the day I recently was up there, you have clear views of the South Island.  On the other, you can drop down into a number of different Wellington suburbs (Karori, Wadestown, Crofton Downs, Otari Wilton, Ngaio, Khandallah, Johnsonville), with a view of the harbor, the waterfront and Wellington central itself.

The Wellington City Council website has some good information on the walk itself and a nice map showing all the access points and the points of interest along the way.

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Elevation profile from the Makara/Karori end of the skyline, to Mt Kaukau, down through Khandallah and back to the city, ending near Te Papa

No matter which direction you run, you will run uphill, downhill and on the flat.  And no matter where you start from, it will be uphill to begin with, to get up on the skyline.  From there, there are some steep hills, and other valley/peak combinations, but it is generally undulating.  It isn’t too technical, but of course you need to watch yourself, especially when the Wellington winds are blowing.  It is completely exposed to the elements, and you may find yourself hugging the hill at times or being lifted off your feet mid stride by a strong gust.  In this way, it completely redefines ‘windy wellington’, even on a beautiful sunny day like last Sunday where at most there was a light breeze along the waterfront.  Well, a light breeze by Wellington standards…

While I am not currently in super training mode, I have tried to get back into my longer weekend runs, to clear my head, listen to some podcasts and get a bit more active.  One of the best things about training for Tarawera was getting out and enjoying nature, exploring new places, and having a little bit of adventure.  So this past weekend I started in Karori, at the Makara entrance point, and ran all the way to Mount Kaukau.  From here, I dropped down into Khandallah and ran back into town.

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Looking towards Makara and the South Island

Overall, I was simply aiming for was time on my feet, to see how my endurance was and how the body felt.  I went out with an aim of 2 to 4 hours, depending on the weather, how I went and what else I wanted to do that day.  Because I started off a bit later than planned, I cut the run a bit shorter than I originally intended, to 2:10, but it was nice as I still made it back to time with enough time to shower, eat lunch and relax briefly before meeting a friend for coffee.

I ran a total of 21km, which I thought was a pretty good effort given the timing, with 516m elevation gain and 735m elevation loss (as I started up the hill in Karori, and ran back into the city, at sea level).  My max elevation was 425, at the top of Mount Kaukau.  I was out for just under two hours thirty minutes, and listened to some nice new NPR produced podcasts. I had no pain, no soreness or tiredness, and felt totally fine during the run, after the run and the next day, which meant I definitely could have pushed myself harder and probably could have run another 10 or 15 km easy.

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The views up here always take my breath away

While the skyline is a close and relatively dependable track to run, and is really well sign posted, it can be somewhat repetitive and tiresome if you run it often, like I used to.  There isn’t much room for exploring or going ‘off piste’, as there is private farm land around, and if you ran off the main track towards Makara, you may not be able to find your way out! There is also cattle around…which you have to keep an eye out when running listening to music (or in my case, podcasts).  My first introduction to the skyline resulted in me running away from a charging cow who was not happy with being surrounded by approximately 15 runners.  I learned my lesson there and am very wary of them now.

For those who have never explored it, it is well worth the hike, even if you simply do the hike up and down Mount Kaukau on a sunny day – the views are definitely worth it.  Though personally, unless I am simply after time on my feet on familiar ground, I plan to explore some different trails around Wellington over the coming Sundays, to try and keep things a little bit more interesting.

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Remember why you started

I recently moved offices at work, albeit temporarily while a colleague is on maternity leave for the year.  This meant I got to upgrade from an internal office to an external one (YAY!) with a beautiful and very distracting view of the harbor.  In doing so, I had a big tidy up, and found a post it note that I had written to myself some months prior. Post it note

I  wrote this note the day after I attended the Tarawera info night on 17 June 2015.  One of the speakers, I believe it was the Tarawera founder, Paul Charteris, told us to think about that very question: Why do you run?

Why do I do this?

Because logically, why do we put ourselves through physical exercise, exert energy, put strain on our muscles and joints, take time away from our families, spend money on an event where we essentially pay to put ourselves through hell? Have I sold it?

Because really, there are so many reasons to run, that you forget about the above, about the pain, the hard times.  If you run, you don’t think of any of the obstacles or the terrible things that may come with running.There are so many reasons out there: stress release, getting out and enjoying nature, to explore new places, to get a tan, to look good, to exert built up energy, to collect medals and tshirts from events, so that you can eat cake, drink beer and not feel bad, because it is a chance to catch up with friends, for the competitive aspect – there are so many reasons, and all of those apply to me in one way or the other.

