Tag Archives: Wellington

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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10km? That’s nothing for you!

Sometimes there are downsides to sharing your running achievements, your aspirations, your goals.  When people know that you have run a half marathon, a marathon or an ultra, they base any other distance off that event.  “You ran a marathon and are now training for a 10km? What do you mean you haven’t trained, you just ran 42km you can run a 10km EASILY!”

The first thing going on in your head is “oh my god stop talking…it is sooooo different.”

People don’t do it out of spite or ill will.  But if you don’t run, if you haven’t trained for different events, it is difficult to grasp the concept that just because you ran a 60km or 100km event one weekend does not mean that is a normal occurrence for you.  That was the goal.  Now the event is complete, it won’t come around for a while.  It doesn’t help your training, confidence, or general happiness to hear “How many thousand kilometers did you run this morning?” when actually you slept in and didn’t do any exercise because you are no longer having to adhere to a regimented training plan.  And when you change from 100km to 10km races, it is a completely different ballgame.  Yes, you go into a 10km run without fear of whether or not your legs will hold for the entire 10 kilometers.  You know that they will.  But you want to run fast.  To do well.  To RUN a 10km race, not simply run 10km as if it was a warm up for the 100km option.

And this is one reason that for some people, it is difficult to bounce back after an event, why the post-race blues are a real thing.  People’s expectations are all around you.  No matter how hard you push them away, they nag at you, they find their way into your thought processes and affect your confidence.  Of course, when you are training, all you can do is talk about that, and you are proud when people ask how your training is going, what you did that day, giving you opportunities to show off.  So we should expect that to continue, for people to be interested and make conversation out of it.  For three or so months leading up to an event that was ALL you talked about.  Seriously, the only thing.  When asked your plans for the weekend, you say “Well I have a friend’s birthday party on Friday but because I have a 7 hour run on Saturday morning, I am going to have an early night on Friday and pop in for one, non-alcoholic, beverage.  I will then have a sports massage, go to yoga, the boy and I are having a date night on the couch (again, because I will likely be tired from my 7 hour run) and on Sunday just the vege market and chores, and a 45 minute recovery run.”

However, when that is no longer your life, when you have a break, your response is much different…and when people expect  you to go on a long run, to still be an ‘athlete’, it changes your perception about yourself.  You are no longer living up to the expectations of others.  And their expectations, the expectations of third parties, become your own expectations.  “Hell yeah I was a hard-core runner, I was an athlete, I was a machine. I wish I was like that…I wish I looked like that…I wish I could do that still.”

This is something I struggle with after every event, and post-Tarawera, it has been a long struggle.  I have tried to focus on other things apart from running, but the expectations still linger.  I’m currently lucky to run twice per week and gym twice per week, whereas when I was training, I was exercising about 10 to 12 times per week (running, gyming and yoga).  Part of that is life being busy, part of that is my attempt to focus on other aspects of life, other priorities that fell to the side when training took over.  Trying to have a more balanced life, see friends, spend time with family, travel, and not take life so seriously.  But still, the guilt and the sense of shame that I am not running as much, lingers.

But you know what…who cares.  Who cares about what others think. What their expectations are.  Be happy that people ask, that they care, that they are making conversation about one of your passions and hobbies.  That they actually listen and keep up to date with what you do.  And take pleasure in the fact that you did something amazing, you ran 5km, 10km, a marathon…you did that.  And you can do it again.  When you want.  When you choose to.  Don’t let others get you down, focus on you and what you want.  And learn to confidently say “Oh I didn’t go for a run this weekend, I’m having a break” or “I’m focusing on other things”.  And don’t be scared of starting again…of living up to your expectations and the standards you set previously.  It is a journey, it will always be, whether you have a break or keep going.  For me, I am jumping back on the train, slowly.  Slowly learning to deal with my own expectations and the pressure I put on myself to be the best.  Because at the end of the day, you only need to care about how you view yourself, what you think of yourself, not what anyone else thinks.

