Chucka’s Run

A bath is just so therapeutic. A shower is good for day to day cleaning but sometimes a good soak in a hot bath just fits the bill.

Tonight I slowly eased my body into a bath filled with hot soapy water. It was a little hot. And I was a little sore. I soon acclimatised and could soak up to my neck. Bliss. I washed the dust out of my hair, and the salt off my face. I soaked my bloody, muddy, sweat stained legs and scrubbed my blackened toes until five little pink piggies shone back at me on each foot. It was just mud.

So now I smell a little sweeter but I still ache a little, all over. Battle scars worthy of a most awesome day out.

It began just before 8am as a group of runners assembled at Hansen’s Park. It was spitting lightly. I recognised some faces but not all. We boarded our bus and drove towards Little River. Conversation flowed. Friends were made.

By the time we disembarked at Hilltop the day held great promise. The rain had dried up, there was little wind. No plonkers shone out (last time I ran this it was in the company of a Class A Plonker known forever since as Richard Head, Dick for short.) everyone looked well equipped and ready to make the most of it. We farewell the bus and set off up to the Summit road before picking up the track and starting our ascent up through the bush.

Somehow we lost the track. I am not sure if Arthur Lydiard supported the idea of 45 minutes of vertical bush bashing as a warm up for his boys, but it worked for us. We reassembled above the bushline. A clearly defined track now before us. Away we went.

There was no breeze although a southerly was forecast about midday. Just still air, about 16 degrees. I felt perfectly attired in just running shorts, merino tee and socks, and a cap. Some of the other women were wearing tights and long sleeve tops and jackets.

Basically we just ran when we could and walked when it was too steep. We stopped often to regroup, to refuel and to just reaffirm how bloody lucky we are to have this on our back door.

We kept going up. We also got lost again. No cross words were spoken. Everyone was chatting away. Atmosphere was friendly and supportive.

The last grunt up to Mt Herbert. It is a grunt but a 360degree panorama of Banks Peninsula, across the Port Hills to the city beyond and the Alps on the horizon, down south across the patch-worked plains. Stunning. Truly truly stunning.

The group split into two here with the shorter option taking the descent straight down to Diamond harbour and the more intrepid long group going around the back of Orton Bradley, on a track even mountain goats sneer at, to the Packhorse hut. There might have been some one on one contact between butt and mud along here. There might also have been the odd occasion where the track turned left and I carried on straight until the track, or dotted line in the rocks petered out to nothing.

We got to Packhorse Hut. It was warm. It was still. The earlybirds enjoyed a long lie in the sun while the slow coaches caught up.

Final descent down to Gebbies Pass. There were two more nasty short uphills and a large cow blocking the track. Otherwise it was just good steady running. Once we were at Gebbies it is 2k down the hill and 2k along the flat straight and finally we stumbled into the pub. The short group were already there rehydrating and stabilising their electrolytes with pints of beer and plates of hot chips. Seemed a great idea and one worthy of copying, except I drank cider. I also slept in the bus back to Hansen’s Park.

Great run. Great opportunity. Great scenery. Great people.

And a good back to back run on yesterday’s race weary legs.

PS Chucka admitted in the pub that going up Mt Herbert he lived up to his name. Moral of the story – clean your drink bladder more vigilantly.

Good on you, mate!

Wow!

I haven’t really done a wow for ages but today has wow all over it.

From driving along the motorway just past daybreak with ground fog and pseudo frost keeping the grass white. The Waimak was running swift and strong, not clear but murky hinting the eaters have come from snow melt. The sky was the haziest of pale blue promising a stunning early summer day, such a contrast frm yesterday which definitely came under the heading of late winter.

I arrived at Waiau in time to visit the toilets and grab my shoes and some sachets of gu before joining a group of similarly attired individuals. We boarded the school bus. I met Vanessa. A new friend. Later on in the day someone said we must have been friends for ages. Nope, met this morning on the bus!

And off along the course to Mt Lyford. Registration. Toilet. Warm up. Toilet. Briefing. Should have gone to the toilet again.