FullSizeRender(12)For me, there are so many reasons why I run.  But when I truly thought about it – why I have the urge to run, versus why I run when training for an event – it is the thrill, the achievement, the internal challenge and struggle against the little voice in your head saying no, and that great moment in life when you overcome that challenge, you surprise yourself and carry on.  That moment when you realize that two weeks, two months or two years ago, your body and your mind could not do what it just did.  Those moments, running faster, running further, overcoming a tough time or a dark  moment, running a familiar course with more ease than normal – that is what it is all about.

To me, running is empowering.  If you are in the zone mentally, with the right music to listen to, perfect weather, a beautiful day, and you are in the zone physically, where you feel good before, after and during your run, you can get to a point where you are on cloud nine, you smile, you laugh, you feel like you are a machine.  You feel powerful, inspiring, energized, and like you can do anything in the world.  I’ve had a number of these moments, where I am out running and feel unstoppable.  Like the world is my oyster and I can tackle whatever it throws me.

That is what was behind the post it note.  And that is what I tried to capture in so few words.  And funnily enough, it really helped me to actually formulate those reasons in writing.  To put it down on paper, to look at it and think ‘huh’.  It helped put running, my passions and goals in perspective, and because I wrote it down, that passion and reason for running has stayed with me throughout my training for Tarawera.  It helped me through the dark times, it helped me continue to believe in myself, it helped me go running when it was raining or when I was tired, because I had to.  I couldn’t give up – my post it note wouldn’t let me. 

And it is so fitting that I find it now, with four sleeps to go until Tarawera.  Essentially, that info night convinced me that I wanted to run an ultra marathon.  I wanted to do Tarawera, it belonged to me.  I wrote that note, and that made it even more concrete: I could do it. And now, half a year later, and after three months of intensive ultra-specific training (and 375km of running in those three months!) I am about to finally run that event.  And those words and the passion behind them have stuck with me so strongly.  Even more so this final week, excited and nervous, waiting impatiently for the big day to come round.

IMG_0782And recently, I have found new reasons to run, and to run the way I do.  To sacrifice parts of my personal life to work towards an ultra marathon, to make changes to my life in terms of diet, work, socializing, drinking, exercise – because I have discovered how powerful your own determination, your own goals and your own love to run can be to others.  Inspiring others through a simple act of just getting out there and running.  Doing what you always do, but for a bigger cause, on a larger scale.

My first marathon, I felt the pressure to run for others, not just for myself.  I was so scared and nervous the morning of the race that I became upset and worried that I couldn’t do it, I doubted myself and my abilities.  My Mom told me that I could pull out if I wanted to, or walk if it got too hard.  My response? “But others expect me to do it! To run it all! To do well!”  That is not the right response.  You can’t run for others.  You should never have external pressures on your performance.  Because running should be a passion, you should have internal reasons for doing it.  You may have an audience, and at times you may want to beat others or impress others.  But you should always be competing against yourself, not anyone else.

FullSizeRender(11)In saying that, your running can inspire others.  I have received such positive support from friends, family and colleagues during my training.  I have received messages from old friends that I haven’t spoken to in years, who have been following my blog posts and are “blown away” by what I am doing, wishing me luck.  I also have close friends who are now challenging themselves to do something they never would otherwise, like a half marathon.  So thank you to everyone for reading, for supporting me along the way, and for being part of my journey.  The love and support help so much, as do the messages of support, and the comments that I myself have inspired you.  It is overwhelming, and it helps make the struggle worth it.

And to those who do run, or have any form of passion – remember why you started it in the first place.  Get back to those roots, because you never know what that might lead to.

Exhaustion

I was originally going to write a post about how training for an ultra marathon has been invigorating and life changing, about how it has really helped me deal with work stress and other issues that pop up in everyday life, and about how the discipline and focus that comes with running applies to all areas of life.  Essentially, I was going to write about how I feel that I am winning at life – winning at work, winning at exercise, winning in my personal life and winning in self esteem.

Rob and me having coffee

This is me winning on a Sunday morning in the sun 😀 😀

However, that was before Sunday night’s unexpected emotional breakdown, where I was definitely in no winning state, and realized how utterly exhausted I was after bursting into tears for no reason at all.