So, where is this rant going? That’s right…training for a 10km.  Yes.  I ran the 10km event in the Wellington Marathon a few weeks ago.  I had planned on training hard for it, to aim for a PB of 42 minutes.  My fasted 10km was in February 2014, the Round the Bays, and I completed it in 45:35.  It was tough but good.  I had completed my first marathon two months prior, had a few weeks off, and then did a few weeks of speed training to try to improve my speed for the event.  I wanted sub-45 minutes, so I was thrilled really.

This time, work and life took over.  In the three months leading up to the event, I ran probably a handful of times.  I hadn’t done much speed work at all, and most of my runs were longer trail runs on the weekend.  I got sick the two weeks before, and it was cold, so my asthma was acting up more than usual. And on the morning of the 10km, I didn’t want to do it.  I stood in the living room, looking out the window, and said to Rob “I don’t want to go. But I have to, because people will ask how I did, and I don’t want to say I didn’t do it.”  That was one reason I went.  But the main reason, the main way I convinced myself to go out the door, was I finally got to that point of thinking “Who cares.”  I decided to just treat it as any old run, put on some good music, go for a run, enjoy it, see who else is out there running and wave to them.  Don’t feel pressure, just go and do it for the love of it.  (Of course I had to set a small goal – just keep running, don’t stop, even if it hurts, slow down, don’t feel any shame).

IMG_2268And that is what I did.  It was glorious.  I ran with feeling, not according to my watch (which was good because my watch decided to stop working around 2km in, joining the 2nd and 3rd km as one, so my total distance ended up being 9.10 km instead of 10km, skewing my pace slightly!).  I looked at all the other runners around me, played mind games about keeping up with certain people, saw a number of friends out there running and waved to them and cheered them on.  I listened to some music, bopped along to the beats while running, and when I turned around at the half way point I thought ‘Game on.’  I finished with a negative split, I ran my heart out on the way home to the stadium.  I enjoyed it.  I ran with a smile on my face.  I didn’t care what the world thought of me, what my time would be, all I knew was that I was running in a sea of people and it felt wonderful.  I was alive.  I was flying.  And the best thing of all, I was back.  Jen Howes, running machine (in my mind at least) was back.

And a nice surprise – I finished in 48:07.  I was the 35th female finisher out of 638 (in the top 5%) and 140 out of 1,091 overall finishers (top 15%).  And 18 out of 135 in my age group (F20 to F39).  So I was slower than my PB, but I still ran a mean race.  And still finished in the top.

10km time copyKeep in mind split my watch played up during the first few km, so the first two km are actually 3…I didn’t run the 2nd km in 8:44…10km copyI probably wouldn’t have had that finish had I gone in with all the pressures I had been feeling.  But I tried to let it all go, I went back to basics, running because I wanted to, and I believe that is why I got that time.  I also know that I can do better, and 48 minutes without much training is epic.  If I put my mind to it, i can definitely get below 45 minutes, and who knows, 42, 41 or even 40 minutes one day.  But for now, I am happy knowing that mentally I overcame that roadblock.  That I went out there and just did it.  And hopefully, I can hold onto that feeling, and hold onto what it resulted in – a great time in the scheme of things, in the scheme of all other runners that went out there, that believes in themselves and truly pushed themselves.  I was part of that, and that is something truly special.

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Last HIIT session before Tarawera

This past Wednesday’s HIIT session was not a fun one. It didn’t help that I wasn’t looking forward to it before I even began. It was raining, windy and stormy, you couldn’t see the hills there was so much cloud. I was tired and had gotten so used to doing my interval/speed sessions at lunch time, I didn’t feel like doing it after work! Especially not after consuming a glass of bubbles at a work function just before.

But rather than saying “It’s ok Jen just go home the weather sucks” I knew I had to say “No Jen…Tarawera is in 10 days, you can’t get complacent now, every bit counts, there is a purpose to this session and if you don’t do well on the day you will only have yourself to blame.”

So I made myself go. I guilt tripped myself.

Then Greig told us that we were doing 4x500m, with 60 seconds rest between each, followed up a run as hard as we could all the way to the top of Mount Victoria (the scenic route).  We could then cruise back down and finish with another 4x500m.

At that point I thought “I really should have gone home.”   But I couldn’t…I was there, others were there, he gave me a pat on the back and it began.

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The view of Mt Victoria from HealthFit on Wednesday night – no visibility whatsoever!