This is the third year I have run this race. I love it. But its popularity is getting out. The number of entrants has doubled in those years. Competition looked fierce.

Famous last words – it’s just a training run. And that was my plan. Until someone said go and I realised my body was in race mode.

My preferred start position is just ahead of the middle of the group. This means I start slow, warm up and then pass people. This worked fine today. I could see I was sitting about 10th woman after about 800m, nope make that sixth as I powered past a couple.

In fact I soon found myself sitting in about fourth or fifth position. There was a person ahead who I thought had had a pony tail but now I couldn’t see it. Wearing grey. Possible a lean man. Style was awkward.

It was great running. The scenery is stunning along the inland Kaikoura road. I could smell the bush. The sun was shining. The wind was breezy in parts and a little in my face. Everything seemed great. I felt strong.

Another runner I meet regularly at events had her husband as chief cheerleader. He did a wonderful job of cheering me too. The road winds its way along a valley and up and down a few good sized hills. I am not bragging when I say hills are my secret weapon. I know I am fast and strong on hills. Psychologically too it gives me an advantage to pass people on a long steep hill. I did that three times today!

A man on a bike calls out to me, “Good on you mate, you’re doing fine.” What a boost. Only in NZ.

I was now sitting in first place with grey guy sitting a steady 100m ahead of me. Mark (the cheerleader) yells out, “you’re gaining on her”. Damn. He is a she. Do I want to be bridesmaid or do I want to catch her?

We come into the area where the 10k runners start. I start to question whether second is good enough. And I realise we are climbing another hill. I count the seconds between us as we pass things – 24, 23, 17, 13.

We are almost at the top and I am right on her tail. I recognised her from other events. But I didn’t know her name or even her age group – around 50 it is hard to tell as we age differently. I know people seem surprised that I am in the upper age group. So my decisions were to go past her and hold the lead for 10k of mostly flattish but still hard or sit on her arse and make her work and trust a sprint finish.

I went past her. Now I had to hold her off.

I just kept pushing. I probably glanced at my watch for the time rather than distance at this stage and realised that on these slightly downhill flat bits I was running 5k pace. Bloody hell. I also realised that I could post a good time if I managed to keep it up.

It was not easy. I worked really hard mentally and physically along here. I did actually get passed twice – once by a male half marathoner (youngish) and about 300m from the end by the lead 10k.

I was just trying to keep my feet ticking over as fast as I could. 5k 4k 3k 2k. Almost there.

I checked my watch as I was about the official distance for a half marathon – 1:28:36. Wow!! My previous PB (on a flat course) was 1:32:35. I was stoked. Plus I could see the finish area.

Thank God. Official time was 1:32 flat. Distance was 22:22km. First woman overall. Grey girl had visibly slowed and later told me she didn’t have it in the second half, eventually finishing three minutes behind me.

I felt great. I love the course. I love that because I used to work in the area people know me and they are so supportive and friendly. I love the fact that I bought a couple of farm-made sausages from the volunteer fire fighters for my lunch. Vanessa (who finished in a creditable time for her third and toughest half marathon yet) and I ate our lunch on the village green. We bought cupcakes from some cute five year olds who were raising funds to send school supplies to the Philippines. We ate yummy homemade slice made by someone’s granny and drank great coffee. I love that we could gate crash a table outside the pub with three old codgers and have a wonderful hour of zany conversation before prizegiving.

I won a voucher but my spot prize was amazing – only in farm country would a bag of chicken pellets be offered as a spot prize. And this townie was first to sprint up to claim it. My chooks will be pleased.

So wow. My first ever overall win. An awesome day.

Only problem is I have to get up early and run a technical (but not competitive) 38k tomorrow.

Today’s the day

We are signing our contract with Southern Response and heading towards a new house.

I feel I should be excited, pleased, something, but to be honest I really can’t be bothered. I have got so used to living like we do, with sloping floors, and liquefaction piling up through the cracks in the foundation and building mini sand dunes under the lounge carpet. Of having cupboard doors which don’t open or don’t stay shut – whatever is the opposite for what you want. Of having two sponges on the end of the kitchen bench to sop up the water before it pours into the rubbish bin.