Well, it wasn’t for no reason – I will admit, I was tired, I was hungry, and I was involved in a heated debate that I didn’t really want to be part of.  It was a Sunday evening and I had a week of work to ‘look forward to’, I hadn’t eaten in six hours and I had been socializing for several hours (outside, in the cold, and not drinking whilst others were) when all I really wanted to do was curl up on the couch and watch The Bachelor and fall asleep by 8pm.

Most people would have been fine in that situation – they would get by or they would even enjoy their evening and have fun.  They might have a drink, or two, or three, they would have a smile on their face and get involved in the debate or remove themselves from it and start up another conversation elsewhere.  But most people haven’t been training for an endurance event 6 days a week, with 6am starts most mornings and getting home after 8pm (to run, gym, yoga, stretch, foam roll etc) as well as working a full time job (40 hours per week, but more like 60-70 hours last week) and trying to keep their relationships (boyfriend, friends, family) alive.

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Finding time when I can for restorative yoga at home – legs up the wall

I am in the latter category…the category of crazy people who one minute is running on adrenaline and ‘runners high’ and the next is exhausted and can’t string words together.  I am the person who on Sunday couldn’t handle the totality of the situation – whether it was the lack of food, the tired mind, the tired body, or the stress I was feeling about needing to organise my week and make sure I had lunch planned the next day – I just lost it.  And afterwards, I realized why – I’m not that regular person just getting by.  I am an endurance athlete training for an endurance event.  All of my energy is going into that event.  My physical, mental and emotional energy is being drained daily and replenished by the love and support of those around me (as well as through gels, protein shakes, quinoa, bananas, peanut butter, smoked tofu, frooze balls and other edible goodies) and it is a finely tuned balance that is difficult and tiring to maintain.

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SO MANY GELS

A byproduct of this is that I require much more sleep than I ever used to, and a restless night really affects me.  Being awake past 10pm affects me more than it ever has. Not only do I get tired but I stress about being tired and how that will affect my performance the rest day and my training run on Saturday and what’s more, if that will affect my performance on the big day.

I also can’t make decisions in a rational way or in a hurry – on Saturday evening I popped into the grocery store to buy pumpkin and eggplant for dinner (in order for Rob and me to make a DELICIOUS recipe from Deliciously Ella –  I purchased her first cookbook and our goal is to cook one meal out of it every week and make our way through the entire cookbook, this week was her Coconut Thai Curry with Chickpeas…SO yum.  Sorry where was I…).  Oh yes in the grocery store.

Rob texted me the shopping list (pumpkin, eggplant) and said that he also wanted cookies…and popcorn.  So I then spent over five minutes in the cookie aisle agonizing over what cookies to buy because (1) Rob wanted cookies but (2) didn’t specify the kind of cookies he wanted and (3) I don’t buy cookies because (4) really I like homemade cookies and (5) I also didn’t know what type of cookies he felt like but (6) if I did buy cookies then even though I didn’t feel like cookies at the time I might want cookies later so (7) I had to think about what type of cookies I might want to eat as well even though (8) at that moment in time I didn’t want any cookies (this is the kind of thought process that went on in my head while standing in front of the Tim Tams…).  I ended up calling him and asking what he wanted because I didn’t want cookies and none of the cookies were on sale and so I asked him to decide because I couldn’t make a rational decision.  In the end we got Rolo chocolate and no cookies…

On top of this, I have become even more weird about my food than ever before, as I make a concerted effort to ensure I get sufficient levels of protein, natural carbs and good fats in me every day.  I log my food, I log my exercise, I log my socialising, I log my work.  My log is the fun police.  My clothes are too big due to the running and gyming and subsequent logging of controlled eating.  I stretch in my office, I have a foam roller at work and I wear compression clothes 80% of the time – even wearing compression calf sleeves underneath my work pants the Monday after a big weekend run.

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My 2016 planner which essentially contains my life. It is both color coded (green = exercise, pink = friends and Rob, blue = travel and public holidays) and detailed (it includes my kms, what exercises I perform at the gym, what I eat and what I drink).

Let’s just say, all of this, even taking out the running and gyming itself – it is exhausting.  Thank god I have a training schedule to keep to because if I had to decide on a day by day or even week by week basis what I was doing – I wouldn’t survive.  I barely get by as it is.  I mean, I have been too exhausted to even sit down and write a blog post – not emotionally exhausted but just the fact is I have no time, after working, running, eating, logging my eating, unpacking my gym bag, repacking my gym bag, prepping lunch for the next day, doing laundry, texting my boyfriend and messaging my Mom and sister every so often (but not often enough) and trying to see one friend per weekend if I can fit them in.