The dreaded 500m repeats – they were actually pretty great! I hadn’t run in three days, and while I had done lower body strength stuff, I had gone for a sports massage on Monday from Back To It with the Amazing Alice and she had made my legs feel incredibly refreshed and rejuvenated.  So Wednesday night my legs felt fresh and free, and the repeats were great! Funny how beforehand I was dreading them, but during them I was loving it! I probably didn’t push myself as hard as I could have…but each time running around the building I felt strong.  I also kept up with/got in front of Liz, who is an amazing runner, super speedy and great at 5km and 10km events, someone I usually keep up with to begin with then fall behind, so it was a really nice feeling to be coming ahead of her at the finish of each.  (To Liz’s credit she said she was on antibiotics…but my brain chose to ignore that on Wednesday).

My repeats ended up being 2:01, 1:50, 1:53 and 1:51 – 22 seconds per 100m, and times that I am pretty happy with given I was probably only pushing at 90%.

Looking back through my Garmin times, I did 500m repeats in August 2015, with times of 2:00, 1:54, 1:57, 1:56, 1:56, and in December 2015 (one month ago) my 500m repeats at the same spot were all between 1:57 and 2:03.  So Wednesday was great – comparatively I was flying, and it felt like it too!

But that wasn’t the end of it…our 500m repeats were over and to Mt Vic it was.  This was the bit I wasn’t looking forward to – Every time I have run up and down Mt Vic, I had calf pain, IT band pain, or needed to stop and walk portions because I didn’t feel fit enough.  But this time round, I ran the entire way.  It sucked.  I didn’t want to do it.  It was raining. I was hot. We were running essentially in the cloud.  I was thirsty.  But I thought “If you can’t do this Jen, there is no way you can do Tarawera.  Seriously, stop being a wuss!”

So I did it.  I made myself run the whole way.  Despite my brain saying “no”, “this is stupid” and “why are you doing this to me” I kept going.  And got to the top – ran to the top of Mt Vic to the lookout – to be greeted by no view whatsoever – just cloud.  But hey, I did it, as did the others.  It was great to get up there and have a rest, pat others on the back and say well done, before making our way back down the hill.  And it was a pretty solid run (Garmin data available here), average pace of 6:29 (I took it slower than normal coming down as I have had a tight IT band in the past few weeks).

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The Mount Victoria portion of Wednesday – 6.5km from HealthFit, to the lookout and back down. SO HUMID.

Lucky for me, that took us past 7pm, which meant that I was late for yoga and had no time to do another 4 500m repeats…I almost wish I had done one or two though to see how my legs were after the run up Mt Vic (an elevation gain of 207m).  I felt pretty happy after Mt Vic, because I didn’t walk, I didn’t have pain, and it reinforced in my mind that I can do this, I am ready and there has been purpose behind everything I have done to date.  Even tacking Mt Victoria on Wednesday night had a purpose – making sure I wasn’t getting too complacent with my ability, and to continue pushing myself mentally to get over the bad weather, get over my lack of drive and energy, and just push.

It also helped my Strava stats for January, bringing me to 139km for the month and a total elevation climb of 4,481 meters.  I have run more than 139km in a month before – when I was training for my first marathon in 2014.  Many people training for ultras will run MUCH more than 139km in a month, but remember it is my taper month, and I am also injury prone so spend more time in the gym and doing speed/strength work than just hitting the pavement.  But I don’t think I have EVER climbed 4,481 meters in a month – I used to avoid hills at all costs – hated them.  So that is epic.  That is three times the height of the Willis (Sears) Tower in Chicago! Almost as high as Mont Blanc! Now that, in itself, doing that in training (!) makes me so happy and proud.

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Interval day and runner’s high – my 8x400m

My text conversation on a sunny (but windy) Wellington summer evening…yesterday Wednesday 20 January 2016 at 6:15pm:

Me:   “Just finished running, stretching in the sun.”

[Insert picture of one foot on top of a bent knee with Waitangi Park in the background]

Rob: “It’s windy! Must have been hard running in it!

Me:  It wasn’t too bad

         I’ve run in a lot worse.

         It was awesome actually. Awesome running session. So great. Oh just so good.