But now we are on the express train to decisionville.

First of all their people will count up the bits which go into replacing our house as it was on September 3rd 2010 but luckily using current prices. This gives us our rebuild budget.

The engineers will swarm over and investigate the land to see what remediation needs to be done and what fancy foundations will be required. That work and the retaining wall will need fixing. Which comes out of our budget, but the foundations do not.

Meanwhile we work with an architect or building company to come up with a house suitable for our section and land evaluation TC3 – this means pretty damned difficult. In fact we are just points off being red zoned which means unsuitable for use.

And then what door handles, what light switches, what colour walls, carpets, curtains. All those decisions. For someone who since the earthquakes has had terrible trouble making any sort of decision and would rather go without than choose sometimes, this is going to be incredibly difficult.

Possibly why I am not looking forward to the process.

Yes, I should be excited. But I am not.

Maybe once the project is underway and becomes more real.

Maybe not.

Help!

I find it really hard to ask for things. Sometimes I don’t even know what I want to eat. It freaks me out when people ask me what I want for my birthday or Christmas. What say I appear too greedy? Or when Andrew had his accident and people said to let them know what they could do.

It would be easier if they just said I am going to do this then. End of story. For Christmas I want to buy you this. In blue. Size 10. Thanks. Here. Lunch. Eat!

One of the reasons I gave up Personal Training was I spent my entire working week motivating, encouraging, uplifting people to achieve their goals. Yet there seemed to be no-one to pick me up.

Since I have come out about my mental health issues I have found it easier to talk to people about my problems, and in return receive an emotional boost.

I am going through some angst at the moment. But being more aware in regards to my mental health I have asked for help even before I need it. After almost a year I am going back to counselling. I have the most wonderful man I visit and he is keen to see me again. I am sure he is so intrigued by the serial drama of my life.

Last night I went out with my girlfriends. They were wonderful. Reminding me that we are the A team and if I wasn’t worthy of being an A team member I wouldn’t be sitting in The Monday Room on a Wednesday night drinking $5 sav. They then listed all the people who weren’t in the A team. Thanks guys. Best. Friends. Ever.

As well as all this emotional upheaval I am running ridiculous distances each week. Most of the mileage could be termed as challenging as I tackle hills and trails. I am training for the High 50 Challenge, a nationwide event where one man plans to run 50 mountain marathons in 50 days all in aid of raising money and awareness for the Mental Health Foundation of NZ. I plan to support him on two days next February. Meanwhile I need to do a spot of fund-raising. As much as I hate asking for things I feel I am constantly asking for people to support me by donating to my page.

Please help me out and allow me to focus on running and sorting my life out. Just pull your credit card out now, click here and donate. If 20 people donate $20 each I am pretty much there. One less thing to keep me awake at night.

Doing a double

The rules of running a good marathon are pretty clear. Train consistently for a long period of time, gradually increasing your intensity and distance before tapering off for the final two or three weeks. Don’t try anything new on marathon day.

Yesterday I ran the Dunedin marathon, my 20-somethingth marathon – I really have no idea how many I have done.

I was blase about the whole thing, treating it more as a supported training run preparing me for a bigger goal, back to back marathon distances I am running in February as part of the High 50 Challenge, a fundraiser for the Mental Health Foundation.

The final three weeks leading up to yesterday, normally the taper, I ate crap and logged weekly distance of 100k, 100k, and 80k. My final run was a 15k beach rub at tempo pace on Wednesday.

Oh and a hilly 10k road race in which I logged a PB on Saturday.

What??

This was my plan. To run the two events back-to-back but not worry about the time. I wore my Garmin but taped the screen. I could hear the kilometres tick over but not see the time. If I looked I would see average pace but my plan was to run by feel.