There is so little time left for anything else.  And obviously when I do fit in those other things…my mind can’t take it.  I can’t take five hours of socializing on a Sunday evening, My body has  had enough and is saying no, no friends, no drinks, no fun.  Not for the next 19 days at least, until the run is over.

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A carefully constructed, nutritious and delicious (and non-fun) dinner – smoked tofu, broccoli, peas, coriander, sunflower seeds, avocado and tahini lime dressing

I knew that cardio could negatively affect your immune system, and I have experienced that when training while sick, how weaker you are when you try to exercise, and how much slower you are at recovering after.  But I never expected it to be such an emotional rollercoaster, not while out of my running shoes at least.  Nor did I expect it to have such a big flow on effect into my personal life – but I guess part of that is because I am determined, stubborn and focused, I don’t do things at half speed, I go at things 110% – if I am training for a 60km race I am going to train the hardest I ever have and put everything into it.  Really it is my stubbornness and my drive that made me exhausted, and led to Sunday’s demise of ‘rational normal Jen’.

So I guess in the end…training for an endurance event like Tarawera really has taught me something that I can translate into every day life.  Yes it has taught me discipline and focus and has been an amazing outlet to let out some steam and a way to explore more of New Zealand’s beautiful scenery and nature, but it has also taught me to learn to say “no”.  To learn that I don’t have to say yes to every opportunity, to every person that wants to catch up or have a drink, to every piece of work that comes through the door, or to every extra curricular activity that comes my way.  To learn to look after myself, cherish myself and my one body, because it is the only one I have.  Learn that it is ok to be selfish, it is ok to put myself first, and that people will understand.

More than anything I need to keep my eye on the goal, the main goal, the one goal, and I need to change my mindset and learn to think in the following way: “Jen, you are in training mode.  You are training for an endurance event, an ultra marathon.  Live your life with that in mind.”  Because there are only 18 days to go, and once it is done, I can do whatever I want and live my life however I choose.

So world, I am giving you notice now, for the next 18 days, I am putting me first (so please don’t take offense!!).

The day I ran 55.5km

Two days ago, Saturday 9 January 2016, I ran 55.5 kilometers.  In one go.  On one day.  On my own.  It took 8 1/2 hours, and involved a mixture of on and off road running, and lots of up and down hills, but I did it.  I completed it. ME.

Physically, it was probably the toughest thing I have had to do in my life.  To be on my feet for 8.5 hours, climb mountains, eat and drink on the go, push through the annoyances of my socks falling down, the sun beating down, the wind trying to throw me off the Skyline, and having to continue to pick up one foot after another and keep going.  I had an average pace of 9:11.  I climbed a total elevation of 2,317m with a big climb of 435m between 0:40 and 1:20.  My last two kilometers on the flat were an average of 6:42 and 6:26, which meant I finished strong.

Elevation - 55km run for 8.5 hours copy

Mentally, on the other hand, the run itself wasn’t that tough.  Even three hours in, knowing I had 4 1/2 hours to go, I didn’t feel any mental anguish or self-doubt, nor a feeling that I wanted to stop or couldn’t go on.  That’s the funny thing, once I started, I knew I could do it.  I kept thinking “You’ve got this”, not because I needed to reassure myself, but because I knew that to be a fact.  I was off on an adventure, to tackle something big, to achieve something many others would never and could never do. All of that helped fuel me mentally.

Convincing myself to go for the run, however, was the hardest thing I have mentally had to do.  To overcome the fear, the self doubt, the little voices in my head saying I couldn’t do it.  Mentally preparing myself for the 8 1/2 hours I was going to be out there for – and the big questions of “What if I can’t do it? What if I give up? If it hurts too much? What if I want to…or have to stop? Why am I doing this?”.  I also worried about whether it was a good idea to do such a big run in the lead up to a 62km race – I had heard a lot about splitting a long run over two consecutive days, to help prevent injury.  And that you should only ever do 80% of distance in the lead up to an event.  Weren’t those smarter strategies?