This was right my interval session yesterday, while I was lying on the ground, stretching and letting my heart rate slow down. The day prior, Tuesday, I wrote about the lows of running and the exhaustion of training. Less than 24 hours later, cue Wednesday and my interval session, and you’d think I was a completely different person from the above exchange, loving running and training and all that comes with it.

And honestly I felt like a completely different person writing that, because although I probably was (and am) still slightly exhausted, I did have a truly epic training session. One of those where even before you put on your running shoes you feel great, and when you start it feels good and you know you are going to have an amazing time out there and that by the end of the session you will be the definition of ‘amazing’.  Where it all goes right and you have a smile on your face the whole time. You push yourself mentally and physically but it is so rewarding. You finish strong and happy.  Afterwards, you are invigorated, energized, thrilled with what you achieved and even wanting more.  You have found that nice little sweet spot where you feel exhilarated.  Classic case of runner’s high.

For me, yesterday evening’s epic training session started with being a beautiful day, and while my legs were tired, my hamstrings were tight (I had been walking awkwardly around the office all day unable to move my legs normally) and I was feeling my glutes from that morning’s technique session (A skips, stride outs, B skips and the like), I was SO looking forward to getting out of the office and hitting the pavement, enjoying the beautiful sunshine and warmth on my skin.  I also was looking forward to getting into my new Lululemon running gear – I rewarded myself recently with one of their swiftly racerbacks in baby blue (I believe they call it heathered caspain blue) and running caps (in this gorgeous watercolor pink, white and blue pattern, again with an odd name).  That paired with my trusty lulu run speed shorts, I am like a walking (or rather, running) advertisement for the company.

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Kitted out in Lululemon and stretching it out pre-run

So what was my epic Wednesday training session?

This Wednesday’s entry in my training program required 8x400m intervals with 90 seconds of rest in between each.  In November, at the start of my training program for Tarawera, I was doing some interval work on a Wednesday, but with a 120 seconds of rest in between each.  That is quite a long time for me…90 seconds is what I am more used to training with, with 60 second resting being more of a challenge that I use when I am really pushing myself.  But today it said 90 seconds so I was more than happy to keep it with that – just enough time to catch my breath and get ready for the next set, but not too long that my breathing and heart rate is completely back to normal.

I chose to do my 400m repeats around Waitangi Park, because it has an almost perfect 400m track around it – it is more like 410 meters, but if you start at one of the lampposts near the Chaffers building, run towards Te Papa, turn left, then take the second sand track (the wider one by the skateboarding park) on the left, and run around back to the start, finishing one lamp post early, that is a (almost perfect) 400m loop.  Which is great because it means that regardless of the weather and what direction the wind is pointing, each 400m will be in the same conditions so you can test yourself and hold yourself to account.  Waitangi Park was also full of other people exercising – two gym/group fitness classes, one person doing yoga, some people playing soccer and then near the end of my intervals, the HealthFit Strength class was out in the park taking their session outside.  So I had to dodge some people once or twice, but otherwise it is a circuit that is familiar to me and that I am comfortable doing, and am happy running around.

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The 400m loop around Waitangi Park

My first interval I did at about 85 to 90%, as didn’t want to blow out too early, but wanted to set a minimum time that I had to beat each time.  The last time I did 400m intervals around Waitangi Park was in August 2015, and I was averaging 1:40 to 1:45 per 400m. And lately, when I have been doing interval sessions, I can struggle to complete it in a positive way – I have to purposefully convince myself to run each lap, telling myself ‘just one more’ in order to get through it.

This time, I KILLED my 400m intervals.  My warm up was 1:39, and with every single lap, I never strayed above that.  I didn’t enter the 1:40s at all, and even though my legs were tired and my hamstrings tight the entire time , I managed to push through it all and run strong every single lap.  And after a few, I knew I had it in the bag – I had a ridiculously large smile on my face the entire time and it felt like I had this new found strength and power in my legs with an ability to move faster than I’ve ever felt before.  My legs just did it.  And there was this natural flow on effect because of course, by achieving a great time each lap, my confidence was boosted and I then went into the next lap more positive than the one before.  By the end, I was ecstatic and felt like I could have done another 8!  It was just what I needed to help my preparation for Tarawera on a mental and emotional level.