Governor’s Bay to Lyttelton is a handicapped race. I was setting off 21 minutes after the slowest and 10 minutes ahead of the young gun men. I felt good and probably ran at an intensity of about 70%. I couldn’t believe it when the results were published and I was 10seconds faster than last year. For some reason I consistently set my 10k PB on this challenging hilly course.

My running buddy and I “iced” our legs in the sea for a few minutes, donned compression tights and drove back through the tunnel to pick up another runner. Then it was a five hour drive to Dunedin.

We arrived at our motel, blobbed a bit and walked into the city centre to a nice Italian for a pasta feed. This place had gluten free pasta as an option with all dishes. It was delicious.

We all piled into the one bed in the lounge to watch the All Blacks just beat the Spring Boks and then it was bed time. I had an early start having to be away from the motel by 6:30. Mike and Rodger were only running the half.

It seemed a long night. I don’t sleep well before or after a marathon.

After the usual breakfast of toast, peanut butter and banana plus two cups of coffee Rodger drove me to the start. His achilles was playing up, tweaked the previous day. He didn’t think he would be a starter. It was a stunning morning. Cloudy with the rising sun lighting the cloud and glassy sea. The harbour drive was picturesque. I was looking forward to a scenic run and quite relaxed about the journey ahead.

We kept driving. It was a long way. Finally we found a parked car or two and a row of portaloos. This was the start. Quite an understatement really. Rodger abandoned me. The cloud had dropped. The sun has vanished and it was drizzling. What view!

I made friends with a man and his mum who had ab empty back seat. Three buses arrived and disgorged the other runners. People had a lot of clothes. I had left my gloves in the motel, had not thought about a thermal layer or arm warmers, but did had a sexy black plastic bag to keep me dry-ish.

But eventually it was time to line up. I took my plastic bag off and joined the other 194 people. A man said go and we were off.

I still had tape on my watch. I was to run again by feel. Obviously i was feeling good going through the first 2k in just on 10minutes. Someone was calling time. We settled into a rhythm. I was with a group of about six. I tucked in behind them. It was drizzling quite steadily but there was no wind to speak of and my hands soon warmed up.

At 5k time was called again, 24 minutes something. I still felt good. I stayed with my bunch. We were running in our own zones. Everyone was quiet, you barely heard breathing except for a stocky young man who was lumbering along. I had met his friend in the toilet queue and knew they were uni students in their final year and this was their first marathon.

We had a few hills. At 10k I took my first gu. My time was 49 minutes something. And we hit the head wind. The dizzle changed to light rain. It got hard. Our group was still running together. We heard that our uni student was called Bruno as he had supporters on the course.

We were also picking off other runners. One by one reeling them in and cruising past.

It is a long way up that harbour. The wind was relentless. I felt ok but wondered how long I could keep a sub-5 minute pace. Soon it was just Bruno and me running together. I have to admit that I photo bombed most of the photos his supporters took of him!

Half way and time was called again 1:44:06. I had my second gu at 20k. At 26k we finally turned around the head of the harbour. Having the wind at our back was a huge boost.

At 28k we joined up with the half marathon runners. Psychologically this is inspiring as we passed so many. Round some industrial areas and then along a cycle-walkway up the other side of the harbour. My third and final gu was at 30k.

I was tired now. But the end was in sight, literally and figuratively. Every so often I caught a glimpse of the cranes at Port Chalmers, my destination.

I dropped Bruno here. He did really well for a first marathon, finally finishing 5minutes behind me.

I knew I had a final hill to climb. It never seemed to come. And there it was. Short, sharp and steep. I put my head down and just got over it!

Less than 2k to go. One final rise. Someone sprinted past me – it was the first person to pass me since about the 5k mark. I had nothing left. Down the hill round the corner and where the hell is the finish line.

Another person sprinted past. Whatever. I could see the line. I crossed it. 3:28:38. One minute off a PB. I was spent.

Another soak of the legs in the sea. A shower. Compression tights and lunch – mince on toast and a pint of cider!

We spent the afternoon at the Sports Museum and then went to prize giving. I was fourth woman overall. Third in the masters category and first over 50.