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I spoke to Greig (who set up my training plan, has provided me with all my strength work and has so much amazing knowledge and experience with running (short distances and ultras too) that he is an inspiration to learn from) about whether 8 1/2 hours on one day was a good idea, and whether I could do it, or if I could split it into two days. His answer was simple (and I paraphrase):

Are you running the race on consecutive days?  No. You are doing it on one day. You can do this. Stop doubting yourself. Simulate race day. 

Once you do this, you can do anything.

With those words of (strong) encouragement, I knew I couldn’t back down, there was no way out and I had to hold myself accountable.  But still, even once I convinced myself that it was a good idea to run for 8 1/2 hours, I had to get over the self doubt and fear of that amount of time and the distance (and hills).

So how did I mentally convince myself I could do it?

As well as discussing it with Greig, I spoke to my partner Rob about it numerous times (who of course offered endless support) and discussed it with two other runners in Wellington who have both completed the Tarawera Ultra – I had coffee with Emma the day before and chatted with Alan in the days leading up via Facebook.  I personally think both Emma and Alan are amazing runners, their knowledge, advice and experience has been so helpful and forthcoming, and (little do they know but) they have both been part of my inspiration to run Tarawera and to believe in myself and my ability – so thank you.

I mapped out my potential route (see here), I wrote out a fuel plan, I looked up how much water, sodium and calories to take in while running, I baked some energy bars to take with me, I even picked out a Lululemon singlet to reward myself with once it was done.  I checked the weather about 15 times a day in the lead up and I made sure I got a lot of rest the night before.

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My gear for the day – 8 gels, 4 packets of SOS hydration, two PB&J sandwiches, 2 muesli bars, sliced orange and a banana, plus the 2L of water (1L plain, 1L with electrolytes) in my pack.

Then, Saturday morning, I woke up at 5am, ate breakfast, prepared my bag, my food, and set out at 6:30am. Going to sleep the night before scared me, waking up in the morning and getting out of bed was a hurdle in itself.  Even the first few steps I took outside my apartment, to begin the run, the self-doubt continued to be present.  It was only once I ran about 500m down the road, I saw the beautiful sun rising over the harbor, the blue skies, and I pressed play on my Sydney Marathon playlist (cue M83 “My Tears are Becoming a Sea”) did it all disappear, and did I start running with conviction and confidence.  With a smile on my face, knowing that whatever the day had for me, I could take it.

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Thirty minutes in, how could you not be inspired with this view!?

The plan was simple – run from home, along Old Hutt Road, to Khandallah, up to the top of Mt Kaukau, along the Skyline to Karori, join up with Makara Mountain Biking Park and run to the top of Makara Peak, down some trails and then fill up my water before heading to Wrights Hill. Turn around at 4.25 hours and go home – if I wasn’t quite there yet, then continue from Wrights Hill along the Sanctuary (by Zealandia) towards Red Rocks, and go as far as I could until I hit 4.25 hours).

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The intended route – in and out from home to Wrights Hill

And it wasn’t 8 1/2 hours of 100% running – my training plan said “Run: Walk (25:5) x 8.5 hours”.  I stuck to this for the first two hours, which meant that I ran up the hill from Old Hutt Road to Khandallah (a mini mental and physical victory in itself), I ran up the trails to Mt Kaukau, and I ran down hills in Makara.  Towards the end I also ran down Mt Kaukau and down from Khandallah to town (approximately a 324m loss in elevation) which was a good way to test my knees, especially 7 1/2 hours in.  I ate every 30-45 minutes (starting from 60 minutes – only water/SOS in the first 60 minutes), with a pattern of gel-food-gel-food, with my food being a mixture of fruit (orange and banana), peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and homemade ‘Glo bars’ from Oh She Glows (a site with AMAZING plant based recipes).

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However, things don’t always go to plan. I reached Makara at about 2:45, and I thought “I’ve really got this, I just have to make it to the bottom, spend some time refilling my water and then I can actually make it to Wrights Hill!”.  However…I made two mistakes.  I didn’t take a photo of the trail map, and I went down the only trails I knew – which were one way trails (going up), so when I reached the bottom of one trail, there was no sign telling me where to go next.  I then took a wrong turn…and went on a crazy big loop in the middle of no where.  I was out of water, I was tired, I needed to eat but needed to drink more.  I lost my hat.  It was hot. I didn’t want to go on.  My run that was going so well was falling apart.  And what was worse – I didn’t know how to escape, how to get out, if I could.  My phone didn’t have signal, there were no other people, no houses, no streets.  I was in complete and total despair.