My splits ended up being as follows:

  • 1:39 (warm up)
  • 1:35
  • 1:36
  • 1:39 (I ran 410 instead of 400 by mistake, so slightly longer time)
  • 1:34
  • 1:37
  • 1:35
  • 1:32 (YES!)
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Sunny Waitangi Park in downtown Wellington 🙂

Because I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to breaking down my training and analyzing my pace and the like (though really to become a faster runner you have to start analyzing your runs in more detail), I calculated that on average I ran 4:02 per km, which is 24 seconds per 100m.  My last round (1:32) was 23 seconds per round.  Early to mid last year, I was aiming for 26 seconds per 100m in my interval work, which is a pretty fast pace for many people, but would have ended up with 1:44 for each of those 400m laps and a pace of 4:20 per km.

When you look at those numbers, I’ve made quite a gain in being able to somewhat maintain 4:02 per km.  All while training for an ultra marathon which is meant to be about endurance rather than speed.  I know I have done and can do faster – April 2015 I was running 400m around Waitangi in 1:33 to 1:36…so I can get lower…after my ultra though! One goal at a time.  Right now my goal needs to be to have more sessions like yesterday, where everything works in perfect harmony.  I need to focus on obtaining and retaining that euphoric feeling where I feel like I can run forever – that will be the key to crushing Tarawera in 16 days time.

The Art of Bribery and Running

Running can be a bit of a game.  A game that involves bribery and making promises to yourself.  It is an art really, the art of inventing new ways to reward yourself for running that extra km or running up those 200 steps ONE LAST TIME.  It is also about having a ritual of reward, such as treating yourself to a large piece of cake after each half marathon – it can be the little things that get you through.

Lately, running has been ALL about bribery for me.  A few weeks ago I had to do a 35km run around the bays – my reward was a banana smoothie at the end at Maranui.  The last 5km all I could think about was that smoothie…but also the thought of a chocolate milkshake as well…smoothie or milkshake, milkshake or smoothie? Both!

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That is how I got through the last 5km.

Last Monday was similar – the plan was 10 repeats up the top of Majoribanks Street (a super steep hill in Wellington).  It was about 20 degrees out, 6:30pm, and all I wanted was to be on the beach.  But Rob and I pushed through, mainly because at around about the 5th repeat I decided that we would be having fish and chips for dinner as a reward. We completed 11 repeats followed by a few repeats of nearby stairs (single run and double runs up it).

Unfortunately it was a public holiday, so no fish and chip shops were open (I tried five!). But we ended up with Ekim burgers, fries and beer, which we enjoyed on the water front watching the sun set around 8:30pm. TOTALLY worth it.

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And again, part of signing up to Tarawera was the promise of new shoes!

Even on a gorgeous day like today (sunshine, not a cloud to be seen, and a high of 21 with no wind, meaning that I could walk down Lambton Quay at lunchtime in a scandalous singlet and shorts and be warm) it is bribery that gets me off the couch and hitting the road at 6:30 to do my dreaded 8x500m repeats with a 90 second rest.

Part of me wants to get out and enjoy the sun, go for a run and get out amongst everyone.  Then I realize that my ‘run’ is actually a training session where I will be pushing myself, feeling tired, short of breath, potentially in pain, and wanting it to be over.

But today, I actually loved it. Not because I promised myself cake, chocolate or new Lululemon items, but because I was out running and being active, totally killing it (if I can be modest) on such a stunning day.

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I ran around Clyde Quay (it is just over 500m to run around the building) eight times, starting at Mojo Poneke each time.  The place was buzzing with people eating and drinking and soaking up the sunshine.  Each time I finished my repeat, and would slowly walk around to Poneke and watch the time count down, setting myself up for the next round, I noticed more and more people look at me, notice me back for more, and talking about my efforts.