I won a massive bag of chocolate (it is the Cadbury Dunedin Marathon), a bag of sports gear/clothing and a cheque for $200. Best. Haul. Ever.

Then another five hour trip home.

It was a great weekend. I can’t believe I pulled off two awesome back to back runs. I am tired today. My feet ache – racing flats do that. But I am not very stiff at all. The soaking in cold sea and compression tights does make a difference. My club buddies did well too. Iain, Mike and Dave all finished the half. Rodger was a DNS with his achilles and Dave’s son Liam pulled out at about 18k. It is fun to spend a weekend with likeminded people.

Next up is the Greta Valley relay this weekend. It doesn’t stop.

PS I am running in the High-50 challenge to raise money and awareness for the Mental Health Foundation. Please support me by donating here.

Remembering

Four years ago my home town was hit by a massive 7.3 earthquake. Unbelievably no-one was killed. But the city was damaged.

It was a massive shock. I was woken from a deep sleep with no idea what the hell was happening. The actual quake lasted 30 seconds and I think it took all of that for me to register it was an earthquake. All my energy was concentrating on staying in bed when the house was trying to throw me out.

I remember the noise. It was incredibly loud. It was the earth moving, rumbling and roaring. The house being twisted in all directions. And furniture being flung over. China and glass smashing.

Afterwards silence.

That was almost worst. I could not hear any other people. I was so scared for them. But like me they were just dazed. I was scared. The kids were not.

But it didn’t stop. Aftershocks kept coming. We had no power. The floors were covered in broken glass and china. It was dark. I was cold.

Andrew and I sat huddled together under the door frame in the downstairs hall, away from glass windows and broken glass. The kids sat in the car listening to the radio.

And slowly the day dawned and we realised how lucky we were.

Four years. Who knows how many aftershocks. And of course the deadly 22 February quake which killed 170 people and really did destroy the city.

Four years of living in a house which noticeably drops downhill, where spilled drinks leave juice rivers across the lounge, where the water drains off the kitchen bench into the rubbish bin, where doors don’t open or shut, and where they have been planed allow the cold winter air to course around the house. Four years of a giant crack in the lawn and under the house, of cracks in the foundation slab which makes the house feel cold and damp.

Four years of waiting for our house to be rebuilt. Four years of extra car repairs as the fine liquefaction dust stuck in the driveway shingle causes havoc with all things mechanical. Four years of roadworks, road cones, hi vis, bureaucracy.

Four years of not sleeping, of being so tired most of the time, of feeling like a moaning minnie.

Four years of being alive. A survivor. Of realising that actually possessions don’t matter, but people do.

There is no point wondering what if. This is my life now. I have to live it as best I can.

Christchurch. My home town.

Cover photo – the shops at the corner of my street, less than 100 metres from my house.

Sick of being sick

Day 25 of feeling unwell. Almost a month. Of snot. And phlegm. And coughing. And spluttering. Of a husky voice, and for six days no voice.

Three and a half weeks of feeling just off. Tired. Blah. Headachy.

And I am sick of it.

Most years I escape the general bugs and flus which go around. I am unlucky if I get more than one cold, and I usually throw it off without too much trouble. This year though it lingers. Each day I wake and it is just the same.

I had earmarked today as being the day I would feel better, the day I would begin my build-up back to full fitness. I would go back to the gym for my weight sessions, go back to yoga. Next week I would get back into the pool.

But I woke up feeling tired, coughing, and really unmotivated.

The day is dawning and it looks grey. Dull and grey. A lot like I feel.

At least I am still able to run. I did take a full seven days off and have not done any speedwork in all of August. But I did race on Saturday and it went well. It was not a PB but it was no slouch of a time either. I had had that event in mind all year for a crack at going under 20 minutes for 5k. I didn’t even try for it, just happy to run ahead of the competition to take out Canterbury Road Champion (50 years plus) for Canterbury.

Back to today. I will concentrate on home based jobs. Hopefully the sun will come out. I am meeting my running buddy just after lunch for two hours on the hills. It will be conversational pace.

Like I said, at least I can still run!