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My mistake in Makara where I took the largest (and most unnecessary) detour in the world.  I should have gone directly SE from Makara Hill, not SW and completely off track, away from the car park, Karori Park and the Skyline

So what did I do? I sat down, and cried.  I cried my heart out.  I swore. I even thought about having a small sip of water from the river I was that desperate.  I had a million thoughts going on in my head, and started to feel sorry for myself.  Sorry for my poor tired body, my thirsty mouth, my fuel-hungry brain, and realized that my emotional toughness just wasn’t there.  Mentally and physically I was succeeding, but my emotions were totally taking over.

So I walked – the only way I could make myself keep going in that heat, and with the lack of water and lack of any direction, was to tell myself to keep going.  A lot of Makara is walking, and stopping, and crying, so it took me quite some time to get out.  But I finally found my way back to the place I took a wrong turn (ironically it was called the “Missing Loop” trail) and found my way to a map, with a couple on mountain bikes.  The girl gave me some of her water (and I am still so thankful to her for that, it helped pull me out of the dark emotional hole I was falling into) and the guy told me to follow the 4WD road, which would lead me to the main road, and then to Karori Park.  I did – and I soon escaped.  I got to Karori Park, slowly, with small steps, and little energy, but as soon as I saw houses I felt so elated and so happy – I was back on track.

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The damn track that was the cause of my (near) demise!

I used the bathroom, washed my face, refilled my water bottles, drank a bottle of SOS and filled it up again and then ate a sandwich, and set off again, slow but steady, disheartened but refreshed, reinvigorated, with a refocused sense of purpose.

Once I set off again, I knew that I needed that dark moment in Makara.  I needed to feel emotional, partially helpless and sorry for myself.  There may be moments like that on race day, and it’s better to experience it now for the first time and pick myself up, than experience it for the first time on the day.  It definitely made me stronger, and I was so proud that I was able to push through it.  It made the run more meaningful, particularly when running down Mt Kaukau and Cashmere Ave/Onslow Road down to the flat.

And once I finished, so many emotions.  I was running along the waterfront, and had just run over the bridge between Frank Kitts Park and the Te Papa…and my watch hit 8:30.  I stopped.  I firstly felt relieved.  Relieved, happy, elated.  And then above all – I felt astonishment and disbelief for the fact that I had just completed that seemingly impossible run. I had a HUGE smile on my face, and all I wanted to do was go to Oriental Parade and jump in the ocean.  It was the kind of happiness that I want to last forever.

I texted Rob to let him know I was done, and within 2 minutes I had someone run up behind me and give me a huge hug! He had come down to surprise me, and bring me a towel for after I had jumped in the ocean.  I had never been so happy to see him before in my life.  I gave him the biggest hug in the world, and cried.  Happy tears.  Winning tears.  Tears of thanks and gratitude.  I felt so thankful to him for being there, supporting me, and to all other around me who have supported me in small and large ways, even if they don’t know it.  And thankful that not only did I overcome the little voices in my head telling me I couldn’t do it, but I had new voices in my head saying “You got this.”

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Post run, post dip in the ocean, all smiles 🙂

Training for Ultra

It is now 10 weeks until Tarawera and my training is well underway…these past two weeks were my first ones fully into it…and oh my god it is exhausting! Fitting it in between work, socializing and sleeping…thank god I am only doing 60km, I can’t imagine how much more time I would have to commit if I was doing the 100km option!

I’ve had a few people ask me “So are you running like every day?” or “I see you at the gym way more than on the road”, so I thought I would set out what my training has been this past week…it has required a lot of 6am starts and many nights I get home after 8pm…I think I saw my flatmate once this entire week as a result!