I took it as admiration, good on me for running on this glorious day, pushing hard and running super fast, coming back for more and not giving up until the very last one.  In reality, they were probably thinking ‘What the hell is that girl doing running around this building?”, “She’s back again, seriously!” and “man that is the last thing I would want to be doing right now” whilst holding their glass of rose and lounging about with platters of food in front of them.  But I took it as admiration, as appreciation for my efforts. And that is what fueled me today – knowing that people were there, watching me, waiting for me to give up and stop.  So I didn’t.  I had an average pace of 3:58 min/km, with my best time being 1:45 and my worst being 2:00 even.  Times I am super happy with, especially as I was only at 2:00 once and even on the very last one finished with 1:56.

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But even so, it wasn’t easy. You do it in steps, sometimes it is about saying to yourself ‘I can run another 30 seconds, don’t stop yet’ and then repeating that over and over again.  Today it was: “Get to half way, do 4.”  Then “Ok you’ve done 4, that was easy, get to 6.  After 6 you can give up.”  I got to 6 and mentally pushed myself to do 7.  Once I did 7, I couldn’t end on an odd number, and such an ugly odd number at that, so I had to do 8, for my sanity.  But I only got to 8 because I pushed myself to do 4, to do 6, to do 7.  Baby steps.

And can I say, I came away feeling inspired and reinvigorated.  It’s crazy how much having other people around can make a difference to your training – another reason why running with peers, even if you are faster or slower than them, will help, because you automatically push yourself harder.  We have this internal fear of being judged – if I had done my intervals slowly or not appeared ‘hard core’ people might have held negative views about me. For all I know they held negative views of me, thinking “What a show off”.  But in my mind, I was proving how awesome I was, and they were on par with that, appreciating my awesomeness.

Weirdly, it helped me feel a bit more at peace with myself, with running and with Wellington in general.  Wellington (on a good day) is one of the most inspiring cities in the world (to me), and today’s session made me grateful to live in such a city, to be able to get out and enjoy such a city, and to inspire others (yes I truly believe that my 8x500m repeats totally inspired at least one person at Poneke to get up early tomorrow morning and work out…).  It also helped me feel back on track with my training, and OK with the next month of training hard.

I just need to find a few more things before this Saturday to bribe myself  to complete this Saturday’s 8.5 hour run/walk.  Ideas?

Everything hurts…

It is very rare for me to be sore, achy and hurt all over.  But I am. You name it, it hurts.  It hurts to touch, to move, to stand, to sit. I now understand why people join a bootcamp or a gym and then end up hating life.  Exercise is meant to be fun! Enjoyable! Invigorating! But the pain…man it sucks.

As many of you will know, I recently returned from a 3 1/2 week vacation in Africa.  I went on safari, slept on a house boat, visited the beautiful Victoria Falls, partook in wine tasting at vineyards outside of Cape Town, and did very little exercise.  So, getting back into it has been difficult, both mentally and physically. Before my vacation, I had been working out at least 5 times a week and told myself “I will do small HIIT circuits in my room every day, make sure I keep up with my prehab exercises for my running, and go for a run or two when possible.”

In reality, I did no exercise whatsoever for the first 10 days (apart from some bush walks in Matusadona National Park with our guide Steve).  On day 11, back in Harare, I did a small HIIT circuit at 8am in my room.  I gave up half way through because it was already 30 degrees and I couldn’t make myself do any more burpees.  Defeated by burpees…not my usual MO.  Days 12 to 22 I did a few 5-15 minute ab circuits and went on two 8km runs (one when it was 32 degrees and in a wildlife reserve, without any water, leading to us stopping every 2km or so ‘to take a photo’ (aka catch our breathe and try not to die) and one 5km run…but I basically had 3 1/2 weeks off.

And it was glorious.  For once, day after day, I woke up not sore or tight or in need of a stretch.  I didn’t have to fit in a run or a weight session before work, or after.  My weekends, my days, my time, was all mine.  I ate and drank and felt no guilt about my workout that day.  I felt relaxed, refreshed and recharged. Who would have thought not exercising could be so nice!!

So when I got back to NZ this past weekend, I initially thought “Maybe I don’t get back into my old exercise routine, I liked a bit more spare time, maybe I lay off for a bit…”.  Even thog h it was a beautiful weekend and normal me would have been dying to get out in the sun and run around the bays. I thought ‘hmm going to the beach and drinking. A bar in the sun…much more fun than starting my running routine again!’