Monday:

6pm: 20 minutes of core work followed by 4x500m sprints followed by stair work (the Vista steps, approximately 120 steps total…a series of single step repeats followed by double step ones)

7pm: Restorative yoga

Tuesday:

6:30am: Running specific strength (single leg squats, single leg calf raises (I am up to 18kgs on those!! I started with 6kg months ago!), lateral weighted lunges, 40-50kg deadlifts, hip abduction with band, side plank hip abductions, and a number of core exercises)

5:45pm: Metabolic (this week’s class involved sprints, jump squats (which killed me after Monday’s stair session!), burpees and 10 minutes of killer core work

6:15pm: Personal training with the amazing Mish, this week was some nice upper body work

Wednesday:

7:15am: Run technique

7pm: Restorative yoga

Thursday:

7am: 20 minutes of core/prehab work

1pm: 3x2km threshold repeats with 1.5km warm up and 1.5km warm down, totalling 9km (I managed 8:46, 8:45 and 9:03 for my 2kms so was very happy)

Friday:

6:30am: Running specific strength (a repeat of the above Tuesday morning circuit) + bench presses and push ups

Saturday:

12pm: 24km Skyline return – 12km running (90 minutes) and 12km steady walking back (110 minutes) – in 45km/hr gusts – it was SO exposed and windy!

And Sunday (tomorrow) is going to involve some chest/back/arm work at the gym plus foam rolling,  stretching and resting my little legs.

So yes…training has started to take over my life, and I feel like I am living at the gym.  However, my body is now used to waking up at 6am (It doesn’t want to, but it doesn’t complain as much as it did a few weeks ago) and I am starting to organize my meals a bit better, looking after my nutrition and ensure I am eating well.  Probably not eating enough though – this past week I have been SO much hungrier and in need of food.  Thursday afternoon after my 9km at lunchtime, I had lunch immediately after (a quinoa, avocado, smoked tofu, cucumber, tomato and hummus bowl) but within 2 hours I could hear my stomach rumbling!  So I have to start bringing more snacks to work and making sure I am getting enough protein in each meal to help my body recover.

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Saturday’s gorgeous run along the Skyline

But despite the exhaustion I am currently trying to overcome, I am LOVING the training.  I feel like I am getting so much stronger in my legs, working my way up to 3 sets of 12 18kg single leg calf raises.  And today’s run was SO beautiful.  It was warm (18 degrees) with the sun shining and not a cloud to be seen, and it was very windy (average 47 km/hr northerly gusts, and in some parts I had to stop running because the wind was actually pushing me over and making me trip over rocks etc).  But it was just so beautiful.  I had never done the Skyline before so was a bit nervous, trying out a new route, but it was really easy to follow.

The Wellington City Council has a great brochure with information about the route available online. But it says it takes 5 hours to walk one way, and it also made it seem much longer than 12km given you run from Johnsonville to Khandallah, Ngaio, Wilton and then Karori.  However with a bit of googling and checking other people’s blog posts, I found confirmation that it was only 12km, so I didn’t need to worry (the last thing I wanted to do was to run and find that it was like 20km, resulting in me being stranded at the other end!!)

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The Skyline run – I started at the northern end, ran south west to Karori, then turned around and back to Johnsonville

There were only one or two times where I thought ‘where do I go now?’ but that is part of the fun…exploring nature, adventuring and feeling like you are in the wild!  I started from the Johnsonville end at Carmichael Street, and ran all the way to Karori (by Karori Park/Makara Road).  That was 12km, and I then turned around and walked the 12km back…which was actually pretty tough! I think that running you get into a rhythm and it is easier to just keep going, walking I could feel my glutes and the ground a bit more and slowed down a few times.

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So beautiful – so blessed to live with this trail only 15 minutes drive away!

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Sheep!

But I just focused on the scenery and the stunning views on either side of me, and the fact that the faster I walked back, the faster I could have a glass of nice ice cold chocolate soy milk (bribery and mind games – they work like a charm!). The entire 24km had a 1,000 elevation gain, constantly going between 230m and 430m with numerous peaks to run up and down. Also burned approximately 1,400 calories – great given that I splurged a bit last night at our work team’s get away, having a second serving of dessert, and a few glasses of wine!

The elevation profile – cumulative 1,000m gain

I also got more experience in my trail running shoes (which I LOVE) and using my awesome Ultimate Direction women’s ultra vesta hydration pack, and also figured out that I enjoy eating bananas on long trail runs, but not frooze balls so much.  And afterwards, knowing that I did 24km in that weather when I could have easily said no, was so rewarding.  It gave me a big mental boost, making me think ‘you can actually do this’ – which I need to keep telling myself!

FullSizeRender(1).jpgBut I am now looking forward to my ‘rest’ day tomorrow – my one day off before starting another 6 days that look very similar to the above plan…except next Saturday’s run is going to be 36km around the bays…which again, will be an awesome challenge mentally and physically.  I haven’t done 36km in a long time, hopefully I survive!

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