  
Then I remembered that I signed up for a 60km ultramarathon in Feburary 2016.  Fourteen weeks away.  So choosing not to exercise is not an option.  I have to get back into it…something that my body is currently hating me for.

So my past three days since ‘getting back into it’, my exercise schedule has looked like:

  • Monday 10am: 6km run along Oriental Parade and back via Maida Vail Road (elevation gain of 168m) on Monday morning;
  • Monday 12pm: Acro-yoga for 90 minutes on Monday afternoon;
  • Monday 6pm: Sleep…
  • Tuesday 5:45pm: Metabolic at HealthFit with Mish
    • 21-15-9-4 workout
      • 15kg sandbag hug squats
      • Burpees
      • GHD sit ups
    • Ab workouts – 30s on, 15s rest, 25s on, 15s rest, 20s on, 15s rest, 15s on, 15s rest, 10s on, 15s rest, 5s on
      • Running man
      • Bicycle
  • Tuesday 6:15pm: Personal training with Mish
    • First PT circuit (3 rounds)
      • 27.5kg static lunges (x15)
      • 4kg DB forward and reverse lunge (x12)
    • Second PT circuit (2 rounds)
      • 70kg leg press (x15)
      • 32kg cable woodchopper (x12 each side)
      • Swiss ball jack knife (x15)
  • Wednesday 6pm: Run group (twice up Mt Vic – 7.5km, 328m elevation gain – up to 136m and back down again, then repeated back up to 136m, and back down)
  • Wednesday 7pm: Restorative yoga

My Tuesday evenings are usually a good combination…Mish works me hard but it doesn’t affect me too much the next day.  But oh my god I woke up Wednesday morning hurting.  All Wednesday I was hurting.  Everywhere. My abs and legs. But also my vehat, my shoulders, my back. Those burgers annihilated me. And yet I still had run group to look forward to, which involved not one but two climbs up Mt Victoria.  Honestly I almost cancelled.  I thought ‘why am I doing this to myself?’ but also ‘how did I go from being a machine to useless in three weeks! This isn’t fair!’ But I knew that there was no point having a tantrum and that I had go to run group and show Greig that I was serious. I had to get back into it. Rip off the Band-Aid, just get back into it and give 110%.

I hoped that the run up Mt Vic would loosen my muscles, make me feel real confident and great and give me lots of positive energy.  What actually happened was that I spent those two kilometers thinking “It hurts it hurts it hurts. Why does it hurt oh my god I want to stop. Why can’t I walk? Maybe I can walk. No one will see me walk.  Maybe I walk for ten seconds. No you have to keep running. But ow it hurts I don’t want to. I give up I’m pulling out of the ultra. I thought running was meant to be fun!! I can do it I can do it. F!@# now it is raining too! Life sucks”. I turned around at the 2km mark to ensure I got two climbs in, and on my descent, things changed, I thought “Hey, no knee pain, that’s good.  The rain is starting to die down a bit. You know what, that wasn’t too bad.  It’s only 2km, I can do that again.  Come on you can do this. It’s nice running downhill. I can breathe again.”

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Of course, leading to the second climb back up – and wow what a change mentally.  I knew it hurt. I knew it was hard to breathe. I knew it was raining and that it was hard work and it sucked. But all I could think was “Yeah I am doing this, come on one more time up, just 2km to go, just 1.9km, just 1km…” until I reached 400m away and sped up, reaching the 2km turnaround point feeling great.  Relieved.  And proud.  Sure, it wasn’t fun, it sucked, but I did it.  I could have said no, I could have gone home and given up and felt sorry for my poor aching body, but I did it.  7.5km up and down hills, done.

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But it also gave me a really nice understanding of why people say they hate to run, that they hate to exercise, or how people really struggle with it or give up after one or two tries. And it also helped me understand that sometimes, the pain and the aches never feel worth it. I just have to focus on the fact that it will get better, my body will re-adjust, the aches and pains will lessen and I will get my running and gym mojo back soon enough.  Until then, I have a massage booked in for tomorrow afternoon for an alternative form of pain (needling and deep tissue massage…), and I think I will be taking it easy this weekend (with a trail run and light gentle weights!).